Bing's Duane Forrester recently shed some light on how marketers should approach links moving forward: Cautiously and organically.

Links are an important part of SEO strategies, but Bing’s Duane Forrester recently implied it’s in marketers’ best interest to keep them at arm’s reach. In a Bing Webmaster Blog, Forrester said you should never be certain when you’re going to get new inbound links of who is responsible for generating them.

“You want links to surprise you. You should never know in advance a link is coming, or where it’s coming from. If you do, that’s the wrong path,” he wrote.

At first pass, this might sound exaggerated. Surely marketers and content writers should have enough control over their production to know when links will be coming into the site. But this highlights an important distinction – Marketers may have a hunch that their latest eBook project will receive inbound links because the company invested a lot of resources into it, but that doesn’t mean they’re certain people will respond to the finished product as expected.

Really, to be positive a link is coming, the marketer would need to have a relationship or agreement with another site that guarantees to produce one. This kind of arrangement is, of course, spammy and outside of both Google and Bing’s quality guidelines.

“You should never know in advance a link is coming, or where it’s coming from. If you do, that’s the wrong path.”

“Obviously buying links is a dead end, and it doesn’t matter how you split this hair: sharing, encouraging, incentivizing, buying – it’s all the same,” Forrester added. “If an engine sees you growing them naturally, you’re rewarded with rankings. If they see you growing them unnaturally, you’re rewarded with penalties.”

He pointed out that links are part of the broader SEO picture, and this one approach shouldn’t be the linchpin to a company’s strategy. They’re certainly a crucial ranking signal right now, but signals can be turned down if they’re proving to be an ineffective measurement of a website’s quality. Taking this statement in conjunction with Matt Cutts’ recent claim that links will become less important, it certainly seems as if search engines are leaning toward a future where links have a smaller impact on rankings.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.