Planet13 - 2:41 pm on Jun 15, 2011 (gmt 0)
Maybe I have drank too much of the Kool-Aid that wheel has been passing out, but I am a contrarian on this.
In the vertical I am looking at, all of the non-commerce sites that used to make up the majority of the top 10 results have been pushed out by ecommerce sites (and one ehow listing).
And all of those ecommerce sites have been busy building links - not just any links, but crappy, spammy, type links.
They are the usual suspects; Automated link exchanges with OFF topic sites, forum profiles, article marketing, directories, press releases, networked sites. All within ones control, as it were.
Some of those sites currently in the top 10 DO have a FEW decent links to them - but not many.
The non-commercial sites that were formerly king of the SERPs and have now dropped out of the top 20 do NOT have a bunch of crappy inbound links.
Another item of note is I have seen one of my own sites rise from about position #40 up to position #14 for a particular keyword, mostly due to link building efforts. In my case, I am only doing a few scattered crappy links, but the majority of my link building effort has been going toward more authoritative links. In general, link begging to .edu sites.
One important thing (don't know if this is cause for my ascendancy in the SERPs or not) is that most of the links I get do NOT have the exact keywords in the anchor text. In fact, most of the links I get do NOT even point to the exact page I am trying to rank. They point to either the home page or one of a handful of article pages ON my site.
However, from those pages, the first INTERNAL in-content link on them is to the page I am trying to rank, and that link DOES have exact match keywords for the anchor text.
Anyway, for those that think link building is dead, I would suggest that you try to build links to pages that google EXPECTS to find inbound links (i.e., homepage and internal articles) and then try set up internal links to the pages that you are trying to rank with the exact anchor text in the internal links.