I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and he was asking me about a few things related to link building, trust and SEO (in regards to his online business). You see, about a year ago he was getting some pretty good love from all of the major search engines (he was doing his own SEO) and especially he was killing it with some pretty high rankings in Google for some pretty impressive words. Then, all of a sudden, he was gone and has spent about a year trying to build his site back up to no avail.
When we were chatting he was telling me that he was about to just give up on the business, and SEO in general (and all the work he had put into it) because he seemed to be getting no where. I think he he started the conversation for insights or encouragement to not give up, but that is another post - another day.
He was telling me everything that he was doing, and what he thought he could have done wrong to get his site "filtered" all of a sudden, and it was not adding up. It really did seem (at first analysis) he was doing everything right on site. He had cleaned up all his 301 problems, and duplicate content issues, he had really good solid content, tried to get rid of any bad links he may have got in the past, his site has been around for several years and he has built up some domain trust, so again - what could it be?
I finally have come to the conclusion that he was not making the most of his links, nor getting enough trusted links pointing to him in the right way. My conclusion, he has not done a good enough job showing the search engines that his site is a trusted authority site with good solid people linking to him. This sounds basic I know, but after a little research I found out all of the places that he had got links from, and most of them were site-wides on non-related sites (in non related categories), or links from directories that were not even indexed in Google. He had very few links that Google would even consider "authoritative"!
What worked a couple years ago, is not going to work today, and you really need to be doing your best staying educated with search engine optimization methods etc. My advice for those looking to gain a little more trust, find related sites with good content, with pages that are indexed, and do your best to strike up a relationship with those sites so that they will be willing to link to you. You have to stop thinking "traditionally" and that submitting to a directory (or sending out one press release) is going to be your save all SEO campaign. Submitting to a directory (especially if done wrong) will do little or nothing for you anyway (on any search engines that really matter that is).
Remember its all about trust. Here is an example to better illustrate - If I am selling memory foam mattresses and I find a site (that is indexed and non-supplemental) that is reviewing the different types of memory foam out there, getting my link on a page like that would be gold! I would take that link over a directory any day!
The best advice for my friend (or anyone else in the same situation) is, if you can do a better job building trust with related links, on related sites and amazing content, you can reclaim rankings! It really is that simple.