Do you believe that link building is dead? If you’ve been following any of the conversations in the SEO community, you might wonder if link building is somehow being phased out or no longer seen as good practice. Part of this confusion comes from a recent Google Hangout where Google employee John Mueller said people should try to avoid building links and avoid focusing only on link building because it can “cause more problems for your website than it actually helps.”
Some people took Mueller’s comments to mean that they should never ask for backlinks. Naturally, anyone should be concerned about that kind of statement coming from a Google employee. However, that’s not what he was saying. In past hangouts, Mueller has explained that asking for links from sites that provide relevant content is okay. The problem is becoming so obsessed with obtaining backlinks that it becomes your entire focus and you disregard quality to gain quantity.
Aside from this, there’s one other reason you might be wondering if link building is dead: search engines constantly implement new algorithm updates.
Knowing that Google made more than 3,000 improvements to its algorithm in 2018 alone, you might be wondering if link building is dead. After all, each time Google updates its search algorithm certain SEO strategies seem to lose some of their power. At least, that’s what some business owners have said.
According to SEO experts at Moz, Google makes around 9 updates each day and never releases the full details so nobody knows exactly what’s been changed. However, many website owners have noticed declining traffic after major Google updates. With multiple website owners reporting the same experience, how can anyone be sure that link building is still a viable SEO strategy in 2020 and beyond?
The short answer is link building isn’t dead. In fact, link building is very much alive and remains the backbone of every successful digital marketing strategy. Link building is so fundamental to strong SEO that all major search engines factor backlinks into how webpages are ranked. However, the way backlinks are ranked has evolved and that’s caused some concern.
Link building has evolved tremendously over the years. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Google in 1998, it was powered by a search algorithm they originally called “BackRub.”
Page and Brin created BackRub in 1996 to analyze the backlink profiles of webpages in order to rank them in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The algorithm’s initial backlink analysis was simple. Webpages with many backlinks were considered more important than pages with fewer backlinks and therefore got higher rankings. At that time, search results hadn’t been personalized so every user got the same results.
It didn’t take long for black hat marketers to take advantage of BackRub’s simple algorithm and thus the link farm was born. Link farms are collections of websites that exist solely to game the system by generating backlinks rapidly and in mass quantity. Sites belonging to link farms don’t offer users any value. To be blunt, link farms are entirely spam.
When Google became aware of link farms, the company started releasing algorithm updates to combat the problem. The first update to penalize link farms was Penguin, launched on April 24, 2012. Although the Penguin update was mainly designed to target spam, some legitimate sites were affected and had to rethink their SEO strategies.
Almost a decade later, Google developed its algorithm to analyze the context and quality of each backlink, which automatically rendered link farm backlinks useless.
As crude link farms faded away, sophisticated link farms popped up, often proclaiming to be private blogging networks. Some of these link farms operated through WordPress plugins that required a monthly fee. These plugins would spin an existing blog post and post the spun article directly to another WordPress user’s blog with a link back to the original article (or any other link).
Thankfully, it didn’t take Google long to catch on to this black hat practice and the company started strengthening its ability to rank webpages by discerning the context of a backlink and ensuring the backlink is genuine.
So, link building isn’t dead, but have backlinks taken a backseat to other SEO strategies? The answer depends on who you talk to. However, the only opinion that matters is the opinion of industry experts who get results. According to SEO experts, link building remains a fundamental, critical component of digital marketing. No website stands a chance at gaining higher rankings in the SERPs without a link building campaign.
With that said, there are many ways to acquire backlinks and not all strategies will generate results. Of all the ways to generate backlinks, some methods are less effective than others. A handful of methods are not only ineffective, but can get your website penalized and even blacklisted from the search engines forever.
If you want a successful digital marketing campaign, it’s critical to make sure your link building methods are effective. Effective methods will get results. Ineffective methods waste time, money, and put your reputation at risk.
There are numerous link building methods, but not all are effective. Here’s a breakdown of effective methods, ineffective methods, and the kind of “black hat” strategies that can get your website blacklisted from Google.
The importance of developing a personal relationship with publishers can’t be stressed enough. When you have a strong, positive relationship with publishers, you can eventually bypass the traditional requirements of submitting pitches and waiting for an editor’s approval.
When a publisher likes you and your content, they’ll be more likely to prioritize publishing your content, which means you’ll get backlinks faster than others stuck in the editing queue.
If you want backlinks you need content that people want to share. People love sharing infographics, so it makes sense to create a few of your own.
If you’re not a professional graphic designer, make sure you download a template and learn how to properly export a file with text layers so it doesn’t end up blurry. Better yet, gather the data you want to turn into an infographic and hire a graphic designer to create the final image.
One of the best ways to get backlinks is to create content that becomes a backlink magnet. In other words, you want to create content that everyone in your niche wants to link. This isn’t as hard as it seems. All you have to do is write high-quality, well-cited content that projects authority.
You may not be considered an authority in your niche, but you can write articles that cite well-known authorities, and that’s how you’ll get backlinks.
Google’s TOS prohibits anyone from paying for links, so you can’t just go around offering money to any site that will give you a backlink. That’s a bad strategy anyway. However, you can reach out to websites that need quality content and offer to write their content in exchange for a backlink. This is known as link outreach and has been proven to be effective when done correctly.
Find websites in your niche that would benefit from having better content. Offer to write some blogs if they’ll allow you to keep a link back to your site in each article. This is where you’ll benefit most from creating authoritative, well-cited content. If the websites you approach see the value in your content they’ll be more likely to accept your content writing offer and you’ll get your links.
There is no comparison to working with a professional SEO agency. You’ll save time, money, and energy by having a team of experienced SEO experts generate your backlinks.
At link.build, our team of professionals can help you build a strong, authoritative backlink profile that generates traffic and gets you visible in the search engines. Curious to know more about our services? Contact us today to find out exactly how we can help.
It should be no surprise that there are several ineffective link building strategies. Just because you get a backlink doesn’t mean that link is going to help your site rank higher in the SERPs.
Say your company sells those wool socks with the elastic bands to keep them from sliding off a person’s feet when they wear boots. You might be a top brand in the world of socks, but even so, it doesn’t make sense to snag backlinks on video game websites for two reasons:
Try to get backlinks on websites that are at least somewhat related to your niche. At the very least, get backlinks on websites that have general topics that cover a variety of subjects rather than a niche site. If you’re going to get backlinks on a niche site, make sure it’s a site in your niche.
“I’ll link you if you link me” sounds like a great deal, but can hurt your link building efforts. Unless a mutual link exchange is from an official partnership or both websites complement one another, it’s not a good method to get links.
Search engines know when websites have these link exchanges because the algorithm picks up on mutual links. When all you have are mutual links, the search engine knows those links were artificially acquired and won’t give them much weight (if any).
If you’re going to pursue a link building campaign, make sure you choose methods that work and avoid all the black hat methods. When you focus on obtaining high-quality backlinks the right way, you can turn your link building campaign into a well-oiled machine.
Talking about effective link building methods and strategies is one thing, but is there any proof that link building still works? Absolutely. One of the best case studies that proves link building is still effective (and essential) was published by SEO experts at ahrefs.com. The short story is they got an SEO stats page to rank #1 in the search engines using a backlink campaign.
After publishing a page full of SEO statistics, ahrefs sent out 515 emails and generated 36 backlinks from 32 websites. That SEO statistics page now ranks #1 for the search phrase “SEO stats.”
How did a stats page end up top ranked in multiple search engines? In this blog post, ahrefs explains how they got that number one ranking. Here’s a quick overview of their strategy:
Refer to the full blog post for detailed information regarding why they chose SEO stats as a topic along with how they reached out to link prospects. Their blog post also walks you through their entire process of narrowing down link prospects to find the low hanging fruit.
By reading the ahrefs case study, you’ll learn some truly genius link building methods. For example, ahrefs reached out to websites with outdated SEO statistics and offered their webpage as a replacement link. Some people wanted to negotiate a deal, while others were just happy to link their stat page without asking for anything in return.
Backlinks have always been and still are an important ranking signal. Search engines were literally built to rank websites according to their backlink profiles. Although search engine algorithms constantly evolve the way backlinks are weighed, backlinks will never become obsolete.
Are you ready to launch a winning backlink strategy that gets results? Reach out to the link.build team of professional SEO experts and we’ll help you develop a backlink profile that will get you targeted traffic, better search rankings, and the brand visibility you deserve Or, perhaps you’re an SEO agency in search of proper white label link building service? If so, we can help there too.