Link building used to be incredibly easy. I remember when I could submit hundreds of links using a directory submitter in the late 2000s and rank my sites in just a few weeks.
Those days are long gone.
Google has updated their algorithms consistently in order to figure out abusive link strategies, and reduce those websites’ rankings, or remove them from the index altogether. Yet, unsuspecting or unethical SEOs still rely on out-dated link strategies, and it never works long-term.
It’s time to stop using and abusing outdated tricks, because the majority of link building doesn’t work.
Story of Bad Link Building
Last year, I did some moonlighting for a marketer who had various clients. They had outsourced their SEO to a foreign company for nearly 3 years, but got the run-around for nearly half of it, and needed someone to take a look at what was going on.
Among terrible content, poor designs, and terrible organization, the outsourced team knew how to do one thing: build links. It was an awful link building strateg. Private Blog Networks (PBNs), Web 2.0 links, Spammy blog comments, pingbacks, you name it.
Yet, the clients’ rankings were plummeting, even past the top 10 pages. When the marketer approached this outsourced team about what to do, their only reply was: more links.
Smack my head.
When I was brought on board, I used various tools to learn about these websites. I imported all the known links to Cognitive SEO. After letting the numbers crunch for the day, I found something impressive: this marketer’s sites had more links than their competitors, but were so far behind in the rankings. Additionally, one he site had nearly three times the amount of links as it’s nearest competitor, but weren’t anywhere to be seen on the first 10 pages for many of the most important keywords.
I kept going back to my client saying this needs to stop. What did the do? They started looking for another link builder to do the same work that got them where they needed.
Stop Building Links
All the time and effort put into getting links can be used to create new, engaging, quality content that drives user interest.
I don’t care if other SEOs think I’m an idiot. Link building keeps you from building equity in your website’s tangible value.
But Some Link Building Is Good, Right?
Links are a part of what makes the internet the world wide web. Linking from one site to another is how this whole thing works.
Spending time adding links on low quality websites where legitimate traffic doesn’t exist isn’t valuable.
What About Other Internet Marketing Strategies?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing a guest post on another website if that content and blog are designed to benefit users.
There’s nothing wrong with making sure your local business has accurate local listings and a link to your website.
Creating profiles on industry specific directories are fine too.
But do not waste your time with old-hat link building. It truly isn’t worth it.
Link Building is a Desperate Industry
When I browse the SEO Sub-Reddit, often times I see users asking about low-cost link building or admitting they wasted money on Fivvr campaigns that did more harm than good.
After the first wave of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates in 2011 and 2012, I really took a step back to look into these why these algorithms were implemented.
Link directories and article directories fostered an industry of low-quality content and link building. Misinformation was rampant. With said misinformation, users’ trust was on the line. Without user trust in a product (Google’s search functionality), there would be no advertising to sell.
Since then, every major algorithm update has been designed in order to protect that income stream: their AdWords (now just Ads) cost-per-click model.
Link Building Outreach
One of the aspects of link building I always despised was outreach: Contact blogs and websites to ask for a link. It gave me the same feeling I suspect telemarketers feel.
It always felt insincere and one-sided. Probably because it was.
I look back at the really great links that cinemafunk.com obtained when I was actively working on it. The best links were the ones I never asked to have. They were from real bloggers who found my content and linked to it. Even when someone thought I was full of shit. Still a better link than any private blog network can provide.
The Value of a Good Link
Google has kept their algorithm close to heart, but I’ve figured out what makes a link a good link or not. I didn’t need any data – just experience and wisdom. Doesn’t matter if it’s a nofollow or dofollow link, or if it comes from a high domain authority or other third-party measurement for a domain’s value.
A GREAT link is one that people click on.
That’s it. It’s really that simple.
The value of a link is determined by whether or not someone clicks on it, goes to your website, and performs and action such as buying something, joining something, or sharing something.
I’m not interested in the value that Google places on links. As algorithms evolve, it’s becoming too risky to place links on other sites where you ultimately have no control, you’re out of luck when those changes occur, and your site falls in ranks or is penalized.
The value of links in SEO no longer carries the weight like it once did. I wrote about how Google was looking for more trust in websites as far back as 2015.
It’s time to sleep better at night. Write awesome content. Build trust. Forget about the links.