Link Building Isn’t Dead, Just Evolved

When it comes to search engine optimization strategies, nothing has evolved as much – or as frequently – as link building.

While Google likes to playfully describe these algorithm changes as a loveable, cute little penguin, the reality is much more terrifying.

If you were to visualize these changes as the animal they are, you would picture a monstrous beast with thick slimy skin, huge beady eyes, long sharp claws, and a growl so terrifying that the mere sound of it would send the villagers and their pitch forks running for the hills.

Well, at least that’s what those who have been penalized may feel.  

Over the last several years, update after update has rolled out and many websites lost everything in the blink of an eye.

But Why? The simple answer is poor strategy and weak value.

If you can set aside your frustrations with the losses of rankings and traffic, and consider for a moment the type of link strategies that where being used, then you would not only understand why Google would do such a thing, but you would embrace it.

All for the simple realization that, well, those link strategies are junk!

Take your online business owner hat off for a second, and put on your average joe web surfer hat. You’re kicked back on your couch, and boom – An idea pops in your head. Your instinct tells you to jump on over to Google, throw in a quick search, and educate yourself with help from the all-mighty internet.

But wait! You click a result. You start to read. You immediately get bombarded with ads, and you’re reading text that sounds like a 6-year-old with a sugar buzz took a turn on the keyboard.

All the trust you have in Google to shine the light in the dark, and they give you this?

And there my friends lie the problem. Simply giving weight to any link led spammers and advertisers to build low quality junk in the thousands to outrank your real online business that can bring value and service to those looking for it.

So during this turbulent phase of low quality sites outranking the quality ones, what did the real business owner do? Well, I think we all know the old saying “If you can’t beat them, join them”.

And Join Them They Did

It was all the rage. Link buying in bulk. All the focus was on amassing large quantity of links any way possible.

It led to low quality directories, link farms, blog comment links, and more. Whatever anyone could do to get links in the thousands, was being done. Site owners didn’t care where they got their links–they just wanted them.


Google Steps In

In an effort to give its users truly relevant results, Google released “Penguin” and wiped out many spammy websites almost overnight. Its policing algorithms ruthlessly punished erring sites in one of the bloodiest times in search engine optimization history.

This crackdown on manipulative links made it detrimental to buy or sell links. Link building suddenly became taboo, alongside extensive article marketing and guest posting with anchor-optimized links.

This left everyone scratching their heads. All their tried and true methods of boosting rankings suddenly vanished…

Welcome to the Age of Natural Linking – The Dawn of a New Day in SEO

Determined folks did what determined folks do… They pressed on.

They took a step back to evaluate the aftermath and to find a solution. That solution boils down to one simple word for safe, effective link building: “Intent”

Quite simply, intent. Think to yourself about the connection you want the reader to make. There has to be more value than just getting this inbound link for keyword exposure. Ask yourself if the link between the two pieces has natural flow for a reader.

Those are things that Google tries to evaluate when giving a link weight. They want to know that this link was given to you because you earned it and will offer value to those who see it.

The Golden Rules

In today’s SEO landscape follow these golden rules for a successful link building campaign.

Relevancy:  Relevancy is key.  You want your links to make sense, but that doesn’t mean you have to be limited.  Be sure to capitalize on “industry related” sites just outside of your niche.  For example if you are a general contractor you can benefit with links from a real estate lawyer’s website, or even a online hardware store.

Quality over Quantity:  It’s all about moderation. Resist the urge to use fly-by-night software that promises links in the thousands with a click of a button.  These links are often built with large link farms or private blog networks (PBN’s) and can really tarnish your overall back link profile.

You want links from REAL WEBSITES.  Websites that have their own unique content, products, or services.  These websites will have their own back link profiles that will pass trust flow from their links to yours.

Always avoid websites that are built just to give out links.

Market Your Content:  Keep a clear “intent” for each link you gain.  Don’t just focus on links to your home page, or links using only exact match keywords.  Focus on keeping your link relevant to the content it is directed to.  If you have a page on your website specifically geared toward the topic the link is promoting, send the visitor to this page.

Deep linking to various pages within your website will have a huge positive impact. Of course that relies on good agreements with the people sending you their links. It’s in their control where they link, but you can gently nudge them or outright ask for them to target specific pages.

Build Local Citations:  Citations are key in helping to increase the degree of certainty the search engines have about your business’s contact information.  It’s as simply as including your Business Name, Address, and Phone number with your placements. These are especially helpful when you’re a local business, usually without a website as the center of your operation. (Think plumbers, chiropractors, or yoga studios.) It helps the search engine associate you with a city or region so you don’t get lost among similar businesses in others parts of the country that aren’t your competitors.

Promote Social Profiles:  Be proud of the links you are building and use every opportunity to promote your brand.  Include all the information you can about your company to really capitalize on the full value of the placement.  Social Media is an excellent outlet to connect to your customer base, so be sure to include links to your profiles whenever you can.

The Conclusion

Link building is alive and well, and still the prominent factor in SEO.   Don’t let the mistakes of yesteryear deter you from building links.  Approach it with a clear cut strategy and follow the golden rules and success is almost guaranteed.

This guest post comes from the SpyFu community. Eric Nester and the team at Blackwood Productions, Inc. are link building specialists focused on helping you gain valuable connections with other real sites. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. We’re happy to discuss your SEO goals, explain our approach, or talk about the evolution of link building. 



    great insights for link building today, thanks a lot!!

  • John Susko

    Nice article. When discussing link-building with my clients I always emphasize the concept of relevance, which you characterize with “intent”. It all goes back to the golden rule of SEO – “give Google what they want”.

    • AgentSidra

      On that note of relevance, you could also say “give the customer what they were looking for” as a rule to build quality content. Google itself (themselves?) echoes this approach–at least when it comes to the content itself. You seem to be on that track.