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Link Building Never Ends
Columnist Andrew Dennis discusses how to roll with the ongoing, cyclical nature of link building -- and of digital marketing in general.
Link building is a long-term project that never ends, and it is a natural part of the ongoing marketing cycle.
In order to remain relevant to both search engines and human beings alike, you need to regularly acquire fresh links for your website. Fresh links create exposure to new audiences and signal continuing engagement to search engines.
Building links is not a one-time, “set it and forget” type of marketing strategy. Link acquisition is an ongoing investment that helps your business, site, and brand grow over time. You shouldn’t think of link building as a short-term SEO boost; you should view links as part of your continuous marketing cycle.
More than just recognizing the ongoing need for links, it’s important to understand where link acquisition fits within the marketing cycle. Link building as a strategy targets customers at the top of the marketing funnel, but in the order of operations, links come last.
Building Links Comes Last
Seeking links will be the final process after you’ve gone through the proper steps of an online marketing campaign.
In online marketing, there is an order of operations that must be completed appropriately, step-by-step. And there are a number of processes you must implement before you begin to build links.
In a recent article on Inbound.org, my colleague Nicholas Chimonas referred to these processes as the “pre-flight checklist.” Here is a summary of the actions Nicholas covered in his post:
- Build a user-friendly website
- Optimize your technical and on-page SEO
- Ensure your site is not currently being penalized
- Perform market research
- Create compelling and valuable content
If you haven’t taken these necessary steps, you’re not ready to start manually pursuing links.
While it is possible to acquire links without first implementing all of the above processes, those links will be ineffective for both marketing and search. Links will help new users find your site — but if your site isn’t ready to be found, all the traffic in the world won’t do any good.
Additionally, you will struggle to build the types of meaningful, quality links you need if you’re not adding value to the web. If you don’t deserve links, you’re going to have a hard time building them, and any links you do get will be questionable at best.
Respecting this order of operations will make matters much easier when you turn your focus to promoting your site.
Marketing Is Cyclical, Not Linear
Successful marketing is cyclical and ongoing.
To have long-term success, you must continuously revisit each part of the greater marketing cycle. For example, let’s look at each portion of the checklist Nicholas laid out.
- Build a user-friendly website. Sites need to be regularly updated and often need redesigns to meet audience expectations and demands.
- Optimize your technical and on-page SEO. On-page SEO factors require constant upkeep and ongoing management due to various changes and updates to Google’s algorithm.
- Ensure your site is not currently being penalized. Keep an eye on traffic drops that could indicate potential penalties.
- Perform market research. Audience behavior, competition, and market trends all typically change over time.
- Create compelling and valuable content. Fresh content must be perpetually created, and older content updated.
An effective online marketing strategy will be cyclical, not linear. This means your marketing efforts never end, and this includes manually seeking out link opportunities.
Link Building Never Ends
Link acquisition is part of the greater online marketing cycle, and it’s an ongoing endeavor.
Link building never ends because:
- The web is constantly evolving, and cyclical marketing will continually generate link prospects.
- Continued content creation, in particular, will create necessary link opportunities.
- Link rot (explanation below) requires fresh links.
- Competitors will continue to improve and build links.
As you revisit other portions of the cycle, you will discover and generate new link opportunities. Through renewed market research, you can discover new audiences and a whole slew of fresh websites to pursue for links.
By adhering to the cyclical nature of online marketing, you will continuously be generating new content assets. As you build new assets, you will also need to promote them to earn audience attention and links. Building links may come last, but if you overlook this final step, you are missing golden opportunities for your new content — great content deserves great promotion (and great links).
Similar to on-page SEO factors, your link profile requires upkeep as well. Due to the nature of the web, “link rot” is a real issue. Many of the links to your website will become broken or dead over time, and you need to replace the lost link equity. If you’re not continuously replenishing your link profile with fresh links, you’re losing overall link equity.
Finally, link building never stops because it doesn’t stop for your competitors. Simply because you decide to stop investing in links doesn’t mean your competition will cease. If you invest in the order of operations properly, you’ll set yourself up to naturally earn some links (ideally) even if you aren’t actively building them; however, so will your competition. Manually pursuing links provides an extra boost beyond passively earning and can set you apart from your competitors.
As mentioned before, there is a sort of natural “link decay” that occurs over time, and if you’re not adding fresh links to your portfolio, you’re moving backward. However, link rot aside, if you stop pursuing links and remain stagnant, you’re still falling behind your competition.
Link building is not a short-term, quick fix. In order to have lasting impact, you must treat link acquisition as a sustained campaign and a stable part of your rotating marketing cycle. Link building never ends because effective marketing never ends.
Link acquisition is an ongoing strategy that is contained within a larger marketing cycle.
To successfully earn worthwhile links, you must remember these key points.
Link acquisition comes last. Follow the pre-flight checklist laid out by Nicholas Chimonas before you start actively seeking links.
- Build a user-friendly website.
- Optimize your technical and on-page SEO.
- Ensure your site is not currently being penalized.
- Perform due diligence with market research.
- Create compelling and valuable content.
Marketing is cyclical, not linear. Effective marketing is constant and cyclical; you must continuously move through each step of the cycle and repeat.
- Sites need to be regularly updated and occasional redesigns.
- On-page SEO requires upkeep and management.
- Monitor traffic drops and potential penalties.
- Audience behavior, competition, and market trends all typically change over time.
- Fresh content must be perpetually created and older content updated.
Link building never ends. Earning links is a long-term strategy that never stops.
- By revisiting other steps in the cycle, you will discover and generate new link opportunities.
- Links naturally become broken or dead over time, and you must acquire fresh links to offset lost link equity.
- Your competition isn’t going to stop pursuing links — so if you do, you will fall behind.
Rather than look for quick fixes or boosts, commit to a sustained and ongoing marketing cycle that works for your business.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.