Moving Away from SEO Link Building

My last two Link Week columns have touched on communication between link builder and client. In Link Development Realities Versus What We Tell Our Clients I discussed how, as strategists and link builders, part of what we do involves a degree of selection of tactic, and what to do when confronted with clients who are using tactics and investing budgets for link building services that have no value, but the client doesn’t know it.

Then in What If It Isn’t Linkworthy?, I focused on the uncomfortable client scenario where a client has worked hard to create content they feel is linkworthy, but you, as the person who has to go get those links, don’t agree. In this next installment, let’s discuss the client who views link building as a purely SEO function, that is, they are interested in adding or creating content just to appeal to search engines.

This mind-set is especially common for database-driven ecommerce site owners who really only want to sell things. Most view adding legitimate content as an evil, not a joy. They view content like that safe driving course you have to take when you get your first speeding ticket in high school. You do it because you have to, and you can’t wait until it’s over so you can drive again. On their web sites, the content is often freelance, bought on the cheap, and deep link anchored back to the products, by product name, to death.

I handle this client scenario in my own way, but I may be in the minority, and I’d like to hear how you handle it.

My way is to tell the client that they need to see link building as having little or nothing to do with SEO. Link building is one part marketing, two parts public relations, and three parts common sense. If you have passionately inspired content that is of the caliber that it can earn and/or pursue links from sites that search engines happen to feel are trustworthy, then yes, there is an SEO component to link building that can be nurtured and maximized. But don’t put the cart before the horse. Creating content only for the potential links the content can inspire purely for SEO/rank is a sucker’s bet. How many web sites are elbow deep in ridiculous content creation approaches right now, with no hope of ever seeing Google page one? Millions.

Adding content because you have to, rather than because you feel drawn and inspired to, just adds to the mass of marginal content that turns users off. The big not-so-secret secret is that millions of pages of web content are totally doomed right now, clock ticking, the content owners know it, yet they continue onward, futilely, chasing more links, more links, more links (gotcha), just like a drowning person will grasp at anything before going under. Personally, I look forward to each algorithmic improvement, because I know it means the better content will ascend the rankings while the junk continues downward. Where it belongs.

But I digress, and I come back to one simple client link seeking litmus test question. Would you pursue that link if there were no search engines at all? If you can be honest with yourself about your intent in the pursuit of any given link, it can really help you shape your link seeking in a way that will end up helping your rank. I know that sounds nuts, but it’s true. Spend less time worrying about the engines treatment of your links. Spend more time on what makes you unique. Watch what happens.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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