For years I’ve seen a free and flowing stream of information and advice about how to build links, and as the engines have improved detection of the junk, the better link builders continued to thrive while those who sold crappy services to crappy content ran for cover. At least three of the most dependable link building tactics started wobbling and in some cases failed completely in 2007: article marketing/syndication, directory submission, and paid links. It’s not that these tactics aren’t potentially still useful, but rather that the approach you will have to use for each will have to be modified, in some cases even abandoned.
I hated it when my father used to say I told you so, so I won’t say it, but there really is a reason why I have never offered those three tactics as part of my link building services. I didn’t offer them because they were always a house of cards. Marginal value at best and zero long term effect. It’s hard to accept this when you have clients sending you money, isn’t it? After all, how can any service be worthless if it’s generating tens of thousands of dollars in revenue? Easily. Sam’s Club search engine marketing? Are you kidding me?
Whether you believe I’m right or not isn’t as important as understanding the ramifications if I am. Humour LinkMoses for a few more paragraphs. I believe that…
1). It’s more challenging today than it was two years ago to develop and execute a truly beneficial inbound linking campaign for the majority of web content. The ramification: If true, then fewer people with strategic link building expertise will exist.
2). Demand for long term strategic link building expertise is increasing, because the basic anyone-can-use-this-tactic is failing.
The ramification: If true, then company demand will out-strip supply, and demand will force some link building activities in-house.
3). SEM firms have mostly done SEO and PPC and ignored link building other than riding the directory submission, article syndication, and paid link gravy train. The ramification: If true, then these same SEM firms will either get out of the link building business or get far more sophisticated in what link building services they offer. Stuff like this will find a better value proposition or vanish.
4). Specialists, especially individuals and boutique link building houses, will be so busy they will stop answering the phones. I haven’t answered my phone in ten years.
The ramification: If true, then an increase in individual and specialist link building services will follow. Where am I going with this?
If you agree with the above four statements, then it’s probably safe to say that the types of tips and advice that used to be useful (like submit keyword rich articles to a list of 63,000 article databases), will no longer be useful. And if the tips and advice that used to be useful are no longer useful, the tips and advice that will actually be useful will be harder to come by, because fewer people will actually know them. And if you are one of these people, you will be faced with the same decision as I am.
How much of what we know do we share, and how much do we keep to ourselves?
I love being a part of expert collaborations like Rae Hoffman’s recent and awesome 11 Experts on Link Development Speak Out, but I felt myself holding back a little. I was less willing to divulge some of the really really juicy link building tactics I use for clients, because in the past when I have done so it has resulted in a spam fest in ways that came back to haunt me. There’s a librarian in South Dakota who can vouch for this. I used her site as an example at a conference and her inbox filled with link request spam almost immediately. Oops. I should have known better.
At the same time, though, if I hold back on what I divulge in a collaboration like I did with this one, I get attacked for it, and rightly so. I find that I am drawing a much wider line between what I will share for free and what I will share only with those I work with. There are some techniques and approaches I use for link building that I simply know I can never tell anyone about. It’s not that they are black hat. It’s just the opposite. They are white hat tactics that, for the right kind of content, can work wonders for both click traffic and search rank. But if I share those tactics and as a result I give five competing sites an inside view of my link building strategy, that’s not really very smart, is it? This is the link builder’s Catch-22.
Lastly, and to illustrate this Catch-22 in another way, have a look at the article British Study Says “Google Generation” a Myth; Libraries Must Step Up, from Library Journal. I recognize several significant ramifications this has for both present and future link building. What do I do? Share them and watch as they get abused or shut up and piss people off?
This is why I fear the best solution could be to simply go underground.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinion.
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy and link building training. 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.