Who Owns Link Building?

At the risk of offending anyone who earns their living by offering any of the below services, myself included, I pose this composite inquiry to all of us.  It helps illustrate what I view as the biggest problem with the link building services sector.

The problem is that the majority of link building services for sale today are worthless.  The only people benefiting from them are the sellers of those services.

Please read on.


My name is Prospective Client.  I have a web site, and I need some help.  I’ve been reading on the web that links are very important, and we need more links.  But I am confused, and the more reading I do the more confused I get.  Can you help me?

First, who do I hire to build links for our site?

  • The firm that designed our site.  They also sell link building packages.
  • The company that registered our domain. They too sell link building services.
  • The ISP that hosts our site. Yes, they sell link building services.
  • The company that runs our online store. They sell link building services as well.
  • Our advertising agency.  They say they can do it for a fee.
  • Our public relations firm. They say they can do it for a fee.
  • A company that specializes in link building, based in the U.S.
  • A company that specializes in link building, based outside the U.S.
  • A local consultant who nobody knows with expertise in link building.
  • A nationally known consultant with expertise in link building.
  • An employee who already works for me in the I.T. department.
  • An employee who already works for me in the marketing department
  • An employee who already works for me in the corporate communications department
  • An intern.
  • Five interns.
  • Nobody.  Let the site attract them by itself

That’s 15 options, all of which sound like they could be effective.  Which is best for me?

Second, what link building services will be effective for our site?

  • Submissions to directories
  • Press releases
  • Paid links
  • Blog reviews
  • Social media links
  • Local links
  • Industry links
  • Reciprocal links
  • Something else

Finally, what is a fair price to pay for such services?

I look forward to your reply.


Prospective Client

So tell me. Who really owns link building, and what should the job of a link builder be?

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 EricWard.com.

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  • http://www.joblr.net Mikkel deMib Svendsen

    > So tell me. Who really owns link building, and what should the job of a link builder be?

    I am not sure what you mean by “own” – I guess its the one that gets the job :)

    A link builder should first off all be very honest with his client – and request (or teach) the client to be realistic.

    Realistically, for most sites, the right strategy is a combination of many activities – its not a choice between one or another. Depending on the industry and markets; how much the client want to rush it; and what riscs the client is ready to take a good strategy can be worked out.

    The key to me is honesty. And honestly – most times we cannot be sure how much one link, or one day of linkbuilding will effect a site – but we do know that the more (good) work we do the better results we get.

  • http://www.redmudmedia.com Red_Mud_Rookie

    Great post Eric,
    My two pence worth…

    If clients put effort into creating a site that is packed with useful, informative, entertaining and engaging content… the links will come.
    To accelerate this process, an effective PR strategy is a clean and honest method of attracting links… “Link Building” is a dirty term in the context it is widely used because it implies deliberately setting out to artificially inflate rankings for SEO.
    The sooner the human algorithm takes hold, the better because then we can start focusing on delivering a useful service to the consumer instead of becoming obsessed with higher rankings.

  • http://www.triangledirectmedia.com sgardner1

    Why should link building be solely on one “link builder” or one “link building provider”? Philosophically, link building should be an ongoing practice & discipline as opposed to a one-time event that may be outsourced to a single provider. As you outlined in the second half of this thought provoking post, there are many many channels for link building. Thus, link building should be integrated into a client-side marketing plan which can then be supported by both internal staff and strategic third party providers. Internally, great opportunities exist to build links through partners, suppliers/vendors, press releases, industry events, employee-owned blogs/web content, corporate blogs (on-site or off) and community participation (such as this current discussion). More SEO-driven link building should help accelerate the impact either with an experienced in-house employee & through a service provider that will clearly present their plan of attack, show past results, and “walk the talk”. These types of efforts could include articles, blogs, directories, paid links, outreach, social media profiles & content, etc).
    Clients need to assess what their goals are with link building. If purely rankings, then they need to determine the risk-reward of various methods as well as their own risk tolerance. If it’s too good to be true and just seems shady (5K directors for $500, etc), then don’t do it. Google the approach and see what kind of chatter exists from industry experts — there’s going to be controversy (aka paid links) but one really has to self-evaluate relevance of links, risk in the tactic, etc.
    Link building is not a one-time event nor should it be left up to a single “link builder”. I’d suggest it be managed by someone in-house with execution split up amongst internal and external experts that not just understands your industry but also how to effectively garner and optimize one-way links.
    Oh yeah, I don’t want to forget the default industry response (which has merit & does hold weight) — write great content on your site and the links will come……..”The Field of Dreams” analogy can work with link building, but it has to be supported by other strategies and link building sources in competitive markets.

  • http://www.audettemedia.com audette

    This hits the core of link building, and a wider topic, internet marketing (yes and SEO). It’s a free for all out there, and with demand there’s no end of low-end suppliers. One issue is there are a lot of shady and, as you say Eric, worthless link building services out there. Another issue is that there are *extreme* differences even between professional services and consultants.

    I truly feel for the company new to this area, looking for a consultant. This industry is a mine field.

    My advice is always to follow referrals from trusted colleagues and friends. Pick up the phone and ask someone who they’ve used, and who they know. Take it from there.

    But to the question posed here, Who Owns Link Building? I honestly don’t know. But we (the internet marketing industry) better own it so the masses of low-end “providers” don’t crap it up for everyone!

  • http://www.adventuresinsearch.com Elisabeth

    I think that’s eric’s main point, audette – that with so much confusion out there for clients, and I think he’s trying to get at finding out who’s winning the game among providers.

  • http://www.VerticalMeasures.com Arnie K

    I think the title is a little confusing. But the bottom line is look for a company that actually has offices, answers their phone and does not offer mass directory submissions. If you can get some respected sites to recommend a link builder, that’s great.

    But to Eric’s point, not everyone is truly qualified to be a link builder. In fact most people in the first several bullets listed above hate to do link building. We wrote a post on the personality of a link builder here: http://www.verticalmeasures.com/link-building/an-seo-is-not-a-link-builder/

    Link building takes work. There are no automated short cuts. That also means it’s usually expensive. As in most industries, you get what you pay for. (In this case in time or money)

  • http://sem-group.net thegman3

    An ISP that offers link building? Really? Wow very interesting. Anyhow my optinion. Article directories and directory submission are pretty old link building tactics that may have some value but have mostly been discount by Google. I believe the best link are the ones that come from blogging and social media. there is nothing cooler than when you write an awesome article and many people link to your because they really liked the article.


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