Why Link Builders Need To Do More Than Just Build Links

In the past few months, link building as we’ve known it has been totally shaken up by three major events:

  1. Google anounced that they were changing how they view links (nicely recapped here:)
  2. Pandamonium!
  3. Certain large blog networks were devalued and webmasters started to receive warnings about unnatural links.

Link building can still work well using ways that I wouldn’t personally advise because I don’t think that the techniques are sustainable. However, I fully recognize that not every site is destined to have a long-term link campaign that seeks to win the race by being slow and steady.

Thus, you’ll keep seeing link builders writing about the “best” ways to do something, and you’ll see others arguing and saying that riskier tactics still work. I doubt we’ll ever see the day when risky tactics don’t work in some way, but I do also believe that unless you want to stay terrified of losing your rankings and traffic, you have to recognize that link building is no longer what it once was.

Maximize Each Link

Get a link to your site and make sure you get the most out of it…traffic and conversions. If you get a great link, build some links to that page too!! Don’t think of a link as being just a one-time event.

If a blogger links to you (perhaps in a roundup or reference to an article that you wrote) then by all means, reach out via email, blog commenting, or social media, and say thanks. Maybe you’ll get another link, be asked for an interview, asked to guest post, etc. Honestly, unless the link was done to tell the world that you’re a horrible moron, you have nothing to lose by saying thank you.

Keep Your Content Linkworthy

Encourage comments and social media sharing. I wouldn’t really want to link to an SEO post that seemed good but had zero comments and social media shares, because I would be wondering “what am I missing here?”

If you write an article and people comment, respond. Encourage members of your staff to comment or respond to other comments, and encourage social sharing. This increases the chances of someone coming back to see what’s next.

Good Social Signals

In the above example, you can see that this post is getting some good social love. As of this writing, it also had over 20 comments. To me, that’s a signal that the content is linkworthy.

Find New Competitors

Look at your referral sources, find the great ones, and see who else they link to. Those are fantastic sites to perform competitive analysis on.


Here we see that a few of the top SEO industry sites are linking to us at the SEO Chicks blog, so I’d do a quick site search of each of those sites in order to see who’s on their blogrolls and use a tool like Get Rank’s Link Extractor to get a list of sites linked to from the original site.

I’d also suggest that, if you have time, you at least look at any site that puts up a link to you, and see what they link to, even if it’s not a site you recognize. You can find some gems this way.

Keep Analyzing Your Profile

Analyze your link profile more than once. Hopefully you’re keeping a constant eye on your link building campaign but at minimum, you need to review your link profile at least every few months (and much, much more often if you’ve recently been penalized) unless you have a very small site and are generating few links a month.

While I don’t recommend chasing the algorithm, I have to admit that I do it occasionally. Considering the frequency of Google updates, it’s wise to review your profile after each major update if you do this too.

Link Out

I know that reciprocal links aren’t a great strategy for the most part (usually because they are so poorly done) but there is nothing wrong with linking to someone who links to you if you don’t abuse it and rely on it. In fact, linking out initially, to a site that you’d love to get a link from, is a great way to get noticed and generate a link of your own.

If you’re checking for new links or mentions of your name/brand and you see something pop up, don’t you usually check it out? I certainly do, and I occasionally find great new sources to keep my eye on. Even if a link out doesn’t get you a reciprocal link immediately, it still has the potential to help you form a connection that can help you down the road.

Familiarize Yourself With On-Page Work

I am lucky to have come from a programming background and my first efforts were all focused on on-page work, but since links are easy to build without having to touch a site, obviously, I’m sure there are people building links who have little idea about much else.

Links can only do so much for a site, and if you’re building links and seeing no good results, you need to be able to look at reasons outside of the links. With the recent chatter about over-optimization issues, analyzing a backlink profile to figure out where the problem lies will just not cut it any longer. You’re going to have to look at the site too.

This is why I love link building though; it’s never stagnant for long. Even if you do everything the “right” way, you’ll end up having to adapt, which keeps us all on our toes.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://twitter.com/tedives Ted Ives

    Also maybe start getting familiar with AdWords ;-)

    All kidding aside…I agree Julie, on-page optimization is going to become relatively more important in the SEO field as a result of these recent change, simply because it’s straightforward and low-risk in comparison with various link building approaches.  Making content better is a win-win-win for searchers, publishers, and Google.

  • https://plus.google.com/106092818158094174234/posts Ketan Raval

    Good one.. Julie .. there may be few more things I would add like google alerts for tracking brand keywords..  Social Mentions and Tweet deck to for finding link prospects…

    I am  wondering on one thing how we can cope up with negative seo may be you can help on this … Before a year ago I wrote on article on Ezine “Lets Nurture Your Business With Taking Advantage of SEO” this title + content of an article has been replicated for 1000 times.. I did not even looked at this issue .. I found out this just because I was tracking my registered company name “Lets Nurture”

  • natasha hawkins

    I really agree that some linking strategies are not sustainable, especially for smaller clients and the amount of time applied to their accounts. On page is increasingly important, but after Panda updates it is important to make sure your not placing all your eggs in one basket. An integrated system using PPC, On-Page, Linkbuilding, etc.. is ideal. http://www.halfabubbleout.com/blog

  • https://serps.com Scott Krager

    Links must be quality now. Penguin has changed the game. No longer can 2nd rate SEO firms or consultants skate by on crappy, grey-hat level links in non-competitive industries. The game has fundamentally changed. 

  • http://www.endlessrangemarketing.com/ Hilary St Jonn

    I completely agree. You can’t just look at one aspect of SEO.  You could have a great (or was great) link portfolio, but if your content was crap and people didn’t stay on the site, you were most likely affected by this recent update.  On the other hand, if you have wonderful content and no links whatsoever, it isn’t going to help you either. Organically great sites have lots of good links, maybe some bad ones, great content, and long duration on site. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/roadywreck Rod Tolentino

    Good tips here as well! I totally agree to maximizing links! It must be quality and has its good value. Good content is also viral.Thanks for sharing this post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sagar.U.Thakur Sagar Thakur

    I think analyzing the link building profile is one of the important thing in the link campaign. Thanks for the gr8 tips Julie. Link builders surely needs to do something extraordinary and such tips are always helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/indiadestinations India Destinations

    Great Post Julie. This is much easier and ethical way of link building. I am going for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Geb-Development/100003717627802 Geb Development

    Google is looking for a very genuine participation online. If you try not to build links only but if you try to participate genuinely. Then you will be promoted automatically without any fear and you certainly keep yourself active as well. Building links through high profile website takes little bit of time while they trust you. They do not allow a random person to get a link and spoil the real interest. Serve them with your knowledge and they will allow you to get link from there. It is simple,,, GIVE and TAKE.

  • http://twitter.com/mmhemani Moosa Hemani

    Days back one of the question on SEOMoz’s QnA was about the
    same thing… they said we are building links but we don’t see any positive spike
    in rankings…

    I think this is the best advice… links can do much but if
    you are building links and somehow they are not helping… consider touching the
    on-page stuff because over all search engine don’t consider links as an only
    ranking factor but it’s a combination of several stuff!

    Great post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=648275710 DiVi Fernando

    On Page + Google+ Optimization + SMO + Content Marketing should do. Link building must also be included but in supervised moderation. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=648275710 DiVi Fernando

    oh nice post btw :)

  • http://www.blogging24h.com/546/how-to-start-a-blog/ Trung Nguyen

    if it could help we building link more effective, I must follow :)

  • robthespy

    For large, established companies, “link building” (link seeking/submitting) isn’t needed. We spend maybe 20 minutes a month on links, and that’s just to make sure various vendors, manufacturers and other partners are linking to the proper content with the correct information.

    All of our clients have top 3 rankings for all major keyword/phrases. When there is someone ahead of us, they’re not there very long, or they are truly more relevant (e.g., the manufacturer of the product).

    Obviously, this is not for everyone, but it’s the best long-term strategy for bigger companies or those who wish to mitigate risk.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    “Links can only do so much for a site, and if you’re building links and
    seeing no good results, you need to be able to look at reasons outside
    of the links.”

    Great point. Even a great offsite link building campaign can’t save a bad website from itself. That’s why I always recommend that clients optimize their sites first, then start the link building.

  • juliejoyce

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone!

  • hazel keech

    Such a
    useful information sharing and its helpful for everyone.

  • http://twitter.com/seowestcp Christopher West

    Very cool Julie! as a company we try to educate our internal link builders from day one on On Page issues and optimisation. Great to point this out to others.

  • http://twitter.com/Tudor_Davies Tudor Davies

    You do have to get the most out of link. SEO benefits should be at the back of your mind, instead you should look for new referrers – if a site or page gets the right type of client then you want a link or banner on that page. My employing this strategy you can be less dependant on Google traffic and get more targeted visitors, there’s a certain amount of psychology involved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ripripcurl Thiago Carvalho

    I have used system link building site with http://www.dripable.com

  • Paul Rone-Clarke

    A keyword plan seems like a good idea. I’ll often go to Googles keyword tool and type in the main words I’m hoping to rank for and gain an idea of what exactly they thing are the relavent alternatives to this. The default list that the keyword tool produces is sorted in order of relavence, and that’s ideal. But a plan is vital.
    Platforms, content, diversity and now more than ever, putting your links into context by surrounding them with relavent content.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide