Link Building’s Glass Ceiling

Eric Ward on
  • Categories: Channel: SEO, Link Week Column
  • Any of you who have read any of my posts over the years know I’m a contrarian link builder. I don’t like general directories, I’ve never believed in mass article syndication, I don’t buy links, I don’t like reciprocity for the sake of reciprocity, and I despise press releases purely for the sake of link building, and paid blog reviews are just lies.

    The reason I’m not a fan of these generic techniques is because they end up seducing you into believing they will work, because they can actually improve your rank, if your rank was awful to begin with. But at a certain point, the limited value of these approaches becomes apparent; you hit the wall, or the ceiling, since upwards seems to be where everyone wants to go.

    Here’s a classic example.  It’s a combination of the several requests I receive from people every month.

    Site owner John Q. Public has had a website for a few years. He sells things from his site. Nice things. Things you’d give Mom for Mother’s Day. His site ranks 23rd. He thinks this is wonderful, because just a year ago he ranked 55th, and then he started link building. He hired a directory submission service. He sent out press releases, he added a links page, he did a few paid blog posts, and sent out press releases. Hired someone in Linkbakistan to send out link requests. The standard link building playbook right? Sadly, it is. John thinks if he can get from position 55 to position 23 this way, it must work — and, all he has to do is keep at it and he will reach the promised land.

    And he’s wrong.

    John’s rankings started to slow down, and ultimately came to a halt at position 23  His site now bounces between positions 23 and 25, depending on the weather over at Google. Why did this happen? Because none of the link building techniques he used offer any distinct differentiation for his site versus any of his competitors, nor do any of those techniques take advantage of any unique content he may have on his site.

    Put more simply, John took the easy way out. Throw money at a bunch of link building services and vendors, and watch the rankings improve and the cash register jingle. What he, and for that matter, thousands and thousands of website owners are finding out, is that these cut rate and pre-packaged cookie cutter linking services will never break through that glass ceiling and get you to the promised land of page one, let alone position one on page one (that’s reserved for Wikipedia:).

    I’m sure the purveyors of these link building services don’t like what I’m writing here, but facts are facts, and my inbox proves it as do my phone consults. Everyone with a website is trying the exact same bunch of half-assed link building approaches and then act frustrated when their results end up half assed as well.

    Now, I would absolutely love to tell you the secret to avoid this glass ceiling problem. And I already have. Over the course of several years of articles, many of which you chide me for, I tell you what you need to do. So it’s time for a refresher. Have a look at:

      Your Site’s Manifest Linking Destiny
      When Link Building Is Pointless
      What If It Isn’t Linkworthy?
      Are You Link Building Or Just Keeping Up With The Joneses?
      Introduction To Trusted Source Link Streams

    Linking Intelligence plays a crucial role, I agree we need it and I helped build Link Insight for this exact reason. But that’s just the start. People continue to look for a technology solution to link building. But the Internet has really never never been about technology. The Internet is about connecting passion with content with others with the same. None of the tactics you are using today speak to this fundamental truth. You treat the web like it’s 80 billion identical white ping pong balls, hoping one will bounce your way. It’s not. The web is 80 billion different balls all bouncing in every direction looking for someone just like them. And those links are the links that break glass ceilings.


    About The Author

    Eric Ward
    Eric Ward founded the Web's first services for announcing, linking, and building buzz for Web sites, back in 1994. Ward is best known as the person behind the linking campaigns for Amazon.com Books, Weather.com, The Link Exchange, Rodney Dangerfield (Rodney.com), the AMA, and PBS.org. His services won the 1995 Award for Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. In 2009 Eric was one of 25 people profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes. Eric has spoken at over 100 industry conferences and now publishes LinkMoses Private, a subscription based link opportunity and strategy service. Eric has written linking strategy and advice columns for SearchEngineLand, MarketingProfs, ClickZ, Search Marketing Standard, SearchEngineGuide, Web Marketing Today, and Ad Age magazine. Learn more about Eric and his content publicity and link building services at http://www.ericward.com