Why “Linksville” Is a Ghost Town: Link Building Is Moving In House

Several years ago, I wrote a column here titled Why Link Building Must Go In-House. The main thesis of that column can be summed up with this quote:

There are almost as many link building tactics as there are companies selling them. Google lists over a million. On more than one occasion, I have pretended to be in need of link building services just to engage in an email dialogue with a firm selling linking services, just to see what they did (or didn’t) know.

It’s truly scary. Companies selling useless services that don’t know those services are useless. Or maybe they do. When you can’t trust that the company you are hiring knows what they are doing, in many cases you end up with a worse inbound link profile than you would have if you’d done no link building at all.

Linksville is a ghost town

We all know what’s happened since I wrote that article.

Although it’s taken several years, I’ve seen a definite uptick recently in the number of companies that have taken more control of their linking related strategies.

It makes sense. Once you’ve been burned by an algorithm update that nailed the links a third party built for you, you are likely to fire that third-party and avoid that pain again.

One of the ways I have detected the increase in in-house link dev is by the types of clients that contact me. Fewer agencies, more in-house marketers. And has anyone else noticed the number of so-called “link building companies” that have left the building? Linksville is a ghost town!

Link Building Doesn’t Scale — It Requires Humans

There are only a handful of link development companies engaged in merit-based approaches, mostly because it is so hard to scale. It just isn’t viable or sustainable to have a staff of 50 link builders all working on different projects (and you can argue with me all you want, but there it is).

That approach has never really been viable, frankly. The linking services being sold by those large shops were often outsourced to other countries or automated to the point of uselessness. Google has proven that to be the case, even if it has taken a few years to get here.

Scaling = “Dear Webmaster”

When people ask me why I chose to stay a one-person business when I could have built one of those 50-person linking shops back in 1995, my answer has always been the same. “You cannot scale a fundamentally one-to-one human interaction without losing quality unless you automate, and automated human interaction results in emails that start out, ‘Dear Webmaster.'”

Having now seen just about every type of working scenario related to link development, I am gratified to share with you what I know to be the best possible solution/scenarios for link development success.

  1. You do not have to pay a third party to build links for you. You can learn the skills that you need for your particular site.
  2. Learning to do it yourself will make you more confident about the link development process as it continues to evolve.
  3. Link building and its twin, online publicity, are ongoing. You can have periods of slow content creation and outreach, but you can’t stop completely.
  4. The more you learn about links, the better you become in deploying budgets and selecting strategies.

Here’s how to get where you want to be: there are link development specialists in many areas who can provide value as paid advisers on an ad-hoc basis (full disclosure: this includes me). The key is to involve yourself along the way, so at some point you no longer need anyone to help you, unless by choice, rather than by desperation.

To start or improve your in-house linking efforts, I suggest getting a little help from someone who can be trusted to tell you what you need to know for your particular situation. A link-building expert or consultant to guide you through the key parts of the process, from link analysis, competitive research, tactical and target site selection, tracking, etc.

Now more than ever, people and companies need sound linking strategy advice. They don’t need 25 people building links for them 3,000 miles away.

 (Stock image via Used under license.)

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 Books,, The Link Exchange, Rodney Dangerfield (, the AMA, and 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