Is Link Building a Dead/Dying Art?

In the world of digital marketing, there are plenty of different techniques which are employed daily to try and ‘win’ the most traffic to any given site. One of the most common in terms of growing your site and benefitting SEO is that of link building. For many years, this was the prime goal of any site serious about its SEO growth. The more links, the better. Quality was a much less important factor. However, that all changed when Google launched its Penguin Core Algorithm Update. 

This aimed to limit the growth and rankability of sites which were participating in link networks or outright buying their links. This is one of the defining updates from Google which many in the SEO industry still shiver to think of today. Supposedly, this is when link building started to decay and became a dying art. Then again, there are plenty of current ‘experts’ who now argue that link building is more important than ever before. 

Choosing your stance on link building isn’t a do or die incentive. But, it can be important as it can change the way you tackle your SEO and overall digital marketing strategy. There are several arguments to whether or not link building is a dead art, here are a few for you to consider:

What is Link Building? 

In the simplest of terms, link building is when an individual attempts to build high-quality backlinks to a website from other sites. These links are then a factor which Google assesses to determine a site’s ranking. The more high quality links a site has, the more relevant it appears to Google. Therefore, it ranks better. 

An important factor to note is that the quality of links differs from link builder to link builder. A freelancer who is paid $5 a guest post isn’t going to build quality links in any sense, there’s no incentive for quality. This is where volume is valued, likely to show some work is being done, compared to benefiting the site being backlinked to. 

High-quality links are better than hundreds of awful links. Especially if these are spammy or low quality, as Google completely disregards these at any rate. Click To Tweet

Yes 

There are some members of the digital marketing community who are 100% adamant that link building is a dead art. It does nothing to benefit your site or SEO. 

Zero benefits to a site via guest post link building is the core component of this argument. Quality links are few and far between; with content farms, directories and low-quality sites being the main targets of most link building campaigns. Not only is it low quality, but such schemes are actively penalised by Google. You could find your site with a manual penalty if spam links become too prevalent on your site.

For that reason, many companies are choosing to invest in concentrated PR campaigns (with potential link building results), technical SEO (structured data, page speed, etc.), and high-quality content as the cornerstone of their SEO efforts. And it is working in this post-Penguin landscape. 

The basic fact is that many people claim link building is dead because in many forms it directly contradicts Google guidelines. 

Maybe 

On the other hand, some argue that link building at a base level is dead. The spammy tactics of gaining links on poor quality websites, directories and the like is a thing of the past. 

It makes sense; there is no benefit to a website in having hundreds of low-quality links. But, there are several types of links that do provide a benefit to your site. These high-quality links are out there, you just have to be very determined and calculated when trying to hunt them down.

With this in mind, it means simply choosing to link build, but with a higher quality in mind. To achieve this, many individual sites or companies looking to work on behalf of businesses will choose to take a PR approach. This means creating a high-value piece of content on a site and actively looking to get high-quality sites (particularly large news outlets) to then run the content, hopefully providing a link back as they do so. 

This is not a fool-proof method by any means. You are likely to get as many articles without a direct link as you are to get plenty of links, likely more links than you will achieve through the day to day guest posting methods. 

The basic idea is that content should generate links, so put your focus into the content. 

No 

There is the third and final argument: link building is alive and thriving. And better, there are far fewer competitors attempting to do the same thing in the modern market. 

Google may penalize over links, but they only do so when it comes to extremely poor links. Therefore, the idea is that if you continue to build high-quality links via guest posting and other such tactics, the value of the link is still strong. Create great articles which bring value to readers, follow Google guidelines as you do so and work to build strong relationships between yourself and the site. In doing so, you create much more value for the sites, and the overall quality improves. 

At the end of the day, if you take anything to heart about link building it should be fairly simple: don’t be spammy. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you practice it yourself or not, the fact is that there will always be someone who is using link building as a tactic in SEO to grow their site’s metrics. Until Google outright removes links as a ranking factor in their algorithm, it will be a hard mindset to shake. 

For that reason, you may want to use it yourself. Simply remember to use methods that can be deemed as ‘above board’ in terms of guidelines and that will ultimately benefit the user. As Google continually states, they make improvements and changes to improve user experience. So long as you use that guiding principle also, link building should be of value to your site.

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Zack Halliwell

Zack Halliwell is a writer in the technology and marketing niche, giving advice on anything from the perfect app development to the latest listings. When not writing he can be found on long mountain walks with his dog, Batman.
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