Link building has always been a polarizing strategy in the online marketing world, at least to some degree. Some practitioners swear by it; some fear it’s going to earn them penalties or a poor reputation, and some remain somewhat ignorant of the strategy in general.
According to AudienceBloom’s recent “What Works in Online Marketing” survey, link building continues to be seriously neglected—or at the very least misunderstood. Participants list link building as one of their least-used strategies and rank it as the second-hardest strategy to approach (next to influencer marketing). But what’s truly surprising is that 38 percent of participants aren’t using the strategy at all.
Considering link building is necessary to earn higher search ranks and remains one of the most efficient marketing strategies around, this is startling. So why is it that link building is so neglected?
It’s Changed Significantly in the Past Five Years
Google has always used backlinks as its most significant way to measure the “authority” of a given site, but that process has changed dramatically over the course of the past five years with the roll out of Penguin and its subsequent modifications starting in 2012. The quality of a link now matters far more than its mere existence, and anybody who claims to fully understand how links are evaluated is probably lying. The truth is, link building is complex, and it’s a totally different landscape than it was just five years ago—and that’s turning people away.
Fear of Penalties
Thanks in no small part to the sensationalist marketers spreading fear about “Penguin penalties,” users have an ongoing fear of link-based penalties for their sites. It’s earned the strategy of link building a stigma it doesn’t deserve, and most people who aren’t participating in link building will cite this stigma among their reasons for not pursuing it. Yes, it’s possible to be penalized for building a bad link, but that just means you have to spend your efforts building good, natural links.
Most People Don’t Realize the Gamut of Benefits
Link building isn’t just about increasing your search rank, though that is an attractive benefit. In reality, link building carries a number of different benefits. Referral traffic is one of the most important—if you pick a good source and you write good content, you could earn thousands of visitors from a single guest post, not even considering search-originated traffic. Plus, your brand visibility will grow as you spread your brand to new sources, and your reputation will similarly climb, increasing the likelihood that new visitors will buy from you.
Its Role in SEO is Underestimated
Link building isn’t just one way to increase your search rank; without it, it’s nearly impossible to see substantial gains. There are two main things Google takes into consideration when sorting ranks for a given query; the relevance of a particular page, and the authority of that page. You need both if you want to generate any substantial rank, so assuming you’ve targeted appropriate keywords, your main focus should be on authority. How is authority measured? Inbound links. They’re evaluated and considered in complex ways, but the bottom line is that without some inbound link-based strategy, your authority will remain stagnant.
You need both if you want to generate any substantial rank, so assuming you’ve targeted appropriate keywords, your main focus should be on authority. How is authority measured? Inbound links. They’re evaluated and considered in complex ways, but the bottom line is that without some kind of inbound link-based strategy, your authority will remain stagnant.
There are Sexier Strategies
Let’s face it. Link building isn’t the “sexiest” strategy around. Social media marketing sounds way more exciting, carries more immediate, instant-gratification-level results, and it has the benefit of word-of-mouth buzz from avid users. Think about how quickly Instagram has grown in popularity,
Think about how quickly Instagram has grown in popularity, both among users and brands. Instagram is a far sexier strategy than link building. Brands are pouring their money into these highly talked-about strategies, and pay less attention to ones with less public recognition, even if they’re more utilitarian or more beneficial in the long run.
It Demands Investment
Link building isn’t a strategy you can piece together overnight, nor is it one you can run on auto-pilot. It demands investment, and a big investment over an extended period of time. You have to do tons of research to keep up with the latest trends, pour hours of effort into each and every link you build, and wait patiently, for months, before you start to see results. Most people aren’t willing to commit that level of time and effort to a strategy they haven’t seen work firsthand.
It’s Hard to Get Started
This is the most significant barrier for most marketers to overcome. It’s relatively easy to get started with some strategies; for example, you can create a brand page on Facebook in a matter of minutes. Link building doesn’t offer the same warm welcome. Instead, it forces marketers to study comprehensively before making the attempt, and during execution, they’ll likely face many rejections, stumbles, and flat-out failures before getting it right. Link building does reward persistence, but that persistence is hard to embody when you’re new to the strategy.
If you’re an online marketer, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be incorporating a link building strategy into your over all approach. Between the SEO benefits, the brand visibility factor, and the direct referral traffic you’ll receive, link building (the right way) is practical, universal, and highly profitable. There’s a significant barrier to entry—a learning curve—but it’s nothing a little research and practice can’t fix. You owe it to yourself, and your brand, to pursue it.