Links – are there any genuine link builders out there?

In recent months I’ve been thinking a lot about links. I’ll say straight away that getting them has never been a particular strength of mine – I’m more of a structural, technical and content SEO – but analysing them is definitely something I know about. I used to think that I actually wasn’t very good at links and that I was missing something about how the experts operated. I used to ask the ones I knew how they did it, and I’d read endless blogs and articles about it, but the secrets seemed elusive. I’ve even been known to advise a client that since we’d optimised everything else that they should consider hiring an outside specialist to boost their link profile for that final push that would take their top 5 rankings to the number one spots.

Now there are a lot of SEOs out there who seem to think the subject is about nothing but links, and some of them, particularly in the USA, are well-respected professionals. However there are others who are less well-respected – the sort who cold-call and promise that all the target company has to do is hire them and they’ll get them thousands of links and they’ll shoot up the rankings and everything will be dripping money in no time.

In the last year I’ve had the opportunity to closely assess the performance of a couple of these so-called link specialists and basically I’ve had all my concerns confirmed. The links I’ve seen created have been awful – in my view so poor as to be a danger to the site rather than a help. Artificial sites created purely to link together and then link out to the company’s clients – often with the same lists of links on every site. Thousands of exact match domains created on obscure south sea island TLDs and then scraped content added. Comment spam on obscure blogs and forums, often in foreign languages. In one hilarious case I found there was a spammy initial forum post on a Ukraine forum with a long series of comments which were ALL from different spam droppers.

Occasionally one or other of these tactics might actually give a short term minor boost but in most cases this was quickly followed by a drop back down. Lots of links, no value.

In my own efforts to find links the thing I notice most often is that the majority of sites that would be worthwhile targets just don’t have any mechanisms for giving links any more. Links and resources pages are largely a thing of the past, and many sites don’t have any outgoing links at all – either the management have banned them or the webmaster has listened to some ill-informed stories about “leaking pagerank”.

That doesn’t leave much – directories are largely worthless these days, while press releases probably always were. Article creation has taken a big hit from Panda and there aren’t always suitably relevant blogs or forums for many ecommerce sites to build up relationships on. The same thing applies to guest blogging – guest articles about SEO are easy; guest article opportunities about garden ornaments or bed linen tend to be a bit fewer and far between!

And yet still we see SEOs writing articles about link building. Of course they never actually tell you how to do it in enough detail that you can follow their methods – they talk about all the above methods that don’t work or aren’t relevant in most subject areas, or they talk about training link builders and the abilities they need to have, or they tell you how NOT to get links. In short they are just link bait about link building.

So come on guys tell me – are there ANY white-hat link building methods or is every method really a bit shady ranging to completely black-hat? Do any of you offer genuine, quality link building? Because if there are any I’d like to either get some training from you or outsource some client work to you – but beware, I know crap links when I see them so you’ll have to be the genuine article. (And if you’re an Indian spammer called “Steve” or “April” then don’t waste your time.)


Links – are there any genuine link builders out there? — 2 Comments

  1. I would argue that any manually “built” links are by definition not naturally built and therefore potentially ignored by search engines. I’m talking about link building that involves someone trying to negotiate individual links here.

    As someone who has relied entirely on natural link building (mostly because I think I enjoy spending my time building sites!) I would also say that manually built links simlpy can’t compete with natural ones. My readers build 1000s more than I could ever place.

    But perhaps there are different types of “link building”. When I worked for a commercial site we didn’t pay for link builders. We had a PR team that got stories into the national press. Get a good story in the right place and you’d get 10,000 links coming in from all kinds of big sites and various syndications.

    It’s hard to compete with the big guys!

  2. Hi Jezza101, thanks for commenting. I’m very much in sympathy with your stance – natural links are far better and more useful all round. One of my worries is that much natural linking has largely ceased due to inaccurate advice and corporate mis-management. I yearn for the old days when you linked to things that were interesting and had the confidence to know that if your own site was good enough then people would come back to you.

    I also dislike the vast majority of artificial linking methods for both quality reasons and because they grate against my hopes for the web from its early idealistic days. Sadly some of the artificial tactics do sometime work, at least for a while, and many SEO companies talk them up in a way that makes clients believe them. It’s hard to tell a client not to do something because you think it’s poor quality when everyone else is telling them it’s about quantity. They want to see action.

    A good web-aware PR company is indeed well worth its fees, but many of them are still hopeless. I worked with one client whose PR company used the wrong address in their releases – linking to their main competitor! After a few failed attempts to steer them in the right direction I gave up.