If You Don't Build Links You are Not a Real SEO

I am not certain why, but I have been getting lots of requests from claimed SEO companies that want to outsource 100% of the link building associated with SEO.

My typical response is:

If you don't do link building you are not a real SEO.

That may sound brutal, but it is true. Here is why:

There are the rare sites that have already spent millions of dollars building their brands to where all they need done is descriptive unique page title and making sure their content management system works. Then there are sites like SearchEngineWatch that are just the authority sites in their field, self reinforcing market positions and a decade of writing quality content about a topic the author loves. But most sites do not fall into those categories. If you feel a site needs more links to compete, why - other than laziness - would you want to outsource 100% of the link building project?

If a site is in non competitive fields sure a few directory listings and the like may be all that is needed. But if that is all that is needed I don't think it is hard to develop processes to do that sort of stuff.

If your an individual person who runs one website I guess it may make sense to outsource that to a person who provides affordable services, but if you are an SEO company with recurring work and new clients coming through all the time it doesn't make sense to outsource it.

Sure some people make certain services cheap and are really good at what they do, but if the price gets too cheap and the process is fairly automated the link quality is going to be low.

As far as link builders I would recommend, I would have no problem paying Eric Ward for the connections he has and his solid site announcement history. I also know and trust Debra Mataler well enough to know she would do a good job building links.

As Stuntdubl said, you want to balance the link equation. Get a variety of link types. A good link builder will do that for you. But it is hard to build an SEO business model that

  • is profitable

  • gives clients individualized attention
  • provides end to end solutions

If you guarantee success with your service you are better off doing affiliate marketing than selling SEO services. You get a larger percent of the action that way and have no clients!

Demand for SEO lags what is most effective and many people think they just need more PageRank. And many of the most profitable business models are going to revolve around selling pieces of the pie instead of selling the whole process. Many of the SEO firms that have been contacting me wanted to outsource 100% of their link building to link brokers.

Some links are about social relationships. Those are key in hyper competitive fields. How can you compete in hyper competitive fields if you are not learning the market or pushing social relationships? How can you even know what budget to allocate for link building if you don't do it? If people should buy link services off a link builder then what value does a clueless SEO firm add by taking a cut charging a premium for their own ignorance?

I am friends with a few link brokers, and know pieces of their partner networks, business models, and link types. Some of the content sites in the networks are so good that they provide enough direct value to pay for themselves even if they had no effect on SEO. Of course it would be hard to say that about all link buys. Sure some of the links probably do count well and others probably don't count at all.

Assuming all the links from link brokers counted in all search algorithms (that would be being hyper optimistic) there would still be a few fundamental flaws with only building links from brokers:

  • A link profile consisting of only one link type is not a real natural profile.

  • If nearly all your links come from a few networks or are brokered through a few people then the odds are pretty good that a competitor is going to come in contact with the person who is selling you links.
  • Most people selling links will also sell links to competing sites.
  • If you get to the top of the search results there is little effort needed to duplicate your actions if all your links are rented.

I am not trying to hate on any individual type of link. I just think that you should mix what you use. If possible do all of the following

  • articles (these make great direct sales)

  • press releases (when I was a total no name a well known Yahoo! search engineer saw one of my press releases and reviewed my ebook for me based on a press release)
  • directories (most are one time fee)
  • viral marketing opportunities, free tools, & ideas (these are hard to do but also hard to replicate, and are the cheapest link opportunities if you land a good one)
  • affiliate marketing (you set your payout percent, affiliates only get paid if they convert, and it still builds your brand even if the links do not count for SEO)
  • buy links where others are not looking (use Yahoo!'s advanced search page or the concept in this tool. Instead of only entering add URL search for ezine ad, associations, history, and other ideas which may provide greater value than the typical add URL search)
  • if you can afford it do off the web marketing that drives online activity
  • if you can afford it maybe it makes sense to buy an old site or the rights to publish content on old sites

A couple years ago effective SEO was using the same anchor text everywhere and just getting thousands of low quality links to point at you. That is not the case anymore. A strong link building program

  • Should be able to help guarantee usage data and targeted traffic that converts (since people tend to click on legitimate links and trust what is perceived as an unpaid recommendation).

  • Should provide secondary links that were not requested. If a site like SearchEngineWatch writes an article about your site you can guarantee that others will syndicate how interesting your site is.
  • Is hard to replicate.
  • Mixes your link profile.

Your link profile is about who knows you and who trusts you. If you outsource that outside of your client and outside of your business I think you owe it to your clients to at least know enough about the following:

  • how to evaluate how competitive a market is

  • the value add of different linking strategies
  • the risk vs reward profiles of different linking strategies
  • why it is important to mix link types
Published: January 26, 2006 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


January 27, 2006 - 1:58am

The fundamentals of SEO, if'n you ask me are server configuration, navigation structure, on-page content and inbound links. Inbound links is the only one of those where success is built by leveraging relationships.

What you call outsourcing here, I call building relationships. I like spreading the money around! If Eric Ward can get my client in Yahoo! Daily Picks, I think I'm screwing up ethically if I don't present that option to my client.

January 30, 2006 - 9:45am

>What you call outsourcing here, I call building relationships. I like spreading the money around!

I agree that it is worth trying a variety of things. And I stressed that in the post.

My point was that if you were looking for a recommendation for a single external solution to link building then you probably shouldn't be selling SEO services.

October 2, 2006 - 5:43am

IMO, the statement "Links! Links! Links! OR death!" is not going to maintain its gravity for long. Since the internet searchscape is changing more from the tediously fruit bearing SERPS towards social bookmarking, I believe that G, Y! and Live! no longer will play the role that they are playing now.

I personally search DMOZ when ever I need more info on any subject. I know results in Google are manipulated by SEOs for their own interest.

January 26, 2006 - 2:22pm

Very good Article, you remindet me that I _really_ should work more on linkbuilding ;)

January 26, 2006 - 4:15pm

While I agree with the notion that Link Building is a key component, if not the most important part, of an effective SEO strategy, I'm not sure I agree with the premise that you can't outsource some of the work.

Outsourcing exists to do work where the value add has been removed or exists in the aggregate of the outsourced work. For example what if you outsourced just the link research? In that case the SEO can provides the yes/no on the link but the heavy lifting of the research was outsourced.

January 26, 2006 - 5:45pm

The number one way to improve SERPs is organic linking, period. Nice article.

January 26, 2006 - 6:01pm

I can see outsourcing directory submissions and the tedious stuff, but I find it hard to outsource the more advanced link building stuff (and I put market research in that group...at least any market research beyond what you can do quickly with free software).

Also to me many of the best linking ideas come directly from the research. So as the SEO you need to be able to think of what sort of content ideas to come up with, etc.

You can't really appreciate all the market ideas unless you survey the market, IMHO.

January 26, 2006 - 9:56pm

Right on Aaron. Many of the best links come from doing the research, understanding the nuances of a particular marketing and finding patterns/connections. There's a Sociological aspect to SEO and link building that many people don't realize. And that's what sets certain SEOs apart from others in how effective they can be.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.