When Do I Stop Building Links?

How long should I build links for? and when should I stop building them? Both frequent SEO questions, with the answer "it depends."

Automation as a Non-strategy

Many people are interested in automating as much as possible and doing it as easily and quickly as they can. The problem with replication and doing what is easy are that if it is easy for you to replicate

  • it may leave an unnatural footprint
  • it is typically easy to replicate
  • it leaves you heavily reliant on a single technique that may get cleaned up (like directories did last year)
  • if you are working on 30 sites at once you do not get to take best practices learned from sites 1 through 29 and apply them to the 30th site

When Being Lazy is OK

I have sites that I have left virtually untouched for years because they fall into one (or more) of the following categories

  • they enjoy a self reinforcing ranking effect
  • they got as far as they are going to without significant capital expenditure and opportunity cost that exceeds the potential rewards
  • I was just too lazy to keep working on them

Beyond those types of sites I look at link building as a proxy for relationship building.

The Coming Wave of Competition & Creativity

I think when you look at the more creative parts of the web, those foreshadow what the battle for hearts, minds, and eyeballs will look like throughout the rest of the web in the years to come.

Well Marketed/Open Software

With programming you see lots of the high risk heavy capital expenditure business models giving way to lighter, simpler, and more open frameworks. Many of the lighter, simpler, and open frameworks allow users to create plug ins and evangelize the systems. Some even have programmers work on the core. Many also offer free trial versions which reduce marketing costs to ~ $0 and build goodwill. The software companies which are not seen as free and open need to lash out against the competition in an attempt to gain marketshare.

Great Music

Music is another industry undergoing gigantic business model shifts. Sigur Rós is a well known Icelandic group, which created a 97 minute documentary about their homeland named Heima. Then they uploaded it to YouTube and were featured on the homepage of YouTube for a day, along with some of their fan favorite short films. Their documentary got over 600,000 views on YouTube in the last 4 days, and you can watch it on this page for free:

Update: They set the Youtube video to private. I believe someone also uploaded it to Google Video, but that might be a copyright violation. You can view the trailer below & here is their official website. I liked the Youtube version well enough to buy the DVD from Amazon.com

In spite of their success, they are still building links. And if you want to watch the video somewhere other than YouTube it only costs $15 on Amazon.com. On their next tour they could probably double or triple their ticket price and still sell out stadiums, largely because they kept building links.

Published: March 12, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


March 12, 2008 - 2:27am

I feel you're totally spot on about link building being a proxy for relationship building, though I personally work things the other way around - build the relationship first, then ask for a link or something. And at the same time, I'm generously linking to friends and acquaintances and those I'd like to develop a relationship with on a regular basis (including to you Aaron, if you noticed my Independent Webmaster's Manifesto ... Todd liked it fyi).


March 12, 2008 - 4:53am

I get it now thanks ;)

March 12, 2008 - 6:15am

Nice post and I agree with everything you said Aaron, but wanted to add my own 2 cents worth regarding the automation process...

I agree that you shouldn't rely on automated linking schemes and that the link building process should be more about the relationships than the links themselves... but I think you can automate the process of finding such relationships / sites.

Given the size of the internet, it's quite possible to waste a lot of time on sites that aren't the best to create a relationship with. So automating the process of bringing highly relevent and valuable sites onto ones radar can make things just that little bit easier.

Then the manual process of forming the relationship kicks in.

March 12, 2008 - 6:44am

That is how I view it too. Automate some of the background research, add in a dash of creativity, and aim to build longterm relationships via direct interaction. :)

March 12, 2008 - 8:50pm

Cool video - not sure how that dude does falsetto for that long without breaking into pieces :)

March 16, 2008 - 2:24pm

I am confused.

Does a link to me at a high PR site have any PR value if no one clicks on it?

Do good outbound links from my site improve PR?

Thanks, Chris

March 16, 2008 - 8:42pm

--Does a link to me at a high PR site have any PR value if no one clicks on it?

Possibly. There are a lot of factors.

--Do good outbound links from my site improve PR?

Not directly, but perhaps indirectly they could help.

March 17, 2008 - 1:19pm

Hey Aaron,

The music vid is offline. Perhaps you want to change that.



March 17, 2008 - 11:00pm

Thanks for the heads up Satish. I will fix that.

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