Up until quite recently I was one of those high-and-mighty SEOs completely opposed to link building; including, but not limited to: posts in forums, directory submissions and guest blogging. After all, according to the Google Quality Guidelines, any link that has been (or could be perceived as) “unnaturally” placed will be treated as such.
This is just fine by me, but several recent cases in my own experiences had me scratching my head. I was seeing distinguishable ranking results for several clients over different industries, seemingly the result of “unnatural” links. After examining the data further, I concluded there was indeed no other explanation.
In the real world, link building still can work. But don’t just run out and party like you’re optimizing in 1999. It’s important to understand what really works in the here and now.
Start by considering the client’s reach. If you’re dealing with a national brand that has the resources to produce stacks of useful content and can effectively implement a solid content marketing strategy, that might be the best route to take.
Then think about the client’s industry. There are several industries in which the client’s reach just won’t matter when it comes to link equity from unnatural placement. Experience has taught me some of those industries include: mortgages, debt consolidation, diet plans… you get the picture. If you’re working with a highly competitive (or potentially spammy) set of terms, skip the link building.
If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a more localized business with a limited budget, you might want to look into other alternatives.
A client in a niche market on a regional scale might see great benefit from link building practices. But proceed with caution and move very slowly. Try to be as “not unnatural” as possible and monitor efforts and results closely.
Finally, if you are going the link building route, try to think like the ranking algorithm. Just because it’s a million times better than using an encyclopedia or picking up a phone book, that doesn’t mean it knows everything. It is just an algorithm, and it’s not perfect. So use common sense and hone in on its indexing imperfections so you can use them to your advantage.