If you build it, will they come? Why link building is key to every SEO campaign

Link building is crucial when it comes to promoting your content, so despite talk of link earning, we shouldn't think about stopping link building just yet.

Shall we talk about link building? For some, the words ‘link building’ conjures up images of flooding directories with spam links, badly written articles that are stuffed with poorly-placed keywords, and worse, a combination of the two – article directories. These are all old-fashioned SEO practices that have thankfully fallen out of favour with the introduction of Google’s Penguin algorithm, so how does link building currently look and where is it likely to go in the future?

We dedicate a lot of our time to link building and this is an important part of our SEO campaign management, but why do we do it? As explained by Moz, search engines use links to 1. Find new web pages and 2. Determine the position a page should rank within the search engine results page (SERP). That doesn’t mean all links are created equal, though – what you want is trustworthy, high-quality links pointing to your site. Link building is an ongoing process, and it’s one that requires a lot of hard work. We don’t build unnatural links and every link we place needs to follow particular guidelines.

How do we build links, then? Is it as simple as creating a piece of content, uploading it to the site and hoping people will find and link to it (link earning)? Well, no, of course not. Supporters of link earning argue that if the content is useful and relevant to a reader, it will naturally gain links...to an extent. Think of the hundreds of conditions listed on the NHS website - there’s no doubt that people will consistently link back to this site due to the informative and authoritative content. For the majority of websites though, it’s not that easy. Research conducted on one million articles by Moz and BuzzSumo actually found that sadly, the majority of content on the internet is simply ignored when it comes to links.

What this means is that manual link building is key. Great content always has an audience, so it’s a case of finding them - that means you need to research target websites and pitch the content to them. And no, it’s not enough to send the same email 100 times saying “we’ve created a really great piece of content that your readers will like, please link to it!” We still need informative and useful content, but we also need to be willing to put time and effort into promoting it. A lot of thought is put into content (perhaps because it’s very much a buzzword right now) but it’s not going to be of any SEO use if it’s not actively promoted.

So if you build it, will they come? Not quite. There will always be the odd “earned link”, but this is not a reliable strategy and unless you’re willing to manually build links to your content, what’s the point? The importance of links is fundamental to SEO - that isn’t going to change, so don’t let your content go unnoticed and hope people find it - you need to make sure every piece of content you produce has a solid link building plan to go with it.

By Natasha Walker, SEO Executive