Through the years, link building techniques have changed greatly. In the early years, link acquisition was very much a labour-intensive procedure. Many SEOs’ would tirelessly browse the Internet searching for links that pointed towards the competition, pick relevant directories , contact pertinent sites and generally plead, borrow and pay for links. Many early SEOs’ may remember participating in reciprocal link building and other techniques that now seem unbelievably ancient. However, as the SEO community grew, ideas were shared and more creative link building campaigns were born.
Once upon a time in domains far, far away, SEOs were going after link exchanges or purchasing links using black hat techniques. However, as the online SEO community grew so did people’s knowledge of how Google operated. Many people began listening and following industry professionals like Matt Cutts which opened their minds up to how the Google’s web spam team saw penalties and what these penalties meant for people breaking the rules.
The SEO community soon realised that Google’s search quality team was only going to improve in recognising and calculating valid links and so many of us concentrated specifically on more “white hat” links. It was here, that the beauty of linkbaiting fully came to fruition and the influence of bookmarking sites such as Digg, Reddit & StumbleUpon were truly appreciated and used successfully to drive traffic that would naturally link.
Growth of Social Linking
As link bait techniques gave way to wider online marketing campaigns, social media marketing also developed as a useful and efficient way to earn links. It was around this time that Google professionals like Eric Shmidt stated that “the social signal, the people you ‘hang with’ is actually a ranking signal”. This confirmed what many of us already knew and so we evolved with our link building strategies to involve social media platforms. Twitter was a great place to share information and reach out and promote blogs and articles you were link building to.
Animal Sounding Updates
When the Panda update hit, it was the biggest in Internet marketing history and many SEOs’ who had been using low quality content on their sites were hit the hardest. If you were link building and were placing contextual links within blogs online you had to make sure the content was compelling, relevant and above all unique. Fast forward and it was another animal named update, this time a penguin! In a nutshell, the Penguin update emphasised that quality was a major factor when link building and as any good link builder will tell you, earning quality links doesn’t happen overnight.
Old school link builders will have come across numerous services that provide you with 500+ incoming links to your domain for a low cost. These services were practically worthless in the early days and even more so today.
3-way links occur when Site A links to Site B and then Site B links to a different site that is managed by the owner of Site A. This was a method created to navigate around the unnatural pattern of reciprocal linking, but 3-way links have become much worse because low quality sites and neighbourhoods were created for the sole purpose of 3-way linking. You don’t want to get caught in one of these neighbourhoods.
The face of link building has changed drastically through the years and it has allowed many SEOs’ to understand Google. It’s no hidden secret that black and grey hat tactics are diminishing, so, what will the future of link building look like? The truth is no one knows for sure. The only way to stay ahead of the game is to make sure you keep to the guidelines of what Matt Cutts and the Google team are giving us. If you are taking risks by using black hat link building techniques and trying to ‘game’ Google, then it’s only a matter of time before you will be found out and penalised.