Is link building the ugly sister of the SEO industry?

By Amy@BubbleJobs

Just like any other SEO working in the industry today, my job is pretty varied to say the least – and no two days are ever the same.

From creating new landing pages and onsite optimisation to researching the market and writing a daily blog, there are always a million and one things on my to-do list and while most things usually take a few hours, days or weeks to complete, there are some tasks that remain a constant feature of my to-do list, no matter what the time of year.

Now, I don’t mind things like keyword research, rank tracking and blogging but there is one particular element of SEO that I’m… well, let’s say less fond of than others – I am of course talking about link building.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the power of link building – I’ve been working in this industry for nearly four years now so I get how important and powerful links can be – it’s just that the process is… well, awkward to say the least!

In a perfect world, link building would be easy – and in fact, you wouldn’t even need to actively pursue it at all. The best sites would automatically get the best links and automatically race to the top of the SERPs and all would be well with the world… but we all know that in reality, no matter how many times Google likes to say it, it doesn’t work like that.

Link building is complex, tricky, time-consuming, soul-destroying and, let’s not beat around the bush here, boring. No matter what company you’re working for, link building can often feel like a thankless, ableit essential, part of any SEO strategy.

linksLink building is the real nitty-gritty of SEO today. Why? Because it’s so unpredictable, time-consuming and downright tough.

No matter how long you spend scoping out relevant sites, names and social media accounts, there’s no saying you’re going to end up with a link from even one of them at the end of the day, no matter how convincing you make your argument.

If you look at onsite optimisation and activity as the shiny, pretty Cinderella of the SEO industry then offsite techniques, namely link building, are definitely the ugly sister/s.

While the former might not be effective without the latter, it’s the latter that really sits at the dark under heart of the SEO industry – if done well and right it can help a site to secure a long, successful future for the website in question – but if done wrong (even for a short period of time) can destroy a website and its associated business.

Before I go any further I just want to point out that I don’t hate link building – I just really, really dislike the process… because I think nowadays it’s much harder than it needs to be. I’m not saying that link building pre-Penguin was easy – it really wasn’t – but it was definitely easier than it is now.

While site owners used to be happy to actively endorse useful, relevant sites within their industry with the reward of a link, these days they’re now thinking twice and seriously considering if a site deserves a link or if they’re just looking for a link to boost their SEO efforts.

This means link building can now feel like a constant uphill battle that you’re never going to win, even if you have a quality site with something different to offer.

The trick to link building in 2013? Unfortunately there isn’t one… but as an industry as a whole, maybe we should stop trying so hard when it comes to link building.

I’m not saying stop actively link building completely – that would be crazy! – but I am saying we should maybe focus more on creating things people actually need and would want to link to, rather than pestering for links and not having the site/content to validate our requests.

Google’s already made it pretty clear that link building is now on its radar more than it ever has been before, so maybe it’s time we actually took notice and stopped flouting the rules quite so obviously. Penguin affected so many sites because the link building was so obvious and transparent – the spam looked like spam!

To succeed in link building these days we need to be clever and more strategic than ever before. Yes, we know quantity over quantity matters but we’re still trying to get our hands on any links we can, because even getting a PR2 link these days can be challenging.

Link building requires skill, talent and expertise not brute force and a “the more the merrier attitude” – we need to stop trying to cut corners and annoying other site owners and start creating content worth sharing and linking to. It might not be pretty but for the foreseeable future at least, link building is still an essential element of SEO – isn’t it about time we gave it the respect it deserves?!

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