Sorry, Folks: Link Building Is Just Harder Now

I was browsing through WMW today and came across New Link Building Strategies Needed in the link development forum. Basically, the post author is having trouble building links and ranking. Specifically, he asks: How can I compete against older sites who have been building links for years? And how can I compete against huge brands that get a ton of links by virtue of their offline presence?

These companies have incredible power, massive hoards of cash, networks, affiliates, branding and reach - while the poor ole webmaster has naff all in real terms. I mean let’s admit it to ourselves, we are small time in comparison and it will take us years to make a dent in cyberspace compared to major brands out there, so our problem isn’t about getting links - more the speed at which those links are obtained, indexed by the engines and out there working for us - and yes, the ease of how links are working.

The way I see it, if you’re trying to build links for a new commercial or affiliate site, you have 3 major things working against you:

  1. It’s hard to get people to link to a commercial or affiliate site (relatively speaking).
  2. Many of your competitors are old. They have a huge head start and even if you build links regularly the gap may be widening, since the rich get richer.
  3. If you have any ‘brands’ in your niche, they will get a lot of links naturally due to their offline presence.

Now I’m not saying you should feel sorry for anyone, hey it’s just business and it isn’t supposed to be easy. But I think there’s another thing working against new webmasters, and that’s that the fact that in general people are now more miserly when it comes to link love. I believe there used to be a more generous linking spirit on the web–before PageRank came along, before selling links for SEO purposes came along, and certainly before nofollow came along. A lot of times I’ll check out the backlinks from a ‘97 or ‘99 site and am just amazed all the weird links it has: people linking to them ‘just because’, people including favorite sites on their personal homepages, or people writing content about a subject and not afraid to link liberally to commercial sites in that content.

So these really old sites have an extra advantage (besides just being older and having more time to accumulate links), in that it was easier to get links back in the good ol’ days. (And nevermind the TrustRank/sandbox thing, we won’t even get into that!)

Now the good news is social media can help you catch up with old or branded sites. When a competitor shows 100,000 links in a Yahoo! backlink search, well that is a pretty daunting lead if you trying to catch up by building one link at a time. If you can get on Digg or Delicious/Popular regularly you can pick up 1,000 or 5,000 links a shot, in that case you might only be 30 link baits away from competing with them. That’s still a year’s worth of hard work, but it’s no longer so daunting (and at least it’s possible).

Now what sucks is that some people (like a lot of you Tropical SEO readers) have the talents and resources to link bait consistently, and to you, ranking is easy (with a lot of effort put into link baiting). Realistically, many (most?) webmasters do not have what it takes (creativity, subtlety, power account) to land on the Digg or Reddit homepage. Which means they will be building their links one at a time, and let’s be honest, they don’t have a prayer unless they’re in a Basket Weaving in Boise, Idaho type niche.

I wish I had some inspirational axiom to end on–but I don’t. The bottom line is the internet is more mature and competitive now. More websites compete for the same 10 spots, and many of those that do have had a several year head start. The talented newer guys entering the competitive niches are managing to pick up natural links in batches of hundreds or thousands. So if you’re not old, or a link baiting/social media nut, you’re (more often than not)… fucked.

Link building (and ranking) is ‘Just Harder’ now.

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#1 blakekr on 05.07.07 at 11:03 am

Good article. Wish I’d found this blog six months ago. ;)

#2 Rasctor on 05.07.07 at 7:22 pm

True. With no links, you might rank #1 for a 3-word term that no one searches for, but to chop off a single word and get that golden 2-word subterm that gets megahits, you need those megalinks…and every competitor’s been around at least 10 years building those links. Building them when they were easier. Back when the ROI on polite link requests was >1%.

But can’t you just change the meta tags? Or resubmit the site? ;)

#3 seopractices on 05.09.07 at 12:40 pm

It’s probably as hard as it used to be for others back in those times. They didn’t do link building for achiving higher rankings back then, they were doing on page optimization. What I mean is that back then link building wasn’t as important as it is today, SE didn’t rely much on link popularity and quality to rank sites as they do today.