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Link-building is the process of manually building links in any way possible to show the site in question as having more of a value to search engines than it did previously. Therefore it's surely a black-hat SEO activity?


I'm at the stage where I'm trying to promote an online store I'm in the process of launching at the company I work for. I've done most of the initial legwork - domain, server, software, products, on-page seo, etc. All that's left now is to promote, promote, promote.

I (like many others) would like most of our traffic to come from organic searches because it's both free and passive in many respects (yes, my time isn't free and so on, but lets assume it is for now) so it's a question of ranking well for what I think (based on my keyword research) the terms are that people search for where our site would be the most appropriate. As I said before, all on-page SEO is taken care of, meaning broadly speaking, how well we rank for said terms is down to how many links (or rather, 'how many links of a good quality') I can get pointing to my site and products with appropriate anchor text over our competitors (competitiors being not necessarily other online stores, but sites that rank well for those terms regardless of their purpose).

I'm not new to the concepts of SEO, I understand the majority of concepts (it's actually quite simple, though most 'SEO' firms insist it isn't and will throw ridiculous terminology into the mix to boost their 'professional image') and whilst I understand everything, I just can't phathom why anyone would seek to try and build links manually. Link building entales essentially pestering webmasters to link to your site in question, when it's probably the last thing they care about doing for that particular day. Sure there are rare occassions when the site your building links for is genuinely relevant and interesting to the webmaster you're approaching for a link, but in some industries - especially the more 'niche' industries, these kinds of sites are far and few between.

Rather than simply requesting links, many articles now go into the psychology of essentially manipulating people (webmasters, yes, they're people) into linking to their site under the pretences of a false relationship/friendship (sure, you can say it's genuine all you like but you would never have contacted them if you weren't after a link) and spending time on said relationship to the stage where they might link to you... once.

Manual link building seems (well, IS) a very long-winded process with what is essentially very little reward when you consider that you won't continue to gain links if you stop. Major search engines use link counts as an organic method of determining which sites are relevant to what search terms and how they should rank and by building links, you are technically devaluing their efforts to evaluate your site. Surely by this measure, link-building isn't a white-hat process?

I believe the smarter approach (if you were going to approach the webmaster of a site whose audience may find your site interesting and request they link to it) would be simply to send an email with a link asking them to take a look... then if they genuinely found it interesting they might link to it.... and I fear I may have just contradicted myself with my earlier psychology approach.

Should 'link-building' as an activity consist of creating link-worthy exceptional content that is likely to accrue links naturally with age as opposed to the headless-chicken/goose-chase approach many SEO firms seem to undertake?

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I have collected tips & tricks here: tshikatshikaaa.blogspot.com/2012/05/… –  JVerstry May 16 '12 at 8:35
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Link building is not black hat SEO unless you are artificially creating links to your we pages (i.e. link farms). But asking other websites to link to you is perfectly fine. After all, you can ask for a link but it doesn't mean you're going to get it.

The reason why it is perfectly fine is, like you said, it is all about quality links. Not coincidentally, the higher the quality the link the more difficult it will be to get that link. So getting low quality links will be easier to do and you may get lots of them, but because their quality is so low you won't see much of an improvement in your rankings if you even see any at all. The quality links, the ones that make a real difference in your rankings, are difficult to get because not only are their fewer of them available, but they tend to have quality content on their website and won't link to a poor website as it will reflect poorly on them. That's why they are so valuable. Not only are the pages the link will be on high quality but it forces the page being linked to to be high quality as well. (A good rule of thumb is: the easier it is to get a link, the lower quality of the link).

You mentioned using high quality content to naturally attract high quality links. That's exactly how you should approach it. Pandering for low quality links has a poor ROI. Writing quality content and letting the links "come to you" is the better long term strategy.

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"After all, you can ask for a link but it doesn't mean you're going to get it."... of course, something I should have included. Perhaps the question should have been 'is link-building an ignorant SEO activity?'. Smart SEO's would purely focus on making sure the content appeals to the masses of their industry in an intruiging manner. –  Anonymous Aug 23 '11 at 13:49
    
John is right. Most importantly, Link Build by asking is a necessary activity. No matter how great content is, if it has no links, no one will find it. The more links you get by asking, the more contents gets discovered and the more link you get without asking but you have to build up to that synergy. –  Itai Aug 23 '11 at 13:55
    
Whilst I agree to some extent that requesting links may be necessary to initially get your site on the radar, much beyond that I think it's pointless. For example, the owner(s) of the stackexchange would truly be wasting there time by trawling the internet asking for links. Their sites feature (albeit user generated) content that is interesting and relevant that naturally gains hundreds/thousands of links. Asking for links is a long-winded process with no guarantees and if it's a few links that are needed to 'start' the process, I think directories and the like would be the better bet. –  Anonymous Aug 23 '11 at 15:15
    
I disagree. Directory listings are far less useful because nobody reads them. You need people with authority to find you links (so that they can write and share about them) to get started at least until you get above 1000s of unique visitors per day. Stackexchange has gained critical mass that it is not needed. –  Itai Aug 23 '11 at 15:21
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I would avoid directories and the like, if you have quality content then approach similar sites in your niche and show them your content. If they like it then they are likely to link or share it. Reaching out to people in your market and telling them about your content is a great way to garner links, instead of asking for them.

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