When I explain the process of link building to someone, I always feel it is important to first understand the past.

For a long period of time, it always felt like there was a new “trick” to manipulate results, in order to gain links and move your key terms up the rankings. I strongly recommend against jumping on the next fad, as you want to future-proof your website and you also don’t want to spend months working on building links just to then remove them at a later date.

This wasn’t always common practice however, as pretty much everyone in the industry jumped on the bandwagon whenever a new tactic was introduced to the industry. Take a look through the history of link building below:

1999: Link Exchanges

As soon as webmasters started to realise the power of links, they realised a simple link trade with fellow webmasters helped them to jump up the rankings. This is what motivated the link pages we still see on many websites to this day. Reciprocal link building still has a place, however excessive use is definitely a big no-go.

2001: Directories

Directories still have their place in the link building process, however this is limited to the powerful sites, ones related to your industry and localised directories. It is also a great tactic for local SEO. These were one of the biggest hit when the Penguin update was released, as a huge number of directories were simply built for SEO purposes.

2003: Blog comments

An old tactic which worked for a long period of time, until Google completely downgraded the power of these links. These were often done in bulk quantities using a scraping tool.

2004: Article Submission

The one that instantly jumps to my mind is Ezine Articles. These were sites purely built for self-submission and would then have the content copied onto a number of other sites.

2005: Blogroll Links

This largely involved a number of recommended (or most likely paid) websites being listed in the sidebar. As sitewide links became an issue, this tactic was instantly a thing of the past.

2006: Paid links

It was so easy back in the day to build links. You would have a set budget, email out a list of website owners and ask how much they would charge. Request particular exact match terms and what your page jump up in rankings. Anything paid should technically be set as nofollow, such as advertorials, which prevents any link juice being passed on.

2007: Link networks

This was caught out by Google, but link farms were a great tactic, as you could own 100’s of domains all interlinking to each other.

2008: Link bait

This tactic still very much has its place in the link building world, such as with awards, however you have to be careful in the way you present this and that you don’t hide exact match anchor text in an embeddable badge code.

2009: Guest blogging

People that say guest blogging is dead are way off the mark, but it definitely isn’t highlighted as the key tactic anymore. Overnight it seemed entire businesses changed their link building strategies to 100% guest posts.

2010: Broken link building

This seemed to be a tactic on everyone’s lips. You would have a search for your competitors broken links, contact the webmaster and offer your website as an alternative fix. It did work quite well for a period of time, however, webmasters caught on and while it still can work, it doesn’t yield the same results.

2011: Press Release

PR has always been and should always be a strong part of your link building process (it is obviously highlighted much more nowadays as we target the bigger publications), however during 2011 a large number of press release websites popped up out of no-where. While these sites painted themselves as PR based resources, they were basically a new version of article submission sites, which were soon to be punished.

2012: Blog Networks

When people realised how much money they could make from having a blog, it started to make sense to run a vast number of them and then to charge advertisers per domain they wanted their content on. They could then use spun content and earn a decent buck. The patterns between these sites did make it easy for Google to find however.

2013: Infographics

A great way to show data visualisation, infographics were the next big thing, with businesses seeming to push these out on a daily basis. While they were a great tactic, Matt Cutts was quick to highlight the negative aspects, as people were using these to embed links with exact match anchor text when offering the embed code to webmasters. These are still great pieces of content and should play a role in link building, but you have to be a lot more wary.

2014: Content Strategy

As the term goes, “content is king” was all you heard at any conference. Seriously, it was driving me insane. However, as everyone spoke about link earning, the key tactic was to produce content which was so intriguing to others that they would be willing to link to it naturally.

2015: HTML5

A number of businesses came out with interactive infographics or other great pieces of content, however the drawback was the cost of time, money and resources. These took a decent amount of time to build, so you had to be committed to the cause and be sure it would gather interest.


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