Link Building – A Brief History

The topic of link building make most modern SEOs cringe with anxiety and pain because of the overwhelming fear that if you build a link you run the risk of getting penalized. Well, that is the stigma behind link building currently. It’s almost a no go even though the “experts” say that link building still matters.

I thought that I would break down the history of link building so that we can see where it has come from and then maybe I will give some suggestions in the next article on how to link build today. Let’s get into it.

In the beginning (of SEO)

To start off this history lesson I thought I’d say SEOs started building links. It was discovered that having links point to your site increased your organic rankings. Essentially the more links you had the better you ranked. It passes juice to your site, a sign of authority if you will. That’s what started the crazy link building frenzy in the 90s.

Link exchanges – 1999

Google launched as a search engine in 1998 and links was at the center of it all. Enter ’99 where SEOs started capitalizing on this in the form of link exchanges. They would contact other sites and ask for a link in return for a link. This didn’t last all that long though.

Directories – 2001

Do you remember directories? Some of you may not. But directories was where we could create a profile with a link to the clients website. We did this at a grand scale. We had to build as many links as humanly possible in a day.

Blog Comments – 2003

A new kid in the web allowed us to “interact” with content producers in the form of blog commenting. They allowed links in the comment and we could comment on millions of blogs which again was taken advantage of. I sometimes wonder what the impact was per link attained.

Article Submissions – 2004

A series of sites popped up where you could submit content to specifically for link purposes. In some cases you had to pay for the article to be there. I am not sure if you remember or even heard of ezine articles? They essentially become the go to site for publishing content there.

Blog Roll Links – 2005

We managed to find another way to get links to sites by adding them in the side bar or footer of blogs with a caption we recommend these sites. This tactic kind of escalated to having a page dedicated to all the sites “recommended” for you.

Paid Links – 2006

Yes, SEO tactics weren’t always free. We used to buy links. Send out emails offering to pay to have a link put on a site worth while. Makes one wonder as to how far we would’ve gone back in the day.

Link Farms – 2007

We decided to get clever and buy domains, as many as possible, and interlink them. Some people created content sites and have articles written purely to stuff them with links back to the ,aim purposes site. I didn’t like this much.

2008 – 2012

Remember Infographics and other really cool interactive pieces of content? Yeah they still exist but the main driver behind them was to get you to link to them. There was even a trend where you were allowed to copy the code of the infographic and place it on your site. That code had a link back to the site.

Content became a huge driving force behind link building from guest posting to in depth content strategies that were deployed at mass to try and get as many links as possible. But there was a force coming that would wipe out link building like the meteor that destroyed the dinosaur.

It was Google.

Google released the krackin and destroyed the traditional forms of link building listed above. Their algorithm updates and manual actions destroyed sites who followed the above practices to the point where sites were removed from the index all together. Some recovered others didn’t.

Why you ask?

Simple, SEOs got greedy and forgot what the purpose of SEO was. They tried to get the most authority and visibility no matter the cost. Links looked unnatural and wrong. This was because links were build to one or two pages specifically so the two key pages would have thousands of links where the rest of the site only had a few.

Then the anchor text used for those links was one keyword. Imagine a thousand links with the term “buy shoes online” pointing to that one page where the rest of the site had next to nothing.

It was just unnatural and that became a signal to Google that the site wasn’t taking the user into account and decided that they needed to put a stop to it (also because the ppc aspect of search engine marketing was not great). I am glad that it was done that way!

Link building still matters!

Yes exactly, it still matters. Google and the other Search Engines still regard links to your site as a ranking factor. This is because it is a sure fire way to ascertain the authority and authenticity of a site. A link is like a stamp of approval. It always has been. Unfortunately people got greedy and took advantage of a simple metric and destroyed what is was supposed to be.

So how do you get links?

I would say simple, but it’s not, link building/earning is actually difficult. It requires copious amounts of effort and time to create content and experiences that people are going to want link to.

Personally, I believe that if your content is human worthy and answers the question then you will get a link to your site. I do want to dive into modern link building tactics but if I do that her you will be reading for hours and I bet you don’t have a glass of wine nor do you have bob Dylan playing in the back round like you would for a great novel. So I am going to end off here.

I hope this painted a picture of where link building has come from and potentially tapped into where it is going. As I said I will do a piece on how to get and build links soon as a follow up to this.


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