Much like other technological marvels, link building has a long and storied journey all of its own. We can all be proud of some of it, but there are other areas that should perhaps be reflected on with a more guarded attitude.
That said, we can all learn from the past. The development of technology, and its practical applications, largely comes down to a sense of trial and error. It’s been a long and winding road for link building, and there’s plenty more mileage left to go.
Still, there’s no brighter tomorrow without looking back at where we’ve been. In 2020, it was reported that UK adults were spending up to a quarter of their waking time online, and part of that will be driven by the sharing of links and the exchange of information. It would be foolhardy to believe that everything being shared represents the best of link building strategies.
Where has link building been? Where is it going? Join us as we take stock of things down below.
When link building gained momentum
Backlinks were the bread and butter of link building in the 1990s. They’re still important under the right measures today, but back then, people wholly depended on these strategies to establish their online website’s significance. More importantly, back then, backlinks were often half-baked.
The aim of exchanging links dominated everything. Around this time, networks of websites were developed to promote that purpose. They were called link farms. The link farms were sent into overdrive; the overriding belief at the time was that the more incoming links a website received, the more reputable it was.
As you can probably imagine, not everything was rosy under these circumstances. Many of the links provided during this time would be considered spam by today’s standards (and many in the 90s, too), and those that weren’t tended to be of low value in other ways; poorly written and researched content, poor presentation and formatting, and so forth. Quantity was king, not quality.
When link farming died out
Eventually, link farming would go the way of the dinosaurs. The mid-200s is when Google started rearing its head with the PageRank algorithm, which tipped the scales regarding quantity and quality.
In 2012, the “Penguin” algorithm update came to be, another of Google’s creations. It was designed to not only counter link spam, but kill it stone dead. Any website that had backlink profiles that were deemed to be spam-filled plunged down the ranks as punishment for their deeds.
Everything changed here. Businesses were eager to establish guest blogging connections with websites that were reputable but also relevant to their own interests. Genuine connections were sought in the name of creating quality content and, ultimately, generating quality backlinks too.
Of course, today, we’re seeing the world double down on confronting manipulative online practices from various sources. Information has to be presented organically and with good intentions, and the same ethical codes have been ingrained into link building practices for some time now.
When link building services took charge
Services around link building have been at the forefront of the scene since the 1990s. However, as the Google algorithms started to refine processes and raise standards in the 2000s, people and businesses understandably turned to those with the knowledge and resources to keep up with everything. It’s a discipline all of its own.
Indeed, these experts met the moment and offered an array of services. They included:
- Content marketing.
- Guest blogging.
- Manual outreach.
- Broken link building (the process of identifying broken or dead links and promptly replacing them).
Of course, every link building service will have various offers to entice clients and create SEO-friendly results. They may have spam blacklists to ensure links are high-quality, as well as an inventory database that’s teeming with rich and intriguing options for clients to choose from. Additionally, they may collaborate with SEO agencies and develop their own unique site-checking formulas.
So, as you can see, link building services aren’t always following a set path that’s generic or uninspired. They’re innovators and moving things forward just as much as the Google algorithms do, from a certain point of view. Businesses trust them and for good reason.
When content context raised the bar
These days, a ‘good’ link is often defined within the context of content. We’ve mentioned the relevance of links already, but there’s more to it than merely what’s written.
For example, reputable websites may offer high-quality backlinks to websites in the same niche. However, they will take other factors into consideration; how fast the web pages load, whether the website is easy to navigate, and whether the website is optimised for smartphone users. If they’re dissatisfied, they’ll likely turn their backs.
It may sound like cutthroat attitudes, but once again, the shift in demeanour correlates back to decisions made by Google. They’ve begun paying more attention to the user experience in recent years. Mobile optimisation and faster-loading web pages – they’re now both key benchmarks in achieving good SEO.
Google also introduced the principles of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) when gauging the level of quality in content. Links have a role to play within that framework, but so too does creating expert-driven content that’s original and impactful. If those things are absent, link building can’t be undertaken.
When trust became more dire
Link building isn’t just about getting seen – rather, it’s about getting seen for the right reasons. Businesses that adopt the best practices here will surely build their credibility, both in terms of satisfying the search engine overlords and impressing the everyday public.
However, the world of business is at a critical juncture today. Among other things, trust in business has fallen down sharply in recent times. Financial crises, corporate scandals, and failures in environmental and social policy have tainted industry and understandably drawn some scrutiny from the public.
Of course, not all businesses are guilty of foul play. Still, one bad apple spoils the bunch, and ethical businesses must work twice as hard as they should to win consumer trust. Part of that effort comes down to establishing quality link building practices; creating great content, and working with link building services to showcase their values of hard work and fair play.