Why ‘aggressive’ link-building isn’t sustainable

Link Building is no longer needed for PR Now by Mark Kens

I recently stumbled across a link-building services site that proudly announced on its homepage that it can build links so that businesses could “focus on getting richer” instead of “wasting time and energy building links”.

There are two things about this statement that bother me:

1. Outsourcing link-building is fraught with potential problems. You’re putting your faith in a third-party who may be deploying all kinds of dodgy tactics in order to build links that may ultimately impact your business
2. Link-building isn’t “a waste of time and energy”. Search engines value quality over quantity when it comes to links and you don’t need to build hundreds a month. Most of all, link-building can be fun, productive and very beneficial for a business.

Perhaps I’m being naive, disillusioned or just a bit silly, but whenever I see an ad or promotion from someone claiming that they can build thousands of links, at scale, from ‘high authority’ sites for a nominal fee, my heart sinks a little. As a creative digital marketer I can’t help but think we can do a lot better than this and should be aspiring to a higher level of quality in our marketing.

Don’t chase an algorithm that’s constantly changing

Following a series of algorithm updates from Google over the past two years, creating mediocre content and/or manipulating links in order to generate better rankings has made these SEO tactics a lot less effective.

Whilst I empathise with smaller businesses who can not rely on the authority of a big brand name to boost search visibility, I don’t believe that ‘chasing the algorithm’ with spammy tactics has ever been a good way of doing business. It just feels cheap and shady and tarnishes the good work carried out by the vast majority of the SEO community.

Earn your way to organic search success

Search engine optimisation is a form of earned media marketing, meaning websites have to earn the right to appear highly in search engines by having a relevant site and/or piece of content for any given related search phrase. Any attempt to trick a search engine algorithm in order to gain (perceived) authority is not a sustainable route to success. You’re betting that the algorithms will remain constant and consistent whilst all the evidence suggests that they will continually evolve in order to improve the quality of their listings.

Focus on the SEO factors that you can control

Although organic search gives websites an opportunity to generate ‘free’ clicks to their content, it takes time, effort and focus to build a legitimate, sustainable presence. It’s important not to optimise a website based on how the algorithm is believed to work today. Optimise a website based on what your customers are looking for and consider these main factors:

Website structure

Make sure that all on-site SEO best practices are put in place and related pages link naturally to one another so that authority can flow throughout the site. The structure should allow humans and search engines to intuitively navigate around the site.

User experience

Websites shouldn’t be built and structured with only ‘SEO’ in mind. I say ‘SEO’ because search engine optimisation isn’t just about keywords, meta data and link-building anymore. It’s also about creating a user experience that effectively meets the requirements of the customer.

When looking at website structure, it’s also important to consider design, user journeys and the devices (PC, tablet, mobile) customers are most likely to use when accessing your site.

Great content

Aggressive link-building companies use content to generate links. But it is the quality of content they use that I question. Hiring external agencies to build content for your company and brand is risky. Only you and your closest partners will know what really works for your site and customers.

Content can come in many forms, shapes and sizes but it’s important that content is:

  • Relevant to your company/ brand
  • Credible
  • Useful
  • Engaging
  • Informative
  • Educational


As with any worthwhile in life, there is no short-cut and this applies to SEO, content creation and effective use of social media – it takes time, effort and commitment. There is no silver bullet to success.