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Link Building: Is it Dead or Just Changing?

One of the most talked about topics in SEO at the start of 2014 is link building. The question that just doesn’t seem to go away is… Is link building dead? Before we answer this question let us first talk about why it’s being asked.

Over the course of the past year link building has become extremely difficult. Almost one year ago Google released the second version of Penguin in May 2013. Here is a quick recap of what this algorithm update targeted:

  • Bought links
  • No link diversity
  • Low quality guest posting
  • Keyword rich anchor text
  • Links built on irrelevant or low quality sites


Since the release of Penguin 2.0 Google has continued to tighten its reigns on link building tactics. On January 20, 2014, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Web Spam, said, “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”

Cutts does go on to mention that guest blogging, or guest posting, used to be a respectable thing to do. However like every other link building tactic before it, it has been abused to the point where it is no longer accepted.

Guest posting wasn’t the first link building tactic to get a death threat from Google and it certainly won’t be the last. So the question remains: is link building dead? It certainly isn’t. However we’ve had to become extremely careful with the links that we build for clients. Quality guest posting is still an option, but most webmasters we reach out to these days run for the hills as soon as we mention it. Or they’re more than happy to accept a guest post for a fee (which goes against Google’s quality guidelines).

Building relevant and quality directory links is one of the few tactics we have left, but unfortunately there aren’t that many available. So what does Google want us to do? They want us to build a brand. They want us to create high quality content that encourages others to link to naturally. It’s referred to by many as “link earning.” As you might expect this obviously takes more time.

Link building is far from dead as Google will continue to use links as a way to measure PageRank and a site’s authority on a subject. However it’s changing quickly and it’s becoming harder and harder to adapt.