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Monday, May 16, 2022

The Coming Link Apocalypse

I just finished reading “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, hence the title of today’s column. If you’ve read it then you understand. It’s a bit dramatic, but then again drama, controversy and hyperbole is LinkBaiting 101. Sadly I add.

The apocalypse I speak of is related to link building, and what I mean by it is that right now, as you read this, there are tens of thousands of people building links to hundreds of thousands of web sites, all over the world. You are probably one of them. And even in what would seem to be the most topical niches, like custom hood ornaments or accordion repair, there are multiple sites probably each using various link building tactics, ranging from paid links to article syndication to directory submission to link analysis to paid reviews to social sharing to RSS feeds to link bait.

You aren’t doing anything wrong, and you do your job well. You try hard. You are conscientious. You care. But no matter the content subject, what I have seen over the past five or six years that link building has gone mainstream is a herd mentality. Everyone uses the same tools, the same tactics, the same tricks, the same companies, the same link requests, the same link-ridden press releases, the same approaches, with almost no thought or differentiation. A site about whale watching in Iceland does the same link building as a site about spelunking in Arkansas.

And this is why many link building tactics people use now—whether they work now or not—ultimately won’t make a difference in your ultimate success or failure on the web.

We are creating a vast gray landscape of marginal links that will not stand out, will not help people, will not give the engines confidence and which will not really do anything other than make it harder to find anything of value.

How many reciprocal links pages and PPC link farms do you have to wade through on your way to something decent? How many spam link requests do you delete every day? How many links pages have you found your site listed on without asking? When you spend the day looking for linking opportunities, how many worthless pages do you have to look at before you find just one decent one?

It’s the very challenge of identifying legitimate and valuable link targets that causes many people to give up and seek an easy way out. Forget taking the time to look for, pursue, and finally obtain 6 or 7 quality links. It’s easier to use this third party company promising 100 new links every month for $2,500.

Forget doing real search engine research to find perfect targets. Just use some free tool to show you the top 100 high trust sites that pass PageRank. Or some tool that tells you which site is the oldest. Why take the time and exert the effort, sweat and tears when some site promises to find every hub in your niche? And look here… a list of 250 directories that accept submissions!

If I sound annoyed, I’m not. My willingness to not use the same link building approach as everyone is the very reason I’m still around 14 years later. At the same time part of me is—due to my longevity—saddened by what I see in the link building profession.

I hear from people every week that have spent thousands of dollars on link building services and have nothing to show for it. It bugs me that so many services are selling linking related tools and services that I know are worthless. But they exist and thrive because of people’s hopes and fears, and willingness to believe a shortcut exists. To believe that some $30 piece of link building software is what they need to succeed. Sure, you and 100 competitors who bought the same software.

The link apocalypse has actually started, and I’m glad. Millions of links that have been improperly receiving credit from search engines have slowly but surely stopped doing so. Companies that outsourced link building are bringing it back in-house and seeking link building training do it right. People are wising up. Search engines are wising up. The apocalypse will be slow. Steady. Links that shouldn’t help won’t. Millions of pages, articles, directories, links lists, and press releases will be ignored. Anchor text for many will become poison. Multiple agenda-driven social bookmark accounts will vanish.

I’ll close with a couple real world points. Do we really need 3 million RSS feeds from veterinarians? How many of those feeds were created because someone told somebody that RSS feeds were a good strategy and they believed it?

Robert Frost once wrote: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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