Let’s get right to the point, without mincing words, so at least you immediately understand the theme that I will then deepen in this article.
The question is this: Is it possible to do SEO nowadays without Link Building?
I’ll make it even simpler and more explicit: Is it possible to get a website in the organic results on the first page of Google only with on-site SEO, without working on the acquisition of backlinks?
The answer is only one: No, it is not possible! In this post I’ll explain why!
The topic of link building in recent years has been much debated, in practice on blogs, forums and social groups in the SEO field, sector experts have talked about it in all sorts of ways. Everything was born thanks to Google, which in 2012 with the release of the Penguin Update , clearly manifested its commitment against spam, understood as all those activities aimed at manipulating the ranking of a site and therefore the search results. Remember, in fact, that Google’s goal has always been to give users relevant and quality results.
Before then, webmasters and SEOs from all over the world had done link building in an almost wild way, achieving their purpose without caring too much about the quality of the acquired links to understand us. But with the arrival of Penguin everything changes, penalties begin to flock to those who link building with unorthodox techniques that violate Google guidelines .
Google’s terror strategy and ignorance
The SEO community around the world begins to debate on how to change the way of doing link building, or if it is even a practice not recommended and to be abandoned completely to avoid incurring the much feared penalties of BigG. All this demonization of link building by many blogs dedicated to the topic of SEO, has contributed to fuel the terror spread by Google. Even one of its spokespersons, John Mueller , during a discussion immortalized in a video in Google+ hangout, had even come to claim that he absolutely did not do link building, because it was considered an unnatural technique .
These statements were followed by others of the same tenor, as well as other updates of Penguin, which has slowly wiped out hundreds of spam sites and networks from the SERP , guilty of not respecting Google’s rules. After these penalties, articles and case studies flocked to the net that thundered more or less like this: “this is what happens to link building” .
As a consequence, the rel = “nofollow” has become in the blink of an eye the most used attribute on links to protect themselves from any penalty. In a single word, chaos has broken out and fear has spread worldwide, triggering a thousand doubts about the life of SEO and the excessive risks for companies in investing in this Search Marketing activity.
As an expert SEO, I have honestly always found this to be an exaggeration and do you know why? Because people like me who have been doing SEO for many years, doing tests on their own projects and consulting for clients in various sectors, knew very well that this story of link building was an immense communication operation to scare / dissuade ignorant webmasters and Search Marketers. I manage over 400 websites and not one has been penalized. The only penalties I have encountered have plagued small sites that I use for personal tests, designed precisely to determine which are the more or less profitable and risky activities in the SEO field. In short, I was aware of taking a penalty sooner or later, precisely because I was experimenting with risky actions.
Having said that, now I’ll tell you the truth about link building.
Link building is necessary!
I’m not saying it, but a recent study published by Moz highlights how a website cannot have visibility and good ranking on Google without the presence of strong backlinks. In fact, the research claims for the umpteenth time that there is a direct correlation between the number and quality of incoming links and the organic ranking achieved by the site.
The story of the Content is King , or that User is King is fine, I share, in the first place I also put usability, accessibility, quality content and value for users. But if your site doesn’t get links spontaneously, or you don’t do anything to get them , rest assured that you will not be rewarded by Google and your site will never get a ranking that will gain visibility and traffic. If you publish only quality content and do not link building, maybe you could also be able to acquire links totally spontaneously, slowly climbing the organic ranking, but it could take a century and in the meantime your online business could suffer.
At the same time, if your website or blog has a good ranking, but is not in the position you aspire to, or maybe it is behind a direct competitor, you can be sure that 8 times out of 10 the cause is the link profile which is inferior in quantity and quality compared to the other results better positioned in serp. Yes, because let’s face it, it’s not that your competitors are standing still. As you try to improve your ranking on Google, others do the same, constantly doing link building to maintain the top positions. I say this for those who are in what I call the ” comfort zone “, that is, people who have achieved an excellent ranking with their site and who think it always remains so, as if the serp were carved in rock.
Are Link Building and SEO Dead? But please!
There are those who will tell you that investing in SEO is not convenient, that it is a waste of time, that it is a waste of money. All nonsense, as shown by this research done by Econsultancy , which interviewed over 1000 companies, asking them which were the digital channels that generate the best ROI .
As you can see in the graph below , investments in SEO are the most profitable , preceded only by Email Marketing (but wasn’t that supposed to die too?)
And not surprisingly, another authoritative research conducted by Strong View reveals that in 2015 marketers and companies put SEO among the top 4 channels to invest in.
Now, I’m definitely not the best SEO in the world, but trust me I have a lot of experience! Without making a sborone (indeed a little bit yes), I have been doing SEO for 10 years. I have 5 personal sites that generate tens of thousands of Euros every month, only thanks to the organic traffic obtained with SEO and Link Building activities . Not to mention my clients, who acquire the bulk of their leads and make large volumes of online sales thanks to the results generated by on-site SEO and link acquisition.
In some Serp the cleaner has mange
If you have arrived at this point you should have understood my thought, that is, that Link Building is not bad, indeed, it is needed and you cannot do without it if you have decided to invest to get organic visibility on search engines. If you do not trust me and you are still afraid that some good links will make you take a penalty, I tell you that in some sectors, the first results in SERP are all related to websites supported by Link Building activities that do not respect the lines at all. Google help .
My Agent Host agency regularly provides SEO consultancy for large clients in areas such as Insurance, Automotive, Travel and I can assure you that these are areas where the cleanest has the itch .
In the sense that many competitors of my customers in fact regularly buy paid links , also using other prohibited techniques such as the use of clearly forced and spammy anchor keywords , also inserted in poor quality guest posts.
I also have many SEO Specialist colleagues and friends who do manual Link Building for sites and portals in even more competitive areas, such as gambling, sex, hardware, and they too confirm the same trend. This means that companies know that Google preaches a lot, but in reality it is not yet able to understand when and if a link is spontaneous or bought. If these companies did what Google recommends, their websites would probably not have the visibility they need and would miss out on a promotion opportunity, leaving room for the most popular competitors.
At the same time it is widely believed that Google for certain serp and sector is as if it were turning a blind eye.
Otherwise it is not clear why some serp still suck so much today and are full of results related to ugly, old and outdated sites, which are permanently in the top positions of the ranking compared to other much more valid and deserving results.
How to do Link Building in a healthy way
Taking a penalty is very easy, there are a mountain of border line SEO activities and unfortunately around it is full of naive people who improvise SEO Specialists and then wreak havoc.
At the same time, fortunately, there are many ways to do zero-risk link building . Certainly, as I wrote in the past in the article ” How to get links in competitive markets “, content is the basis of everything.
If you create content that is useful and of great value to users, such as e-books, infographics and free reports, everything is easier. But then you also need to be able to promote them, identifying bloggers and influencers who are potentially interested in sharing the content you have created.
Social networks are an extraordinary ally for link building and among other things, Social Signals are also recognized as one of the new organic positioning factors of the Google algorithm.
Among other things, at the next Practical SEO Course that I will hold together with my colleague Dario Ciracì , I will present my case study on the value of social signals on the SEAside.
In short, the essence is this: if you want to position yourself on Google you must also do link building , but put your head in it, focusing on quality content, acquiring relevant links from trust sites, blogging outreach and scanning social networks to find valid influencers. All in the right doses and at the right times.
SEO and link building is like baking a good cake. Not only are the ingredients enough, you need the correct technique to understand how to balance and mix them, but also experience to understand what are the ideal cooking temperatures and times. If you do one of these items, the cake will turn out to be crap!
What have we learned today?
1) First rule if you want to do Link Building: never get caught by Google!
2) Second rule: never forget the first rule
3) Investing in SEO is still an excellent choice today, but it does not have to be the only digital channel to focus on
4) Google is the dealer, but in this case the dealer does not always win. You can screw him!
5) Trying to position a site on Google with only on-site SEO is like trying to cure AIDS with Bach flowers
I’ve told you before, but I’ll tell you again, you never know it escaped you. On 9 and 10 October 2015 in Rome I will hold a practical SEO course , in which there will be theory but also many exercises that will help you understand how to do SEO for real.
Link Building and Digital PR will be one of the main topics of the course, so if you are interested in the subject and want to improve your SEO skills at 360 degrees, I suggest you read the complete program and sign up on the fly , also because the price is currently it is discounted and places are running out.