Gavin Hirst - Thursday 7th April 2016


Link building has evolved – have you?

This week, Moz published their annual ‘State of Link Building Survey Results’ and the results support what we have been saying for some time – link building is still as important as ever so don’t stop! Whilst link building is definitely still important, this doesn’t mean we should do it the ways it’s always been done – that would be silly. Link building has evolved and we need to make sure that the way we build links also changes.

To view the Moz survey results, click here.

The role of content marketing and link building

For many, content marketing was seen as the ‘replacement’ for link building. Prior to the Penguin algorithm launch in 2012, link building had a pretty dodgy reputation – link farms, spammy links and black hat techniques to ‘trick’ Google into thinking your site was one of authority. Penguin certainly put a big stop to a lot of that and was a big shock to the system for many SEOs and companies hit with a Penguin penalty.

Since then, content marketing has skyrocketed with many people now placing much more focus on creating quality content than building links. We think this approach also has its flaws. Whilst link acquisition is a huge part of your content marketing strategy, content marketing is about much more than just attracting links. This is why it can’t be seen as a replacement for link building. As Nicholas Chimonas, author of the State of Link Building survey points out, “Links also serve a different set of goals than content marketing”.

Interesting results

The results of the latest survey certainly help to throw some light on how link building has evolved, and in many cases, how it has been devalued by agencies, in-house teams and businesses. Here are some of the key results from the survey:

Graph showing monthly spend on link building in 2016

We can see that over 50% of those people surveyed said they spent less than $2,500 (USD) on link building each month. Going back 2 years, we can’t get a like for like comparison as they changed the budget boundaries, however we can see that back in 2014, 37% of respondents said they were spending 10-50k per month on link building. That’s huge and represents a huge drop in the past 2 years:

Chart showing monthly spend on link building in 2014

So, where is all that money now been spent?

Content marketing gets the link building budget

Whilst there is no direct question in the survey to answer this, it would appear that most people are focusing their link building efforts around content marketing and see this as being the best way of attracting new links. It is fairly safe to assume then that a lot of the budget previously been spent on the actual practice of link building is now going into content marketing and the link building side of that process receives a smaller chunk of the budget:

Graph showing the most popular link building tactics in 2016

Respondents could tick any tactic that applied hence the high response rate fort content marketing. Most of the other white-hat techniques received a similar response rate. It is pretty safe to say that link building is integrated into many other digital marketing tactics rather than it being a primary focus. The survey revealed that, on a scale of 1-10, 64% selected between 5-10 (10 being very integrated) when it comes to how integrated your link building is with other marketing processes. This tells you that most marketers are integrating link building into other activities.

Should link building stand alone?

This brings us back to the original topic of this blog and the evolving nature of link building. We can see that for many, link building has evolved into an integral part of other marketing activity but is this the right way to do things?

Nicholas conclude by saying that link building is ‘an evolution towards integration with other marketing channels, and an alignment with more legitimate future-proof thinking’. We can’t disagree with this thinking but there is for us still an argument that link building should stand on its own two feet as a stand alone exercise.

We’d love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to drop us a comment below.

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