By Cory Collins
04 Jun 2014

Link Building is Really Just Promotion

Link Building     SEO Strategy

The internet has fully permeated our society and culture, becoming almost a basic human right. With this establishment, search is becoming more and more valuable as a marketing channel.

In the last few years SEO has matured greatly, and SEOs have been forced to grow and embrace marketing philosophies, guidelines, and best practices.

Link building particularly, just a handful of years ago, was personified as the shadowy, mystic, technical, "hacking the algo" IT/computer wiz sitting in a dark basement. Link building was done independently, apart from any other online activities, and separate from any work done by the actual company behind the website. Thankfully, we're now reaching a point where this is no longer the case, and SEO is becoming accepted as a standard marketing channel.

This means that link strategy itself is growing into a legitimate marketing concern. If you're working to improve online visibility, but don't have anyone assigned to ensuring optimal link acquisition, you're working ineffectively. You're leaving money on the table.

Link building should be an integrated portion of your online marketing efforts. With Google's growing ability to detect link manipulation, and webmasters more savvy to both the power of the link and Google's power to direct traffic, the time for building hundreds of spammy links is over.

Plainly said, link building in today's online marketing world is really just promotion.

I say this for five different reasons:

  1. The amount of noise online means that if you're not promoting, you're losing valuable opportunities.
  2. Sites worth building links from won't fall for SEO tricks.
  3. Good links, links that Google is likely to reward, revolve around added value.
  4. Links are still a vote of confidence - the link itself is one website promoting another website.
  5. Promotion requires short, informative, to-the-point messaging. To effectively build valuable links, you'll need something worth promoting.

Although they largely speak for themselves, let's examine each point.

The Noise Level Online Requires Intelligent Promotion

According to Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, in 2010 we created as much information every two days as we did from the start of human history until 2003. Although that statistic has been questioned, there's no doubt that the rate we generate information has quickly evolved and increased with the internet.

This is an ever-increasing trend, with more information pumped out every minute of every day. Just check out this infographic on internet data by the minute at Mashable. Keep in mind that was in 2012.

With the amount of interconnectivity into today's digital era it's easy to overlook just how much noise there really is. Especially when it seems like everything goes viral - until you try your hand at it yourself.

The reality is there's a sea of data, content, and information and we're all drowning in it. There's more information, media, and entertainment competing for people's attention than ever before. So much so that people aren't just picky about what they spend their attention on - they have to actively protect themselves from being overwhelmed.

Content shock and content fatigue are becoming real modern day issues.

The point of all this is that if you're working to improve your site's visibility, without intelligent promotion you're leaving a lot of opportunity on the table, wasted. That definitely includes links.

Every authoritative website has been inundated with link requests, spam, and outreach. Even run of the mill websites are savvy to SEO and the power of a link in Google, and are tired of bad outreach.

So building links today requires intelligent promotion to the correct audience.

Sites Worth Building Links From Won't Fall for SEO Tricks

Link building, and SEO, has matured noticeably in the last few years. Once upon a time it wasn't unusual to use a bit of subterfuge to slip in a link. Perhaps you provide a bit of content with a contextual link, or pretend to be an objective third party in your outreach.

Any site worth building a link from has seen more than it's fair share of bad link requests, in a variety of forms - be it outreach, comment spam, or even social media.

As a culture, both the SEOs and the webmasters, we've learned and moved on from these infantile tactics. Website owners, managers, and businesses simply won't respond to such one-sided requests. The ability to succinctly explain why it's worth their time is absolutely critical to cut through the noise.

The time for tricks is over, and all that's left is intelligent promotion. If you can't explain the value of the link, not just for yourself but the website linking, then you'll never build the links you want and need.

And that's because links are still editorial votes.

Links Are Still Votes of Confidence

I've made the argument before, but as SEOs and marketers we have a tendency toward jadedness. We see every link, tweet, +1, reshare, comment etc. as suspect - either due to a marketing campaign or flagrant manipulation.

The reality however is that links are still very much a vote of confidence online - the average online user sees a link and intrinsically knows that the website they're currently on trusts the website on the other end. There's no better way to lose visitor/audience trust than to link out to spammy or bad websites.

This is a great burden to overcome as both a link builder, SEO, and marketer. We have to cut through the noise, to savvy websites, and establish trust and confidence. That's no mean feat.

The link itself is a recommendation - a form of one website promoting another. And you'll never get another website to promote your own without careful and intelligent promotion.

Good Links Revolve Around Added Value

Google was founded on the concept of links being an editorial vote from one website to another. That means the links Google wants to count are links that function in said manner - a vote of confidence.

The best way to build these votes of confidence is by being remarkable in some fashion. And the easiest way to be remarkable is to add value to your community.

There's a thousand ways to add value to your industry, locality, and community. It can be humor, thought leadership, insight, opinion, resources, guides, data, events, contests, research, etc. etc.

Being fundamentally worthy of links and mentions means that you have opportunities to acquire natural links. Links that aren't designed to be manipulative, links that make sense, and basically links that Google was founded on.

And adding value will give you something to promote to your community. Nothing is easier to promote than something that is to the community's benefit - then you're not promoting for the sake of self, but for the sake of the community.

So adding value will make your site link worthy, and allow you an easy way to promote yourself and optimize your link acquisition.

Promotion is the Most Effective Method to Build Worthwhile Links

There are a wide variety of methods to build links.

But the best chance you'll have to build good links from sites that make sense is if you have something worth promoting. Especially if you're hoping to build links based upon online activities you're already engaged in, as opposed to creating a campaign specifically for links.

So having something worth promoting, and being smart in your promotion, will mean you're spending your time as efficiently as possible and building the best links possible.


Link building is about promotion because:

  1. The noise level online requires it
  2. Sites worth acquiring links from ignore bad outreach, meaning you need intelligent promotion
  3. Links still function as votes of confidence, and therefor must be earned
  4. Good links revolve around added value, and thus give you something worthy of promotion
  5. Having something worth promoting is the easiest and most efficient way to build good links.
Cory Collins

Cory Collins is the Business Development Manager at Page One Power and has been with the agency since 2012. Cory is an SEO strategist, writer, runner, and outdoor enthusiast residing in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, daughter, and (too) many pets.