(Editorial note: I originally published this on Hit Subscribe, and am going to gradually 301 the rest of the SEO/digital marketing content over there, where it makes more editorial sense. But I’ll keep cross-posting it here, if it seems like might be relevant to this audience. I’ll also keep posting miscellaneous rants and thoughts for indies and techies here.)
If the title here seems aggressive, my hope is that you’ll empathize with me by the time you’re done reading.
Throughout this post, I’m going to post screenshots of link building outreach I’ve received over the years. They’re not going to be relevant to the flow of the post, per se. Instead, I’m going to invite you on a walk with me through a digital garden of spam while I explain how to earn yourself backlinks without being terrible or hiring someone else to be terrible on your behalf.
You see, these screenshots represent how most link building outfits operate. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg of what I receive—just the ones funny enough to save.
Link Building: What It Is, Briefly
If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say link building, let’s start simply. What is link building?
Well, for SEO purposes, the more links you have from other sites to yours, the more search engines like your site, and they’ll rank your content accordingly. So link building is an activity wherein you specifically “encourage” the world to link to your site, through a variety of tactics. These tactics run the gamut from “create interesting content that people want to link” to “hack into some poor blogger’s WordPress instance and insert 40 million links before someone kicks you out and has you arrested.”
The Link Building State of the Art
Sadly, the state of the art in link building looks a lot more like the latter than the former.
If you go out and google link building, I’m sure you’ll hear from the world’s top SEO tool vendors. And I’m also sure that—caveated with appropriate cautions not to leverage underhanded, “black hat SEO” tactics and that the best approach is earning links via “good” content—they’ll encourage you to undertake an extremely outreach- (read: spam-) heavy approach, such as:
- Create a throwaway gmail address because boy are people going to report what you’re doing as spam.
- Create an email template wherein you beg for links or else mendaciously tell recipients that it’s in their best interest to link to you.
- Unleash that email template onto the blogosphere, like a firehose taking out a few butterflies on some flowers.
- If that doesn’t work, just try to bribe people.
- In parallel to all of that, offer filler content with links to your site as a guest post for other sites.
- If that doesn’t work, try to sneak content with links onto various sites.
- As a last resort, also bribe them to publish the filler content.
As you might imagine, these tactics yield a low success rate. And that means the only way to make them succeed is to execute them at incredibly high volume and low cost.