SEO Thoughts

Thinkings and Musings of SEO

Is “Manual” Link Building Dead?

Surely you’ve heard the term “content marketing” by now. If you’re like me, reading up on a lot of blogs and news related to SEO and internet marketing, you might even be sick of hearing about it. Also, if you’re still like me, you must positively hate the idea of manual link building. By “manual” I mean outreach efforts and sending out mass amounts of emails hoping to get links in return. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when I say that this takes a lot of time and the rewards are rather unrewarding.

On the other hand, Content Marketing is more, for lack of a better word, fun. I personally find making and creating awesome content exciting and vastly more interesting then browsing the dark corners of the internet, trying to find some obscure blog that just might link with me or post one of my articles.

That being said, perhaps saying manual link building is dead or dying is wishful thinking. But at the same time, you just don’t seam to hear as much about outreach link building as much as you hear about content marketing these days.

As already mentioned, I read just about every piece of information I think will possibly help me with my SEO strategy and knowledge. Lately, there seems to be a common theme, if you will, in many posts that email outreach is dying as an effective link building strategy.

For example, on the Blueglass blog, there was an interview with Jamie Steven, where he is asked about whether or not to outsource link building. He says:

“Rather than outsourcing link building, I’d invest in activities and content that enable you to attract links organically, or at least permit you to build links more easily yourself. This is more difficult, but the dividends are much higher.”

Is he saying ditch outreach and just do content marketing? I wouldn’t say that’s the point he’s trying to get across, but this is still an interesting message.

Another example. Just today, Cyrus Shepard delivers another fantastic Whiteboard Friday discussing over optimization, a relatively new topic. There are a couple quotes I would like to point out:

“Don’t go to the dark side. Don’t go the over-optimization route. Go with the light side. Choose new creation. If you’re beginning SEO, if you want to make this jump to intermediate SEO, the best thing you can do to get high ROI is start creating content today.”

Then, later in the video:

“Finally, back here you weren’t creating any links because you didn’t have those link assets. Who wants to link to your sites? This gives you the opportunity to create those link assets, to build the content that people want to link to.”

Again, this isn’t directly saying that link outreach is dying, but it is saying that creating content HAS to be a part of our SEO efforts.

There are, of course, entire blog posts entirely dedicated to the importance of content marketing. I also seem to be among a growing group of SEO’s that are realizing that traditional link building is just not enough, that content marketing is a must have.

I could go on citing some examples, some more prominent, others more obscure, but the point is that there is a sentiment that is growing.

However, I have to admit that there are two sides to the story. While everyone is getting excited and making changes to their SEO strategies to include content marketing, there are posts that paint another story: “How Google is making Liars our of the Good Guys in SEO” by Wiley Reynolds as seen on SEOmoz. Are we actually to the point where we can put away our anchor text link building tactics? Not according to Wiley:

“Every day we tell our clients to build good content and Google will reward them we know that it’s a white lie most times, because the other side of that coin is and ALSO build anchor text links so you can actually rank well, because community building is not enough of a factor yet.”

I’ll tell you want I want to say. I want to tell everyone to stop doing the low results, high effort link building practices that eats up so much of our time. I want to say that content marketing is the natural progression of SEO.

But I can’t. Not in the real world, where things aren’t quite so ideal. For the time being, there is enough evidence that anchor text still matters, which is best done through manual link building tactics. The very same tactics that I tend to dislike so much.

Is anyone else’s experiences similar? I’d love to hear some other real world experiences.

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