Credit goes to James Agate at Skyrocket SEO for doing their Link Building Survey in 2013 and again in 2014. In this blog post I would like to offer a comparison between the state of link building in 2013 and 2014 based on the data proved by James. At the end of the post you will also find an infographic with a juxtaposition about link building in 2013 and 2014.
Backgrounds of the respondents
The biggest group of the respondents this year is consultants; whether they are part of an agency or work as a freelancer (37% and 8% respectively), compared to the 31% last year it is a large increase. It shows that link building is becoming an expert’s field, which was expected as Google is tightening up its guidelines and algorithm. Another thing to notice is that link builder background is not included as a separate profession, I believe it is now seen as part of an SEO related profession – which is indicative that link building alone is no longer a viable option for getting SEO success.
Which activities are undertaken most frequently
Guest blogging was the thing back in 2013 with up to 46% reporting it as a frequent undertaking. It plummeted in 2014 – the reasons are well explained in this post by Matt Cutts. Content marketing and outreach (including infographic placements) went up from 28% to 38%. This is definitely a strong indication of a much more holistic approach to link building. Additionally, as more and more people are using content marketing they are also using more resource page links (actually a part of content marketing) to get the most out of their traffic.
Most effective and least effective activities
In 2013, the most effective link building activities were broken link building, guest blogging and infographic placements. This correlates with the most frequently undertaken activities, which is logical since unless it bears fruit you’re not going to continue doing it. In 2014, not much has changed in terms of the top 5, except the dropping out of guest blogging and its replacement by content marketing.
When considering the least effective link building activities, many of these are also found on the top 3 of the most harmful activities. Activities such as link wheels and directory submissions were ineffective in 2013 and have remained so in 2014. On the other hand, since link building practices have changed (look at the most frequent activities) so have the things which are ineffective – social bookmarks and forum profile links are not worth your effort in 2014.
What to stay away from
The most harmful activities in link building are also the least effective ones in fulfilling the purpose of link building. Worse still, they can get you penalized by Google. If you are creating link wheels, using blog networks to create links, buying links, or gaining links through directories – you may be risking a Google penalty. Do a link audit and disavow bad links.
What are the main challenges
In contrast to 2013, the challenges in 2014 are long term oriented. Whereas in 2013, the biggest challenge was finding link prospects and then getting them to respond to link solicitations, in 2014 links targeted towards money pages are considered to be the biggest challenge. In addition to that, since link building is overlapping more and more with content marketing, scalability is a challenge. More time is required per link compared to 2013, especially since you want to avoid getting a penalty from Google for putting up shallow or short content.
How important is link building
If you want to find out how important an activity is for a business you can make a pretty good guess by looking at the amount of money they are willing to spend on it. In 2013, the vast majority of the companies (61%) spent 5K or less per month on link building, as opposed to 2014 where up to 60% of the companies spent 5K – 50K per month on link building.
Another noteworthy observation is that none of the companies are spending more than 50K on link building.
When considering the future of link building, an overwhelming majority reported that they intend to increase their spending on link building. This could be due to the rising importance of sustainable and scalable link building, but also due to increasing competition for acquiring real links.
That was my analysis of link building in 2013 and 2014 based on the survey data made public by James Agate at Skyrocket SEO. How do you approach link building? Would you agree, disagree with the analysis? Please share your comments, ideas and especially your criticisms.
For more related articles check out:
5 Habits of a Successful Link Building Professional
9 Must Read Articles on SEO and Link Building for 2014
How Link Building Strategies in 2014 Are Not Just For Google Rankings
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