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Why link building is so much harder now

We poisoned the well



4:53 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Back in 2001 or so I had read that Google used links in their algorithm, so I decided to start asking other websites to link to my clientsí sites. I didnít know if anyone was doing link solicitation Ė this was before I discovered webmasterworld.com and similar boards. My email just said I have a suggestion for your site: you may want to add a link to my site. And it worked. While most of the sites I asked for links did not give me one, many did. We had good success with Google and as Google became more dominant, good success period.

Link building was something I would do maybe once a month, as it was time consuming and not much fun, even though it was very effective.

As the years wore on, link building has become harder and harder. The success rate declined and resistance increased. I even started receiving link requests from other webmasters, and it seemed that link building was going mainstream. I knew we had passed some sort of milestone two years ago when a woman responded to my request that she would not give me a link because she looked at my site and did not see a link to her site! She would not give a link unless a reciprocal one was given. It appeared that the run-of-the-mill site owners now understood that links were valuable. I donít mean people who hang out on webmasterworld. I mean the average site owner now understood that links carry value.

This rise in awareness of link value is a large part of the reason I think people are less likely to give them out. Itís not a secret or even known just by people in the trade. When people understand that links are worth something, they start to see link request emails as spam.

Today I received a request for a link to an unrelated site. The requestor suggested which page I put his link on (something I often do also) and then said ďor any other minimum PR Ė 3 pageĒ. Can you believe it?! He explicitly asked for a link on a page with a minimum PR! This type of link requests poisons the well even more. It teaches people to be aware of PR! No longer is PR something that only professionals know about; with this type of request more and more people will know about PR and start to think in those terms.

The point is that with all this link request activity, the average site owner now understands links are worth something and therefore much less likely to give links to requestors they donít know. Itís a shame, but the success of link building activity has poisoned the well.


5:26 pm on Sep 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

And now some good news after all: I am about to upload 50 new articles in the course of the next week and to each of them I will add some 2 to 5 external links to sites that provide useful, supplementary information - and for none of them I received a link request.

The bottom line: Quality content should attract natural links over time - it is yours to decide whether the effort of active link building can hold up with the many natural links that are generated daily.


4:16 pm on Sep 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

On a whim I decided to go old school for a regional tourism portal I was developing.

I scoped out as many local businesses I could, wrote them a letter and mail-merged it on to letterhead and mailed it by hand. The results were fantastic.

If this is possible for your project I highly recommend it.


5:14 pm on Sep 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Doing link swaps by email is and always will be slow. Much direct mail (as it's known in marketing) is binned, shredded, torn up and deleted without being read, and thus fails.

Plus the fact that success rates of any email campaign is based on a numbers games anyhow, and a list of 1000 will get little results compared to lists of millions, which must deliver more results. Yet despite the numbers of sites contacted, many will be deleted as people have learned to recognise spam, and spam is universally hated, so it's fair to expect link exchange mails to be deleted.

The spam issue doesn't help, but this is not the biggest handicap to link hunters. Link value has risen dramatically, and I strongly believe this is what really makes forces sites, businesses and people to stop giving freebies. --- Link space is worth too much these days to just hand out to one-man run websites, or any website for that matter, and is just something many are going to have to learn and accept, for nobody can make anyone give them a link for free - no matter how a letter is worded or pitched.

Value is money and money is a powerful incentive, too powerful a thing to give for nothing. This is the new hurdle to overcome, or is it a new hurdle? see, I don't think it is - I mean it's always been there, but over the past 4 years, people have cottoned on that they can charge heavily, for there are many desperate folks out there with dreams and refusing free links can really stop a dream long-term.

Power, the power to stop a web site in it's tracks (or slow it down), which leaves us with a simple solution doesn't it, we either buy and get where we want to go - the easy way, or perhaps never get there via begging for links.

I wonder how many links it takes to generate enough interest to make 1 million (cash or visitors, heck I'm easy here). Let's be honest and just admit that it's money people are after, and that any link building will be a slow affair without shelling out a substantial amount of cash for your results.

Linking has changed, and it's about money. But has this thinking changed, I say it's been around for many years, before the conception of the web, it's just people don't want to pay for links anymore, and the sites want to be rich.

Years ago websites gave away too many links for free, nice boost for other sites, but no profit for the site that does the giving. Was this giving of freebies smart or dumb?

The question still remains though, but many aren't prepared to answer it. The question is just a small factor in success though, and much effort is ahead of site owners, sadly too much effort for most to succeed. The barrier to freebie link success is greater than ever, but it takes much more than a bunch of links to convince me to advertise on a site I've never heard of.

I think a site's success goes way beyond the number of links it has, I wouldn't say there's any great secret to being rich, just most won't get there without those few vital triggers in place.....

You cannot do this by links alone.

[edited by: Maxnpaddy at 5:28 pm (utc) on Sep. 21, 2007]


5:17 am on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

- a site with lots of irrelevant links ON it *will* get a penalty.


- a site with lots of irrelevant links TO it *will* be demoted.

Miamacs please show me in your research where this has been proven? What controls did you have in place? Did you test this domain against another that had only relevant links in place?

Since this is a very difficult aspect of link pop. to measure, I am curious as how you arrived at this conclusion.


6:59 am on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have never once responded to a SPAM email requesting links. Pick up the phone and do it properly, sending out mass link requests no matter how well your intention is a waste of time - quality sites will delete them and you will only pick up links from sites with the same spammy footprints. You may get some gems, but surely your time is worth more than that and you could buy some links and save yourself the heartache.

Want quality links? Write good content and link out to sites that will appreciate it and reciprocate someday hopefully.


7:50 am on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

link out to sites that will appreciate it and reciprocate someday hopefully.

Wishful thinking, but this won't happen and I don't have the time to hope or pray for links. Relying on so many to suddenly drop their guard and in a fit of madness to give up money making webspace, will only cause more sleepness nights and wasted energy of which I'm not prepared to endure any more.

The obtaining of links isn't about how pretty a site looks or questionable content that is about these days, it's about power, profit and the knowledge that many websites are a waste of time - these 2 powerful reasons alone are more than enough for me to refuse a link, actually, I don't even refuse anymore, just deleting the pesky mails is easy enough to do.

Requesting links by phone calls? Must be a new approach as I've never had 1 phone request, and email is still free to send. The notion that somehow a phone call must be answered might be true, but I can still refuse to give you a link, so nothing has changed.

I think webmasters are the only ones still interested in pursuing free links, it must be a game of sorts, a bit of fun or ego trip to boost PR, I haven't quite put my finger on why so many waste time for so little in return. There are superior ways to get a snow storm of links, that are so simple to implement, but this takes guts and a little investment of cash to pull off, sadly many don't have the guts to do it, and they are the only ones who know the true reason why they don't do it. It's kind of sad in a number of ways, but my company is fine, so why should I care - and it's my guess that the large corporates, edu sites are thinking the same, because they can!


6:29 pm on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Pick up the phone

Please don't.


8:08 pm on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Particularly given the 'World Wide' nature of the Web.

Goodness knows I had to can my fax line due to SPAM years ago, but with my office now next to my daughter's bedroom you might just about make me angry enough with a mid-night cold call to report you to the telco and/or police for harassment, whatever country you are in. You definitely are guaranteed NEVER to be linked to by me if you wake us up. Please, please don't SPAM Web masters by phone.




9:08 pm on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yep I hate all telesales calls - well you've heard of cold-calling, now we have cold-linking. It gives me an uneasy feeling.

Guaranteed not to get a link.


9:26 pm on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jane_doe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

a site with lots of irrelevant links ON it *will* get a penalty.

Anyone can prove that isn't always true just by checking backlinks of site ranking well the serps. There are spammers ranking really well as I write this for very competitive terms that have programatic ways to get backlinks from sites that are not on topic. Just check the serps in the really competitive areas and it is easy to find many cases where off topic links are helping sites to rank.

[edited by: Jane_Doe at 9:28 pm (utc) on Sep. 24, 2007]


10:30 pm on Sep 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

With regards to the phone: If it's a very valuable site to be linked from, such as an university or likewise, and the website in question has the contents to match that value, then a phone call to arrange a meeting about it can be arranged with the proper people.. never disregard the real world for the fictional...

But please don't do that stupid thing with international calls and telemarketing.. personally, I just make them stay on the phone for as long as possible and tell them to call me back and drive their phone bills up the sky if possible...even more funnier is to get an address or phone number, then you can harass them back with calls, and strange packages.

Besides from that, in my country, since the local internet is a small-scale frame of the world wide (funny how algorithms are the same huh) I can usually see what's going on and what's not going and what affects who and what in what way in a rather short timeframe..

Anyways, there's other ways to build links than to send emails and annoy people and actually de-brand yourself doing it. The serious companies in my country which wants people to buy something or subscribe or whatever, rarely runs any link campaigns, they run television campaigns - this also affects the links pointing to them and they benefit from it in various and mysterious ways.

But then again - this will probably first hit the international internet in 5-10 years or so... (web 2.0 thingie was already popular on the popular websites in our small-scale internet when I first got online in 1998 - actually, they even had an online social web 3.0 style game incorporated in their website...)

Sincerely, and have fun,


6:53 am on Sep 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I just make them stay on the phone for as long as possible and tell them to call me back and drive their phone bills up the sky if possible...even more funnier is to get an address or phone number, then you can harass them back with calls, and strange packages.

Wow, you must have some time on your hands. Personally, I just leave them talking, and make a cup of tea, come back and sometimes they haven't realised I left the line hehe - I then ask a few questions which require long answers and repeat etc. Did this with Applegate, kept him on the line for 3 hours hehe.

Seriously, I can't see this linking thing surviving the work-heavy manual process, I'm already switching to automatic ways of advertising.


10:24 pm on Sep 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Has anyone actually stopped doing link exchanges with relevant sites after the Google announcement about excessive reciprocal links?

I know a few friends who stopped completely, and went back to asking for one way links to be "on the safe side".


6:44 pm on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I used to get so many annoying link exchange requests that I put a big red note on my Links pages saying something like, "I do NOT trade links. I link to these sites because I LIKE them. Do NOT send me link exchange requests, they'll go straight to the trash, etc. etc...", and I linked to an article I wrote called "How NOT to request reciprocal links".

But people didn't even bother to look at the Links page on the site they were requesting the link from, so that didn't work.

So then I put the warning on my CONTACT page.

But the stupid link exchange requests kept coming.

So then in addition to the most strongly-worded "DO NOT SEND ME ANY GOD DAMN LINK EXCHANGE REQUESTS" note I could muster, I also listed my email address as, variously,




Amazingly, people would STILL write to those addresses to request link trades! (And no, they weren't automated, since my addresses were invisible to bots.)

So I finally gave up and just wrote a procmail script to automatically autorespond to any link exchange request I get, explaining why I don't trade links and pointing them to my article. So I never have to see their messages. Life is so much better this way.

I can still see who's getting my autoreply, and not surprisingly, even after they get my harshly-worded autoreply telling them why I don't trade links and pointing them to my article which explains what they're doing wrong, they'll continue to write back in the future, with things like, "2nd request for link exchange" or "Reciprocal link still not found", or some other crap.


7:25 pm on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

Pestering for links is pointless. No means no.


6:17 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I got a really high authority link by commenting on a site that I had read and linked to on my site.

Personally I only link to things I find of interest, and I think other people in my niche will find of interest.

I believe this develops trust with readers as well.


3:49 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree, it is much harder to establish link exchanges. We basically just delete them.

The chances of a beneficial link exchange these days are miniscule.


1. If a site charges for links, chances are a free link won't happen. They know there is value in their links (whether for search or customer referrals).

2. If the site you are requesting a link from can be found in search on page 1 (for your keyterms)and you can't...what do you have to offer? Should be an even exchange traffic wise...not just PR.

3. The person reviewing a link request may be thinking " How did this find its way to my inbox?" and "How many others received this identical email?" Link exchange requests could be a heads up to mass linkages elsewhere.

4. Some people go the content writing route which probably has a better chance of being published, but it all needs to work together. Bio links are researched and no matter how well an article is written, if something looks cheesey with link or its linking structure...it outa there! :)


4:03 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Note to MichaelBluejay and Maxnpaddy: If you get an automated phone call do you yell at it to not call you? Of course not, that would be absurd. No doesn't mean no to a recording, and no does not mean no to a bot.

Creating notes on a contact page asking not to be spammed is as futile and ridiculous as yelling back at a recording. You're talking to a bot.

You are being found online through searches using keywords such as Links + Industry, directory, etc. Remove the trigger keywords and you'll be found less often. Works amazingly well for me.

Just a friendly heads up. :)

  • This discussion is about Why link building is so much harder now.
  • Also, this forum in general is not a place to dump complaints about email spam- try foo for that. The focus here is on building links. See the Link Dev Charter [webmasterworld.com] for more information.



12:30 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Creating notes on a contact page asking not to be spammed is as futile and ridiculous as yelling back at a recording. You're talking to a bot.

No, I'm not. As I took the trouble to explain in my post, my addresses were set up to be invisible to bots. I never got/get any generic spam to those addresses, since bots can't see them. The link exchange messages I get are from real people specifically going to my contact page, ignoring everything it says, and sending their requests to addresses like "THIS-IS-NOT-A-LINK-EXCHANGE-REQUEST@example.com".

As for this thread being about why link exchanging is getting harder...this doesn't seem on-topic to you? People are getting fed up with them. That's my answer for why it's harder.


7:02 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



7:56 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

As for this thread being about why link exchanging is getting harder...

Title: Why link building is so much harder now

I am simply stating that this forum is not for ranting about one's inbox. I want to keep this thread on topic and not devolve into another email rant. Your cooperation is appreciated. It's enough to state that too many link exchange requests have turned people off to exchanging links.

Oh wait a minute, cnvi already posted that in the second post of this thread.

- Reason 2: You all have received an irrelevant link exchange request. If you know how to read between the lines, you realize that irrelevant link exchange requests are part of today's Internet - and that there are still quality link opportunities out there through relevant link exchange. But not all webmasters think that way anymore.. many webmasters have become frustrated with irrelevant link requests and some have thrown up their hands and said "no more" which is putting the baby out with the bathwater in my humble opinion. These webmasters who have given up on link exchange are missing out on some quality linking opportunities

If you want to discuss this some more send me a sticky.


10:25 pm on Oct 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Here's a thought for anyone whining about getting links. This is a very secretive techinique;


Something that is "link worthy".

Then you won't need to do any link building, people will do it for you.


1:30 am on Oct 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

"BUILD SOMETHING GOOD. Something that is "link worthy."

Easily said.


5:40 am on Oct 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Something that is "link worthy"

Wow. Brilliant. I'm sure that wonderful bit if insight will help so many readers.


6:42 am on Oct 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Wow. Brilliant. I'm sure that wonderful bit if insight will help so many readers.

It'll help anyone who bothers to listen. If the idea of building something good were so obvious, I wouldn't be getting thousands of link exchange pleas from super-crappy websites. The idea of building quality is far from being well-understood, or even well-believed.


8:12 am on Oct 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

The whole system of ranking webpages based on backlinks is flawed and outdated. Instead of continuing this outdated system and asking webmasters to stop link exchanges and paid links (which is impossible), and instead of wasting time in devising algos that can differentiate natural links from artificial ones (which again is impossible), google should start thinking in new terms.

Here's my suggestions:

# Let the people decide what they want to see:

Suggestion 1: Split the internet into the old internet and the new internet. Old internet is definitely less spammy than the new one. Now let people decide what they want to see. Older websites or newer ones. Have that option in search.

Suggestion 2: Give options to the searchers to search based on the following:

- Age of websites (older websites are ranked higher)
- Popularity of websites (websites will more links are ranked higher)
- Content specific search (websites will focused content are ranked higher)

All these searches are independent of other variables. Just like an allinsite search.

any other ideas?


10:49 am on Oct 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Pestering for links is pointless. No means no.

That is fine, but when you have spent time and effort to get that relevant website, that is a match and you go to the effort of finding out the correct person to contact.

A nice NO email reply would be great. I always reply to a link request. Manners go along way.


4:13 pm on Oct 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Do you really think ranking sites based on their backlinks makes any sense in the present day context? Doesn't it seem a little primitive?

I mean, when do you think the google guys discovered the idea of ranking webpages based on backlinks? Way back sometime when the net was evolving. Back then, this was a great idea. It worked as the sites back then linked not for giving or getting link juice but purely for value.

But look at the situation now. The net is filled with artificial links. You find them everywhere, link pages, internal pages, intext, you name it. So why are search engines still giving so much value to links?


10:51 pm on Oct 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

Linking is harder now, as free links are diminishing. How many more times does a site say "You must pay to be listed", for people to get the message.

I know one thing, and that's if you buy links it's faster to be listed and zero hassle involved waiting for that recip that may or not be granted.

Links are just more valuable than they used to be. This was always going to happen, and I laugh at the innocence of many regarding this subject and disbelief of the bleeding obvious. Ofcourse sites will charge... you buy shoes or pizza right? So what's so different about the web.

I see a slow but rigid shake up of business sites in the next 3 years (if it hasn't begun already) and my theory is this:

1. All useless link pages will be deleted from websites by site owners. Google already discounts link pages anyway.

2. Sites will increase charges for advert/link space.

3. On-topic sites will get away with increased link fees.

4. Certain advertising will lose effectiveness, and ROI must then reduce, resulting in lower profits for the link value. Out of ideas by then and no operating budget, many sites will shut down.

[edited by: Maxnpaddy at 11:02 pm (utc) on Oct. 31, 2007]

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