The History of Link Building For SEO

Last Updated on December 11, 2022 by Muhammad Tabish

The History of Link Building: Though Google’s ranking methods have recently become a bit murkier thanks to the search giant’s started being vague about the effect of its algorithm updates, one thing is undeniably true: Links are important. An SEO strategy is nothing if it doesn’t build links to a client’s webpages, and that is as accurate today as it was 20 years ago, and it will probably be accurate 20 years from now, too. Link building hasn’t changed much, but it has evolved slightly in its years as a prominent SEO tactic. Here’s a quick rundown of how search engines have weighted links through history.

The History of Link Building

Briefly, link building is the process of establishing relevant hyperlinks (usually called links) to a website from external sites. Link building can increase the number of high-quality links pointing to a website, in turn increasing the likelihood of the website ranking highly in search engine results. Link building is also a proven marketing tactic for increasing brand awareness. Source: Wikipedia

Link Building Techniques in the Early ‘90s

Though most web users in the millennial generation and younger don’t remember a time before Google, everyone else can recall the internet when the primary search engines were Yahoo and AltaVista. These engines relied on relevancy to deliver quality search results; they scoured their indexes for keyword phrases and meta tags that matched search queries. Both Yahoo and AltaVista offered revolutionary services for their time, pioneering features that Google and modern search engines still use today.

Unfortunately, these early search engines certainly had weaknesses, primarily because of their prioritization of relevancy. It was exceedingly easy to manipulate search results by jam-packing a page full of keywords, without any respect To the content quality or even legibility. Because links were not a factor in search rankings, website owners simply did not strive to build links with other sites for any reason beyond. Yahoo and AltaVista themselves struggled to predict how different pages would rank in their search results. Even so, these search services were all that were available at this time in internet history.

How To do Link Building For a Website in the Early ‘00s

Google premiered in 1998, boasting its innovative and radical PageRank-based algorithm. In addition to searching out keywords for relevancy, Google ranked webpages using the number of links pointing to them, almost like links were votes the internet itself used to select the best websites. This is the first time that links became a valuable asset for a webpage, and it didn’t go unnoticed by web owners and digital marketers.

As the millennium turned, search engine optimization exploded. SEO agencies like Digital Current emerged to assist websites in identifying and placing keywords as well as building a network of backlinks. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for shadier SEO practices to emerge. To start, the most popular SEO strategy was creating dummy websites to pack full of links, lacking any sort of relevant content. Additionally, SEOs would submit website links to directories, which at the time were valuable web resources and functioned as high-quality links, and SEOs would also create and publish a plethora of press releases riddled with backlinks to various webpages on company sites.

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Rather quickly, low-quality websites with useless content began to rank high in Google’s index. Fearing that web users would seek a different search engine — one that wasn’t so easily fooled and could generate high-quality relevant results — Google recognized that it needed to make some serious changes to its algorithm.

Link Building Services in the Late ‘00s

As technology advanced, SEO agencies gained access to automated tools to facilitate the building of links. Guest posting was already a common practice — in which websites would develop content with a backlink for publishing on a different web domain — but using tools like SEnuke, SEO companies could reprocess the same content over and over again using slightly different language to make the article seem unique. Other automated tools, like ScrapeBox, forced links into comments sections or forums. Google’s algorithm still wasn’t smart enough to differentiate between high- and low-quality placements, even if the surrounding content was incoherent to human readers.

Google scrambled to gain more control over what links counted toward page ranking. To start, Google took away the weight of links in press releases. Press releases were essentially syndicated, duplicate content that failed to provide much (if any) use to web users, and press releases were easy for the search engine to identify and devalue. Yet, that’s all Google could do, even 10 years after launch; all the other spammy SEO tactics from this time worked — but not for long.

Link-building Tools Through the ‘10s

In quick succession, Google released three major updates to its algorithm in 2011 and 2012: Panda, Venice and Penguin. Though Google had previously published webmaster guidelines, attempting to curtail shady SEO practices, these updates finally allowed Google to enforce its rules. All three updates hit websites hard with penalties for various types of low-quality content and link building Strategies in 2020, like over-optimization of keywords or content farming. Simultaneously, Google rewarded websites that gained links naturally and produced high-quality content.

Almost immediately, websites trying to fake SEO success dropped out of Google’s search results completely, while diligent and valuable websites flourished. Over the following years, Google built upon these updates, improving the algorithm with machine learning tools like RankBrain and BERT which are better at understanding queries and finding relevant results.

Because links remain a vital component of search rankings, SEO agencies remain a valuable tool for any business looking to improve their web visibility — especially because SEO is so much more difficult to achieve today thanks to Google’s improved algorithm and ranking tools. Link building in SEO a healthy and positive way isn’t fast or easy; it takes diligent effort, quality content, and months of time to see any shift in rankings. Websites eager to climb up Google’s SERPs need to work with SEO experts to build better links — because Google knows the difference now.

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