Building backlinks is one of the most popular topics for anyone building websites online because backlinks can have a very positive effect on your rankings. More rank means more traffic and more traffic means more money. Easy, right?
The trouble is, building backlinks isn't a straightforward process. Google doesn't want website owners to be able to just build as many links as they want because then it becomes an arms race of who has the biggest budget to pay for links. More links does NOT mean more rank!
That's why SEOs have developed various strategies over the years to build high quality, white hat backlinks to their pages.
What you might not know is that you don't actually need to build backlinks in order to have a successful affiliate blog. In fact, I don't build any links at all, and have operated my business in this way for many years. Do my websites have links? Yes, but they were acquired naturally, without my intervention.
Aside from the fact that this method works, there are a couple of reasons I specifically don't build backlinks. Check 'em out and see if they resonate with you. If you haven't started building links yet, then 5 reasons may be enough to convince you that you don't have to start. If you're already trying to build links, you may be able to free up a chunk of time and money for your business that you didn't have before!
Why I Don't Build Backlinks
1. Opportunity Cost of Time Investment
Rather than save the best for last, let's just jump into the most important point here. I look at my websites as an investment. Whether it's investing my time, or investing my money, I'm doing an action now which will have a greater payout later.
A $50 article now may earn me $1 per day for the next 5 years. Writing an article for 10 hours now could result in traffic and commissions down the road.
So every bit of time and money I spend one one thing cannot be spent on another thing. Similar to stock investing, there's an opportunity cost to expending energy on anything you do. You can buy a stock for $100 and it gets chopped to $50 in a year. You might decide to not sell for another 5 years to prevent realizing that loss, but you also have to consider that your $50 leftover, reinvested in a better company, might increase in value, recouping your investment and actually making gains on top of that.
While it appears you only lost $50, you may have actually lost much more due to the opportunity cost of keeping that investment capital locked in a bad investment for those 5 years.
The same is true with link building.
Yes, I could do some awesome research and find white hat link building opportunities. Or, I could hire a team and get someone to build the links for me. I could send out those outreach emails, and do expert roundups, and all those other typical link building tactics… but at what cost? All of that is removing time, money, and mental energy away from building a quality website which people actually want to read.
The truth is, link building can work, but it doesn't work all the time. I've seen countless examples in my own affiliate websites where I outrank competitors with fewer links for whatever reason. Maybe I have more authority on the topic.
Maybe I have a more optimized article for my keyword. Maybe Google just thinks my content is better. Who knows. Regardless, more links doesn't always mean better rank across the board, but more time investment in quality content consistently leads to a better business.
2. It's Really Boring
TBH, link building sucks. It's boring as hell. You have to do a bunch of technical research to find links using tools like Ahrefs (site note, my original review of Ahrefs was not good, but it's my main tool I use now. I need to update that link). Maybe there's some kind of hot new software you need to learn how to use and discover links.
Otherwise, you're sending emails trying to build broken links or do guest posting.
The other thing is that because this is so old, we have a lot of training data for our algorithms. I wouldn't be surprised if the largest part of those links are just ignored automatically. If all that work is for ignored links, why not just do something useful instead?
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 14, 2020
Even if i'm doing something like an expert roundup, which could potentially be interesting or useful, if the main motivator of doing said roundup is to leech some link juice from experts, rather than actually do something interesting, then the process sucks. It puts me in the mindset of, “This totally sucks unless I get something out of it”.
So just for my own sanity of getting through the day-to-day operations of my blog, I'd much rather focus on the stuff I like. That's why I got into this business in the first place. To be my own boss and do the things I like.
On top of all that, even if I outsourced everything to a professional, it adds another layer of complexity to my business. Now I've got to manage a link building team. No thanks.
3. It's Really Annoying (Most of the Time)
Marketers often forget that there's another person on the other side of this transaction. At least 30% of the emails I get to my business email address are people trying to build links. Here are some examples pulled from my inbox just today.
Link Begging Example 1
Hi I hope you are the right person,
I recently came across onemorecupof-coffee, courtesy a friend of mine.
I wanted to check if you'll be interested in a paid link insertion in one of your old blogs.
If yes, then what will be your guidelines and fee for this?
Link Begging Example 2
I hope you’re well!
I am currently working with a number of clients in placing guest blogs/sponsored articles on high-quality sites, such as yours. I recently came across your site and, after having a quick read through some of your more recent posts and articles, I think it’d be a great fit for some of the sorts of content campaigns that we frequently work on.
We work with a range of clients across different areas such as Automotive, Business, Technology and more you are interested in working together on one of our future/upcoming content campaigns?
Looking forward to hopefully working on a campaign together soon!
Link Begging Example 3
Hope you are doing well and staying safe!
I was checking out content about affiliate, email marketing, etc today, and I came across your post
It’s a very fantastic and informative article.
I noticed you link to [removed] and wanted to give you a heads-up.
We recently published some great articles about affiliate marketing, email marketing, etc related.
Can you add one of my article url to your existing content as a resource for your readers kindly, please?
Either way, I hope you enjoy the post. And have an awesome week.
I get that cold emails are just part of running a business, but those emails above are not the end. The folks send 2-5 more follow up emails, getting more and more short, sometimes to the point of being rude trying to catch my attention. I know they are automated, so I shouldn't be “offended”, but when I open up my phone and see an email headline like, “Hey, this is the last time I'm contacting you!”, I get a jolt of adrenaline. Yes, the headline works. No, they don't get a link from me.
It's total bullshit. Make me mad all the time. Yeah yeah yeah. It's all part of doing business. Whatever. I still hate it. I'd like to focus on things that count.
People on forums and in groups like to celebrate wins like, “Oh, I sent 2,000 emails and finally got a bite. You just gotta persevere!”. What about those other 1,999 emails you sent? This kind of cut-throat, “boost my site at all costs” is not the type of business I want to run.
4. Link Building Advice Is Often Debunked
Links work. If you have high quality links going to your website, then you can enjoy faster rankings, better rankings, and more general “authority” for your website. However, methods of link building come and go. In fact, many widely accepted link building tactics are no longer useful, or may even penalize your website (both currently, or have the future potential).
For example, when I started in 2010, blog networks were popular. You'd submit your site and some spun up, 250 word content blurbs, then syndicate them across the web to networks of shitty websites. In hindsight, that was a dumb idea, but many people did it, including myself. Then the Penguin update hit, and businesses were destroyed over night.
What about web 2.0 properties? Anyone remember Squidoo? Anyone ever build links via Hubpages? There were hundreds more. The advice back then was to build link wheels and interlink all your mini sites to the main site. I had a whole network of Web 2.0 properties pointing links to my blogs because someone told me it was good for SEO. They are all gone now. Wasted time. Wasted money.
Then there was article marketing. Ezine articles. Article Factory. 100's more. You'd download a bit of software that would take a single article, make 1000 versions of it automatically, and syndicate to these various article publishing websites for what reason, I'm not sure. Certainly not for human readers. That's also done with.
More recently, private blog networks were hot, then not. Even so-called professional services have been called out. Guest posting was in for a while, but now people are worried about that. What's the next?
The type of link building you do now might work, but in the future, the links you build could be useless, or even toxic. You might even need to disavow them. I always have that in my mind when I consider that link building might be worth my time.
You know what's always worth my time? Creating content for real humans, whether that be social media, email, blogging, answering comments, designing infographics, or whatever.
5. It Doesn't Fit With My Long Term Goals
Maybe you've read everything up until now, but you have some kind of super secret tactic that works all the time, or some guru out there has convinced you that his method works 100% of the time. Fine. Go for it. Backlinking just isn't something I want to figure into my business plan, and I'm doing OK despite that. On a 10, 20, 30 year time horizon for my affiliate websites, I've got a lot more stuff I'd like to do.
I really want to try something new, I could do more YouTube videos. I could start a podcast. I could start an Instagram account. I could do PPC. I could buy and review more products. I could spend more time on product reviews. There's a lot that can be done. Right now, I'm severely limited by 24 hours in a day and my business management skills (I'm still learning on it!), so I really don't see a need to start building backlinks.
Final Thoughts About Building Backlinks
To be perfectly honest, I think a lot of new affiliate bloggers get caught up in building backlinks for a couple of reasons.
- The overvalue the quality of their content and can't understand why they aren't ranking
- They are impatient, and expect a “formula” to work 100% of the time
- They just want to build, flip, and profit
The third option is really a huge motivator for a lot of people. They just want to make money online, no matter the cost. They'll spend time outsourcing content for as cheap as possible. Get some garbage backlinks that pass a smell test. The flip their site to some unsuspecting investor, and on to the next one.
Maybe I was exactly that type of person a few years back. Nowadays though, I have a much longer time horizon in mind, and am building my business accordingly. I may change my mind on backlinks in the future. I used to ripon Adsense all the time, but now I'm a big fan of Mediavine, and actively recommend display ads. So there's room to change my mind. For now though, backlinking isn't part of my strategy, and I'm happy with my results.