Link Building Is Complicated: A Rebuttal

Search Engine Land recently published a column by Julie Joyce about how we often complicate link building, and when I read it, something surprising happened. In fact, I disagreed with her.

Well, I disagree with her.

I agree that the process of securing a link, finding a site, contacting that site, and getting a link is quite simple. But I argue that if you want to get meaningful results with link building, things are more complicated.

I see clients oversimplifying link building in terms of results all the time. They take a myopic view of link building and think it is a simple mathematical equation where increased ingress means increased egress and success is determined by the number of secure links.

However, links are a means to an end; the expected results are more visibility, increased traffic and improved conversions. When the goal of link building is to drive search engine optimization (SEO) results instead of just acquiring a set number of links, link acquisition becomes much more complex.

Factors that can hinder link building success include:

  • On-page elements and techniques.
  • Internal mesh.
  • Customer or service complications.

These issues can impact link building performance, making a link campaign complicated when viewed through the lens of SEO results.

SEO technical presentation

On-page and technical SEO

While links are extremely important for search visibility, backlinks are only part of the SEO picture.

The best links in the world will be useless if they point to a site that is technically a mess. There are a number of technical issues that could hamper your ability to drive organic search performance, including:

  • Speed ​​issues.
  • Duplicate content.
  • Page faults.
  • Incorrect redirects.
  • Broken links and images.
  • Sub-optimal Uniform Resource Locator (URL) structure.

These factors affect crawling and indexing, which decreases your external optimization – backlinks.

On-page optimization for the page you are linking to can either increase or hinder the SEO value of your links. The quality and quantity of links are often the differentiators between ranking pages, but a well-optimized page has the edge right off the bat.

Optimizing a page for important keywords with a targeted title and header tags is important, but don’t forget to optimize your page for searcher intent as well.

For example, if your page is targeting a question-based query, you should optimize your content for featured snippets that Google often returns for those searches. Short, quick, and clear answers generally work best here.

Other considerations should include format, length and design. The best place to look for advice on intent optimization is the relevant SERPs you are targeting. If your page doesn’t come close in quality (in terms of design, response intent, preferred format, etc.) to ranking pages, your link building efforts could be wasted.

Your page should be worth ranking on its own merits. Links increase the value of your page for search engines. But if you secure links to a poorly optimized page, it becomes difficult to get the desired results.

Internal linking

Internal link structure is an often overlooked part of link building and link optimization for search.

While internal links don’t have as much influence on search rankings as external links, they still play an important role and add another layer of complexity to a link campaign.

If you ignore internal links and just focus on securing external links, you will leave equity on the table and it will be harder to get the results you want.

The internal linking architecture of your website will determine the distribution of link equity throughout the site. If you’re not strategic with internal linking, the value of your external links may not benefit the important pages of your site.

Product pages are important to your business and have tremendous value to your site, but that value doesn’t necessarily translate to other sites and drive them to link. This is why you need internal links to directly link the equity of assets that can be linked to the product pages.

As Julie mentioned in her post, the process of securing links is simple, but the execution is difficult because you have to rely on someone else to get your link up.

With internal links, you create the link, at least in theory. If you’re an external vendor or simply don’t control your company’s website, optimizing internal links can be frustrating.

While considering internal links adds another level of complication to a link building campaign, optimizing those links is integral to maximizing the search benefits of external backlinks.


Whether you’re an agency or an in-house SEO, dealing with bureaucracy and bureaucracy can complicate even the best-designed link campaigns.

There are many possible complications that can limit the success of a link campaign, some common issues include:

  • Target Page Restrictions. Link building should be targeted and strategic, but opportunities are missed when the best pages aren’t promoted.
  • Micromanagement with awareness. Interference with outreach can negatively impact efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Slow approval process. A lag in multiple approval processes can kill a campaign’s momentum.
  • Limitation of prospects. Limited lead pools lead to limited links and results.
  • Communication problems. Effective link building requires open and consistent communication.
  • Lack of buy-in from senior management. Even successful campaigns can be failures if the C-suite doesn’t understand the value.

Bureaucracy can impact link building from start to finish, and even after the links have been secured. This bureaucracy complicates the acquisition of links, often making it more difficult than it should be.


Alright, so I don’t really disagree with Julie! As SEOs and link builders, we often over-complicate link acquisition. In trying to explain this difference in strategy and tactics, we sometimes overthink link building and confuse it more than necessary.

The process of finding a website, contacting and securing a link East simple, but generating SEO results, beyond the number of secure links, quickly becomes more complicated.

There are a number of extenuating circumstances and outside forces that contribute to the complexity of running a successful link campaign. Whether it’s technical issues, suboptimal internal linking structure, or restrictions on proximity messaging, securing link building results is more complicated than securing links.

Securing a link can be simple and straightforward, but understanding how that link supports a larger SEO and digital marketing strategy takes research, creativity, analysis, and coordination.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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About the Author

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power. In addition to his column here on Search Engine Land, Andrew also writes about SEO and link building for the Page One Power blog. When he’s not reading or writing about SEO, you’ll find him cheering on his favorite pro teams and supporting his alma mater, the University of Idaho.

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