Have you ever wondered why the cost of links continue to increase, seemingly year after year?
Well, let me give you my take on this.
Now, I don’t have any data to back-up what I’m saying.
But I have been active in SEO for over a decade now and have seen the evolution of the industry to the state that it’s in right now.
And one thing I’ve seen throughout the years is that the cost of links have continued in increase.
And in my opinion, will continue to increase.
If you’ve been acquiring links for more than a year or two, you’ll notice that the cost per link has gone up.
Now, before I go any further, let me say this upfront.
Link building is a term everyone tries to stay away from.
SEOs tend to use the term ‘link earning’ these days, or ‘outreach’, or ‘seo campaigns’ – they purposefully stay away from the term ‘link building’.
They do this because the term has such a bad connotation to it.
An SEO using the term these days gives off the impression that they buy links.
Buying links, as we know, is against Google’s guidelines.
Buying links for a site can lead to the site being penalised; bad reputation; blogger backlash, etc, etc.
So, buying links is not something you want to do. You want to create campaigns to ‘earn’ links, right?
However, when reporting to clients, higher-ups, they frankly want to know the bottom line.
And the bottom line to outreach campaigns considers this simple question: ‘what is the cost per link?’
This metric, the CPL, from the ‘link building’ days, is still used to judge the performance of an SEO outreach campaign.
Now, why is it the CPL has increased (significantly) over the years?
Well, let’s go down memory lane… briefly…
There was once a time when SEOs reached out to web-owners – bloggers, publishing sites, etc – to acquire a link to the site they wanted to link build for.
These were good times. No one knew what SEO was. I mean, people still don’t today, but in the early 2000s, people really didn’t know what SEO was.
They also didn’t know what link building was. Bloggers, for example, being contacted by an SEO to link to a site, almost took pride to being contacted. They obliged. For free!
After a very short while, outreaching to acquire links became incentivised.
What’s the surest way to incentivise a blogger to provide a link? Payment!
For some time, this practice, of paying for links, seemingly didn’t hurt anyone.
It was against Google’s guidelines.
But Google’s guidelines are just that – guidelines that Google wants you to adhere to.
Buying links was not a crime, it wasn’t against any laws, so brands went buckwild.
Agencies had a hell of a run with the practice of link building.
It was the easiest pitch when it came to SEO.
So easy, SEOs weren’t even needed to pitch for SEO work.
The SEO work was simply to buy links.
It was a practice everyone understood.
Agencies could finally explain SEO to brands.
The metric for success was simple to grasp – and show. You spend more, you get more links.
You get more links, you improve your rankings.
You improve your rankings, you get more traffic.
Pitching used to be very simple:
“We have a database of websites willing to link to your site. We have one of the lowest CPLs in the industry and can provide you with what you need. Let’s make this deal. We’ll get you to number one. We are well versed in doing this within 6 months.”
This was the pitch! It was very easy.
And you know what? It worked!
It worked for all involved – agencies, bloggers, and brands!
Brands got such great results, they went insane with link building budgets.
Spend more, get more, rank higher. Spend more, get more, rank higher. Oh, this was the best of times!
You know who won the most during this time? Bloggers!
You see, bloggers came to realise the value of their assets – their websites.
They went from earning very little for providing a link to making a very handsome living for providing links.
They went from being innocent bloggers to knowing the game!
They went from a side hustle to having a full-blown business.
They understood the value of links to brands and they did everything in their power to ensure they had a piece of a brand’s marketing budget in exchange for a link.
And this was every blogger’s mindset.
CPL catapulted. Brands obliged. As long as they had a return, they really didn’t mind spending.
Business was good. All good!
This algorithm was the hand of the might G, that literally, changed the approach to link building.
You could track the shift in the way people shy away from using the term ‘link building’ to the release of this algo.
It was monumental to SEO!
This algorithm is what led to agencies going from selling links to doing what they currently do, as far as off-page SEO goes.
You see, link building used to be a cash-cow for agencies. Up until penguin.
Now, agencies have adapted their link acquisition offerings to campaigns.
And next week, I’m going to delve into campaigns.
If you thought agencies charged a lot for link building pre-penguin, post-penguin, they took costs to a whole ‘nother level with campaigns.
I’m going to get into this next week.