Because link building is so effective there should be a Chinese Wall between that department and the rest of the company.

Perhaps there should even be a Chinese Wall between management and link building.


Links form a tremendously important part of search engine's ranking (= sorting) algorithm; perhaps the largest part still, no matter what else you may have heard. Many additional filters are in place to try to nip link abuse in the bud, true, but that doesn't change the fact that 50 links can get you what 50 well optimized page <title> tags can't.

That means that while link building is work, often hard work, it brings with it easy wins that on-page optimization and stellar content almost never see.

That's discouraging to people in other departments and potentially misleading to management.

Faced with the numbers it becomes hard to not treat things other than link building as toying in the margins.

And that's a grave mistake.

It's All About The Margins

Not only is playing the margins -- optimizing marginal costs for increased marginal profit -- solid practice, in this case the margins are what it's all about.

To put it in perspective; link building supports ranking which in turn supports your ultimate business goal.

Link building and ranking cannot deliver on the next two crucial factors:

  1. delivering value so visitors convert in the widest sense; they read, browse, subscribe, share, recommend, buy, etc. etc.
  2. having what your site is and delivers support and confirm your rankings.

The first is obviously crucial to your ultimate business goal. The second is part of a feedback loop search engines increasingly use: if we recommend a store to our searchers, should we continue to do so if the customers flee the shop?

Tinkering Matters

  • Usability optimization makes your site easy and intuitive to use. Often an iterative process. Having visitors interact with your site with pleasure and ease is priceless not just from a human point of view but for your bottom line as well.
  • Conversion optimization encourages or streamlines a visitor's actions towards those of your choice. Again, often an iterative process.
  • Copy is everything. You may not detect its influence in your rankings going up -- attributing much of that to link building instead -- but content is the motor of your web site. Good content is a well oiled motor. Great content is a money machine.
  • On-page and on-site optimization encourage, promote, and confirm meaning to search engines. It's the machine equivalent of usability and conversion optimization.


  • link building is so effective that it makes everything else look inefficient
  • but everything else matters:
    • usability supports time on site and conversions
    • conversions support the bottom line
    • good copy converts
    • making things easy and aligned on-page for search engines establishes and confirms meaning to them
    • time on site, conversions, and what they find on your site confirm to search engines why they should send people to you in the first place
Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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10 Responses to “Link Building Is Important; Everything Else Is Crucial”

  1. Mike Sobol says:

    Great point, Ruud. I had a prospect ask me this morning if I could guarantee her site would improve in PageRank and SERP rank from using my (link building) service.

    I cannot guarantee that of course, due to the importance of all the other "crucial" factors she must attend to, with the help of a competent SEO. If I had read your post prior to responding to her email, I would simply have shared this link!

    One point I would add, which is probably the biggest unspoken assumption here: What exactly you choose to optimize FOR matters just as much as how you apply your optimization. The right long tail keywords can get a site lots of profitable traffic long before the site ever sniffs the front page of Google for more competitive words.

    It's just a reinforcement of your point: when folks go about link building, they better get their house in order first, so those links actually yield a result.

  2. Leo says:

    Ruud, great post as always. And I agree that while the importance of link-building cannot be understated, it is just one aspect of a good SEO strategy. There are a lot other factors which comes in and all of those (such as the ones mentioned in your post above, like value provision) cannot be ignored or sacrificed for link-building.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Thanks for the comment Leo.

      It would be fair if we had professional celebration days for people outside of link building just to honour their work too.

  3. I agree with Leo. I have had clients ask me the same of link building and whether I could "guarantee" results. But at the same time they don't want to let you do a complete job of optimizing the site for optimal results.

  4. Akash Kumar says:

    Nice post Ruud. Most of the people think link building as the most important part of SEO. Well it can be in many cases. But SEO is not only about links now. Now SEO = link building + conversions + brand management + social networking + ROI

  5. Santosh says:

    Hello Ruud,

    You are absolutely correct which says Link Building is very important, but Ruud nobody can get the quality links, if we spend any money then we will get quality links. Ruud is there any better option to get quality links for FREE as I am beginner for SEO and trying to learn. I really impressed with your article which tends me to give a good knowledge from your article. So Ruud if you can post some more articles related to SEO then many SEO Beginners will be supposed to learn things from your articles.

    Anyhow thank you once again for your awesome article, keep on posting, see you soon with some new articles.

  6. […] Over at Search Engine People, Ruud Hein wrote a great post today called Link Building is Important; Everything Else is Crucial. […]

  7. […] Over at Search Engine People, Ruud Hein wrote a great post today called Link Building is Important; Everything Else is Crucial. […]