Link Building Pre-Google Days

Apr 9, 2009 • 7:33 am | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

A WebmasterWorld thread has discussion on the topic of link building. This link building topic is different then the average thread. In this thread, the member asks if there was link building before Google became popular.

The link building market, which is a niche within the niche of SEO, is almost completely driven by the popularity of the Google algorithm - at least these days. Typically, the more, high quality, relevant links you have to your web pages, the higher those web pages rank in Google. It is not that simple anymore, but the premise is still mostly true. Thus, to 'manipulate' or improve your visibility in the Google search results, you had to get many, high quality links from external pages. Thus, the link building industry has been born.

But was there such a thing as "link building" prior to Google becoming popular? The answer is yes. There were a few people in the business of acquiring links on popular web pages, for the sole purpose of online marketing. These link builders purchased or asked for links on sites that had traffic, so that people would click from those popular sites to their sites.

Eric Ward ( was one of the first, if not the first, person in the link building business pre-Google. Eric has told his story at many SEM conferences. The most remember part of his history is that he did link building as a way to promote Amazon, in the early days. He said that Amazon offered him shares in the company, but he turned it down - that is his legacy. ;-) Seriously, he was using links to market companies online before Google and he still uses links in the same fashion. He believes that those types of links are the links that mean the most to Google because they worked pre-Google for pre-Google reasons.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

This article was written earlier this week and scheduled to go live April 9th.

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Bob Shawgo

04/09/2009 05:32 pm

Is pre-Google really that long ago that we need to be told that something as basic as link building existed prior to modern search? Is anyone teaching internet history classes at universities. Details! Give details for the kiddies!

No Name

04/10/2009 10:15 am

Interesting post, i too believe linking other websites was there from pre days of google

Eric Ward

04/10/2009 07:30 pm

I replied over at WMW, but they killed the orignal URL and it 404s now. Here's part of what I wrote... I wasn't the only person who built links for a living back before Google. There were several of us. Many are still in the biz. Many of the people who used to do it started other ventures, went to work for other firms, or simply got sick of it :) I never considered myself a link builder, and I still don't. That's just what the industry decided to call it, especially after Google launched, and I went along for the ride. On my business card it says "content publicist". The clients I had before Google launched all ended up ranking extremely high at Google. This was not on purpose since Google wasn't around when I was doing the link building for those sites. But as I continued using my approach with new clients, they too ranked well, and again, this was not the primary objective. It was pretty obvious to me that something about my approach appealed to whatever it was this new-fangled Google was looking for. You have to remember that even after Google launched, it was still an AltaVista and Infoseek world for a long time. But, since links suddenly mattered for search rank, I studied and analyzed links more with whatever tools were available, and it became clearer to me what Google was looking for, and what Google was looking for was not something that could be replicated for every site. Merit is always subject specific. As I realized this, the key for me then was to 1) continue doing what I had been doing, because my merit based approach to link seeking created an inbound link profile that Google liked, and 2) be selective about what clients/content I accepted, because content has to earn the link based on quality, not negotiation. If the links pointing at your site can be gotten with no vetting, then they are self-created links, likely from from no-name directories, article pushing software, press releases, link bots, or any one of a hundred other easy to replicate techniques. Those links aren't an indicator of quality. But this is nothing new. It was, and still is, about getting the right content introduced to the right people, in a highly subject specific manner, so that content will get the high trust links it deserves. The tools have changed, but the goal has not. If the content is not linkworthy, it doesn't matter who the link builder or content publicist is. -Eric

Barry Schwartz

04/12/2009 01:06 am

Thanks Eric, for sharing this history!

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