As modern SEO is rapidly evolving the days of old-fashioned link building seem to be quickly disappearing. The “old-fashioned” methods are still very popular with many SEO’s and can still add value to a website rankings, but the fact is there’s only so far it can take you.
Traditional link building methods such as directory submissions, article marketing and competitor backlink analysis are commonly used and while this can be effective for improving rankings in an uncompetitive industry it’s not something you can rely on heavily when faced against well-known brands with expensive online and offline marketing budgets. Quality directory/article links are now few and far between, even the links once considered strong now seem to be fading away.
Competitor analysis can be excellent to highlight industry specific links which can add weight towards search rankings, you certainly shouldn’t ignore this opportunity but if your main tactic is to copy a competitors link profile you can never expect to outrank them yourself. Even if you manage to replicate all of their inbound links (which is extremely unlikely as many will be natural links and others you might not find through backlink searches) they still have the advantage that the age of those links will be older and the weight passed towards improving search rankings will be greater because of this.
These link building techniques do achieve good results for many websites, but if for example you’re targeting a highly competitive keyword such as laptops how are you going to compete against big brands like PC World, CNet, Engadget, Yahoo! and Kelkoo? The top sites ranking for “laptops” can all, with little effort, build high volumes of quality links naturally on an on-going basis, these will all receive a large amount of online press and media coverage, gain votes quite easily to become popular on social media websites (Engadget at #5 is a good example) and generate more online attention and new links from bloggers/webmasters writing about recent news stories. Plus on-top of this they’re all likely to have their own SEO/link building campaigns, probably with a fairly significant budget too!
To have any chance of achieving top rankings for competitive keyphrases you need to focus your effort upon building the reputation of your brand online, getting this right means you’ll be rewarded with quality links from authoritative sources which your own competitors may struggle to generate themselves. So instead of spending numerous hours building a high quantity of low-value/unnatural links which are easy to copy, why not create a blog and start generating plenty of linkworthy content? It may take a bit of imagination to get picked up by social media audiences but then you can start to generate the type of attention and natural links you could get nowhere near with traditional link building techniques. Plus once you get this right why not mix in a few keyword-rich anchor text links via directories and articles, these should have far more of an impact to your rankings if they only consist of a small percentage of your websites link popularity.