06 Nov 2008

An SEO is Not a Link Builder

…And a Link Builder is Not an SEO
Most SEO’s agree that there are three components to higher search results; 1) good content, 2) onsite optimization and 3) quality link building.  However, in my opinion, most SEO’s are not link builders and most link builders are not SEOs.  I believe it boils down to two different personality types.
SEOs and web developers tend to be more creative and analytical in nature. Their function is to build exciting, interactive, captivating websites to draw in the site visitor. Many of these professionals will even optimize these sites, having enough professional knowledge to understand that a good website is more than just an attractive design. While most people who are seeking an effective website for their business will more or less understand what a web developer is, their grasp on what an SEO is might be slightly more hazy.
By definition, an SEO company will go through the process of modifying a website’s content, and structure to maximize the chances of a higher ranking within search engine results. Firms that practice SEO can vary greatly; some have a highly specialized focus, while others take a more general approach. Optimizing a web site for search engines can require looking at so many different contributing factors and elements that many SEO professionals consider themselves to be in the broad field of “website optimization”.
Some of the services that an SEO may offer to a client might include keyword research, optimizing website content, and reviewing a website’s meta tags, directory structure, headings and alt text for images. A brief look at these services, as well as those of a web developer, all show similar characteristics: analysis and creativity. There is some trial and error to these services in order to find the right balance in search engine optimization.
While some SEO services may offer link building as part of their portfolio, link builders who focus exclusively on getting link juice for their client’s website are a different breed from SEOs; many SEO companies in fact avoid link building altogether because it does not fit in with the expertise and strengths of the company. Link building professionals are typically more sales and marketing in their approach to link building, and with good reason. Link building is more of a proactive approach to internet marketing. Many link building professionals rely on cold calling  and emailing organizations in pursuit of the link; not a common personality trait of a web developer or SEO. 
For link building, it is a constant hunt or pursuit for the best link juice out there. They are constantly looking for better, more effective links for their client’s website. They get a great thrill when they find a link resource with great promise. They live to “close the deal” as it were, obtaining a resource to call their own; most certainly not something a typical web developer strives for. Their joy comes from great code, while link builders thrill in the chase and capture.
This is the reason that so many SEO companies outsource their link building services to those companies that focus exclusively on link building. Link building is hard work. There is no magic shortcut to getting good links. And though purchasing links might get you some good juice, depending solely on link buying is not the answer. Link building is all about time, because trustworthy links, usually cannot be bought.

SEO companies most certainly have their place in good website promotion, most certainly, but to secure the best link building, it’s best to leave it to the expertise and passion of those who live for links.

[tags] link building, buy links, SEO, higher search rankings, SEO companies, link building service [/tags]


  • Chris Lang Nov 06, 2008

    Great article Arnie, this is my week spot so you really pointed out a glaring weakness on my part: Too much tech and not enough natural link building.

  • Injury Lawyer Nov 06, 2008

    This is a very cool article. Give me a call or e-mail me sometime to discuss perhaps you assisting me with some SEO for my Los Angeles law firm. Thanks and Semper Fi.

    P.S. I voted this up on MIXX.

  • Gunjan Pandya Nov 06, 2008

    I agreed with your title that An SEO is not a Link Builder ….

    But in most of companies I found that most of the people thinks that SEO is a link builder …. they are providing a task of SEO to Link builder and task of Link building to the SEO

    Link Building is a part of SEO Process ….

    But if this task is doing by qualified Link Builder … then that will very helpful to SEO … and SEO can give more constraint on On page Optimization and other online marketing stuffs..

  • karalynia Nov 07, 2008

    SEO and link builder both are hard work. Link building is proactive approach to internet marketing.We people have to hard work for link building to get good links. On the other hand a SEO depends on search engine for all time to get good knowledge about SEO flied.

  • schikowski Nov 07, 2008

    An interesting approach, I haven’t thought of this before. It makes sense. Since the web is growing and new opportunities come up constantly, it might be a better approach for an SEO to focus on their own skills and leave link building to a link builder. Thanks for sharing this.

  • shubhangi Nov 07, 2008

    Great Article.!

  • Acai Berry Juice Nov 07, 2008

    I’ll tell you what I think. SEOs are, by definition, link builders. But being a link builder does not make you an SEO. I prefer to do the harder SEO work myself and outsource link building. Automation tools are also key. Essentially though, link building is time consuming and frustrating, and I’d rather pay an Indian $100 to generate 2000 links. The rest of the link I need will come from my other SEO tasks.

  • Jack is from London Nov 07, 2008

    This is absolutely right. I find that my link builders are quite salesy people, as the best trick to get those really juicy links is to strike up a conversation, sell the benefit, and close ‘the deal’.

    Like any sales, it takes convincing the linking site that you’ve got great, unique content that will help *their* visitors find what they need.

  • Vertical Measures Nov 07, 2008

    @Jack that has been our observation too. Our company used to do more SEO, but we were just not technical enough and could not be experts at everything. So we focused on off-site optimization.

    Quite a debate going on over at Mixx: http://www.mixx.com/stories/2706442/an_seo_is_not_a_link_builder#comment-205551

  • Purple Widget Nov 07, 2008

    I agree, at least in theory but it’s not absolute. A good SEO can be a good link builder and a good link builder can be a good SEO. But these might be exceptions.

    Can either be great at the other? That I would agree with more.

  • Vertical Measures Nov 07, 2008

    @acai – I think you are making my point. Except I would NEVER pay anyone $100 for 2,000 links. That statement alone makes my case.

  • Vertical Measures Nov 07, 2008

    Welcome back Purple. Maybe that would have been a better way to refer to it all :-)

  • Ninjajen Nov 07, 2008

    It’s true that not every link builder is an SEO, but, the BEST link builders are.

  • CSB Nov 07, 2008

    @acai berry juice

    $100 to generate 2000 links? Gosh, you’re brave – I wouldn’t, not unless it was over a fairly long period of time and I knew the links were quality and not all from spam farms. I’m not convinced $100 would buy you that and I’d rather put the effort in myself!!

  • Boris A local SEO Nov 07, 2008

    I am doing my own little happy dance while reading this post. I could not agree with you more. Thanks! First time reader… I will be back.

  • Thomas Nov 07, 2008

    Just the thought of paying someone to build backlinks doesn’t compute for me. Link Building has always been something in the back of my mind as an SEO, and now I’m seeing the light. But I have seen the links that outsourcing gets you and they are not good! I would say at least 50% of them are from sources outside the US, and totally unrelated to your niche.

  • Rich Hill Nov 08, 2008

    Very interesting article and Sphinn/Sphunned, (preaching to the choir though.)
    I can’t see how one would differentiate between the two fields, because the only thing that works for me is to do both, SEO and link building, as well as article submissions. It takes a lot of work but never just one or the other,

  • Link Building Blog Nov 08, 2008

    Great article folks. The more deeper I go down the link building rabbit hole, the more I’m realizing that it is in its own right. I’ve now had to hire another SEO guy to handle everything other than my link building for clients.

  • Directory Submission Service Nov 10, 2008

    Agreed. You need to be more than a link builder to be an SEO. And link building is only a part of Search engine optimization.

  • Clint Nov 10, 2008

    More and more I find most sites have links built but they have terrible onpage SEO and no server side SEO done.

    Link building can be outsourced well by simply checking the link building companies PageRank…

    no PR – No contract lol!!!

  • Marble Host Dec 15, 2008


    Exactly mere link building doesn’t means an seo. Seo even considers how the search engine works and what people search for. They even have to work on HTML.


  • Dhwanil Dec 22, 2008

    I think most of the people believe that SEO and Link Building (LB) is the same. LB is a part of SEO process. LB process is a very time consuming and it takes several months to give you result.

  • Tonneau Cover Jan 19, 2009

    I totally agree with you that pure SEO and Link Building are two different mind sets. Link Building IS an vital part of SEO and should be done simultaneously with the same goals in mind. Unfortunately the temptation to buy thousands of links without spending much and outsourcing it, it a shaky promise of getting backlinks that amount to much.
    A better way to practice SEO is to think in a holistic manner and embrace the Link Building process with the same thoroughness and strategy as optimization and content creation.

  • What Is BD Live? Feb 04, 2009

    I agree with the premise of this post. I’m an SEO but my background is in Web Development and IA. Acquiring links, I’ve found, is much more of a marketing/salesman discipline and that just doesn’t fall under my realm of expertise. The best solution is to have a two headed team, one tech guy, one marketing guy.

  • SEO Consultant Joel Feb 09, 2009

    I can’t agree enough, great article. Some times talented SEO’s get too involved in data entry and basic tasks, when they should focus more on the overall SEO effort to improve rankings.

  • CSS Perk Apr 02, 2009

    You're right. I think that SEO and linkbuilding require two different skill sets and two different personality types. I've been working on SEO for a while and while link building is important for SEO, it's a whole different animal.

  • Joel McLaughlin Apr 07, 2009

    Great post, I agree completely!

  • ghen Apr 08, 2009

    Interesting thoughts and well summarized. Thanks for the useful post.

  • Lia Apr 11, 2009

    one-way link buying is a growing trend but it's kinda gray hat in my opinion… and i totally agree that the work of SEO's and LB's require different personality types.

  • Tom May 05, 2009

    It takes alot of thought, time, and effort to build meaningful backlinks. And yes this is part of SEO but not the whole part….onpage optimization plays a big role too!

  • sammy May 05, 2009

    I agree with the distinction. But customers usually want the package so as an SEO person you have contract out the link building. But as others have mentioned its a scary thing to do. Who can you trust.

  • Italian Dude Jun 03, 2009

    It’s true that link builders are a different breed, one that I believe is needed even more so than an SEO.

  • Amanda's Resveratrol Jun 11, 2009

    I think SEO can take many shapes and forms. An SEO should do link building, but a link builder is not an SEO. Link building is definitely important to SEO and should not be ignored.

  • gilbert Jun 11, 2009

    Yes i agree a link builder is the one who is doing the task of SEO.

  • Wanddeko Wolle Jun 16, 2009

    Thats the reasen why I work with Dennis he is the seo and I do the linkwork :)

  • Injury attorney Jul 02, 2009

    You guys really got this stuff down, thanks for the great tips Arnie!

  • Tucson SEO Jul 14, 2009

    I think you are right in that both aspects require a great deal of work. However, I know quite a few people that work both angles and do it well. I guess it depends on your motivation.

    Good article.

  • alicia Aug 15, 2009

    i agree too.it depends entirely on motivation.rather it is the prime factor.good article

  • Injury attorney Aug 19, 2009

    Excellent advice, they are separate entities… Some SEO’s have link building experience and vice-versa – however you need experts in both mediums.

  • Injury Attorney Sep 18, 2009

    These are great points, excellent post guys… These are two distinctive jobs that require unique talents and skills.

  • Richard Saling Oct 14, 2009

    I understand where you’re coming from. After all is it logical to assume an SEO is not an SEM and vice versa? This is what I have heard. However, these are all related and I see value in having the experience in each aspect of getting higher rankings on SERPs. Maybe its me, but I get nervous with over specialization. As a professional, I prefer to have knowledge of the entire process. It helps me see the big picture, help other members of the team, and helps keep me up to date and able to create or add value.

  • SEO-sökmotoroptimering Nov 13, 2009

    Well said,
    I am an SEO but I can build links. i think it depends.
    nice article…

  • SEC Football Schedules Nov 14, 2009

    I agree that building links is a different type of skill than on-page SEO. Still, it’s hard to get much work as an SEO is you say “Sorry, I can’t get you any links.” You have to have that in your bag of tricks, at least somewhat.

  • Anthony Mar 03, 2010

    Everyone knows that you need to build back links to your site to get rankings. However, it is only a small part of what a good SEO does. On-Page is essential, and probably more than people originally thought!

  • home builders marketing Mar 15, 2010

    link spamming can also have a bad impact on your search result position.White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines, on search engines and other pages, building high quality web pages to engage and persuade.

  • Tucson Condos Nov 20, 2010

    You got me thinking, but I disagree. SEO encompasses more than just the website. The goal of an SEO is to increase rankings as much as possible, and link building is a HUGE determining factor in achieving that goal. Link building is part of the SEO process.

    I do agree that there are better link builders than others, but that can be said about anything. And, if you’re not great at it, it’s obviously a good idea to find someone who is. But that’s no different than a real estate agent hiring a transaction coordinator cause they are better with people than paperwork.

  • Michigan Car Accident Lawyer Mar 28, 2011

    Thanks for the very interesting article. I seems that many SEO people do not distinguish between on page optimization and link building, nor do they recognize that both are essential. Your article is very informative.

  • Ronald Apr 13, 2011

    I would have to agree for the most part, however – you can’t deny that most “clients” rely on SEOs to build their links – meaning they kind of are link builders to them. But, I have to say, you did shed some light on this that is very valuable. Thanks!

  • kaaan May 17, 2011

    Thats the reasen why I work with Dennis he is the seo and I do the linkwork

  • New Homes Austin TX Jun 12, 2011

    Link building is one of the important SEO strategies. Link building is a most effective way to develop traffic and back links to your website. You can get quality back links by Forum posting and Blog commenting, but if you used Do Follow forums which allow signatures than it will be very useful for you to get back links to your site.

  • Steiner Ranch Jun 12, 2011

    Article writing and forum posting is quite important.

  • Emily Mar 15, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this, at Console & Hollawell we do all our SEO in house. We have a great content writer and then a separate link builder. Making it a team effort and keeping every one in house leads to great marketing results!