Manual Link-Building is Still Cost-Effective and Realistic for Small Businesses

Chain LinkRegardless of what some high-profile SEO bloggers might say regarding manual link-building and paid links, I still think they have their place. It is careless to inculcate a one-size fits all when it comes to link-building.

While manual link-building is becoming less and less relevant, it is still one of the the most cost-effective ways for small, location specific businesses to rank well in the search engines. And I think that is exactly the way it should always be.

It is ridiculous to force small-town shops, dentists, chiropractors and similar industries to spend months if not years publishing articles and social networking until they finally get some of their work redistributed and linked to. Great content alone rarely equals links; it’s years of online networking and reputation building or an expensive marketing campaign that drives “natural” links. Regardless of what some of some these bloggers might say. All these bloggers have to do is sneeze and they get linked to and retweeted. They have simply forgotten what life is like for the majority of small business owners. Especially ones who don’t have a need to do actual business over the Internet. But just because they might not do business over the Internet, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a need to be found there. Google is today’s Yellow pages.

Unlike high-profile SEO bloggers, most small-businesses don’t have thousands or even a just few online networking buddies, so getting articles and blog posts redistributed and linked to isn’t nearly as easy as 1 2 3.

My advice is this: If you’re a small business, or doing SEO for a very small-business, it is okay to find some local directories and manually request some links. Also, there are a few general, paid directories like Yahoo!, BOTW, and, which Google appears to treat as authorities. If you’re competition is minimal, having a well-optimized website and a handful of high-quality manual links could, and IMO should, earn you a spot on the first page of Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

The more Google discriminates against manual links, the more expensive it will get for small businesses to get found on the Internet. And quite honestly, the more necessary they will be making paid links….one way or another, almost all links are paid links.

BTW: and are affiliate links. However, my valuation of their worthiness is in no way influenced by that.

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  • December 3rd, 2009 at 4:25 pm Niall Harbison said:

    Yeah I have to agree that there needs to be a way for the small guys to get found. As you say there is no point an agency like us building a ton of links and great content for our brand and then small guys not appearing at all in the rankings beside them. The only good thing though in my opinion is that Google is very good at levelling the playing field which means most people will always have a chance at getting to the top of the rankings!

  • December 3rd, 2009 at 4:51 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Let’s hope. I just hope they don’t discount every directory link to zero. There are some free high-quality directory with strict approval processes. Getting listed in free directories should always pass “normal” link-juice, IMO. I think they are beneficial for site owners and the search engines.

    Another reason I think strict directories – free or not – shouldn’t lose their link-value is because without them the web will get even more polluted with worthless articles and machine written content than it already is.

  • December 29th, 2009 at 10:27 am Stephen said:

    I’m not sure I feel it’s a level playing field. I like how it seems that spending more time instead of money can give better quality results from link-building, but I’m not sure this is enough to compete with big businesses that mass hundreds-thousands of lower quality links per month. Even though I own a small company struggling to get rankings, isn’t it the natural order of things that big companies with big marketing budgets will should get more traffic than smaller ones with less money, even online?

  • December 29th, 2009 at 10:45 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Sure they should get more traffic because of the advertising they have done. However, Google used to be the place where any business owner could compete naturally. But any good idea that helps the small business owner on a small budget compete naturally, just gets shut down quickly and labled black hat.
    Like with anything that starts out good, the level playing field will continue to decrease. The latest hit being personalized search. Perhaps that is why the hordes of businesses are starting to look elsewhere. Sites like Twitter and Facebook or whatever else might be out there.

  • April 2nd, 2010 at 11:27 am Shawn from Central Mass Chem Dry said:

    While I’m still trying to grow my small-business I do agree that paid links shouldn’t be looked down upon, however, I’m trying to create a much more natural SEO environment versus using tactics that can hurt your SERP position.

    Great post nonetheless.

  • April 2nd, 2010 at 1:51 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Shawn!
    Yeah, I don’t recommend someone go out and submit their website to a bunch of seemingly low-quality web directories. But I don’t think buying a few links from a a couple of high-quality web directories is going to get you in trouble.


  • June 28th, 2010 at 10:13 pm said:

    I agree. Unless you have the money, stick to the free stuff and just work harder on it.

  • March 11th, 2011 at 3:36 pm Mark Askew said:

    I had a company cold call and show me that currently we have only 8 links to our website and that they could up this to 400 plus which will get us to the first page on Google…blah blah blah. I did consider the £150 pm with the ‘guaranteed’ money back in profit until I read blogs such as this. Thanks for pointing out the pros & cons – I think I’ll just carry on with Adwords and look into a few manual links myself

  • March 11th, 2011 at 3:46 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Mark,
    Yeah – I’d be wary of any company cold calling you making those guarantees. There is no set number of back links that will ensure you top rankings or traffic for that matter. It is possible they could do a good job for you, but I suspect at that price most of those backlinks will be questionable at best.

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