So you’ve probably realized that link building, especially for SEO purposes, has gotten a bad reputation over the last year. First Google says link building specifically for SEO can get you penalized, then others say that you can still build links safely, then link building is dying, but then through all of that people are still interested in link building and make it a part of their strategy. Because of all the different opinions and news, it’s tough to know what state link building is really in at any given time. However, understanding this will be crucial for moving forward in 2016. Is link building dying, or is it actually getting stronger, and does Google have anything to say about it?

The Current and Future State of Link Building 

As discussed above, everyone has different opinions on the state of link building and where link building may be headed. However, there is evidence out there that can make a good case for several conclusions about link building:

Publishers will make it harder to include links in guest posts.

Focusing on quality content and not links has always been the case, but everyone knew that links were also important. This year and in the future this will remain true and Google and experts will continue to push the importance of quality content. For this reason, many authoritative sites will not allow you to include links to your company pages even if relevant. There will of course be exceptions, but by and large being able to include links in the content you post on other websites will become harder. It has to be about quality, and the only way that websites can ensure that from other writers is by cracking down on links within their content.

It’s still a good idea to build links, but that should not be your focus.

Just because quality content is more important than links doesn’t mean that links are suddenly no longer important. You still have to be careful and you still have to write for readers first and bots second, but link building done correctly can still bring SEO benefits.

So what does “link building done correctly” really mean? The trick is to make sure your links look natural (which of course if you’re building them they aren’t). Avoid keyword-rich anchor text and only include links that are extremely relevant to the article. Case studies are an excellent way to include links to your website while still appearing natural and helping readers through the links. You can also take things to the next level and instead of building links, position yourself to really earn natural links through visibility and relationships (this is the number 1 way to link build), which you can learn more about here.

Link building is still influential to SEO; Google is just giving us more options now.

Although Google has given more weight when ranking to reviews, on-site factors, and some even say social signals, link building will still affect your rankings. There will likely be more to worry about to monitor in the coming years, but link building so far isn’t going anywhere. It’s still a ranking factor and therefore it’s still influential to your SEO success and strategy.

Link building isn’t dead or dying.

Going along with the last point, because link building is still influential that means it is not dying and it is not dead. According to Google Webmaster trends analyst John Mueller, Google considers natural links “valuable in its rankings algorithm because they’re an indication of trust, credibility, and authority.” This logic makes sense and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. You may want to revise your current link building strategy, but don’t get rid of it altogether.

If you do build links for SEO, just make sure you focus on readers first.

The moral of the story is that link building still matters; you just have to make sure that you’re putting readers first. Although link building can do more harm that good if you do it wrong—get involved with spammy directory sites, stuff keyword links in your content, link to too many different websites at once, etc.—link building is a strategy worth keeping in the end. As long as you’re focusing on readers and content first and links second and you revise your strategy with this in mind, link building should still bring you success overall in 2016 and beyond.

What do you think about link building? Do you think that it’s dying, or is it here to stay for the foreseeable future? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.