8 Years of Link Building Trends – What’s Hot & What’s Dead

We’ve used the Google Insights tool to look at trends in the various submission strategies that people have been using to build backlinks over the last 8 years. What are the new up-and-coming link building methods? What is now dying, what is standing the test of time? We also comment on how IMAutomator views these trends and indicate where we’re headed over the next year or so in our submission tool development.

The insights tool looks at the searches that people have made for a particular search term over the last 8 years or so and plots it on a graph so you can clearly see the trend over time. This is a great way to gauge how interest in a particular strategy has changed over time and get an idea of what will happen over the next few years.

First of all we had a look at the four tools currently offered by IMAutomator:

Social Bookmarking Submission

Our social bookmark submitter has always been our most popular tool – partly because we started with just that one single tool so initially IMAutomator was known just as a social bookmark submitter tool. A few years ago sites like Digg became insanely popular but that has changed significantly now and one thing that we have certainly noticed over the years is that the major players in social bookmarks has shifted a lot.



The trend is steadily climbing upwards which is actually surprising to us based on the behaviour we have seen over the last year or two. Some big sites with high PR & Traffic have disappeared, many smaller sites lost their page rank and then were taken down. There are not as many social bookmarking sites around now as there used to be, but the ones that remain are higher quality.

Article Submission

The Panda update in particular had a negative effect on many article directories as they were penalized for having duplicate content. Google began to filter out duplicate articles that appears in search results, only showing a handful, and also lowered the PR of many article directories sites.



As we see here, article submission has been a strong strategy for many years but it has started to fade recently. Writing low quality articles or just buying PLR content for submission is not really reliable. To be effective with article marketing now you really need to take the time to write high quality articles and to reduce the effect of the duplication issue by careful use of spintax.

Both of these things take time and effort and so our personal prediction is that article submission will continue to trend downwards and the article sites will also reduce in number with only high quality hand-reviewed directories remaining over time.

Directory Submission

Direcory submission is a somewhat unique case as you can only submit your home page to a web directory so it’s a one-off activity. Webmasters typically do a round of directory submissions after building a new site just to help get it indexed in the search engines. Lets look at the chart:



The trend is still steadily climbing upwards though I believe that the focus has changed a little. Years ago you could often buy web hosting that came with a free web directory submission service that would submit your newly hosted site to hundreds of directories and claim that it would bring in floods of traffic.

These days I don’t think we are so naive as to think that we’ll get a ton of traffic from directory submissions but one thing to note is that web directories are some of the longest standing sites on the internet. We have some directory sites in the IMAutomator system that have been around for almost 10 years! Getting a handful of backlinks for your new sites from some of these high PR directories is a good way to kickstart it and looking at this graph, people are going to be doing this for a while to come.

Search Engine Submission

We don’t offer a search engine submission service as such, but as the submission process is the same for search engines as it is for directories – you only submit the home page of the site, we do include a few search engines in our directory list. Again, years ago there were services offering submission to hundreds or even thousands of search engines. But these days there’s really only a few that matter!



This graph says it all! Search engine submission is certainly one of those trends that is dying. We will not be spending any time on this for IMAutomator!

So now we’ve looked at the tools that IMAutomator currently offers but there are lots of other strategies that people use. We’ve had ideas for other tools that we could develop – here are the graphs for a few of those ideas:

Video Submission

Video itself is certainly massively on the rise – YouTube is now one of the largest sources of searches on the Internet! Smart phones that allow you to record video and upload it to YouTube at the click of a button are ubiquitous. However that is just video in general but are people using video for marketing? Are they creating video to then submit to video sharing sites other than YouTube? Lets have a look:



The trend is pretty much flat. Shooting a video of your friend goofing off is easy – creating video content to market your business is hard. Whilst I do think that video content is important and for many businesses it can be a useful part of a marketing strategy, I’m not convinced that enough people are using video in this way. We’d like to add a video submission tool to IMAutomator but it’s not high on the priority list.

Document Submission

What’s the difference between article submission and document submission? Article submission means submitting the text of an article you have written to directories that then allow others to take that article and replicate it on their own sites. Document submission is submitting an actual document file such as a Word Document, PDF file etc to specialised directories but your documents are made available for viewing but not for copying.

It’s a fairly subtle difference because if you have an article that you have written then you can easily create a document out of it and in your document you can embed backlinks. Let’s have a look at the chart:



It’s a fairly new idea compared to article submission at least but the trend is slowly rising. This could certainly be one to keep an eye on.

Press Release Submission

Press release submission used to be all the rage but one difficulty with press releases is that they are simply not something you can do on a consistent basis for most companies. However the chart seems to disagree:



There is a slight dip in 2013 but it’s barely noticeable so it seems that people are still using these to get backlinks. However in a recent interview Matt Cutts said that backlinks from press releases would not carry much weight so it’s not a submission tool that we’re likely to build any time soon.

Social Submission

Now things start to get interesting! Even though social bookmarking has the word ‘social’ in it – it’s not really all that social any more for most sites. Many newer sites are little more than a link sharing platform (which is great for link building of course) but there is very little actual social engagement. But Google has been talking more and more about ‘social signals’ – shares of your content on popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc.

Google figures that if people are willingly sharing content that somebody else has written (rather than just promoting their own content) that is a strong indicator of quality, trust worthy content and we’d agree with that too! But these days the number of social platforms is increasing and its becoming difficult to manage – especially when you can’t just submit the exact same content to each platform.

It’s getting a little messy and there is a growing need for social tools that facilitate posting and engagement with other users at all these sites. This is an area that we’ve been thinking about a lot lately and the chart confirms this to be an important direction to move into:



Of course the keyword phrase ‘social submission’ is somewhat generic and vague so we checked a couple of more specific ones and here it gets REALLY interesting…

Facebook Submission

Facebook has simply exploded over the last four years and what was once just a cool place for University students to hang out online has now morphed into an extremely important social platform for just about every business in the world. If your business is not on Facebook you may as well just shut up shop. And as for the idea of a facebook submission tool… demand is also growing massively:



IMAutomator will most definitely be developing some kind of tool for Facebook submission within the next year though we are more likely to develop a more integrated social tool that lets you manage several platform at once rather than having to fiddle about with a whole bunch of individual tools.

Twitter Submission

You can’t really look at Facebook submission without looking at Twitter submission too even though they require quite different strategies for effective marketing. We make very little use of our Twitter account (we should probably rectify that!) and find Facebook to be far more suitable for engaging with our members but this is not the case for all businesses.



Predictably, demand for a twitter submission tool is on the rise and there are already quite a few tools out there.


There are many ways to submit your content for link building and many of the strategies that were in use 4 or 5 years ago are still going strong today even though Google has indicated that some of them may not be as effective for actual SEO benefits. The real takeaway from this study though is the distinct rise of social media platforms. Every business should be on at least one platform if not several and as they become more plentiful and popular there is an ever growing need for social tools to help manage it all. IMAutomator aims to fill that need in the coming year.

4 thoughts on “8 Years of Link Building Trends – What’s Hot & What’s Dead

  1. Ken Kowalsky

    Article marketing has been killed off because of Google Panda which killed off article spinning.

    Although the trend seems to suggest that social submissions is “where it’s at” these days, I prefer to think of this type of submission as just a modified type of directory submission because people who rely on social sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) do so for the same reason they used to go to directories; Finding information.

  2. shell

    Very interesting read. So onwards and upwards with the likes of Facebook,Twitter and Google+. I agree with Google if Real people are sharing your content then there must be value in it.
    Love the blog and i am a fan of IMAutomator
    Thanks Guys
    Blogging my way to success

  3. Marie

    I always wanted to suggest that you add a pdf submitter. The only online tool I found was that did that was DocsRank(dotcom) . I didn’t feel that they were gonna update it or fix bugs so I canceled my subscription…

    imautomator should definatly do pdf submissions…


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