There are a few different kinds of "link building," dependent on how you personally define the term. Old-school link building, or what you might affectionately call garbage link building, usually involves black hat techniques or tactics that can register as spam to major search engines--and while they're cheap, they're also likely to result in a manual or algorithmic penalty. Quality link building, on the other hand, which focuses on relationship building and content syndication, might seem expensive at first glance.
However, if you conduct your link building campaign properly, I can almost guarantee you it'll be worth it. Here's how:
1. Brand Visibility.
The first benefit isn't concretely tangible or measurable the way some of these other benefits are; it's all about raising awareness of your brand. When you acquire a link on a high-profile site with a corresponding brand mention, it's seen by potentially thousands of people--even more, in some cases. And as 89 percent of marketers will tell you, brand awareness is a huge priority. It increases your potential pool of customers, as well as the likelihood that a consumer will take action the next time they see your brand. The more your brand is seen, the more it's trusted.
2. Brand Reputation.
Of course, there's more to trust and customer loyalty than the number of times it's seen by a given user. The quality of your content speaks volumes about your brand, and link building gives you the perfect opportunity to strengthen that relationship. For example, you could write a feature about the future of your industry, establishing yourself as a thought leader and distinguishing yourself from the competition. Any prospective customers in your readership will use this material to reinforce or reevaluate their impressions of your brand, and since you have to write great content for successful link building anyway, you're bound to gain long-term value here.
3. Referral Traffic.
Referral traffic is the most reliable and most precisely measurable metric you have to prove the value of your link building campaign. Link building is primarily an SEO and branding strategy, but those links are also functional--some users will click those links to your site, resulting in new traffic. If you know your average conversion rates, you can estimate the value of each new visitor, and through Google Analytics, you can easily determine how much new traffic is generated by each external link. This should prove some value for each new link you build--and it's only one small piece of the overall pool of benefits.
4. Increased Search Engine Visibility.
Every new link to your website is like a vote of trust, relevance, credibility, and authority to the linked page, as well as your entire domain. As part of a larger, diversified strategy, this will cause your pages to rank higher in organic search for relevant queries. Because SEO is so multifaceted, it's hard to concretely tie your ranking increases to individual link building opportunities, but correlation studies have consistently proven links to be one of the most impactful factors in the ranking algorithm. Google recently confirmed links as one of the top-two ranking factors, though it would not clarify whether links are #1 or #2. As your rankings start to rise, pay attention to your organic traffic increases--link building will be a big reason for that.
5. Trust by Affiliation.
Earning a spot on a high-profile, national publisher isn't easy. It takes work, sometimes years of it, to develop your abilities as a content producer and scale your relationships up to that level. But once you get there, you'll earn the residual trust of being acknowledged as "worthy" by that publisher. Have you ever seen websites that feature the logos of such publishers to showcase their authority? Those are called trust badges, and they make your brand seem more prominent and respectable. They're yours if you invest the time into building those relationships.
6. Digital Permanence.
It's also important to recognize that building a link is not the same as placing an ad; advertisements are temporary investments that disappear the minute you remove their funding. Links, on the other hand, are permanent (or as permanent as anything can be in the digital realm). They don't just generate traffic for a few days--they generate traffic for months, or even years. When you consider the value of a link, don't just look at the ROI "now;" try to envision its full timescale.
7. Compounding Value.
Link building's value is not limited to individual silos of potential; your link building strategy does not scale linearly or iteratively with each new link you publish. Instead, as long as you keep seeking new publishers and expanding your horizons, link building is a strategy that can compound, growing in value exponentially. As two quick examples, your rankings will reach a threshold of new traffic potential when they get to page one, and your audience will triple when you land your first high-profile publication spot. The value of your efforts multiplies over time, so keep your focus on the long term.
Cumulatively, these effects should leave you with far more value than what you invested into the link building campaign. Remember, you're paying for the talent, the time investment in building relationships, the effort behind each link, and the lasting value that's to come. You won't see results instantly, but if you make the right investment and remain patient, the traffic, the conversions, and the brand loyalty will come.