If you have ever done any sort of link building, you know that it is challenging. SEO, especially link building, is such a non-standardized practice, which makes finding good insight sometimes very difficult. You always have to weed though a lot of “stuff” that does not make any sense to find information that is worth something. In our experience, we have found that the best strategies follow the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid.
In an effort to follow the KISS principle, I would like to take a step back and pose the simple question, “Why do we build links?”
We build links to get our website ranked, of course. But lets dig a little deeper, and ask, “why do links affect rankings?” The reason links affect how we rank is because links prove to Google that our website is worth something. Jon Ball co-owner of Page One Power, a link building firm based in Idaho (yes, that is a link with anchor text because I think he earned it), gave a presentation at SES Chicago that nailed it.
He explained, “Google was created in academia, and the way people in academia prove they are experts is to get cited from respected sources. Getting your work or research cited from authoritative sources solidifies you as an expert. Google takes this same approach when determining their rankings. Links from an authoritative websites solidifies your website as valuable, which means you should rank high because your website matters.” Jon went on to explain more about his link building philosophy and the simple yet effective steps that should be taken to manage a successful link building campaign. If you ever get a chance to here Jon or his brother Zach speak, I highly recommend it.
Now getting back to the link building dilemma. People, “mostly the self-proclaimed experts”, are doing “stuff” and writing “stuff” that just doesn’t make sense, like “get 1000 high PR dofollow links every month.” Things like just this don’t make sense to me. Where are these 1000 links coming from? Maybe a link farm? It seems like people offering these outrageous link building services have cracked the code and discovered the secret to link building. However, in reality, there is no secret or magic way to automate the process, cut out the work and planning needed, or avoid the phone calls, relationships & content required for a successful campaign. The only way to build links that matter is to do things that matter. PERIOD.
I have a story that some SEO professionals might be able to relate to:
When developing our initial SEO strategy (before we had any clients or even a website), we conducted a ton of competitive research. We looked at and analyzed hundreds of websites. We would always look at the basic design of the website, what services they offered, and how they advertise their services.
After weeks of research, we kept stumbling upon these websites that offered these slick SEO packages. Each package would be neatly organized into an “SEO Menu.” The packages would be organized by column with the least expensive on the left and the most expensive on the right. Each row on the menu would denote a certain SEO service, and if that package included that service, there would be a pretty check mark in that package’s column. The rows would be things like “500 do-follow backlinks” or “100 citations.” After studying these SEO menus for a couple weeks, we thought to ourselves, “We got to have a menu,” so we got to work. We started our columns and rows. The rows had services like, “Keyword Research, Google XML sitemap, Unique Title Tags, 301 redirects, Header Tags…”, after we listed every on-page criteria we could think of, we were stuck. The cool blue checks were distributed in every column, and we had no idea what was next. We knew what we would do next, BUILD LINKS, but how on earth are we going to fit link building into a neatly organized menu? How do we guarantee “150 do-follow links” or “100 high-quality Social bookmarks”? How do we guarantee 150 new links every month for ever? How to we standardize a process that is different for every client? It just did not make sense. We knew how real SEO worked. We knew how to build real links that mattered, but how do we fit the process into a menu?
And in our estimation, YOU CAN”T standardize link building. It is different for every client. The same strategies apply but the links always vary. Luckily, we eventually came to our senses and ditched the menu, and hearing speakers like Jon helps us solidify that this is the right decision.
I hope this blog post helps anyone who has ever experienced self-doubt or confusion when link building, and if you are ever struggling or stuck on what to do next this quote has always helped us, “If a member of Google was sitting next to you, would you build that link?”