You Want Link Building? You Need Something Else!

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Are you interested in link building? Yes, that’s what you think. In reality you need something else though. Let me explain.

I’m just an independent SEO consultant who hasn’t dozens of employees to do his work. I can take only a few clients per year. The day has only 24 hours and most SEO projects do need time that is at least 6 months until they really pay off. Usually a year is ideal to see an SEO strategy unfold.

Solid SEO is about the long term, that’s no secret.

Nonetheless I get contacted by dozens of potential clients throughout the year. I get inquiries by local businesses, by startups, from other SEO companies, both from Germany or the rest of the world. So there are all kinds of different people approaching me while I can’t handle al of them. I sort out out gambling and pron sites from the start and then I have to choose who to work for. Sometimes I don’t even have the time to reply to those I won’t work for because almost each time I reply I have to write more than one email explaining even more.

That’s why my replies are sometimes pretty to the point or blunt in other words. I won’t tell people straight away that their sites suck but I tell them in case they have no linkable assets for example. Also I will tell them what they really need. In most cases it’s not what they are asking me for though.

Most potential clients ask for just one thing theses days: link building.

Based on an understanding of SEO that has been prevalent for the last decade clients assume that links are the most important thing. Also they by now assume that their onsite SEO is fine. Nobody asks for link baiting for example. This is really surprising as link baiting or rather content creation to get links is what I actually do in the end.

It’s like someone going to a gym for muscle building. It’s not really the goal. You want to gain strength, lose weight or improve your overall fitness, gaining muscle is only a means to reach those. Also gaining muscle and likewise gaining links is also a result of doing something else, the actual exercise so to say. So you rather should ask for weight lifting for example.

OK, this is not going to be a gym allegory though. Let me return to the actual talks with a potential client. This person will ask me to do link building for them. They will show me their site. In many cases the site will have already some SEO best practices considered. Also most sites already have links these days. Some of them will be unnatural while others may be not targeted enough etc.

Most sites, like mentioned above lack linkable assets though, that is mainly content that will make actual people link to them.

Some sites also look ugly, are difficult to read or have some other web design issues that go beyond what people usually consider SEO.

So what is it that most sites really need in order to get links or at least for the existing links to work properly?

  • a clean readable web design which pleases the eye
  • valuable content that is worth getting linked to
  • social media presence or better a community of like-minded influencers
  • landing pages with proper calls to action reflecting the actual business goals

Just a few weeks ago I was approached by a company executive representing a jet charter service. They had a new website already with most SEO basics in place but it wasn’t really clean and readable. They had little to no valuable content that was worth being linked to. They had basically zero social media presence. They had phone numbers and contact us now calls to action etc. but they had no more specific goals, at least none you could see at once.

I didn’t even tell them the whole story. I just mentioned that they have almost no links besides their own sites linking to them and that they have no linkable assets besides some of their images they were hiding pretty successfully as of now. I also told them what they need to do: build up actual linkable assets and make the existing assets visible, shareable and linkable.

Additionally I’ve written them what they actually need to do in order to get those. I explained that they need some content that can get linked,

  • FAQs
  • images
  • widgets

whatever. I mentioned common sense tactics to get the word out like

as far as I remember. Guess what? I haven’t heard from them again after emailing back and forth a few times already.

For many business people it’s actually a shock that their sites need something beyond sales copy and product images to attract customers. They assume that all they need are some links that appear in a magical way out of nothing and then customers will flock to their sites. They don’t want to attract links or get links, they want the links to be “build” by the link builder without touching the site.

Building links in the literal sense of the term, as it has been done before link baiting and content creation was discovered as the perfect scalable way to get links, does not work anymore like it did in 2005.

You can build links by publishing press releases, exchanging links, submitting to directories etc. but all these small time techniques are either outdated or limited in their scope. No wonder lots of business owners want to acquire links for SEO by directly paying webmasters. It’s probably one of the few ways of “building links” left.

To attract links your site needs to be attractive, your products and services as well.

That’s the difficult part but that’s what you need. Links are the manifestation of your SEO and content creation efforts. Links are the fruit of the plants you sow.  So don’t ask for link building while you need

  1. content creation and optimization
  2. blogger and social media outreach
  3. landing page and conversion optimization

to name just a few. Artificial link building to your unattractive site may only last to the next Google update. Improving the overall user experience and making the user recommend your site for real is the actual goal of SEO these days. So in case you don’t have killer content, social media supporters, clear conversion paths, it’s not (just) link building you want. You want the real thing.

Stay me with me. I will elaborate on this topic in the near future. I will prepare a template for blogger outreach for example as I do a lot of it and most other people do it wrong in case they do it at all. Subscribe to my feed. I don’t push all my posts on social media.


* Creative Commons image by slagheap.