approach to link building

Only One Way to Approach Link Building

It’s funny how things come full circle. After getting some online training and learning how to build web sites in the late 1990’s, we built our first web site. We were niche resume writers and IT Recruiters. Our site got traffic and we sold enough services that Dave and I both made a nice income. We never considered ourselves web developers or marketers at the time.

However, we decided to build another site so we could push more traffic to our service and that is how was born. I remember having 100 pages up and being so annoyed that only 2-3 people would visit it a day. Being naive, I thought I could get traffic from actual links. So I went out and searched for colleges and universities that had career centers and wrote long, individual, unique emails asking for a link on their page. I didn’t even use a template. It took forever. I was disappointed by a 10% success rate.

How this Link Building Actually Helped Us

What happened next was a real surprise. After taking this approach for almost a year (link building part time), we started getting a lot of traffic. While some of that traffic came from colleges, the bulk of it came from this search engine called Google. Of course, Google was just starting to take the lead in search market. Eventually, our site started growing and we realized we could monetize easier through advertising and by 2005 we were generating hundreds of thousands of pageviews a month. What we realized is that these good links built up our sites trust. Google used a term called “Page Rank” and getting a ton of quality links helped catapult our PR. This led to a great number of top 10 listings for a number of contested keywords.

After this point, we made several other web sites. Some worked, others didn’t work so well. We started outsourcing link building and spent a lot of money on building quick links. We went with quantity over quality. At the time, it wasn’t a bad idea as it was effective. We never did anything black hat. However, the lack of quality stopped working so well. We had a spike of high traffic but then things settled down. Essentially, Google changed the way they valued links. And having a poor link profile can hurt your rankings through the Penguin algorithm.

From this point forward, you HAVE to think value when building links.

The biggest risk in building quick, fast, easy low quality links is Penguin. If your site has too many bad links pointing to it, you can get penalized. But just as important, these links don’t really help you anymore, even if you are not penalized.

The easiest way to explain it is that 10 links from a great source can help your site in search better than 10,000 links from garbage sites. Anything that is a quick submission isn’t going to help. Auto-generated blogs, link networks, blog comments, forum links and bulk directories are not the ideal links. In the past, these links could build up and help your site rank higher, but now it is a waste a time.
Essentially, we have gone back to our roots of link building. We look for sites that are in our niche, where a link could actually give us traffic. We explain how our content is useful and even offer to help their site.

Quality Link Building Through Outreach

We spend more time on email outreach. 90% of our link building is focused in the attempt to build relationships with other sites. And that 10% success rate is actually very good. I’ll take that all day. Some of outreach can be automated but I never recommend mass emails or cookie cutter messages. Make your message unique and thoughtful.

The naive Internet rookie in 2001 actually had it right. You have to go for the good links. Even if it is slow and methodical. We have taken this approach with our newest site and it is amazing when I look at our traffic and see so much traffic coming from sites other than search. Eventually, we expect search engines to give us traffic, but there is traffic to be gained by obtaining links quality sites. And without question, your best use of time and capital should be spent building quality links to sites in your vertical.

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