Food For Thought About Link Building: Some Tasty Tidbits

Presented for your consideration, below are a number of linking-related comments, thoughts, ideas and other notes that I believe you’ll find thought-provoking, interesting or, at least, somewhat helpful.


Your job is no longer to rank high. Your job is to succeed in business.

Bittersweet Vindication..? On April 30 of 2007, almost exactly seven years ago today, I wrote The Coming Link Apocalypse. This was before Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Buffy, Dewey, Vince, Potsy, LaVerne or Shirley.

Back before link deconstruction began. I genuinely tried to tell you what was coming. I wish more people had listened.

Last week, I had to give a presentation of findings to the owners of a site that had fired their SEO agency after being hit with a manual penalty. My recommendation was kill the site. You may think I enjoy some sort of vindication, but it’s not enjoyable when you have to tell someone their online business is no longer viable due to another agency’s negligence.

RFP Quality Checks. For anyone putting together a RFP for any type of linking-related services, there are some key elements you want to be sure to include, many of which will vary depending on your industry and goals. We’ve reached the time in our industry where it’s worth having an expert look over your RFP before you put it out there, and when you receive your proposals let that expert take a hard look at all the proposals you received.

Spending a few hundred dollars before you commit to a bad proposal will save you much more money and heartache later. I’ve read hundreds of RFPs over 19 years, and most are missing crucial elements, as are the proposals those RFPs attract. Drop me a line and I won’t charge you a cent to refer you to the right expert to look over your RFP.

So “Best Vodka In Vladivostok” Is Safe..? People keep writing about how Yandex removed the link graph from their algorithm, thus proving that there are other more accurate algorithmic signals. What almost everyone ignores is Yandex only removed the link graph for commercial queries and only if those queries were in Moscow. This amounted to just 10% of Yandex search results being impacted. Now contrast that with what Matt Cutts said about Google’s own test of a non link-based search algorithm. The results were worse.

Position 1 = Fools Gold…  My son is 11. He wanted to show me a new game he wanted for his PS3. He opened safari in his iPad and did a search for the game. Almost reflexively, he clicked the very first result, which of course was a paid link/ad. Three positions lower (position one of the organic results) was the exact same site.

If my son had clicked that link instead, it wouldn’t have cost the advertiser a penny. But he didn’t. He clicked the first thing he saw. The coveted #1 organic ranking was useless to him. He never saw it. I wonder just how often this happens? You can earn links ’til the cows come home, but if you are only trying to get higher organic rank, you may be wasting your time even if you succeed.

Two Muffins & A URL To Go Please… I’ve preached under the LinkMoses persona that you need to lower your reliance on Google by creating additional linking strategies that are designed to drive brand awareness and click traffic. There are hundreds of ways to do this.

An example: Yesterday I bought a print book at the local big box bookstore. They gave me a free laminated bookmark that was provided by a local stationary shop. There was a URL on it for the stationary shop. Think about how many books go out the door in a year with that free laminated bookmark with the URL on it. Thousands.

Does this cost money? Sure. But not very much, and it’s a better spend than a link farm, don’t you think? Links aren’t just online. Can people come across your URL anywhere in the physical world? If not, why not? I’m not saying buy a billboard on the interstate, but the bookstore/stationary store example above is your clue.

When Disavows Attack…  Could disavows hurt your site? Many people are concerned about the impact of being included in another site’s disavow file.  Google’s John Mueller said this is not possible, but I wonder, if a URL is disavowed by a few thousand other sites, what does that say about that URL?

If A Tweet Falls In A Forest… I sometimes feel Twitter followback pressure, but I try  not to give in to it.  Seriously, there is no useful info that can come from following 12,000 people. If you followed 25 people and each tweeted 10 times a day that’s still 250 tweets a day. Anyone who actually has work to do can’t keep up with it.  

However, there are a few people who I feel I absolutely must follow and read every one of their tweets. I don’t want to miss them. The way I do this is by using Twitter’s built in send tweet to phone option. That way I can ignore the flow of tweets that don’t pertain to my work, and see the ones that do, no matter where I am. It’s really a cool trick and I suggest you try it. Here’s how.

Linking Data Is Like Lite Beer… As much as I love third-party link data, they’re still just a proxy for Google. No third-party link data provider knows as much about your links as Google does, and Google isn’t going to tell you everything you want to know about your own links, let alone your competitor’s links.

So, a market exists for third parties who have the means to do their own crawl and create their own linking metrics. How accurate are they? I can’t perfectly answer that, but I can ask a question: why do the these third party backlink data providers collectively show my site has a total of 6 links from .edus, but I can find over 100 with this ridiculously simple Google search? Side note: .edus mean absolutely nothing and are used for example purposes only.

Small Misquote, Huge Implication… Contrary to what’s been posted, I never said “Build links as though Google never existed.” I said “Seek links you would want even Google did not reward them.” Big difference.

This Chicken Nugget Tastes Like Yelp… Genuine customer reviews are thought to potentially be a very important search signal, but if I ran a search engine I would not use them as a ranking factor.

I’ve used the same dry cleaners for over 10 years and I’m happy with them. No amount of negative reviews is going to change that. Even if the guy ruined one of my suits, I know him and he’d replace it. I’m not going to go on Yelp and yelp about it.

Last weekend Chik-fil-A took 15 minutes to get my family’s order right, but I’m not going to log into Google and bitch about a chicken nugget, and I’ll eat there again. So what exactly do reviews accomplish from an algorithmic standpoint? As of now, nothing. Bad signal. 

A Click Too Far… Knowledge Graph data is great for searchers, but it’s another example of why content creators need to reduce reliance on Google for traffic. Easy example. Ask Google how many ounces are in a gallon. Not only do they answer the question, they provide a “more info” link that takes you to Google’s own unit converter tools.

Now take a look at the sites in Google’s organic rankings for that same search/question. All of them could have answered the “how many ounces” question. But they won’t get the chance, because Google answered it directly.

Quick and easily answered questions (definitions, math, conversions, birth dates) are now Google’s property. Longer questions (how do I change the hood latch on my 1972 Triumph Spitfire?) will (for now) still get traffic. 

The Best Tweets In Life Are Free… If you run an e-commerce site, when a customer completes their transaction and is presented with the thank-you screen, do you provide an option for them to tweet or otherwise share what they just bought? You might consider it.

Check out this twitter search stream and watch it update in real time. I know some people feel this is borderline, but as long as the end user must initiate the share, I say nicely played, Amazon.

Right Under Your Nose… Do you have a college degree and have you written a book or papers? If so, there’s a credible link to be had over at And forget search rank, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the new business this page/link has produced for me.

Because They Get Read… One tactic I’ve never written about that works like a charm. Make your first outreach introduction via FedEx. That’s all I’m saying.

Making Your Linking Life Easier… Three must-have Chrome add-ons for link prospectors:

And You Don’t Have To Become A Scientologist… to love you some xenu, the most under-appreciated free link checking app that’s been tirelessly helping us for what seems like decades.

Lastly… I hope folks are recognizing that your job is no longer to rank high. Your job is to succeed in business. By whatever means make sense. For many of you, Google just doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s not a viable or cost-effective option for traffic.

Ironically, the more you pursue genuine, business-driven relationships, the more likely you are to end up earning the exact links Google wants to see, because they can’t be faked.  The links I wrote about seven years ago.

Good linking!

 (Stock image via Used under license.)