The Link Builder’s Brick Wall, And How To Vault It

After having more of a management role in my company for the last few years, I’d almost forgotten how easy it is to burn out when it comes to link building. But lately, I’ve been in the trenches myself, and I’ve approached that brick wall that we all hit at some point.

Luckily, I’ve learned a few tricks to help me, and my employees, whenever we’re ready to throw our hands in the air and walk out. And I’ll share them with you here.

Try A New Tool

Every now and then, I’ll dig through my emails and resend something to my team where I’d listed a few tools that I’d recently discovered (after, of course, verifying that they’re still online and usable).

Even if the link builders used them 6 months ago, the return to them sometimes triggers a flurry of ideas. If there are tools that have a free trial, try them. If someone is asking for beta testers (not a bad idea for a Google alert) for a new link tool, sign up!

beta testers

Learn More About Advanced Search Operators

It’s amazing how knowing a few advanced search operators can really cut through a lot of sites that you have no desire to visit.

Try A Different Search Engine

Dig through a directory like DMOZ. Just go search where you don’t normally.

Try Some Image-Only Search Days

We’ve done this before, and while I don’t think that it has turned up truly amazing sites that we wouldn’t have found otherwise, I think that the visual representation does help with overcoming a mental block.

Build Links In A New Physical Location

When our staff was larger, we’d hold our brainstorming sessions on the patio of the bakery downstairs or offsite completely at a local coffee house. It’s amazing how a simple physical location switch can open you up to new ideas. It breaks your routine, which is great for brainstorming.

If you can’t leave your usual workspace, at least turn off all your usual distractions like your phone, your email and instant messenger services. One of our remote workers will come into the office to work for a week when she feels like she’s burning out. Some of the link builders will ask to work from home when they’re in need of a change. I’m personally much more efficient at certain parts of my job in different locations. If I need to do reports, I need to be at home where it’s quiet. If I need to put together a content plan for a potential client, I work better at the office where I can talk to other people.

Trade Projects With Another Coworker

If you’re exhausted by the idea of creating new content ideas for a client in the banking industry, trade off with someone who usually deals with the auto industry client. If you usually just do outreach and don’t write content, switch it up. Even if you don’t feel comfortable writing content, come up with some ideas for someone else to write about.

Create Some New Email Templates

Let someone else review your typical templates and give you feedback. If you happen to craft every single outreach email by hand every single time you contact a new person, first of all, you’re amazing, but secondly, there are surely some common bits that you use each time, so have someone else give you feedback on those.

Have A Link Contest

A good link builder is a competitive link builder. If you give up easily, you’re probably not going to do well with links. You obviously don’t want the quality of work to diminish,  but the occasional contests are fun and can give everyone a boost.

We have done contests that are for the agency overall (like if we get X number of links across the agency before the end of the month we’ll buy everyone pizza for lunch) and ones that are personal (anyone performing at X level will get a double bonus) and both are valuable.

Refresh Your Competitive Analysis

Go look at your competitor’s newest links in Majestic SEO. Sometimes, when I see what the competition is getting, I get more inspired (especially when the links are horrible.)

Refresh Your Keyword Focus

Do some keyword research to get some new discovery ideas. Look at free keyword tools or something like Google Trends. Look at what’s trending on Twitter. Take your normal search term and go find every synonym out there for it and try searching for that. Figure out what something’s called in another country. Search with antonyms, etc.

taco trends

Indulge In Link Building Daydreams

Spend 30 minutes imagining what you’d do with a dream client. Every time I work hard on a proposal for a fascinating client, I remember that even if we don’t get the job, the time spent putting together the proposal was still quite valuable. There will almost always be ideas that I can take away for my existing clients.

Reflect On Your Misses

Think back over a campaign that did not go well and think about what you’d do differently. Monday morning quarterbacking can be a great way to get a fresh perspective for your current campaigns.

I’ll admit that every single one of these ideas is completely based on my situation, and many may be impossible for you. Maybe you’re the only link builder in your company or you only have one project. Maybe you are the one building links but you wear ten different hats. Maybe you aren’t able to do fun things like have an internal link contest.

However, the general idea of “do something different for a bit and you’ll get through this” will apply in any case. Burnout is very real and burned-out link builders build lower quality links than excited link builders. Routine and tedium can easily lead to burnout no matter what it is you’re doing, but link building is, honestly, very hard work, I think.

I’ve done many things in my SEO career but I can say that nothing I’ve done has ever been as constantly and ever-increasingly difficult as building great links. Heck, even building halfway decent links takes tons of work. That’s why I love it, though.

Additional Tips

Now I’ve turned to my group to ask what ways they have to get past the wall, and here are their top 5 ways:

  1. Do something physical. Go outside and walk around. If you work from home, clock out and go do some pushups or clean the house.
  2. Take a 5-15 minute break to do anything but work or think about work.
  3. Change the music you’re listening to or turn it off or, if you aren’t listening to any, put some on.
  4. Do something totally irrelevant like search for “tacos inurl:blog.” (I guess if you’re marketing tacos, it’s not all that irrelevant.)
  5. Look at something besides the internet. Print media is fantastic for this, as is radio.

One of my former link builders once said, “If you haven’t burned out yet, you haven’t been building links long enough.”

I’d say that is one of the most accurate statements about being a link builder that’s ever been uttered. I’ve seen link builders go strong for years and thought they were immune to it but nope, it hits every single one of them, and it hits me.

I’m sure there are days when a content creator simply cannot come up with a single idea about what to write, and a programmer can’t solve a simple code issue because he’s just kind of had it. Just remember that with the way things change in our industry, we at least have the certainty that nothing will be very boring for long, and just that knowledge is a decent enough cure for burnout.