Link Building on the Highway to Hell

Link Building on the Highway to Hell

1st May 2012

Thinking Like Mr G.

As a teenager I spent hours, days and weeks, practising guitar. I was so passionate about it that I would play until my fingers (and ears) bled and I had no choice but to stop. For me, my future was going to be full of magical rock performances, international stardom and illustrious guitar solos.

But as I got older, I started thinking about the music I liked and what I enjoyed – more often than not, it was its simplicity that I admired. Overly technical musicians, who were only concerned with playing as many-notes-per-second as possible turned me off and I started searching for musicians that knew when to hold back. In short, they knew what not to play, as well as they knew what to play.

And this, my friends, brings me to the mythical world of Link Building. We’re all so concerned about what we should be looking for that we forget to think about the bigger picture.

Help! I Need Somebody……

As you’ve probably worked out already, I turned down a life of rock ‘n’ roll in favour of a career in Digital Marketing – what can I say, It’s just more exciting! Now, people are always asking me; “What should I look for when I’m link prospecting?” To be fair, it’s a good question.

Will a high page rank unlock the stairway to heaven? Will a poor site structure put your link on the highway to hell? Are you right in finding cheap link farms simply irresistible?

Unfortunately, link building success won’t come to those that are living on a prayer. We should be building quality links that Google doesn’t have to question. If you build a link on a site that Google isn’t sure about, it’s unlikely that the link will provide you with any juice, so what’s the point in wasting your time in building it in the first place?

There is no grey area in Google’s eyes and link inclusion is on a strictly black or white basis. It either rewards a link or it ignores it altogether. As Matt Roberts said to me recently; “If in doubt, leave it out”. When Matt said this he was talking about link reviewing from Google’s perspective, but I think it’s important that we adapt this approach ourselves. Google is not only concerned, as we are, with finding great links, but also with filtering out the crap. That’s what we need to be doing when we are looking for great link prospects.

All You Need is Love

Much like the heartfelt, meaningful music that I fell in love with as a teenager, good links come from sites that are created by people with passion and sincerity. They are read and loved by real people because they offer unique content that isn’t available elsewhere. These are the sites that Google looks at without any doubts and these are the sites that provide long lasting benefits.

Let’s face it, they aren’t hard to spot! They are the sites with quality content and genuine, well thought out visitor comments, Twitter tweets, ‘Likes’ and other social shares.

A Good Example…

what to look for when building good links

This is an adventure blog site which welcomes writers to contribute articles. First impressions are good; the layout is clean and professional, and the content is very well written. The site has 1095 Facebook likes and there is an up-to-date Twitter feed showcasing some impressive social interaction. Also, although the site makes money from advertising, the site is not plastered in banners or affiliate links. If I was looking for a link from a quality travel/adventure sports blog, I would be very happy with finding this little gem.

Link Prospecting Checklist

Do real people run and monitor this site on a regular basis? – YES!

Do real people read this site and share it on social media? – YES!

Does this site really answer people’s questions? – YES!

What would Google think? – Google would think my client’s site must be great to have a link from this awesome blog!

Will a link on this site provide referral traffic to my site? Is it relevant enough? – High likely!

Conclusion – It’s obvious, just from a quick glance, that this is a well maintained site. If I can easily see that, it’s likely that Google will also see it as being a solid, quality link and will include it in it’s algorithm.

Not so great example….

Link Prospecting Checklist

Do real people run and monitor this site on a regular basis? – Maybe

Do real people read this site and share it on social media? – Maybe

Does this site really answer people’s questions? – Some question, perhaps

What would Google think? – Google may be put off by the amount of advertising visible on the home page and the poor quality of the content.

Will a link on this site provide referral traffic to my site? Is it relevant enough? – Unlikely.

Conclusion – If I’m not certain about the site then it’s likely that Google will be unsure about the site. Like Google, I’m in doubt so I’m going to leave it out. There’s no point investing time into getting a link from this site if Google won’t even recognise it.

Link Building Shortcuts When It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night

It’s human nature to try and find quicker ways of doing things, so don’t feel bad as your mind wonders off into the “underworld” of automated link building tactics. However, when you think about Google’s fundamental principles, it becomes clear that there are no shortcuts to a sustainable, long lasting link building strategy and I believe, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly!


Written By
Ben Holbrook is Head of Content at Verve Search and has a particular interest in content marketing and developing sustainable link development strategies.
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