Link Building Methods and Risks

A special session at SES London 2010 was completely ‘hosted’ by Webuildpages. Jim Boykin, CEO and “Link Building Ninja” of Webuildpages tried to give the listeners more understanding in the why and how of linkbuilding. Below a wrap up of the session by Sam Murray.

Jim starts off the presentation by asking “does anyone work for Google” and continues by asking any new audience members who walk through the door the same question. It has clearly set the tone for the session as buying links is the first topic for conversation.(*I think it is important to highlight at this stage that Jim doesn’t condone buying links.)

Jim feels that if you are targeting competitive short-tail phrases and you are not buying links then you should probably give up aiming to rank #1. Jim continues to state that a lot of companies out there are still buying links and even the ones that have stopped were previously purchasing valuable links. So if we can’t rank #1 for competitive key phrases what do we do? Aim for the long-tail.

Aiming for the Long-Tail via content writing

  • Research long tail phrases and develop content which would contain these keywords
  • Carefully target authorative sites such as .edu,, .gov, .mil (international)
  • Look at the websites they link out to, understand why they link to them and also patterns of content that the linked to sites have. This will help you develop your article
  • Host the content on your own site as this will bring more value to your domain and boost authority

Jim says this approach normally has around a 5% conversion rate in getting a link.

Buying Links
Exact anchor text links going to exact keyword pages you are targeting. You need to understand there is a risk versus reward.
Odds of getting penalised is very low, all top phrases are buying links yet are still operating. However here are the top 10 ways that will get you banned.

Top 10 ways to get banned

  1. Trip a link buying filter
  2. Your broker gets mapped, analysed and buyers penalised
  3. Someone blogs about you buying links
  4. You’re number 1 for very competitive phrase and you’re not best site in the world
  5. #1 for competitive phrase, get reported for SPAM
  6. Buying links from a broker who sells links to everyone
  7. No natural backlinks
  8. You start shouting and bragging about your rankings
  9. Reporting spammers when you are buying links
  10. Show your site to Matt Cutts

You’re penalised… What then?

Apologise, explain your knew nothing about it and blame a SEO company!

Does buying links work?
Blog reviews do work however it is very important to realise they increase ranking initially but when the link drops off the homepage it gets buried under various subfolders, once you’re off the homepage then the value decreases and your initial burst in rank will go.

More blog reviews you submit to the higher the chance of tripping filter and increase risks. The value of links from press releases is not as strong as the amount of pages that link to you, due to duplicate content.

Trust is Important in Links
Jim states it is important to realise that Trust relates to what quality sites link to the website that links to you, it doesn’t just take into account sites that link to you.

Step Away Theory
Over all the years that Jim and his team have been involved in link building he says he has developed a theory called ‘Step Away’ and feels this is how search engines are now beginning to measure the importance of a link.

Step away theory is similar in nature to when SEOs used to try to sculpt PR by using no follow links in their site to assign more value to pages and set a hierarchal structure.  Jim feels that search engines no longer reduce the value of a link by amount of links on page but is merely devalued in relation to how many steps away from original source.

*On a personal note I would like to say that the session by Jim was inspiring and also made me thirsty to start link building again as he showed such passion. If you agree or even better disagree with any of the theories above then let us know.

About Sam Murray

Sam Murray graduated from University with a BA (Hons) in Marketing in 2007 and wrote his 10,000 word dissertation on Search Marketing. Sam is a freelance search manager.

18 thoughts on “Link Building Methods and Risks

  1. I remember a few years back on my first SES conference (in New York) where no one dared even mention black hat techniques. And now it’s a recurring theme in many sessions.

    Who knows, maybe in some of the SES 2011 conferences we’ll have entire blackhat tracks. 🙂

  2. Great review of what was a great session.

    Interesting to hear an SEO tell you that you can’t rank for the short tail without buying links. I’d argue there are a few ways round it, but it does highlight one of the problems with link baiting – that it rarely provides good anchor text.

  3. @simon

    Thanks simon.

    I must admit that it did shock me that Jim came out and said it so matter of factly. I am sure he is probably right for a few ultra competitive terms and like he said, there are so many websites out there that were previously buying links and may have stopped so their link buying trail would have gone cold, making it hard to penalise. When you think about it, and I am not advocating buying links, as long as you did it smartly (not like the table above) then it would be very hard to detect.

  4. Totally disagree….just a way to short cut & reinstate lazy approach….if you can work smartly and put in efforts in the right direction…you can still rank in top 3 positions for competitive terms…..must be very irritating session for Google 🙂 …..Anyways thanks a lot for the summary esp. getting banned part…



  5. I agree with you but we can also get back link from social networking site, forum, directories, comment posting and link exchange or now days link wheel is also great

  6. Great summary for those who didn’t get to attend (like me!) – could you expand a little more on the “step away theory” – this seems very interesting…

  7. Thanks for all the comments.

    @Alex To expand on Jim’s step away theory, he felt that whereas people tend to value/devalue a page based on the number of outbound links it contained he now feels that this should not be the case. He says based on experience and the continuous evolution of the search engines they now assign value in a hierarchal sense, hence the ‘step away’ part. If you had a link from a .gov page that had 10 other links on, it would not mean the value of the page is split into 10 but instead they all obtain the value of the page. Link juice is then staggered once these pages link out again. Which is why it is called step away theory, value is assigned on a basis on how many steps away from the powerful source. Hope that makes sense? :0)

  8. “Blame the SEO” Man, that happens too often! We are just too easy a target!!!

    I’ve never considered buying links as all of the companies that I’ve been approached by had such a spammy approach that I reckoned they’d get caught out for sure. Also afraid that once you go black…

  9. @ Simon Turner – that is the the beauty of link baiting… Google loves highly varied anchor text and that highly varied anchor text from a diverse array of sources will hide a multitude of sins

  10. Its like you read my thoughts! You seem to grasp so much approximately
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    A great read. I will definitely be back.

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