Link building is Like planting potatoes
Although in the past I have been known more for my link baiting skills, for the past 6 months I have been hunkered down and concentrating more on less prosaic building of links. The down and dirty stuff that does not glisten in the sunlight like a finely crafted piece of linkbait.
Here are a few thoughts on the subject:
Link building, as we know is a process.
A process that can be replicated.
Correct implementation requires the correct methodology.
So it’s really just of case of find what works, make it as efficient as possible, construct the process in a way that’s easy to scale and then implementing. Easy until you realise that it’s the implementation that can be the tricky part.
It’s not difficult to find what works, but it does take time and concentration, hence my hiatus from regularly blogging and Tweeting in 2010 . You need to run your own tests to confirm the effectiveness of any link building.
It’s important to realise that you can only confidently know what has worked in the past and even then it’s very tricky to be absolutely definitive. Only by repeat testing and observation can you really have any idea of what really works, and of course you have to constantly test to see if what worked yesterday is working today.
Past performance does not guarantee future performance.
Causation and correlation are two words you need to get to know intimately.
We know what happened in the past, but this is no guarantee of what will happen in the future. But, we do have a very good idea. Or should know if we heavily test.
Some people say that certain techniques work and certain ones don’t. I’ve found that people tend to say some techniques do not work simply because they do not implement correctly. I don’t like to say you should only ever do one technique, if you have time and resources do them all. Constantly testing to see which works and which doesn’t.
Many times I have heard people claim a certain technique does not work only to find on the next blog that it does. You only really find out when you do your own tests.
My wild theory and it is only a theory is that everything works. That every link will benefit your ranking, but sometimes that benefit will be minute. I certainly don’t know for sure and it’s probably impossible to be absolutely sure.
Take blog commenting for example. You drop a link, leave some juicy anchor text with some witty comment. The link is of course nofollowed. I have done numerous tests with this but find it difficult to isolate the results so I cannot be entirely sure, but my informed opinion is that commenting on blogs directly effects your rankings.
Note, I did not say how much the effect is, nor did I say how the effect actually comes about. Because a nofollow link is not supposed to pass Google juice. I cannot for sure say why it has an effect on rankings, but I believe it does.
If you think the only purpose of a link is to pass Google juice you are missing a trick.
Because humans click on the links in comments, and humans give links and sometimes they give links that let the Google juice flow like Niagra Falls.
As a webmaster I have clicked on every link that has been posted in the comment of my blogs and assume most other bloggers do the same. You go and check out the blog of the commenter, it’s what humans do.
There have been many times I have done this and it has led to me linking to the blog. The blog comment initiated the sequence of events that caused me to drop a link. Of course it helps if you have linkable content, which is easy enough to produce if you have the time, money or the right skill set or peferably all three.
Now, I could have said that perhaps the Google bot sometimes has an electronic sneeze and accidentlly follows the links by mistake. But, I have absolutely no way of confirming this. And doubt any of the representatives from Google are going to give me any answer unless it’s wrapped in dense fog which slightly smells of sulfur.
But it’s a nice thought and that’s the problem, sometimes hope can infect thinking.
And of course you have to factor in that the landscape is constantly changing, the variables that influence where you end up in the rankings seem to be constantly in flux.
If you hold the premise that every link has an effect it simply becomes a matter of scale. Which in turn becomes about logistics, who can implement in the most efficient manner and on the largest scale wins.
It’s scale which can negate the flux, if you can do enough of what works, or what you think works and keep from becoming a target of the Google spam team then I think you can influence your ranking.
And that’s why link building is like planting potatoes, plant enough of them, water and weed them and enough should survive to bring you a good harvest. However, it’s really hard work and it’s really boring to implement on such a scale that you know it will work.
I am of course talking about competitive industries which is where I work.
So over the past 6 months I been testing out anything and everything, been very surprised at some of the results and been able to build a link building machine made up of systems and process which any of my employees can simply crank up and start planting potatoes.
Not as fun as writing linkbait, but it’s scalable and it’s easier to predict the results.
If you want to do the same it can be done, you simply have to invest the time, money and focus to build your own system. However, a lot of people are very good at selling widgets and not developing link building machines and so come to people like to myself and others like me to help them.
5 replies on “Link Building is like Planting Potatoes, Simple, Boring and Hardwork”
I don’t agree that everything works. Getting a shit load of low quality directory links is more likely to have a negative impact. Seen a fair few penalties due to this recently and its really hard to undo.
@Gareth. I agree with you if all you ever build is links from low quality directories and would never advocate that. But, often when I look at sites that rank I see a lot of them having crappy back links pointed to them, that does not mean that we know that this has made them rank. But, it certainly does not harm them.
As far as I am aware, and correct me if I am wrong, but it’s very rare for a site to get a penalty just because of the links pointed at it. Yes, it does happen and I have heard that Google sometimes makes a mistake and nobbles the innocent.
Of course if the links indicate a pattern of behaviour that is clearly not allowed in the Google TOS then you may be in trouble. But I constantly see sites ranking with crappy links.
I think it’s far more likely that having crappy content rather than crappy links we get you nobbled.
If you could simply throw a bunch of bad links at a site to nobble it, that would send a rush of people to the bad link bank to go and point bad links at their competitors.
I really like that analogy. The only thing missing is the really bad weather (heavy rain / drought – aka Google penalty) which will severely damage one or more years of crops 🙂
I share a lot of your views here Lyndon. I think a lot of SEO’s spend too much time worrying about link quality and open themselves up to a bigger risk- getting no links at all and falling further behind the competition who may only be getting low quality links, but at least they’re getting something.
My process nowadays is to put the simple, repeatable or mechanical stuff in place (ideally with outsourcing) so I know I can rely on a steady stream of links of different types coming in each month. Then I’m able to focus my time on getting the higher quality links without having to worry about volume, anchor text etc. If I screw up my advanced link building at least I still know I’m going to get a bunch of links from the manual stuff which is happening in the background.
To jump on your link dropping advice I talked about something similar in my last blog post which you might like to take a look at – http://www.johnmcelborough.com/manual-link-building 😉