Link building is one of the most talked about but most poorly understood areas of online marketing and SEO. Everyone recognizes the value assigned to links; not enough people understand the best means of acquiring links or the role links play in making their business stick out from the crowd.
However, for Julie Joyce, links are her bread and butter. Joyce, one of the most-recognized names in link building, is a prolific writer and speaker, in addition to being the director of operations for Link Fish Media, a Greensboro, N.C.-based link building company.
She agreed to let me pick her brain and provide my readers with some fantastic tips.
RS: There is so much confusion and misinformation associated with link building. “Yes, you should do it.” “No, concentrate your efforts elsewhere.” “It’s a shady enterprise,” etc. Where do you see link building as fitting on the pyramid with all the other areas at play in online marketing?
JJ: It’s definitely a shady enterprise. Haha! OK, seriously, it can be [shady] and that’s why so many people hate it. It doesn’t have to be though, not if it’s done well, and that’s what everyone forgets. Doing it well is painful and incredibly time-consuming, and in this crazy attention-deficit decade no one wants to do anything that doesn’t have an immediate payoff. I don’t think links are the only answer, but I think it’s difficult to do well online without good links unless you have amazing social media in place. Link building should not be the main focus of marketing any site, though, and sometimes it is and webmasters ignore everything else and that’s never good.
For someone new to link building, what are some of the first things they need to know? That bad links can completely ruin anything good you do.
They need to understand how to look at a site like a human being and think “Will this really be a good link?” instead of getting caught up in the metrics. They need to know why we build links, which is so basic but you’d be surprised at how many link builders couldn’t explain that well.
RS: Many times, the owner of a new site realizes she needs links but worries about where to put her time and energy (e.g., blogging, offline PR/branding, etc.). Where should link building fit on her list of marketing priorities?
JJ: I actually almost never work with brand new sites because some of our tactics are risky, and it’s not a good idea. I’d probably say get your ducks in order everywhere else and then start trying to get some good links, whether it’s by pursuing them or attracting them with your content. I’d probably opt for starting out with social media rather than diving into link building.
RS: How should a business define relevance when looking to attain links from other sites? Dominant site? Dominant site in their vertical? A site that should attract conversions? Easiest opportunities?
JJ: Never go with easy opportunities. A site that should attract conversions is my pick here. I don’t care if it’s a dominant site, if it’s a good site and I think doing a link there is beneficial to both parties [I say go for it].
RS: A lot of chatter now centers on link building vs. content marketing, as if you cannot do both simultaneously. We know that’s not true, but for the business owner who feels she cannot do “everything” at once, what’s your counsel to them?
JJ: Hire someone else? Honestly if you have the time, I think that link building is really not that tricky unless you’re a complete idiot. I don’t think that it should be conducted by someone who doesn’t have the proper time to focus on it, though, because that’s when all the bad links happen.
I’d say the same for content marketing. I think that it’s easier to just build links than it is to develop and properly promote amazing content. They’re both hard work, so I’d seriously recommend hiring a pro if you don’t have the time to do things well.
RS: I’ve written about the importance of working offline to grease the skids for links. What are a few tips you can share along these lines?
JJ: I want to say “be nice, open, and helpful,” but that sounds so simplistic. However, it’s true in many cases. I’ve been asked to do things that led to links because I helped someone out with something as simple as answering a question that was emailed to me after the person didn’t understand a point I made in an article.
That’s not offline, of course, but it’s also not directly online in the way we think of it in terms of getting a link. It’s hard to tell you that you need to connect with people but you do.
I met Lisa Myers ages ago at a London SEO function, and we decided to start the SEO Chicks blog. My writing there ended up getting me a spot somewhere else, and that gig got me a spot somewhere else, and it kept going.
Get out there and nicely network but don’t do it expecting anything. Do it because it’s appreciated by other people and doing something offline can be quite lovely if you spend all day staring at a screen.
RS: Finish this sentence for me: “Businesses that commit to link building can expect to _____________”
JJ: “[B]roaden their reach and traffic sources.”