By Jesse Stoler
21 Apr 2014

I'm Not a Link Builder, I'm a Link Artist!

Link Building

Link building is a difficult trade to explain.

I’ve worked at a custom link building firm for a little north of two years, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to summarily explain it to people. It’s to the point where I simply say, “online marketing.” That’s pretty misleading however.

Sure, link building can be placed under the umbrella of online marketing, but the two are hardly synonymous.

I feel even my best friends and my family really only have a vague understanding of what I do for a living. When I was frolfing with a friend of mine a few weeks back, he speculated my daily routine. The way he presented it, he made it sound as though I had a tech job.

This was frankly pretty shocking to me. If there is anyone who holds the distinction of being wholly unqualified for a tech position, it’s yours truly. How much of a technological dunce am I? Back in my sophomore year of college, I called a friend over to “fix my printer.” I was throwing an anxious fit because I had a paper due in 30 minutes that would account for a large portion of my final grade. Much to my delight/utter humiliation, he offered a swift remedy: push the on button.

I stumbled into link building via a post in the “writing/editing” segment of Boise’s craigslist. Before my interview, I knew nothing of SEO, let alone link building. I was looking for any occupation that would allow me to exhibit my creative capabilities. So it’s fortunate that I stumbled into link building.

Link building is a hodgepodge of many disciplines, which is why I advocate that it is a team sport. In order to create a successful link building team, you have to put together a squad of people with different skills. Think about it like basketball: even if you had five highly gifted point guards on your roster, you wouldn’t put all of them in your starting lineup. The other team would simply throw the ball in the post and allow a seven footer to score on you endlessly.

A link building team DOES need techies. A link building team needs people that can astutely and objectively analyze certain data. A link building team also needs artists.

Let me expand on my definition of an artist, because I know for many the word artist conjures up this kind of image


For whatever reason, painting and sculpting have hijacked the definition of art. Of course what Bob Ross does is an art, but so is what Diana Ross does. As a stand up comedian, I would argue that what Jeffrey Ross does is an art as well. To me, an artist is anyone who creates anything intended to elicit an emotional response.

Bill Gates once said, “Content is king.” The domain that king presides over in the world of Bill Gates’ quote is the internet. Even though he said that back in 1996, it still holds true today. Anyone who has ever been a link builder knows how crucial content is. Can you build links for a site without content? Yes. Is it a lot harder? Yes.

When building links, content is added value you can supply to a link prospect. Such content often comes in the form of a guest blogs, infographics etc.

Of course, guest blogging and infographics are two link building techniques that have been “hit” by Google. This is because link builders have an unfortunate habit of abusing best practices.

Undoubtedly, there are a lot of pitiful guest blogs populating the web. Indeed, many of these blogs weren’t written by people; many of them are spun together by article spinning software that takes existing articles and only replaces a few keywords here and there. This frequently results in unreadable content. Sites that use such content are begging for a penalty.

It wasn’t just the content produced by spambots that were soiling the practice of guest blogging. Because guest blogging was the link building trend for a couple of years, many SEOs were trying to put as much content out there as possible. Because of that, the quality suffered. All of a sudden, everything was being put into list or how to form. I’m not saying that a “how to” can’t be well-written, but a lot of the “how tos” taking over the internet were cut-and-dry, and clearly made for purpose of link equity.

Webmasters are increasingly suspicious of guest blogging, especially in the wake of the MyBlogGuest penalty. They don’t want to publish anything that remotely resembles spam.

This is why providing content isn’t enough; the right M.O. for a link builder is to provide quality content. Quality content is the kind of content that isn’t written up in two hours; it’s the kind of content that times, research and innovation. This is where artistry and creativity become integral to a link building team.

I think this is why my agency has been so successful. Yes we employ many tech aficionados and keen analysts. We also employ a lot of people who are engaged in creative endeavors outside of business hours. As I said before, I’m a stand up comedian. My agency also employs a woman who runs several poetry workshops, several graphic designers, and lots of musicians. They bring their artistic energy to an industry that allows them to work with an atypical canvas


All of these people have made significant and innovative contributions. They have trained their brain to be able to create connections that casual observers so often miss. This is important, because one of the most arduous tasks in link building is simply coming up with ideas for content. A creative link builder can take the news of the day or grand concepts and tie them into fresh content for difficult niches.

I’ve also found these people to be most adept and coachable at outreach. Anyone in SEO knows how templatey a lot of link requests can be. Even if the content/link being pitched is indeed valuable, a webmaster might write off the request because the outreach reads like spam. The link artists I’m talking about are able to succinctly make their pitch, elicit an emotional response and inject personality into their outreach.

I’ve also seen these link artists come up with unusual strategies and tactics outside of the distribution of content that often are fruitful. This is a concept important in SEO/link building, because what works today may not necessarily work tomorrow.

As I said earlier, link building isn’t online marketing, but they are related. No marketing campaign ever succeeded without a shred of creativity. We’re humans, and we’re turned on by fresh, exciting concepts. That’s why no link building team is complete without a handful of link artists.


Jesse Stoler

Jesse Stoler has years of experience in the SEO industry. His hobbies include stand up comedy and pretending he has fans.