By Cory Collins
06 Aug 2015

Linkarati Live #4: A Tale of Two Links

Hello all and welcome to the full video and recap of Linkarati Live #4: A Tale of Two Links.

In this Linkarati Live we asked Amy Merrill, a Team Manager at Page One Power, and Norm Vogele, an SEO Specialist to recount the tale of two links built for clients.

They shared exactly how the two different links were built and what exactly makes those links worthwhile.

Hello all and welcome to the full video and recap of Linkarati Live #4: A Tale of Two Links.

In this Linkarati Live we asked Amy Merrill, a Team Manager at Page One Power, and Norm Vogele, an SEO Specialist to recount the tale of two links built for clients.

They shared exactly how the two different links were built and what exactly makes those links worthwhile. The point of the webinar is not only to tell the story, but to share critical philosophies and values which make our links stand the test of time. 

If you've ever wondered how Page One Power--or any professional SEO, for that matter--builds links, this is your chance to get the juicy details, live.

We also hosted an extended Q&A after the presentation, with myself (Cory Collins, Content Marketing Manager at Page One Power), and our host Jesse Stoler, Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power, participating.

If you want to see the video in its entirety here it is:

Let's get into the breakdown, shall we? 

The Participants

We were proud to host:

  • Live Moderator: Jesse Stoler, Content Marketing Specialist
  • Questions Moderator: Andrew Dennis, Content Marketing Specialist
  • Panelist #1: Amy Merrill, Team Lead
  • Panelist #2: Norm Vogele, SEO Specialist
  • Panelist #3: Cory Collins, Content Marketing Manager. 

The Overview

The entire webinar ran 56:04 from start to finish. The different parts:

  • The introduction starts at the beginning and runs until 4:37.
  • The story of link #1 starts at 4:37 and runs until 15:42.
  • The story of link #2 starts at 16:02 and runs until 28:33.
  • The Q&A starts at 29:15
    • Q1 starts at 29:15 - broken link building and Xenu Link Slueth.
    • Q2 starts at 35:35 - enterprise-level link building. 
    • Q3 starts at 43:11 - dealing with money requests. 
    • Q4 starts at 50:12 - scholarship link building. 

Let's look at each part. 

The Story of Link #1: Resource Link Building with Added Value (via Broken Links)

Amy Merrill, Team Lead here at Page One Power starts at 4:37 by discussing Page One Power's process and particulars when it comes to link building.

Amy gets into the story of link #1 at 7:11:

The story of the first link is about how a Page One Power SEO built a superb resource link while ensuring the most value possible. Rather than just pursue a link on a resource page--which is a standard method to build links for valuable content, tools, products, and anything else which can be considered a resource--our SEO included user experience and adding value to the page in his process.

Using a broken link tool such as the Chrome extensions Check My Links and Domain Hunter+, our SEO found broken links on the page. This tends to happen over time as the web evolves and shifts. So now our SEO is armed with the knowledge that the page needs maintainence. This means he needs to take a few more steps to build the link and make it ideal and valuable (to the client, the site, and their audience):

  1. First recheck the page to establish value and trust. Analysis confirms it's a worthwhile page and would be a suitable host for a link to our client.
  2. Reconfirm the website itself is active and generally maintained. 
  3. Outreach to the site owner, informing them of the broken links on the page. 
  4. Suggest fixes for all the links, including the client's link to replace a 404 resource. 
  5. Thank the site owner and continue to build the relationship as possible. 

None of this happens overnight, but it's the right way to build a link while ensuring maximum value for everyone involved. This thorough process creates marketing opportunities and partnerships, adds value to the web, and really moves the needle at the end of the day.

We discuss this first link until 15:42.

The Story of Link #2: Relevant Content Opportunity and Conversation

Amy gets into the story of Link #2 at 16:02.

In this story Norm relates how he found himself interested in a fellow SEO's work, causing him to leave a comment on the piece. This led to a new content opportunity, leading to further conversation, discussion, and general engagement for the site owner.

This natural and engaged interaction has allowed both Norm and his fellow SEO to grow a relationship with the owner of the site, and they continue to be involved in the community, creating additonal opportunity for clients.

Norm's story demonstrates the human value of building links - websites don't link to websites; it's really humans who link to other humans. Link building can seem like an arcane task where you're simply trying to get code onto a webpage. In reality, you need to convince the person who's invested time, energy, and care into a website that your page is worth sharing with their audience. It's a very human endeavor.

If you're simply reading this I'd highly encourage you to listen to the story itself - Norm does a fantastic job explaining the human value of links.

We discuss link story #2 until 28:33.

Question #1: Would you recommend Xenu Link Sleuth? Could You Elaborate on Broken Link Building?

The first question begins at 29:15:

Amy: I haven't personally used Xenu Link Sleuth. I'm going to have to dive into the tool after the webinar and check it out.

As far as broken link building, it's a tactic I believe we don't use enough here at Page One Power. It's a great tactic that often adds value to the web.

Typically I use a tool such as Screaming Frog to discover 404s on a website, or Check My Links to find individually broken links on a page. Finding these broken links gives you a great value-add to any outreach in your link building.

Cory: I haven't used the tool either - I'm passingly familiar. I've read content demonstrating how the tool works.

Link building is really about application, not tactic. I can't stress this enough. Our CEO Jon Ball wrote a fantastic article on SEW about how link build changes based upon the way it's pursued. Any tactic can be spammy or valuable, based upon how you apply the tactic in your overall link strategy.

Having said that I do believe broken link building is one of the better tactics around today. The web is so dynamic that links just naturally break overtime. Broken link building inherently has value as you're finding these broken links and replacing them with a link to your client.

At the end of the day if you can tell a friend, colleague, or your client why a link is valuable then the link is likely valuable. If you're going out and building links just for the sake of having more links, then you're at risk, regardless of tactic. Think critically about the value the link adds to the web and it's hard to go wrong.

Norm: In addition to the list of people you should explain value to, don't forget about the site owners.

Because we're building real links on real sites, we don't control the link going live. You have to explain value convincingly to the person behind the website. If you can't do that, you'll never build a single link. There should be editorial discretion.

Question #2: Could You Discuss Link Building Tactics for Enterprise-level Clients?

The question begins at 35:35:

Amy: Enterprise-level clients are fun and quite different from mid-level clients.

Often the first thing most SEOs think when they hear enterprise-level is scale. Scale certainly matters due to the higher level of competition, but quantity is still the number one concern. Scale should be dealt with by additional staffing, not by trying to scale a single tactic or automate processes.

In my experience the tactics really depend upon what the client has to offer. Brand, current marketing, audience, web presence will all play a role. 

Fresh mentions--mentions in general--are one of my favorite tactics generally for enterprise-level clients. Because these larger companies will have more presence on the web and brand interactions you can often find mentions that really should be links but are just mentions. That makes it easy for us to go out and secure the link, since changing the mention to a link is completely natural and actually improves user experience. Whenever we can build a link that improves user experience and add value we're really happy. 

Again quality is extremely, extremely imporatant.

Norm: Fresh mentions really are fantastic.

One tool worth mentioning is BuzzSumo. It's great for not only finding mentions but for understanding the entire online universe surrounding the client, their brand, and their industry.

Often with enterprise-level clients the goal is to further explore the web to find the client's relevant audience and build connections and brand affinity. Larger brands will already have brand recognition and familiarity within their industry. We just need to further improve awareness and build connections.

Jesse: BuzzSumo really is great for understanding relevance and audience discovery in general.

Cory: With enterprise-level clients you really have to look at what they're already engaged in. Integration is key.

That's one of my favorite parts of enterprise-clients. They just have so much more going on compared to even mid-level companies and sites. Dig into the opportunities they're already creating and leverage those for links and additional marketing. Some common examples of this would be finding brand mentions, reclaming broken links, general broken link building, community engagement, content promotion, building partnerships, etc.

Integration is vital - dig into their current activities, brand engagement, and make sure you're leveraging every opportunity appropriately.

Norm: At enterprise-level it really comes down to doing the appropriate research before you engage in the hands-on link building. You need to know who it is you're talking about, to what audience, and how to represent their brand well.

Question #3: What About Site Owners That Demand Money? How Do You Deal With Them?

The question begins at 43:11.

Norm: We run into this all the time. 

Honestly, I question the validity of trying to make money through selling links. I often wonder if an ask for money isn't just a way to screen out link builders and SEOs. Links are a fundamental piece of the architecture of the web, not something happening on the sidelines.

The way I deal with this is by being frank, direct, and honest. When I'm trying to get a link on a site there's a reason for the link. The opportunity exists on both ends, not just for me and my client, but for the site and their audience as well. Pointing out this mutual value with candor, respect, and general politeness is really the only thing you can do. And it tends to work with genuine site owners who care about their sites. As a link builder you're not trying to pull a fast one on them - you're creating mutual value.

Amy: There's simply no way to avoid money requests.

The most important thing you can do is be human and honest, demonstrating that you care and respect their site, not trying to game the system or take a shortcut.

If you can make them see you as a person on the other end they're much less likely to demand money. Really think about how you're presenting yourself and how you come across in your communication.

Cory: It's all about value. You need to lead with the value for the person, and why they should be linking. If you're building links the right way, there should be value for them. So lead with that and be upfront in your request.

I'd also add that as soon as I get a request for money I immediately go back and analyze the page again. We want our links to be on pages that are relevant, authoritative, and valuable for our clients. If they're willing to take 100 dollars for a link then there could be bad content or irrelevant links on the page.

Jesse: Have any of you ever explained that Google's against payment for links? Sent a link to Google's Webmaster Guidelines?

Norm: I've never used that argument because I don't want to appear accusatory. If there's a red flag then I don't want to continue the relationship. If I think they're just trying to scare me off, to see if I'm real then I just show them I'm real. Be genuine, human, and show them I care. 

Throwing the law on their desk probably won't help.

Amy: I've actually had a coworker try this and yeah, it didn't work. It really didn't go over well. No one wants the book thrown at them or told they're being a jerk. Even good friends don't like it when you tell them they're being a jerk, so if you're out trying to build new relationships that's probably not going to work.

Question #4: What Are Your Thoughts on Sponsorship and Scholarship Link Building? Do You Forsee Them Being Devalued By Google?

Question begins at 50:12:

Cory: Again, link building is much more about application, not tactic. There are a million tactics that work and work well, and those same tactics can be abused and executed poorly.

Sponsorship and scholarship links are a little murky because there's often money involved, and so the question is will Google consider that as a paid link? I don't think they will, unless you're just really abusing it to a very noticeable degree.

But again, it's about application. If your client is doing something noteworthy, or already offering a scholarship, you should be leveraging those opportunities to ensure you're getting the links you deserve. If you're out creating questionable scholarships trying to get as many links as possible and scaling as much as possible, and specifically target .EDUs because you believe they're more powerful, that's the wrong path. Then the application is wrong, and you're creating links Google will likely want to devalue or even punish.

Instead of asking about this tactic or that tactic, I'd really challenge you to think critically about how a tactic pertains to your client, how that fits the natural online conversation, and question whether you are marketing and promoting your client to earn links, or simply trying to build as many links as possible. It's really important that as link builders we represent our clients well and accurately market what they're doing in such a way that they get the links they deserve, rather than just try and build links for Google's algorithm.

Amy: In general, I don't like scholarship links. That's not to say I hate all scholarship links, but the ones that are clearly slapped together for links leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Universities are not stupid. They're catching on to these tactics and they're catching on quickly.

That's not to say don't offer scholarships. Scholarships are amazing - just make sure you're doing it the right way, for the right reasons. Don't create scholarships just for links, create scholarships for people.

Norm: To the second part, do you think Google might start devaluing scholarship links, I think the answer is yes.

SEOs can easily detect scholarships meant for link manipulation. If Google's not there, I think they soon will be.

And That's A Wrap!

This was Jesse's last ever Linkarati Live, and I'd personally like to thank him for everything during his tenure here at Page One Power. He was an amazing memeber of the content marketing team and his presence is already missed.

Thank you all for you time and attention, and I hope you learned something new about SEO and building links in general.

Special thanks to Amy and Norm for the wonderful presentation and sticking around for Q&A!


Cory Collins

Cory Collins is the Business Development Manager at Page One Power and has been with the agency since 2012. Cory is an SEO strategist, writer, runner, and outdoor enthusiast residing in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, daughter, and (too) many pets.