Think link building for SEO is dead? Think again.
Learn more about the link landscape today in this exclusive interview with my partner, Co-founder and President of Eminent SEO, expert marketer, super dad and link building extraordinaire: Chris Weatherall.
I know you well, but some of our readers may not. Can you tell us a little about who you are?
I’m the president and a marketing strategist at Eminent SEO but my job is pretty much the “offsite” strategist for the company. Outside of my administrative duties, I spend the bulk of my time building our clients a stronger organic following for their marketing funnels to sell more products and promote their brands.
When did you start your SEO career?
I have been tinkering online with what you would call SEO since 1998. I didn’t know it as an industry until 2003, after years of trying to get exposure to webpages through metadata and my own form of keyword research. I was hired on to be a full-time link builder at my first full-time job in 2005. Before that point, I never got paid much for doing it and I just did it more for curiosity and fun.
You focus on links. Can you define links, link building and link earning? And why you need them?
Links are everything to the internet when it comes to directing where you go online. It’s called “the web” because of the links actually! They are the “webbing” that interconnects everything.
In recent years, people have tried to separate link building and link earning but they’re two sides of the same coin. If you’re link building, then you’re venturing out to get links from other sites and oftentimes by any means necessary. It’s more friendly to say that you’re “link earning” nowadays, implying that you’re promoting quality webpages that webmasters and users will benefit from seeing.
You need links because they are one of the strongest, if not the strongest, factor for ranking your site with search engines. They connect you to other businesses and can be very critical in building relationships in your industry of choice. Also, the very best links will get you direct traffic and ultimately help sell more products. That’s a little bit of what they can do all on their own.
The link building struggle is real! Can you tell us a little about your journey?
To me, link building has always been difficult because you have to be so many things to do it right:
- A psychologist
- A marketer
- A writer
- A social butterfly
- A salesman
- A comedian
You have to be all of these simultaneously, when necessary. There have been times where people would try to just purchase links and buy their way to the top, but
I never believed those ways would be effective long term or get you to the very top levels. No matter what the times are, it always comes back to quality and being an asset to the community.
I can personally vouch for your credibility and success as an expert “link builder.” Can you share with us any secrets of success that anyone can apply to their own link-building strategies?
There are thousands of tactics and strategies out there, and link builders get lost in everything they’re trying to accomplish. It’s hard to get back to basics and remember that everything comes around to the website you’re working on and its unique offering. If you’re working on the very best website with the best assets and content in your niche, then everything will come easier.
So many link builders don’t regularly use their website nor worry about its user experience. Some don’t have any say or control over that whatsoever. Yet the link builder is always researching relevant partners and evaluating sites to assess value. That’s tons and tons of experience with user interfaces and unique content that they need to apply to more than just the page that they’re trying to rank. Always look for ways to increase all aspects of your brand quality.
Tell us about your favorite link-building technique and why you love it.
I like to respond from mobile to outreach email replies and leave the “sent from my iPhone” at the bottom of my message. People always comment back to me that seeing that makes them feel I’m extra-personally involved with the communication so they had to reply! (OK, I admit I’m not always replying from my mobile even when my stamp says I am.)
What is your most boring chore and why?
There really are no boring chores – I love what I do – but there are boring niches. When I’m doing client research, it’s always fun for me to learn new things and what makes them tick. Occasionally at the end of my analysis, I come back with 10 results after 3 hours of work and that’s really upsetting.
Some niches don’t have social followings or commenting or quality websites or much of anything at all. So it can get incredibly boring using every research tactic I know over and over for days and days and end up with 600 or 700 results, when a different niche would give me hundreds of thousands of results with one-tenth of the effort.
What is your biggest success story?
I once had a potential client that thought there was no reason to market her site outside of her local area. It took a few weeks, but I convinced her that everybody loves funny greeting cards and she could sell them online and expand her ideas to T-shirts and other products. It was slow going for the first few months, but it really picked up before the end of the first year.
About a year and a half in, it really, really picked up. I knew she had a great product and we chose the very best ideas to display across the web. It’s a very successful website now with millions of visitors, and it felt great getting that started with somebody that only wanted to be the Hallmark of her local area.
What do you feel is the hardest part of link building today?
Getting your message through in an over-saturated realm can really be a challenge. We have to always differentiate ourselves from the pack and work really hard to ensure people that what we’re offering is a benefit, and not spam.
At the end of the day, if you don’t put in a ton of intentional effort, you will seriously not get one link. Everybody knows this and they are vying for the same attention, so I have to always be on top of my game and making sure that our message is heard.
How will you continue to evolve link building as Google keeps changing?
I always want to work on the highest quality websites with the best products to sell. That way, I’m less concerned about what Google is doing over time and more concerned about marketing as a whole.
If I can create the best experiences and provide the most helpful content that web surfers need, then search engines will always come to my clients and I won’t need to worry about the changes so much. In my mind, Google is always getting better, and one day it will be able to serve up only websites that people really want.
BONUS QUESTION: What else do you think we should know about the links and the landscape today?
The landscape today is very, very tough. Google says create quality content and make sure you’re indexable and everything will be all right. It’s been a very long time since “quality” was enough. It’s a must that you know who your direct competitors are and who is doing the best in your niche, and then you have to do everything better.
What you do on your website has to be better, and what you do offsite has to be better. The only way to not worry about being/staying successful is to be in the business of one-upping all the way to 10 – one-upping all of your competitors in technical SEO, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Yeah, it’s tough!
Link building is NOT dead; in fact, it’s just as important as ever! Main problem? Not only is it harder than ever to get links, it’s tougher than it used to be to get results with links. Why? You also must have a high quality website with a great user experience, engaging content, interesting assets and proper on-page SEO.
Do you have your own link building question? Ask away – Chris Weatherall will respond to any comments on this interview.