One widely accepted and unquestioned ‘truth’ in SEO seems to be that being passionate about the subject of link building makes you a good link builder.
Knowing a lot about link building doesn’t make you an effective link builder. It helps, but it only takes you so far. In fact, I’d say that, ironically, being passionate about link building really only makes you great at link building in the SEO industry.
What it really takes
Surely, the essence of link building is knowing a lot about ‘link building’?
I guess, but, it takes a certain type of arrogance to claiming to be an expert in link building, given what a subjective task it is.
It’s impossible to be ‘good’ at link building for 5, 10, 20 different clients, trying to hit vanity targets at the end of each month. How can you understand each of them top-to-bottom, inside-out?
Being well knowledged and passionate about your subject is what allows you to truly build valuable links effectively. To actually provide a valuable service to a client, you need to become a mouthpiece for their product, their company, their culture.
You need to be able to hold an intelligent conversation with someone in their industry, about its past, its present, its future.
A question I’d pose is that out of these two people, who would you rather employ:
- Someone with an expert knowledge of your industry, but with very basic link building skills
- An ‘expert’ link builder, with a very basic knowledge of the industry they’re building links in
Get out of the building
I know this post might be perceived as quite pessimistic, but that’s really not its intention. The sooner we wake up to the subjectivity of link building the sooner we can make real strides in improving the link building product offered by agencies.
David Ogilivy’s advice to young account executives was for them to set themselves on becoming the best-informed man in the agency on the account to which they are assigned.
If it is a gasoline account, read text books on the chemistry, geology and distribution of petroleum products. Read all the trade journals in the field. Read all the research reports and marketing plans that your agency has ever written on the product.
He goes further:
Spend Saturday mornings in service stations, pumping gasoline and talking to motorists. Visit your client’s refineries and research laboratories. Most young men in agencies are too lazy to do this kind of homework. They remain permanently superficial.
I appreciate this falls well out of the pragmatics of how most agencies operate today and absurd given the budgets companies allocate to link building and internet marketing in general.
But surely the way forward is to fuse advanced link building and marketing techniques with the expertise of the client’s industry.
The only way of doing this is to get inside the belly of the industry you’re working in.
John Doherty’s wrote a post recently about the benefits of working on-site for his client, which is part of what inspired this post and, I’d recommend heading there now.