How 5 Years Of Doing The Right Things Can Be Undone In 9 Months Of Doing Nothing

We’ve all seen those one-and-done link building campaigns. Maybe even some of us have had clients push for them. They never work.

It’s like Matthew McConaughey’s abs. Do you really believe that he only goes to the gym for a two-month stint to maintain those perfect pectorals?


Why do people think that SEO, and in particular link building, is the same way?

Let Me Tell You A Story

We knew a guy. This guy had a company, a company where 3/10th of their new business comes in during January. Needless to say, January is an important month.

For years, this company was doing all the right stuff. Content was flowing, tweets were tweeting, posts were posting, links were linking: You get the picture.

Then, things changed.

They stopped posting to their blog. They post to Facebook, but never with links back to their website. Tweets became automatically syndicated from the non-updated blog. They stopped their (highly successfully) email marketing campaign. They quit making videos. They stopped getting links.

That’s when this happened.


It won’t be abrupt. Your organic traffic may just coast for a few months, but sure enough, that crossover will happen.



(Thanks to Brian Russell for sharing the story and the stats.)

So, What Do We Do About It?

First, resist the urge to say “I told you so.”

Second, spot the signs of what makes a long-term SEO and link building strategy and what makes a dry Christmas tree fire link building strategy.

Third, remember your 5 W’s.

Who Do You Want To Target?

It baffles me that people start link building without really knowing who they’re link building for. We’re not link building for directories, non-relevant resource lists or syndicated articles. We’re not even building links for search engines.

We’re building links for users.

So, it’s high time you learned a thing or two about who those users are as the first step in your link building campaign.

Yes, it’s good to know the basic demographics of your target audience, but this goes further. What do they like? Where do they already hang out online? What types of content do they like? What are their pain points?

What Resources Do I Have?

You know that good link building is hard. Well, at least you should. And the hard things take a lot of time and effort but can bring you some of the best rewards — links, traffic, customers, oh my! — you’ve ever seen.

But only if you have the resources to do it right.

Before you get started, know what you’re going to need from the big three:

  • People: Developers, writers, strategizers, promoters, etc
  • Time : When does this need to launch?
  • Money: How much is this going to cost me?

Where Do I Want This To Go?

There are tons of great, successful strategies built around the “I want a link from XXX” concept. I’ve done them before, but I feel more comfortable when I have a handful of possible targets in my arsenal.

Do this by thinking about the types of sources who may be interested in your idea. Pull a list together. Reach out to them to bounce your idea off of them. People are much more likely to respond when they’re asked for their expert opinion rather than a like, share or tweet.

This also helps validate that you’ll have interested people to help you promote before you start executing.

When Do I Want To Attract People?

There are four stages to any conversion:

basic Conversion funnel

With any campaign, you have to know where is your target audience in the conversion process. It’s not going to help if your campaign is directing people to “buy now” pages when they’re still trying to figure out who the hell you are, what it is you do, and why they should pick you over other options.

Why Am I Doing This?

This is the least-asked question in our industry. That needs to change immediately.

A client asked us to build them a Wikipedia page. OK, we can do it, but why? Why do you want it? This simple question allows you to dig into the purpose and helps you establish some credibility with your clients. It tells them you’re not just going to be their order taker.

And if the answer is…

  • For the link
  • For the link juice
  • For the anchor text
  • Because everyone else is doing it

… then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

And you will die.

No, I’m kidding, but that’s how you’ll be feeling when the next algorithm update comes out.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: is the director of digital marketing at 352, a digital agency creating websites, software and marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter @erinever.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


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  • Don Sturgill

    Excellent, Erin … and timely. I have been engaged in a conversation about this very thing … with an array of both believers and non-believers. You pegged the sure way to tell whether or not an SEO team is of value — stop the work and see what happens. I don’t advise that, but hey … it takes what it takes to get a slurp of the SERP.

  • Zeeshan Ranjha

    Very nice Erin.

  • Mik Pam

    I really liked this article but I suspect it might not just be the lack of doing the right things they may have been dinged by the updates as well. With that said I do concur not doing anything is definitely the wrong direction to take after so much effort.

  • Daniel Law

    Thanks for the case study and great article Erin.

  • Design Junction

    This is a great post Erin – Thanks. We have had similar experiences with clients who fall into complacency mode and eventually find that their website traffic has been adversely affected by not staying focussed on long-term SEO goals.

  • hyderali


    Your post always seems to be good & exact to the point. Definitely, a link builder must first answer all the questions you’ve pointed out & then only build links. Already, people are suffering due to penguin & if we don’t build links with caution now it will be a major setback for us in future if google announce any link algorithm update.

    BTW, have you heard some kind of zebra update? Talks are going on in forums, community etc.

  • Erin Everhart

    I’ve heard some the speculation and hushed whispers about it and how it’ll aim at social activity, but haven’t seen any effects or heard anything official.

  • sharithurow

    Great article Erin!

    I have lost count with the number of clients who had initial link building (for a new site or redesigned site) with great results but did not continue the link building process. And then the clients wonder why their search engine traffic wanes.

    I swear that some people honestly believe we sprinkle magical fairy dust on websites…validation has always been a part of SEO. It’s an ongoing process.

    This was a sorely needed article/reminder for those who still believe in the fairy dust.

    Thanks so much!

  • Nick Stamoulis

    I tell all my clients exactly the same thing! The downward slip won’t be immediate, and it won’t be obvious…but it will happen. Link building is a forever commitment. Once you stop you’re bound to start back sliding.

  • Jeff McElyea

    Erin…you mention that people need to understand how much money they are going to need to accomplish the things you suggest. I’ve had that conversation a 100 times, and the response usually goes like this:

    Client: “It’s going to cost WHAT?” There’s no way I’m spending that much.
    Me: I understand the cost may be suprising. I wonder how much it will cost your if you DON’T do this…

    This goes to your point. You have to do these things. If your site is live, so is link-building (and other SEO/SEM efforts). The minute you stop, so does your site.

    Thanks for a thoughtful and informative post.

  • Deboti Chowdhury

    Good one Erin. Link building is not something that we will do once and then sit back and watch. It is a continues process.

  • Mario Wilson

    I love your analogy about the abs. I often get asked, “when I start ranking well, will the monthly cost of seo go down?”. My response is simple, “That would be like your gym membership going down because you’re now in shape. You have to keep working out to STAY in shape.” Great insight Erin!

  • Locanto Classifieds

    Hahaha love the last part. Thanks for the waker-upper.

  • SEO Web Girl

    Great article and so true. Often times we do just take “orders” from our clients, but in the end it is our name the clients remember when things don’t pan out they way they expected bc of things THEY wanted or didn’t want that were important. It’s not easy when your clients are clueless about how SEO and social media really work and then they are the ones dictating what to do. Asking WHY is so simple, yet so important. THX!!


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