This is my first column since returning from SMX East. Thank you to Debra, Danny, Chris, Karen, Elisabeth and everyone else who made this a fantastic show. I even spent time in the exhibitor hall, which I haven’t been able to bring myself to do since back in the 90′s when a vendor brought in Riverdance for a product roll out at Internet WORLD. It was loud.

If one thing stuck with me from my Link Building Fundamentals session, it was the number of people who stayed afterwards to talk. Our session was just before lunch, so that made it easier for people to hang around without missing another session. People ask lots of questions during these post-session moments, usually in rapid-fire fashion as the speaker is either trying to hand out business cards or get out of the room.

The questions asked covered a range of linking related topics, from beginner to expert. There was a common theme to all the questions: confusion. Confusion about what is effective, and a belief that there’s a “secret” to link building and if they could just learn it, it would solve all their problems.

There’s no doubt people are confused about link building. They are confused about what to believe. They are confused about which advice to follow, about which tools to use, how much money to spend. They are confused about what tactic will work, and what tactic will get them in trouble. These were smart people. The looks on their faces were that of frustration. Whether it was over lost rankings or a competitor’s tactics, very few people were confident that their particular linking strategy was the right one, and most felt there had to be something more, something better, than what they were doing.

There was a sense of futility.

I hear the same futility during phone consults and link building training sessions. People want to believe in the golden key. The Holy Grail, or whatever you want to call it. And, as much as I wanted to speak in a deep Linkmoses baritone and calm all their fears with a brilliant link building sermon, the truth, from my perspective, is that there is no right or wrong way to build links.

There is whatever you feel you have to do to compete, and there is a level of risk and reward you have to be willing to accept, in whatever vertical your site is in. Those of us who offer link building services, consulting, training and tools, have an obligation (again, in my opinion) to set the table accordingly for any client we work with. Being honest about the potential and prospects any given site has for attracting links.

I used two example sites to illustrate this in my session. One site was for a beekeeping federation, the other for the movie WALL STREET: Money Never Sleeps. Each of these websites is outstanding in its own right. Each site has a specific purpose and an appeal to a specific audience. You could argue that some members of the beekeeping federation might even be moviegoers and like Michael Douglas. But, a common linking interest Venn diagram for these two sites does not touch, and neither should their link graphs.

From a link building perspective, these sites have nothing in common at all. The specific link building services, tools, advice, tactics, and techniques each of these sites need to use are completely different. Sure, you can talk strategy from 10,000 feet, and say something like “you need to do blog links”, or, “send out a press release”, but c’mon, really? Is that all you got? You don’t pitch article marketing to an online pharmacy, and you don’t pitch social links to an equine supply site. At least not before you do some serious research and know why you are pitching them at all.

Let’s get down to it. The primary reason for all the confusion among website marketers is due to the fact that so few link building “experts” know what the hell they are talking about. To your link building hammer, every site looks like a nail with a check on top of it. Do you have the cohones to hand the check back and admit when you don’t know something?

The real link building expert knows what he doesn’t know, and knows who to steer the client to to get the help they need. The diagnosis and prescribing of an effective link building strategy is the real Holy Grail here. The greatest thing I can do for a client is help them avoid wasting money on the wrong tactics and tools, and along the way help them understand what they need and why they need it.

Even if it means sending their business to someone else.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: Links | Link Week Column

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About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via EricWard.com.

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



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