How did folks build links before tools were available? Just a few years ago, there was no way to identify hubs, authorities, vortals, or spokes, rims, chutes and ladders. (Click here for the full effect of that sentence via a ten second mp3 audio message.) When I wander around conference expo halls, I see booth after booth of tools that generate reams and reams of data. But I never see a booth with a person offering to show you the exact process by which you can obtain a single high value high link that’s been identified as being perfect for your particular content. Where’s that booth? Where is the speaker who will go beyond the tools and to the heart of what’s important about finding links? Where is the service with the slogan, “Wicked Cool – Not Actionable “. Finally, where is the person who will rise above it and remind everyone that tools are dead weight when it comes time to finally, y’know, make something real happen?
To put this in more actionable terms, if you pull competitor linking data and find out one of your competitors has 288 backlinks with two word anchor text from Pagerank 3 or better sites, and you have 281, then all you need to do is get yourself eight more links and your problems are over, right? Right? Or wait, maybe they don’t have any keyword anchor backlinks from Pagerank 5 or better. All you need is one of those to win, right? Or maybe you notice they have 22 backlinks without any anchor text from .edu’s, whereas you only have 21. Could it really be that your path to winning the ranking’s game is as simple as two more .edu links? And if it is, what technique are you going to use to actually get those links? Real or fake? Hmmmm. Your sudden interest in offering a university discount program reeks of paid links in disguise. Don’t laugh, it’s been done to death already. Have a look. And if this technique did work, is it sustainable? Do you want your rankings to be based on a technique you’d never thought of until two minutes ago and which is based on a perceived white hat loophole?
Speaking of technique, it’s important to note that if the doctor doing your open heart surgery is using a HeartFixerPRO3000, if his name is Homer J. Simpson, it just doesn’t matter.
On another topic, when another site links to a page on your site, there are four ways you can know this happened. No more, no less.
- The link is clicked and thus a trail is left in your server logs.
- The link has not been clicked but spiders have crawled the page on which that link lives, meaning link searches, alertbots, and curious competitors can find it.
- The link has not been clicked or crawled, but the person putting the link in place tells you about it.
- The link has not been clicked or crawled, but you happen to find it.
That’s it. There is no way any site owner can ever know with 100% accuracy exactly how many links there are from other sites pointing to his site.
I made a totally unplanned comment at SMX East that resulted in questions. My last column, The Great Link Race Has Begun, But To Where? was my attempt to explain what I meant, using identical quintuplets as a metaphor. Here’s a different example. You know how on busy highways McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Sonic, and sometimes Wendy’s and KFC can be all found within blocks of each other? They all seem to do fine. Near my house five have coexisted for over 15 years, so they must be making money. But you never see two McDonald’s literally right next door to each other, even though they could be. Why? There’s certainly plenty of money being spent at other places. More to the point, if you and I decided we too wanted a piece of the fast food action (or search result action) on that busy highway, what would we have to do to succeed?
It’s as obvious in the real world as it should be in the search world. Specialize. Who wants pizza?
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.