Link Building is All About Answering One Question

12 May

When it comes to link building, people tend to overestimate and over-analyze the entire process. Although the dozens of link building tools out there definitely can be useful, and many advanced factors can come into play, the essence of link building all comes down to answering one single question;


Why? Image via Jody Miller

Yes, it’s that simple. If you can answer the question ‘Why should I link to your website?‘ without hesitation, you’re good to go. However, answers like “because our websites are relevant” or “because it’s relevant for your users” are not good answers. Most links on the web are placed out of emotion, and relevance does not trigger any emotion.

Think of all the link requests you have received yourself, and about which ones you have actually accepted, and why. Think of all the websites you have linked to yourself over time, and why you have linked to these sites.

There are many good answers possible to this question, but the most common ones are:

  • because I love your website/ images/ article/ etc.
  • because I like you
  • because you have offered something in return
  • because I think I will be missing out on something if I don’t share your website with others

Ask yourself this question before any link request you send out. Before you start creating another link bait concept. Before any brainstorm session you run.

If you can’t answer this question properly, there are basically three things you can do:

  • proceed nevertheless, and deal with demoralizingly low acceptance rates
  • offer something in return (content, money, services, etc.) to persuade people
  • improve your content (or your pitch) in such a way that it does answer the question

Now if more people would ask themselves this question, it would make my inbox a whole lot cleaner…

10 Responses to “Link Building is All About Answering One Question”

  1. ARTisani May 12, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Getting people to understand the importance of links.
    And the fact that quantity isn’t the most important thing here is something very difficult to explain.
    Thanks for sharing your idea on this matter.

  2. Andy @ FirstFound May 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Offering something in return is always the best way. People don’t act altruistically on the net. You need to offer benefits.

  3. David May 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    I asked myself the question and I don’t know whether you will love our website or our images.

    You may be in the first throws of a love affair with us based on this comment I am placing here – again, I don’t know.

    You can do without us if truth be told – there are many sites in the sea – ah, maybe you like us a little bit.

    Let’s find out – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  4. Tahire Khan May 12, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    Clients are so rank obssessed that sometimes numbers is more important than quality. I have to say as an SEO it can be hard to ressist the pressure but personally I always go for quality over quantity, it’s beter for the client in he long run and more productive for the seo in terms payback on time and effort spent.

  5. Richard @ Eco Living Advice May 13, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    I agree with this. I have really been putting a lot of effort this year into producing the best content possible in my niche and the ease with which I’ve been able to get links has been astonishing. I haven’t yet created any pieces specifically as link bait, but my average articles are enough to ellicit a great response when I go seeking links.

  6. Directory Sieve May 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    I don’t think asking that question will help because the answer to that question has changed over time. Earlier, in 2004 or so, it was a lot easier to get link, a good little chat and some helping words and the next day you see a blogroll link coming your way. But that changed later when the search engines cracked on the paid links, linking was never the same again.

    Not many will give away link that easily, i remember i used to link away to good commentators once in a while, but now i hardly do that. Most links that i recently gave away or got was from free tools, free photos that were under creative commons or perhaps from guest posts or articles submission.

    Yes, return has become a greater issue now, rather than relevance, and it is sad.

  7. Adam May 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Targetted strategy works well; Write really compelling content and then contact .edu .gov and .ac.uk (for UK) and tell them about your content, you are likely to get at least 1 good link using this strategy.

  8. Wiep May 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    @Andy: Well, that depends on where you’re looking for links :) Altruism definitely exists online, too.

    @David: An approach like that makes link building a lot easier!

    @Directory Sieve: True, link building has become more difficult over the years. However, there’s nothing wrong with providing images or writing guest posts ;)

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