Building links is an incredibly common request of agencies and consultants, and some ways to go about it are far more advisable than others. Whether you’re likely to be asked for this work or you’re looking to hire someone for it, it’s a good idea to have a few rules of thumb. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones breaks things down.
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Hey, folks, welcome to another great Whiteboard Friday. I am Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist here at Moz. I get to do a lot of great research, but I’ll tell you, my first love in SEO is link building. The 10 years I spent before joining Moz, I worked at an agency and we did a lot of it, and I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more exciting than getting that great link.
Now, today I’m going to focus a little bit more on the agency and consultant side. But one takeaway before we get started, for anybody out there who’s using agencies or who’s looking to use a consultant for link building, is kind of flip this whole presentation on its head. When I’m giving advice to agencies, you should use that as rules of thumb for judging whether or not you want to use an agency in the future. So let me jump right in and we’ll get going.
What I’m going to talk about today is risk-averse link building. So the vast majority of agencies out there really want to provide good links for their customers, but they just don’t know how. Let’s admit it. The majority of SEO agencies and consultants don’t do their own link building, or if they do, it’s either guest posting or maybe known placements in popular magazines or online websites where you can get links. There’s like a list that will go around of how much it costs to get an article on, well, Forbes doesn’t even count anymore because they’ve no-followed their links, but that’s about it. It’s nothing special.
So today I want to talk through how you can actually build really good links for your customers and what really the framework is that you need to be looking into to make sure you’re risk averse so that your customers can come out of this picture with a stronger link profile and without actually adopting much risk.
1. Never build a link you can’t remove!
So we’re going to touch on a couple of maxims or truisms. The first one is never build a link you can’t remove. I didn’t come upon this one until after Penguin, but it just occurred to me it is such a nightmare to get rid of links. Even with disavow, often it feels better that you can just get the link pulled from the web. Now, with negative SEO as being potentially an issue, admittedly Google is trying to devalue links as opposed to penalize, but still the rule holds strong. Never build a link that you can’t remove.
But how do you do that? I mean you don’t have necessarily control over it. Well, first off, there’s a difference between earnings links and building links. So if you get a link out there that you didn’t do anything for, you just got it because you wrote great content, don’t worry about it. But if you’re actually going to actively link build, you need to follow this rule, and there are actually some interesting ways that we can go about it.
Canonical “burn” pages
The first one is the methodology that I call canonical burn pages. I’m sure that sounds a little dark. But it actually is essentially just an insurance policy on your links. The idea is don’t put all of your content value and link value into the same bucket. It works like this. Let’s say this article or this Whiteboard Friday goes up at the URL risk-averse-links and Moz decided to do some outreach-based link building. Well, then I might make another version, risk-averse-linkbuilding, and then in my out linking actually request that people link to that version of the page. That page will be identical, and it will have a canonical tag so that all of the link value should pass back to the original.
Now, I’m not asking you to build a thousand doorway pages or anything of that sort, but here’s the reason for the separation. Let’s say you reach out to one of these webmasters and they’re like, “This is great,” and they throw it up on a blog post, and what they don’t tell you is, “Oh yeah, I’ve got 100 other blogs in my link farm, and I’m just going to syndicate this out.” Now you’ve got a ton of link spam pointing to the page. Well, you don’t want that pointing to your site. The chances…