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Five Experts on SEO Link Building

Author: Elisa Gabbert
Last Updated: November 18, 2021 | SEO

A while back we interviewed a handful of link-building experts (Garrett French and Ben Wills, Wiep Knol, Debra Mastaler, and Julie Joyce) on everything from what features they’d want in their ultimate link-building tool to how to brainstorm linkbait. Here, you can find all of their answers to eight key SEO link-building questions in one place.


Five Experts on SEO Link Building
Question #1 What factors go into a quality link?
Garrett French
Cofounder of Ontolo link building company
The backlink profile of the prospective linker, an engaged relevant audience, and the distribution and target reach of the site.
Ben Wills
Cofounder of Ontolo link building services
The site’s relevance and value, the keywords used on the page, and the quantity and quality of backlinks.
Wiep Knol
Partner for LinkBuilding.nl
A relevant link on an authoritative website that’s not very easy to get, preferably with good anchor text.
Debra Mastaler
President of Alliance-link
A variety of links from relevant sites.
Julie Joyce
Cofounder and Director of Operations at Link Fish Media
Links that fit into a site nicely, are on topic, have the potential for traffic, and have good keywordized anchor text.
Question #2 Which link building tools do you recommend?
Garrett French Ontolo link prospect data, BuzzStream, Yahoo Site Explorer, SEOBook Toolbar, spreadsheets, email, phone.
Ben Wills The public and private ones we’ve made, and Majestic SEO.
Wiep Knol Firefox add-ons Search Status and Link Diagnosis, SEOBook’s paid tools, Majestic SEO
Debra Mastaler Alert services including Google Alerts, SEO Quake, Search Status, eBay’s Pulse tool, Shopzilla’s Top Searches and Amazon’s Best Sellers.
Julie Joyce Majestic SEO, Aaron Wall’s Link Suggestion Tool, SEOMoz’s suite, and Excel.
Question #3 What features would the ultimate link analysis tool include?
Garrett French We’ve built it–when can we schedule a walkthrough for you?
Ben Wills A tool that would give PageRank, authority, titles, and assessments for how likely a prospective link will turn into a link.
Wiep Knol There is not a perfect link building tool. Every campaign is different, and requires a different approach.
Debra Mastaler
Julie Joyce Something that gives a quality score of some sort that is dependent on the site’s niche. Also, the tool would indicate whether the link will help or hurt the site.
 Question #4 What are some strategies for brainstorming and creating linkbait?
Garrett French Identify high ranking sites in your niche, use Yahoo Site Explorer to identify their most linkable pages, and note characteristics of highly linkable content. Then modify your site appropriately, and email your linkbait to potential linkers.
Ben Wills Figure out what people want, and give it to them really, really well.
Wiep Knol Determine which or what type of websites you’d like to get links from. Then brainstorm for content ideas that match those sites.
Debra Mastaler Avoid launching a negative or controversial campaign unless you’re sure of your facts and stance. Otherwise incoming links could bring negative attention and hurt your reputation.
Julie Joyce Have a great team of writers that spends time brainstorming good content ideas. A good way to get original ideas is by reading many different types of publications. You also want to make sure content is written for your target audience.
 Question #5 How does social media change the SEO link building game?
Garrett French Link building for pure search engine influence may diminish as search engines discover other ways of calculating the value and relevance of content.
Ben Wills I don’t think it will change because the nature of link building has always been a constant evolution and change.
Wiep Knol Sites like Twitter only made link building easier. It’s a lot easier to find key influencers, and share content.
Debra Mastaler Social media has made it easier to find and target specific groups of people for linking and promotions.
Julie Joyce We may become more reliant upon social media, but I’ve lived through enough backlashes to know that it’s not good to expect everything to last.
 Question #6 How should marketers go about making link requests?
Garrett French Know beforehand what motivates the target site owners/operators to link.
Ben Wills Offer money, though that can put you on Google’s bad side.
Wiep Knol Use the phone. It will drastically raise your conversion rates and the quality of the deal. It also forces you to focus on the best sites only.
Debra Mastaler Name dropping and using business associations work well. Other options include directory submissions, content syndication and advertising.
Julie Joyce State your purpose, be polite and move on.
Question #7 If I engage in link buying, how can I avoid being caught by Google?
Garrett French Use a proxy for negotiating. Be careful who you discuss your efforts with and how.
Ben Wills Make sure your link does not appear near the words “paid links,” “sponsorship,” “paid advertisements” or “sponsored links.”
Wiep Knol Avoid public marketplaces, like link networks, forums, and sites like eBay.
Debra Mastaler Sometimes you can’t avoid being caught. So before you decide to engage in link buying, make sure you know what you could lose.
Julie Joyce
Question #8 What’s better: a link from an authoritative but unrelated website or a link from a medium-authority, highly relevant website?
Garrett French A high-relevance, medium-authority website. You will get more leads and clicks from a relevant site, as your link is going to fit more naturally with the content and be relevant to the audience.
Ben Wills A “pretty authoritative” backlink from a relevant website is better than a “highly authoritative” backlink from an irrelevant website. Relevance is more significant than value.
Wiep Knol I’d pick two relevant links for every one authority link. Relevance is very important, but you’ll need authority as well.
Debra Mastaler
Julie Joyce I like relevancy, so I’d pick the link from the pretty authoritative, highly relevant website for one big reason: traffic!


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Meet The Author

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream’s Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.