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One of the reasons I am so attracted to link building and SEO, is the very fact that it is so capricious.

I thrive on constantly learning and love the demand of having to adapt, evolve and challenge myself everyday. I feel that without that desire for variation and a thirst for knowledge, that you can't compete at a high level.

Coming from a creative background, I recognise the similarities between the personalities of art directors, link builders and entrepreneurs (when I use the term I am only referring to quality link builders): a diverse skill set, creative spark and tenacity for the dogged pursuit of the seemingly impossible at all times.

Being an entrepreneur is about finding solutions to problems where no-one else can; like securing the link no-one else can get and creating the unique design solution. Creatives and entrepreneurs have their brains wired differently to other people.

Where a normal person finds a dead end, the creative entrepreneur builds a ladder over the wall (or creates spring loaded shoes to bounce over!).

I came across the following quote recently on inc.com about what defines an entrepreneur: 

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled. 

To me, this fitted perfectly how the role of the link builder is evolving, with SEO becoming ever more challenging with restrictions from Google and heavy competition.

You have to work not just harder but more creatively than ever before to stay ahead. Considering the crossovers between link builders and entrepreneurs, this led to my definition of the term: 

linkpreneur - an individual who has the ability to secure link opportunities that others could not even conceive.

Easy link building is over

Google has implemented big changes in the past few months: the 40 changes for February announcement and its mention of a link evaluation method being switched off, blog networks being de-indexed, the over-optimization update (another enigmatic hint at algorithm changes), the introduction of SPYworld; and the preferential integration of Google+ social signals in results listings.

With the death of networks, it would appear that easy link building is now coming to an end. I predict that we will see a real divide between those who can deliver and those who can't compete very soon.

As Steve Jobs used to say: real artists ship. 

real artists ship

PR not PR (public relations not page rank)

Link building has long been considered a mechanical, repetitive part of SEO. A necessity. It's how you get good rankings, fact.

A link building strategy is thought of in terms of which links can pass the most juice to boost my rankings. When you really need to be thinking: which links can pass the most relevant traffic to my site?

I have found it incredible that PR (public relations) teams have been so slow and blind to embrace SEO and link building. They are the natural born link builders.

Link building strategies should be considered in terms of a wider marketing strategy and not just a blinkered SEO perspective.

Eric Ward told a story in his Link Moses Private newsletter of how he negotiated a link for his client within the footer of an email from a hotel local to his client. That email went out to all the people who booked to stay in the hotel.

Eric's client ran scuba sessions: what holidaymaker doesn't consider water sports and diving? To me that shows classic PR (public relations) and marketing skills. As I said above, it's about constantly looking for the link opportunity even where you might not consider one to exist and others could not even conceive. 

 

Focus on natural link building

The phrase natural links has become a buzzword in light of reportedly 700,000 GWT unnatural link warnings being delivered in the last few months.

People are asking what is a natural link and how do I achieve a safe link profile? There's a large raft of 'SEOs' who relied on networks such as Build My Ranks and who have now reached the limit of their skill set and can't answer those questions.

I predict a steep learning curve for a lot of mediocre SEO/link builders. I have long been an advocate of Eric Ward and his long-term strategy approach to link building. You don't get quick buck results, but you can be assured that you get a stable approach and that you will still be in business when a new algorithm hits and wipes out all your misplaced investment.

Natural links are the hardest links to get. You need skill, intelligence, tenacity and creativity to be a natural link builder; this is why there are so few of them around.  

Less dependence on Google

If Google was wiped out overnight by some strange hand of fate, where would your site/business be?

A business model that has only one source of income from one client is unsustainable and irresponsible. Would you want to invest in such a company? So why is it that millions of businesses have built themselves around Google?

Bow down and worship the google, we shall do whatever we can to please the google, we shall pay whatever the google says as they push us all towards more dependence of PPC.

To a certain degree we have to dance to the Google tune, as it is such a large market driver but there are other options: build a wide and diverse referral network of links online from sites that have relevance to yours and that can pass quality traffic through to your site.

If Google explodes in a big fireball 'day of reckoning', then you will have other options.

Focus on building your network

An older close family friend lives in Houston and has travelled the world as a businessman. He started out in life in a grim mill-town in the north of England and through hard work, he became exceptionally successful.

I asked what wisdom he could impart to someone at the bottom looking up. His response was build contacts and relationships and feed them on a regular basis. Business is all about other people.

Outreach to industry influencers will bring more rewards than wasting energy on following the latest scam tricks. Building a network requires you to be personable, respectful and willing to give before you recieve.

It is time consuming and requires a great deal of energy. That's why not everyone is willing to or can do it.

Social media and link building go hand-in-hand

It has never been easier to make connections with other people. I still get a thrill from a tweet conversation chatting with someone in Seattle, when I am in Leeds, UK. And I find it breathtaking as to how quickly and easily I can connect with hundreds of other industry professionals and like-minded people using Twitter and Linkedin.

Social media as part of a link building and outreach strategy brings results and should not be ignored. Matt Cutts once said in a YouTube video that Google rates links from Facebook and Twitter, just like any other link and with the integration of Google+ into results pages you can guarantee that social signals are only going to get stronger. 

Stoney de Geyter speculated recently that links and social signals could become more tightly aligned as a part of the algorithm evaluation moving forward. I think that this is a definite. The link will never be replaced by social signals but your link building strategies do need to integrate more social media inclusion. 

Linkpreneurs are remarkable

Do you really want to be mediocre? Someone who uses the latest link wheel, blog network or article submission tool and wonder if you will still have a business when you wake up in the morning?

Yes, it has worked and it has made some affiliates very wealthy but black/grey methods are unstable and unsafe. Do you not want to have pride in your work? The quick and easy approach brings with it a volatile uncertainty and little respect.  

For me, it's about being a craftsman, having style, finesse and genius in your work that you can be proud of and pushing yourself to improve every single day. Zappos calls it WOW, Seth Godin calls it remarkable and Tony Robbins calls it CANI (constant and never ending improvement).

As Seth Godin says:

Being pretty good is extremely easy these days. … If you can't be remarkable perhaps you should consider doing nothing until you can be.

If you want longevity like the highly respected David Ogilvy, then you need to work hard, network and bring the creative touch to what you do. Anyone can draw a stick man; only one person could paint the Mona Lisa.


  • Linkpreneurs ship.
  • Linkpreneurs think PR.
  • Linkpreneurs do it naturally.
  • Linkpreneurs do not put all of their links in one basket.
  • Linkpreneurs build relationships.
  • Linkpreneurs are social.
  • Linkpreneurs are remarkable. 

Shelli Walsh

Published 11 April, 2012 by Shelli Walsh

Shelli Walsh is MD of ShellShock UK and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+, or connect via LinkedIn

3 more posts from this author

Comments (53)

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Adi Gaskell

Nothing really to add Sherri but wanted to say how much I enjoyed the blog. Really, really good.

over 4 years ago

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Gisele Navarro Mendez

Great article, Shelli! You made me smile more than once while reading it :)

over 4 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

Great article, Shelli, one of the best, most sensible (and optimistic) posts I've read on link building for a while.

Very happy to see someone talk about building networks and building relationships, beyond the typical asking-for-a-link type practices we all know too well. I'd go further and argue that taking advantage of already-established networks and relationships - even if they're not the most valuable in terms of SEO, PageRank and Page/Domain Authority - can also be a worthwhile approach...

Similar to the Eric Ward example you mentioned, I once gave a guest blog post to a brand new blog (with low SEO metrics) run by someone based locally to me who I recently met at an event. I could've given it to an already-established, popular blog with a homepage PR of 5+, but this guy's budding audience included a number of locally-based creatives and start-ups, and it seemed more important to address them than it did to address fellow industry peers. Heck, I've also given guest blog posts to a site that puts 'nofollow' on the links - but that also has a strong on-site readership as well as a daily newsletter with 50,000 subscribers.

In my opinion, in such situations, SEO should be considered secondary - the goal is to be seen, be read, get noticed, which leads to be being linked to in and of itself. If you get a good link from it from an SEO POV then that's an added bonus, but we don't just build links to get higher in the search engines, we do it to earn new customers and clients.

over 4 years ago

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Shelli

Thank you Adi and Giselle for the nice comments. I put a lot of thought and hours into this post, really good to see so many people talking about it.

Steve, thank you also. I agree with your comment about looking to existing contacts. I would always ask any business to look at their own network first and see where potential links lie. Often an over-looked area but can result in some great links.

Guest post placement is very important for hitting your key niche, I thought about this one very carefully and think I made a good choice : )

over 4 years ago

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Nina

Great tips! Thanks!

over 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

"If Google was wiped out overnight by some strange hand of fate, where would your site/business be?"

Something I tell my clients all the time! You never want to rely just on the search engines (which I realize sounds strange coming from an SEO professional) because it leaves your site vulnerable. Everything you do, online and off, can be leveraged for SEO and create links to your site.

over 4 years ago

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Iain Miller

Great article.

I've been using this approach for over a year and it's definitely the best way to go.

over 4 years ago

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Ryan Burnsworth

I agree completely.
If Google were to be wiped out, what does that mean for so many internet businesses that rely on it. Internet businesses must diversify their portfolio of referrers to decrease the effect of losing ranking, losing Google, etc.
Thanks for the post.

over 4 years ago

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Eva Grzybek

What a brilliant article. Put a big smile on my face. Link building is the best job I could ever choose for myself, it's good to see others enjoy it too rather than trying to cheat their way into getting traffic.

over 4 years ago

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Robert kirk

Fantastic post really enjoyed reading it. I cannot agree more the easy route of linkbuilding is dead! Seo & linkbuilders are now going to need to pull up their sleeves and dig deeper for those natural high quality links

over 4 years ago

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Lerentech Solutions

Great article. Link building takes time and effort but good natural links can give you a big boost.

over 4 years ago

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Pandiyarajan

Really a good post on the link building but no one able to say what are the right link building techniques based on this Panda updates.

over 4 years ago

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Easy Link

Interesting. On one hand this is saying that easy links are becoming a thing of the past, but at the same time that we should should concentrate on traffic. Well, if I know a link will give me 10 clicks over a year, isn't it worth the 2 minutes it takes to build an easy link?

over 4 years ago

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Simon Swan, Online Marketing at Met Office

Great post Shelli - very well thought out post. If anything, I think this post emphasises the point that SEO, or more specifically link building, needs to be more at the core of any organisation's marketing dept

over 4 years ago

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shelli walsh

Nina, Nick, Ryan, Eva, Simon:

Thank you for your comments. I am hoping that we will see a real watershed moving forward in link building and that the time is now for the truly talented link builders and seo's.

Easy link, what I was saying is that we should focus more on link placement and that those links will drive the traffic and not just using links as a means to bump up search rankings. So yes if you want to build a hundred links that push 10 clicks each at 200 minutes build time then you can justify that process but is it not a better use of time to focus on building one or two great links that will push thousands of qualified visitors? emphasis on qualified.

Shelli

over 4 years ago

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shelli

Hi Simon

I think the integration of link building with the traditional PR and marketing departments is the only way forward and I am really surprised that it has taken this long. It's a natural fit and if you start to think of link building in terms of combining online and offline strategies you have so much more potential.

over 4 years ago

Christopher Rose

Christopher Rose, PPC Marketing Director at Rose Digital Marketing

Whilst not disagreeing with your general observations about the evolution of SEO, you are so far up yourself it is unbelievable.

"I recognise the similarities between the personalities of art directors, link builders and entrepreneurs (when I use the term I am only referring to quality link builders): a diverse skill set, creative spark and tenacity for the dogged pursuit of the seemingly impossible at all times." Puh-lease!

There is nothing in common between the artistic process or entrepreneurs and the business of SEO, although I can see why you would want to believe that about your work.

As to Steve Jobs, he was a good business man certainly but that doesn't mean everything he said is smart, never mind sensible, and the quote you mention, "real artists ship", is as self serving as the above.

Try telling that to any great artists that never do make any real money during their lifetimes.

Steve Jobs shipped some good, well designed products (and, let's not forget, some total failures), something that is not that common in our contemporary world but he wasn't an artist.

Sure, SEO is a tough competitive business that requires some creativity, but that is true of almost any work. Most of all it requires us to keep our feet on the ground...

over 4 years ago

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Danilo Polidori

Hi Shelly, nice and interesting post. I have enjoyed reading it very much. Thank you! I am very happy to see that someone talks about building relationships!

Great post!,

Danilo

over 4 years ago

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Richard

A must read for any link builder. Its time that we stop having tunnel syndrome and start thinking outside the box. Its not about ranking but instead about driving traffic to the websites.

over 4 years ago

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Tanya McTavish

I read a gazillion of articles on a daily basis. Most are poorly written regurgitations of news, borrowed tips and unfounded opinions. This one just had me go "Wow" on multiple occasions.

- Wow for a perfectly composed article,
- wow for inspiration quotes,
- wow for research and insight,
- and another wow for a seemingly ordinary idea expressed with an electrifyingly creative twist.

Yes, there are remarkable linkpreneurs out there. Some think outside the box to find newest trick schemes, and I think they will continue to find them even in SPYworld or whatever "world" we'll end up in. Some labor away to get natural links. In both cases, strongest linkpreneurs continue to win.

In the end, though, doesn't this whole discussion come down to ethics? When asked to promote an adult or human trafficking site for a boatload of money, I reckon many in the industry would accept (without admitting it publicly, of course). It's also a question of ethics to preach content marketing while doing a bit of trickery on the side, for monetary or other reasons. Seems to happen quite often in this industry.

over 4 years ago

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Ashwin

Very interesting post and a great read. I own my own marketing company and have told my employees to read what you had to say. Some of them were using link builders but I am mandating them to build natural links for our clients, even if it takes more time because with google and their ever changing algorithms, it's always nice to do things the right way vs. shortcuts that can lead to a companies downfall.

over 4 years ago

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Phil

I don't know if you ever ranked for a really high competitive keyword or not, but in some businesses (like poker) it's really hard to get natural links. The big guys just buy every possible link and they have been successful for years. I also have not found any active social community related to poker.

over 4 years ago

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shelli

Hi Christopher

I'm not really sure why you would consider me to be:
"so far up yourself it is unbelievable."

I think you might need to read the article again more closely to see that I am talking about link builders specifically and how the role is evolving. Creativity is very important in terms of strategies to source and secure great links. As a compliment to SEO not as a replacement.

I have written an article with my own thoughts and insights, if that is being up myself, so be it.

over 4 years ago

Christopher Rose

Christopher Rose, PPC Marketing Director at Rose Digital Marketing

Shelli,

As I said, your observations about SEO were of interest, it is the artistic pretension that sticks in my throat, but whatever you need to believe to get through your day...

over 4 years ago

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shelli

Hi Danilo, Richard, Ashwin - thank you for your comments.

Phil, you are absolutely right it is very difficult to rank for high competition keywords, esp in Poker for example following a natural link process. I am not pretending that you can suddenly achieve lots of authority links overnight and compete in these spheres. These niches still need to be supplemented with volume links in conjunction with an authority.

I was putting ideas out there as to the direction I feel that link building needs to move in terms of greater integration with PR.

These tactics are long term strategies.

over 4 years ago

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Shelli

Hi Christopher.

I think 'pretension' is a bit excessive - just my own observations, having worked in both creative and seo industries.

Please feel free to submit your own article of valid ideas and insights.

over 4 years ago

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EZ Link

I think that it is important to remember that things we put on the net can by seen by everyone and may stay online indefinitely. Even if an article bugs me, even if I think that the person writing it has a creative bias, I really do make me best effort to refrain from direct insults. Thanks for contributing your opinions everyone.

over 4 years ago

Christopher Rose

Christopher Rose, PPC Marketing Director at Rose Digital Marketing

Is that why you use not one but two anonymous user names complete with links to your site?

over 4 years ago

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Jason Lancaster

It's a great article, right up until the picture of Seth Godin with the trite "be remarkable" advice.

Seth Godin is the Internet Marketing equivalent of a generic self-help expert who tells you something obvious in an entertaining way. Rubish.

Anyways, Seth Godin rant aside, I've been doing SEO for a few years now and I have to tell you it's pretty much the same now as it was when I started...anyone can get junk links, but marketers get good ones by being clever, building interest, being genuine, and leveraging relationships.

I appreciate what you're saying, but it might be good to mention that marketing has always been this way - it's our industry that's finally growing up (at least a little).

over 4 years ago

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Jossef

Thanks Shelli, you information is so accurate however i do think that nothing have changed, it was always this way, the only thing changed is the competition, so now you just need to do the work x 10 times

over 4 years ago

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Tudor davies

It is all about being social and building a relationship. Link building isn't really about getting links, it is about being a part of a community.

over 4 years ago

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Laure

Great post, thank you for sharing!
I totally agree with the fact that we shouldn't rely on one main stream of links. Google shouldn't be put in the center of all our link building strategies.
Cheers

over 4 years ago

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JP - Noble InfoSys

Quality in link building has been important for many years. I have seen sites rank in the top 5 for competitive keywords with only 20 or 30 odd reported backlinks even a few years ago. I think what has changed is that while earlier it was also possible for lesser authority sites to rank high with tons of lower quality backlinks, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so now.

over 4 years ago

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Miky

You claim to be able to be imaginative and to secure links no one else can. Yet your attempts to get the word "linkpreneur" recognised was an unimaginative entry into Wikipedia, which was quickly deleted by others who immediately saw it for what it was: a crude marketing ploy.

over 4 years ago

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shelli

Seriously can't believe I have to say this: for those who need the bleedin obvious pointing out - I have made no claims about myself in this post.

I have not referred to myself at any point in the article or claimed to be remarkable OR be a linkpreneur. It's an industry commentary, not a self-portrait.

over 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

If you don't agree with Shelli's post, by all means say so and why, but a few of the comments on this article are too close to personal attacks on the author.

@Christopher - Shelli probably has a couple of Econsultancy logins on different devices. As Shelli is well aware, links are no-followed in comments, there is nothing to be gained by using multiple logins/links.

over 4 years ago

Christopher Rose

Christopher Rose, PPC Marketing Director at Rose Digital Marketing

Graham,

I can't speak for anybody else but my remarks have been about nothing but either her article or her actions.

As far as I am aware, it is perfectly possible to have the same login on multiple devices.

For the record, her claim that she has "not referred to myself at any point in the article or claimed to be remarkable" is simply, let's say, inaccurate, as a casual glance at the first three paragraphs of her article confirm.

As my original remarks said, her comments on SEO are indeed pertinent and interesting.

over 4 years ago

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Miky

So Shelli do you deny having been responsible for the Wikipedia article "Linkpreneur", that was quickly deleted?

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkpreneur)

over 4 years ago

Shelli Walsh

Shelli Walsh, director at shellshock ltd

Well who knew that I could make a such a naive, schoolgirl error like not being logged in on comments. With this being my first contribution to the site, I really should have known better.

It's very fortunate I live in 2012 or else I could have been thrown in a mill pond to drown as a witch. Phew.

And wow, adding pages to wikipedia is sooo black hat, how would anyone dare to do that. I'm sure nobody would ever try and do that for fear of being ridiculed in public.

over 4 years ago

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Miky

Re. "I'm sure nobody would ever try and do that". Precisely, and yet you claimed to "Securing the link no-one else can get and creating the unique design solution."

That your attempt was unoriginal (as you acknowledge) and unsuccessful (the entry was swiftly deleted + Wikipedia operates a 'nofollow' policy) is fine a illustration of your abilities as a 'linkpreneur'.

And rather than playing the victim by claiming to be "ridiculed in public" have a look in a dictionary at the word 'hubris.'

about 4 years ago

Shelli Walsh

Shelli Walsh, director at shellshock ltd

Re comments:

"and yet you claimed to Securing the link no-one else can get and creating the unique design solution." and

"that she has "not referred to myself at any point in the article or claimed to be remarkable" is simply, let's say, inaccurate, as a casual glance at the first three paragraphs of her article confirm."

Let me just repeat from above:
"I have not referred to myself at any point in the article or claimed to be remarkable OR be a linkpreneur."

And for those of you who have misread and really need it spelling out in big letters: I have NOT REFERRED to MYSELF as being REMARKABLE or a LINKPRENEUR.

And to the *ANONYMOUS* comment:
"That your attempt was unoriginal (as you acknowledge)…"

There is no acknowledgement of your accusations and these are your (somewhat vitriolic) speculations and opinions.

Instead of investing so much energy into attempting to deprecate and deride me, why not put that time into writing your own article to see what the community has to say about you?

Last time I looked there was nearly 200 tweets, 29 + and 45 linkedin shares - all positive comments about the article (several tweets from industry influencers). Only 2 people had (very personal) negative comments.

about 4 years ago

Shelli Walsh

Shelli Walsh, director at shellshock ltd

I'm just going to say I am not adding any more responses to personal comments left. This is not the place to make personal remarks (attacks) or the place to get into discussion (argument) over them.

I am more than happy to see comments which disagree with my article and opinions but attempting to deprecate someone on a personal level is not acceptable.

about 4 years ago

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Alessio

I freaking love this post. First because there is energy on it. Secondly because the best links I did are the ones created with passion.
Problem is that linkbuilders think too much about Google, and less about : "what kind of awesome link may I create with this site, in order to create something awesome connected with my brand? "

always saying: be awesome, be creative. and that's it. problem is sometimes SEOs think only about SEO and Google-related stuff. But the most important thing to me it's to create something awesome for my user/client.

So yeah, again: be awesome and be creative. the rest will follow.

about 4 years ago

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Justin

Very interesting post Shelli. Goodness knows how your blog trolls expect to win business when their pernicious feedback is published with their name next to it. Talk about digital footprint ! Remember what Daddy told you boys: if you don't have anything nice to say...

about 4 years ago

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Brad

Thread full of win and comedy :D I enjoyed the article but I enjoyed the comments more :P

about 4 years ago

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iDCx

MM interesting indeed...

Although I struggle to see the route of the article here - I guess its a kin to the industries feeling atm of being lost somewhat - yes strategies come into play in any marketing campaign and it would be grand if all chanels could align - but finding a single agency to combine an enterprise brands tv, print, online down to link building specialities is a big big big ask - although many brands have indeed tried to bring the skill in house of late - we see that control has never been appealingly further - or more eyes on - the link builders of late.

Bottom line - their algo is fixed - and yes social media has a placing in link building - as does any authoritative website that is used by millions of people. We used to call them forums remember!

Linktrepreneurs - lolzz - indeed - but whats your problem - its not those guys that are killing rankings - it the people buying the rubbish links they sell - so yea - google clean up your act or stand a chance of loosing market share to bing...

not like link building has stopped working - slow and steady wins the race - but try selling that...

Being remarkable - ok yea sure - lets - be remarkable in the way you build links! a link is a link people and i should suggest you should be building them right now to delver anything for any website.

Struggled to understand a point herein, but inspired to keep doing what I do

IdcX

about 4 years ago

Panos Ladas

Panos Ladas, Digital Marketing Manager at Piece of Cake

There is nothing new here, nothing to see. This is what link building has always been but for a period you (we) could cheat google in various ways. Well, the game is over, move on!

about 4 years ago

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Lucky 13

The song "all good things come to an end" comes to my mind :)

about 4 years ago

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Teodor Zahariev

Many thanks to the precise written and intelligent article. The selection of keywords is based on a successful SEO campaign. Many people began to build links to their sites without even assessing whether the complexity of the target niche. Therefore it is very good for people who are just now aware of this matter be referred to a specialist SEO optimizer.

about 4 years ago

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Logo Design

Great article! Link building does take time and effort but you get back what you put in.

about 4 years ago

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ausjet.com.au

Would you mind if I quote a few of your articles or blog posts as long as I provide credit and sources returning to your webpage: http:
//econsultancy.com/ag/blog/9540-linkpreneurs-the-new-school-of-link-building.
I'll aslo make sure to give you the proper anchor-text link using your webpage title: Linkpreneurs: the new school of link building | Econsultancy. Please let me know if this is ok with you. Thanks

over 3 years ago

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Webmasters Forum

Thanks Shelli Walsh, I appreciate your time for writing this article, but the fact is that natural link building is the best for of link building.

over 3 years ago

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Brett Jacobson, MD at Mediaworks Online MarketingSmall Business

very good article shelli.

over 3 years ago

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