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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.
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.