Five Experts on SEO Link Building

April 3, 2015

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 #1What 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 #2Which link building tools do you recommend?
Garrett FrenchOntolo link prospect data, BuzzStream, Yahoo Site Explorer, SEOBook Toolbar, spreadsheets, email, phone.
Ben WillsThe public and private ones we've made, and Majestic SEO.
Wiep KnolFirefox add-ons Search Status and Link Diagnosis, SEOBook's paid tools, Majestic SEO
Debra MastalerAlert services including Google Alerts, SEO Quake, Search Status, eBay's Pulse tool, Shopzilla's Top Searches and Amazon's Best Sellers.
Julie JoyceMajestic SEO, Aaron Wall's Link Suggestion Tool, SEOMoz's suite, and Excel.
Question #3What features would the ultimate link analysis tool include?
Garrett FrenchWe've built it--when can we schedule a walkthrough for you?
Ben WillsA tool that would give PageRank, authority, titles, and assessments for how likely a prospective link will turn into a link.
Wiep KnolThere is not a perfect link building tool. Every campaign is different, and requires a different approach.
Debra Mastaler 
Julie JoyceSomething 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 #4What are some strategies for brainstorming and creating linkbait?
Garrett FrenchIdentify 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 WillsFigure out what people want, and give it to them really, really well.
Wiep KnolDetermine which or what type of websites you'd like to get links from. Then brainstorm for content ideas that match those sites.
Debra MastalerAvoid 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 JoyceHave 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 #5How does social media change the SEO link building game?
Garrett FrenchLink building for pure search engine influence may diminish as search engines discover other ways of calculating the value and relevance of content.
Ben WillsI don't think it will change because the nature of link building has always been a constant evolution and change.
Wiep KnolSites like Twitter only made link building easier. It's a lot easier to find key influencers, and share content.
Debra MastalerSocial media has made it easier to find and target specific groups of people for linking and promotions.
Julie JoyceWe 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 #6How should marketers go about making link requests?
Garrett FrenchKnow beforehand what motivates the target site owners/operators to link.
Ben WillsOffer money, though that can put you on Google's bad side.
Wiep KnolUse 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 MastalerName dropping and using business associations work well. Other options include directory submissions, content syndication and advertising.
Julie JoyceState your purpose, be polite and move on.
Question #7If I engage in link buying, how can I avoid being caught by Google?
Garrett FrenchUse a proxy for negotiating. Be careful who you discuss your efforts with and how.
Ben WillsMake sure your link does not appear near the words "paid links," "sponsorship," "paid advertisements" or "sponsored links."
Wiep KnolAvoid public marketplaces, like link networks, forums, and sites like eBay.
Debra MastalerSometimes 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 #8What's better: a link from an authoritative but unrelated website or a link from a medium-authority, highly relevant website?
Garrett FrenchA 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 WillsA "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 KnolI'd pick two relevant links for every one authority link. Relevance is very important, but you'll need authority as well.
Debra Mastaler 
Julie JoyceI like relevancy, so I'd pick the link from the pretty authoritative, highly relevant website for one big reason: traffic!


Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

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

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