Five Experts on SEO Link Building


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
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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Mar 16, 2010

Valuable points! I would also suggest that companies should focus on using existing relationships to gain high quality links from industry partners and suppliers. A few hard-coded, super-relevant links from sites with an outbound link parity are infinitely more valuable than thousands of paid-for links created solely to emulate search engine content.

Mar 16, 2010

I think Julie is the only one that passed the test on the paid links question... and I suppose Debra provides a good answer as well :)

Thanks to all the participants though, all of this information is quite helpful.

Kathleen Mongero
Mar 16, 2010

Great post. I love the Q&A format! Very helpful.

Mar 16, 2010

I have found that paid links have ROI that is plus max. Not only do you get traffic and PR, but also the buzz factor and exposure. Goog hates people paying for links. Well, I hate billboards, but the guy with the motel on the highways can buy a board or starve.

links for 2010-03-17
Mar 17, 2010

[...] Five SEO Link-Building Experts, Eight Questions | WordStream 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. (tags: SEO Link-Building Experts) [...]

Nick LeRoy
Mar 17, 2010

Awesome Post! I always love to read posts the survey some of the best in our industry. I think the best question was the one that poked the their brains for viral content ideas! Link requests can be difficult so it's always nice to get some incite on that too!

Mar 17, 2010

Some interesting points for sure, I think some of these could have been expanded a bit more - but then given time constraints i guess it's not surprising some experts don't want to or don't have time to reveal all of the strategy. Thanks for putting this up.

haseeb najam
Mar 18, 2010

I think link buying effects only small websites and not the larges fishes. even seoroundtable has a Sponsored Links section which is apparently paid links but still google hasn't penalized the website as it do the small websites :)

Indianpaolis SEO
Mar 18, 2010

A theme I picked up on was that if there is a good possibility that the link will provide traffic, it is probably the right kind of link because it will probably also need to be relevant and somewhat authoritative. Thank you for posting.

Sean Hecking
Apr 14, 2010

Great interview, very insightful. On the subject of link building tools, I have done some research on the top link building tools for SEO on my blog if you are interested. A lot has changed in the last couple years in link building, the tools seem to get better and better.

Link Building Company
Apr 24, 2010

Really great, If someone really interested for link building, this post must help us all. Great Info there man. THX

Jun 15, 2010


Jul 16, 2010

very informative. i'm very much interested about link building service. and this post, really added more spice to my curiosity. thanks.

Jul 20, 2010

We consider following factors while creating back links: The domain strength has to be good as it can gives you additional boost if you are linking with strong domain. Page PR matters as long as all links coming to us are followed. Page relevancy and link neighborhood, to confirm the page is clean and not linked to bad neighborhood. I think all SEO company considering these parameters. What you think?