You Want Link Building? Get Linkable Assets!
Are you interested in link building? Yes, that’s what you think. In reality you need something else though. Let me explain.
I’m just an independent consultant who hasn’t dozens of employees to do his work. I can take only a few clients per year.
The day has only 24 hours and most SEO projects do need time that is at least 6 months until they really pay off. Usually a year is ideal to see an SEO strategy unfold.
Solid SEO is about the long term, that’s no secret.
In the past I got contacted by lots of potential clients throughout the year. I had to reject many of them. Why?
Building Links the Wrong Way
Most people got link building wrong. They still assumed it’s some kind of manual process where you insert links on third party sites.
All kinds of people wanted me to “build links” for them. I got inquiries by
- local businesses
- other SEO companies
both from Germany or the rest of the world.
There are all kinds of different people approaching me while I can’t handle all of them. I sort out gambling and pron sites from the start and then I have to choose who to work for.
Sometimes I don’t even have the time to reply to those I won’t work for because almost each time I reply I have to write more than one email explaining even more.
That’s why my replies are sometimes pretty to the point or blunt in other words. I won’t tell people straight away that their sites suck. I try though.
What’s Missing? Linkable Assets!
I tell them they have no linkable assets for example. What are linkable assets? Usually it’s something
that gets people to link to it. In most cases it’s content but sometimes it’s more or less than that.
When it comes to content a linkable asset can be
- an original study
- a comprehensive resource
- a step by step tutorial
Yet you don’t always have to create huge content pieces! Less is more!
Sometimes it’s enough to break the news or make something happen.
In many cases something shareable that spreads virally is also a linkable asset. Think of images that are
There are many ways to get engagement and links rather effortlessly. Don’t just rely on “hard work”.
Often I will tell clients what they really need. In most cases it’s not what they are asking me for though.
Most potential clients asked for just one thing over the years: link building.
Based on an understanding of SEO that has been prevalent for the last decades clients assume that links are the most important thing. That’s true and not true at the same time.
Also they by now assume that their onsite SEO is fine.
So called “SEO content” is still considered barely readable fine print in the website footer “for the bots”.
Nobody asks for link magnets for example. Why are people so short-sighted?
This is really surprising as link magnets or rather content creation to get links is what I actually do in the end.
How to Build Muscle
It’s like someone going to a gym to build muscle. It’s not really the goal. Health and fitness is. You want to
- gain strength
- lose weight
- improve your overall fitness
Gaining muscle is only a means to reach those unless you just want to stroke your ego.
Also gaining muscle and likewise gaining links is a result of doing something else, the actual exercise so to say.
So you rather should ask for weight lifting for example.
OK, this is not going to be a gym allegory though. Let me return to the actual talks with a potential client.
This person will ask me to do link building for them. They will show me their site. In many cases the site will have already some SEO best practices considered.
Also most sites already have links these days. Some of them will be unnatural while others may be not targeted enough etc.
Most sites lack linkable assets. They don’t have content that will make actual people link to them.
Some sites also look ugly, are difficult to read or have some other web design issues that go beyond what people usually consider SEO.
Why Do Most Sites Fail at Link Building?
What is it that most sites really need in order to get links or at least for the existing links to work properly?
- a clean readable web design which pleases the eye
- valuable content that is worth getting linked to
- social media presence or better a community of like-minded influencers
- landing pages with proper calls to action reflecting the actual business goals
One day I was approached by a company executive representing a jet charter service. They seemed to be affluent.
- They had a new website already with most SEO basics in place but it wasn’t really clean and readable.
- They had little to no valuable content that was worth being linked to. They had basically zero social media presence.
- They had phone numbers and contact us now calls to action etc. but they had no more specific goals, at least none you could see at once.
I didn’t even tell them the whole story. I just mentioned that they have almost no links besides their own sites linking to them and that they have no linkable assets besides some of their images they were hiding pretty successfully as of now.
I also told them what they need to do: build up actual linkable assets and make the existing assets visible, shareable and linkable.
Additionally I’ve written them what they actually need to do in order to get those. I explained that they need some content that can get linked,
whatever. I mentioned common sense tactics to get the word out like
- blogger outreach
- guest blogging
as far as I remember. Guess what? I haven’t heard from them again after emailing back and forth a few times already.
For many business people it’s actually a shock that their sites need something beyond sales copy and product images to attract customers.
Why Do People Choose the Hard Way?
People assume that all they need are some links that appear in a magical way out of nothing and then customers will flock to their sites.
They don’t want to attract links or get links, they want the links to be “build” by the link builder without touching the site.
Building links in the literal sense of the term does not work anymore like it did in 2005.
Link building has been replaced by content creation and relationship building as the perfect scalable way to get links.
You can still build links by publishing press releases, exchanging links, submitting to directories etc. but all these small time techniques are either outdated or limited in their scope.
No wonder lots of business owners want to acquire links for SEO by directly paying webmasters.
It’s probably one of the few ways of “building links” left.
To attract links your site needs to be attractive, your products and services as well.
That’s the difficult part but that’s what you need. Links are the manifestation of your SEO and content creation efforts. Links are the fruit of the plants you sow. So don’t ask for link building while you need
- content creation and optimization
- blogger and social media outreach
- landing page and conversion optimization
to name just a few. Artificial link building to your unattractive site may only last to the next Google update.
More to Read
Improving the overall user experience and making the user recommend your site for real is the actual goal of SEO these days.
In case you don’t have killer content, social media supporters, clear conversion paths, it’s not (just) link building you want. You want the real thing.
Stay me with me. I elaborate on link building in other articles. I prepared a template for blogger outreach for example. Read more!
I did a lot of outreach over the years and most other people do it wrong in case they do it at all. Make sure to subscribe to my feed. I don’t push my posts on social media all the time.
Do You Need Help Creating Linkable Assets?
OK, I realize this can be quite overwhelming. Not only do you need to optimize your website you also need to create content but not any content!
You need stellar content that can work as an actual linkable asset without the need for link begging.
You are probably just a regular business person taking care of your products and services. You are not a
I get that! I’m just a writer, a bit of a photographer and not a film-maker either. Yet I can and created many linkable assets in the past.
You can just peruse this blog and check out my backlink profile to check out my linkable assets and their impact!
Not to mention the client work I focus on in the last decade! This blog is just a hobby I practice in my spare time!
I can help you create linkable assets among other services I offer! Feel free to reach out!
I’m just an independent consultant. In case you can’t afford an SEO agency I can assist you nonetheless.
Linkable assets – something a human would want to read and pass along. I work in real estate and write pages specific to neighborhoods so out of towners can get a feel for the area.
I would imagine if I were chartering a jet I would want something discussing total cost of the trip of a charter versus other methods that I could forward to the CFO or event planner. Etc.
Ken: Great idea, people new to the city do not have to act like Japanese tourists then.
As for this specific example: Chartering a private jet starts with 2.000 dollars per hour for the smallest plane. The bigger ones may cost 6 or 8k.
So either you are a billionaire who doesn’t care for money or you need to know some details I guess.
Also there is huge potential. Everyone dreams of the “jet set” lifestyle from time to time so there are a lot of ways to make people link to you. Pinterest for example!
Great message, Tad. “You want the real thing.” Yes!! Just like the ‘real people’ who comprise ANY target market..
There are a lot of great tools to complement real marketing..but there are no exceptions to real marketing.
For the past year I have told clients or prospective clients I will not build them links, but I will build content with the goal of generating links.
Takes a certain type of guy to tell somebody what they REALLY need, not what they think they need. So bravo for that. I also think that (like me) a great deal of people are truly confused – they barely understand the concepts of on page vs off page SEO, and link building feels like the latest and greatest and somewhat understandable pill they can take to find Google nirvana. So good SEOs who take the time to actually explain and document what they believe a client should create vs just take their money (or turn up their nose) are truly appreciate. Keep it up – we need it.
As a “link builder” I’ve come to learn very quickly you need much more than just links.
Both on site and off site work together. Even one website can rank high, but if the website is poorly designed, I am sure the website hardly get high conversion rate.
Quality website design as a basis with quality content as a linkable asset should create actual long-term value for an SEO client.
Great info and you talk sense too! Google has cracked down a lot over the years and what used to work 2-3 years ago isn’t as weighted nowadays. There’s nothing better than getting non reciprocal, natural links from other sites and social media sites. These link building SEO programs like sick submitter don’t work as they used to ‘cos Google wised up, there’s not any DIY ways of building 1000’s of links to your site without cheating and that’s what Google are looking for now. They want us all to be natural and not cheat out way to the top.
I’ve got a crappy, not very well updated blogger blog which i’ve never really link built for apart from maybe 5-10 sites right at the start. It’s in the make money online/loopholes niche and for some of my search terms I’m sat at the 1st and 2nd spot in Google for some long tailed keywords Blogger gave me automatically from the articles. The same site has a few #4, #6 & #12 spots and then they start drifting. Considering it’s a PR1 blog it’s still in front of some PR2 & PR4 sites and considering i’ve done pretty much no work at all and it doesn’t even look pretty it still ranked. Wether that’s got something to do with Blogger I don’t know.
I look forward to some of your other articles.
It’s refreshing to read an article with an honest look into the requirements of an effective SEO strategy. Link building is often heralded as the trump card in a web marketing strategy, and while it is a major factor, you are absolutely correct in saying that you can’t jump straight from website creation to link building. A well thought out strategy for content creation creates the assets that will eventually be the building blocks of an effective link building campaign. It’s long work, but if you want to stick to a regime of natural link building, especially with the latest algorithm penalizing unnatural links, its necessary work. It’s important to keep in ming link building is just one part of the ‘SEO Recipe’ but there’s a lot more factors to consider as well.
I totally agree with you that link building is not the be-all of an SEO strategy. I think that a strategy should be holistic in approach and link building is just one of the factors of that approach. One must not forget about quality content because through it, credible back links and authority will be generated.
What we’re dealing with in SEO is a shift in a cultural paradigm–people consume information differently now than they did 50 or even 10 years ago. Therefore, link building is part of a larger strategy, and genuine, high-quality content becomes key. Thanks for pointing that out.
Right on. A site needs something worth linking to, not just any old links. The people who contact you for link building and assume no on-page optimization is needed are probably also the type who want to know exactly how many links and the URLs before they even hire you.
Fortunately I do think more people are starting to get the idea that links should be based on merit.
[…] Tadeusz Szewczyk offers an important reminder that an effective SEO strategy extends well beyond just link building: You Want Link Building? You Need Something Else! […]
I think that when you want to increase your visibility you need to use link build but not just that you also need to use social media, great content, use good keywords… In my opinion I think that when you are creating a blog or a website it needs to be practicable to use and to understand.