Over on SearchEngineWatch Eric Ward, penned an post that gives website owners advice about how to find a link builder who knows what they’re doing: Five Questions A Good Link Builder Should Be Able To Answer.
Three of the questions (and answers) are great. The first, and most important question, unfortunately, is real dead wrong (as anyone burned by Penguin or Google’s “unnatural link profile” warning will tell you):
For those looking to hire a link builder, be it in-house or via an agency, I feel pretty confident that you can identify the ability and savvy of a link builder with just five questions. Here they are.
1. I have a site about [insert topic]. Give me an example of a link target site for you feel will help my search rank, one that would help my click traffic, and one that would help my company reputation.
If they can’t differentiate between these three types of links, they won’t be effective as a link builder for your site.
If you’re a business owner with a website, this question is confusing. What is “search rank” verses “click traffic?”
By “search rank” Mr. Ward means those links that help your site to rank better. Technically, these are called “follow” links as opposed to “no-follow” links*. Mr. Ward is also trying to say something about the domain authority of the “target site” (the site that is linking to your site).
Getting technical, “follow” links improve the “authority” of your domain and that domain authority (estimated by a tool such as OSE) is a measure of your site’s ranking power. Ideally you’d like sites with higher authority than yours to link to you, but equally of not more important variable is the relevance & quality of the “target” site to yours. Google will definitely see a link from a non-relevant page as suspect now matter how high its authority.
Second — what doesn’t Mr. Ward mean by “click traffic?” What I think he means are those links that bring traffic to your site, and this is where his advice goes off the rails.
The Single Most Important Question You Need to Ask Your Link Builder
The single most important question to ask is “How do you think about links, i.e., why do we need them?” If the potential link builder thinks that some links will improve a site’s overall traffic by increasing a search traffic through ranking and some other links will be more valuable to a site because people will click on the link and come to the site (“click traffic”), he or she has immediately taken a misstep.
Thinking about links solely terms of “search rank” is exactly what puts us in the danger zone, i.e., thinking about the links that way makes the link be about “us” (my business, my profits, my rankings) and not about our potential customers, the people we’re trying to help.
I’ve been helping website owners who received ‘unnatural link warnings” through their Google Webmaster Tools account and who got hit by Penguin, and they “think” they got into trouble because of HOW they built links. No — they got into trouble because of how they THOUGHT about links:
When you create a link that serves your potential customer, what you’re doing is creating an opportunity (i.e., by way of a link) to bring traffic to your site by identifying a group of people out there (on another site or blog) who have a need and drawing their attention to something that can help them. THIS IS THE ONLY PURPOSE OF A LINK (in the eyes and guidelines of Google & Bing).
Until people get that, they’re going to start buying them, participating in link networks that “simulate” a natural link profile (rather than actually doing something natural), creating spammy comments, & creating links in irrelevant (or marginally relevant) directories.
“Search rank” needs (your needs) will be meet when you solve the “click traffic” problem (i.e., meeting your potential customer’s needs). If you separate this, half the time you’ll be putting the cart before the horse and risk violating a search engine’s guidelines while you’re at it.
© 2012, Words Words SEO Words
*As an aside, SEOMoz has done general regression modeling of Google’s (suspected) ranking factors and they found a correlation between how well a site ranks and “no-follow” links, so that’s interesting, i.e., while Google doesn’t count no-follow links (they say) in their link-based ranking algorithms, are they still using them in another way? I’ll often comment extensively on high profile blogs for clients, and I don’t care that the link is no follow.
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