If you offer link building as a service, there are a few questions you hear over and over. They are the questions which, like a hypnotic suggestion, trigger an almost automated response. But it doesn’t happen because you’re a jerk. Well, probably not anyway. It happens because you’ve just said it so many times before that it’s become second nature.
It’s not that they are “bad” or “stupid” questions. At all. They are in many ways perfectly reasonable questions asked by intelligent, responsible people. Most of the time. Occasionally they come from asshats. The issue is not the questions themselves, or even necessarily the person behind it. The issue is that there is still such a pervasive misconception about the entire process.
I’m a geek and I know it. I know that most people don’t understand what it is I do. And I do get excited when I see main stream and pop culture references to ranking in Google or starting an online business. But I also often hear things misrepresented or spoken of in such vague terms it mystifies search engine rankings as almost a black magic. I wish it was that simple. I wish 2 candles, fairy dust and a chicken bone could help me get you ranked. So here’s hoping to dispel some misconceptions.
How Many Links Does It Take to Get to the Front Page of Google?
As many licks as it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. Or 25 million. Or 10. I’m not really sure. The fact is it’s going to be different. For every site. For every keyword. Some phrases you can rank for without any back links to the page. Usually it’s a really long and random phrase. But it happens. For major competitive keywords it could take hundreds. Or 10. I’m not really sure. Until I do some research anyway and have an idea of what you have and what we’re up against. It’s all going to depend on the competition for the keywords and the quality of the links.
The value of a link is determined by several different factors. I’m not going to go into them right now. These guys have done a pretty good job. Simply put, there are a ton of different attributes of the link to consider. Some are positive and some are negative, sometimes they outweigh each other or and sometimes they balance each other out, but together they affect the overall value.
All of those variables mean that there are lame links and amazing links and as many shades of gray in between as a hexadecimal chart can contain. The number of links it takes is not really a number at all; it is a powerful concoction of trust and votes and about 198 other indicators that determine how much credibility and value your site has on any given subject. You’ll get to the front page when acquire enough authority that Google determines you are the most credible, relevant result for your keywords.
Why Can’t You Just Build Links to My Homepage?
Um, yeah. Listen. Your home page is nice and all and I can get SOME links to it…but if you want really powerful links you’re going to need to go the extra distance one way or another. If you want great links to your home page then there needs to be something phenomenal going on. Whether it’s a major promotion, a contest, charity work, news, expert status any of that we can work with. But the operative word is work. Link building needs to be embraced as a larger part of a marketing campaign and not simply a cheap fix. With creative strategic marketing initiatives, link building gets a lot easier. It becomes about honestly promoting the exceptional as opposed to smoke and mirrors.
Getting great links requires time and skill. Turning to a link monkey saying “bring me links and I will give you a banana” is only going to end in a bunch of lame links and a banana shortage. There should be some great content worth promoting. And the site needs to look professional. Even the best of link builders will struggle working with a site that looks like it came out of the link monkey.
I’m a PR 3 and want to be a PR 5, how many links will that take?
Sigh. Let’s start over. When you say PR 3 you’re referring to the green bar right? Yeah I thought so, just checking. Ok. The thing is Toolbar Page Rank confuses a lot of people. They think, why would Google tell me I’m a PR 3 if they didn’t’ mean it? For the same reason they will NOT accurately show you your back links.
They don’t want to be manipulated. In the past Search Engines were burned by their days of wearing their PR on their sleeve. High PR sites sold their page rank power to the highest bidder. In an effort to thwart that they developed another system of allocating page rank and this time they didn’t show us all their cards. Your TBR may be a small reflection of the relative power of your site but it is not, in any way an indicator of where you will rank in the SERPS. For any search if you look for it, you’ll discover a site with a TBR 3 out-ranking a site with a TBR 5. Try not to get too engrossed in the green herring. It’s only a distraction. Focus on building good quality links to help your pages rank. Not just you’re PageRank.
When Are We Done With This Link Building thing?
Never. Just…never. Sorry. It’s not a phase it’s not a short term fix it’s a long term process. You may be able to reduce your link building efforts when you’ve reached a level where people view you as an authority and are actively pursuing your content or making unsolicited references to your site. But it takes time to reach that level. It takes a lot of work, networking, promotion, creation and branding.
So if you’re hoping I’ll say about 6 months of this should get you where you want to be, I’m sorry I’m just not going to. Plus there are these 2 things to think about. First, rising too fast can lead to a quick, steep fall. And second, if you stop, don’t think for a moment the people around you will. If you decide to take a nap in this race, you’re going to get passed. That’s just how the game is played.
How many links can you get me for $X
My friend Todd has a great answer for this, he says:
“I can build you 1000 links that do nothing to improve your rankings or 1 that does…which do you prefer?”
Ok, I know you won’t be happy with one link. That’s not really the point. It’s about recognizing the difference between quality and quantity. I totally understand the business side of it. You’re investing money; you want a ball park idea of what you can expect for it. That makes perfect sense. But in this business, a high number of links doesn’t necessarily directly correlate with a high ROI. It’s also going to depend largely on the kind of link building you want done.
Different methods yield different results. If you’re really concerned with numbers we can do what we have to do to meet your monthly quota. Or we can take the time to put in the effort it takes to get the good links. I’ve seen the “numbers guys” get it in their heads that they have to deliver some neat, even numbered package each month. But that mentality doesn’t get nuance, it doesn’t process quality. It doesn’t really get link building. I promise I’m not trying to be elusive or unreasonable. I don’t want you to throw your link building budget away on something that isn’t working. But let’s come up with a measurement that is truly significant to your goals and not a pretense based on an arbitrary number.
There are a ton of other questions that didn’t make this list that are based on old ideas of what link building is. If you really want to see results though, the kind of link building you need is a lot more intensive and comprehensive than just a brief flirtation with attracting links. It’s about restructuring your entire understanding of how link building fits into your over all marketing plan and how it becomes a long-term process. In today’s world, it’s a hand and hand, mind to mind collaboration that represents a true and clear vision of you want to be on the web.