The search industry has lost a legend.
Eric Ward, who many knew as the link building pioneer “Link Moses” and taught so much to so many, died Monday, October 16. He was 58 years old.
Ward was, in my mind (and the minds of many in this industry) synonymous with link building. For many, he was the expert in all things link building.
While most SEO practitioners approached link building as a way to manipulate Google’s search algorithms, Ward always viewed link building in a different light. He thought the purpose of building links was to promote your website – not to game an algorithm.
I first got to know Eric when he began writing for Search Engine Watch (for the second time) in 2012. In fact, as he explained to me via email, that is exactly the type of column he wanted to write:
“I would very much like the theme of my columns to be about linking strategies that are not 100% about getting to the top of Google. While search rank will be a core element of what I discuss, I’d like to focus on multiple strategies. Links for search engines, and links that help you outside of the search engines. The concept that some call ‘Link Marketing’ is where people need to be increasing their activity and creativity, as being able to rely on Google’s algorithm alone is not wise, as Panda showed.”
The first post he submitted to me, and which very much sums up his history with link building and SEO dating back to 1994, was titled: Link for People, Not Search Engines.
Go read it.
In fact, if you haven’t read anything by Eric Ward before, do yourself a favor and do so today. Read him on Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
Or read some of his greatest hits on EricWard.com.
The Search Industry Remembers Eric Ward
This news left everyone who knew him shocked and saddened. He was a respected and influential member of the search community who helped so many people – and he will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
I asked the SEJ community for their memories of Eric. Here are some of those, as well as reaction from Facebook and Twitter:
“Eric Ward was a friend. We’d catch up a couple times a year and what always came through was his humility, his genuineness and his openness. Our relationship began about 18 years ago when I hired him for some link building consulting work. After that we stayed in touch. He gave me feedback on my books. I helped him with questions he had as best I could. He was foundational in our industry, being one of the first of the rational voices to normalize what we did, and he was easily one of our early industry’s most influential people. You’d walk into a conference and see Eric surrounded by a crowd of people answering questions as long as people stayed. He was a genuine gent. Helpful, friendly and kind. It’s heartbreaking that he is gone so young. We’ll always remember you Eric; you helped so many of us reach our positions today. I simply cannot process this as being real. Sigh.” (via Facebook)
I had the pleasure to speak with Eric on several panels in the past on link building. Like many others, he was an inspiration to me early on. One thing I always enjoyed about Eric was that he was one of the first people I knew in search who – even at the tipping point of link buying and selling (pre-Panda) – was always pushing organic outreach and PR-driven linking. Link Moses has left quite a legacy behind, and it’s sad to lose him. I wish the best for his family through this tragedy.
Beau M. Pedraza:
“Early in my career, I was a black-hatter in beauty and cosmetic blogging. Eric would provide insights into gaining links from solid content, outreach, and acquiring relevant links and I would use it to promote products (and those that didn’t link out, I’d remove from the page and seek out other products to get their links). I didn’t make a ton of money, but that small influx of affiliate revenue helped me pay rent and cover the then-antiquated GI Bill’s tuition gap while at University of Texas.
Over time, I went mainstream gray and the same rules applied, just with a different-but-similar approach. I always wish I could have met him and thanked him for sparking my curiosity and helping me through my career.”
“I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Eric Ward many years ago at Pubcon. I recall his grace and kindness. I will never forget how much I enjoyed listening to his presentation. It was an honor to have known him.”
“The grandfather of link building, before link building was a thing. One of the influencers in SEO when I was just starting out. May you rest In peace.” (via Facebook)
“Sad day for the SEO industry, with it losing one of the most brilliant minds in legit hardcore link building (a true master of the craft). Eric Ward was one of the few people who genuinely influenced my career/approach to SEO.
Thanks, Eric. For the generosity. For all the things I’ve learned from you (and for showing some of the things I can do to your Link Moses subscribers). You will certainly be missed.” (via Facebook)
John Leo Weber:
“Eric had the only industry related newsletter that I actually looked forward to reading every month.”
“Like most of us, Eric made a huge impact on me early in my career by helping me make sense of link building. He was always incredibly kind, helpful, and will be greatly missed.”
“Met him at conferences, always very kind and ready for questions. What a shock! RIP.”
Eric Ward was legend, the link in link building. He knew was about the right connections. Taught many. Sad he’s gone https://t.co/Le40AVb8PY
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 19, 2017
Heartbreaking. @ericward was one of my mentors in SEO. Had so many wonderful conversations with him over the years… https://t.co/LYzGrOcY2A
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) October 18, 2017
Saddened about @ericward. He was our mentor. Without his help @pageonepower could not have happened. He gave us the bones of linkbuilding.
— Jonathan Ball (@linkbuildingjon) October 19, 2017
Crushed. Eric Ward was a true link building OG.
Learned so much from Eric…he did a live video call just a few weeks ago and was so happy.
— Britney Muller (@BritneyMuller) October 19, 2017
🙁 RT @dannysullivan: Eric Ward was legend, the link in link building. He knew was about the right connections. Taught many. Sad he’s gone
— Matt Craine (@mattcraine) October 19, 2017
Heartbroken to hear of the passing of Eric Ward. He was such a nice man and SEO legend. Condolences to his family.
— Adam Heitzman (@AdamHeitzman) October 19, 2017
You can view Eric’s obituary here.