To continue the theme of interviews around SEO best practise, we’ve discussed how to analyse your site architecture by interviewing Dan Sharp introducing the tool, Screaming Frog, and moved onto applying keyword research for your search strategy with an interview with Nick Eubanks and his excellent online course – how to master keyword research in 7 days.
This interview focuses on the art of link building and I am pleased to introduce Paddy Moogan author of http://www.linkbuildingbook.com/ and seasoned SEO who has worked for Distilled and more recently co-founded digital marketing agency, Aira.net
Link Building is a fundamental building block for any successful strategy and a technique that continues to change and modify the impact it has in driving quantitative support to driving business objectives. This view is supported by a recent article from searchenginewatch.com emphasising the importance of links still being the strongest signal Google considers especially in supporting traffic growth and the growth of content marketing.
In this interview Paddy gives us an inside look into what goes into planning a link building strategy, ensuring your business is playing to their strengths and USPs, How to get buy-in and budget in-house for link building initiatives, As well as some essential advice to newbies moving into digital and what to read
Tell us a little about Paddy…
I’m the co-founder of Aira, a digital marketing agency based in the UK. I’ve been working in digital since around 2004 when I was meant to be studying for a Law degree and quickly got distracted by the lure of building my own websites and earning money from them via AdSense. Since then I’ve worked at two different agencies, most recently I was VP London at Distilled before leaving to set up on my own.
When did your digital career start?
I was bored one day at University and also had no money. So a mate and I decided to start selling DVDs on eBay – they weren’t the most legit DVDs but they looked great and we made a nice profit on them. From here I started to Google around for tips on making more money via eBay and stumbled across a forum that talked about this a lot. The more I read, the more I learned about Google AdSense and affiliate marketing, which seemed a lot easier and more scalable than selling DVDs on eBay! So I started to build websites (I’d originally learned to code when I was about 14 so it wasn’t hard to pick it back up) and earning a bit of money here and there. When I left Uni I realised that SEO was a proper job and found a local company who took a chance and hired me.
Aira.net – can you provide us some insights into the company?
We’re a pretty new company, formed at the start of 2015 and I run it alongside my co-founder, Matt Beswick who I’ve known for a few years. We do SEO, PPC, web design and development and mainly work in the UK and US. We’re a team of five, about to be six in March and have big plans and ambitions J
You’ve carved out a reputation as one of the go-to authorities for mastering the practise of Link-Building – could you provide us with a brief overview of the tactic and the importance it provides to a company?
Link building is the practice of acquiring links to your website with the goal of getting traffic via that link and also ranking higher in organic search results. Things have changed a lot over the years which means that a lot of my current activity is around content based link building which comes from the idea that you need to deserve links. Up until a few years ago, various link building tactics were easy to scale but weren’t really the type of links that Google wanted to reward. But they worked so SEOs pursued them, but when Penguin came along in 2012, these tactics stopped being effective for long-term business growth online.
You recently published a book, http://www.linkbuildingbook.com/ – Is this book aimed at freelancers, agencies and client side?
I’ve tried to make sure there is content for all of these but if I’m honest, my agency background influences me a lot so it’s naturally slanted towards that. However I’ve had great feedback from freelancers, business owners and client side SEOs too who have all taken something from the book.
The art of creating a link building strategy can seem daunting with the amount of how to guides, planners and endless whitepapers – how would you recommend someone plan a link building strategy and what are the key things to report on performance
Planning a link building strategy starts with your business goals. A business goal isn’t – “build 100 links a month” or “increase Domain Authority to 75”. These metrics don’t pay the bills so they are pretty useful when it comes to a link building strategy. Once you’ve established your goals, you need to identify your target market and where they are active online, as well as how they typically find you. From here you need to think about your company USPs and what makes you deserve to get links. If you have nothing that makes you link worthy, then you’re going to have a very tough time!
After this, you need to find the influencers in your industry who may be able to give you links and send you traffic – but you need to deserve their attention which may be through some form of great content.
A combination of your business goals, USPs, why you deserve links, your customer profile and list of influencers, you have the basis of a link building strategy.
In terms of measuring performance, this comes back to your business goals. These are the bottom line and whilst link building may not directly influence them, they most likely do indirectly. So you need to make sure that all elements of your buying process are being measured. For example, you may want to report on traffic that has been generated by a link that you’ve placed and what that traffic did when they arrived at your website.
Getting buy-in and budget in-house for link building initiatives can prove difficult to get the C-suite to understand the requirements – do you have any recommendations in the best way to explain these requirements to a non-digital board of directors/senior management?
I tend to find that showing examples of what other companies are doing can help make it clearer what you’re trying to do. If you can find examples from close competitors, even better because this plays on the ego of the c-suite who don’t want to be seen as missing a trick or being left behind. At some point, you also need to try and tie things back to what the c-suite care about and make sure that you’re addressing this up front.
What link building tools are top of your list to monitor, manage and conduct a link building strategy?
BuzzStream. It is basically a CRM system for link building and PR and manages the process really well, particularly if you have several people working on multiple campaigns. If you’re a solo link builder, then it may be slight overkill and a simple Excel file will work just fine.
Mobile continues to become a prominent channel for digital organisations. What key insights could you provide when focusing on link building opportunities for mobile and to the techniques differ?
I’m not sure that the approach differs that much when it comes to mobile, although I’d agree that it’s getting more and more attention and some said that 2014 was finally the year of the mobile because of the growth of smartphone sales and mobile searches. I think when it comes to link building, the approach is the same in that you want to create great content that deserves links.
The one key difference that you need to remember is that a lot of the users who view your content will do so on their smartphone or tablet, so the content needs to function correctly on those devices. The content also needs to be shareable on those devices easily. My old boss, Will at Distilled, talked about this topic at his SearchLove talk in 2014 which I’d recommend you take a look at.
Knowing what to monitor and measure seems to be a common theme as to justify time and effort spent on link building initiatives – could you provide a dashboard of metrics a link building strategy should include?
It really depends on what the business is trying to get from the link building activity. In general though, I’d focus on the following metrics:
- Traffic sent via a link
- What that traffic does – bounces, time on site, loyalty and conversion
- Quality of links built – I would keep an eye on things like traffic sent and domain authority
- Assisted conversions – it isn’t always 100% accurate, but you can get an idea of whether a certain piece of content assisted in the conversion process. So if you get links to a content piece, you can use this as a metric
Can we see you at any speaking events in 2015?
I have a few that I’m speaking to at the moment but the only one confirmed right now is Emerce in Amsterdam in April.
Any advice for a newbies moving into digital?
- Signup for DistilledU, an online SEO training platform which is really good for newbies
- Read as much as you can but don’t believe everything you read
- Test as much as you can for yourself
- Build something online – either a website or a social media account that isn’t ourely personal. See how it feels to work on your own stuff and you’ll learn a lot very quickly, as well as getting an understanding of what is involved in making changes
- Go to free networking events and try to get out of your comfort zone to meet people
What’s on your reading list?
In terms of online blogs, I read a few sites regularly:
A few books I’ve read recently that I’d recommend:
- Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works
- The Ultimate Sales Machine
- How Google Works
- Pitch Anything
- The Hard Thing about Hard Things