Link Building: Let's Start With 50 Links |

Link Building: Let's Start With 50 Links

By Tad Chef / May 21, 2009

For a few months now my work consists mainly of business blogging. I do less and less conventional client SEO work like keyword research or link building. This is quite a change as I’ve been a full time search engine optimizer and SEO consultant for several years in a row. Thus I still get SEO related inquiries and offers.

By now many people know what SEO is about, at least superficially. This is often more of an issue than a help though. Some people have some distorted preconceptions as what SEO is about and how it works.

This week an inquiry was about link building for a travel website. I won’t disclose which site or destination it was about but it’s one of the most popular and very competitive ones. The email asked for link building and ended with the sentence “let’s start with 50 links”.

So this website owner what SEO is about and that you need links for it. As the niche he’s in he assumes that he needs “many links” 50 “for a start”. To some extent he’s right. To reach better results in a highly competitive niche you need to do more about it.

Let’s compare links to books though. Imagine a teenager approaching you who wants to get educated in SEO (or whatever s/he’s interested in). Assuming that you have to read much to get a decent education she wants to start with 50 books about this subject.

You already sense that this might not be the best approach to get a good education in a particular subject. You certainly would try to find 5 books instead

  • which cover the most common aspects of the subject
  • are easiest to grasp and memorize
  • where the author has the most renown and authority


Reading 50 books just for the sheer number would be no real option for you. In SEO and link building it’s very similar. You don’t aim for a specific number of links as a goal. Also the end is not reading 50 books, but reading the books you really need. Likewise in SEO it’s enough to get 3 or 5 links instead of 50 and then btw. you get 50 links anyways or rather 200 links.

How that? Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of automated SEO scheme?

Not at all. Let’s take an example closest to home. Unless you’re the first time on SEOptimise you probably already have noticed some of the pillar content we offer. We have more than a dozen of top 30 lists (sometimes with 25 items, sometimes 40 it doesn’t matter here) loaded with resources you can find elsewhere. Checking the URLs of these lists with the Yahoo backlink check you’ll notice that almost each one of them has more than 200 backlinks in a matter of days after their respective publications.

A closer look shows that most of the links are of low value like social media sites you often never have heard of, all kinds of aggregators or even scraper blogs but there is a 2/20/200 rule.

We get maybe 2 authority links, 20 good (often editorial) links and 200+ links overall per resource post.

Researching and writing such a list usually takes a few hours. Now compare this with the 50 links you’d need to “build”. Even the lowest quality links added manually take more time than that. So either you use some automated scripts or you have to

  • add quick and dirty nonsense comments to so called “dofollow blogs”
  • link the client on “your network” or in other words your link farm of 50 sites
  • add links to 50 directories, with almost the same descriptions and using some kind of software

many of these links will end up deleted, nofollow or low quality, some of them will even be a potential bad neighborhood.

Some of these problems also arise with the natural method cited above but the tedious link building method doesn’t yield authority links.

There are at least three kinds of links important for SEO purposes as of now:

  1. authority links – Links on old established site that are trusted resources both for Google as well as its users, this trust gets inherited
  2. PageRank links – links from sites or pages with a high Google PageRank, those get crawled more often
  3. keyword links – those links can still prople your rankings quite well

Of course the best link encompasses all three factors. The “let’s start with 50 links” tactic won’t include neither authority links nor editorial ones. You only get links you can get by your own direct action like submitting, paying or asking for them. Remember that bad links can also become a signal for Google that your site is of low quality yourself.

The SEOptimise resources lists get in most cases a link from Search Engine Land in one of their daily collections. Also they usually perform as well on Sphinn. So we almost certainly get these two authority links. The Search Engine Land link alone spawns a proliferation of the link to all kinds of sites that cite or feature the same links. In most cases the list post gets bookmarked a lot on Delicious.

Delicious bookmarks often end up on blogs in daily or weekly bookmarks lists. Also as we link out to 30 resources, many of them blogs allowing pingbacks we get “reciprocal links” this way. These two ways of getting links often account for 20 good links.

Sadly I’m often not even able to reply to all inquiries due to limited time resources. This time I hopefully can feed two birds with one piece of bread (as I don’t kill birds with stones like the saying suggests). So in case you inquire for SEO services with me, ask for the one book that says it all, or two or three but don’t ask for 50 books. I can’t give them to you. Others can but I doubt that their tactics will elevate your site in the manner you want it too.

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