Are You Afraid Of Building Links?

When demand for a product or service shifts, marketing responses shift with them. Changing consumer preferences drive what solutions are offered, to whom and for how much so when I saw the following ads, I thought “what the hell is driving this?”










I am the first one to raise my hand and say link building can be tedious, difficult, time consuming and uber boring,  but scary?  I’ve never associated fear with the process of securing links.  I’m not sure why these ads are running (no one from the ad company responded to my email) but apparently someone feels there’s enough demand to warrant an ad campaign targeting people afraid to build links.

Hmmmm.  Afraid to build links…where is this “scary” mindset coming from?


Not too long ago there were some very high-profile outings by major media of mega brands like JCPenney and Overstock.  People lost their jobs, pages lost their rankings and general embarrassment ensued but… did those stories scare people into not wanting to build links on their own?


I wrote the ads off as amusing advertising angles and forgot about them until I was sent this link last week, it’s an outing of a SEO company by the 9To5Mac blog.  Seems the SEO company sent 9To5Mac a basic link request and 9To5Mac decided to use the exchange for attention-bait.  The SEO company asked 9To5 to hyperlink a phrase in one of their recent posts on behalf of a client, they didn’t offer any money for this action nor promised a reciprocal link.  As a matter of fact, the SEO was very clear to say changing the link would be helpful to them and nothing more.  Instead of ignoring the request or saying no, 9To5 Mac decided to publish the email in a blog post and draw parallels between what happened to them with what happened to JCPenney.


Ouch!  Trying to fan the paid link flames when there is no fire is ridiculous and serves no purpose.  I’m not afraid of any aspect of link building but I am afraid of people who spread misinformation for the purpose of creating buzz.

There are a lot of ways to build links, one of the more basic but sound tactics involves sending link building requests.  If you’re not familiar with how this works, here’s a quick outline:


1.  Webmaster A wants to build links, brand and traffic to her website so she identifies and “targets” a handful of sites in her industry who fit the profile.  Because she’s a smart webmaster, she goes after highly visible sites her customers frequent when they’re not buying from her or doing something more mundane like sleeping.   She makes sure those sites aren’t linking to crap and the majority of pages are in the index.  As an added bonus, she checks to see if they are active in social media and their offline community.

2.  Webmaster A also makes note of what the target site publishes and when, she reads their content and becomes familiar with it.  This is what makes Webmaster A so smart, she knows she has to convince the target site to give her a link so she learns everything she can about it.  She even sets a Google alert for her keyword terms so she’s instantly aware when the target site incorporates new content relevant to her interests.

3.  Satisfied the potential partner sites are leaders in her niche, Webmaster A drafts a well-written note to target Webmaster and asks if he would add her link.  She makes a case why her content would be an asset on the target site and how both sites will benefit by the action.

4.  The Webmaster on the target site receives the email and decides what he wants to do.  If the email is convincing and he feels there is value by adding Webmaster A’s link, he’ll make an editorial decision to add her link (content) to his website.

The key term in this process, or any link building tactic sanctioned by the engines is  “editorial decision“.   When a webmaster gives a link or adds content  freely based on it’s merit, that’s an editorial decision.  This is the same concept used by newspapers and magazines to run stories and features, if the piece doesn’t add value, the editor won’t include it.  Presenting content (a link) to someone and asking them to include it doesn’t negate the editorial decision, the editor still has to decide if there’s value before adding it.  There’s no harm, no foul in bringing your content to someone’s attention, that’s called good marketing.

For reference, here are the definitions of ” link schemes” from both Bing and Google (actually, Google has two, here’s the other).  Both are good resources to keep handy and reference if you’re unsure about anything you read in cyberspace.


There’s a fine line between marketing and manipulation, but in this case, outside the fact the SEO company did a lousy job with their initial link request, I don’t see where this remotely resembles what JCPenney did or can be considered a “no-no”.  Do you?


Requesting editorial links via email shouldn’t scare anyone, it’s a sound tactic used by many with great success.  Not only can you secure links but this type of link building can opens doors and stimulate additional promotions and special events between two companies.

Sometimes all you have to do is ask.    :)




  1. Mark says

    hahahaha wow thank you so much for this great find. Completely made my morning. I guess you’ve got to give the add props for trying something new!

  2. Debra says

    Agree with you Frank. The ad just surprised me, I know lots of things are sold on the fear factor but I’ve never seen it around SEO before. First time for everything I guess :)

  3. Frank C says

    The truth is that Google secretly enjoys seeing a high level of what I call “Googlenoia”. It makes their job easier when people are scared of them.

    Some in the SEO industry, ie people who’re selling SEO products, classes, seminars and the like and not actual SEO services, like it as well. As with the ad you presented, it allows them to play on the paranoia to sell their products.

  4. Debra says

    is it OK to offer them payment for their time?

    Good question Miguel, I’ve always wondered why it’s ok to pay a directory for editorial review but not ok to pay a blogger to review your content before placing it on their blogs. Seems to me the end result is the same……

  5. Miguel says

    It disgusts me that journalists and media folks thrive and make their living off of hype. The NY Times has been dumping on our industry for years. All they talk about when it comes to SEO are “black hat” and link building drama stories. So I could not agree more with your take on this whole thing! 9to5Mac, you should be ashamed of yourselves and I hope that the agency AND Adobe sue you for publishing “explicitly” private information from an email.

    Now I have a question for everyone on an issue that is still a very grey area when it comes to link building. So there is the whole debate that no matter how you slice it EVERY link is “paid”. Debra, you mention putting the time in to request a link, study the site, study the niche, set Google alerts, etc. Well all of that costs time, which equals money. Especially when you have to pay a good link builder with experience to do all of this. Or when you develop a great piece of content, that costs alot of money.

    So my question is that if you do custom targeted outreach for link requests, and understanding that it takes the publisher time and resources to make a change to their site and put a link up, is it OK to offer them payment for their time? You are not paying for the link, but rather are paying for their time? And understanding and acknowledging that their time is worth something really helps build the relationship. Google can offer free cell phones and other stuff in exchange for links, and people continue to run contests in exchange for links. Where is the line drawn?

  6. Debra says

    Outings have their place just like everything else IMO but in this case, I think printing private correspondence and then trying to tie a correlation between his situation and JCPenney was just a vain attempt at attention bait. What the 9To5Mac blogger has done is try to hurt someone when all he should have done was call them unprofessional.

    Thanks for being a loyal reader Joe!

  7. Debra says

    I was looking for you on Skype to talk about this article but you weren’t around so I’m glad you stopped here! (I’ll keep looking) :)

    When I read the article initially, the one thing that stood out to me above the rest was the fact the blogger published private email correspondence as a way to make a blog post. After spam reports (the second scurge of the Internet, Adsense is first), I think doing that is just horrible. He could have written the post without naming names so I can’t help but feel there is a deeper agenda here.

  8. Debra says

    Yeah, I agree, the comments were interesting… sometimes I think they’re the best part of an article, you can learn a lot about the public’s attitude from reading them.

    Link requests are a tricky business, you really need to tailor them to the site/industry you’re working in but I always find being professional helps no matter where you’re writing. When someone writes back a couple times with basic questions it would be a clue to me I didn’t do my job from the onset.

  9. Debra says

    I’m flattered you stopped by and commented Will :)

    Maybe it’s because I’ve posed as a rep from the client firm and I’ve posed as the rep from a marketing firm but I’ll tell ya, how you write the initial letter makes all the difference in the world. Being laid back has it’s time and place when but not when you’re making initial contact on behalf of someone else.

  10. Matt Joswick says

    Can’t agree more. This type of thing happens when someone doesn’t think things through.

    Reminds me of the saying, “a stitch is time saves nine” …

  11. Terry Van Horne says

    “Ouch! Trying to fan the paid link flames when there is no fire is ridiculous and serves no purpose. I’m not afraid of any aspect of link building but I am afraid of people who spread misinformation for the purpose of creating buzz.”

    That is exactly what the Blogosphere has come to! Lazy usually woefully ill informed people who will say anything to get attention to their usually less than impressive blogs. Why is engagement down on blogs… well, twitter and Social in difference is a factor but the less than stellar shite that passes for content on most sites is a bigger factor. So the bloggers resort to kicking the guy who is already down ie: SEO. Likely cuz can’t really defend themselves very well…based on “perceived” past performance and a small element within it.

  12. says

    I read the article that you linked to about 9to5 Mac blog. It seems that they don’t understand the world of link building (along with many of the commenters). Perhaps he could have opened with more of a question to see where they stood (or what they understood) about links in general and the link building process.

    The part about “contacting Adobe and not getting a response it odd” as well. They seem to really feel as if something is wrong. Adobe reserves the right to hire people to do strategic link building.

    I am sure it will simmer and no harm will be done in the end. Either that or 9to5 will learn that there is an economy in the link building world and start selling links for profit and acquiring them for better rankings.

  13. says

    Having an SEO company send the link request probably seemed less genuine than if the company had sent the link request themselves.

    Link begging works because people feel uncomfortable saying no, but it’s easier to say no to an outside marketing firm.

    Many small webmasters would probably be flattered to receive attention from a brand that large. Few people feel flattered to receive attention from a marketing firm. :D

  14. Joe Salcedo says

    Perhaps the advertiser read a marketing spiel about “Fear and Greed…” fill-in-the-blanks. And went to work.

    Webmasters who ‘out’ others, for the most part, are that like that person Grandpa always warned us not to be — one who is pointing a finger back at him.

    Nice to be reading your posts again, Debra..always graceful yet frank.

    -Joe (“ian mariano aka the asian real estate boy” from seo community )

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