SEOCreating Win-Win Link Building Scenarios

Creating Win-Win Link Building Scenarios

Many link building efforts fail, usually due to misguided approach of thinking in quantity rather than quality. Applying group dynamics is one way to overcome misaligned incentives and wasted effort. Here’s how to motivate linkers and link builders.


Like many in the SEO community, the closing of Yahoo Site Explorer was a difficult pill to swallow. YSE was one of the most powerful tools in helping search experts to deconstruct the most important factors of an increasingly complex algorithm.

For those of us who have spent the past several years using YSE to conduct competitive analyses, a few indefatigable qualities dominate a page’s likelihood to rank highly in search engines:

  • Quality of the site linking.
  • Quality of the page linking.
  • Anchor text linking.
  • Thematic relevance of the linking site.

Given that this information isn’t new in search circles, why are many marketers still struggling to generate the incoming links required to succeed?

Why So Many Link Building Efforts Fail

Failed link building efforts typically occur for one of two reasons:

  • Links were not obtained.
  • Only low quality links were generated (such comment, nofollow, and low quality directory links).

The root of many failed link building campaigns usually stems from a misguided approach. Too often, companies engage in commoditized link building, such as hiring an SEO firm for (X) number of links per month. While the logic is sound, the output can be frequently less than desired because the vendor now has a quota objective as opposed to a performance objective.

If we know (and we do) that link building is an effort in quality over quantity, why have we become so hell-bent on link numbers?

To overcome these misaligned incentives, it becomes critical to rethink link building activities. One of the best ways to do this is to apply group dynamics to the problem.

Make Link Building a Win-Win

Historically speaking, three of the most effective link building mechanisms all involve some principal of a win-win relationship. In each of these cases, the person giving the link actually receives a tangible benefit from the transaction:

  • Free tools: The benefit of the supporting this tool is less financial and more psychic in nature as the linker has an incentive to contribute to its long-term health (assuming it provides strong value).
  • Guest blogging: This provides traffic and worthwhile content for the blog host.
  • Link purchases: The linker receives immediate financial benefit for providing the link. (Important note: this is against Google Webmaster Guidelines and, in rare cases, can result in website penalties or bans)

These tactics can also be used in unison, as guest blogging can be a fantastic way to drive links and promote the creation of a new tool.

With these ideas in mind, the process of link building fundamentally shifts to one that is rooted in creating means the linker, not the transactional outcome of acquiring links.

Model the Benefit of a Top Ranking, Then Offer Incentives

Now that we’ve established the strategy and tactical methods required for effective link building, it’s important to tap a motivated individual within an organization (or agency) to execute properly.

One of the most powerful methods of achieving the results is to incentivize ranking for specific keywords. Paid incentives are a powerful way to reach ranking goals, and it’s frequently helpful to create payout phases such as the following:

  • Payout 1: When keyword ranks on Page 2 of Google
  • Payout 2: When keyword ranks on Page 1 of Google
  • Payout 3: When keyword ranks in top 5 of Google
  • Payout 4: When keyword ranks No. 1 on Google

To answer the question of “how much?” it is first critical to understand the impact of that keyword ranking number one on Google.

To derive this value, you will need:

  • Total monthly volume (exact match) of the keyword in Google AdWords.
  • The average value ($) of an expected conversion.
  • Click through rate for each position.

Next, multiply the monthly search volume by the expected CTR and this should yield a good estimated traffic result based on the goal position. Now, multiply that times a benchmark conversion rate of 1.5 percent to establish potential sales driven from the keyword rank. This should provide a strong conceptualization of the revenue that will be driven from this keyword ranking and starting point for bonusing effective implementation.


Effective link building only works with a strong understanding of the types of link required to succeed and the proper means to motivate your linkers and link builders. The best knowledge in the world is useless without a scalable way to grow.


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