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March 12, 2012

Link Building Q&A with Jon and Zach Ball

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Brothers Jon and Zach Ball are power duo in SEO with a passion for tailor-made link building campaigns. The pair and their company Page One Power have teamed up with SES New York to sponsor a session that promises “No BS Link Building for E-Commerce Sites.” With the conference around the corner, I posed questions to Jon and Zach to see what sure-fire link building tactics are working for their clients. Plus, with all the buzz around Pinterest, I figured we’d see what Jon, an avid photographer, had to offer as far as link building with the Internet’s new favorite toy.

The session description says the effectiveness of old school link building strategies is declining. Which strategies are those?

SESNY '12

Many old tried-and-true link building strategies are pretty much worthless now. Activities like article marketing on article directory sites, buying footer links, and buying into questionable blog networks with exact anchor text are examples of strategies that are no longer effective.

Basically, just avoid anything that is obvious spam. A rule of thumb I like to use is this: if it looks like spam to you, it is spam to Google. With the push of Google to personalized search results, and the rising importance of social media, the old mantra “content is king” has never been more relevant.

What type of content is finding good link building success today (generally, not for any particular industry)? There was a major infographic boom. Is it seeing a plateau or drop?

The most effective, longest lasting, and most exciting type of link building is the concept of becoming the “expert” in your industry because people will freely give links to people that are considered experts. Most e-commerce sites are unknown and have no industry authority. That makes the job of building good links to their site nearly impossible. Because of this, we often begin a new link building project with a comprehensive strategy to build their industry authority. This usually involves blogging, social media, and outreach. Once a site has some authority and a reputation as an expert the link building is much, much easier.

Infographics are difficult to get traction with because a lot of site owners/bloggers know the game and hesitate to post them. Everyone hopes that their infographic will go viral, but the fact is that very, very few go viral. Most infographics get a few links and then disappear. This is a very compelling reason to become an expert with a social media following. Infographics, or any content that you want to publish, is much easier to get published if it comes from an industry expert rather than someone who in unknown.


Jon and Zach Ball, Page One PowerWhat’s different about link building for e-commerce sites? What type of content is working for building links in this industry?

Building links for e-commerce is different only because they have been, and always will be, much more difficult to build links for. Pages of products don’t attract natural links. Therefore, the e-commerce site owner has to get really creative to drive links to his or her site.

How-to’s, complete guides, reviews, and other relevant informational content is always good for a link. In order to place your content on great sites, though, you need to have a record of success and some social media muscle to promote that content. Once again, this is why becoming the expert in your industry is valuable.

In creating content for link building, what do you recommend regarding targeting new social platforms? Better not to spend energy on networks that might be a flash in the pan, or is it good to get in early when competition is low?

Building a social media following is one of the most important pieces to being successful in the long run. The contacts that you make in the social space are 100 times more likely to host your content, give you blogroll links, suggest your site, and click the like button. I don’t really follow the new social platforms until they become viable (like Pinterest), at which point I will suggest that my clients build a following on it.

Speaking of the hot, new thing, any pointers for link building with Pinterest?

Pinterest is based on imaging. Therefore, in order to get “pinned” you’ll need excellent quality images. I suggest hiring a photographer to shoot your product in interesting ways. Let a creative person do their creative thing. Once again, content is king and photographic content rules all. So don’t skimp on the photography. I was a professional photographer for 12 years and I know that if an e-commerce site had called me and said that they wanted unique images of their product in action or just cool images of their product I would have been so happy to pour my heart and soul into that project. Believe me, there are thousands of photographers out there who are hungry for work, and willing to pour their best energy into your project.

Jon and Zach’s company is Page One Power.

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10 responses to “Link Building Q&A with Jon and Zach Ball”

  1. jakeSEO writes:

    If infographics are difficult to get backlinks from, then why so much hype?

  2. Joel Schwartz writes:

    I agree that article marketing has lost its value and footer links has become the trademark of overseas link spammers, however with all due respect to the Ball brothers, becoming the “expert” in your industry as a first step towards successful link building, in real life is just not practical, as its nearly impossible in most cases to take over authority in your industry by blogging and socializing or by any other strategy “comprehensive” as it may be will get you so much authority and recognition but in most cases will gain you NO links

    I put a lot of effort into building authority and reputation to my clients in their respective industries as a part of the overall SEO mission which helps tremendously (even with links, when I beg nicely…) but what I get most of it is emails asking me for a 2 or 3 way link exchange with spammy sites because somehow they found my site to be related to theirs…

    Spam, whatever form they come in is out and worthless, but other then that link building has not changed much for me, doing what I always did has been working great for me and I refuse to believe otherwise.

  3. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Ahhh. Thanks, Joel. I appreciate your added perspective and insight from the front lines. Would you share a few pieces of advice on what works for you with regards to link building?

  4. Joel Schwartz writes:

    Sure Virginia, I would be glad to. (maybe convert it to a post, hence my link building skills…, Sneaky ;) )

    So what works for me with regards to link building?

    One method I’ve been pretty much successful with is targeting existing customers, they know us (the site in question) they trust us and more times then not I’ve been lucky to get juicy links from them.

    Next, I’ve been doing a lot of guest blogging (oldie but goodie) on subject related sites, I find that blog owners will think twice about turning down a good related post, having said that, I tend to avoid blogs with too many outbound links.

    Over the years I also had luck finding good links by studying competitors, often times I surprised myself how really easy it was, between so many competitors and so many links there has always been something in store for me too

    Another link I like are from hot-on-the subject forums, if I can participate on a regular basis and contribute something decent, I’ll go for it and have the link as my signature which BTW are more likely to be dofollow then blog comments which I really dislike as its generally where pimple brained spammers let their imaginations run wild

    I also still believe that there is some value left to nofollow links, think otherwise? I’ve proven it too many times.

    Other then that I’ve NEVER had much success with emails and approaching otherwise strangers, but that’s probably because I’m not much of a people person and cold calling is definitely not one of my many many skills :) but the results I’ve obtained by applying these link methods (along with on-site optimization of course) were amazing.

  5. Jon Ball writes:

    When I speak of becoming an authority I mean someone who has a traceable lineage online. When we do outreach (particularly outreach for guest posting) its extremely difficult when the author doesn’t have a blog, facebook page or twitter presence to support their offer to place content. As a blogger myself when I get a request to link I always click the link to see who is asking. That is the first “smell test” that I conduct. Therefore, if a link building client doesn’t have anyone saying anything online we first address that (along with other link building strategies) to ensure higher levels of success all along the way.

  6. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Thanks for the added context, Jon. Understandably, there’s a hierarchy to link building efforts, and a developed web presence would certainly make up a solid foundation.

  7. Thomas writes:

    Becoming an authority in your niche can be impossible. I have a couple of car related blogs. Sure I update them, push them through social media…and build links.

    But I will never truly become an “expert” there is no way I can compete with the likes of KBB, Edmunds, Motor Trend, ect. So its a double edged sword.

    1)My site is buried behind these large authoratative websites
    2)People will not find me in the search results without tons of links

    So what can the little guy do to build links?

  8. Virginia Nussey writes:

    It’s a challenge, Thomas. I think if you only put your resources into one link building tactic, it should be guest blogging. You gain so much from it, from links to relationships, the latter of which could pay off in countless, unexpected ways.

  9. Jon Ball writes:

    Guest posting is good, but can be a massively time intensive project. I would recommend a solid going over of your competitors link profiles to get some ideas. KBB, Edmunds and Motor Trend are formidable competitors but they had to build links just like you need to.

    From a content perspective you can produce your own blog posts, articles and other information that they haven’t touched. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that the web is hungry for great content. Always hungry. Great content cuts through everything.

  10. Sarah McCrary writes:

    I’ve recently launched an Ecommerce website for my shoe business. There would be over 5k products on the website for sure. My question is, I got images all over the website of the products that I sell. There should be the 3-4% density of keyword in the content area in order to get ranked fast. How do I include content in the Ecommerce website which is full of images? I’d really appreciate your suggestion. Thanks!



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