Breaking The Link Building Tedium


Out of everything I’ve ever done in SEO, link building is by far the most tedious and the most conducive to burnout. I never get tired of code issues or examining traffic sources, but building links by hand? Wow, it can kill you.

I recently conducted an in-house survey of my 20+ link builders just to see what suggestions they had for avoiding burnout and keeping their jobs interesting, and I must say that the majority of the responses were not what I expected. I figured that I would see responses like “take a break” or “watch the video of that dog Salsa dancing” but by and large, they all said the same thing: the key to avoiding burnout is to get a different perspective, whether that is by talking one-on-one to another link builder at the office, testing out a new link building tool, or having brainstorming sessions. Basically, their key to success lies in not giving up, but immersing themselves even further in what they’re doing in order to keep it interesting. Therefore, I think that there’s a lot to learn from how they go about this, and with that in mind, here are 5 ways that we all avoid burnout.

1. Discuss what you’re doing with someone else. Link building can be a lonely effort. I bounce all of my ideas off poor Paul Madden because he’s not my boss, he doesn’t work for me, he lives far enough away that if he tells me I am wrong I can’t reach out and smack him, but he understands what I do for a living and the problems I face as a business owner. If you don’t have someone to talk to who is doing what you’re doing, find someone. While you’re finding people to talk to, find someone who doesn’t do exactly what you’re doing but does something similar (maybe your supervisor, or your client) and get a different perspective.

2. Try a new tool. Trust me, there’s a new one every 5 minutes. Try old ones that you haven’t used in 3 years too. People update them (sometimes.)

3. Search for what you know. If you’re interested in art, for example, and you’re link building for a client who sells metal machine parts, dig through some steampunk sites. If your background is in finance and you’re working for a site that tries to educate people about the risks of certain behaviors, write a guest post about how insurance rates for an employer could rise due to covering people with obesity-related health problems. If you can’t find a way to relate two things, find a way that you can differentiate them and write about that or search for terms related to that.

4. Combine unrelated keywords. This sounds counterintuitive, but combining disparate search terms can bring up some sites not brought up by related terms. A search for “finance metal clothing baby” when intended to help build links for a site related to finance brings up a site selling punk rock baby clothes (which gives me an idea about a post dedicated to punk singers who made no money in music and became stockbrokers who bred) and a wiki entry on broken needles in children’s clothing and the dangers that poses, which would be a great idea for an infographic about statistics surrounding needle injuries reported each year in the world, broken down by country. Yes, I am reaching here but sometimes reaching like this is the key.

5. Use social media to learn, not just to interact or promote. See the example above? Throw that set of keywords into a twitter search or Icerocket, and see what you get. Sometimes just reading posts that show up for a search will give you totally new ideas about what to search for or write about.

Lastly, there are definitely some tools and articles that I return to time and time again, so here’s my list…make your own, and every few months return to it, just to see what’s changed and whether you can get something new from something old.

Solo SEO’s Link Search Tool: I never get tired of this one, as it makes things so easy. If you’re brain dead for a few minutes, this one will save your sanity.

Moz’s The Professional’s Guide To Link Building: sometimes I get caught up in the big picture and reading an article that breaks things down into tiny little easy-to-digest components is exactly what I need.

Wordtracker’s 62 Steps To The Definitive Link Campaign because it’s, um, 62 steps! Not 5, 10, or 100. It’s 62.

Debra Mastaler’s blog The Link Spiel: Yes I am a massive ass kisser when it comes to Debra but her ability to see links in ANY situation is very inspiring. If you aren’t regularly reading anything she puts out, you’re way behind.

I’d love to hear any suggestions about ways you have of keeping link building from making you slam your head into your desk for 45 minutes straight by the way!

About The Author

Julie Joyce is the owner and Director of Operations for Link Fish Media and is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch. In addition, she is a founding member of the SEO Chicks.


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  2. Matt says: - reply

    In a previous life, I worked with a team of 16 in-house link builders in the UK. We’d have weekly meetings along with our PR team, and colloborate to come up with interesting hooks we could use to get our content out into the blogosphere. It didn’t matter how drab that months target keywords were, we’d always come up with an interesting spin to make the link building easy.

    This really helped everyone work to the best of their abilities.

    • julie says: - reply

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the comment, and that’s something that I wish we did more, actually…we’re in a space that we’ve completely outgrown and we have no good area to have company-wide meetings. I think the key is collaboration though.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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