How to Build Links to Your Website Without Selling Your Soul to the Devil

by Marcus Sheridan

how-to-build-links-websiteLink Building Definition: The process of attracting inbound links to your website, which in-turn drives more traffic to your site and also tells Google and the rest of the search engines that your stuff is awesome. :-)

I’ve been utterly surprised how often I’ve been asked lately about link building.

“Marcus, how did you build so many inbound links to your site??”

“Marcus, is there a quick way to build inbound links to my site?”

“Marcus, did you pay someone for all those inbound links you have?” (Arghhh..)

Alas, if we would just stop making all of this SEO stuff way more than what it is.

Currently, my swimming pool website has thousands of inbound links coming back to it. But to be honest, kind of like my Klout score, I don’t care.

In fact, I’ve never spent one second of my inbound and content marketing life (that would be about 1100 days and counting) looking for ways (other than via content) to build inbound links.

Seriously, it’s a waste of energy. (Again, see KLOUT)

It’s also sucks your focus in the wrong direction.

Link Building Shortcuts

This will sound very sacrilegious to many. As you’re reading this, there is an SEO somewhere in the world calling me an ‘idiot’.

But I’m fine with that. I’ll let the SEO play with link building ‘tactics’ while the rest of us produce great content that builds more and more momentum with every new blog post.

And while I’m at it, here are my top 7 link building phrases that make me want to vomit:

  • Buying Links
  • Trading Links
  • Exchanging Links
  • Automatic Link Building Tools
  • Link building directories
  • ‘Link Building on Steroids’
  • ‘Link Building Gurus’

If You Play With Google Fire, You Get Burned

Think about it for a second—Do you really think Google and the rest of the gang aren’t getting smarter and smarter every single day? Of course they are. There will come a time when search engines will be able to identify fake links, farmed links, worthless links, etc from a mile away.

This is also why I’ve never understood why certain people freaked out over Google’s Panda Update. Seriously, why would anyone be upset that Google is getting better at what they do?

When Panda came out, people that had built their links through awesome content got rewarded.

Others that had been working for years to ‘game the system’ and take link building ‘shortcuts’ shot down the rankings or even got penalized by Google.

Great content is the ultimate ‘Anti-Panda’. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Google loves delivering it to their customers, and their customer (that’d be you and me) love reading it.

And that’s where the links start to build.

Again, no science here folks. But no shortcuts either.

But to add further light to this subject, I’m going to show you 4 methods of producing awesome content that will legitimately attract valuable links to your site:

1. Talk About Other Companies in Your Industry:


As Dale Carnegie once said, “There is nothing like the sound of one’s own name.” This principle has remained true since the beginning of time. In fact, to add to the phrase, one might say, “There is nothing like the sound of hearing one’s company named.”

I wrote this article at the beginning of 2011 and it casually discussed 4 companies I was paying attention to in the swimming pool industry and why. Today, 11 months later, here are the quick stats of the piece:

  • 307 Inbound Links
  • 6,791 Page views

But not only that, all those inbound links is what has lead to  much higher search ranking results. For example:

2. Compare Products, Companies, Brands, etc in Your Industry

Consumers love nothing more than comparing one brand or product versus another. But most of the time, Google doesn’t have a lot of great content to give folks when they type in these types of ‘vs’ or ‘comparison’ phrases. Here is an example of a very successful one on my swimming pool site:

Since this article was published, its stats are:

  • 189 Inbound Links
  • 20, 506 Page Views

As you might imagine, with so many inbound links the search rankings are exceptional:

3. Answer Questions Others in Your Industry are Afraid to Answer

I’ve talked about this principle again and again and again, and the one I most often point to is ‘pricing’ and ‘cost’ related articles. For example:

In about two years time, this page has garnered:

  • 124,200 Page Views
  • 1,529 Inbound Links

Again, with so many inbound links, the keyword rankings are off the charts. Here are just a few of the phrases the article ranks for:

4. Great Guest Posts on Powerful Sites with Purposeful Keyword Goals

Although I don’t think guest posting is nearly as effective as producing great content on your own site for inbound links (I’ve never done a single guest post in the pool industry), it does have benefits, especially in competitive fields. For example, I recently did a guest post on Social Media Examiner. The post took me hours to write, but because the site is so highly ranked, and gets in front of so many eyeballs, I knew it would be very worth it and the few inbound links coming to my site from that post would also have great SEO value.

But just doing a guest post on a great site like SME is not enough. The link(s) you use to send folks back to your site should have a definitive purpose in terms of your keyword goals. For example, because I want to rank on the first page of Google at some point for the very competitive phrases ‘Inbound Marketing’ and ‘Content Marketing’, the anchor text (words used in the inbound link) are directed towards that goal, as you will see here:

No More Shortcuts, Just Great Content

So there you have it my friends, 4 ideas for generating truly powerful inbound links to your website. As I’ve stated many times before, the key to all of this is being willing to think, talk, walk, and write for consumers. It ain’t about you or me. It’s about their questions, their needs, and giving them the information they’re looking for.

Your Turn:

Link building is certainly a debatable topic, and this article is not the exception to the rule. Do you fall into the camp that I’m in, and say the only focus should be on great content, or do you feel that other link building methods are effective as well? Also, what are some other content strategies you’ve used successfully to build more inbound links to your website?

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{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

Brankica December 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Hey Marcus, I agree with you that the content is the base of great inbound link opportunities.

But I don’t agree about one thing and that is the Panda update and the results it brought. I personally benefited from it, as I believe my great content was rewarded and my traffic went up a lot. However, I’ve seen and analyzed several great sites that were hit by Panda and lost some rankings without any of the black or gray hat techniques. They did the same thing I did, they have great content, but they were kinda “false positives”. On the other hand, there were many spammy scraper sites that were ranking better.

I want to believe great content is Panda proof, but I have seen too many situations where it didn’t help and at the same time scraping helped some others.


Eric Pratum December 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Brankica has a very good point. Lots and lots of quality sites got dinged in Panda. Why? Because maybe Godaddy (eg. put a spammy looking link in their footer that tripped a Panda penalty. Or maybe, their webmaster thought it would be goodinks in the sidebar. Or maybe, the developer felt it was best to deliver wholly different content to bots and humans.

Thing is that most people that write great content would need an SEO in order to recognize that those are actually problems, my friend ;-) If they didn’t, who knows, maybe their inbound leads would drop due to not being as visible and they’d go out of business, think that inbound marketing is crap because they’re creating quality content and suddenly they’re getting no search love, decide that they’re better off just going with PPC or black hat, and so on.


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Now now Pratum, why did a smart cat like you have to mess up all my profound words here?? ;-)

I do see your point. I think it has some validity, but the percentages of what you’re explaining are much, much lower. Also, as Google sees their screw-ups, issues like those little links that will eventually be cleaned up. Call me crazy, but I think the search engines will read as well as humans within the next 5 years, thus grading out the quality of the content based on, well, the quality of the content. ;-)

Great seeing you my friend. Hope all is well on your end.



Eric Pratum December 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm

You know, I avoided the main thrust of your argument though…link building ;-)

I agree that most content creators should not have to worry about link building. They should focus their time and money on creating superb content, delivering an excellent product, and outdoing their competitors when it comes to customer service. Some cases in which it might be worthwhile to focus on link building would be: you’re in a niche where many competitors create high quality content, you need to fix/save your reputation, or you’re prepping for entry into a new market and having those links/anchor text/etc there give you some leg up.

Regardless, I totally agree. SEs will continue to get better, and generally, they will fix unintentional problems caused by updates. Unfortunately, they (Google especially) hold so much power when it comes to inbound leads and sales in certain markets that some businesses might be greatly disadvantaged each time the SEs need to create new fixes to new updates.

All’s good here, buddy. Keep inspiring, man!


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm

As always, GREAT points Eric. Thanks for rockin brother :)



Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Very good point Bran regarding the Panda update. Although the update did ‘mess over’ a minority of ‘good’ sites, I think it achieved its ultimate goal quite well, and will only do so more and more as they continue to refine what is ‘the mysterious and mythical Google algorithm’. ;-)
Always great to see ya lady!



nag August 30, 2013 at 1:59 am

Yup agree with you and Brankica’s thoughts. Good content + Guest posting + sharing and linking to others = winning link building strategy.
Sarah Arrow´s last [type] ..How to choose ecommerce plugin for your WordPress website #WordPress #BloggingMy Profile


Sarah Arrow December 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Yup agree with you and Brankica’s thoughts. Good content + Guest posting + sharing and linking to others = winning link building strategy.


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Pretty nice little equation you’ve got going on there lady :-) (I’m guess this isn’t your first link-building rodeo??? ;-) )

Thanks for being awesome Sarah,



Carmen Sognonvi December 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Hey Marcus, I’m wondering if you could say more about why you’ve never done a guest post in the pool industry.

Are there just no other quality pool blogs out there? Or did you not have the time/energy to devote to guest blogging on top of blogging for your own company?

I ask because there aren’t a whole lot of great blogs in our industry (martial arts). The few decent ones are focused on the business of martial arts, so their readers are martial arts school owners, not students/customers. So other than blindly chasing links from them, it doesn’t seem all that worthwhile to guest post on martial arts blogs.

That said, I have been spending a lot of time on next year’s editorial calendar and I’m thinking more in terms of creating content that would have cross-appeal to non-martial arts audiences, such as parenting sites or personal development sites.

But anyway, I’ll stop rambling and see what you have to say re: the pool industry. :)


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm

So glad you ask Carmen.

I’ve never done a guest post because I was the first serious blogger in the swimming pool industry. And if I’m going to take the time to produce good content, I wanted it to be on my site. Even today, there are still very few blogs in the swimming pool industry that have much traction, and an inbound link from them would be almost worthless.

I think your goals in dipping into other industries might be a good one, but I wouldn’t go there personally unless I felt I had really started to dominate search in my core one, which is martial arts in your case.

Hope this helps a little Carmen, keep up the great work and thanks so much for your support,



Jen Allen December 29, 2011 at 11:46 am

Harsh but true, Marcus!

We had a “blog” before I attended the conference at which you were speaking, but none of us really understood what it could do for us. I mostly put up information on new products, not much that would excite SEO, that is for sure!

After seeing you speak and emailing with you a bit, though, I’m getting more confident and more creative. Brand VS Brand blogs are going to happen more often, and better. I also recently did a blog on the 4 BIG Problems with Sundance Spas, which I think may get some attention. *We sell those!*

Enjoying your work!



Marcus Sheridan December 30, 2011 at 8:08 am

There is nothing better to me than meeting folks who actually apply and put into practice the things I teach Jen. You’re really going to do some great things if you keep this up.

And I’ll be cheering you on the whole way!!!

Best to you,



Jon Anscher December 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hear hear! I totally agree with you. The whole idea of SEO is to provide and share relevant content. I’d much rather focus on delivering good content than gaming a system that is in flux anyway. I share your appreciation that Google is getting better at what they do.


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I really like how you put that Jon– ‘Gaming a system that’s in flux’

That’s exactly it…and that system doesn’t like getting gamed ;-)

Good to see you Jon,



Jon Anscher December 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Thanks. The system doesn’t like getting gamed and when we are searching the web for information we need, we don’t like it when websites game the system and bombard us with irrelevant information. Pretty much any long-term strategy is going to be harmed by trying to “trick” people in to checking out your content :-P.


John Gizowski December 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Hey Marcus,
I’m with ya broth’a. Just one more of those ‘things’ clients get all freaked out about – when all they should be focused on is good content.
I love your #2 idea. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched on vs. and have been disappointed with the results. I’m gonna remember that one.


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm

John, I’ve literally got 10 other versus articles that have been absolute home runs. Look for them at every opportunity my friend, and you’ll see huge results.

Thanks for stopping by again,



Jason Davis December 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Great post Marcus! I’m a newbie to inbound marketing, but providing real value and being authentic resonates with me both as a marketer and a consumer. Just follow the golden rule, right? Provide the kind of content you would like to have when researching a product or solution.


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Isn’t funny how the Golden Rule applies to machines and humans Jason?? ;-)

I’m happy for you man and keep rocking with your inbound marketing…and good luck!!



Darren December 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I agree with the sentiments, but I think you’re giving Google way too much credit :)



Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Ahhh, now that is a debate I’m sure will be lasting for some time Darren….but then again, did you not see Terminator 1, 2, and 3??? That should be all the proof you need my friend :-)



Dale Berkebile December 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Marcus, This is a great article and really digs into the real issues of not focusing on great content. I have gotten sidetracked a time or two looking for ways to do link building. As you mentioned in this article, I never found any that looked legit and so I got back to writing content. You give some great examples of how to deliver great content. Thanks for sharing you articles, their topics and their stats this is another great example of excellent content. Good job and thanks!


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Sidetracked Dale? You got sidetracked? What’s wrong with you man, none of us have had that problem with the 4 million distractions we seem to have these days all clamoring for our time and attention ;-)

Seriously though bud, I understand where you’re coming from, and love that you’ve got a clear focus now.

Thanks so much for taking a moment to stop by Dale!



paul wolfe December 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm


I’m totally in agreement with you.

Let me tell you a quick story – in the early days of my bass guitar website I spent between 30 and 60 minutes every night building links to that website to get it ranked. And I did this for nearly a year.

Why? Because that’s what the goo-roos say you should do.

Only here’s the thing – I was ALREADY on Page 1 of Google with Videos (and yep, that’s plural), and 80% of my traffic was coming directly from YouTube and other Video Aggregators.

Conservatively I’d say I invested at least 100 hours building those links – looking back on that time, if I had it again it would have been a far better investment or ‘ROI’ to have created another 30 videos. Traffic would now be even higher and there would be 30 extra potentail starting points for new people to find me. (Actually that would be exponentially more than 30 – it would be 30 on YoUTube, 30 on my own website and anywhere from 90 to 180 on other websites).

Something I learned the hard way – and sometimes we all gotta learn the hard way – is that the ‘GooRoos’ often have one size fits all solutions. And often you need to take a step back and ensure that you have clear goals set, and that the activities you are taking meet those goals.

Although I occasionally add links when I’m doing certain tasks…I never go out of my way to build links. That’s a waste of time…and subject to the next update as you say.

My mentor has an analogy with creating content that I’d like to share. He says creating content is like putting logs on the fire. Some logs sizzle and splutter and burn a bit. And the occasional log burns up like it’s soaked in petrol. But the thing is…you never know what kind of log you’ve got. And it doesn’t matter…your job is to keep putting logs on the fire.
One after another.

Your law of compound information takes care of the rest.



Ryan Hanley December 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Take what Marcus said attach what Paul said and this post should be sold as Blogging Psychology lesson…

In the words of one of favorite rap duos GangStarr… “I put in Work and watch my status escalate…”

Great stuff.

Ryan H.


Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Hahaha, Hanley check in with a rap-line. Gotta love it brother ;-)

Appreciate it man,



Marcus Sheridan December 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Awesome, awesome comment and example Paul. Wow. 100 hours. Double Wow.

I love it when folks have opinions and speak from experience. Like you, it amazes me that people will spend amazing amounts of time all in the name of ‘shortcuts’ when in reality if they just ran through the wall they’d get there a heck of a lot quicker.

This was great Paul, thanks bud.



Cheryl Pickett December 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Love that analogy Paul! We love a good bonfire over here at the Pickett house :-)
So many people think that every thing done in marketing must “burn it up” and deliver tremendous results. If it doesn’t, they complain it was a waste of time/money.

Sometimes the problem really is that it was just a bad idea. But sometimes it’s just because people are unpredictable. You just have to keep going, trying new logs. That’s certainly one of the hardest parts and a big reason people give up. And that’s also why not everyone is equally successful which is good news for smart people like us who read and learn about logs on Marcus’ blog :-).


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm

The bonfire/log analogy is a great one Cheryl, I certainly agree. There have been times when I thought an article I’d written would do very well, and it didn’t, and then there have been times where I thought an article was average and it did quite well. My point? We need more logs!

And thanks for the kind words of support Cheryl, you’re the best lady :-)



Brent Carnduff December 16, 2011 at 3:09 am

Interesting thoughts again Marcus. I have been a fan of guest blogging as a way of getting links (and new traffic to your site), and there are definitely benefits to being a guest, however in reading your article I realized that although you do get a few immediate (and sometimes powerful) links by being a guest, you give up all of the links that you may gain over time as new readers find your blog articles. Good content is the gift that keeps on giving . . .


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm

That’s exactly it Brent. It can be a tough question to answer, and finding a balance is clearly important. But like I said in this post, I think our strategy should always be to produce our own great content first, and then the guest posts second.

Always great to see you bud,



David Britt December 16, 2011 at 4:30 am

I believe Seo is still essential and there are such complicated strategies to execute to get traffic to flow . It’s nice to hear a different point of view when it comes to building links.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm

I believe in SEO as well David, I just feel a more common-sense, value approach is what will ultimately win out. But hey, this stuff will all be outdated next week anyway, so I guess we’ll have to have this discussion again ;-)

Thanks for stopping by man,



Raj December 16, 2011 at 4:41 am

I agree with your first three points. I am not sure why you took the safe route when writing about the fourth point? Don’t you see that all around you Bloggers/ SEO’s are using guest posts just for the inbound links and the PR benefit they might generate? If Bloggers/ SEO’s keep building links at this rate (through guest blogging), I can very much imagine what might be included in the next panda update.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I do understand what you’re saying Raj, and it’s tough to say what’s going to happen in the future as Google figures out how to grade guest posts in the algorithm. Notwithstanding, the strategy has worked for many, many people, and it’s really not black hat, so it needs to be listed.

Appreciate your words and comment Raj,



Doug Rice December 16, 2011 at 6:02 am

Marcus, awesome post! I’ve been kicking this idea around a lot lately. Everyone is always chasing Google, obsessing over changes to the algorythm and trying not to fall being. My question is, “Why chase Google? Why not LEAD Google instead?” Be the one who creates the content the Google is constantly searching to reward. Create content that people actually want instead of trying to trick them into seeing your content and just making them madder that they didn’t find what they were looking for.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm

“Why chase Google? Why not LEAD Google instead?” ——LOVE it Doug. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Great stuff man,



John Sherry December 16, 2011 at 8:30 am

What you say Marcus is that there’s no get-rich-quick short cuts to building inbound links which is what many people want. You’ve got to graft a bit, do some research, use your brain, know your industry, and get out there online to develop solid relationships. Most want passive blogging like they do passive income; create a few things and sit back and wait for it all to flow in. The couch potato professional is dead, the interactive interneter is very much alive.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm

You’ve got to graft a bit, do some research, use your brain, know your industry, and get out there online to develop solid relationships.

You nailed that statement there John. Perfectly said bud.

Thanks so much for your support,



Jason Fonceca December 16, 2011 at 9:22 am

What can I say…

This is solid gold, Marcus, and it’s founded on a powerful universal principle:

Provide value and be rewarded.

Provide value (“a gift that keeps on giving”) and be rewarded (“people that had built their links through awesome content got rewarded.”)


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

That’s exactly it Jason. It really is a simple concept, we’ve just got to put our faith in the system bud.

As always, thanks for dropping by man.



Josh Sarz December 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

It’s good to know that you value content and use it as your link building strategy instead of buying links and stuff.

How about syndication, mane man? I’ve read a lot about it. You know, spinning articles and mass submitting them to multiple directories? What are you thoughts on that?

Me? I don’t use it. Why? I don’t have the money to buy their software. Hah

And if I wanted to do article marketing, I’d have to syndicate stuff manually, since again, no money to buy those spinners.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I’m sure there are people they may have experienced some success spinning Josh, but I think there will come a day when Google is ‘spin proof’. And when that day comes, a lot of people will have wasted a whole lot of dang time!

Thanks for stopping by bud,



Josh Sarz December 18, 2011 at 12:24 am

I don’t have a spinner software, so I don’t do it. Too lazy to spin the same article again and again manually. I’d rather make friends and talk to people. Like now. Heh


OneJillian December 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

Marcus, I like seeing the various ways people in our industry try to explain to “action/result” people why they should focus on they they are DOING rather than what they are GETTING. I certainly got a bit of a pep talk out of your post, and I arrived here via @JayBaer on twitter, whose opinion I value.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Hey Jillian! (btw, love that big smile of yours :-) ). Thrilled you got a little pep talk out of this. You know, we live in exciting times, especially if you love business and marketing, and there is a lot of reason to be excited.

So if you come back again Jillian, I can assure you there will be much more of what you saw here. :-)

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend,



Rich December 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

I agree with you mate, google keeps getting smarter as the day goes by. The only sure way to create dozens of incoming links is making awesome content that will attract users. Quality over qunatity, is the way to do it.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Great stuff Rich, quality over quantity is a good way to put it man.

Thanks for stopping by sir!



Bryan Thompson December 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

It’s funny (actually, more sad) how much time we waste looking for quick fixes when it turns out, if we would just put all that time and effort into making our content really stand out, it would eventually get out. As Seth Godin says, “Products and services that get talked about are worth talking about.”

Obviously having some knowledge in SEO can help but it should never be the rule. Content should be. You’re one of the best in the business, Marcus. I’m looking for 2012 to be a great year for the Sales Lion! :)


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Hey, thanks for those words Bryan. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little excited for 2012 ;-)

But like you said, I’m so perplexed that someone would put 20 hours into ‘link building’ when they could have done some amazing content production and networking during that same time period.

I really do appreciate your support and kind words Bryan, take care my friend.



Andrea December 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Honestly I did a lot of all those backlinking tactics for well over a year, some worked, some didn’t but anyway I got completely bored. I spent more time sharing content on various websites than writing articles. Which is just the contrary of what a writer or a blogger should do. As you say write good content.

These days I just use Posterous to send some links back to my posts and have an automated tweet whenever I publish new content, and that’s it. Five minutes at most and it’s not boring. Also because I’ve seen that the only reliable source of traffic, for a couple of days, is Stumbe Upon, all the other websites are pretty worthless, or it might just be me who uses them badly.

Whatever it is given that I can’t stay all day in front of the screen I prefer to use my time for keywords research, commenting on interesting blogs (which is probably the best tactic for backlinks) and trying to write good content. That’s my strategy and I think I’m going to stick with it at least until someone will demonstrate me the contrary. Heck I almost never use Facebook too.

Just another point about the various updates and slaps. Big G results are, imho, flawed since they mixed money with results so it can just be that someone gets slapped because he closed the ads account. But given that for now it’s the big player it must be kept into account. Until someone will do to them what they did to Yahoo, probably with a better and more reliable service with less privacy issues and possibly no sales of users’ data.

Did I say this is a great post? And very, very useful?


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Andrea, awesome comment, really, really great.

You brought up a great point about how ‘boring’ backlinking can be. And when a blogger gets bored, and burnt out, they often times quit….which ain’t good.

As for Google needing competition, YES, I’m so with you on that one. It’s scary the monopoly that is forming over there at Big G.

Thanks again Andrea,



Andrea December 18, 2011 at 3:44 am

Thanks for your kind words Marcus, actually commenting on other blogs is much more funny, interesting and effective.

As for Big G they do what every monopolist do, push their business in any possible way (like automatic friendly pagerank) while cutting the legs of competitors. This will go on until a more reliable (and this isn’t so difficult) and efficient service appears. There are already some like DuckDuckGo and Scroogle (who have a no tracking policy) but they are not as known as they should be. And they don’t have the big bucks probably. Oh, and there is also Gigablast which seems pretty good too.

Anyway, and this is probably one of the few times social networks are really useful imho, if they provide a good service and the word of mouth gets around enough Big G can’t prevent them from reaching every year more people which in some years will cause Big G to collapse, at least as a search engine. Just like Yahoo.

Unless it buys them.


Davina K. Brewer December 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I’ve always worked to provide value to what I post, presented in an entertaining AND informative way. Lots of links to a lot of good content, plus what I write. “If the post is good enough, it’ll get shared/read/linked/book offers” – I used to think that, but now realize I need to be more findable, more searchable, more out there. And to that end, I’ve always been cautious about linking to my own stuff in a guest post. I do so sparingly, only if it’s 1) really on point – which I know is what you do – and 2) surrounded by a lot of other great content.

This is good advice Marcus and I have to work more on my inbound marketing, no question. Another challenge for me is that I’m not so much in competition with a specific brand/service provider – there are a lot of us out here, as well as the ‘DIY marketing’ SMB owner (though you’ve given me a post idea.. wheels spinning :-) ). Toss in my wearing of many hats, makes it a little harder to find my keyword sweet spot. BTW loved Paul’s “goo-roo” and I’ll keep all this in mind as I work on this for 2012, promise. FWIW.


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I loved reading this Davina. And I certainly understand where you’re coming from. Your niche is competitive. There’s plenty of content out there. Thus, you and me need all the help we can get to show up in search. We’ve got to think like consumers, address the hard questions, but also be willing to appeal to the search engines as well. It’s tough, but it’s possible.

Always here if you ever need anything Davina, and thanks for being such a great support,



Tom Treanor December 16, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Marcus, great post. I love the great perspective (which I agree with) and the actionable recommendations and examples. All of those link-building gimmicks can waste more time than they’re worth and can be dangerous (I wrote about similar ideas in my “Myth of Easy Marketing” post).

I put your blog post on the Blog World facebook page as a recommended post (they’re asking for them today). This is a great post, so why not?!


Marcus Sheridan December 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm

You’re so very kind Tom, thank you sir!!

And your point is well made. Is it possible that 25 hours invested into ‘link building’ could produce fruit? Yes, of course, but what type of content and relationships can be built in 25 hours?? To me, it’s not even close.

Thanks again my friend,



Gabriel Gutierrez December 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm


Absolutely, I agree. I’ve been kicking this idea around a lot lately. Everyone is always chasing Google, obsessing over changes to the algorythm and trying not to fall being. I love it when folks have opinions and speak from experience. Most want passive blogging like they do passive income.

This is good advice Marcus and I have to work more on my inbound marketing, no question. Great job. Thumbs up!


Kenneth Thomas December 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

i am also impressed with heading you choose..
You have choosen a good point for SEOs …
I think link building is a great method used in internet marketing..
Thanks for your suggestions…


Stuart December 17, 2011 at 5:49 am

Hi Marcus,

Some people would indeed baulk at the thought that you’ve achieved an incredible amount of success with TSL, and yet without a care for SEO best practices and the like. How do you do it, they might think?

It was nice of you to answer them ;-)

Good SEO is a result of effort, it is not the effort itself. If we want to have a successful blog (the purpose of good SEO), then we must think like we’re building a successful business. Successful businesses weren’t built on white/black hat techniques, they were built on values and foundations that stand the test of time. That go beyond the internet, into all of life.

Blogs are businesses after all ;-)


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Hey Stuart, great stuff as always my friend :-)

I love how you said “values and foundations that stand the test of time”…that alone is a perfect statement to describe the perfect strategy.

Thanks for stopping by my friend!



Martin December 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

Hey Marcus that is called playing the game fairly. As you rightly pointed out, it is just a matter of time that Google catches up with those guys concentrating on the shortcut rather than the content to reach their goal. It is about time that we show that quality content can always be the best way to go.

Marcus you were spot on with the writeup. No need to sell our souls to the devil!


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I like how you put that Martin– playing the game fairly. Yes, Google will catch up. For those selling Google’s potential short, I think they’re going to be sorely surprised at the progress of the search engine in the coming years.

Thanks for your comments and support Martin, I really appreciate it!



Jens P. Berget December 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hi Marcus,

I was looking at a link building course just before I turned to read your post. That’s funny.

I absolutely agree with you about content. I have been thinking about learning more about how Google works, but it’s never about shortcuts. The reason why I want to learn more about it, is mostly based upon how I should be doing my internal link building, and get the maximum benefits of Google when writing my own posts.

I’m currently setting up the video blog for the college where I work, and I uploaded seven videos but I haven’t written much, and I haven’t paid attention to anything regarding to the design yet. I’ve installed Clicky and I’m looking forward to see what will happen to traffic and links when we launch it. I haven’t foucsed on anything other than content. And I have been thinking that content alone, for a brand new blog might not be enough, people need to find the content in order to share it. So, this might be different for a brand new blog?


Marcus Sheridan December 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm

You said it Jens, it’s never about shortcuts. Sure, there are strategies that can be learned and applied, but attempting to game the system is fool’s gold.

Regarding a brand new blog, the answer is ‘it all depends’. I think it’s important that you experiment, track results, and then once you see what is working well, that you go after it aggressively.

Keep up the great work brother.



Naveen Kulkarni December 18, 2011 at 5:22 am

Nice post Marcus,

I think, this my first comment on your site, though I have been following your blog for quite sometime now.

You demonstrated the examples really well.

Internet is huger than the real earth now :-) Thanks to hyperlinks.

And the sole purpouse of any google update to thier search engine algorithm would be ” how can I separate good and original stuff with rest of the mediocre websites with the same effect as if someone were to manually compare 2 sites”.

I am sure, machines will come closer to human intelligence soon,especially with google’s giant efforts.

It’s ONLY original and interesting content that can get a blogger to real success.

So, learning effective writing has become more important to a blogger than learning blogging tricks (I hate the word ‘trick’).


Marcus Sheridan December 19, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Hey Naveen! I’m so glad you took the time to leave this comment and that you’ve been a long time reader.

Sounds like you’ve got an excellent understanding of the future of search and SEO…so just stick with that vision bud and you’ll do some great things online. :-)

Much thanks,



Harriet December 18, 2011 at 10:31 am

Hi Marcus, another great post from you! The definition that you put at the start of your article was particularly useful for me. I’m not the smartest when it comes to blogging and to be honest I read about as a side hobby (my studies are mostly creative), its great that you write for all audiences and not just those who know a lot about the subject!


Ellie December 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Enjoyed your article on building backlinks to my site. I am not into internet marketing; but, merely looking for ways to popularize my new site on anxiety attacks. You have provided me some very helpful tips on basic backlinking practices. Thank you :)



Marcus Sheridan December 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Glad it helped Ellie. Hopefully you downloaded my eBook as well. It’s free and got a ton of helpful information for people just like you, starting a blog and trying to make a biz out of it.

Thanks so much for stopping by Ellie and continued success to you!



Christina Pappas December 18, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Agree with all your points here! (but my senior team needs to agree that we should compare ourselves against competitors and divulge pricing grids). As far as linking goes and building a strategy to support SEO with inbound links, I think it’s a few things including content.

1. Press. PR and mentions and links from ‘credible’ sites like WSJ, Mashable and Techcrunch help. So you got to have your PR strategy in order to support your efforts. Content will help here as well :)

2. Directories. Maybe this is considered bad, but lots of sites (mostly organizations) have directories to link members with resources, as in companies who sell stuff they need. I always look at the directories my competitors are listed in and see which ones may apply to us.

3. Content sharing. I noticed that it ‘looks good’ to search engines when someone visits my site from a link I shared on LinkedIn. So using great content again, share it in the right places or at least have a strategy on how you are going to promote inbound links to your site as a result of it.

4. Link to your own content from your own content. Tons of people miss this and I need to start getting better at it. Include text links on your site to other pages on your site.


Marcus Sheridan December 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm

All great points Christina. I especially like your mention regarding PR and how it can make a difference. Tell me though, if you don’t mind— What does an active PR campaign cost for a small to medium business? Does it work for those types of companies or just the big boys. How easy or hard is it to measure the return on investment with that type of strategy? Sorry to ask so many questions, but I’d really be curious to know.

Thanks lady!



Christina Pappas December 20, 2011 at 8:41 am

I have worked in small business and start-up environments where we had no budget for PR representation. I was able to gain coverage for the company and our products a couple different ways. 1) with the content we produced and published, we carved our path as ‘thought leaders’ so that press called us. 2) used services like the HARO to identify possible opportunities in the press and pursued. And 3) leveraged relationships with sales people at publications to get introduced to media targets (called to inquire about lead gen opp’s/advertising and asked for an intro).

As far as the benefits go…I have always found it difficult to measure what exactly we got in regards to return from a mention in an article unless the customer states that is how they found us or if they clicked through from the article and I was able to capture their online journey to conversion. I can share that it certainly improved internal morale. There is nothing like seeing your company/product name in print and gaining recognition in the market to endorse all the hard work you have poured into it.

Hope I got everything ;)


Marcus Sheridan December 21, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Wow, that was an awesome explanation Christina and I certainly learned a good bit. Thank you for taking the time to enlighten the PR rookies around here like myself! ;-)



Nick Bogatin December 19, 2011 at 1:26 am

Thanks for the tips Marcus. I couldn’t agree more about content being king. Yes, obviously there are other strategies out there but the truth is that by focusing on content you gain readership, get shared more, get more links, AND at the same time build a group of loyal readers/fans.

Thanks again.


Marcus Sheridan December 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Yep, at least that’s the idea Nick. It does vary from industry to industry, but overall, if content is done right, it certainly seems to take the cake.

Thanks for stopping by man and hope to see you again,



Larry Carillo December 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

Thank you for the great article on link-building based on great content. I love that content is continually being pushed as the most effective source for SEO!

Larry Carillo
Fort Collins, Colorado


Marcus Sheridan December 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Appreciate that Larry, glad you got see you got a little from this article man. And I hope the rest of your December is a great one!



Brian December 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I hear ya on not playing with Google. As they keep improving their algorithms, I wonder if they’ll ever give less authority to commentluv blogs because of how they encourage people to comment, as many of them are do follow.


Philos Mudis January 7, 2012 at 7:54 am

May be one reason a blogger might ask the questions that make you vomit is because creating original and high quality content sometimes might feel like slaying the giant Goliath with a sling.

Deep inside you will appreciate the fact that it can be done but people around you (family, friends, gurus, bloggers etc) can make you feel that taking time to create awesome content should be priority number 2.

One can then end up putting 55% of their energies on creating content and 45% chasing the other link building strategies you said ‘makes you want to vomit’.

So it’s a struggle everyday. Those who take the cream from the 45% and add it to the 55% gain the courage to create more awesome content. Those who take the cream from the 55% and add it to the 45% keep on asking ‘when will my little sweat go unappreciated?’

It takes time to build healthy links. Thanks for this Marcus.


Marcus Sheridan January 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm

‘Healthy Links’ ….Love that phrase Philos, as it’s a good one (may have to steal it for future use ;-) ).

Yes, balance is a tough thing in this business, that’s for sure.

But like you said, if we focus our right energies, when going to end up in a good place.

Thanks much for stopping by Philos!



Sachin January 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Thanks for this great post. I was almost about to buy a link building tool after a weeks trial and I saw this post. I am never going to that route again. Some things are worth the patience and I guess there is not shortcut to this one too.


Marcus Sheridan January 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

Glad I was able to save you the time and money Sachin :-) Now go start being awesome!! :)



Anne Madison March 18, 2012 at 8:43 pm

As one of those “evergreen” posts that keeps on giving and attracting followers, this one will surely be up there. Thank you! I am a brand new reader, and I plan on coming back to see what else you have to say.

I am fairly new to blogging (have worked for an SEO guru for a couple of years), and have watched him rise to the top, and then tumble after not making content king, and utilizing some gray hat tactics that seem to be biting us in the behind.

My personal project is now four months old, so traffic is low, and I have mainly chosen to focus on content and a little bit of guest blogging. Your post has incented me to stay the course and become the industry expert, rather than focus on traffic. It it’s useful, they will come!


Marcus Sheridan March 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Anne, thrilled you’re reading and appreciate your perspective as being someone that’s been there, done that with this stuff and understands how shortcuts can really kill a business.

Hope to see you again Anne! :-)



Jannah Abue April 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Great post, Marcus. I certainly learned from this. I’ve been writing for a SEO company for a year and now I’m starting to make my own website, so I won’t be writing for another company anymore. I would really appreciate it if you can give me tips on how to make a great content.

I”m subscribing. :)

Thanks and have a good day.


Marcus Sheridan April 5, 2012 at 10:27 pm

If you download the free eBook Jannah, you’ll get all the content tips you need and more. Good luck!! :)



Pashminu Mansukhani July 24, 2012 at 3:14 am

Yes, each and every mentioned point is worth noting and following.


Mike August 6, 2012 at 1:22 am

True, and not so true. Yes google does get smarter with their updates, but most of them usually have wholes in them. I’m personally one of those who got hit with the most recent panda update. I don’t believe I’ve cut any corners and I constantly updated my site with new gaming content. I’m not saying my site is perfectly optimized because as I’ve been reading I do see some flaws that I needed to change. But to add pain to injury, when I see my site drop in ranking as see a lot more spammy sites who went much higher in ranking. this is what’s crazy to me about google. Sometimes it’s just a game of luck.


feri luhur October 8, 2012 at 1:04 am

Very nice SEO technique. Healthy way always stay long. Wish you luck Marcus. Keep writing, I wish to find more and more from you.


Chi Hang November 6, 2012 at 9:06 am

I’m new to blogging, just one and a half week old. I agree with what you said, Google will get smarter by time and the only way to play with it is play fairly.
I can’t guarantee that I write quality articles, but I can affirm that every piece is written in detail, at least at my level. If you don’t believe, you can check it out :D
I just need some good readers that can comment on my posts so that I can improve on my following posts. But out of nowhere, it’s difficult to get them to my blog. For my 2 weeks old blog, I have got an average of 30-50 visitors on my blog daily, so I guess I’m still quite good. I just hope one day Google is inteliigent enough so that I don’t have to do the SEO stuffs because I know nothing about it.


Noel November 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I’m just starting to learn the art of blogging and I still have a few posts. I’ve come upon your article because I am looking for methods that can help me boost my blog site. I read that a site must have a lot of links in order to rank well and this means business. I am concentrating on publishing great contents so that my site will eventually be noticed. Your suggestions are truly valuable.

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