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By: Heather Hamilton, Page One Power

When I first began work as a link builder, someone told me that it was “a numbers game”—that the amount of sites I found and emails I sent would directly correspond with the number of links I’d be able to build. This daunted me because I’ve long been a proponent of quality over quantity (the television show “Lost,” for example, should have ended one, arguably two, seasons before it did). This idea of more equals more equals more made me feel something like a factory, like what I was doing amounted to little more than robotic production.

Some things are numbers games. Online dating, for example. Sales. The Lottery. Getting attacked by a shark, which isn’t link building. Which isn’t even a little like link building, unless you count the fact that both shark attack victims and link builders are ridiculously good looking. But if you need reasons, I’ve got those too.

Reason 1: Dead in the Water

Okay, so link builders and surfers-made-shark-attack-victims are similar (again) in that they surf, though I imagine that doing it in the ocean is a lot wetter. By surfing more frequently, a person increases the possibility that they’ll be attacked based simply on the fact that their proximity to sharks increases.

As a link builder, some would like me to believe that the amount of link-containing content I publish is the result of going into the water more often, sending out a billion articles to a billion sites. This idea is nice in theory, but fails on a practical, human level. When I go out into a lot of different waters with a lot of different surf boards, I fall behind. I can’t keep up, and I can’t write articles that are specific to that site. I churn out blog posts that are generic, and site owners can tell. I get rejected, and no one likes to be rejected. A surfer wouldn’t be allowed to surf on a golf course or in a furniture store. A surfer wouldn’t ask to, and they wouldn’t, therefore, get attacked by a shark.

Reason 2: Blood is Thicker than Water (or at least better)

Surfing conditions are often a concern of surfers—but never of sharks, whose numbers will remain consistent. The amount of attacks, then, will also be the same. Good surfing never equates to more shark attacks.

How inaccurate though, for link building. In reason one, I discuss this a bit—but it’s worth readdressing because I feel so strongly about it. The production of good content always results in more links. When I write, I think first about the needs of the site I am targeting and not about the link. I find a site first and then write an article specifically for it. When possible, I draw from my own experience because my best articles are genuine. I research my topics on reputable sites (even books!) and make sure I’m drawing from at least three sources. I  am grateful to have a readership for my work outside of myself and feel immensely lucky to be a writer by profession.

It is not a numbers game. I produce quality articles that require a lot of my time and effort. They happen to contain a link that is useful to the readers—but this is secondary. 

Reason 3: No One Celebrates the Shark

When a surfer is attacked by shark, there is no one (at least usually) advocating for the shark. In the chaos that no doubt follows a shark attack, the surfer gets the attention, and rightfully so, because they are bleeding, screaming, missing a limb.

As a link builder, I spend very little of my day screaming, and thanks to these new gel wrist support mouse pads, am confident I’ll keep my limbs. When my articles go live, I’m not, as an individual, even in focus because

  • They’re often written under a pen name, which is fine with me.
  • I celebrate the fact that my work lives on the Internet where people can read and talk about it.
  • There are four wins—I get my work published, our client is represented well with quality content and a relevant link back to their site, the blog is provided with free, relevant, content, and the users of the site have easy access to a helpful resource.

For me, link building is less a numbers game, less a shark attack, and more an opportunity to engage with an audience in an intentional way. If it’s a water sport at all (as though getting attacked by a shark was a water sport—I recognize immediately that it is not) I think it would be akin to snorkeling with sea turtles. A diver, equipped with the necessarily tools, enters the water and circles a small area, taking in the coral and fish and nuance of a particular section of ocean. If she is lucky and good at what she does, if she’s put in the effort, she’ll turn and there will be a link sea turtle before her, magical and ready to follow.

Heather Hamilton is a link builder at Page One Power in Boise, Idaho. She’s also an essayist, an LA Dodgers fan, and a pop culture enthusiast.

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