Adam Audette on link building: ‘Don’t take shortcuts’

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A perpetual black box, the discipline of link building is vital to a successful multi-faceted SEO campaign. Yet it’s a constant challenge requiring ongoing efforts and an up-to-date knowledge of search engine spam detecting technology.

Adam Audette, president and CEO of Audette Media, frequently speaks to packed crowds at advanced link building conference sessions. He talked with us about the evolving strategic philosophy of link building.

Is link building inherently that difficult? Why is it considered the most challenging discipline of SEO? Is there any way you envision for removing the stigma around link building (tools or simple processes, for example)?

Building high-quality links is pretty hard. It’s hard because links are really just a reflection of something else: value, controversy, influence, humor or whatever the “hook” may be. Why is there so little really high-quality content on the web, relative to all the crap on the web? Because building good stuff that’s valuable and unique is hard. Why are there so many junk links on the web? Because building good links is hard.

Google is currently under fire for their results. SEO is again getting some major press and it’s pretty negative. The kinds of link manipulation tactics being highlighted in the press right now are commonplace. In some niches, worse tactics are even essential to compete! Wanna go into online poker without buying a single link? Good luck with that. There’s a sad truth to the most competitive SERPs: they have been gamed. Sometimes more than others.

In general I still think Google’s results are the best on the web. They do a good job and their index is vastly larger than any other engine. Deep crawls and big indexes mean shady stuff can more easily creep in.

I honestly don’t care that much about removing the “stigma around link building.” My thinking is just that, if there’s a stigma, fine. I’ll keep pushing valuable links for our clients and building quality SEO campaigns. The brands we work with are educated about SEO; they don’t care about stigmas or the press. They only care about ROI and bottom-line revenues, and SEO as a channel tends to be one of the best profit centers out there.

Is there anything useful the industry can take away from Google’s redoubled their efforts to fight spam?
Yep, I think there is — don’t take shortcuts. Easy-to-secure profile links have been a staple of SEO for a long time, but they’re crappy. They don’t represent value, only a sort of loophole in the algorithm that rewards links on trusted domains. Don’t take shortcuts. Build things right and leverage the quality contributions you offer to the web.

Are there ways to buy links specifically for Google ranking purposes and never ever run the risk of getting caught? Is this something you’re aware of or advise?

I advise taking the time to build quality links, not buying links. But the line between a paid link and a link earned without the transfer of money is quite fuzzy, to be honest. What’s a link earned on the Humane Society from a donation—is that paid? There are lots of examples of such things. This topic was heavily debated a few years back when nofollow was being pushed by Google for paid links. In the end it appears nofollow didn’t really hurt paid links, rather it hurt the link graph of the web, in my opinion.

In your experience, what kinds of links hold the most long-term value?

Contextual links on authority domains that never get removed.

There’s your link building advice, served straight up, from Adam Audette. For wisdom on advanced SEO tactics and strategies, follow him on Twitter, @audette, and check out his column at Search Engine Watch.

  • The “Mea Kulpa: How I Failed At Link Building.” link is broken. The has fancy quotes in it that Firefox on Mac doesn’t like. URL is:

    Actually, there are a couple others on the page with the same problem.

    • Arienne Holland

      Mea culpa 🙂 Thanks for the alert.

  • There are so many black hat tactics out there that give link building a bad name. It’s a good strategy for SEO, the key is just to do it properly. It’s important to get links from quality sites and earn them. Buying links is never a good idea.

  • Hi Adam, I’ve got to say, link building is the one aspect of building our website, that I’ve been dragging my feet on. And guess what? We are an internet marketing and SEO company in Lancaster, PA! It’s something I NEED to be doing. Right!? Why have I? Because I’m scared to death to go at it wrong and get a black mark. Your blog has definitely made me feel more motivated and safe. It’s what I’ve been thinking all along. I want to get legitimate backlinks. As long as it takes, I better get started. Thanks for the motivation! We are a new company at We’d love any feedback you could give us on our site.