Link Love Notes: link building that works #LinkLove

Notes from Will Critchlow’s  presentation at Distilled’s Link Building conference in London, 30th March 2012. More coverage here.

Will Critchlow

Why isn’t my linkbuilding working?

Ask “why?” three of four times. There are usually three mains problems:

  • You’re not doing anything
  • You’re not doing enough / you’re not doing the right things
  • You’re not acknowledging your weaknesses

But there are rarer problems:

  • You’re not ‘spikey’ enough – be really good at the things you’re good at. If you’re mediocre work on everything, once you’re good be incredible at just a couple of things.

1. discover

Discover what and where your weaknesses are – what you need to improve and win.

2. pitch

To new and existing clients. Big visions and small next steps.

3. experiment

Find ways to improve and persuade.

4. invest and scale

With evidence and experience in hand.



Ever graded anything out of five? Almost everyone says they’re a four. Better than average but not great. Unfortunately we live in an “exceptional takes all” world.

Will created a self-assessment for websites, with exponential scale. So to get up to 3 you need to keep pace and be better than competitors in an area. 4 needs to be an industry leader. 5 has to be ‘internet leader’ (not just in a niche).

You then ‘score’ on an exponential scale, so lowest is 0 points, next up is 1, then 2, 4, 8 etc.

This doesn’t explain the pattern seen with a lot of websites in terms of acquiring links, but it’s a good start…

So, we look at site design, content and permission marketing, as these are the easiest areas for SEOs to influence. You can climb everything up to good, or focus on one to make it exceptional.

Internal self-assessment is all well and good, but get input from outside and your Analytics.

data from analytics

Will looked at direct visitors to a piece of content plotted against the number of inbound links it received (it was for infographics).

Is your conversion-rate for traffic-to-links too low? Or are you just not getting enough eyeballs on your content?

Using analytics to find this data is good because it’s real-time and dynamic.

~0.5% of Distilled visitors link to the content. On SEOmoz it’s similar, ~0.4%. So from this they can see that Distilled has fewer links than SEOmoz because they simply don’t get enough traffic. It converts well enough, but needs more eyeballing!

You can look at the average number of new referring domains per piece of content in Analytics.


  • Try out the self-assessment
  • Benchmark against key competitors
  • Benchmark against aspirations
  • Compare gaps in quality to gaps in performance
  • Run analytics to get baselines



The next stage is pitching ideas for linkbuilding and content.

For example, Will talked about pitching an idea to a travel site where images are shown ostentatiously large. It’s a different, nice, and very scalable to other themes/industries. And it could work to gain links.

But will it work?

This is where testing and research can work. Pitch the experiment that tests the big idea, not just the big idea. And when you’re pitching to business, think in business speak. You’re “driving footfall to point-of-sale” to let the product do it’s job.  Think about a big, fancy, flagship store in London – it’s the same sort of thing.

And make it an efficient linkbuilding tool that is scalable. A good conversion rate to links = an efficient supply chain. Thus you can either spend less for the same results, or spend more to get exceptional results. And it should get easier and the months go on.

actions: pitch a big idea but a small next step

Will says bosses like little things. It sounds cheap…



This can be to find out what works for you, or for someone else, or to collect data on what you know should work.

Will mentions Gawker’s editorial strategy, in which big stories and projects were rotated with the silly little things (like cat videos). Job satisfaction went up, but not if they overlapped. Big and serious or silly. tried writing better post: 33% fewer posts achieved 40% increased traffic.

Getting better is achieved in incremental leaps, so things don’t always work. The Lean Startup methodology is to test the smallest thing with the highest risk factor.

Things like and are great for just testing ideas. You can really get creative and silly with off-site tests away from the main brand you’re looking at.


  • Read the Lean Startup book
  • Take one element of your big vision and launch and experiment ASAP
  • Care about the metrics you should be caring about at that time. Just started a development process for a linkbuilding idea? Well you’re not going to have any links after a month, so don’t measure on that.



Will also spoke briefly about checklists and how having these can help filter and improve your ideas and linkbuilding.

  • Use shorter checklists
  • Communication checkilsts are a good idea
  • Ask “What should I do if things go wrong?”

He used Distilled’s creative checklist as an example, saying that in their brainstorming if they can’t find ten sites that might link to that idea in ten minutes then it’s abandoned.

the final word

Have an activity plan (with activity targets) – if you’re using social then your targets will not, initially, be links. And make sure you have testable assumptions (activity > results, results > outcomes).


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