Recently I got an opportunity to interview expert link builder, Julie Joyce. It was an honour to interview a lady, who has been a source of inspiration for many online marketers, especially those inclined towards link building.
Julie Joyce is the co-founder and Operations Director at Link Fish Media Inc, a link building firm based in NC.
Heartfelt thanks to Julie Joyce to spare her precious time answering my questions!
“It was a crazy path. I had gotten my degrees in Anthropology and English Literature then realized that those weren’t exactly the most marketable skills, so I got another degree in Social Work, worked as a social worker for a year before realizing that I wanted to learn to program in order to work in the assistive technology sector, went back to university again and took tons of math and computer science classes, got a job programming, and then when the first of the only two company SEOs there quit, I was asked to join the team because they needed someone who was technical but could also write well. It was a very nice accident.“
“I think it’s still as fascinating and exciting as it was when I first started, but I have two main complaints. Number one is that I do really think that there are a lot of dangerous people in the industry who know enough to seem competent but who can severely damage a site. They don’t properly warn or inform their clients and they are cheap enough that people go that route and then pay for it later. If you’re going to do something risky, make sure the client signs off on it after being warned and only then. The second thing that bothers me is Google in general. Yes, I know that’s a childish opinion. I hope that we’re all headed towards being better at whatever it is that we do, whether it’s writing content, building links, doing more intensive audits, etc. As far as what we should focus on right now, I’d say learning how whatever your speciality is impacted other areas and works in conjunction with them. It’s nice to have a niche where you’re more of an expert than others, but I think we could all learn from digging into other areas than just those with which we are most familiar.“
“Here’s the big problem with those updates and changing tactics: a lot of tactics that are supposedly crushed by an update do still work in some cases. I do think that everyone who is building links should do so as safely as possible but that safety all depends on what you do consider to be safe. Google can list their guidelines and you can violate them and still do well, and no matter what anyone says, you can buy links that are undetectable as paid links just as you can get screwed for using free links that are spammy. I would suggest that you ask yourself if you’re willing to burn your site, and if so, then use a high-risk tactic if you like.
There are certain brands and niches that do truly seem unaffected by algorithmic updates, ones that buy links nonstop and buy bad ones, and they are still ranking well and making tons of money. It may all come crashing down one day but it also may not. My number one link building tip is that no matter what you’re doing or whether you’re intentionally doing anything to generate links in any way, pay very close attention to your links. Look at the sites they’re going upon. Look at whether they’re giving you any traffic or conversions. People can say that you should never intentionally build a link, but that is not a very realistic way to market, at least not for the clients that I’ve worked with. Just use some common sense with whatever you’re doing, do it as well as you can, and don’t take shortcuts if you can’t afford the risk. “
“I would never recommend that anyone rely on one single way to build links. I still see people who only do social bookmarking or only comment on posts and in forums, and some still use networks which I would definitely say you need to stay away from as they all seem to be getting caught. I wouldn’t only go guest posting or only submit to directories. Basically if you are doing one thing, you’re leaving a massive footprint and that makes my paranoia come out.“
“Read everything you can that’s written about link building before you do something stupid.“
“I love Link Research Tools for giving me the data that I need for audits and analysis, but I use Majestic to check the metrics on every site that I deal with every day. I like ahrefs too. I like the tools that do things that a normal human can’t do easily, but I don’t use many of the ones that make things easier haha! I like Buzzstream a lot, too since it makes outreach much more scaleable. “
“One is not keeping up with what Google lists on their Webmaster Guidelines. You don’t have to agree with them, but if they say don’t use widgets or you’ll get in trouble, don’t tell your client to use widgets everywhere. One is generally not keeping up with what’s going on in the industry. I recently dealt with someone (not a client) who wanted a second opinion on something the in-house SEO was advising them to do and it was to buy up about 500 different exact match domains and 301 redirect them all to the main site so that it would drastically boost the rankings of that main site. This was a “whitehat” SEO (his words, not mine) so either he’s a hypocrite or he’s not keeping up enough to realize what a potentially dangerous plan that is. “
“I think everyone should understand Google authorship. There are more things we all need to understand but considering we’re all telling people to create great content that’s good for users, we should all be linking up that great content with Google authorship.“
“On a very general level, I’d say that I think authoritative links are still number one. Of course I’m a link builder so that’s not an unexpected answer, but when you build a few good links and see the rankings rise, you do realize the power of those links. As far as what else is nearing that level of importance, I don’t know that these are in order certainly but I do think that social signals play a role as does well-written content and site speed and tons of other things that I haven’t personally tested, so I’ll just go with those. My answer would probably be different every time you asked me.“
“I’d say we need to look at the site itself. Some clients just want us to build the links and keep quiet about everything else, and in cases like that, when they complain, I point that out. If I am being asked to build links to a page using the anchor “blue-green widgets” and the page is about something entirely different but does vaguely reference widgets (but not blue green ones) then wow, there’s part of the problem, but clients don’t always listen. Of course, I never, ever, ever promise a client that they’ll get to this spot in the rankings or that page because it’s just not how I work.
If we’re spending a lot of time and money and nothing good is happening, I’d imagine that one of us would terminate the relationship. If a client took all of my recommendations, had a large budget, and worked with me, but we still couldn’t rank well, I’d do some seriously intensive competitive analysis and take a deep dive into the site, again, in order to see what the problem was.“
“Explaining that the tactics their competitors use may not be a good idea because they are too risky. This is by far the biggest hurdle I have. People say “well ABC Company is using networked links and they are ranking really well” but that doesn’t mean using networked links will make the client rank well. I get a lot of referrals from people who have been penalized and either still are or have just had the penalty lifted, and many of them are annoyed when I say that we need to be as safe as possible. They still want lots of links, they want them now, and they want them for a cheap rate. A lot of clients also do not understand what labour goes into building a great link for them. It’s not cheap. Justifying our rates can be hard at times.“
“I really like books about ships, especially ones where something horrific and disastrous happened. If there’s cannibalism involved, that’s even better. I have nightmares about ships and when I was on a ferry from Greece to Crete, I spent the whole time thinking we were going to sink. I really hate boats so I think reading about maritime horror is my version of scaring myself in the same way that people visit “haunted” houses or watch movies about ghosts. I can swim very well though, have never had any near-drowning experiences, but the idea of really deep water, filled with sharks, is making me shiver even now as I type this out.
I can’t whistle. I have to air whistle and even that is an effort. It’s more of a pretense at air whistling.
I really like nothing more than to see someone smash a guitar. The band can suck but if there’s a guitar getting smashed, I’m in.“
“Walk around picking up things that everyone in my family drops, watch Law and Order reruns, read those horrifying disaster novels, and get beaten at every single game of Words With Friends. “