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Link Building Software - What to Look for and What to Avoid

What I've learned in 15-plus years...

By Eric Ward, August 27, 2010 | 

Over the years I have probably tested and used over 100 different programs that in one way or another assisted with some aspect of the link building process. Many are long gone. Some are wonderful and incredibly powerful, others overpriced and should be taken off the market. I've had phone conversations with the developers of many of these programs, asking them why they have certain features that are blatant spam producers, and why they wont make changes to make their programs more useful and in line with search engines quality guidelines. What has been most frustrating over the years is when I hear people talking about any app or software program that helps with link building, they almost always focus on the time such software saves. What they don't talk about as much is the impact (or lack of) it has on either click traffic or search rank. 

Some tell me they "are working on it", but the discussed improvements never come. I sent one linking software developer a list of 20 bugs and suggested features that would have helped his software sell far more copies and have been much more effective. He never replied. 

The only conclusion I can draw from this is the reason so many link building tools and programs exist is because of the gold rush mentality many link builders have. Anyone can create some type of linking related software, slap it on the web, and sell it.  My hunch is that 95% of all linking related software programs, whether client based or in the cloud, are useless. I also feel most developers of linking related software don't understand themselves why their software is wasting peoples time and money, and making the search engines have to work harder to remove the junk they produce. I find it ironic that as a 15 year link builder, I still receive email spam every day from some company trying to sell me linking related software. You know the easiest way to spot spam in your inbox? When the first line of the email says "This is not spam". 

Link Building Software - What to Avoid
First, if the software gives you an option to send email automatically to a supposed link target site, run for your life.  This part of the link building process can never be automated and implemented correctly.  This is not to say all automation during the link building process is bad, but rather that there are certain aspects of the process that should never be automated, and email is at the top of that list.

Second, any software that uses Google's Pagerank as a key part of their process is doomed.  I could write 500 pages about why, so you'll have to trust me here.  Letting Pagerank dictate your linking strategy is foolish, and any software that gives you any other impression is trying to scare you.  Pagerank is a very useful metric, in certain ways and in certain situations, but I would never pursue a link target because of it's Pagerank, and I've sought links from hundreds of sites that had none.

Third, if the software queries a search engine that no linger exists, you might be suspicious.  I'm not kidding. At least two programs that help identify link targets include search engines that no longer exist.

Fourth, just because some link building software provides a module for creating and managing a links directory does not mean you should implement one, or use that software to manage it.  If you want to hear a few horror stories about why, contact me privately. 

Link Building Software - What to Seek
This one is so obvious most people overlook it.  What company created the software? Do they have a good reputation? Do they have a successful history you can research.  Do they provide names of people who work at the company? Are they trying to be a one trick pony and claim expertise in link building when they have never actually done any link building themselves?  And just because a tool ranks well for the term link building software does not mean that software will be effective.  I remember several link building software programs that stamped a sitewide link on every page of the auto-generated directory pages they created.  Once upon a time sitewides were thought by some to be clever.  Now, siteswides are largely devalued.

I'll close with a more philosophical question.  Most people agree that publicity, links, and awareness within the right vertical are the key to success for any web site.  Links play a role in nearly every type of online marketing activity, from a plain vanilla links page to a Twitter tweet.  At the same time, at the end of these billions of links is a mouse poised to click, and a person is holding it. A Person.  The web is about people and passion and interests and curiosity and having a voice if you want one.  People.

Do you really want to put the most important part of your online strategy in the hands of something created by someone you don't know, and who doesn't know your business?

Link Building Software and Tools - Who Does It Right
If I you are in charge of link building, research and pick from these tools. Consider using more than one. If you have questions about a program not listed here, contact me and I'll give you my thoughts.

Link Prospector
Buzzstream
ahrefs
Blekko
Ontolo
Open Site Explorer
Majestic
SEO Book
Link Insight
Raven
Linkdex

Link well!

Eric
 

About the Author
Eric Ward - Contact
Eric Ward is recognized as the web's foremost expert on content linking strategies. Involved in online marketing since 1993, Eric founded the first Web-based public relations and web promotion services, called NetPOST and URLwire, in 1994. Eric's company was hired by Jeff Bezos to be the online publicist for Amazon.com Books debut. Today, Eric helps companies create and execute linking strategies to increase awareness of their Web content. He also teaches others his techniques. Eric writes the LinkWeek column for industry news site SearchEngineLand.com, and has written for Web Marketing Today, ClickZ, MarketingProfs, and Ad Age Magazine. Eric is a highly rated speaker at web industry conferences. Eric's clients include PBS.org, WarnerBros, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, The New York Times, TVGuide.com, and Weather.com.  In 2009 Eric was one of the 25 people profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes from Wiley and Sons. 
 

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