Because link building is so effective there should be a Chinese Wall between that department and the rest of the company.

Perhaps there should even be a Chinese Wall between management and link building.


Links form a tremendously important part of search engine's ranking (= sorting) algorithm; perhaps the largest part still, no matter what else you may have heard. Many additional filters are in place to try to nip link abuse in the bud, true, but that doesn't change the fact that 50 links can get you what 50 well optimized page <title> tags can't.

That means that while link building is work, often hard work, it brings with it easy wins that on-page optimization and stellar content almost never see.

That's discouraging to people in other departments and potentially misleading to management.

Faced with the numbers it becomes hard to not treat things other than link building as toying in the margins.

And that's a grave mistake.

It's All About The Margins

Not only is playing the margins -- optimizing marginal costs for increased marginal profit -- solid practice, in this case the margins are what it's all about.

To put it in perspective; link building supports ranking which in turn supports your ultimate business goal.

Link building and ranking cannot deliver on the next two crucial factors:

  1. delivering value so visitors convert in the widest sense; they read, browse, subscribe, share, recommend, buy, etc. etc.
  2. having what your site is and delivers support and confirm your rankings.

The first is obviously crucial to your ultimate business goal. The second is part of a feedback loop search engines increasingly use: if we recommend a store to our searchers, should we continue to do so if the customers flee the shop?

Tinkering Matters

  • Usability optimization makes your site easy and intuitive to use. Often an iterative process. Having visitors interact with your site with pleasure and ease is priceless not just from a human point of view but for your bottom line as well.
  • Conversion optimization encourages or streamlines a visitor's actions towards those of your choice. Again, often an iterative process.
  • Copy is everything. You may not detect its influence in your rankings going up -- attributing much of that to link building instead -- but content is the motor of your web site. Good content is a well oiled motor. Great content is a money machine.
  • On-page and on-site optimization encourage, promote, and confirm meaning to search engines. It's the machine equivalent of usability and conversion optimization.


  • link building is so effective that it makes everything else look inefficient
  • but everything else matters:
    • usability supports time on site and conversions
    • conversions support the bottom line
    • good copy converts
    • making things easy and aligned on-page for search engines establishes and confirms meaning to them
    • time on site, conversions, and what they find on your site confirm to search engines why they should send people to you in the first place