Three Lessons Bob Villa Taught Me About Link Building

by Melanie Nathan January 4th, 2010 

As part of my link building services, I offer custom content creation for the purpose of being published on another site or blog.

That is, I oversee the creation of an entertaining, helpful article and then I use my creativity to strike a deal with a targeted site to get it published. This very often results in an editorial style backlink to my client’s site.

Normally things go off without a hitch but recently something unexpected happened that caused me to rethink how I go about researching and selecting a target site and communicating with my clients when it comes to this technique.

I thought I'd share what I learned from it...

Lesson #1 - People Have Quirks


I picked out an authoritative site in my client’s niche and initiated communications with the site owner. After a few friendly emails he agreed to consider my content for publication. Great!

A very informative “how to” article was created and I sent it off to him. Given our emails, I had every reason to expect that it would be warmly accepted and scheduled for publishing.

What I didn't expect though, was that the site owner would flip out on me because the 'home improvement' article happened to mention Bob Villa’s name! He apparently hates Bob Villa and he therefore got extremely offended that I would even consider sending it to him. He told me he would “never publish it” (even if I removed the offending name) and I should “be humiliated” by my actions considering that Bob Villa has “little or no real hands on experience in construction”.

I was completely caught off guard by his harsh response, but I immediately understood where he was coming from. After all, I had claimed to be a really big fan yet I obviously hadn’t looked enough into his site to discover that he’s an open Bob Villa hater! *face palm*

Note: To put this into perspective, image submitting a guest post, where you cite Robert Scoble as an SEO expert... to Lisa Barone. Yeeeah. Pretty SMRT huh? :)

Lesson #2 - The Importance of Communication


When I told my client that the mere mention of Bob Villa in the article had blown any possibility of a link from this site, his exact words were “yeah he has awesome authority but he is basically a rival of Bob Villa”.


So basically I blew a PR6 link deal because I didn’t do my homework or communicate efficiently enough.

I knew the site had authority, it’s why I targeted it, but not being a regular reader (and because I didn’t do any digging), I couldn’t have possibly known that the site owner considered Bob Villa his rival.

My client knew though, and had I communicated more effectively with him (i.e. revealed where I was submitting, showed him the article etc), I may have been able to avoid this whole situation by removing the Bob Villa reference  in favor of say… the site owners name instead.

Lesson #3  - Facilitate Your Own Success


When approaching other sites with your content, and especially where the link means a lot to you, make sure to do your homework because sometimes there are more important things to consider than just PR value.

In hindsight, what I should have done (and what I’ll do from now on), is:

  • Ask my client if they know of any helpful information about the site (or site owner) which could facilitate my success (because I could never know as much about my client’s industry as they do).
  • Read some of the blog posts or articles published by the site I’m about to submit to (this should go without saying).
  • Check if they’re on twitter and read some of their tweets (in this case the site owner was vocal about Bob on twitter).
  • Dig, dig and dig some more.

I might find out that the person I’m about to email also owns another niche site, or that they covet cupcakes or they hate the color yellow or whatever. People are quirky and you can’t predict everything but you might learn something that could help you get your foot in the door… instead of being shown the door!

I managed to get the content published elsewhere but I’ll never forget the link that, thanks to Bob Villa, got away.

Recommended Reading: How to Woo a Blogger (and get coverage).

Melanie Nathan

Melanie Nathan is a veteran SEO consultant and founder of CanadianSEO. She has a particular passion for authority link building and the use of authoritative content to attract links.

SEO Canada

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10 Responses to “Three Lessons Bob Villa Taught Me About Link Building”

  1. Very good lesson. Your humble approach of asking the client for insight is spot on.

  2. Jen says:

    Thanks for sharing that story, it is a great lesson for us all. It's so easy to get wrapped up in "being the expert" that we forget to ask for our client's advice when we need it most. It's also a great idea to try to find that other "quirk" which connects you with the person you're talking to. Like you said a favorite color or a common passion or experience, it's those shared affinities that build rapport in life and business.
    .-= Jen recently posted: The Best SEO isn’t Magic, It’s a Commitment. =-.

  3. Gagan says:

    Man I got rejected three times last week for the Same kind of reasons. I think many link builders are using this strategy now. The lesson I learned was not to ask for link in first few emails. Request for the link only after 4-5 emails

  4. Jim Rudnick says:

    Wow…great and honest post too, Mel! And yes I too have been there and done that too with an NHL player site…sigh….

    We do. We learn. And we perservere, eh?


    .-= Jim Rudnick recently posted: Google Targets SEO Practitioners! =-.

  5. Gerald Weber says:

    This is an interesting case study. Maybe try writing an anti Bob Villa post and try resubmitting. i.e. Top 10 Reason Why Bob Villa is a douche. LOL 😉
    .-= Gerald Weber recently posted: Times Square 2010 New Years Eve Ball Drop Countdown =-.

  6. Jeff Quipp says:

    As always Melanie, another great piece! Thanks again!

  7. Rob Woods says:

    Great article! As SEOs, link builders, copywriters, etc., we'll never have as much insight into an industry as the people who work in those industries every day. If we even tried to we wouldn't have time to be experts in our own fields. I'm sure the client would have been happy to give you feedback on the piece before you submitted it.

    BTW, great Scoble – Barone reference :o)

  8. L2Ouro says:

    Very good lesson.
    .-= L2Ouro recently posted: Top 100 blogs brasileiros segundo o Pagerank e os Backlinks =-.

  9. […] Three Lessons Bob Villa Taught Me About Link Building Melanie Nathan, link builder extra-ordinaire, on how link building isn't just spreadsheets and backlink analysis but also doing your due diligence in researching your link target. […]