Interview with Jon Cooper: discussing link building Author Wojtek Mazur Read bio Links are one area in the SEO world where there never seems to be enough time for discussions and conversations, no matter how long it takes. Even constructive arguments related to this field never seem to be totally exhausted. Before the famous Penguin Updates, link building was relatively easy. However, with the inception of Google’s stigmatization of almost everything that has to do with building links.These days when building backlinks to your website, you should not only focus on being successful; you should also make sure that you don’t hurt your site unintentionally. Therefore, using the right link building strategy is very important. With my guest today, I’ll be discussing many interesting aspects of links. How to build them the proper way, what to avoid, How to choose the best link building strategy, etc. I’ll be talking to talking to Jon Cooper of Pointblankseo.com. WOJTEK: Jon, it’s a pleasure to have you here with us. Can you briefly tell us something about yourself, for the sake of those who don’t know you yet?JON: Of course! I’m a link builder who runs an agency out of Gainesville, FL in the United States that solely focuses on building links. I’ve been in the industry for a little over 4 years now, but have focused 80% of my time on link acquisition. I’m still a part-time university student, and my entire team (5 people) are university students as well. A lot of people know me through my blog, Point Blank SEO. WOJTEK: I know that in the past, you used to have some niche websites at the beginning of your SEO journey. I’m sure those were great in learning link building and testing some strategies. Many black-hat guys were building dozens of niche sites to get some easy profits, as they used to rank great with very low effort. However, with all of Google’s current changes, it just requires a lot more time and also investment to build a successful strategy. Do you think small niche sites being promoted using white-hat SEO can still be a profitable business model in today’s world?JON: Really glad you asked that, because no, I don’t think it’s worth anyone’s time to build out niche sites and get them ranked through white hat SEO, just because to do it right, it takes a lot of hard work & effort, and I’d much rather invest that into more of an authority site that’s targeting broader keywords. (I’m not saying people shouldn’t if they’re intending to use black hat techniques, they just need to know the territory they’re walking into.) WOJTEK: What is your opinion on links from forums? Don’t get me wrong here, because I don’t mean the spammy kind which are obviously really bad, like from fake profiles or even those from the user’s footer. I’m asking about the real natural ones from posts in relevant threads, where we can find some real value. Do you think that undertaking quality buzz marketing can successfully support link building efforts?JON: Forum links are some of the best opportunities for direct traffic that few are consistently taking advantage of. Yes, there will be some SEO impact (and luckily these open up opportunities to get links to tougher pages, i.e. product pages), but I’d focus more on driving engagement & traffic around the links you’re acquiring from forums.But don’t think of forum link building like a “link drop”; you should be actively participating in ANY you may try and get a link from, and only when it makes sense in the context of the conversation. WOJTEK: We all know that competitor research is a great way of finding new link prospects. I remember one cool advice from you for larger websites and ecommerce, which you shared somewhere. It was to conduct competitor research on a category level, to get links to categories. What would you recommend for small sites and also for small business’ web pages, to take advantage of researching competitor’s backlinks?JON: For smaller sites, don’t discredit doing competitor research on larger ones just because there are some links they’re getting that you don’t qualify for. Hopefully, they segmented off that particular niche/category you’re competing against each other in with a specific URL prefix (i.e. if you sold light bulbs, if the section of the larger site for light bulbs is all under the subfolder biggersite.com/light-bulbs/), because then you can look at the links to that specific section of their site via Ahrefs’ Prefix search.But also, think broader. Direct competitors are the tip of the iceberg for competitive research. There are so many other niche related sites that you can research the links of and gain insight into what your strategy should be. WOJTEK: Most link building strategies are closely related to content creation, and I don’t think it will change in the near future. Do you think there is (and still will be) a place for non-content based link building strategies which we could call white hat?JON: Definitely, but it’s not consistent for everyone. There are spaces where you can get links simply by existing, because there are sites that, for example, love to link out to where you buy this product or get that service.But again, it varies niche-to-niche. For an example of one vertical where you can get a heap of quality links just by existing, look into the Beekeeping Supplies niche in the US. Look at some of the top sites’ links, and you’ll see what I’m talking about (they get links from a lot of quality resource pages). WOJTEK: There has been a lot of buzz in the industry for a while now, about infographics being a great way of getting decent links. Do you personally use that type of content in your link building activities? Maybe you could share with us some advice, like a do and a don’t of building links with infographics?JON: I actually don’t, but only because we’re extremely specialized right now. The only content we’re creating are topical guides that we know we could get links to via up-front research. That’s not to discredit infographics, as I’ve seen & continue to see ones that perform really well, but it’s just not something I’ve efficiently built into my agency’s day-to-day at this point.As for tips around creating them – study ones that did really well (you can find them just by Googling or using a tool like Buzzsumo), and make sure you’re only creating ones when it makes complete sense to display that information in that format. The second tip sounds simple, but it explains why so many fail (i.e. might be better off as a video or a text blog post). WOJTEK: That’s actually true. It sounds simple, but not all information can be conveyed on an infographic. I would also add that if anyone decides to use infographics as a link building tactic, there should be no compromise with the graphic’s appearance. If you design it poorly, don’t expect it to be successful.I’d also like to ask you about Page Authority. These days, it has become more important than it used to be. It decreases the chances of newly registered domains in getting ranked for highly competitive search queries. What strategies (besides starting with a good content marketing campaign) can you recommend to owners of fresh websites, in building up their page authority?JON: Well first off, Page Authority is a metric from Moz, which is an unofficial insight at page-level PageRank. But for new sites, I start off by doing a TON of competitive research, and for more than just direct competitors. It’s honestly the foundation of everything we do, just because some niches can be so wildly different from others. WOJTEK: Would you be kind enough to tell us about some of your current activities, as it relates to the SEO world and what are the plans for the future?JON: I used to own & operate a handful of sites that I was building up, but I honestly didn’t do well with any of them, because I was doing too many things at once. My work was spread thin, and quality suffered.So I refocused and decided to solely focus on building a quality link building agency, and starting off with only a few main link types before we grow any further. My plans for the future are to continue to grow this, and to hopefully be the most trusted link building company in the US that can fit for the majority of niches & sites (currently our clients are very particular that fit our current strengths).Thanks for reading. Should you have comments, thoughts or any question for Jon regarding this link building discussion, please feel free to comment below!