Is the Importance of Link Building Coming to an End? – With Neil Patel
Welcome to the e-commerce marketing podcast, everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson. And today we have a very special guest, Neil Patel, who is a New York Times Bestselling author. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. He was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
Welcome to the podcast, Neil.
Thanks for having me. I’m like, I’m starting to feel old. I’m like, I’m no longer 30. And then you’re telling me thirty five. And I’m like, I’m not thirty five. I’m like, I’m getting old.
I don’t feel bad man. I’m in the same boat, you know. I told you I’m 21 years into this business man. I feel like a dinosaur at this point man. But we’ve both seen a lot when it comes to the Internet of Things, Internet, all things e-commerce. So it’s it’s been quite a journey. And as far as today is concerned, there’s probably not too many digital marketing topics that aren’t off limits. I know with you that you probably have it covered before.
But one of the topics that always keeps coming up and seems to be a hot topic and I don’t want to kind of dove into is link building because I think that’s kind of, I guess you could say, almost a cornerstone of achieving success these days, having a solid lead building strategy. So I definitely want to pick your brain a little bit about that. But before we do get into that, why don’t you just elaborate a little bit more specifically into how you really got into what you’re doing today?
Years and years ago, I started a job board when I was like 16 years old because I couldn’t find a job online. So I’m like, let me just start my own job website.
I did that. Didn’t do well. And the reason I didn’t do well is because no one came to my job website and I learned about this little thing called marketing. And you got to do marketing to get people to come to your site venture and learn marketing, got decent at it and started doing more and more of it over the years.
But what was interesting is throughout the whole process, I had a journey which I did everything from helping companies grow the traffic to creating software solutions, kind of like your background to solving problems that these companies had to all going full circle in which these days I have an ad agency, Digital, where we help companies grow their traffic. And, uh, yeah, it’s been doing that for quite a while now. And similar to you, I feel like a dinosaur, although you don’t look like a dinosaur, I assure you that it looks like you don’t either.
ut I do have to say you got amazing hair. Do you know?
Thanks a lot. I think the like, you know, I’ve definitely as well, but.
Well, that’s awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. And, you know, like I said today, what I wanted to kind of focus on building, I guess looking down at it from the way I see it, building links. Like I said, I think it’s really kind of a cornerstone of SEO. And really, why do you think that is? And do you think the way Google interprets their rankings, do you think it’s something that really is going to change any time soon?
Because I know everybody is always wondering, are I should I focus so much on what the algorithm pivots? What’s your whole take on that?
So let’s go back with the notion of length’s OK. OK, think of links as in like votes.
So we recently had a presidential election by then won over Trump. And it’s based on one simple thing. In the United States, the person with the most votes tends to win. The reason I say tends to win because in the United States, the system is on a state by state basis. Right.
Winner takes all the electoral votes per state, but generally speaking, the person with the most votes typically wins elections. The same thing is with the Internet.
See a presidential candidate without getting political. Whether you’re providing can make all these claims, they can say one thing or another. But do they actually hold up to that? You do what they’re going to promise. A website is similar. A website could say I’m the best website for marketing, so I should rank at the top. I’m the best website for selling dog food. I should rank higher than Chewy.
Now, what Google is looking at is links. Links are votes. The more links the website has, in essence, the more people are voting for that website and saying, hey, Google, we actually like this site.
You should. Rank them higher, but not all links are equal, if I need to go out there and I say, go vote for this president or let me make it up even better example, my buddy Curtis is sitting next to me. If Curtis goes out there and tells everyone to vote for President Trump or ex President Trump, let’s say the race is still going on.
But Obama comes by and says, hey, I want you guys all to vote for Biden, who carries more weight, Obama or Curtis, if you had to guess, they were definitely Obama.
And the reason being, is he someone of authority and he also has a president. So he’s a better person to say, hey, you should go do this, forget Democrat or Republican. That doesn’t matter.
In this example, Google has something similar. If I, Neil Patel, say or if Curtis has a website, Curtis Dotcom versus New York Times and they’re linking to your business or Curtis is linked to my business, New York Times is linking to your business. The New York Times one is going to have more authority and it’s going to be more effective because this New York Times and everyone knows New York Times.
So with the Internet, Google is looking at how closely relevant is it, ex? Obama is a president, a president. Talking to you about politics is more relevant than me. Neil Patel talking to you about politics. They also look at authority.
A New York Times is more authoritative than Joe the Plumber dot com, and for those reasons, because it’s hard to build links.
I do think it’s going to be a piece of the algorithm for a long time, but I don’t think it can be as important as it used to be. And it’s been vanishing. And here’s what I mean by that. They’re using things like user metrics as someone clicking on a search result and then clicking the backburn.
Because when you do a Google search, are you ever like, man, this site’s amazing. They got a million back links you don’t really care. Has one million users want to know how relevant it is?
And is it good when solving the problems that you’re looking to solve?
That makes sense. And that’s always a big question, because no matter what the strategy is or tactic, businesses these days are wondering, you know, you can go all in on it, you can invest a lot into it. You can hire a bunch of staff to focus on that, like you said, would link building. But the question is, you know, where it’s going to be three, five years from now. And I understand what you’re saying.
The bottom line, and this is, I think, always been Google’s kind of mission in their credo, is that, you know, they want to provide the best possible results for that user. How can they get the user the best answer for their question? And so at the end of the day, doesn’t necessarily mean that the site that has more money back to it is going to provide those best answers. So I think it definitely always have to look at it like that now.
Next, I wanted to ask you with regards to e-commerce businesses, because, you know, here with my business said before we deal with a lot of e-commerce companies and it’s almost like a dance that I see business owners having to play with regards to coming up with, you know, as far as ranking and building links and providing not only selling their products and services. The goal is, of course, to increase the sales, increase the traffic. But at the end of the day, like you said, Google’s main mission is to provide the best possible answer.
And so there’s really always like kind of a dance people play with selling the product, providing a solid product, solid service, but at the same time educating their customer, providing the best possible information around that product. And so, you know, your experience, what are some specific strategies as far as building links, growing your content that can help businesses be a little bit more, I guess you could say, kind of focused as to where they really go with this whole strategy of building links?
It all comes up to content. And if this is largely e-commerce, but I would say one of the best strategies I’ve seen for e-commerce is a pretty good product that people want to buy. But that’s A given and B, create content that is super educational, like we’ve all seen it, the 10 best toaster ovens. You know those articles out there, the 10 best electric bikes. And I’m not just talking about I have a list in your file that links in there or have a list and just promote your own products like really do it.
In-Depth analysis, despite the battery last longer. This one is harder to start this one. The seats not as comfortable. This one works better on off roading. This one is not a street legal. And you’re going to get tickets and like just going super, super and up and just like so much so that when someone reads it like I know a bike I need to get this one works best for my family.
It’s a safe bet. A safe. Or has a better safety rating.
My kids are less likely to fall or, oh, I should buy this one on the list because even though it’s number three, it’s not for outdoors and doing stunts. That’s me. And this is like when you get super in-depth and someone doesn’t have any more questions where they don’t have to click the back one and go back to Google, read the next article. That’s the kind of content that’s going to get you the links. The second thing I tell people when they write these kind of articles is you can’t forget the marketing and content marketing.
So you got to email people, let’s say, a link to you and you’re one of the bikes on the list. I would say, hey, check it out. If you like it, feel free and share it on the social web. Feel free and link to it. If you want to talk to your audience about the ratings that we gave your bike. Right. And showcase it.
But like people forget to do the marketing side of quote unquote writing content and commerce. If you just write a ton of content that’s super detailed and thorough that you can do well.
Very true. Now, as far as like link building, one of the examples that you mentioned, as far as the authority of a site, you compared President Obama to your friend Curtis. And as far as of course, clearly, I don’t know, Curtis. I don’t know what level is that. But, you know, we’re assuming that Obama has a higher authority, Curtis. Yeah.
And so I love Curtis to death, but that’s a very, very fair assumption.
Gotcha. Gotcha. So if a company is just launching, let’s say, their e-commerce startup, they’re just launching a brand, you know, they really don’t have any authority. As far as the eyes of Google are concerned. The goal is, of course, you’re trying to get higher authority sites to link back to you so you can start to build your authority. But since you’re kind of fresh out of the gates, you have no authority, no real brand recognition.
What does a company do in that case to try to attract higher authority to get links from a higher authority sites? Because that’s, I think, a really a difficult task, especially for startups and people that are just getting out there.
So what I would do is I have a free toolbar and Halbertal dot com slash back links, back links put in your competitor, you URLs, you can see what pages that hire 30 sites are linking to your competitors.
Go look at their content, go create better content than that and reach out to those same sites and tell them, hey, Curtis, I know you linked to Hey Curtis, I saw in your New York Times article you linked to the site. They didn’t cover one, two and three. We sell toilet paper as well. But like, look at this test, like we had running water drip through the faucet and look what it did to our toilet paper.
It still works. The other players, it doesn’t work. And we did all this analysis and all these other papers out there to figure out the durability, the softness so that we are tissue is comfortable. When you use toilet paper of making up, that’s probably not the best example.
But, you know, the whole concept of seeing how links your competition, seeing what content is popular on their website and getting the most from these authority sites, writing similar content that’s just more thorough, better, more useful, and then hang up those sites in game to link to you is super effective. Just people don’t want to take time and effort to do it.
That’s the big thing. And that makes a lot of sense. It’s you can’t just go out there and expect to get a link if you because I know a lot of business owners that everybody’s in a hurry. They can see other similar content. Yeah, OK, you can do your own take on it. But the thing you want to focus on is how do you make that content better? Because the bottom line is, especially if you have no authority, no brand recognition, what is your offer?
What are you going to provide that other company with? And so, like you said, if you add something to that article where, like you said, you did the test of the toilet paper, which is definitely really interesting and I’m sure that would catch people’s eyes, drive attention, it could drive more traffic to that. That would go a long way rather than taking the competitor’s article, just kind of cloning it, putting your own spin on it.
It’s really you just really regurgitating the same information. I think there’s a lot of times businesses do that, but the focus is on how can you make it better? Correct.
Because if you just regurgitate, it’s not going to work because at the same time, why would they want to change the links that’s worked for them? You’ve got to give them a good reason.
Yeah, exactly. Now, you of course, you did mention that you are seeing now less of an emphasis on this links and building links within the eyes of Google. It may not be as important as you as you mentioned. The bottom line is, of course, providing the best answer. Where do you see this shift going? Like where do you see things going as far as what would be more of an area that in the future businesses, e-commerce businesses need to start to focus more on as opposed to building user experience?
Here’s what I mean by this. Let’s say you have a product page and you’re selling a television. OK, I’m looking through a computer screen. You can talk. How your four KHK Ultra HD are making up some of these words, 16. And how can you really tell through a computer screen?
Because my computer screens are 16 K HD.
Well, when I mean user experience, I’m like showing other competing products and showing the difference in video quality, because even though I’m looking through my computer screen, which is sixteen K, if you’re showing me what it means to be different, that’s example of having me better understand which is the user experience. Another thing would be show me different aspects of the TV. Hey, here’s how many ports it has. Here’s how it’s easy to set up. Here’s the reviews and ratings of this.
Here’s not just the pictures. Here’s also the profile of the TV. And oh, even though this is the profile would you put on your wall, here’s actually how deep it is, because all you’re going to have some wires on the back of your TV. So it’s not a skinny. Oh, and then, by the way, here’s a video giving you a tutorial on how the TV looks like, what it works and all that kind of stuff.
That’s an example of user experience.
The more in you get, the better off you are. Yeah, I get that. It’s because I think all of that not only will it help your rankings if you have a better user experience on the website, that’s going to lessen the bounce rate. People bouncing from your search result query to your site and then say, OK, this site is trashed. I’m going to go back to Google, look for another one is that time on site is is very low and they’re bouncing back looking for other results.
You’re going to have a problem. But like you said, if there’s a great user experience and like you said in the example of those TVs, if you’re able to show that level of detail and have a good comparison, that’s going to compel people to stay and makes a lot of sense. And I can definitely see how things are shifting.
When you want to think in-depth, think about how Apple really goes through their products, explaining when they have new products that come out right through their features and how many pixels.
Now, keep in mind, they’re missing some elements that you’d want, like reviews and stuff like that.
But they’re Apple. They got a big brand. What they can get away with. You can’t know if anyone does. Just the reality. I can’t get away with what they can get away with. And they built up a strong brand with a loyal following and a lot of trust. Nothing.
You can’t do that over time. But in the short run, you need to think Apple combined with Amazon.
Yeah, very true. Yeah. The level of detail is definitely a great take away as far as their whole user experience that Apple does provide with everything that they put out. We’ll know as we get ready to wrap things up new. Many people know that your brand in the whole digital marketing space, Neil Patel, dotcom muktuk, digital, all of your brands have been pretty prominent these days for the past few years. And so I know you’ve been really successful building links over the years.
What are some key things or just some quick key takeaways that you’ve learned over the years? I guess maybe a few quick dos and don’ts when it does come to link building based on your experience, don’t try to focus on building tons of links, focus on quality.
Number two is don’t build things too fast. It’s not everything. I found that when you build us links slow and steady, you tend to rank better. The third thing that I mentioned to people is the best way to build links is not actually to go out there and break guidelines and buy links or do anything shady like that. I would avoid that. It’s more so to create amazing product, amazing service, creating amazing content. That’s the stuff that really helps.
And it’s much more efficient and effective to do that kind of stuff than it is to spend a ton of money paying people to help you build the links.
Right. It’s like spend that money on actually creating a better product service content like that’s a real way to win.
Yeah, that makes sense. Definitely. I’m glad you said that, because these days I think everyone is really looking for somebody quick wins. You know, there’s a ton of services where you can buy a ton of links, you can get links really quickly. But in the long run, it’s thought you’re not going to have as much success where there is if you were to go slow and steady, focus on eventually getting the higher and higher authority links to your site.
You know, it’s just more natural. And I think also that also helps with Google as well, because, of course, you know, if overnight let’s say you have ten links now, then you got a thousand links pointing to your site. Obviously, that’s a red flag in the eyes of Google and, you know, things like that. And you could get in some trouble with that. Totally. Well, it’s definitely been awesome talking to you now.
I’ve definitely learned a lot and I know our listeners have as well, because, you know, everybody really wants to know what are you got to focus on. Building, like I said, is it’s always been who has been, at least for several years now, kind of a cornerstone. But it’s good to see that as things are shifting, the user experience is what you really want to focus on. The bottom line is making the customer happy, Per.
Finding the right information, the best information for people that are visiting your site, so I’m glad you were able to share that. But last, before we let you go, I always like to switch gears to my final question just so our audience can get to know you a little bit better if you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact with us that you think our audience would be interested to know about yourself and OCD take.
OK, I’m in that same category, actually. Every little thing like I can’t have toothpaste squeezed in the middle of a tube like I’m very particular.
Sadly, that’s no problem that I’m the I’m the same way. I’m a bit of a neat freak if I go in somewhere and things are out of place of the kitchen. Is there a lot of times I can’t go to bed if there’s one fork in the sink, it’s got to be clean, by the way. So I don’t want to be mad. I’m the same way. I’ve always been kind of neat and orderly. And that’s good to know, man.
Thanks for sharing that. A great deal will last before we let you go. Of course, if anybody wants to reach out to you, pick your brain more or learn about link building or any other digital marketing tactics.
What is the best way for them to get in touch with you and be digital dotcom? OK, great, that’s easy. And digital dotcom. So we’ll definitely have our listeners reach out to you there and see what you have to offer. And definitely it’s been awesome talking to you now. We appreciate you coming on today on the E Commerce Market podcast.
Podcast Guest Info
Neil Patel CMO and Co-Founder of NP Digital