Lessons Learned from LinkMoses
10/16/2019 Update: It has been 2 years since our industry was devastated by the loss of Eric Ward, also known as Link Moses. Writing now in 2019 Eric’s influence on the SEO community is more obvious than ever. In the digital marketing world nothing stands still. So the fact that Eric Ward’s principles of ethical link building are still as relevant today as they ever have been is a true testament to his foresight.
The Link Moses legacy lives on in the community he started, and it will continue to do so for many years to come.
The digital marketing world was rocked this week with the news of Eric Ward’s death. For industry insiders who knew him as “LinkMoses,” it was truly a loss. While most marketers or business owners may not know him by name, they can thank him for his immense contribution to SEO. He pioneered how websites build links ethically, emphasizing how relationships build credibility, traffic, and SEO longevity.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to train one-on-one with Eric in 2014. Eric had an intuitive understanding of SEO that few have. He paved the way for my success as a Link Building expert. This post pays homage to a great guy who gave much to the SEO community.
My 1:1 Training With Eric
His legacy as LinkMoses, along with the wealth of knowledge he shared, will continue to be invaluable to me and the SEO community. Here are a few of the lessons learned directly from Eric:
- Link building is more about a mindset rather than a set of rules. Rather than being prescriptive, Eric showed me examples of out-of-the-box thinking.The digital world is fluid. Search algorithms change. Link building must adapt and evolve. He taught me how to think critically about links, their power and trust properties, and how to dig for opportunities (e.g., industry-based and local directories).
- Identifying good link opportunities is as important as identifying bad ones. On the surface, many links can look alike. Eric taught me the value of a great link and the criteria to measure an opportunity.
- Removing a manual penalty is a delicate and time-consuming process. Eric showed me how to get a Google penalty removed from the ground up (accurate and detailed documentation, reconsideration requests, and communicating with Google’s manual review team).
- Link building needs quality content and the right assets. With content relevancy, relationships can be developed and deepened over time.
- Link building is really relationship building. Developing and managing a link portfolio is like business development. Similar to sales, you’re communicating (and hopefully connecting) with individuals via emails and phone calls.
Thanks to Eric Ward, I learned how to create rock-solid link building strategies. His advice was evergreen; relevant regardless of Google’s Penguin (part of the algorithm that evaluates and filters links) updates. He set a foundation so I could follow the spirit of Google’s quality guidelines.
Adapting to Penguin 4.0
If you’re interested in learning more about Google’s Penguin, Rand Fishkin’s video shows how this link filter has evolved. Now that Penguin runs in real-time, a website’s link portfolio is continuously evaluated. As a result, link building also requires hands-on maintenance. Using Eric’s fundamentals, I’ve also learned:
- Website link profiles need ongoing review and clean up as a defensive strategy. Prior to Penguin 4.0, a semi- or annual review of your link profile was sufficient. Now that links can immediately help or hurt a domain, the more routine review is necessary especially for large profiles. Surprisingly, 38% of SEOs never clean (disavow) links. Yes, it’s a tedious and time-consuming process. Given the changes to organic search, monthly or quarterly review is the new standard.
- Start with a clean profile plus a deep understanding of your industry’s competitive landscape. Adding good links to a dirty profile is counterproductive. So is creating a profile that’s widely outside your industry link profile norm as it’s a red flag for manual review/action. Link building is expensive — it will cost time/resources if done internally or a monthly investment to hire a link building expert — so a clean slate is a logical starting point.
- There are many signs before Google issues a manual penalty for an unnatural link profile. If you get a message in Search Console about spammy links, you’ve been ignoring the signs. Bad links dampen organic visibility faster than ever. Ongoing review of your link profile will alert you to brewing problems before they become catastrophic.
- Link Building is one half of the SEO equation. SEO = Content + Links. Links are by far the most powerful of the two. Yet without deep, credible content to link to, the quality of your link profile will suffer.
- You need professional-grade tools and a human touch for effective, long-term success. We use multiple tools for different aspects of link monitoring and building (e.g., Search Console, Moz, SEMRush, Ahrefs, LRT). Even with all these tools, link building is really about building relationships with Webmasters and business owners. No automated program — even with the latest artificial intelligence — matches a human’s ability to evaluate business opportunities and related links.
Eric Ward died unexpectedly on October 16th, leaving a wife and three children. As the family’s sole breadwinner, they are struggling financially. Friend and digital marketing journalist, Danny Sullivan, started a YouCaring campaign; the goal is to raise $50,000.
If you’re so inclined, join us in donating. Or, you can share via Facebook which raises awareness and encourages others to contribute.
Rest in peace, Eric. You’ll be missed.
Nb: the YouCaring campaign is no longer running so we have removed the link.
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Photo credit – Top: Les Chatfield
Photo credit – Bottom: Eric Ward