[Interview] Paddy Moogan: Link Building as a Business in 2014

Paddy Moogan Interview

At the start of the year I began to wonder about link building as a business. After all, the whole SEO industry is undergoing massive changes and shake ups. And a lot of it affects link builders and their businesses.

Wonderig what are the business prospects for link builders today I got in touch with some of the brightest minds in the industry to find out.

This is my interview with Paddy Moogan.

Now, for those of you who don’t know who Paddy is – he is the Head of Growth Markets at Distilled in their London office but apart from this, he is probably one of the most known link builders today. His book, aptly called The Link Building Book is one of the best insights into the practice of building links. Highly recommended.

Hey Paddy, I am sure you’ll agree that the last few years have thrown link building on its head. Did you notice any change in the way your clients perceive link building today as a result? 

We’ve always tried to make clients aware of the risks associated with low-quality link building techniques, some of them understood and some didn’t. It is certainly a lot easier these days to demonstrate how risky link building can be if you aren’t careful with certain tactics. There are more public examples of websites being penalized than ever before and Google, certainly in 2014 so far, have been on the warpath with penalties. Therefore, we have fewer potential clients coming to us saying “I want 1000 links a month” which does show a change in perception, but ultimately, links still drive rankings so they still want them!

How do clients validate the quality of your work? Also, what are the biggest differences between “then” and “now” in relation to that?

Ultimately, it comes down to whether we’re helping grow their business. You can track hundreds of metrics that may directly and indirect help a client grow, but usually there are only a few key ones that the CEO or founders will care about. As long as we’re having a positive effect on those over the course of a project, then we know we’re doing a good job.

On the flipside, I try not to forget about perceived value. Clients may actually be really happy if I spend a day a month working in their office and speaking with their team, so for them, the quality of my work is measured by the conversations and change that I can effect in their team. So it can vary quite a lot.

What qualities do you think clients look for in link builders today? Have their expectations changed in the recent years in any way?

Traditionally, I think clients have focused on quantity over quality, so they’d look for evidence of a consistent process that could be repeated over and over again to churn out links. So someone who gets processes and knows how to be efficient was always valuable. Now, I think someone who “gets” online is very important and it’s sometimes hard to measure this. At Distilled when we interview for our outreach team, we run some exercises where we can watch the candidate using the computer and how they use the internet. We’re actually not so much interested in their exercise results, but more the way they work and if they appear to be tech savvy.

How do you typically report on your work? Again, has this changed in any way after various Google changes?

Again, it changes per client. Some prefer a written report, others prefer a meeting or a phone call. Generally though we report on activity i.e. what we’ve spent time on in a given month, the results of this and what the plan is for the following month.

How do you find clients?

We’re fortunate in that most of our clients come via referrals, either from people in the industry who know our work or from existing / previous clients. Other clients tend to come from our marketing efforts such as our content or conferences.

What are the most typical conflicts with clients you encounter? (Leaving money and payment issues aside please 😉 What is your system for resolving them?

Most conflicts come down to bad communication. Either by us, the client or both of us. Thinking back to client conflicts that I’ve had over the years (fortunately, there aren’t that many!) I feel that I haven’t done a great job of communicating with them. In particular, not clearly knowing their expectations of me and Distilled. If you don’t know what a client expects of you, then you’re probably setting yourself up for failure.

Moving away before this gets too serious, do you remember the very first link you built commercially (as in, got paid for doing so)?

Wow, I don’t think I can actually remember! That’s a boring answer though, so the first link I ever built for myself (when I was learning and had my own websites) was actually part of thousands of links built within a few minutes. It was via a small script that automated the creation of blogs and as part of those blogs, links to my own sites were generated. Suffice to say, I don’t do this anymore ☺

What is the weirdest link you ever built? Do you have an unbelievable link building story?

I once got a friend drunk and got them to link to me from a section of a University website they controlled. That was a nice link!

Is there any “old school” link building technique you wish you could still use today? (Yes, this is a serious question 🙂

Genuinely, no. Deep down, I’m glad that Google have started to catch on to the crappy link building techniques that I used to use. I knew they weren’t adding value to the internet and that they weren’t what Google wanted to reward, but they worked and I wanted to earn beer money whilst at University!

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