Let me ask you a question: are you looking to hire a link builder to help rank high in search engines? Links pointing to your website or blog are easily one of the most important elements to helping you improve your rankings. Or perhaps you want to become a link builder, and tap into the high demand for and dollars being spent in this sector of SEO.

Either way, it helps to understand what separates an average link builder from a world-class one. This guide should help you.

No. 1: Curiosity

This is not your garden-variety interest where you scan every line of text on the cereal box during breakfast or stand with rapt attention as a museum guide unfolds the history of ancient art.

That sort of curiosity is good. It’s just not deep enough.

A world-class link builder will have the sort of curiosity that you’ll find in a scientist or private eye. He’ll not only want the facts, ma’am, thank you very much, but he’ll want the why, how, when, where and who.

He needs to understand the whole picture. And he or she is not afraid to follow rabbit trails to get that picture.

Why is this important? A world-class link builder, in reality, is not after the link. He’s after the relationship. He’s after the heart of the webmaster. So, knowing as much about the webmaster, his website and his business is essential to building that relationship—and getting that link.

No. 2: Hustle

I love watching people who are tenacious. They may not have the most talent, but what they do have is an engine that doesn’t give up…even if they are rejected.

Think about some of the greatest running backs in football. They may get stood up at the goal line, but they’ll bounce off it and look for another hole in the defense. They’ll do this into they get in the end zone, usually dragging a defender or two with them.

The same is true with the world-class link builder. Sure, that rejection may sting, and he may recoil. But only temporarily. They pull back from their investigation to scheme another way to get that link (given it is truly a good link to get).

Why is this important? You can spot an average link builder from a mile away. This person identifies a website they want a link from. They hunt down the “Contact” button or tab, and then fill out the form—and call it a day.

No personalization of the message. No attempt at persuasion. Just a message that asks from a link. A world-class link builder will crawl the site looking for a name. If he doesn’t find it there, he’ll jump over to Facebook, Twitter or Google+. And if he doesn’t find it there, he’ll pick up the phone and call.

He or she is determined to get that name BEFORE they send that message.

No. 3: Long-range thinking

Do a little thought experiment with me for a moment: think of someone you know who is impatient. Impulsive. Who doesn’t like to wait and wants things now.

Is that person successful or not?

I’m going to predict that he or she is probably not that successful. Sure, we all know someone like a Donald Trump who demands results now but is filthy rich. But for every Donald Trump there are legions of failures.

The simple fact of the matter is that impatient people are not going to be very successful. That’s because they are typically short-range thinkers.

In the world of link building, short range thinkers see a link they want and then start banging on the door. No wonder nobody answers.

A world-class link builder, on the other hand, thinks long-term. He sees a link he wants. He finds out the name of the webmaster. He then follows him on Google+ or Twitter. He interacts with the webmaster, does a few favors for him. And then asks for the link.

Do you think he’ll get it? I bet he does.

Why is this important? Long-range thinking is critical for success. It’s realizing that getting links to your page starts weeks—if not months—before in relationship building. And it starts with thinking about the person on the other side of the table—what they want, desire and need—and figuring out how to give it to them. And that takes long-term thinking.

 No. 4: Sharpens the saw

Anybody who is a fan of Stephen Covey will recognize this phrase. It basically means self-improvement.

A world-class link builder isn’t satisfied with where he is at. He wants to get better. He or she is a competitor and is constantly striving to improve their game.

They’ll read books, blogs or magazines. They’ll attend conferences and seminars. They’ll listen to podcasts or a handful of mentors.

They are also really comfortable asking for feedback—even if it hurts. They understand that certain faults or flaws that they can’t see are holding them back.

Why is this important? An average link builder will use a failed approach for months or years. They may get lucky and score a link here and there, but that is not the kind of service I want if I’m spending my hard-earned cash on a link builder.

Instead, when a world-class link builder fails, he asks why. He closely monitors and measures his work, looking for what is working at what is not. He or she is also a chronic tester, trying new ideas or a blend of old and new to get an approach that works.

My money is on the world-class link builder every time.

No. 5: Persuasive

There’s a stereotype running about the Internet about your typical link builder. Raise your hand if you recognize him or her:

  • Technical as all get out. He eats, sleeps and dreams of code.
  • Short on human commitments. Long on World of Warcraft levels.
  • Socially awkward. Blinks, stares and then walks away when you ask about the weather.
  • Talks or types like a Neanderthal. Couldn’t sweet talk his way out of wet paper bag.

Like I said, this is just a stereotype, but here’s my point: the world-class link builder might be all of the above (except for the fourth one), but he’s managed also to pick up some pretty slick negotiating and selling skills, too.

When I’m evaluating link builders I like to look for experience in retail, customer service or sales. I like to look for people who know how to handle themselves with other people.

But a world-class link builder doesn’t stop with that kind of experience. He picks up books like Influence by Robert Cialdini or reads blogs like Copyblogger. He wants to learn how to get people to do what he wants. And he wants to be the best at it (see sign number four).

Why is this important? Like I’ve said before, getting the link isn’t about the link. It isn’t about that string of code that starts with http. It’s about the person behind that code. He or she has feelings, needs and dreams, and the best way to get what you want is to help that person get what they want.  

No. 6: Discerning

Before Penguin, you’d see a lot of this: average link builder contacts one hundred websites, gets links, points these out to client who now thinks he is amazing. Average Link Builder gets paid.

What Average Link Builder doesn’t tell client is that these sites aren’t indexed. And probably will never be.

The world-class link builder, on the other hand, knows better than to chase down one hundred links—even if his client is pounding the desk for one hundred links. He tells the client that one link from a high-authority website far outweighs those 100 from low-quality.

Why is this important? Quality OVER quantity will win the SEO race every time. Hands down.

No. 7: Technical

As you can see, a world-class link builder is part psychologist and part internet geek. He gets both sides of the equation: human and machine.

A lot of the signs I’ve emphasized as Average Link Builder have been on the extreme side of the machine. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an Average Link Builder who is on the extreme side of the human, too.

For instance, you could pluck up one of your best people from sales and drop her into the role of link building. She will definitely stumble, and may eventually fail, if she doesn’t have some core competency with the internet.

For example:

  • She gets HTML, XHTML and eve a little CSS.
  • She knows how to hack her way through one or two current programming languages (COBALT won’t do!).
  • She can upload files through FTP.
  • She can talk SEO with the best of them (or can at least ask probing, thoughtful questions).
  • She knows how to create robots.txt files and 301 redirects via .htaccess.
  • She speaks internet: spends time on Reddit,

She is also crazy good at Excel, obsessed with organization and knows how to manage multiple projects.

Why is this important? Just like in every other area of professional life, a world-class link builder has both high-quality character and competency—otherwise she wouldn’t be a professional. In my opinion, though, it’s easier to teach someone the technical stuff.


So if you are looking to hire a link builder for your SEO, then make sure you try to identify as many of the above signs as you can before you bring him or her on board.

If you are looking to become a link builder, then start cultivating these characteristics in your life. With enough practice and enough time you’ll eventually become a world-class link builder!

Can you share any other signs of world-class link builders?

  1. This is great! I know I need to work on #2, myself! (Though I don’t call myself an SEO person.)

    But I love this: “As you can see, a world-class link builder is part psychologist and part internet geek. He gets both sides of the equation: human and machine.”

    Now excuse me while I go hustle!

  2. Very nice post, enjoyed it. Especially this –

    “A world-class link builder, in reality, is not after the link. He’s after the relationship.”

    That one line is a post in itself.

  3. I struggle with #5. It’s a fine line between building a relationships by finding ways to help people and share knowledge, and building relationships to negotiate & sell.

    Obviously, as a link builder the goal is to get links. But, as you say our foremost reason for building links can’t be the link itself, it has to be about relationships. It’s hard sometimes to find that balance.

    Thanks for the list in No. 7, the technical side of link building where it helps to have knowledge of code & SEO, is a huge opportunity for me!

  4. I read quite a similar post at Distilled’s blog. I need to ask myself – do I have these traits? tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, oh no wait that’s 8! Must work on #8 ~ keen eye for detail – (I may need to use contacts)…figure out who I’m dealing with (a seo-magnifying glass may give me some clues) and work out what hat to wear – oh wait @Thomas – I’m Sherlock Holmes!

    “Elementary dear Watson! I’ll put that in my pipe and smoke it!”

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