Interview with Wiep Knol

I recently did an interview with Wiep Knol, here is the scoop. When Wiep talks it’s time to take notes:

How did you get started in link building?

Well, that was by coincidence, actually. During my Marketing Management study, I got into online marketing during an internship. I ended up at a company that was ‘managing’ somewhere between two and three thousand low quality websites. I had the dreadful task to promote these websites.

Believe it or not, but this helped me learn a lot about how *not* to build a website, and how *not* to promote websites. Nothing is a better teacher than trial and error. After my study, I was hired by Tribal Internet Marketing, a Dutch SEM agency. They didn’t offer link building yet, which meant that I had to set up a new service, and had the opportunity to bring my knowledge to a new level as well.

If I was training to be a doctor, there would be a clear cut educational path for me to follow- go to college, major in this, go to medical school, take these courses, do this residency etc… With link building/internet marketing there is no such established path. You are a highly experienced link builder with a great reputation. If you were to set a “formalized path” for a link builder in training, what advice would you give them? What books to read? What experiences to have? What authors to follow? Any foundational posts from around the internet that standout to you?

I have trained quite a few link builders, and basically I have the same approach as Todd Malicoat. Articles like Adam Audette’s fundamentals of link building are great for inexperienced link builders, and these other link building articles are good reads too. Additionally, some ebooks, such as the ones from SEOmoz or Wordtracker, and SEObook’s training section also contain excellent tips and information. Oh, and all the advice that Debra Mastalers leaves in the SEObook community as well.

After reading about link building, the best training is to give someone a website. Let him or her play with a small affiliate or test website (or maybe two), to find out what works and what doesn’t.

How do you judge a successful link building campaign?

Actually, that depends on the goals of the link building campaign. When we’ve met the goals that we initially set, a link building campaign is usually a success. These goals can differ, though, as building links for traffic, rankings or sales may require a different approach, and can lead to different results. An important factor for me is that it looks natural.

What’s your advice regarding using tools for SEO (the tools that automate the development of links etc), or one of the many services where you pay $50 for 50,000 links?

People will always keep searching for shortcuts. When you don’t have deep pockets and also don’t like link building, a ’50,000 PR5+ links for $19,95′ offer can look very tempting. However, you *always* get what you pay for, and sometimes you’ll get even less.

As for the automation tools – I don’t use them, but I can imagine a few of them may be useful for some people. However, when you’re working with an important, non-disposable website, I wouldn’t risk it.

Without giving away too much, what are some of your favorite tools to use, or places to go fishing for new ideas/relationships when you take on a new link building client?

Besides the tools that I mentioned here and here, I also love using LinkedIn. It can be very useful to go through a client’s LinkedIn profile, and see who he’s connected to. You’ll be surprised to see how well connected some people are, which can make the life of a link builder much easier.

Most valuable link in your opinion and why? (A) High PR link on some crusty old website; (B) 200 anchor text links from a website with the homepage of PR0; (C) A handful of links on topically relevant albeit obscure websites; (D) two or three links that actually bring waves of traffic to your site?

It depends on the situation, but in most cases I’d go for D. If the links are relevant and your content is good, those two or three links will result in quite some traffic, some conversions and a probably a few new links as well.

How do you keep track of the latest link baits that have been successful across niches?

You can never follow everything, but Twitter, Delicious and email can cover quite a lot.

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