Skip to content

Trash-Talkin’ Newbies: the New Link Builders

SEO World has a new generation of specialists. They are brash, aggressive, and proud trash-talkers. They are link builders. They build links. They grew up (physically) with a Google where all that mattered for SEO was links, links, and more links.

Oh, so young, and oh, so…… naive? Yet they work hard (when they are working). They have a focus that works for the win : get paid to build links, and build links to get paid.

With a lightweight requirement for that focus to not be required for very long, on any given day, it’s a good “job” for this period of uncertain economic status, and overpriced schooling.

The Origin Story of Modern Day SEO Link Builders

Of course there have always been SEOs who focused exclusively on link building. Even some of the old school RockStarz actually just managed link building for affiliate and client sites. I know a few like ________ and ________ who took to the podium on a regular basis to preach high-brow white hat SEO tactics, while limiting their actual SEO practice to building links using 3rd party service providers.

Plus many mainstream SEOs have lost their touch with modern Google. Since none of their SEO mojo moves the modern day Google needle, they work to shift clients to PPC and, you guessed it, link building.

But the older generation of link building SEOs hid their secret link builder lives. Today’s new generation of link builders are openly trash talking about links and PBNs on social media, unafraid of consequences.

I have to admit, history has shown there is no more Matt Cutts, and today’s Google seems to love love love sites with little more than link support.

Today’s Young Link Builders

Some started as junior assistants to SEOs active in the early 2000s, when links seemed to be the only way a poorly-trained SEO could gain traction in the SERPs. SEOs like _______, ______, and ______ who disregarded technical, content, or strategic SEO and just focused on brute force link blasting for the win.

Once capable, they took their skills with them to work as independent freelancers, mixing old school outreach with new school private blog network development, for a flexible product mix they could play with, while still getting paid. Often running tax-exempt Bitcoin or Paypal-for-the-win operations, they have incredible financial freedom, compared to similar mom’s basement operators of yesterday.

Others are completely new to the SEO game, having simply started on the advice of a friend in category 1 or category 3, described below. “Just build links for a fee, and put 50% of your earnings back into building affiliate sites you can also utilize for shit backlinks for low-budget clients”, they were told. From what I’ve been told, they put 100% back in (living off funds stolen from mom’s purse in the mean time).

S.C.O.R.E! It was good advice… while established link builders grew to charge $10k/month for quality link building for real projects, these scrappy upstarts picked up the low end of the marketplace, offering unchecked quality backlinks for $100, $250, or $500 per month (who needs a contract when you have credit card rebilling lol?).

Of course once a client perceived a dependency on those links, the maintenance price went to $100 or $1500 or… whatever, right?

That third category? Some of the new crop of link builders are actually spawn of old school SEO link builders, still feeding at the tit but branching out into the darker, scammier arenas too risky for Big Brands that pay $10k/month for link building services.Nice work if you can get it.

Spammin and Jammin’

Fun aside, props are due to the doers who get the job done. In the past, once Google clamped down and stopped sharing the advertising revenue, aside from seriously committed business developers (most of whom were independent or semi-independent lead gen types), most SEOs were spammin’ and jammin’ to financial gains. Only the Podium SEOs, Big Brand consultants,  and professional pretenders were able to keep the funds flowing while underperforming on the SEO front.

Who are these young’uns who get the job done? For now, I won’t link out to any of them, until they convince me I should (and of course, then I will). They are, after all, link builders, right?

The Declining Value of Established SEO Websites

The truth is they will only reach out to me for shits and giggles, because with the current Google, they don’t need links from me or anyone else with SEO relevance. They can just point 1,000 shit links and get a bigger boost, immediately, routed through a throw-away proxy for safety, right?


The Dawn of the Disinformation Age

We can haggle about the exact month or quarter later, when we have historical hindsight, but as of right now I’m calling it: the Information Age has ended, and we are now in the Disinformation Age.

Fake News is not the Reason

Chris Hedges did a good job describing the Fake News phenomenon:

The object of fake news is to shape public opinion by creating fictional personalities and emotional responses that overwhelm reality. Hillary Clinton, contrary to how she often was portrayed during the recent presidential campaign, never fought on behalf of women and children—she was an advocate for the destruction of a welfare system in which 70 percent of the recipients were children. She is a tool of the big banks, Wall Street and the war industry. Pseudo-events were created to maintain the fiction of her concern for women and children, her compassion and her connections to ordinary people. Trump never has been a great businessman. He has a long history of bankruptcies and shady business practices. But he played the fictional role of a titan of finance on his reality television show, “The Apprentice.”

The rise of Fake News isn’t responsible for the Dawn of the Disinformation Age. It’s just one very obvious symptom of the establishment of the new age. Fake News has been around forever. When I was a kid, it was gossip, and rumor. The internet has amplified it, and made it more powerful. The corrupt press has adopted it as a tool.

We all saw that part coming… the rise of the “television Anchor Man” who wasn’t a real journalist. The dawn of “cable news”. The embedding of media and elimination of field journalists & photojournalists. The consolidation of newspapers. The success of tabloids in Britain, as newspapers struggled. The firing of news staff, replaced with new people charitably described as early-career “writers”. The move from professional photography to “hey wanna-be celebrity news correspondant, don’t forget to bring your iphone to get some pics“.

Corrupted Information Distribution

Now we also have the corruption of information distribution, via agendas pursued behind the scenes by Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and others. Google has long hidden its manipulations behind a secret “algorithm”. Facebook hid its manipulations behind the Timeline interfacess. And Twitter..well, I guess poor Twitter couldn’t come up with anything better than the outright censorship they’ve implemented.

The Blogging Revolution didn’t last long. The corrupt entities worked to kill it technically, while simultaneously shifting incentives away from independent reporting.

Google manipulated commenting, compartmentalized indexation & ranking of blog-published content, and killed non-Google distribution efforts. It raided the RSS world for virtually all the leadership talent, and then aggregating the feed users via its subsequent virtual monopoly on RSS feed reading and distribution. Then Google killed off its own popular feed reader abruptly.

Facebook’s core agenda competes directly with blogging, so simply advancing with billions of IPO dollars worked to kill blogging.

Similarly, Twitter’s parasitic “microblogging platform” eagerly sickened the host.

Group Think and In-Group Preference

Probably the biggest colluding factor aiding the rise of the Age of Disinformation seems to be Group Think, also known as “in group preference“. That part is YOU, dear reader. When you echo only sentiments you agree with, whether or not they are based in fact or even reasonable, you contribute to the group think that appears to be reality to so many who know even less than you.

All the Trump comments are perfect evidence of this. I won’t go there in this article, but if you have a firm stance pro or against President Donald Trump, you are likely part of the problem.


In America, the common man has been abandoned by the press. As individuals permit their livelihoods and lives to be placed at risk, as a consequence of they themselves choosing not to investigate or reason through often inaccessible facts, they feel the vulnerability. In response, they are forced to cope with fear and uncertainty, even as they go about their regular business.

Fear and Loathing in America

Ambient fear and uncertainty takes a significant toll of the psyche.

Operating under fear, individuals do not think more reasonably, act more rationally, or listen more astutely. Nor do they react more appropriately.

On the contrary, manipulated by fear they over-react, shut down, deny threats, take drugs to manage anxiety, and sometimes scream out in anger, resentment, or despair.

Have you ever tried to console a 3 year old whose balloon has escape and is visibly soaring away, high in the sky? Nothing will ease the pain, except a promise of immediate attention to the task of getting another one, right now. And sometimes it needs to be a bigger, better one.

That promise is often a lie… unless the little tyrant has previously proven he really means to wreck the world unless he gets his balloon back, right, now.

Reference: I don’t agree with a lot Chris Hedges writes these days. I see him as biased; swayed by disgust with his journalism peers, and perhaps disappointed to the point of depression, if not actually crippled, by his loss of access to quality information. But, within this essay I found the above commentary on Fake News

Hate the Player

Here’s another post for the “I’ve seen this alot while an SEO consultant” category.

In discussions yesterday, a young guy lamented his lack of serious success, even though he was very good at what he does, and even though he worked very hard. I listened, and yawned. A lot. It’s the same old stories.

Yesterday Hacker News ran a thread about how developers could make “passive income” with their skills. The declarative answer citing profit levels for games, ebooks, courses, etc was full of guesses and errors, but sounded authoritative to the readers. The comments stream was funny… I don’t think a single commenter sounded credible to me.

Same old same old, for a new crop of inquisitors. “We (developers) are awesome. Businesses make profits because we are awesome. How can I get more of that awesomeness for myself?

The truth is, independent success is not always about being good at what you do. Sorry.

SEO is not just Keywords or Optimizations

The Hacker News folks concluded that developers aren’t very good at business, which they have to be in order to achieve independent success. And they probably won’t find “passive” success much… it usually requires a lot of ongoing work. Go figure?

Yesterday on Twitter someone noted that a dental marketing company had a sub-par website, yet reportedly cleared $4M / year in revenues. That confused him… how “with a website like that” they could achieve what he considered outstanding success, with what looked like a small operation.

A quick look at that website revealed they claim an average of 60 new customers per month for their clients. A modern, professional, effective website means very little when compared to word of mouth testimonial that a hired agency will add 60 new customers to your dental practice each month. However they do it doesn’t matter…and whether that is visible from their website or not, doesn’t matter.

Those self-proclaimed experts offering SEO audits do the same thing every day… they come in from outside, make detached, specific judgments of “what’s wrong” with a web business, or what could be better, add some soft promises of success that could be obtained by listening to their advice, and then walk away with their (often hefty) fee.

It is usually clear that they know very little about how a specific business achieves actual success… they merely track this or that metric which they believe is correlated with business success, and rely on oft-repeated claims of how seo and web marketing support business success.

Players, Every One

These are all players. They are in the game to play, not to win.

There is a saying “don’t hate the player; hate the game” which is usually uttered as a defense against being scolded for playing. I think that defense also reveals the truth about players — they need the game to continue, in order to survive.

An SEO consultant survives by winning at the consulting game, not by playing. Just like everyone else, playing is a time-consuming activity, so being paid to play is just having a job. You work, you get paid.

True success (for anyone… a consultant, or a company) involves revenue generation separate from active participation. The Hacker News developer sought the secret recipe for “passive income” probably because he’s tired of playing the game… or he knows that he will only get paid as much as he participates. He wants a side gig that pays dividends without requiring continuing hours of effort.

Don’t we all want that?

The successful consultant wants to earn enough with N hours of effort, to afford a lifestyle that includes N+X hours of leisure of other activity (more time off work than at work).

If you smartly earn $2 Million in 6 months, you can live like a millionaire for the whole year. Scale that up or down according to your lifestyle goals, but the point is you don’t have to work the 9x5x5x50 (9-5 job, 5 days per week, 2 weeks vacation) to enjoy a well-funded life.

See One, Do One, Teach One?

In medical school there was a saying “see one, do one, teach one”. A medical person would not attempt any new procedure, because that was forbidden (they were not “qualified”). Yet oddly, the qualification required was as minimal as possible — often as little as having witnessed the procedure done by someone else.

See one, do one. Visit with a cooperating mentor, be shown how to do it, and then go and do it.

Equally surprising was the way this cascaded down the food chain, from Sr. Surgeon to attending surgeon to surgical resident etc… That is the “teach one” part.

Educators know that teaching is a great way of reinforcing learning… so the medical school culture of “see one, do one, teach one” supported practical supervised learning and training… throughout the system. A young Doc would seek out a chance to participate in a surgery, and then a chance to do one, and later teach others the same way.

In SEO consulting, THIS — DOESN’T — WORK. Yet, I see it tried all the time. It works for players, but it doesn’t lead to serious success in the game. And I can tie idea this back to the original “real success” issue raised by my Jr. SEO Consultant friend.

They Try This All The Time

If you succeed at SEO consulting, you will develop a reputation for being someone who can actually “move the needle“, meaning you have proven yourself by developing real, meaningful ranking websites or increasing business revenues significantly relative to your fee.

Once that happens, you will be approached by winners, not just those seeking to play the game. Real business winners don’t chase uncertain or unproven consultants. They wait… and approach the winners.

This should be part of success for your SEO consulting business — good clients coming to you — but actually, it is another of the many traps awaiting those who succeed at life.

Remember the wise old saying… “as you grow stronger, the world gets more dangerous”.

The winners are not better clients, although they do bring bigger opportunities for success.

I have this Friend

Time and again I am approached by a winner who is seeking help with his business, while behind the scenes that guy is actually one member of a group of winners, running multiple businesses. While Guy #1 approaches me to attempt to engage me into consulting for his successful business, he is really working on behalf of Guy #2, Guy #3, and others, who have much bigger plans if what I can do for Guy #1 actually works.

This is usually obvious to me, because I do background work on any serious client prospect. Before meeting, I usually know where their success comes from, and it is (usually) clear when a private network of businessmen support each other. And that is very often the case.

Independent success is not always about being good at what you do.

Humans form tribes. Tribe members help each other. Relatives, cousins, college floor mates, buddies from an older funding round, etc. Chances are very good that Guy #1’s successful business was helped by his mates, or his club membership, or is not-exactly-as-it-seems (such as backed by a family funder, or owned by a partnership). During an interview, it’s pretty easy for me to learn when someone is seriously engaged into hiring me, vs. attempting to check me out using a less-meaningful project.

I don’t take those jobs. I don’t have to, and I know they are not “winners” for me.

Another fun fact: the typical “much bigger project” potentially undertaken by that larger club, tribe, or group is not usually a very good idea.

Guy #1 is, however, the one who usually believes it is. The other guys are usually “see one… do one” types. If they don’t support the plan of trying out an SEO consultant with a starter project, they are going along because they expect to learn whatever they can about how that SEO consultant operates, so they can attempt to do the same, themselves, and their own projects.

There is No Substitute for Success

The bottom line for any SEO is that success is defined by the project. If it’s yours, you know what matters, and what doesn’t. There is never any debate about SEO because you are constantly adapting to a real business climate, with all of your skills and resources. This is where people like me have the most fun and the most success, and where our work deviates the most of the seo “players” selling SEO services and tools. That’s just not how real business works.

When doing SEO work for a client, the client must declare the success metrics for your work, or you can’t proceed efficiently, and you cannot expect real success of your own. If they can’t define the success metrics, offer to work with them (as a paid consultant) to develop the project into one that you can help them win.

SEO consulting is a type of consulting. As with any consulting, success is based on client satisfaction, delivery in according with expectations, and success in the game, as defined by the client-consultant agreement.

All of the rest of SEO and “consulting” is just playing the game, and keeping busy (employed).

While it’s fine to choose to be a player if you want to, you are not playing to win, so you can’t complain when you finally realize you can never win. In that case do indeed “hate the player”,  because that’s the player’s fault.