At Rocket Clicks we conduct an interview series that features a Q & A with entrepreneurs, innovators, thinkers and leaders (I.e. really smart people). For this interview, we interviewed Debra Mastaler, an industry leader and thinker in link marketing and training.
Debra Mastaler is President of Alliance-Link, an interactive marketing company focused on providing custom link marketing campaigns and link building training. In business since 2000, Debra and her talented staff offer a common-sense approach to link building by combining traditional sales and promotional strategies with effective online search engine marketing tactics. In addition to client projects and link training for Fortune 500 companies and top SEO firms across the globe, Debra is a featured guest speaker, guest blogger and link building trainer for a number of world-class organizations and marketing conferences.
Q : What advice do you have for those new to the link building field?
Debra Mastaler : Be open minded. Don’t follow the teachings or advice of any one “guru,” be sure to read many people and draw your own conclusions. If you really love the link building business, find someone to mentor you. When I started in early 2001, I was very lucky and had an SEO mentor me (Jill Whalen) in addition to having the advice and guidance of some pretty smart people through the years. I do not have a technical background like most of my colleagues, I come from the world of marketing so we swap knowledge and skills when needed. Those friendships are what sustain me a lot of days!
Q : What do you look for in a client? When do you turn one down?
Debra Mastaler : I think my business is like most in that we look for honest clients more than anything. There’s always trepidation on both ends when a new contract is signed, especially when the negotiations and discussions are done via email. Meeting in person makes things easier, you get a better sense of people and their expectations but since this isn’t always possible, it’s key to have well defined contracts. Clients who are clear in their expectations beyond “I want links” helps us, help them.
For the most part, we turn people down because we are already under contract to a site in the same industry. We only work on one site in a particular niche at a time; we feel this is fair for all parties involved. We have several large brands which keep us on monthly consultation retainer, doing so precludes us from working with competitors. It’s a true reflection of the competitive nature of the Web these days.
Q : What is the funniest reply you’ve ever gotten to a link request?
Debra Mastaler : This guy looked me up and then emailed back and asked if I was single. That was the last time I sent an email using my real name.
Q : What is your most valuable link building resource and what do you consider essential reading?
Debra Mastaler : Hands down, the most valuable tool a webmaster can have for link building is a kick-ass copywriter. Given the way the algorithms are working and the incorporation of social media, local and universal search signals, content drives links, comments, and traffic so a good copywriter is a must.
For back link tools, pretty much all the big players in our space offer excellent tools, Raven Tools, Majestic, Open Site Explorer… they will all do the job. Personally I use SEOBook’s Hub Finder tool almost exclusively because it provides co-occurring back link stats which are crucial if you’re linking in competitive markets.
There are a lot of excellent SEO/SEM resources out there these days; I’ll list the places I visit and read daily:
- SEOBook Blog and the SEOBook Community Forum. The blog has open access but the forum is membership based. (Disclaimer here: I am a Moderator for this forum).
- Search Engine Land (Link Week) (Disclaimer – I am a columnist here)
- Search Engine Watch
- SEOMoz Blog
- Search Engine Journal
- SEO Dojo (membership based)
- High Rankings Newsletter
- Search Engine Roundtable
- SEO By The Sea Blog
- Mi Islita
Q : How has the industry changed since you started? What is the most important change in your opinion?
Debra Mastaler : Yes, all aspects of the SEO industry have changed since I came along in 2000 but that’s normal isn’t it? New people, new algorithms, new engines, new mediums… we change like any other industry. I think the one change that’s impacted me more than any other is the introduction of universal search. It was like a breath of fresh air and the world of opportunity collided, there are so many new venues now to work in my job got a little easier. But just a little.
I will say this about what we do, there is NEVER a dull moment.
Knowledge Manager & Link Maven