Jim Boykin’s Linkbuilding Tips

I’m chuffed to reveal the first Hobo SEO UK Interview and bring the world news of Jim’s new venture!

So It’s Jim Boykin, CEO of the very much respected US based SEO, link-building and internet marketing company, We Build Pages Internet Marketing Ninjas. He was the first person to comment on my personal blog, and to say his posts on SEO and link-building at Jim Boykin got me thinking and inspired me is an understatement. So for me, he was my ideal guy to ask to kick off the SEO. Q&A Interviews, and luckily for me he said yes.

I approached Jim and asked him a series of questions. I was pleased as punch to receive a quick reply and all in the original form they were put to put to him.

Hobo: Jim, thanks for your time. As the comment on my personal blog is testament to, you were the first person to actually make me “think about links” (you were actually the first person to comment on my personal blog, too, which is pretty cool).

When I was building links to this site I must have read your entire blog, and I have to say, your writing inspired me into thinking more creatively about link-building and gave me ideas of how to identify decent links. If you had to pick 5 link-building posts from your blog for people to remember you by, and get rid of all the others, which 5 would you pick?

Jim – hum….can I go with 6?

  1. Can Google Find and Spank your Paid Links? www.jimboykin.com/google-paid-links
  2. Reddit Paid Links and Loosing Trust www.jimboykin.com/paid-link-trust/
  3. Links Within Content, Linking to Content – a Rant. www.jimboykin.com/links-within-content-linking-to-content-a-rant/
  4. Part Two on Tips for finding the best pages to get links from. www.jimboykin.com/part-two-tips-for-finding-the-best-pages-to-get-links-from/
  5. How come that site with 50 backlinks beats your site with 1000 backlinks. www.jimboykin.com/site-backlinks/
  6. Changes and Paranoia – the sky is falling www.jimboykin.com/45/


Hobo: Yup read all of those (a couple more of my favourites later). You’re considering going under the radar and have mentioned you may stop blogging. Scared of Google these days? What did you think of the “recent Pagerank massacre” and “War on Paid Links”.

Jim – “Massacre” and “War” are quite the fightin’ phrases….maybe I’d call it “The Great Toolbar PageRank Illusion of late 2007” myself….or maybe some Google engineers call it the “Hehe, you’re Pagerank 8 now looks like a Pagerank 4 because it looks like you were selling links purely for Pagerank Value”, there’s also other various SEO’s and bloggers who tempt Google, unknowingly or not have been spanked around (mostly by showing a lower Pagerank, but not effecting rankings), oh yea and blog reviews are getting spanked around too….yea, maybe you could call it a “war”….but in the SEO Business, change is always happening. For years Google has been drawing the lines with what they can do algorithmically, and with some Human Spam Engineers, and what they can do with FUD.

What do I think about that? Well, Don’t tempt Google by openly buying or selling links – If you’re going for links, stay under the radar.


Hobo: OK “massacre” etc might have been a tad over dramatic, but Andy was certainly pissed about it! This site dropped to a PR5 from a PR7, with no loss of traffic. We never sell links but I decided I would clean up my internal and external link neighbourhood anyway – it was overdue.

I‘m an on-page SEO. I’m addicted to it. Are you still addicted to link building or do you have people to do that for you now? Are you still a SEO addict?

Oh, and Jim, FUD sometimes means something different in Scotland.

Jim – I am a hardcore SEO and link building addict. Every now and then I do have some correspondence that might produce a link….but I no longer send emails or make calls requesting any links, since out of 30 employees, 20 are full time Link Ninjas, But to this day I still totally obsess over the methods and the art of link building/SEO.


Hobo – I confess I think I’ve asked people for about ten links in my entire career via email. I’m obsessing about internal linking at the moment and link juice flow and have been for a month or two.

What shouldn’t link builders obsess over?

Jim – Toolbar Pagerank and Number of Links. That’s been something that the past few years most knew to ignore, but recently, for some reason, people are flipping out over Toolbar Pagerank stuff. Some don’t agree that the toolbar is for entertainment purposes only. If you don’t care about Toolbar Pagerank, then chances are, you don’t have any issues with the games Google is playing right now. And if your focus is Pagerank, then you’re asking to get whacked by Google.

Hobo – Ever consider doing a SEOmoz with premium content and tools?

Jim – Hehe. Funny you should ask. You’re the first “press” I’m telling about the Internet Marketing Ninjas Program I can’t say too much about this now, but probably within days of this interview being published it will live. It’s an amazing collection of videos by many of the worlds best Internet Marketing Ninjas talking about their specialty in Internet Marketing.

Hobo – That sounds fantastic and I’ll defo have a look.

Jim, what is a quality link these days? Go on, give me an idea of the signals you’re looking at, and the tools you use. Is the most valuable link a link embedded in text content?

Jim – Well, if I were to see a link somewhere, and were ask to value it’s SEO’s worth, then I’d look at the page where the link is located on, and compare it where that link links to. From the “ad” page, I’d see what percent of the internal links link to that page, then I’d check the internal link text used to link to that page, then I’d check external links to that page, and link text used from other sites that link to that page, then I’d look at the title tag of the page, then I’d look at the content of that page, I could peek at the age of the url, edu’s, edu’s to page, other links on that page (co-citation), related pages of that page, and a few other things too….there’s tons you can analyze, and all have a certain value. In the end it comes to “you get what you can get”, it’s not always the “perfect link”.


Hobo – OK I meet you at a SEO conference, you’ve agreed to help me out, and I ask you what’s the best bit of advice about link building you can give me and you‚ve got about 5 seconds before you need to rush off. What do you say?

Jim – Get links from sites that aren’t openly selling links.


Hobo – OK I meet you at a SEO conference, you like the cut of my jib, and I ask you what’s the VERY best bit of advice about link building you can give me and I put a Grand in your hand ($ of course not proper money). Would your advice be any different from above?

Jim – I would elaborate on how to find those types of sites, and what to do when you’ve found them….but that’s not something I’d ever publish.


Hobo – What do you think is the biggest myth in link building today?

Jim – That Social Media (SMO – Edit) is the solution to link building/rankings.


Hobo – I hear you. I got bored spamming those months back and have watched as one by one each is devalued. It’s good for reputation management noise and a bit of traffic nut you need to be dedicated to pull it off.

We all know Google keys off many differet signals at any one time to rank pages. How important is who you link to, for instance? How important is co-citation these days?

Jim – It’s all pieces of the puzzle, and who you link to is an important part. If you’ve got crappy links pages still up from 1999, you might want to revisit those. I believe who you link to effects the “trust value” of your site. If you link out to crappy SEO’d sites you probably don’t have much trust, but if you link out to highly trusted sites I believe it can help your sites trust value, and thus rankings. It’s one piece of the puzzle.


Hobo – Do you believe that the proximity of keywords in text next to, for instance, “click here” links plays a factor in SEO today?

Jim – Yea, I’ve been thinking that for years. I’d bet words near links play a role, and to another extent, all words on that page play a role.


Hobo – Do you consider geo-targeting when obtaining links?

Jim – Yes, sometimes.


Hobo – Do you think Google actually knows the topic / theme of my website, then?

Jim – Yes, I’m sure there’s Word signals they look at to help them determine topics. Signals like: Similar Pages, common words found on your website, words used to link in, topics of sites that link in, etc, etc. Yes, I believe Google knows a lot about topics, that’s a piece of the puzzle too.


Hobo – What’s your take on directories these days. Do you personally rate any?

Jim – 98.5% are worthless crap, and if you’re on 50% of the “top 50” directories you’ve just flagged your site as an SEO’d site.


Hobo – Yeah I’ve never been much of a directory guy either. I just got into DMOZ after 6 years of trying (after reading an article of yours actually and then only by picking the most boring non-optimized title and description I could think of:

DMOZ – ( “HoboWeb Ltd UK – Offers web design and SEO services. Includes a portfolio of designs and contact forms.“)

I am considering Yahoo! again these days however.

Do you think you can hurt a competitor’s ranking with crafty anti-links?

Jim – I’m sure I could….I’m sure I could buy some huge over the radar links for a competitor, then spam some forums, edu’s, and blogs, then I could email a Google Engineer, and that site may be toast…..could it be done, certainly, but I’d never do it.


Hobo – What’s more important. 1. Links 2. Internal Google Juice 3. On-page Optimization?

Jim – Links…with links you can trump everything else, without them, you can’t.


Hobo – I don’t see you that much in the social networking sites I frequent. Where, do you hang out these days online? Which sites have you visited every day in the last week?

Jim – I visit Digg for entertainment daily, but for daily “work news” I visit Sphinn, Daily top Sphinn’s , Search Engine Land, (The Day in Search), SEOMoz Blog , and the Mr and Mrs SEOBook Blog. There’s a lot of others I read pretty regularly, but these are every day stops.


Hobo – Actually that’s where I’m at every day too, along with Andy’s Niche Marketing, Webmasterworld Google and I have to admit NSM. I bought the SEO Book a couple of months ago (just not had the time to read it all and in fact recently for some reason sped read Dan Thies which I enjoyed) and I like Aaron’s intense thinking. Sphinn’s magic but I tire of the incessant self promotion sometimes although I’ve found some great blogs because of it. SEOmoz is doing great stuff at the moment and I love Rand’s posts that center specifically on SEO and linkbuilding.

I can’t find a post on the internet calling you anything but a good guy who knows his stuff. Ever said anything online you’ve ever regretted? Any apologies to make?

Jim – I’m sure I must have pissed off a few people over the years…but luckily I can honestly say that I don’t have any SEO enemies that I know of, to me other SEO’s are my closest friends.


You won the best link building blog in 2006. What’s the best link-building blogs you’re reading today?

Who’s got the best ideas?

Jim – There’s not many who blog almost exclusively on link building anymore. There have been some great SEO Bloggers who have published a lot of articles on the topic of link building this year, like SugarRae , Graywolf , SEOBook , Sebastian’s Pamphlets , SEOMoz , and others.


Hobo – Nice to know I’m reading the right blogs. Nicked a couple of ideas from Michael at Wolf-Howl (visible and hidden) and compared my ideas with those at SEOMoz. I discovered Sebastian via Sphinn and have enjoyed a visit or two.

Your post about link neighbourhoods is in my head every day (and has been for as long as I realised I was addicted to this stuff). I’m a believer but I’m not a hundred percent sure of it these days. So many sites rank, especially in the SEO industry, on crap sitewide links from client sites, or at least it looks that way.

What’s your thoughts on “neighbourhoods” and “hubs” these days?

Jim – I still highly believe it neighborhoods. There’s different ways to skin the SEO Cat, and one way is trying your best to work within the neighborhood. Yes, there’s always exceptions that are in the top 10 at any given time….but I do find that those sites that stick around in the top 10 year after year are often the ones in the right neighborhood.


Hobo – You’ve hung out with Tedster on WMW, haven’t you? There’s a guy who knows his stuff and I really respect. Which SEO do you really rate in the SEO world?

Jim – Tedster is a legend at Webmasterworld who brings sanity and great wisdom when he comments. There’s a ton of people I really respect in this business, too many to list, and I’d feel guilty for forgetting whomever I’d forget.


Hobo – “Jim Boykin – The Artful Dodger”. What’s your favourite SEO tools, and secondly, your favourite We Build Pages Tools?

Jim – My favorite SEO tool is a private tool that I can’t tell you about, and my favorite We Build Pages tool is the Top 10 Analysis Tool.


Hobo – If you can’t tell me about your private tools who can you tell? OK – Who’s the nicest guy in SEO, apart from yourself? Who is your favourite link baiter?

Jim – Nicest guy in SEO….might have to go with Todd Malicoat (stuntdubl) , he has a way of making everyone happy. Favorite link baiter…Rand.


Hobo – I love Rand’s stuff as well as watching Andy & Lyndoman go through the motions and getting passionate about things. Jim, What was the last thing that really made you mad!?

Jim – Hum…when my 3 year old, who was potty trained, reverted back to peeing and pooping in his pants…then I was mad….at least he said to Mommy, “Daddy is MAD!”. But that’s a small thing ;). I’ve never yelled at work, and only can remember getting mad twice at work in the past 9 years, but even those were brief. I’m a pretty mellow guy overall.


Hobo – Don’t be too hard on the boy. I nearly had a similar set-back too when I saw this photo of you. :)

We’re a very small SEO company in Scotland trying to get noticed in a crowd. You’ve got 30 people working with you now “what’s been the biggest challenge growing your company over the years and care to share your any tips on managing a small firm? Ever thought “I’ve had enough”?

Jim – I’ve never thought “I’ve had enough”. There certainly has been a lot of challenges going from the CEO of 1 to the CEO of 30. I’m sure there has been a lot that I could have done differently, but I feel lucky at the current outcome of where we are, and I’m looking forward to where we’re going as far as size is concerned.

Yes, the more people we hire, the more unique management situations arise, but on the flip side, it also brings additional talent. I’ve been very pleased with the move from 1 link building team, to the current 4 teams. These teams compete against each other, and the ninjas compete on an individual basis as well. The internal competition is something that I’ve seen can bring out the best in our ninjas. It’s also nice now to see others here working late, and putting in time at home. Now most of the gossip around the water cooler is about Google and SEOmoz articles or Sphinn stories or client bragging. I found that was harder to create when I had fewer link ninjas.


Hobo – What do you think of Scotland? Many (in Scotland) think it’s the SEO capital of the UK.

Jim – I love it! My Grandfather came over from Scotland. I’ve only been there once, but if you’re into having a beer together, maybe I can work in a business trip this coming year ;)


Hobo – Consider that a “date”. I know you like traveling, so what was the best Expo / Conference you went to this year, what are you going for next year?

Jim – Hum, we’ll I’ll be in Las Vegas for Pubcon in a few days…that could always be the best for the year….um, they’ve all been fun, I seriously can’t pick 1. But for business trips this year I visited some cool places like, Arizona, San Francisco, The Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, NYC, Seattle, Ireland, Olympic National Park, Texas, and others. For 08 I’m looking at Vegas, Grand Canyon, Colorado, Amsterdam, London, and South Africa at the least. I love these perks….at least to me it feels like a perk of the job….even if it is “business”.


Jim Feeling LuckyHobo – Forget Scotland, I’ll meet you in Amsterdam :)

I’m defo going to one of the US gigs this year. Any predictions for 2008? Where’s We Build Pages going?

Jim – Up!


Hobo – What would make you happy in the coming years?

Jim – Well, in the long run, to be able the leave the world a better place. In the mean time, to give to my family as well as to take We Build Pages into the future.


Hobo – OK Jim. Start making the world a better place and let me play with your private WBP tools for an hour?

Jim – I might let you play with some of them real soon….It will be the Internet Marketing Ninjas Program, that includes amazing videos by many of the worlds best Internet Marketers. If you purchase the videos you get free access to some of our private tools.

Shaun, Thanks for the interview, I enjoyed your questions and have always enjoyed chatting with you! Maybe we’ll grab that beer in Scotland this year!


Hobo – Jim, thanks a million and the pleasure was all mine. Beers sounds magic but only if you’re buying the beers of course – I’m from Scotland after all :)

However I am a little disappointed you never let on which was your favourite band! Oh well….

Let me know when Scotland is within your reach and I’ll take you to to a decent bar and diner in Edinburgh or Glasgow to collect them aforementioned beers.

More SEO & Linkbuilding tips

The first interview, hope you liked it.

UPDATE – Jim and I have since met and have enjoyed that beer.


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