Link Value Factors And Why Eric Ward Needs Help

by TheMadHat on December 13, 2007

Dumb AnswersWiep recently came out with a Link Value poll in the essence of the SEOmoz Search Engine Ranking Factors and asked a panel of 17 link building experts their opinions on 39 different properties of a link and the potential weight of each. It’s a great report with some excellent insight so if you haven’t seen it, go give it a read.

As you may have noticed by my not so subtle title, I’m concentrating on a certain expert. Now I don’t personally know Eric other than speaking to him at a couple of conferences so this isn’t a personal attack. I know he’s been link building since 1994 and whatever blaa blaa blaa. Maybe he just doesn’t want to let go of any information but in my opinion this makes him look like a Digital Point poser. Let’s look at his responses to each question:

1. Anchor Text: “Multiple factors play into the ultimate effect of anchor text. The best anchor text in the world is meaningless if the site has not shown previous signals of trust.”
2. Type of link: “Again, multiple factors play into the ultimate effect of text and/or image links. The best image links in the world are meaningless if the site where they reside has not shown previous signals of trust.”
3. Surrounding text: “Multiple factors play into the ultimate effect of surrounding text. In some cases it will be useful, in some cases it will be useless.”
4. Number of links: “It will depend on quality of the source sites.”
5. Location of link: “It will depend on the source site.”
6. Reciprocity: “It will depend on the sites and the subject matter, and the historical subject specific reciprocity tendencies”
7. Target page: “As with all things, it is not as simple as people want to make it. No two sites are created equal and thus the links between them cannot be categorized equally.”
8. Location of link in source code: “It will depend on the source site.”
9. Page authority: “It will depend on the source site.”
10. Total amount of links: “Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It will depend on the source site’s previously earned trust.”
11. Page authority (in internal links): “I’ve ranked pages #1 with nothing more than a single link from a single page.”
12. Age of the page: “Sometimes yes, sometimes no. You have to know what to look for. It will depend on the source site’s previosuly earned trust.”
13. Page relevance (contextual relevance): “It will depend on the both source and destination site.”
14. Amount of non-linking content: “It will depend on the source site’s previously earned trust.”
15. URL of the page: “Sometimes yes, sometimes no. You have to know what to look for.”
16. Page authority (in PageRank): “It will depend on the source site.”
17. Last date of page edit: “Not always. You have to know what to look for.”
18. Page type: “Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It will depend on the source site’s previously earned trust.”
19. Domain authority (in quality of backlinks): “But…not 100% of the time.”
20. Age of domain: “Unless it was an old crappy site to begin with. If the content was junk, ten years later it is simply aged junk.”
21. Relevant authority (in rankings on relevant keywords): “Bingo. Keno. Yahtzee. Amen.”
22. Domain authority (in PageRank): “But…not 100% of the time.”
23. Domain authority (in rankings on irrelevant keywords): “Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It will depend on the source site’s previosuly earned trust.”
24. Domain relevance: “For higher end trusted content sites the domain name relevance is absolutely meaningless, and has to be.”
25. TLD (.com, .edu, etc.): “You can find worthless content on any TLD. The TLD alone is not enough to say the link value will be higher/lower.”
26. Robots.txt excluded page: “SERP only.”
27. Javascript link: “SERP only.”
28. Noindex page: “SERP only.”

No response on Age of the link, Amount of outbound links, Relevance of other outbound links, Quality of other outbound links, Page relevance, Domain authority (in # of backlinks), Alexa ranking, Link is on penalized page, Redirect link, Bad neighborhood links are present and Paid Link triggers.

Weip didn’t list what value each person placed on each item so that makes it a bit confusing sometimes. However, I can see only one answer that actually isn’t doublespeak. Question 21, relevant authority in rankings on relevant keywords. Well yea, of course. The remaining culmination of his answers: “it depends, sometimes, not always” and according to him all these will work if the domain has trust (but he had no response to paid link triggers). Sometimes. Maybe. If you know what to look for.

If I were looking for some link development outsourcing and/or consulting (which I currently am actually) this doesn’t make me want to call him at all. Sometimes I’m sick and tired of people being labeled as “experts” in this industry simply because they’ve been around for a long time. Woopie fucking doo, you’ve emailed Jerry Yang…sign me up. I’m sure Eric know what he’s doing and he’s had a billion testimonials and has been called the godfather of link building, but I’ve yet to take away one piece of advice from anything he’s said online or at a conference that actually helps me do anything. And by no means am I calling myself better at it so let’s not even go there.

I just made some enemies. Bring it.

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Doug Heil December 13, 2007 at 5:03 pm

I take NO stock in what any so-called expert says about much of anything at all in this industry? Why? Because NO ONE knows the correct answers… that’s why.

I find it offensive that you would signal out Eric Ward about this, and not anyone else? Why is that? Heck; if I were to answer any of those questions…. which I would not, but if I did, I’d answer in about the same damn way. BTW: I don’t know Eric and have NEVER communicated with him in any way, shape or form.

If you or anyone out there thinks they know the “right” answers to those types of questions… here’s a cookie for you. I’ll tell you that your full of BS as well.

These type question/answer lists I see in the social sphere are hilarious at best…. useless at worse.

Brian December 13, 2007 at 5:22 pm


I beg to differ, you would quite amazed at what you can discern is truth or baloney by simply getting out there and experimenting. Nobody knows it all but you can get a better idea then, it depends, maybe, and somtimes. Do it for as long as Eric has and I am sure you know whats going on.

If I were Eric I wouldn’t had even submitted my answers if I was just going to beat around the bush the entire time.

TheMadHat December 13, 2007 at 5:23 pm

I singled out Eric Ward for this particular example because he is supposedly the supreme commander of link building and the foremost expert. If I included everyone this post would be too long. The same point can be made with a lot of people, he just happened to be the one this time.

Wingnut December 13, 2007 at 5:33 pm

I’m interested in finding some good link developing outsourcing as well – if you know/find any really good ones, I’d like to hear about it.

TheMadHat December 13, 2007 at 5:42 pm

I’d recommend Jim Boykin, reliable sources have given me the thumbs up. Or hiring and training your own, depending on your budget and how competitive the niche is.

Patti Fousek December 13, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Hmmmm. I understand your frustrations with people calling themselves experts who truly are not experts. However, signaling out Eric Ward is really wrong. If you’ve ever done actual true link building, then you know that it’s not a complete science. Each search engine values an inbound link differently – so what holds true for one search engine, doesn’t necessarily hold true for another. So, I see nothing wrong with Eric’s responses to the poll. His answer “It will depend on the source site’s previously earned trust” is very accurate. The whole point behind link building is to build trust and authority in your particular niche or field. So if you’re obtaining inbound links from a site which hasn’t yet built the amount of trust Google requires (according to their ever changing algorithm), then those particular links won’t account for much.

As you said in your response to Doug and Brian, if
Eric were to give elaborated answers, then he would have written a thesis on link building. But in this case he was responding to a poll, so the length of his answers are acceptable.

There are so many other things in the SEO world you could complain about. Eric’s responses to this poll aren’t one of them.

TheMadHat December 13, 2007 at 6:09 pm

I never said link building was an exact science. And if we’re going there, why didn’t he just say “well, it depends on if the source site is indexed”. I’d say you would have to be on an indexed site for any link juice to pass. Saying “depends on if the source has any trust” is the same thing. A site without trust is one step from a site not indexed.

I’m sure Eric could write a thesis on link building. So could everyone in that poll and they didn’t have retarded non-answers, they had educated opinions.

There are so many things in SEO I could complain about, and I can complain about whatever I want.

SEO Canada December 13, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Good call on all of those. I was also really surprised that Anchor text wasn’t close to a 5. I’ll take some really effective links over a ton of links that don’t have good anchor text :) At Beanstalk SEO we outrank a lot of sites with way more links, because of our anchor text.

TheMadHat December 13, 2007 at 6:19 pm

It did rank the highest out of the bunch, which is good.

theGypsy December 13, 2007 at 9:25 pm

Heeeyyyy Buuuddy…. waaazz up you Mad Cat. I mentioned over on Sphinn that there were many areas missing for me. So many things that are part of the everyday in my link profile development practices. So it is merely a list of ‘opinions’ from some reasonably qualified folks. Definitive? No… Good link bait?? You bet… Go figure…

U want links? Hire me bro… I shall wake up the team of data entry peeps in Taiwan (cheap cheap) and even fire up Xrumer for ya muppet… then I have a team of professional writers for the high level News sites and link bait… where would you like me to dump them for you? bwaaa ha haha ha….

I TOTALLY was too exhausted for my Beer Break… looks like a Friday post… or you want my news??? he he… lazy and tired man…. ugh….



TheMadHat December 13, 2007 at 9:45 pm

Xrumer…how much you want to push a couple buttons? This is for a more WH well shades of gray let’s say. The Xrumer is already running to the link laundering sites then back to the real one through aff links ;)

I just say if you’re going to proclaim expertise then actually say something when you get to the podium.

I’ve been too busy to even get my Friday post ready so I guess the masses will have to wait until next week…after I get slammed for calling out someone so “popular”.

Bathroom Hero December 14, 2007 at 10:53 am

You make good points. Perhaps my seo rankings will go up!

Eric Ward December 15, 2007 at 1:10 am

I’m very sorry my answers to this q/a did not provide what you had wanted, and even more sorry you decided to attack me. That said, fuck off. My answers were exactly correct, there are no absolutes. Factors that will help one site will not help another site. Seen it. Done it. Do it daily. People want to boil link building down to a nice neat set of “factors”, but I can promise you, and even bet my 84 year old mother’s life on it, that the exact same links that can cause one type of content to rank well can cause another type of content to be flagged as link spam. I would have loved to have answered a different set of questions, but I did what I was aked to do, and answered the questions I was given honestly and correctly. I also, BTW, never take on a client without giving them my promise that if they aren’t happy with what I do, they can have every penny back.

Lastly, one final fuck you for attacking me in public without having the decency to ask if I could clarify my answers first. I don’t need one freaking bit of help. I need people to ask better questions.


Eric Ward

Doug Heil December 15, 2007 at 8:48 am

LOL goodness; that sounds exactly like something I’d say. :-)

But yes indeed; this industry just loves big o’l step by step lists of top 20 rank factors, top 69 link building factors, etc. The reality is that NO two sites are alike and no two incoming links are alike for two different sites with the same links. Too many variables exist. It’s the same way with any type of top 10 or 20 list out there. But yeah boy; these type of link baiting lists sometimes do get voted to the front pages of silly social networks with nothing better to do, populated with other type wannabes who love top 10 lists and step by step do-it-yourself guides.

TheMadHat December 15, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Ah, Link Moses himself.

First of all, if you’re going to publicly speak as the foremost authority on a subject, prepare for some people to disagree with you.

Secondly, I think everyone agrees there are not absolutes but I think we can all agree that there are situations where certain techniques work in most cases. A lot of those techniques listed in that story would either be effective in most situations or not. Unless you’re telling me that the rest of that panel is completely ignorant.

Also, BTW, I didn’t say anything about your business or if your clients are happy or if you screw your clients out of money or anything even related so why don’t we just stay away from that. I’m sure your clients are happy with what you do. That wasn’t my point.

For all of your fuck me and fuck off comments…you’re a public figure in this industry and I don’t particularly need your permission to disagree with you, nor do I need to ask you to clarify yourself first. Maybe if you would have emailed me and said “hey, I don’t appreciate that story and this is why I answered the way I did…” I might have followed up this story with your “clarified” answers. Don’t act like such a fucking cry baby.

Frankly, I’m surprised you made it through that whole comment without saying “back when I was building links for Amazon…”. Just because you’re old enough to have been building links in 1994 doesn’t mean shit. You telling me and everyone else to get links from librarians just makes me chuckle a bit. I respect what you’ve done in the past, but in my opinion the advice that you give at your presentations/speaking appearances/interviews doesn’t portray what really matters anymore.

If you care to “clarify” your answers well I suppose this would be your chance wouldn’t it. Public figures get addresses publicly and if you don’t like it stop being so public. Feel free to tell me to fuck off again if you’d like. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tremble or laugh at that.

Eric Ward December 15, 2007 at 8:44 pm

The advice I give today is exactly what matters, and my tactics and techniques have evolved as needed to stay effective. That you think my advice does not portray what matters today is comical. I know EXACTLY what matters today. And I spend thousands of hours and dollars analyzing and studying it every year so I will continue to. Do you? I hire programmers to write linking analysis tools to help me dig through millions and millions of links to understand as many aspects of linking as I can and I live this stuff 24/7. Do you? I’m not giving opinions and ideas and hunches. I’m giving responses based on what the empirical data tells me to be true. And the truth is that it really does depend on the sites giving and getting. There are not real absolutes, well, other than DMOZ ought to be put out of its misery :)

I’m not a public figure on purpose. I really just love this stuff and it burns me a little when someone implies I don’t know my stuff. I do.

The proper approach to link building must be different for each site based on many variables, and the art is in recognizing what will be the best approach each time and why.
A link from the right librarian is, in some instances, gold. In other instances it’s of little value at all. Social linking has its place for a certain type of content, but for other content, something as wonderful as StumbleUpon is totally pointless.

Lastly, I apologize for the curse word. That was my Jersey roots comin out. I grew up hearing 20 f-bombs before breakfast.

Sincerely and so long,

Eric Ward

Stu December 16, 2007 at 2:19 am

Can’t beat a bit of controversial Linkbait. Good work Mr Hat ;)

Reading the answers given it doesn’t really sound like any thought was put into them, but that given perhaps you were busy at the time & as people pointed out “they were lucky you answered them at all.”

That being said, I’d rather say something worth saying than nothing at all.


Doug Heil December 16, 2007 at 1:01 pm

LOL funny stuff.

The big o’l shit lists of factors I’ve seen all over the place, and even those people who answer them are really just BS and not useful at all to the majority. The only people who seem to gain are those are submit this stuff and those who answer them as many seem to think these “ARE” the experts. I can think of a great many out there who are true experts. The lists I see are just people who happen to attend conferences and hang in certain circles. Are they experts? LOL What makes people think they are? Sure; some are. Some most certainly are not.

Let me give you all another clue; the experts ain’t gonna tell you all much of anything that would help you. If you cannot do this stuff yourself and learn it yourself, you need to find another area of business. If you all knew exactly what a true expert knows, there wouldn’t be a need for those experts, right? LOL

I’ve got to say; these types of lists are for new people who need to start somewhere. If those people followed these lists to a tee, they would still be at the start page. Lists do nothing for you and never ever have in this industry. You cannot stick in a list into a nice little box with a bow-tie. There is a reason why there are only 10 spots on that first page as a default;… so that there are thousands of other pages that don’t make that first page. NO top 10 or 20 or 100 list will get you to that first page.

This is all really a bunch of hype to make people like me visit a blog and post to it. And BTW: Eric’s answers were pretty much very accurate from the little experience I have in “link building” in general. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not have a clue about the industry…. “SEO”.

Michael Martinez December 16, 2007 at 2:20 pm

I did my best to answer the questions as reasonably as possible but the survey was disappointing to me because the questions mostly reflect SEO myths and garbled ideas that permeate the SEO community.

Eric’s comments are spot on and the survey as well as the strong positive response it has received underscores just how seriously confused and undiscriminating SEOs in general tend to be about links.

Links are not the all-powered puppies most SEOs have imagined them to believe. But when all you do is crank out shotun blasts all day long, you’re bound to eventually come to believe you’re s sharp shooter simply because everyone and everything that can move learns to get out of your way.

Real link building takes more time and effort than most SEOs are willing to put into it.

Mike Huang December 16, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Great post mad hat :)


DropShipperSteve December 17, 2007 at 12:32 pm

interesting stuff… too bad that guy’s answers were pretty vague. everything seems to have to depend on something else. i wish he could have elaborated a bit more on some of those answers. O well, good stuff man.

TheMadHat December 17, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Thanks to everyone who commented. I think there were some things that were misunderstood (I wasn’t attacking his business practices or his knowledge, I was discussing my opinions about his answers to that particular blog post and to the presentations I’ve heard him give. That’s it). Personally my takeaways from those were less than stellar.

It seems like there are agreements and disagreements all around.

@stu and Steve – That was the basic point I was trying to make, but apparently Eric didn’t think so.

Doug Heil December 17, 2007 at 2:58 pm

The link baiting title you wrote doesn’t give any sense of a warm and fuzzy thang:

“Link Value Factors And Why Eric Ward Needs Help”

It was wrote like that strictly for the affect. I believe Eric has been at this stuff for as long as I have, and I can garuantee you he doesn’t “need help”. If you want to win friends from the experts, that kind of title won’t do it for you.

Further; if you think that experts “tell all” about what they actually know, you are very mistaken. Many of us dish out free advice, but if it was “all” advice possible, no need for anyone to charge a fee for anything as everything would be free. :-) They know it; other’s don’t know it. It’s really the same principal with everything in life, no matter what the subject is.

TheMadHat December 17, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Doug, you’re correct about the title, it could have been a little less harsh. Was it purely link bait? No way. It’s the way I feel about the issue.

I know he doesn’t need help, maybe I should have said “Link Value Factors And Why I Don’t I Benefit From Eric Ward And Why I Think Eric Ward Needs Help Answering Questions And Providing Information In Search Marketing Sessions”. That seemed a little long :)

I’m aware not one person gives up everything in our industry or any other; that would be stupid. I’m just voicing my opinion on the matter. I’m not trying to make friends or make enemies. I know other people that feel the same way so. People can criticize anything I say and I’ll either defend it, or say good point if I’m mistaken.

Doug Heil December 17, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Good for you. Thanks for at least understanding what some of us are saying. You are not unlike me at times in my forums so I know where you are coming from. If you hang at any forums out there you would also know that people just don’t give out ALL advice they can at every turn. It just doesn’t happen. For one thing, most questions would require waaaay too much time to answer in totality. Many don’t have that kind of time to spend on a question or two, three, or more…. especially for free. :) No matter how many lists of questions there are about this industry, unless the reader digs down and gets dirty with lots of experience, NO answers to those questions will help them. This is why I say that top lists of questions like this are just not very helpful in the scheme of things.

Arnie December 20, 2007 at 12:44 am

Stu is right — this post is linkbait extraordinaire!

Dorian December 20, 2007 at 7:54 pm

It’s funny how you call Eric Ward out for not sharing any useful information… then you recommend Jim Boykin.

Jim is the guy that shows up to Pubcon with NO presentation when he is scheduled to speak (and his other panel he prepared his presentation that morning)… absolutely ZERO useful info.

How can you justify this recommendation based on what you said in the last paragraph of this post?

TheMadHat December 20, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Sure. Recommendations from people I trust and people you would most likely trust.

Secondly, PubCon was a single odd situation that doesn’t really have anything to do with this.

Andy December 29, 2007 at 3:51 am

All of your advice seems really good and true. My personal theory and experience points to recipricol links being devastating for SERP rankings. On the 3 out of 5 sites which i have 15 reciprical links with other high ranking sites, my sites have dropped randomly. For the 2 sites i have without recipricals, there SERP rankings have stayed the same.


Adam January 16, 2008 at 10:35 pm

I’m behind the times here but I noticed the same thing with those questions. Answers may have been right but I remember thinking, “what’s the point? Eric shouldn’t have bothered answering these. Doesn’t look good.”

That said, I was client of Eric’s one time a couple years ago. It went fine for the specific time period of talk I paid for and then he never answered emails after that like he said he would so I gave up and moved on.

Eric Ward January 17, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Hi Adam – very sorry we lost touch. We have a new baby and back then I lost touch with the entire world for a bit. Shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to give you whatever time you need.


Married Secrets February 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Good article but frankly speaking I just don’t believe in those theories. The Algo might be complicated but surely not to such an extent. It is the sheer Link juice the PR consist of and also the age of a domain, surely not the text that is around the link or what ever some people may believe. In seo everything has to be optimized to what we BELIEVE is it’s fullest potential.

Graeme February 5, 2008 at 10:22 am

Eric stopped answering my emails as well after I said I was not happy with the results of his urlwire service.

I cannot comment on his other services, but I will never pay for any press release type service (his or anyone else’s) again.

Webcreator February 18, 2008 at 10:37 am

It did rank the highest out of the bunch, which is good.

Best Web Designs July 5, 2008 at 8:03 pm

25. TLD (.com, .edu, etc.): “You can find worthless content on any TLD. The TLD alone is not enough to say the link value will be higher/lower.”

Did you got any differance between the TLD’s. Some of SEO experts says some TLD’s are more powerfull then the others. Do you have any experience about it?

TheMadHat July 7, 2008 at 2:41 pm

@BWD: Yes, .com, .net, .org, etc will always give you more domain trust than .info, .cn, .hk etc. There is an obvious increase in the amount of spam coming from certain TLD’s and Google will take this into account.

That being said, of course you can find spam on .com, but as far as a ranking factor, there are levels of trust associated with each TLD.

Adam Moro July 18, 2008 at 10:42 am

Wow, I had no idea what you’re about Aaron. Great post. Eric, I didn’t really know much about you other than that you’re called the link moses. A friend of a friend told me (very recently) that you take up to two months to return emails/calls/etc. and judging by the advice you gave HIM, I’d say Aaron’s opinions about your expertise are nothing short of 100% accurate. Anyway, it’s probably pointless to leave this comment but when you start dropping f bombs on someone who simply has an opinion about you (and no your half-ass apology doesn’t cut it – for me at least), what can I say, I feel compelled.

Adam Moro July 18, 2008 at 11:04 am

…woops, didn’t see the year you published this post. Thought it was just earlier this month. Oh well, doesn’t much change what I would have said.

Greg Moore June 9, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I learned more in the first half hour conference call we had with Eric Ward than anything else I’ve done to learn about getting links. He made suggested changes to some of our ideas, and while I was happy with the solutions, the best part was seeing him work on a problem, and mostly seeing a little of where he’s coming from.

I have a lot of perspectives, and one is about knowing how he approaches getting links.

I’m not, however, going to criticize this blog post, because when it comes to decisions about what to write on a blog…

… it depends. ; )

TheMadHat June 10, 2009 at 11:33 am

@Greg – If you don’t know anything, you can certainly learn a lot from him. Besides, I didn’t say anything about his consulting, I was talking about the questions to the interview above. Pay attention.

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