As part of our ongoing P1P Interview Series, we rounded up Link Fish Media‘s co-founder and director of operations, the effervescent Julie Joyce for some questions. Besides co-founding her own companies, insisting that a pro-woman’s perspective on SEO was available on the net, and bringing her trademark brand of kindness and creativity to the industry, Joyce is a prolific blogger.
Her fans will recognize her classic wit from her SEO Chicks blog, which began as a response to some derogatory comments about women in the SEO industry. Whether its myth or fact remains to be seen, but during the first Search Marketing Expo held in Seattle, Joyce and fellow blogger, Lisa Myers say they, ”paraded around with SEO Chicks t-shirts, made Dixon Jones crawl under a table, forced Rand Fishkin to undress in front of them and wear an SEO Chick t-shirt and tried to get Google employees to buy them drinks.”
Antics aside, with her decade-plus of labor-intensive knowledge base in IT, SEO and link building, Joyce has a covet-worthy link building skill set. However, if do you happen to bump into her in real life, be sure to give an appreciative nod to The Clash and at the very least, try to keep your clothes on. [Yes, Rand Fishkin, we're talking to you.]
P1P: Thanks again for agreeing to an interview. I was reading through some of the information about you, and you’ve got a great sense of humor and some ingenious ideas. For instance, your suggestion about sending a group of writers to the bar with a credit card to brainstorm ideas was intriguing. Has that strategy worked for you… they were able to come up with great ideas that you put into action?
Joyce: Ha! Thank you very much for that…I tend to think lots of inappropriate things are funny so it doesn’t always work out well. And, um, yes, we did do that. It did turn out well and I am not at all opposed to doing it again if the need arises. I think that sometimes when people do anything that loosens them up, whether it’s drinking a bit or hell, even working outside the office, they tend to be more creative.
Sometimes it’s also easier to brainstorm when your boss isn’t around so we try to have the group do some of that as well. That way they don’t have to nervously watch for me to frown and say, “Um, no that actually won’t work because…”
P1P: Since the Google algorithm changes, the idea that SEO (search engine optimization) and link building are dead is getting kicked around again. What do you say to the
naysayers? Is guest posting the one ray of light left?
Joyce: I love guest posting and think it’s a great strategy, and I’ve read some amazing guest posts…my only concern is that, like almost everything else, it will start to become highly abused. [However,] I think that link building is just a good thing to complain about because it’s something that is very concrete. You can examine back links. You can’t easily examine a lot of other aspects of a site’s marketing without putting loads of time into it.
There are also a lot of truly horrible link builders and really bad links out there, so it’s easy to think that all link builders suck. I really do think that links are a very easy strategy to abuse because you aren’t touching the site so you can just take on a client, not know what you’re doing [or] not care what you’re doing, and end up doing a lot of damage. That’s more difficult with something like site architecture or content development.
P1P: Lots of sites have taken hits from the Panda/Penguin updates… would you mind sharing a tactic or strategy of yours with us in that regard?
Joyce: I think the best thing is to just actually believe that you might have bad links, and look into it. I have heard from a lot of people who wanted a second opinion or were just reaching out for help, and they would say things like “I received a warning” or “my rankings dropped” or “my traffic is nonexistent” and they would insist that they’d never built
any bad links or done anything spammy.
Without fail, every site I looked at had spammy links that popped up within 30 seconds of my digging. Either they didn’t look at their back links or they were uneducated about what bad links are.
P1P: In your SEO Chicks post from April about running a link building agency, you referred to link building as something that is a real challenge. You wrote that, “I am here to tell you that link building is a practice, not a theory. It’s maddeningly tedious work and I never intended to run a link agency, but hey, here I am, and I do quite love it. I just don’t like to see something so difficult and painstaking become glamorous because I don’t think that it’s an honest portrayal of the reality of working as a link builder or running an agency.”
It sounds as though you feel like you’ve been in the trenches and done the heavy lifting and aren’t happy about folks who are stealing the thunder without having done so, maybe they haven’t paid their dues. Am I correct in that assumption? (You can decline to answer, or throw things at me, as needed.)
Joyce: Ah, good question. I don’t mind people stealing my thunder (if I have any) or anyone else’s if they can back it up with experience or success. If you’re giving advice about link building and you’ve never worked with any site other than your own one about how to build a great Atari man cave in your mom’s basement, then yes, I have a problem with that, but not because I think I’m going to personally lose respect or business or attention because of that person.
I think that person has the potential to cause damage to someone who sees him writing and wants to pay him to run a big link campaign that he’ll possibly screw up. That part makes me unhappy. Compared to my link builders who sit in the office and work their asses off all day for me, I’m not even in the trenches doing any heavy lifting. They are.
P1P: You also said train all of your link builders in-house, rather than hiring people with experience. What is the most essential skill that you ensure that all of your link builders possess?
Joyce: Communication skills, written and oral. If I interview someone who can’t look me in the eyes, it makes me nervous. If I get a resume that is full of typos and horrible grammar, I grimace. We’ve had people come in with zero experience in anything even remotely related to what we do, but they’re just awesome in person and I think, “I want this
person to work here.” [But] we’ve had people who look great on paper and something about them rubs me the wrong way.
I guess it’s more than just communication skills though…I like people who are creative, willing to be wrong, willing to ask questions and [people who are] funny. Our office is full of insanely intelligent, funny and creative people and I think that anyone coming in should at least reference The Clash or reference a British sitcom.
P1P: The SEO Chicks site is fun, and your posts gave me a good chuckle, and it makes for great link bait. Do you find that the “attitude-is-on” posts are more effective for getting traffic or for getting back links?
Joyce: They are much more fun and natural to write, I think. As far as traffic though, and back links, no…not really, honestly. I think it’s just the closest thing to how I actually talk, when I write there, and we’re all like that there. If you met us all in person and had only read the SEO Chicks stuff, you’d realize that we’re all a bit insane. I don’t tend to rant though, not in articles or posts, usually. I save it for IMs with people who are far enough away that they can’t smack me.
P1P: I liked your SEW post about “legitimate” link building strategies, and our firm employs many of the same tactics. One of the topics that drew my attention specifically was your request that link builders “be nice” however, lots of link builders out there (Kris Roadruck, for instance) are actively using negativity to build links. What’s your
take on that tactic?
Joyce: Well, this is a loaded question…ha ha! I was raised to think that being nice was about the best thing you could do in the world, and hell, even when I’m mean, I’m still kind of nice about it. I have a lot of trouble being impolite and I do occasionally flip out like a ninja. As far as using negativity to build links, no, it’s not something I would do. Some people do that very well and I can’t speak to what Kris is doing but it’s just not my way of thinking so even if I wanted to do that, I doubt I’d be good at it.
It’s definitely an interesting way to do this I suppose, just not for me. I think you can be nice and positive without being a cuddly little ray of unicorn sunshine though,
so while I like the nice angle, I don’t think it has to be as boring as it seems.
P1P: Thanks again for taking the time to tackle these questions. If you have any additional information, advice, tips, or would like to supply
a credit card for a night out on the town, I’m in.
Joyce: OK, it’s a Visa, exp date 6-30-2012 and the number is something like either 444-54-2222 or 444-54-2223.