Link building saved me from being another aimless, unemployed 20-something with a college degree. Eight months ago I was at the end of my college career and, like most people in that situation, I was feeling hopeless. “An English degree? I hope you’re ready to work at Pizza Hut for the rest of your life,” was a phrase I heard a baffling amount of times. It was a phrase I joked about often because it dulled the pain—I was sure that it was true.
To make matters worse, I’d recently left a job with the local public radio station. I adored that job but wasn’t finding too many prospects in audio production. Listless and fearful, I answered an ad on Craigslist. Page One Power hired me as a writer.
A Real Job for an English Major
I’ve been internet savvy for as long as I can remember, but I knew nothing about SEO other than that it pertained to “that annoying thing I have to fill in when I’m creating a new post in WordPress.” Regardless, I remained undaunted. A good, local company wanted to hire me for my writing skills. That was enough for me. I had a steady gig that didn’t involve slouching over a cash register, which was a great start.
I had no idea how unprepared I was.
As I mentioned before, I’ve always fancied myself as an ‘internet person.’ Link building taught me how little I know, and it’s continued to teach me that I have a lot to learn. I’ve reached the end of the line for specific niches. I’ve found connections between sites and people who I never knew existed. I feel more connected, and sometimes I can even see the gears spinning around.
Beyond that, though, link building has made me realize my passion for the internet. I care about what’s on the other side of a link, since a link is an endorsement. I want to reward good content because I now know how hard it is to produce good content. I get worked up about cultural issues on the internet that might have otherwise passed me by. Most importantly, I now realize that there’s a person behind every good website—and I can talk to that person.
Networking Through Link Building
I’ve made friends with some of those real people, too. They’ve both put me through the wringer and enlightened me. Sometimes it’s soul-crushing when that email never comes back or your article never gets posted, but that pain serves as a great motivator to do better next time—on either my outreach or my writing. Everyone needs to be humbled every now and again, and link building never lets you get too cocky.
The people I’ve met have also challenged me. I’ve been lucky enough to write guest posts for sites I admire greatly. I also admire the people behind the sites, which doubles the pressure. Those are high-level articles in the first place, and it’s especially challenging when they come back for corrections. Remember that thing I said about getting cocky? When one of those posts goes live I feel both humility and accomplishment—there’s really nothing like it.
Dear 16 Year Old Dustin
I often measure my success by asking a simple question: “Would 16 year old Dustin approve of where I am now?”
Though I was a dummy when I was 16 (as most of us were), but that was the age where I determined what my ethics, ideals and aspirations were. If 16-year-old Dustin knew that Future Dustin worked in a cool office, got paid to write, got to exercise his creativity and had a Real Job that allowed him to pursue all of his other passions, he would have been giddy. He would be proud, and I am proud. Through link building, I bumbled my way into the fabled Real Job.
Link building challenges me constantly. I’m always learning new methods, learning new terms and meeting talented people. I work with talented people. It’s also an exciting industry that’s relatively new—there’s a lot of room to explore, create and watch the internet evolve.
Eight months ago I had no idea what link building meant, but it was link building that saved me from aimlessness and unemployment. It turns out that my English degree paid off after all.