SEO Master: The Bushido Code of Link Building

Search engines evaluate Web pages using a variety of factors - relevance of content to query (and user), speed of the digital experience and popularity (as determined by the number of links that are pointing toward that site/page). There are hundreds of other factors but you get the point. 

Much of the tactical guidance related to link building, however, seems to be what has been done for years. Why is that? Well, those approaches (and there are hundreds) tend to work. Yes, publishing engaging content and directly requesting links from relevant websites works. Yes, finding broken links and suggesting your own site as a replacement works. Yes, exchanging your sponsorship dollars for a link works. If someone tells you these approaches or techniques don't work you should really question their motivation.  

Despite these well-known, oft-documented and utilized practices of link building, many of those Web professionals responsible for generating more response and effect from their link building efforts do so without a framework. 

Search engine optimization does not always have the best name among the digital practices because the techniques that are used are often somewhat sloppy (e.g., comment spamming), seen as overly aggressive, poorly targeted (how often do you receive link requests by email?) and are rarely if ever well thought out; they almost always lack both strategy and nuance. And that's why link building is so difficult.  

With a framework to approach link building efforts, however, not only is it possible to acquire the right links (and much faster), but develop productive relationships that provide rewards for a long time in the future as well. 

Are there any frameworks for link building? To be honest, not really. I've been involved in the search engine optimization space for almost 20 years - back when Sergey and Larry thought BackRub was a good name for their soon-to-be revolutionary search engine.

Some SEO professionals (and many masters of the business world) will recommend the "Art of War" by Sun Tzu - it can prove to be an amazing "framework" for the tactical side of competitive SEO, but it's far from the only one that could be useful. I recently came across something that completely changed how I look at and engage in the practice of link building - it's called the Bushid‚Äö√¢√†‚àö√ü Code and it offers a perfect framework in nearly every way (for personal and professional gain). 

Bushidō is the "unuttered and unwritten" code of moral principles which samurai were required or instructed to observe. In order to become a true samurai, this code had to be mastered. It is about honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice; in a way, it is about the etiquette of self-immolation (or the offering of oneself as a sacrifice).

What the heck does this have to do with link building? What is it that search engine optimization professionals are ultimately sacrificing? The Bushidō code is typified through eight virtues and a quick review (like that included below) provides a pretty clear picture (a framework if you will) for engaging in the practice of link building and operating as a true white hat SEO professional.

Righteousness: Be acutely honest with people throughout your dealings. Being righteous means having confidence that what you're doing is the right way. If you're being told to pursue links from websites which provide little in the way of value, refuse to do so. It's not going to be easy to be a righteous link builder but the long-term rewards are potentially immense and most certainly worth it in the end. 

Courage: Link building can be scary; you'll get refused often and may at times even receive little reward for the effort you've given. Courage requires some faith that what you're doing, while at times frightening, will produce a positive effect. Be bold and take risks, even if you're not sure of the outcome. What do you have to lose? You don't have any links now anyway! 

Benevolence: A true SEO master and professional link builder helps their industry colleagues at every opportunity.  If an opportunity does not arise, they go out of their way to find one. There's a very useful way to look at benevolence in relation to link building. Google, for example, does not just look at PageRank (determined by the quantity and quality of inbound links) but also CheiRank.  

Respect: Those responsible for link building are judged not only on their campaign results but also in their dealings with others. While you may generate 100 links by sending out 1 million emails, are you earning respect from the other 999,990 sites to whom you sent the email? Are you doing enough right now in every facet of your professional life to encourage other to think of you in a positive way?  

Integrity: When samurai warriors said that they would perform an action, you could consider it as good as done. Nothing would stop them from completing what they said they would do. They did not have to 'give their word' or 'promise' as speaking and doing were considered the same action. How often do you promise one thing and do another?

Honor: A true Samurai has only one judge of honor and character - themselves. The decisions you make today and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of who you truly are - there's just no way to hide from yourself. Honor is a perceived quality of "worthiness and respectability" that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or institution. This has everything to do with link building. Are you, for example, requesting links for content that is not worthy? That, unfortunately, is not honorable and in direct opposition to the Bushid‚Äö√¢√†‚àö√ü code.

Duty: Samurai are responsible for everything they have done and everything they have said, and all of the consequences that follow. They are immensely loyal to all of those in their care. To everyone that they are responsible for, they remain fiercely true. Think about the people/employees in your enterprise - are you serving them with your link building efforts? Are you helping spread knowledge that informs the customers they interact with every day? 

Self-Control: There are no shortcuts to success (although I do wish there were!). Self-control is essentially a process that is necessary for regulating one's behavior in order to achieve specific goals. While it can at times seem link buying links is the fastest way to the top of the search results pages, for example, employ some self-control and avoid doing so as it will likely lead you away from, and not toward, the goals established by your enterprise. 
Employing a framework like the Bushid‚Äö√¢√†‚àö√ü code is risky (some might even say it requires courage to publish something of this nature). You may anger or alienate those that want to take shortcuts to the top of the search results pages. You have a duty not only to yourself and to the enterprise that employs you however to do what is right, honorable and righteous.