Link Building Interview: Wiep Knol

This week the ever elusive Link Building Interview returns with Wiep Knol, link builder extraordinaire. Find out more about Wiep below and visit his blog at

Give us a little background as you’re not well known outside of SEO circles

I was studying Marketing Management in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, when I learned about online marketing during an internship. I ended up at a company with hundreds and hundreds of the most crappy and spammy websites I had ever seen, which I -obviously- had to promote. This helped me learn a lot about how *not* to build a website, and how *not* to promote websites. Nothing is a better teacher than trial and error.
During my study, I kept working for the company where I had my internship, but after I graduated, I thought it was time for a “real” online marketing job. I was hired by Tribal Internet Marketing, where my task was to set-up their link marketing service. This obviously was a great opportunity, but after four awesome years at Tribal, I felt it was time for a new challenge. During the past few months, I started with a few different projects, including taking on link building clients at and (Dutch) Link building .nl. The next several months will probably be very busy, but hopefully a lot of fun :)

You’re from the Netherlands – how is link building different outside of super competitive marketplaces like the US, UK and Germany?

It’s different in a lot of ways, but I don’t think it’s easier. First of all, the internet penetration and online marketing knowledge are extremely high in the Netherlands. In both cases, the Netherlands are in the top five countries in the world. Combine that with the fact that there are only a handful of directories (‘Startpaginas’ are more popular here) and article directories in the Netherlands, a relatively low amount of Dutch blogs (most people read English blogs) and outrageous advertising rates at most of the large Dutch portals, and you’ll probably know what it’s like. However, the biggest ingredient of link building is just plain old marketing, and that’s the same almost everywhere…

You and I both seem to stumble upon (or deliberately go out and look for) outrageous and somewhat stupid backlink profiles. What do you think causes people to get themselves involved in this kind of link building?

In some cases it’s ignorance, but in most cases it’s the quest for the quick buck. I don’t know why, but people tend to look for shortcuts in almost anything, and especially in things they do not like to do. And since a lot of people don’t like link building, …
Seriously, some people don’t seem to know how easy it is to connect online dots. If *I* can expose an entire network within two minutes without using a single tool except Google or Yahoo!, can you image how easy this is for search engine reps.

Do you prefer link bait or targeted link acquisition? Why? What tools do you use to help you in your link acquisition?

It really depends on the situation, I like both. Link bait requires creativity and can be a lot of fun, but I can get just as much energy from obtaining a great link. For link acquisition, I usually don’t use any tools except for a search engine. Search engines tell me if a website is (in their eyes) valuable and relevant, and I’ll try to decide if the website could be useful.

Do you think Link building has changed since Vince and Caffeine? If so, how?

No, I don’t think so, except when you’re a big brand. In that case, you can use the same aggressive link building techniques, rank better, and have to worry even less :)

How do you deal with the erosion of the link graph by things like Twitter and Facebook?

I don’t see Twitter and Facebook as an erosion of the link graph, but as an addition to it. Sites like Twitter and Facebook aren’t useful in terms of anchor text rich links, but they’re great for spreading content.

Do you think link building will eventually become an extension of public relations, or will it remain within the purview of straight SEO?

The overlap is quite large, and although I think link building will shift even more towards public relations than it already is at the moment, I think it will always be a mix. Link building is more than public relations, and public relations is more than just link building.

Do you see any value into acquiring links that your competitors already have?

It depends on the quality of the competitors’ link profiles, but in most cases, I do. Usually, I try to copy the good ones and to improve the mediocre ones. However, having the same link profile as one or more competitors will never put you in front of them, so it’s very important that you add links that your competitors don’t (or even better: can’t) have.

What is the single most important piece of advice you could give someone starting out in link building today?

Put on your marketing hat, in stead of your SEO hat.


  1. Nice write-up. I’d take it a step past ‘marketing hat’ and take it all the way to the ‘PR hat’.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with the last remark. I think a lot of individuals who game the system are going to find themselves in a mess, having to deal with legacy link-building shortcuts that search engines will eventually be smart enough to discount or penalize.

    Solid link building needs to be very forward thinking.

  3. Good morning,

    As a matter of fact, I have been reading Wiep for a long time, in fact I have used Wiep’s blog in order to learn a bit more about local search optimisation and I believe they are doing great job in Europe



  4. Wiep always gives great advice and what makes it that much better is that it’s sometimes obvious! So many people assume SEO/SEM needs to be ‘tricky’ and they make it harder then it needs to be!

  5. As a matter of fact, I have been reading Wiep for a long time, in fact I have used Wiep’s blog in order to learn a bit more about local search optimisation and I believe they are doing great job in Europe!
    Owais From SEO Pakistan

  6. Clear en good article. I think the ultimate advice does have the most value. Thanks for the information !