Link building abroad: Copy & paste is not enough (Guestpost)

Tue 7 July 2009 10:30, Editors

Link building abroad: Copy & paste is not enough (Guestpost)

You have to have at least one flying Dutchman as a guestposter. And then you automatically look at people like Wiep Knol, a linkbuilder who is well known in the European Search Industry.

Dutch link marketer Wiep Knol works at Tribal Internet Marketing, an online marketing agency with seven offices world wide. He offers link marketing strategy advice to (inter)national clients, and regularly writes about the subject at his own link building blog.

Link building abroad: Copy & paste is not enough

For European companies, it is quite common to operate in multiple countries. The distances are relatively small, the language differences become less and less of a problem, and the European Union has made doing business between different countries a lot easier. However, if you think that you can copy your local (or international) strategy, and use it in multiple European countries simultaneously, you'll probably find out that, even in a Europe with open borders, local adjustment is mandatory. Even when it comes to link building.

Internet use

If you want to target your market successfully, you definitely have to know what the market looks like. Basic information, such as internet penetration in European countries and facts about mobile internet use, can tell you a lot about the maturity and knowledge level of internet users. You can use this information for your website communication, linkbait campaigns, promotion channels and communication with webmasters. You could also use this information as a filtering method, to see which countries seem to be worth targeting.

Link building strategies

When it comes to types of websites, there are quite some differences between European countries. For example, while directories are common in most countries, you'll mainly come across co-called 'startpagina's' in the Netherlands, Belgium and Hungary. Startpaginas may look odd (or even spammy) to some, but are quite common in these countries. When you look at social media websites, you'll see that (except from English speaking countries) Digg-like platforms are surprisingly popular in Poland, while they still have to find their way in Portugal. Especially when you're thinking about launching a linkbait campaign, information like this is essential. Also, the fact that -in some industries- buying links is almost the only option to get good rankings in the UK, doesn't mean that you also have to start buying links straight away, when you're expanding to the Czech Republic. This might get you some awesome rankings in (or the more popular Seznam) at first, but it will probably get you flagged almost just as fast...



Clear communication is key to a successful link building campaign. You have to convince people to link to your website, and, whether you convince them on your website or in an email, the style of communicating can differ between European countries. This means that, in order to be successful, you have to adjust your style of communication to the local standards, which can be quite difficult sometimes.

Monochronic vs. Polychronics cultures

In countries like the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the Scandinavian countries, people usually arrive on time, stick to their schedules and are very task-oriented. In polychronic cultures, which includes France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, people are less used to schedules and arriving on time, and are very relationship oriented. This means that some of the principles of persuasion are more useful in monochronic countries, while others of these principles work better in polychronic cultures. For example, in the more direct monochronic cultures, you might want to focus more why your link should be placed on someone else's website, while in South European countries, it's more wise to focus on building a relationship first, and to proceed from there. I'm not saying that relationships are not important in monochronic countries, but they tend to be even more important in polychronic cultures.

Formal vs. informal communication

In most German speaking countries, people will still address each other with 'Herr' or 'Frau' after the seventh or eight meeting, while in some other countries, people are much more informal. This means that sending out email to an unknown German person, that starts with 'Hey Karl' might not be such a good idea. The internet has loosened this a lot in the past few years, but it's still important.

Plans to go abroad?

Although the combination of open borders with a high internet penetration makes every country in the European Union look like an interesting business opportunity, it's definitely not something that should be done without the right focus. International link building campaigns require knowledge of the target market, a good local network, and, in most cases, local adjustment as well. Hiring an intern that happens to speak a few words of German or Italian might get you somewhere, but usually not where you want to be. Still can't get enough of intercultural differences in Europe? Then take a look at this Picture Project study (pdf link).


Comments (4)


  • Great post Wiep, Nice points about the difference in internet use across Europe. What are your thoughts in difference in ranking factors across the continent? (if any)

    P.S your link to internet penetration is missing a http.

    Wo 8 jul 2009, 10:44

  • So, what I'm hearing from this is that submitting to directories in a lot of these countries is still pretty kosher as a nice start (as opposed to here in the US where there's only a handful of directories worth submitting to now), right? Well, regardless, I suppose I better start learning some french...

    Wo 8 jul 2009, 19:56

  • @Kun - Thanks! There are some differences in ranking factors, but not a lot. In some countries, the ranking factors that Google used in the US ~2-3 years ago are still valid. I'm sure this will change in the future, though, but some countries will always be behind.

    @Noah - Submitting to directories can definitely be a good start in most European countries, but, just like in the US, only the most important ones are worth submitting your site to.

    Wo 8 jul 2009, 20:03

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