If I start talking about achieving scale and identifying points of leverage in your marketing efforts you’ll likely think about automating processes, software, and maybe about “viral marketing.” You probably don’t think about relationship building, but in reality it’s one of the most leveraged marketing tactics available to you.
This is counter-intuitive because typically we think about relationships as being primarily 1 to 1. But marketing at scale really starts with strong relationships now more than ever because:
As a result, one of the best link building strategies you can tap into is turning real life relationships into links. There are a lot of different approaches to take here, but I’ll talk about three specifically.
This certainly isn’t a new tactic, but customer testimonials are a great example of a relationship-based link building tactic. One of the key things to think about in getting links out of your real life relationships is that in order for this to work at scale, there needs to be a degree of quid pro quo. If you identify a tactic where you’re clearly benefiting more than the linker, that can be difficult to scale (or at the very least it’s a different “type” of scale).
A testimonial is great because it allows you to identify a product or service provider you use and are happy with, it offers the vendor social proof and some marketing collateral, and you get a few (likely deep) links. These links can be powerful because:
When we launched WordStream we tried a lot of different things to build relationships and get attention from the search marketing “thought leadership” community, but one of the most effective ways we built relationships (and eventually links) was just telling people when we liked their posts, tools, and ideas.
If you’re just starting a blog interacting in the community can be intimidating, but the reality is people who blog and are active in social media are looking for feedback. They want to connect with people who share (or can constructively challenge) their world views. Almost every single person we’ve reached out to at WordStream has been some combination of kind, helpful, and liberal with their time.
Three really valuable relationships we built at WordStream (that also led to a number of authoritative links) started with our telling people we liked what they were doing.
I read a link building post Garrett French wrote on Search Engine Land and sent him a note to tell him how awesome I thought it was and that I was going to put the process he’d outlined to work (which was true). That sparked a series of emails and since then the guys at Ontolo have been as good “friends of WordStream” as we could ask for.
Similarly I saw a question someone had asked on LinkedIn about alternatives to trial and error for learning more about Google’s algorithm. I responded that learning more about patents was a great way to learn more about the algorithm and pointed them to Bill Slawski and Dave Harry, since both consistently churn out great content on the subject. Dave happened to stumble onto the thread and we connected, and he and the Dojo have been awesome friends and partners for WordStream ever since. (By the way, if you’re not already a subscriber, go subscribe to Search News Central. The content over there is really outstanding, lots of in-depth actionable stuff without any of the typical “me-too” redundancies.)
Again along the same lines, I was a member at SEO Book and wrote a review of their service and shot Aaron a note. That led to a link from SEO Book and got us mentioned in the same breath as Tony Mandarich and again led to a relationship that was both really positive for our business and resulted in links over time.
Identifying and reaching out to people whose content and perspective you relate to is a great link building strategy because:
And write great content! Just kidding. “Interact with your community” is obviously an overused and under-explained concept, but finding the people who care and talk about your subject and then interacting with them is a powerful link building strategy.
Let me give a more tangible example from the WordStream blog.
I have a pretty poorly (un?) segmented Twitter list with people whose Tweets I care about. On the list are a lot of really smart PPC experts. One of them tweeted out a question about AdWords auto targets and product targets tab. I wasn’t really familiar with the feature and thought it was interesting so I wrote up a quick blog post asking if anyone else had more information. I also tweeted the link to the post.
How does this translate into links?
First off, my post from yesterday is now the only PPC-related post on the first page of Google for “auto targets” and ranks first for “product targets,” and thanks to Chad and Jessica that post is now a pretty good resource for learning more about auto targets within AdWords, so it’ll likely get cited by bloggers who (like me) want more information on the topic.
And an even cleaner example of how community participation leads to links is that everyone who helped us get more information got a link. They weren’t promoting their own content, just helping to answer a question, but they got a bit of exposure and I made a point of linking both to the source they provided and to their sites/Twitter profiles. And now myself and anyone else who was itching to learn more about auto targets will be grateful for the help and much more likely to link at their stuff in future.
Despite the fact that Mr. Jobs thinks it’s impossible, let’s try to connect the dots backwards here: What are the common threads that weave through these tactics?
So go build some links relationships! If you’re in the search space you can start in the comments by telling me what an awesome post this was (or really get my attention and tell me why you think I just wasted the last 1600 words of your life).
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