Looking for unique link-building strategies? You’re not alone. Marketers are taking outreach to the next level with some stupid-crazy stunts. Case in point: My buddy runs an agency, and his idea of outreach is beyond eccentric. They are buying 50 mannequin arms, and snail-mailing them out with a hand-written message about “reaching out”. Outreach just got literal. They are going as far as to have temporary tattoos of each prospect’s logo printed and placed on the hands to personalize things even further. As crazy as it may be, he’s on to something. When's the last time you were excited about getting another guest post request via email?
My idea’s not quite that radical, but it does get results. Quality results in fact. Since relevancy matters so much in link-building now, I decided to find ways to connect local websites up in a very old-school way. No emails were sent, and I didn’t log into Twitter. No 1’s or 0’s were harmed in the building of these links, but there was beer involved.
What is Business Networking?
When I started my agency, I didn’t have a clue about how to get new clients. Fortunately, I learned all about business networking early on, and it was more than a boost to our sales numbers. It literally made the business! Over 60% of our year one revenue came from referrals. Business networking is all about meeting people, making connections, and passing referrals to other businesses you trust.
Surprisingly, the best businesses to pass referrals seem to be ones that closely overlap each other in the services they offer. AKA “competitors”. If you’re running a digital agency, let me go off topic a bit and share some advice. Meet the owners of all the IT and computer support companies in your market. Some of them might build websites or offer basic marketing services, but others won’t. And I promise you, any established IT company has clients asking them about digital marketing services.
Bottom line, don’t be afraid to work with related businesses both for referrals and in an SEO sense. Your ‘competitors’ interact with a lot of people who would match up well with your buyer’s persona of an ideal client. Build relationships with those ‘competitors’ and pass referrals when it makes sense to do so. Look up the BNI Giver’s Gain philosophy to learn more.
Leveraging Networking for SEO Gains
When we started networking and establishing new client accounts, I started to see a pattern. Most of our referral clients came from three distinct areas: Medical, Legal, or Real Estate. And being a new agency, we were mostly working with companies of five employees or less. So, getting through to a decision maker was super-easy.
I started looking for opportunities to leverage these real-world relationships and referrals in our link-building. Here are a few strategies that have worked for us:
- Posting on related client sites. We were careful to only write high-quality content and link to related articles that added value to the article we were linking from. Some might consider this gray hat, but to me, this is the purest form of outreach. We call Client A and introduce them to Client B. If they both agree, we just come up with a content strategy for both sites that involve related posts. Just be sure you don’t go overboard with reciprocal linking if you use this strategy. Less is more in the sense that most of your links should be one-way. But our moving company has a post about moving into a college dorm that is linked to an article on our property management site. Both clients know each other now and do business in the real world. That’s outreach.
- Not Everyone Wants to be a Client…yet. I like to stack functions. I try to get 2-3 beneficial things out of each task we do. So, when a prospect goes cold, I might offer to post free content on their website. It might be an email or a conversation I have with them over a beer at Network After Work. Either way, we offer local businesses four free blog posts, provided they have good site metrics and agree to let us link to a client site. This serves two functions. First, we earn quality links from locally relevant sites. Second, we’re fresh on their minds again. If our content rocks, they might reconsider using us for their own digital marketing. That’s function stacking!
- Other Agencies – Other agencies usually have access to a lot of websites. If they don’t manage SEO for their client’s, you need to reach out to them anyway. After all, they probably turn down that business instead of referring it to an agency like yours! Once you’ve established a relationship with another agency, ask them if any of their clients would be interested in free content. It might help you to open that dialog with their clients about SEO. If that works out for you, be sure to pass some referral business to that agency or find some other way to compensate them for helping.
Powerful Links…But Be Careful!
It goes without saying that all your links can’t be built this way. You still need to keep a diverse mix of link sources, and most of your links should not be reciprocal. But think about this for a minute. Every SEO Guru is telling us that relevancy matters more than traditional metrics like Domain Authority, and it is true. If your attorney-client agrees to review and approve some content that points to your elder law attorney site, it is going to be a powerful link. This is especially true if your keyword strategy for both sites includes the same local market:
A business lawyer ranks for: “business law attorney Birmingham”.
And an elder law site ranks for: “estate planning in Birmingham”.
THEY BOTH HAVE LOCAL RELEVANCY
BOTH WILL PASS TOPICAL RELEVANCY
If you use this strategy properly, it can be powerful from an SEO and sales standpoint. You need to be out networking anyway. But those connections might not always turn into a client. If they do, it might take you showing them the quality of your work with some free content writing. And that writing can be used to benefit your client in a closely related line of business. Just be careful to:
- Always get approval from both businesses. After all, it is not outreach if you are just posting on a site you control 100%. And you might be stepping on toes if either business considers the other a competitor. Remember that a lot of people just don’t understand the power of networking or SEO for that matter.
- Having foundational links in place beforehand is a must. Get your local citations out of the way first. Submit to any quality niche or location relevant directories you can find. Earn image links and author bio links through outreach. Once you’ve established a good link profile, you can start looking into this strategy more.
- Seriously…don’t go overboard. We usually schedule 3-4 posts a year like this after we get client approval. The rest of your links need to be non-reciprocal, and you should focus on authorities within the industry you are working in. Local links from a related business can be very powerful, but it needs to be part of a comprehensive link-building strategy.
Just How Powerful Could This Possibly Be?
Full disclosure: This next image is completely unscientific and anecdotal at best. We had not done anything else to the site shown below at all for over 30 days. (It is not a client site) But who's to say a link indexing from the previous month wasn’t the real cause behind these results? I don’t know with certainty, but I am going to assume that the 2-3 links we added from a related local business got us these results:
Was that due to our strategy of combining local face-to-face networking and link building? Or maybe it was just a few links from the last month that were slow to index? Without doing a more controlled experiment, there is no way to know for sure. But I do know these links are powerful. We will continue to combine our local sales efforts and link-building wherever it makes sense to do so.
What about you? I would like to hear what you think about our approach to link-building in the comments below.