Link building is certainly not a static industry.
Throughout the years link building has seen numerous shifts and changes. Strategies have changed as search engines have gotten better at detecting manipulative practices.
The spammy and automated tactics that worked tremendously well in the past are no longer as effective today. Some manipulative tactics might still work for a short period of time, but algorithms like the recently released Penguin render these tactics useless as a long-term strategy.
To be successful in link building you must continuously evolve and adapt to the current landscape within the industry. There are two constants within link building, however — the need to build real and worthwhile links, and building strong, lasting relationships.
In this post I want to discuss how relationships and link building are intertwined online.
Links ARE Relationships
First off, links in and of themselves are relationships.
A link is a connection between two websites. Whether it be an endorsement, reference, citation, etc. — a link creates a relationship between two websites, establishing a navigational and implied connection.
By linking to another website, you are telling your audience that you trust that site and they should too. A link demonstrates to your readers that you are willing to establish an open and public association.
At their most basic, links are inherently relationships. The exact type of relationship they represent may differ from link to link, but essentially it is a connection between two sites.
Relationships Can Directly Lead to Links
Another way relationships intersect with links is that real world relationships can directly lead to links.
The meaningful relationships you build both online and offline can often be leveraged for worthwhile backlinks to your site. A prime example of how a real world relationship can translate to a link is through a testimonial. Perhaps you have a positive experience with a supplier and you provide them with a testimonial on their website. Through that testimonial you can get a natural and worthwhile link back to your own site.
Along with testimonials, there are numerous other ways relationships can be leveraged for links, including:
· Speaking engagements
· Community events/involvement
For even more examples of how real world relationships can directly lead to backlinks, read this article from Adam Melson.
Once created, relationships often have the potential to result in link opportunities, even down the line. While a particular relationship may not result in a backlink immediately, continuously fostering these connections can lead potential opportunities down the line.
For example, even if the person you have an affiliation with does not run a website, it’s possible this person could eventually introduce you to someone who does have a site and could be interested in linking to you. Rand Fishkin refers to this idea as “non-measurable serendipitous marketing” and expands on the concept in this Whiteboard Friday.
Regardless of the immediate results in terms of links, it is always good to cultivate positive relationships.
Relationships Help with Promotion
Another way relationships are associated with link building is that positive relationships can aid your promotional efforts.
As you build more and more meaningful connections within your niche, content and asset promotion starts to become much easier. A few different ways your positive relationships can help with promotion include:
· Increased amplification through social media
· Co-promotion prospects
· Collaborative opportunities
Increased amplification through social media
One direct benefit of developing these connections is increased amplification of your content or assets on social media.
People that you have a relationship with are much more likely to share your content on their own social platforms, leading to increased amplification. It is still important that you have something worth sharing, but a friend in the industry will typically support you by promoting your work on their social channels.
While social signals are not a direct ranking factor, they can benefit SEO and link building in terms of promotion. AJ Kohn discusses this philosophy more in-depth here.
Building constructive relationships will also present you with more co-promotion prospects.
It’s much easier to co-promote with another person, company, or brand, because you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself. Finding legitimate options for co-promotion within your industry can be difficult as any promotional efforts must be mutually beneficial. But if you work to develop the existing relationships you already have established through building links, these opportunities will often emerge naturally.
Co-promotion projects aren’t the only collaborative opportunities that emanate from building relationships.
Cultivating these connections can open new doors and lead to a number of collaborative opportunities, such as:
· Collaboration on content – co-authored posts, roundups, interviews, case studies, etc.
· Co-hosting conferences or tradeshows
· Creating a tool/software/program together
· Co-hosting webinars and podcasts
Engaging in these collaborative efforts will help greatly in terms of promotion, as it exposes your content, brand, company, etc. to a new audience. By leveraging your partner’s audience as well you can extend the reach and visibility of your linkable assets, and build more links.
Collaboration can also help increase amplification — while having a positive relationship with someone will certainly increase the odds of them sharing your stuff, nothing incentives other people to help promote like a vested interest in the content’s success.
Building Relationships Builds Your Brand
Along with making promotion easier, building relationships also helps build your brand. And strengthening your brand aids link building.
While you are working to build links it’s imperative to remember you’re representing your brand at all times. Each interaction you have online is an opportunity bolster a positive image for your company. Even if your efforts don’t result in a backlink, by simply being courteous and polite you can leave a good impression for your brand.
Making these meaningful connections will also build trust for your brand. As you develop trust within your niche it becomes easier to build links. Links are all about trust, and webmasters will be much more willing to link to a trusted site and strong brand.
You can also leverage your relationships to establish authority for your brand. By interacting and engaging with industry influencers regularly online, you can build authority for yourself. If you consistently engage in thoughtful discussions with these authoritative figures your brand will gradually begin to be viewed as an authority too.
Similar to trust, authority is also helpful for building links and you should always strive to build authority in conjunction with your link building campaign.
Tips for Developing Relationships
Simply being polite and friendly will always go a long way in building meaningful relationships, but there are also some general strategies to follow.
Here are some general practices that can help you develop helpful and lasting connections:
· Be active on social media
· Join and engage in online communities/forums
· Comment on blogs regularly
· Network at offline events
On the other hand, it’s very easy to ruin a good relationship with manipulation. Relationships are all about reciprocation and shared beliefs, values and goals. If one person is merely using the relationship purely for their benefit, it won’t work. Nothing kills a relationship quicker than manipulation.
Relationships and link building are interwoven in more ways than one. In fact, links themselves symbolize a relationship between two websites. Relationship building should also go hand-in-hand with building links because making meaningful connections within your niche can support your campaign.
It’s possible to start building lasting relationships by merely being polite and courteous with the people you regularly interact with, but there are also ways to deliberately seek out these relationships through social media and other channels. Always try to further a relationship wherever possible, but never try to exploit them as manipulation can destroy these bonds.
As you work to build worthwhile links, also consider how you can build meaningful connections that help further your goals in terms of link building and beyond.