SiteFox – “The more sites that link to you, the more your credibility increases.“
I love what SiteFox wrote on the image above–
“The more sites that link to you, the more your credibility increases.“
Sure, a backlink can be placed in a negative context — for example, when the author links back to you to show the world how horrible and unprofessional your site is— well, that isn’t exactly pleasant for you! But, even though the reality of that argument is debatable — or if your link is there only to fill a list of useful resources without a contextual comment — the fact that your site gets links at all is a sign of popularity.
“Yes, We Know! Google Filled Our Head With This Popularity Thing!”
Yes, I know, too. But it’s not Google popularity I’m talking about here.
This is the popularity you get regardless of search engines.
Regardless of links carrying a nofollow attribute or not.
Regardless of context.
It’s the popularity that follows from visibility.
And it’s why Link Building has nothing to do with SEO.
Link Building Is Pure, Simple, Beautiful Marketing At Its Best
What’s link building if not placing backlinks on other websites to increase visibility?
And isn’t visibility a top marketing goal, the one that begins the selling process?
You make it possible for your target audience to acknowledge the existence of your product or service, tell them why it can be the solution they were looking for, add a call to action, and wait.
And then, will they finally buy? Download? Use?
Roger Montti (martinibuster at WebmasterWorld’s) says:
“Link building for traffic and sales works. You just have to get over the idea that link building is exclusively for ranking purposes. Once you get beyond that, you will find there are amazing opportunities for growing your business because you are no longer fettered by SEO considerations such as anchor text, PageRank, whether a link is do-follow or redirected.”
1. Building Links Is Building Connections
You don’t make reputation marketing without building connections first— as you genuinely get in touch with people potentially interested in your service or product, help them and befriend them, your reputation score rises— and so do sales.
Where to get started?
You can use social media to connect with prospects. If you sell home or baby care products, you can visit mommy blog directories and find interesting bloggers you can email and start a relationship with before you ask them for a link in exchange of a sample or payment.
“In fact it’s totally doable to get links once you behave like human being. People are social creatures. They want to make friends. You have to be perfectly yourself so that people befriend you and spread the word about your content.” – TadChef, “The Tao of Link Building” at Ahrefs.com
2. Link Building Is Engaging In The Conversation
The circuit of backlinks pushes people to interact online and join a discussion. When you bring your link in front of people, you give them a chance to see what you do and comment on it. If you sell shampoo and cosmetics, buying a link from a cosmetics blog has the potential to get you more buzz (see #12 too) from similar blogger who are regulars on the blog you bought from— they will get curious, give your site and your product a try, then leave a comment or a review.
How to encourage conversations?
The easiest way is to buy the link in a blog post containing a short review and to ask the blogger to leave a CTA for their readers. But in general, any well-placed link will spark the conversation if you give your webmaster’s visitors enough reason to give it a try– for example, placing your link where the webmasters lists resources connected to tips or recipes makes for good potential.
3. Link Building Attracts Interested Prospects
If #2 works to spark conversations, it will work to feed your funnel of leads, too! Interested prospects find you via links, so they better be placed where your prospect usually go find them on.
How to spark curiosity?
Instead of sending your prospect directly to your homepage, direct them to a landing page containing a freebie, make the anchor text relevant or let the webmaster choose the anchor text after trying out the freebie (you know the webmaster him/herself can be a prospect, do you?).
4. Link Building Creates A First Bridge
Your website is pretty much a lonely, useless and unknown thing until you get the first backlink. But if you do what Google says — have a good website and hope someone will link back to you — you’re better off without a website at all. Paper flyers and brochures will do a better job for you, if that’s the case.
Link building creates a first bridge between your website and the world of the Web.
Building bridges means giving yourself and others a possibility. Getting known means chance to do business.
5. Link Building Is Advertising
Advertising is all about getting visible in front of prospects.
Isn’t link building just the same thing? It’s inbound marketing. It’s all about getting found by prospects and convert them into leads first and customers then.
How to make advertising effective?
Simply talk to the website owner. A webmaster knows their website inside out, they know the weak and strong spots of the page you’re targeting and how to better present your content to their readers.
Advertising should really be more about collaboration and genuine work ethics. Also, all advertisement should be disclosed while still retaining a ‘natural’ factor — back in May, I joined a discussion on Copyblogger’s Google+ account about ethics in native advertising and I suggested two approaches:
- Website owner and advertiser discuss advertising content to meet readers’ expectations and interests at least midway, so that the advertised content and its style don’t feel extraneous and suspicious
- Avoid the use of “Sponsored By” at the top or bottom of the advert because people just don’t see that– they go straight to the content. An alternative could be a paragraph just above the advert — in normal font size, not fine print! — like this: Note: This article was promoted by ABC Company to spread the word about their product. However, we all made sure the content would be helpful and interesting for YOU. Enjoy the read!
6. Link Building Is For Visibility
Linking makes your site real, tangible, known.
And if your link building opportunity had a face and a mouth to speak, she would shout “Get found! Be acknowledged!” right into your ear.
As I said earlier, marketing is all about getting found, liked and used by your prospective clients/readers. The more relevant links you obtain — either editorially or via link building methods — the more chances to make a sale or boost your traffic conversions.
7. Link Building Is Outreach
When you link, you call out to the site getting linked. A link means you ping the webmaster, wave and say “Hey look, you’ve been cited!”.
But you don’t have to wait for the webmaster to find out about your link. You can email them or contact them via social media and let them know—
I appreciated your blog post so much that I wanted to link it here: URL
Hope you can drop by and let me know if you liked my content!
Hey @Writer! Your Niche article ROCKS! I mentioned it here– URL To when your next post?
Just like you, webmasters love to get mentions, and sometimes they will link you as a sign of gratitude and a seal that a new relationship was created.
This is the most genuine marketing!
Also, you can make friendly outreach your main link building practice, too— check what Garrett French says about it at Search Engine Land.
8. Link Building Sells
Link to your business in all right places and those links will bring you targeted customers. Or users. Or readers. Just the right people.
This is why junk link building — done for the sole purpose to manipulate Google’s SERPs — has never and will never work for serious businesses—- unless you get potential customers to click that link, visit you and buy from you, that anchor text and hyperlink are good for nothing.
How to build links that sell
It doesn’t matter that the link is nofollow or not, visitors don’t care. As long as they perceive it as trustworthy and helpful.
You have to be the solution to their problem.
Anchor text that is on-point. Hyperlink that leads to a landing page, a blog post or an information package that offers at least part of the solution for free, before the visitor turns into a customer.
Play your link building cards well and you’ll start to see results.
9. Link Building Helps Other Human Beings
You would think exchanging links to charity sites is nothing but a selfish way to use these poor organizations, right?
Link building on noprofit websites helps create a community for people to seek help and make connections with others who share their problems.
When you create a community, you’re not the only one benefiting from an increased reputation.
Or art/writing sharing links to help others to hone their skills
10. Link Building Holds The Web Together
Like children joining hands in a Ring a Ring-o’Roses, the Web of sites is held together by links. You remove links, you destroy the Web.
What does this mean for marketing?
Well, it’s simple: you need to reach your audience, but you can only do this online when you have ‘roads’ that connect your website to others. Nobody would know your website even exists without other sites linking to it, sharing it socially or emailing it.
In fact, link building creates an optimal environment for effective marketing, because it opens a tunnel to allow other people to find your website, and with it, your services.
11. Link Building Is Traffic
People use links to find new places to frequent, recommend, love. That’s how things should be on the Web. Content should be interesting, but we need links to get it found, and the anchor text needs to make it interesting, too.
‘Interesting’ means either a brand name surrounded by contextual text, or a descriptive anchor text that doesn’t look spammy.
This is a good example–
Example Inc. is my favorite brand because…
This is NOT–
I like cheap hotel rooms Chicago because… is NOT.
You need good links and good anchor text to allure a visitor to click and bring in traffic.
Without traffic there are no conversions. Without conversions, there’s no business.
Targeted traffic truly is the first and foremost role of link building in your marketing plan.
12. Link Building Is Buzz
A bit of emotion doesn’t hurt. Actually, it helps your product or service stand out! That’s why you see so many brands use Social Spark to hire bloggers to write interesting blog posts for them— the honest opinion, the visuals and the links get brands known and appreciated.
Yes, it can work like a charm if you take branding seriously and you help the blogger see the value behind your product. That’s the only way for bloggers to influence their audience and help your brand build a solid reputation.
Needless to remark that the anchor text should look genuine and flow naturally with the text. Read my advice for anchor text after Reason #14.
13. Link Building Is Knowledge Building
Through your links, people learn about new things and their lifestyle improves.
This is marketing, too.
The helpful factor in link building lies in the quality of the content being linked. If your content helps the reader walk away with knowledge they can apply ‘right now’, your brand is sure to be remembered, appreciated, shared.
14. Definitely, Link Building Is Not SEO (And It’s NOT For Google)
In fact, it’s not. Link building existed long before Google and link-based search, so to say that link building is an SEO technique is a stretch— it helps link-based SEO, but it does not belong to it.
Imagine for a moment to be a 1999 webmaster with a website. Search engines are a new thing, you use directories and webrings to find other websites. Definitely, you’re going to add yours to the listings, so that others may find you, too.
But that’s not enough, because directories and webrings list a lot of sites and yours is just a number. What to do? Oh, you’re probably going to ask a friend to link you up on her site. You provide information that her visitors may find useful, so wherever she links you, you’re sure she’s going to do it right.
While you’re at it, why not ask to add you to her blogroll, too? And perhaps she can email her contacts to let them know her buddy has a new website with a lot of good stuff?
Now you grab your URL and go to your favorite forum, ask the admin if you can post a thread about it (or just go and do it if the forum as a board for promotions) and introduce your stuff to the other members.
Great! Visitors start to come and leave you sweet messages via email or on your guestbook. Time to build a mailing list…
That was online marketing in 1999, guys. And it’s evergreen, don’t you think?
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to link and get linked!
Anchor Texts? Let The Site Owner Choose!
Never ever ever ever tell the webmaster something on these lines:
Hey! Link back to me with “cheap rooms rentals Paris” and make it look natural in your post!
What?! Are you serious? How do you want your poor webmaster to link you ‘naturally’ with that kind of anchor text?
A request of that kind may not only get your linking request rejected, but it will definitely get you labeled as a big, fat spammer— and we’re not talking search engines, here.
I will never get tired to repeat this— leave the anchor text up to the webmaster!
They know their blog, their readers and their writing style, so if you want to help your cause, don’t mess with a webmaster’s freedom to link out.
And please, please— STOP thinking of junk anchor text. For your own sake. People don’t click on spam links– and if they do, you still won’t score a sale or earn a reader.
Link Building Methods
Before you read through this section, I’m going to get two points straight:
- Some of these methods are “deprecated” by Google — meaning that you will probably incur in a penalty if you don’t apply a rel=nofollow to outgoing links.
- Use these methods with rel=nofollow if you fear Google’s wrath, but if you’re like me and you don’t give a Smurf about Google’s opinion, naked URLs will be fine. After all, you’re going to build links with the intention to increase visibility in front of your audience, not to manipulate Google’s SERPs, are you? ;)
It’s simple— reach out to webmasters you love and appreciate and offer them useful content from your website they can link to. Maybe that will make a nice addition to the resources they already share with their visitors?
“Hi Name! How have you been? I’m one of your fans, been following you since Year. I loved your blog post/resource page/content and maybe this blog post I wrote would make a helpful addition to the resources you linked? Let me know if you decide to use it. :) I would be honored!”
This is one of the most ancient ways to earn visibility online that favors social relationships. And believe me— if it doesn’t start with a relationship, you’re doing it all wrong.
In fact, link exchange should only happen after you’ve made a connection with the website owner you’re targeting. Doing it before you create a relationship (or better, a friendship!) is a surefire way to lose a precious chance to market via link building and to widen your professional network.
So, do it well!
“Text Link – This is my friend Luana’s website and she offers a lot of freebies. I’m even using one here!”
Yet another example comes from personal website owners, who definitely know how to build relationships via link exchanges — Cat’s link exchange rules for Silent-White.com and Christine’s invitation to get in touch at Curls.nu can teach you something about a relationship-first approach.
You know, sponsored blog posts, reviews, advertorials, freebies. All that kind of interesting stuff you may have refrained from using because Google frowns upon it (not because of the content, but because advertisers rarely use nofollow links). No matter what, this is content with great potential for conversion, and every link counts.
An ideal outreach message would include the following parts:
- A summary of what you do, why you’re contacting this specific webmaster to get sponsored and how the collaboration would benefit them.
- A request for information about the webmaster’s link policy — it’s fine to get either a naked link or a nofollowed link, but you should let the webmaster know before hand that you don’t mind nofollow attributes. Many website owners know that advertisers often only look for link juice.
- A kind encouragement to visit your website first and then link back to it with the anchor text the webmaster will find more suitable for their content and readership.
As for payment terms, check with the webmaster. Some have a rate list for sponsored content they write.
Share a Freebie
Valuable freebies go viral pretty easily, especially if what you share is evergreen and niche-specific content.
Don’t just drop links, though— market them!
- Make a fun and engaging landing page
- Give your users a newsletter to join
- Get interviewed (WHY did you come up with this cool freebie?)
- Invite your users to share their experience with your freebie as a guest post or newsletter article
Really, sky is the limit to your freebie marketing potential. Get creative!
Social Media Outreach
Reach out to people and make friends. Then they will link back to you.
And no, it’s not the “write good content and hope” that Google spokespeople recommend all the time.
What I’m talking about here is a simple process:
- Use social media to build a list of prospective linkers you share something with (a niche, an interest, a business method, even a hobby)
- Get in touch and nurture the relationship
- At some point, you will get to know each other’s websites by heart– that’s when you can propose a link (see Link Proposal in this section)
Of course, don’t make it look like the link is all you’re after. The relationship should be genuine, even though it comes with a reciprocal benefit as a consequence.
‘Reciprocal’, yes. ;) Because even if you don’t link back to them, you surely have something to offer, do you?
You know how that works— you grab your link, add a title and an hashtag (for Twitter and Facebook) and you’re set to go. Easy, right?
Uhm, sorry to disappoint, but your social share could end up in the invisible group. What you really need here is to impress!
- Add a name or a Twitter handle and personalize that post–
“Hey there, @name! Thought you might like this post about Niche – URL – Let me know if it was useful! :)”
- Use a CTA–
“Hi #bloggers! Our blog converted % of readers into customers in 2013 – URL. What about yours? Share your experience here – URL.”
You can buy social shares, but don’t give your sellers a premade share message. They know their followers better than you do, so leave that up to them. SponsoredTweets implemented this method and they earned a reputation among Twitterers thanks to their business ethics.
Not just the link in your name, but a useful link you share in the body of the comment.
“I feel you. Been there, done that. I shared my experience on my blog to help others — you can see it here: Link. How are you coping with This and That? It was pretty hard for me.”
Don’t spam, though! The link should be in context, and you better add it after you wrote the comment— that will help you focus on providing a sincere, helpful comment without the thought of a link nagging at you.
And did you know that suggesting good resources in your comment could get you linked in the original post?
Takeaway: Popularity is not in the number — it’s in the connections.
Looking for More? Our CEO Jerry Low wrote a smart post on smart link building back in January. Guys, he’s a genius! :) And Brian Dean of Backlinko.com and Aaron Wall of SEOBook are just as genial.
What are your top 3 link building techniques that have worked best for your website?
Credit: Creative Commons images provided by SiteFox, Gary Hayes, bark and Luigi Seust