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9 Link Building Lessons We Learned As Kids
Do you remember the life lessons we learned as kids? Sayings like, “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” and, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” were taught to us at a young age to guide us, help us make better decisions, and remind us to be nice to one another.
I can’t speak to whether or not those lessons actually stuck with you or helped you throughout your life. But I can tell you that these lessons can help with your link building… both right now and in the future.
Here are a few of those lessons you may have forgotten:
1. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again
In Julie Joyce’s recent link week column she noted that “[o]ver the past year, link building has definitely gotten a lot tougher.” She wasn’t kidding! Every week, it feels like something new is no longer considered a legitimate tactic by the almighty Google: guest posts, sponsorships, infographics, widgets… the list goes on and on.
On top of that, even when we have what we feel is a great link building angle, it may get rejected. The key is to not let that rejection stop you.
Cornwall SEO had a nice article a couple weeks ago about pitch rejections and noted the following:
One of the biggest setbacks I see is that link builders normally approach sites with one specific type of link in mind, and if they can’t get it then they move on to the next potential site. When you are open to new ideas, your pitch is much more flexible; hence you’ve got a better chance to turn that ‘no’ into a door to a ‘yes.’ Something that I like to do is to always have more than one link building idea for each site I contact.
I love this! Even if your pitch gets rejected, you must try, try again.
2. Honesty Is The Best Policy
One challenge that many link builders face is identifying whom the outreach email should come from. Do you represent your client? Do you work for your client? Are you simply neutral?
The worst thing you can do is get caught in a lie.
In this day and age, with Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook at our fingertips, looking up a person takes seconds. It’s pretty easy to see if someone is real and/or if they are who they say they are. Just check out this post from RYP Marketing for a great example.
When it comes to outreach, I’m a firm believer that honesty is the best policy… or at least you should seem honest. A few ways to make sure your emails avoid being called out:
- Have the client send the email. You are the outreach expert but your client is the person you want the email coming from. Find the contact info for your target, create the email, and have the client send it. It’s authentic and you ensure the right message is sent.
- Get the client’s permission. We hear stories all the time about how the client didn’t know what the SEO company was doing and next thing you know, blah, blah, blah. When sending outreach emails, make sure the client knows what you are doing and who you are representing yourself as.
- Get a company email address. A nice middle ground is to have your client provide you with a company email address. Even if you choose to use your real name, stating you are emailing on behalf of the client is much more legit.
Just remember, no one likes a liar.
3. The Early Bird Catches The Worm
As someone who has only ever been up before 7:00AM to catch a flight, I can assure you this saying wasn’t made for my life… but it has come in handy for link building.
A few ways to be the early bird:
- Offer “exclusives” or “previews” of new products, services, or content pieces to your target publication (via Justin Briggs at SMX Advanced). By giving the publication early access, you’re helping them give their readers something new and unique, and you’re gaining exposure for yourself (and hopefully a link).
- Stay on top of your target writers, reporters, and publications. Follow them via social media, subscribe to their editorial calendars, and check their event calendars. When they’re looking for a story that pertains to you or your client, the earlier you can get in, the better.
- If you’ve ever transitioned a domain, you know it can be extremely challenging. On top of worrying about all the on-site elements, you also need to make sure your off-site elements are in place. By documenting all existing links and outreach info ahead of time, when the new site launches, you can simply send emails letting sites know about the changes.
Being the early bird can certainly have its advantages. Catch that worm!
4. Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
One of the biggest link building challenges is cutting through all the dos and don’ts and finding what works for you.
When I first got into the search industry, I spent my days manually submitting client sites to directories. Eventually someone came out with a program that did that for me, and I simply had to submit the client’s information. And, well, we all know how that turned out.
The thing is, all directories aren’t bad. Niche directories can be great for businesses, and sites like CrunchBase or the BBB do really well in search results.
The same thing goes for forums. If a forum is relevant to your business and people are actively participating, by all means get involved. While you may not get a great link, you will be connecting with your target audience — and that’s more important, in my opinion.
Remember… don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because you heard something no longer works, don’t assume it can’t ever work.
5. You Only Get One First Impression
This might be a fairly obvious one, but it really is the most important lesson pertaining to link building.
When you’re doing outreach, you only have one shot to make a good impression. Make sure you aren’t doing this:
I can assure you: If you’re trying to make a bad impression, that’s how to do it. For more good and bad examples of link outreach, check out “Good Outreach vs. Bad Outreach – from a Blogger’s Point of View.”
6. Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
In the comments of my last column, there was some discussion around the use of exact match anchor text and whether or not it should be used. While there were differing opinions, my thinking is that some exact match text isn’t going to hurt you. But, if 90% of your backlink anchor text is the same non-branded keyword… then you might be in trouble.
It’s just like in the directory example I mentioned above: some directories are okay, but submitting your site to hundreds of them isn’t.
Link building requires a bit of common sense, and common sense tells us not to focus only on one thing. Make sure to vary your tactics.
7. All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Businesses dream about being featured in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Tech companies fight to be written about in TechCrunch and Mashable. These big name publications are the goal for many companies and many link builders.
The problem is, sometimes these links can come back and bite you. A few years ago, I was working for a company who raised their prices without much notice. The customers weren’t happy and they took to social media to vent. And wouldn’t you know it, the story was picked up in TechCrunch.
Three years later, when you search the company name, the TechCrunch article (with a pretty unflattering title) is the fourth result. As a potential customer, that isn’t what I want to see when I’m researching companies.
Like the lesson tells us, just because a link seems big and sparkly, it doesn’t mean it’s the best for you.
Note: You should still strive to get a link from these places. I just wanted to point out that high quality links aren’t always “good” links.
8. Slow & Steady Wins The Race
Link building in 2013 takes time. In fact, it can take a LOT of time. Let’s take a pretty typical link scenario and break down the steps:
- Identify target publication
- Identify appropriate author
- Find author’s contact info
- Find author’s social media info
- Interact with author through social
- Establish relationship with author
- Monitor author for link opportunities
- Present author with link opportunity
That’s a lot of invested time just to present an opportunity! Why? Because building relationships take time, and we all know that it’s all about relationships.
Find a place you want a link from? Be the tortoise and take your time.
9. Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
One of my favorite topics to discuss is link building for “boring” industries. So many of us have either worked for a company or had a client whose product simply wasn’t glamorous. How are we ever going to get a link?
The cool thing is, just because a product or company is boring, doesn’t mean their site or marketing has to be. Here are a few great posts on building links in boring industries:
- A Peek Into How I Do Link Building in a Boring Industry
- Earning Links in “Boring” Sectors
- Viral Content Ideas for Boring Industries
Good link building requires determination and creativity. Find what works for your business and your audience.
Life Lessons For Link Building
I’d venture to say that when our parents and teachers taught us these lessons, they weren’t talking about link building… but hey, that’s why these lessons have lived on — they apparently can apply to so many things in life!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.