How To Get Links When Your Goal Isn’t To Get Links

Do really need me to tell you that link building has changed? I said it back in April; Danny Sullivan ranted about it in July; heck, Rand was even clamoring for it 2009.

Link building is, and will continue to become, a vastly different industry, but I can’t imagine SEO where links don’t matter. I always see them as being one of the most important factors in search engine rankings. You just need to learn to change your end goal from “I want this link” to “I want to help people.” Here are some ways to do it.

Pay It Forward

Whatever happened to doing good, old-fashioned favors for people? Nowadays, it seems the only reason people will do anything for anyone else is because they either a) want them as a client, or b) they want to get a link from them.

If I learned one thing from being a born and bred Southern belle, it’s that we should do things for people without expecting anything in return. Give away some free knowledge on your blog, grant an interview to a starving journalist through HARO, help someone just getting started in the industry, or offer to do a free chat to college students through our local university.

How do you think SEOmoz has garnered all the links they have? Because they’ve focused more on giving away good, free advice than how their anchor text looks.

Talk To People

News flash: email isn’t talking to people.

If link building is about building relationships, the only real way to do that is in person. Network and meet with people in your space. Don’t just run up to them and demand a link: actually get to know them. When you do, and when you’ve built that relationship, you set yourself up to ask them for not just one link/tweet/share but multiple.

Agencies, stick with me: this is a little harder because you can’t exactly go to a conference on lawn care. Instead, focus on client education. Hopefully, your client base is filled with people who truly understand the importance of relationships in business and SEO.

It’s your job to educate the importance of it and stay up to date on what they’re doing. We hold progress meetings each month with our clients to discuss goals and what they have going on internally so we can plan our SEO strategy around them. If they’re holding an event or going to a conference, we make sure they drop keywords in their elevator speech and grab business cards of everyone they meet.

Anything Political

This is certainly more seasonal, but if you can tie anything back to the impending election, it’s bound to get people talking.  Maker’s Mark took that exact approach with its Cocktail Party approach.

Focus On You

I swear on Roger mozBot’s health, the next person that talks about guest blogging as a link building strategy is getting a swift kick in the shins.

I love guest blogging. It works wonders but it’s not a link building strategy. It’s a tactic. If you really want a long term link building strategy, you shouldn’t focus on improving the quality of other people’s websites. You should focus on you.

Instead of farming out your content somewhere else, put it on a site you have control over − yours. Then, focus on effectively marketing that piece of content.  Bring people passively to your site instead of actively pushing them to your site with a link. Do great work. Links will come.

Offline Still Exists

It’s easy to get obsessed with online marketing, but remember, people, we don’t live in a vacuum. We still spend a majority of our time offline, so you shouldn’t ignore those traditional marketing efforts that will also garner you links. People talk about these campaigns. Where do they talk about them? On their Facebook page, on Twitter, and on their blogs.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: is an experienced digital strategist, content developer and search marketer. She's currently the SEO Manager for The Home Depot and has previously worked agency-side for mid-sized business and Fortune 500 companies. She speaks regularly on digital strategy, content development and inbound marketing at conferences nationwide. Follow her on Twitter @erinever.

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  • Justin Sous

    Great post as usual, Erin. I know what you mean with guest blogging. The issue with new sites is that they need to build some juice asap since their audience at that point is somewhere around 0 (fresh site, no links yet). In my opinion here is where guest blogging comes into play. It’s showing others that you have an intelligent opinion about a subject and to get them generally interested in what more you have to say. Now here is where your own website’s content comes in… like you said, you better have some awesome content on your own website to make that person a returning visitor! I totally agree with building up the assets on your own website. I guess we all need to just consider the order in which we do things. I’d hate to see great content go to waste or become outdated because you don’t have a significant audience coming to your site at that point.

    As an aside, there’s always author rank to keep in mind. Guest posting has/will-have/may-have (who knows) an effect in the near future, so building up your personal clout (not to be confused with Klout) is something to consider. With that said guest blogging should NOT be used a sole link building strategy, as it’s merely a tactic as you said. And frankly, it’s just not scalable. Well done!

  • John Dean Deacon

    Personal brand building is key. Guest blogging has a place for brand building, getting your name out. Positioning you as an expert is a great strategy but should be used sparingly. Ultimately publishing high value content on your own web property is the goal, promoted through social media in order to have your relevant audience interact with your site and content through commenting, sharing and quoting. Just to name a few…


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