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Link Building vs. Link Marketing: What’s The Difference?
Many people think of link building as purely an SEO endeavor. You build links to improve rank. I’ll argue this is the wrong way to think about link building, but not here in today’s column. I’ve accepted that when people use the phrase link building, chances are the word Google is not far from coming up. So be it.
Link marketing is related to link building, but it’s a far more tactical and nuanced approach to the process. People often use the terms link building and link marketing interchangeably, but that doesn’t do justice to either term. If I’m not mistaken, it was Debra Mastaler that first coined the term link marketing.
How does link marketing differ from link building?
In several ways, and the easiest way to explain one is to provide an example. I can’t give away a specific client’s tactics, so this a fictional example, but using two real companies with websites. If anyone from those two companies happen to find this post, you are both welcome to use this strategy if you like it. Or, if you want to comment on why it’s good, bad, or impossible, I’d welcome your feedback.
Imagine you are 3riversarchery.com. You are a specialist e-commerce site offering thousands of archery products. That’s a lot of products in a specialized vertical.
Now, imagine you are mega-store Bass Pro Shops. You also sell archery products, but it’s an extremely small part of your business. Keyword search “archery”, and it looks like Bass Pro has about 900 archery products.
So what could these two sites possibly offer each other?
How many times a week around the U.S. does someone buy an archery product online from Bass Pro Shops? Given that these two sites don’t compete at all for any archery product Bass Pro doesn’t carry, if the marketing folks at both sites could get over their fear, they might find common ground.
What if, when I buy one of those 900 archery products from Bass Pro Shops, there was a link in my confirmation email to 3riversarchery.com that said something like:
For your specialized archery equipment needs, try 3riversarchery.com
I can hear the marketing folks screaming, “NO WAY!” Why should we use our email confirmations to send people to another store? Well, because your sending them to a store that sells things you do not sell, based on a purchase the customer already made from you. You have little to lose and a lot to gain. Those email confirmations are gold. The links within could be golden.
You could sell those links to 3riversarchery.com or, instead of being greedy, you might propose a swap. The site 3riversarchery probably sends out email confirmations as well. Far fewer than Bass Pro Shops, but that misses the point. Every single shopper at 3riversarchery.com is a prospect for Bass Pro Shops, because of the variety of gear Bass Pro sells. But it’s only the buyer of archery equipment at Bass Pro Shops that 3riversarchery.com cares about, because that’s their vertical specialty.
You tell me. If you are 3riversarchery.com, what’s a link to your site worth inside a confirm email from Bass Pro Shops to a person who just bought archery equipment? Think about that for a minute.
My hunch is the recipient is going to be very receptive to that link.
Conversely, if you just bought something at 3riversarchery, your email confirmation could include the note:
Visit Bass Pro Shops Clearance Section on the web for great deals on all Bass Pro’s outdoor gear.
Argue about how sending customers to another site is bad business, but the reality for any online stores is that while they might compete with each other in some areas, if they recognize where they are complimentary and are smart about how they implement this strategy, there is more to gain than lose.
They key to this link marketing strategy I call “recognition of compliment.” Maybe my above example is too grandiose. Maybe Bass Pro is too big for this to make it through corporate. But what about the thousands of smaller stores on the web that compliment each other? Forget reciprocal links or banner ads for a moment. Warehouse Skateboards and Stewarts Surfboards? PoloGearUSA.com and Jeffers Equine?
Could there be a business to be built playing matchmaker for this one type of link marketing?
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.