I read a lot about digital marketing and SEO (or the new flavor - “inbound marketing”). At least I try to. As the industry grows and noise increases, it becomes harder and harder to weed through topics that have been exhausted. When I find something that I feel pushes our industry further or really challenges my way of thinking on a subject, I like to talk about it and help push it if possible. Thanks to Mike King (@ipullrank) who published an article a little while ago that I recently re-read in more depth, I have something I want to share.
Below, I walk through a couple of quotes that I pulled from the article. I invite you to think through them with me – ideally within the context of the full article. Hopefully, we can all improve how we think about link building and SEO with some of the thinking Mike shared.
"…every successful link building campaign boils down to making news and/or making friends."
Couldn’t agree more. Tactical link building of old is dying. It doesn’t scale well, it’s short sighted, and, at its core, it’s often based on gaming an algorithm. I’m not even talking about link farms and super spam links either. The problem is that it still works, especially short term (which is what too many clients are forced to chase or have narrowed their sights to), but it’s ultimately a gamble. It’s tied to goals that don’t really grasp the potential that exists for link building (and SEO as whole) to drive benefit for a business and accomplish business goals.
I understand that relationships have been the foundation of link building since before Google, but I think it’s worth continuing to push – especially as the social web, our culture, and our definitions of relationships continue to change.
Making friends is obvious for link building. Most people like to help other people out – even if the motives vary widely. If you make some friends, and actually form a healthy friendship (care about the person, what’s going on with them, what would be beneficial for them, etc.), they’re probably going to reciprocate to some degree. Maybe they’ll even link to you.
Making the news is straightforward too. What happened when you made the news before the internet? People talked about you, people shared the event with friends, people bought your products, services, or digested your information, and sometimes people were even changed or had their preferences/interests/needs/desires affected.
What happens now? The exact same thing. The only difference is that we tweet, pin, like, share on Facebook, post on blogs, comment on forums and discussion boards, search for things and LINK TO THINGS. Being newsworthy earns you links, but it’s also a sign of other forces at work. Getting links in this scenario means something bigger.
The value of a link shouldn’t be limited to a vote – at least not like it is to a search engine. A link is a sign of communication. Communication and discussion around a topic are signs of desire, interest, popularity, opinion, and a variety of other factors that search engines are desperate to figure out. They know a link can still mean more than what can be understood about it algorithmically. We should see links as Google, Bing, and others want to be able to - that's the benefit of being human. Search engines should chase us, not the other way around.
If your business is popular, people will search for you and look for you, people will choose your site over another in the SERPs even when you rank lower (branding). Google will be forced to recognize you because, in the end, they need to deliver what we want, when we want it…right? From the SEO standpoint, links help make sure you’re there to be chosen.
Because of this, I agree with Mike that it makes sense to track links in a more holistic fashion and view the success of link building a bit differently. If you aren’t already, try tracking this information to help understand what your links are really doing for you:
- SEO Benefits – Had to put it in, I’m assuming we all know what these are and what we should be tracking.
- Relational Benefits - Through developing relationships, what connections were made? Even if you didn’t get a link, who might you be able to get a link from in the future? Is there any way to communicate the potential value of this connection?
- Referral Traffic – Are your links bringing you traffic from a target location where your target market(s) (or target personas) spend their time?
- Conversions – If people are being referred from links you’ve earned to pages with content designed to generate conversions rather than inform (or other purposes); are they converting? How much information can we get about the non-SEO value of this link?
“Making news and building relationships are functions of many different groups and initiatives within a business from top to bottom.“
I believe this quote exemplifies exactly how we as SEOs need to be thinking about link building and leveraging the assets (in a broad sense of the word) a business already has. It also paints an important picture of the synergies that must be in place in order to leverage everything a business has to earn links.
This challenged me to think practically about how we can work to accomplish this. Here are a few thoughts:
- When you start a new engagement, get the appropriate people on the call and ask questions about how they interact and work together. Pay attention to how you as an agency, consultant, etc. can phase in with these different groups and even foster more collaboration. SEOs have an interesting opportunity/need to touch many different parts of an organization that many marketers don’t have.
- Throughout the engagement, pay attention to what the business is generating besides a product. How can you connect with what they’re working on and leverage it for building relationships, generating news, and earning links?
- What relationships have already been developed through the business just doing what it does? What distributors do they work with? What authors write for them? As a business, what businesses are complementary or do they have relationships with already? Who are the people that work for them and what relationships do they have?
“Simply put, link building is better when the entire muscle of a brand is leveraged.”
When the body works in unison, people are capable of accomplishing amazing physical feats. When social, PR, content, off-line, and other key parts of a businesses' marketing world are working together efficiently, it becomes much easier to leverage the messaging to earn links. It becomes much easier to tap into what makes a business unique, put it in front of the right people, make news, and make friends.
If there is no cohesion, then inefficiency creeps in and opportunities are lost. More work is required to accomplish the same objectives.
Thanks Mike, thoroughly enjoyed the article and echo the compliments many have already shared.