There’s something important that I realized far too late in life and really only after teaching ninth grade for a few years: anyone who says, “Junior high was great and not at all traumatic!” is a liar.
Those early teen years are, in fact, some of the most awkward years we go through. It’s one big process of working hard to solidify your place in a social scene, then praying desperately that it’s the right one. And don’t forget hoping against hope that the kids who most definitely are not cool stay away from you while simultaneously crossing your fingers that the popular kids will make you cool by association.
And you know what? There’s not really a giant leap from there to online marketing. Fundamentally, the process works the same way: you need to invest in relationships, take time to nurture them, and then help them to become mutually beneficial.
Link-building can be tough, especially with all of the algorithm changes Google has. There are definitely a lot of link-building strategies to avoid. But at CEM, we pride ourselves on the positive connections we’ve been able to make, and we thought we could offer some tips for how you can build and maintain similar relationships to help improve your online marketing.
Spoiler alert: everything you need to know, you learned in junior high (or possibly before then).
#1: “She’s a good influence.”
There was a period in my life where it felt like, thanks to my mother, most of my friends stopped having real identities and, instead, were categorized only as “good influence” and “bad influence.” At the time, I didn’t think it mattered. As a shy, socially awkward girl just trying to fly under the radar, I still wanted as many friends as I could have.
And as much as it pains me to admit this, my mother was right.
The quality of the company you keep says a lot about you. When you’re growing relationships that you hope will lead to opportunities for guest posting, interviews, and, ultimately, backlinks, the quality of that contact should absolutely be considered. As you research, look for people who are good influences.
#2: Look for common interests.
It’s difficult to form bonds when you have nothing in common, right? Whether you use social CRM tools, a platform like the controversial Klout or one like Commun.it to identify influencers, it’s important to look for those who have not only influence, but a common interest. Rubbing elbows with top-rated tech websites isn’t going to do you much good if what you’re looking to do is build links to your site about gardening techniques.
In other words, befriending the popular kids might seem like a great way to quickly boost your status, but remember: that status can be fleeting. Focus your efforts on people who can help you become the best you can be with your best interests in mind.
#3: Get out there and be social!
Whether it was sports, a club, or some other kind of activity, you were probably always encouraged to broaden your horizons by joining something. This would, of course, open up the possibility of meeting new friends.
Social media is the current version of this same sentiment. Start talking to people on Twitter or joining relevant groups on LinkedIn. Don’t necessarily make it your first priority to always be looking for someone who can loft your status via backlinks, but instead, someone who just makes a really great friend. Remember: a real true-blue, honest-to-goodness friend is more likely to help you out – especially because they trust that you would do the same for them.
#4: Be genuine.
There were always a few kids who would suddenly (and fervently) want to be your best friend, and you could never really figure out why. What was it that they wanted from you?
When you’re trying to determine optimal locations for your backlinks, make sure you’re getting behind a site on which you will be proud to display your work. But also make sure that site will be proud to include your links. If you don’t have anything of quality to offer, you can’t be surprised when someone turns you down. If your links are spammy and leading to sites of ill repute rather than something genuine and upstanding, you’re headed for a heartache.
You’re looking for mutual respect that comes only through building your relationships naturally and in a genuine way. If you’re not genuine in your interest, that relationship is doomed from the start. If someone sees that you’re using them to get your backlinks out, but you’re not supporting them in any way that isn’t beneficial to you, it’s going to leave an awfully bad taste. Would you want to help someone you thought might just be using you?
#5: Let the relationship flourish before you ask for favors.
Yes, things can move at a different pace in the world of online marketing. When you’re trying to build backlinks, you might not have months to sit around waiting to do it. This is all the more reason to be pro-active in forming those relationships. Don’t wait until you need something to start looking for it. People see right through that.
If you spend a good amount of time just being social and concentrating on establishing relationships with other like-minded individuals and businesses, you’ll see those relationships bloom. Once they do, you can broach the topic of collaboration or some other strategy from which you can both benefit. Maybe you decide to offer each other a series of guest posts or webcasts. However you do it, make sure that it’s mutually beneficial. Again, you don’t want anyone to think you’re using them.
#6: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Girls were notorious for this in school, weren’t they? They’d become best friends with someone and then when it fell through (which, given the fickle nature of girls, was frequently), they’d be left out in the cold.
We probably don’t have to tell you that it’s unwise to bank on having one contact be the solution to all of your online marketing and SEO goals. If it doesn’t work out, you’re back to square one, trying to figure out where to go next. Expand your horizons! (Wisely, of course.)
You don’t want to be the “use and lose” contact – the person who maintains a relationship just long enough to use another person (or site) for personal gain and then lets it all go.
Just like you would put some effort into your personal relationships if you hope to maintain them, you need to put some effort into maintaining your professional relationships, as well. People are far more likely to help you out with relevant linking opportunities when they don’t feel like you ditched them before.
In short, forming solid relationships with like-minded companies and individuals is the best way to get truly superior backlinks. Offer something of value, and something of value will be offered to you. If you’re interested in learning more, check back with CEM in January when we will be launching a new program aimed at securing such links for our clients through techniques such as networking and guest posting.
What strategies do you use to develop link-building relationships? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!