“How to Get Links without Trying” or Organic Link Building

LinkbaitingLinkbaiting is a hot topic right now. However, one of the funniest definitions of creating linkbait was to “forget linkbait, think about the user first, and develop content for them.” Sounds noble enough, yet I find it extremely humorous. Mainly because of the language involved.

The word “linkbait” implies that someone would not have linked to you unless they were tricked into doing so. But in recommending that people develop content for users, without thought to the link benefit, the definition does not fit the word. Here is my concept of Organic Link Building:

Yes, good old fashioned face-to-face networking. Casual ConversationDeveloping those connections and contacts that you already have is the best source of both business and links. You can’t beat it for effectiveness, and it is what most business owners tend to do naturally. Unfortunately, this lost ability can also be one of the greatest assets to link building. The concept of networking was to build relationships in markets, similar and different, and also to find people that you like and trust enough to do business.

After a good networking event, you typically come away with a handful of business cards, a few names and faces in your memory, but you also have a few specific people that you know that you need to call and follow-up. This is where blogging has been such a boon to the networking and linking practices. Summarizing your experiences in networking is link building. It may be making a link in the personal sense, but it can be easily translated into website links.

I would suspect that many SEO professionals who preach linkbaiting can look at their incoming links increase after they speak at an event or even talk with people in a bar. I see this as well, most of the links that I receive after an event that I attended are based on conversations that I had with people. They recount those events and conversations in their blogs. I usually watch this with a little bit of smugness, as the links were results of our conversations, and not any sort of baiting. Conversation is an interesting and natural thing . . .and highly underrated.

Joining the Conversation
The guys at ClearSaleing understand this. New to the blogging world, they have posted some great content about PPC strategies. They’ve jumped into the conversation with both feet. In commenting on link building strategies, they focused on networking (online and offline), joining the conversation, and developing your own network through blogging and press releases. Especially interesting was the comment that the best link opportunities are usually from existing contacts. “These contacts will normally be the people who know you the best.” Sounds simple enough, but it does imply that one is out networking in the industry, making contacts and developing a network. Links don’t come to you if you aren’t active in the conversation.

Unless people know who you are and what you bring to the party, they won’t talk about you, ergo = no links. Bringing new data, a twist in something that is previously accepted, or a new perspective will go far in getting attention and engaging your peers in conversation.

Especially in the web marketing industry, the best conversations to get involved in are not in the boardroom. Most times, they aren’t even official. They usally take place in the hotel bars of conferences, impromptu (or barely formal) get-togethers, via IM or email, or coordinating travel schedules. Casual, relaxed conversations can be the greatest source of information, content and making contacts.
Philly SEO get-together
A great example of this was making a road trip to Philadelphia a few months ago (I happened to be in town while working with a client) and a great meeting of SEO’s took place. I got to meet new people and reconnect with old friends. The conversations that took place were more stimulating than most panel presentations at a conference.

The second concept is content.
Yes, I know, everyone preaches content in linkbaiting. However, content is organic – it grows when it connects with the right audience.

People always stress the “good” in content, as content is generic, but good content takes creative and skilled work to present. Good content is what makes people listen or read and stay attentive. However, good content can still be good, but not meet the needs of the audience. If the audience finds no need for the content at that time, or no personal benefit, then the content has little value.

This is where adding to the conversation can get you noticed. People notice good content, they pay attention to it because it is a new perspective, new data, or something interesting. When real, quality content is brought to the market, people take notice.

The value of content is in the relevance and context of presentation to the reader. The site visitor determines if the content is relevant to them. The visitor’s perception of value is based on the expectations they have coming to the website. If your site satisfies their expectations, you have engaged that visitor, hopefully to a level of action, such as a conversion or a link. Most times, however, you have a visitor that is satisfied with the answer to their question or makes them think.

The Best Link Building?
This part is purely my opinion based on my own data:
In reviewing my site analytics, I have found that the best visitors have come from contacts that I have made face-to-face, and resulted in an online link to my site. Sure, I have links that send a lot of visitors, but the most effective links have been from people that I met either as a result of networking or joining a conversation.

Dinner during NYC SES 07

However, more than just links, I’ve developed some very good friendships that started out as an email exchange which then developed into a very reliable and fulfilling friendship. I didn’t intend to get a link, but when people know that you are more interested in them rather than the link, they tend to be much more responsive.

Related Posts:
The Three C’s of Marketing: Revisited – Content, Context, Community
The Lost Art of Sales
10 Ways that Website Marketing is like Sales