Relationship Building ≠ Link Building

I’m going to let all you link builders in on a little secret… you don’t always need to be “building relationships” to be “building links”. Tweet this

Yes, a pre-existing relationship, even a passing acquaintance, is going to increase the likelihood that your outreach email will be acted upon. But let’s get serious for a moment most of the recent posts I have read on “relationship building” simply will not scale.

Despite the sinister undertones of forcefully trying to create some sort of relationship, the reason I am saying this is that the tactics people are employing involve putting a lot of focus on just a handful of prospects at a time.

They’ll attach themselves to a prospect and give a little, then wait, then give a little more, then wait…. rinse and repeat.

All you are actually doing is wasting time, not building links relationships Tweet This

Developing a mutually beneficial relationship can take a very long time and it is normal in the world of link building that no matter how great your pitch, your client or you are that these people you’ve spent time developing a relationship with will say NO.

That’s amazing to believe isn’t it, you’ve invested hours and hours building a “relationship” and when you finally got round to asking for the link they said, no!

What have you been doing on your client’s money for the past month.

I’m sure they can’t wait for their next monthly report…

If you really, truly, want to develop relationships online in order to build links then you need to change your mindset and begin to think about it in a scalable way.

Find the right people to target

As a link builder it is important that you cast your net far and wide. Don’t just focus on the big fish in the pond. Build up a prospective list of people who are a little lower down the pecking order; find out who is in the extended network of the influencer – oftentimes there are people influencing the influencer who are a lot more accessible.

This can be done with a social media tool such as Mentionmapp which shows you visually see who is talking to who and will help you to identify sub-communities on Twitter; simples.

If you are struggling to find new link prospects for your campaign then consider chunking up, or chunking down.

In NLP ‘chunking up’ refers to moving to a more general or abstract piece of information, ‘chunking down’ means moving to a more specific (niche) or detailed information. They help you think laterally fast. 

Kieran Flanagan source

If you spend a little time and think creatively you will come up with a lot more prospects in similar niches that you can begin to “build those relationships with” and at the same time developing a serious database of link prospects at various stages of development.

Automation is not a dirty word

What!!! You’re talking about automated link building in these post-penguin deep dark times… yes but not in the way’s you’re thinking about. No I’m talking about automating some of the processes I have discussed earlier in this post.

What you want to do is find tools, build tools or outsource the parts of this job that are so mind numbingly boring and ultimately are so cost inefficient you’re not going to make anywhere near the kind of money you would like.

For example you can use Mechanical Turk to outsource some of these link prospecting tasks for you, below is a video from Ben Wills, Ontolo:

How to Leverage Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for Link Building from Ontolo on Vimeo

You can also use advanced search operators in tools such as Scrapebox to return lots opportunities in a specific niche, or even a Chrome plugin such as Scraper can help you with this. If you are not sure what to do then this post from Justin Briggs will help you out.

I did say that you don’t need relationships to build links, didn’t I.

Well we can do this by building rapport quickly and not having to spend hours stalking people on social media or including them on a link round up post every few weeks. This involves understanding what motivates your prospect, knowing how to talk to their language and having something valuable to offer them, whether that’s fixing a broken link, offering a guest post or whatever link building tactic floats your boat.

So I’ll leave it to you to decide but I know I’d rather spend my time scaling my link building efforts, developing content that will earn me links and not sitting on Social Media for hours on end +1ing and RTing everything a few people are doing.

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29 Responses to Relationship Building ≠ Link Building

  1. JulieJoyce says:

    As a Luddite this is not at all how I think…but considering I’m not rolling in dough maybe I should change my thinking. Good post.

  2. s_rvll says:

    I find the worse a piece of content is the more ‘relationship building’ people tend to do. Interestingly I’ve just released a piece of content that has got a load of links without talking to anyone.

  3. content_muse says:

    Sean Revell linked to me, and all I got out of it was a cool Saloon of Literature mate.

  4. Joel K says:

    Constantly impressed with the stuff you’re turning out lately, Chris. The trouble with “building relationships” is that it is ambiguous and very difficult to bill as an external person. Can SEO consultants “build relationships” FOR their clients? Can an agency invest time in “building relationships” for a client?

    To me, “Build” is a mechanical phrase and “Relationships” a warm one. They do not go hand in hand. A relationship could perhaps be called a passing acquaintance, but I hate the phrase mostly because I believe “relationships” should be meaningful (d’awwww).

  5. Tadeusz says:

    The point of building relationships is the “initial push” of support when publishing. You need only a bunch of active supporters and the rest will follow unless your site and content sucks of course. So it’s not about building 100 relationships to get 100 links but to build 10 relationship to get 100 or 1000 or 10k links.

  6. Tad Chef says:

    The point of building relationships is the “initial push” of support
    when publishing. You need only a bunch of active supporters and the rest
    will follow unless your site and content sucks of course. So it’s not
    about building 100 relationships to get 100 links but to build 10
    relationship to get 100 or 1000 or 10k links.

    • RootsWebSol says:

      That’s the way it should be Tad, but unfortunately I keep reading articles where the only reason they are networking on social media is to get links. They’re not there to expand their professional networks they only see the opportunity that everyone the interact with is a potential link.

      As Joel said is it our job as a third party supplier to sit there building relationships, it’s difficult to bill at the end of the day. I jokingly nodded to it with the image in the post but if I sent my latest report saying

      “Hi Mr. Customer, I’ve spent 40 hours this month +1ing everything that Tad Chef says on Google+ he’s bound to give us a link some time in the next 6 months – I’m so far under his skin he can’t ignore me for long?”

      That’s why we need to look beyond “relationships for links” and look at improving outreach methods or creating content that when we do some outreach people are compelled to share.

      For example you’ve got 80 hours of client work next month, do you sit and chat to 10 people online for those 80 hours hoping they might link to you or do you spend 20 hours on market research and link prospecting, 30 hours creating some content that matches your market research and then another 30 hours promoting that content in the places you know are looking for it?

  7. Catchy phrases such as “quit building links, start building relationships” made a great motto for those who were having a hard time separating “link builder” from “dirty spammer”. And as a result, now there’s a flood of guest posts and bloggers who send you their advertising rates for guest posting without blinking an eye.

    But the truth is that many link builders out there just want to get things done quickly, and sending emails to all the bloggers that may have a slight connection to their keywords (yes, I said it) + pitching them 500-word “fresh and unique” guest posts + paying the ad rates is way faster than taking the time to create one exquisite piece of content and placing it in front of those who will find it share-worthy / link-worthy.

    So in the end, building relationships for links could be seen as coming to an ongoing business arrangement with a blogger, that makes everyone happy. And if you have to follow them on Twitter and RT some of their stuff first, so be it, “we’re trying to build relationships here and nothing beats social media for that, right?” Or at least that’s what guest posting looks like most of the time:

    • RootsWebSol says:

      Gisele I agree creating long standing partnerships with bloggers is a great way to go, but as we are being paid by clients to help their websites turn a larger profit in competitive industries the Echo chamber is bleating “create relationships”.

      Let’s be honest this is a very long term strategy & the tactics people are writing about will never get you where you need to be within the next decade as your competitors will be getting slicker, smarter and better while you cling on to the hope that a thought leader may one day finally link to you.

      • Exactly! It is a short-sighted strategy. And I don’t think creating long standing partnerships with bloggers is such a great way to go for SEO, maybe it is for PR though. But I’ve worked with SEO agencies that are desperately looking for that, and in a sense they’re doing it just to have a regular flux of links they don’t need to go out and get.

  8. Danny Ashton says:

    Whilst I agree that relationship building can’t scale… it still makes sense to build a relationship with your key influencers Even if you just follow these 10 really important people online via twitter and have a little chat with them once in a while. The key thing for me is to understand what type of content my influencers like… so I can create it for them when the time comes. I feel this is way more important than RT’ing them in the vague hope they might care about my stuff when I post content.

    For the most part relationship building is just about the tone of your email emails, the odd joke and generally being a decent guy.

    I personally like to spend 95% of my time getting my content awesome (so you can build relationships with influencers in the first place) and then spend 5% “building relationships”.

  9. Neil maycock says:

    Awesome article Chris. I think you right it’s about balance. Sure spend ome time commenting on a blog, engaging (noticed I said engaging as I find people Contantly retweeting stuff doesn’t build relationships at most you gt a thanks for the RT) but spend the majority of the time providing awesome content and looking for relevant induty related links (we still do some link building right!)

  10. The problem is that ‘build relationships’ is the new ‘build great content’ and it is the supposedly sage white hat advice of a somewhat shook industry that needs to push the straight line to it’s potential clients and peers.

    Building relationships with link candidates and influencers can work but it can also be done poorly and be a huge waste of time. Not too different to scouring the web for link opportunities or building rafts of content that no one links to despite the siren call of white hat SEO’s telling you that if you build content, the links will follow naturally.

    There are lots of great ways to get in front of people and even the current darling of ‘SEO’ guest posting can be a better way to get some eyes on you and get your content shared. Certainly, if you create a post on SEOMoz or some such, and link back to your site, then people will view it, share it and often link to it. You may also have a much easier time getting people to link to a post that links to you than to link or share your stuff direct.

    It’s always been about relationships, but, if you follow your prospects around asking if they ‘will pweeese be your friend’ then you have no chance – you have to do everything you can to get yourself in front of these folks and if that means standing on the shoulders of other sites to get a bigger audience and get those people to make the first move to follow you then building that relationship will be a whole lot easier.

    • RootsWebSol says:

      Thanks for your comment Marcus. And Second tier link building on Authority sites is certainly a good way to go.

  11. relations or not, what I do know is that you have to OFFER something.

    let’s say that most people are complaining not to have links because if you think what the site is offering (a service, ecommerce…) is total SHIT. now LB is something you can do in whatever way, but PLEASE let’s do something great.

    Rather than say: ok, I will build 10 links to you , because I know how to do it in 10000 ways (but think that what the site is offering is shit), let’s start saying: I can create links to you for sure, but what about change a bit the way you are presenting things (UX….) or the way you communicate stuff, for example. Easier for linkbuilders, better for the company/client.

    Let’s create good ideas, at least let’s try to take shitty idea and make it better. and THEN build links.

  12. page1rankings says:

    Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools have made it possible for customers to interact directly
    with brands and vice versa. If people are talking about your company online, you should be there talking back.

    Companies are increasingly hiring individuals to manage social media communications on behalf of their
    brand. These positions typically have titles like social media manager, social media coordinator or community manager. Whatever you call it, it’s important that someone pays attention to your company’s reputation
    on the Web and engages with the community appropriately.

  13. Good morning. Being the new kid here to to speak, I’m first getting involved with the practice of link building. As far as building relationships I’ll refer you to LinkedIn. On LinkedIn I have 116 connections at the moment and there are 20,681 new people in my network.

    Let me tell you that of those 116 connections maybe 7 of them are with people whom I regularly “chat” with but not actually gotten nay links from as of yet anyway. I’m looking at this for the moment as a way to build mutually agreeable relationships that can pay dividends down the road.

    Again I realize my naivete may be shining through with this comment but in this area I have much to learn. thanks for this post and I will be tweeting it out.

  14. I read this whole thing and my only take away seemed to be “scrapebox FTW”…. perhaps I’m biased 🙂

  15. Spook SEO says:

    Hello Chris,
    Excellent post! Relationship building seems like equivalent to public relations in traditional marketing. With the recent one-step-up from arbitrary similar keyword valuation, I guess the same stride happened in the way we can effectively build links.

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