Before asking for a link, you should always build a relationship, and this is why.
David: For someone like Tim, who’s getting started thinking about link building, and for Youssef, you’re the expert who has been doing link building for a year.
Youssef: Yeah. Well, I would say, as you mentioned, start looking for tactics like searching for a topic and trying to make it better. Well, I’m talking about are tactics that could get you a lot of links and good quality ones. This is something I was going to tell you tomorrow, but maybe I’ll just spoil it now. You mentioned it last week. What was it called? Was it Google Trends? And I was thinking maybe we could use it also for link building for finding good topics. For instance, looking at data from three years ago, seeing what was popular back then, finding a topic that maybe is outdated, and trying to come up with a new article that’s up to date. That’s one way of doing a skyscraper technique, which is something that could result in many links. I found that guest blogging is not really the best tactic because you don’t have any leverage. You just cold emailed and asked for a link. You might be lucky and get some links, but it’s a bit time-consuming and not as effective as some other tactics. What I realized is that you always need some leverage. And one other important thing is to build a relationship with whoever you are talking to. Don’t just email them and ask for a link because no one is going to give you a favor from your first email unless you are a famous brand, a very famous brand. So, because they are saying, oh, they’re famous, maybe we will get recognition if we link to the back. If you’re just a small business, you always need to build a relationship, and it might take some time, but it’s going to be worth it.
David: Well, the leverage point is a very, very important lesson. We know by the rules that Google has told us that we can’t give something in exchange for a link, whether that’s money or a product. We can’t make an exchange, but if we want the link, somebody wants something from us. So, what is it we can give? So, Youssef had this idea, and I think it’s really good, where you could give free advice. For example, you might say, “Hey, I was on your website, and I noticed that this is broken.” And in a friendly way, not in a passive-aggressive way, like, “Your website sucks. I can’t believe it’s broken.” But to get that foot in the door. Then you can begin to start a relationship with this website. We did this with one of our clients a while back, where we did some research. We found out that some industry-wide periodical was linking to an old version of their URL. So, I reached out to them and said, “Hey, would you mind updating to the current domain?” So, that’s what we call branded link building. We look for people, mentioning a brand. And we saw they’re linking to the wrong website. So, we asked them to update it, and they said sorry, they couldn’t change that. But then I was able to say, “Hey, by the way, would you like a new article from us?” “Yes, please,” was the answer, right? Because we already had a relationship. They knew the company. And so, one of the easiest ways to get links early is leveraging relationships. How can you do that? The trick is that Google’s rules say you can’t trade links. So, links have to be one way; if they’re reciprocated, at best, Google ignores them. Let’s say, we together as a group, agree to send a link to each other’s websites to help us build links. Well, that’s such a small scale it might not be noticed. Maybe we could get away with it. But let’s try not to do tactics that maybe we have to get away with it. Right? But if we found a way to use our relationship to build links to our site, that could be really good. So, for instance, I will go on the speaking circuit, and I will speak at this meetup, and I will speak at that meetup. With each of them, I say, “Hey, would you mind linking to my website?” Usually, the answer is absolutely no problem. I’ve given them something. I’ve spoken at their meetup. They have one less thing to do, get someone to speak at their meetup. I get a link. Sometimes the link is no-follow because of the way like meetup.com works and stuff like that. Hey, that’s okay. It doesn’t count for SEO, but it still gets traffic. I’ll take it. Sometimes you can get a really good link, for instance, when I speak at WordCamps. I always go the extra step and say, “Oh, by the way, would you link to my website for my author bio?” and usually, people are more than happy to do that. I am paying a lot of money for that link, though. In the sense that I have to spend money to get a hotel room, travel to that place, it’s a very expensive link, if you think about it, right?
Tricia: Yeah, yeah.
David: So, I better be getting a lot more than a link out of that. Right? And I do. I get to meet cool people, get to hang out, get out of town, get away from life, and have a good time. It’s really worth it. But if you can think about relationships that you already have, that might be great. Along with that are tools that you use. So, for instance, I think I’ve mentioned a favorite tool of mine called Speechpad, which is a transcription service that I’ll use sometimes. They reached out to me and asked me to review them one time. I said I’d be happy to. In fact, I’d write a review for you. Because I noticed on their website that they had a whole bunch of reviews that they published, and all of them had links to those websites. So, I got a link to my website because I gave them something – I reviewed their service. And I love their service, so I was more than proud to review it. But that’s another way to think about it. Who is talking about you? Who could you give a review for, who would be able to link to your site? You know, but again, you can’t reciprocate that. I had a business colleague of mine. We had this conversation about speaking at his event, and he hinted strongly that I should write about it in my blog and the link back to him. There was a mutual scratching each other’s back here. So, I kind of did it, but I did a no-follow link back to him because if I trade links, I’m breaking Google’s rules. He noticed that and said, “What gives? Why did you no-follow the link back to me?” And said, “I’m so sorry, I have to comply with Google’s rules, and Google’s rules say we can’t trade links.” And if that meant that he had to no follow his links to me, well then, that’s too bad. But that’s okay. I think that’s the lesson here. What Youssef is talking about here is very important. There is a cost even if we’re not paying money or products, and it’s all about relationships and developing and using your existing relationships. That is probably the best way to start getting links.
Tim: Yeah, good topic.
David: Youssef, would you like to add anything to that about getting started with link building?
Youssef: Yeah, I would also suggest that maybe Tim can read more about it. And I mean, it depends, actually, on how much he wants to go all-in on link-building. If he just wants a couple of links, I wouldn’t suggest some tactics that take a lot of time and won’t result in many links. But if you want to go all out and get some good quality links, maybe try one of the tools for a month and see if he likes it. And maybe he can get some good broken link opportunities. Yeah, that would be much better. I would say it’s better than wasting a lot of time and getting no results.
David: I think that’s the biggest cost for link building; it’s the time it takes to do it.