I’ve never experienced the perils involved in owning a business. Unless you count being the daughter of a car dealership owner. I know there’s a lot of pride, resources and soul poured into making a company thrive. The owner/owners are under a lot of pressure to perform daily tasks in a sustainable way, while still chasing opportunities for growth.
Every penny has to be accounted for and even more so for small businesses. It’s not surprising the amount of time and due diligence that goes into deciding whether or not to invest in a product or service. But all too often it can come down to the price tag of the product or service, right? In this post, I’ll tell you why a $#!^ load of links may be just that, and I’ll also explain what it really takes to build quality, beneficial links to your website.
Numbers Mean Something
Let’s say you’re looking for link building services, and you contact a handful of companies. In return, you receive a stack of proposals and a few phone calls, all soliciting your business. It’s hard to decipher the jargon and determine whether you’re comparing the same or similar services. To avoid uncertainties and the time it takes to figure out which offer is best, you simply look at the goals, metrics and expenses presented by each candidate (read: You choose the one promising the most number of links at the lowest price). After all, why wouldn’t you choose the one that looks best on paper? Several of the offers presented may include a $#!^ ton of links. For example, 600 links for $300. However, I must caution you: You will get exactly what you pay for.
Disclosure: Ask anyone who knows me. I’m often frugal.
I recently took a trip to Yosemite National Park. It was one of the most expensive trips I’ve been on. Often, I try and go places where I know someone and can stay for what it costs to buy a (near) top-shelf bottle of liquor.
Anyway, I was looking for ways to cut corners so I’d be at or under my budget. My genius idea was to spend the first and last nights of my trip sleeping in the rental car. This would save me $300 on a hotel, and YOLO.
I got exactly what I paid for, or in this case, didn’t pay for. The rental car was a Nissan Versa. It was actually quite spacious for an economy car. On the other hand, I couldn’t fall asleep because I was roasting. I tried to open the windows and let the air circulate. But, this being a national park, they don’t spray for mosquitoes. The windows were down about five minutes, long enough for me to be feasted on within a blood’s breadth of my existence. The car finally cooled down, and I fell asleep, just in time for the sun to come up.
It only took one night of sleeping in a car to make me realize it’s worth the $150/night for a controllable environment and superior rest.
Link Translation: Even though you’re getting a $#!^ load of links, they’re probably not good links. In fact, valuable links take time and effort to attain. Think of building a link as you would building a relationship.
How often do you land a good friend by sending them a text once a year to check in? Probably not often. How do you maintain a friendship? Likely, it takes a conscious investment of time and energy.
The most organic way to build valuable links is to establish rapport with people. If you approach link building in this way, or work with a link building team that uses this approach, your long-term ROI will be greater. It’s true, however, you won’t be promised a $#!^ load of links every month. Yet, the links you attain will be from relevant sites and within valuable content. This is the kind of link building that will build your brand. It’s also the direction in which search engines are attempting to advance their algorithms to determine the quality of a site.
This process takes time. It’s similar to sales. If you go for the hard sale in the initial contact, you’re likely not going to convert. Not to mention, you’ll need to look for a new job. If you ask for a link in the first conversation, the relationship will never get off the ground. The percentage of links that you’ll obtain verses the number of inquiries will be around 1-2 percent. Not a great investment of your time for the return.
Building relationships requires that you show up. Finding out where the community of people you want to engage with are online is key to efficiently using your time. What social networks are they on? Where do they write content? Are they actively participating on Q&A sites like Quora, Answerbag, or Yahoo! Answers?
I often get asked, “How often to I need to be engaging with people, or leave comments on their blog posts?” You obviously don’t want to over-do it, but any time you have something valuable to add to the conversation, share your thoughts. On social media things happen more quickly, and people post more frequently, but the above advice still applies.
Appreciation Goes a Long Way
It’s amazing how far a little encouragement can go, right? At our office we have a weekly award that we like to call the SCADFAST, or SCABFAST. The correct acronym is SDCAFSS (Super Duper Coolness Award For Spectacular Stuff). Anyway, it is given out every week at our team meetings. The person(s) who received the award the previous week, bequeath it to another person(s). It’s a way of recognizing and encouraging each other, because, truth be told nobody gets enough encouragement. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and overlook the efforts of others.
This concept also applies to link building and relationships. Make a point to care and share what others are accomplishing. Social media provides the perfect platform for sharing other people’s content, thoughts and ideas.
- Comment on their posts
- Give them credit by mentioning their name, blog and/or website in your social shares
- Highlight their work in your blog posts, when relevant, and give them a link
In addition, social media is a great medium to show personality and learn the essence of others. Your posts don’t all have to be in business speak. Look for ways to connect with people beyond their title of “business owner,” “customer,” “blogger,” “student,” etc. To do so, you must listen. Find out what their passionate about (beyond their 9a-5p) and initiate conversation about those things as well.
A relationship is only as good as the participants’ willingness to reciprocate. Don’t be a mooch. If you’re only connecting with someone based on what you can get from them, you’ll wear the relationship out. In fact, the best approach is to give before getting. Find out what a person needs, and give it to them.
- Promote them
- Praise them
- Link to them
- Help them (answer questions, share resources)
In other words, it’s not always about you. Make it about them. Be in it for the long haul. This is what link building is all about. Relationships.
Bringing It Home
When you look at link building in this way, you’re making the wise decision to focus on quality over quantity. Getting a $#!^ load of links may cost you less initially, because those types of links can be automated. They can be submitted to low-quality directories and profile sites in mass. Eventually, your junky link profile could get caught and penalized, which may cause your site to be dropped from the search index.
Getting links from those sites is easy and much less time consuming. But, those sites aren’t going to bring you targeted traffic or increased conversions. Are you willing to take the risk of penalty, to attain a bunch of low-quality links? Links that won’t build your brand in a good light and aren’t advantageous for your business? Just like risking a good night’s sleep by spending the night in an economy car, probably not.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below—I’d love to get your feedback!
Find out more about the “Yeah, but” series and links to all posts in the series.