Opportunities are all around you. They’re your chance to get noticed, build rapport with the right people, and in the long run, snag a great link or two.
An opportunity is defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. For link & relationship building, there are two types: internal and external. Internal opportunities are something you can control; for example, an awesome 404 page (here’s my attempt at one). External opportunities, which are the subject of today’s post, are things happening outside of your control, but things you can take advantage of.
Before we go any further, know that the staple opportunity is creativity. If you foster no creativity, building links through external opportunities aren’t for you. If this is the case, go hit up a list of 4,000 web directories and submit away (please excuse my sarcasm). The reason is because if you are dead serious about building links, it’s not a set-in-stone type of job. Yeah, there are fantastic tools to speed things up, but in the end it’s your creativity and hustle that sets you a part from your competition.
Note that in this post I’ll be mainly focusing on relationships, because relationships are needed to get a continuous stream of links. I could write an entire 5-page essay on why relationships yield links, but I’ll save that for another time.
I’ll try and run through as many defined external opportunities that I can think of. By no means is this a comprehensive list.
If you’re on Twitter, I can guarantee you people are asking questions that you know the answer to or could at least find out. Just scan your feed for question marks and you should find at least a couple in about 30 seconds. Just looking at mine, here are a few I found:
Facebook question: Anyone know if they do not allow URLs similar to a current one? ex: /sellhouse exists but someone wants “sellhouses”
— Jennifer Sable Lopez (@jennita) February 1, 2012
Looking for articles on how PPC can help organic CTR/have other SEO positive impacts. Can anyone help?
— Ross Hudgens (@RossHudgens) February 1, 2012
Email signatures: Yay, or nay?
— Darren Shaw (@EdmontonSEO) February 1, 2012
Here’s a fantastic example of how to help. Look at Darren’s tweet above. He’s looking for an answer to whether or not he should use an email signature. Luckily I just saw a tweet from the HubSpot twitter account about 10 ways your email signature can support your marketing. Tweeting @ Darren and letting him know about this post is a great way to get to get his attention and eventually get to know him better.
As I was browsing twitter today, I saw this tweet from Pat Flynn.
Lets say I’m trying to gen leads for a doctor or dentist office. How can I keep track to make sure calls come from me and the referral holds
— Pat Flynn (@PatFlynn) February 1, 2012
Although you could simply answer the question by recommending a product or service, why not take things one-step further? What if you wrote up a post on your blog comparing different services that solve this problem? I bet he’s not the only one who’s ever asked a question like this. Or how about finding the best solution for him and potentially paying for it?
If you’re skeptical, I understand. There’s a chance you might write the post and let him know and he won’t at least tweet about it. If you go to the product or service and ask if you could buy you could prepay a 6 month package (or whatever option you can find), he might not end up liking it. It’s a risk, and it all comes down to judgment.
Here’s a perfect example of it working flawlessly.
Nooooooooooooooooo. The office is out of Diet Coke!
— Ian Lurie (@portentint) December 6, 2011
Ian Lurie, obviously distressed after finding out there’s no more diet coke in his office, took his anger to Twitter. To most, this is just another personal tweet they skip over. To marketers like Charles Sipe, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Because he lives close to Ian, he delivered a case of diet coke within 15 minutes. The result?
OK folks, @charlessipe just blew my mind, completely. Nice guy and a seriously savvy marketer. And now my Diet Coke supplier 🙂
— Ian Lurie (@portentint) December 6, 2011
I could write out the whole story, but I’d rather just point you to a few posts that covered this whole fiasco. Here’s Charles post, here’s Ian’s take of it, and here’s the aftermath. In the end, the Diet Coke twitter account one-upped Charles by giving him a week’s supply of diet coke for the whole ordeal.
Here are a few things he got out of this simple act:
“Jon, where’s the link!” Sigh. Sometimes success doesn’t always come as a link. Relationships are bigger than links, because people give links, not websites. Sure, I could tell you the opportunity gave Charles a chance to write on the SEOmoz blog, where he got a link from the guest post, but it’s bigger than that link.
The effect something like this in terms of links is mostly indirect. One of his new twitter followers might be a regular blogger who now reads Charles blog. One day he might decide to link out to one of Charles’ posts. This is just one of many ways Charles might get a link indirectly.
Here’s a second example. In a nutshell, a guy was asked if the hotel he was going to stay at, Kimpton Hotels, could do anything for him. He asked for a bed full of puppies and a bathtub of Reese’s Pieces. Even though he was just joking, Kimpton Hotels went ahead and put Reese’s pieces in a paper bathtub and a hallmark card of a kitten on top of his room’s table. He was so excited that he posted it to Reddit, where it got an insane amount of exposure. Here’s the source and the discussion.
Again, the ROI in terms of relationships and links are indirect, but the simple act of doing something unexpected paid off big time.
This is so easy, yet so overlooked. Fact: people like to get noticed. People like to know someone out there gives a rat’s ass about why they unfollowed Mashable on Twitter. People like to know that when they’re open to answering questions, that you’ll be there to ask them.
People want to know there’s a person behind your twitter account. Building relationships is about being personal and listening for a change, not about consistently asking influencers to tweet your content and link to it. It’s cliche, but get to know the person before you ask for a favor.
How many link building posts have you read about creating a contest? Now how many of them told you to participate in one for a change?
Imagine if every one wanted to be a leader and no one wanted to be a follower. What a disaster that society would be (Brave New World anyone?). Some could argue we live in an online community that’s exactly that. The point I’m making is that not every one can just run a contest or a competition. They need people to actually participate in it for it to be worthwhile. This is a massive opportunity to get noticed and build a relationship with the person/people conducting the competition.
For example, constantly look for guest blogging competitions in your niche. Here’s one on SEO. Here’s one I participated in a month ago. Notice the one I did wasn’t exactly relevant to my niche, but I still received some of the same benefits. Remember how everyone tells you guest posts are awesome ways to build links? How many of them told you to actively seek out competitions like these? People are practically serving links up on a platter for you to come and get, and hell, if you’re good enough, you can win some serious cash and exposure.
People tell you to write something controversial so others respond and link to it. Why not be the person writing and linking? If you do, you’ll catch people’s attention. Better yet, you’ll be backed by a group of supporters that disagreed with the initial piece. Those supporters will then share & link to you, receiving the same benefits as the person who started the controversy. Here’s a perfect example.
In terms of relationships and links, this opens up a lot of opportunity. Start conversing with the person who wrote the original piece and those who support your side. Get to know both, but remember, when conversing with the opposition, remember to be respectful (Rand and Aaron were!). You can build relationships with these people, and if you’re one of the first people to write about that side, other people, both supporters and opposers, will link to you when making their argument on their blog. If they don’t blog about it, ask if they would (and of course, ask for them to link to you).
This can tie into a lot of things above, but in general, giving away free stuff when the opportunity presents itself can be a highly effective marketing strategy. You can earn immediate links, exposure, and relationships if you play your cards right.
I recently read a fantastic ebook by Mike Essex titled “Free Stuff Everyday”. I suggest getting a copy. It got me thinking about how we can utilize free giveaways in external opportunities, so here are a few things I came up with.
Is someone complaining about a certain product? Send them a free alternative. You don’t even have to be associated with that replacement product. Let them know you’re sending them that because you had the same problem in the past. Besides strengthening that relationship ten fold, if they like the product, they might write about it and send a link your way.
Is someone having an issue with his or her site? Give away your time and volunteer to help them out. Doing someone a favor like this can be worth much more than 30 minutes of your time. Michael Kovis has been an expert at this; he’s already helped me on two different occasions to fix CSS problems on my site.
Does someone show any general interest in your or your brand? 99% of you have at least one follower, reader, or enthusiast. While not all of them have the influence to tell others, giving something to them in exchange for what they’ve done can immediately turn them into a brand evangelist and a linker.
Here’s a good example for the last one. If an influencer leaves a great in-depth comment on your blog that sparks conversation, send them a free t shirt with a thank you card. I guarantee they’ll be so ecstatic that they’d tell everyone they know and probably end up linking to you as well. The cost: roughly $10. The benefit: immeasurable.
There’s a point though that when the act they do is so small, that it’s not worth doing something like this. Why? Because people can tell when you’re motivated by financial gains. If I shared a post on Google+ that only a few people checked out, and the author of the post sent me a t-shirt or something along those lines, it would seem as though they’re just trying to leech on to anything that they can get a hold of. The key here is try not to look desperate.
External opportunities are great, but they’re worthless without proper execution. If you don’t act correctly, they could actually hurt you. What if you recommended an article to a curious twitterer who found it to be inaccurate or upsetting?
You don’t always have to target the highest of the linkeraiti. Actually, I advise not to invest all of your time with them. Instead, try kissing a digital baby more often. They’ll yield a much higher success rate with things like this, and, well, you’re trying to build up a group of die-hard enthusiasts, right? Always remember the power of one.
In every crevice of the Web you’ll find an opportunity to build relationships and links. That’s why you need to look at everything with link building eyes. Not everything is going to pan out, and sometimes you’ll fail, but it’s about getting back up. When dealing with these opportunities, be unique, unpredictable, and exciting, because that’s what’s going to pay off in the end.