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How to Be One Link Ahead of the Competition

by Jon Cooper
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Everyone wants to know what the next big link building tactic is, because who’s ever there first is going to be the one to reap the biggest rewards.

But just how exactly do you get there first? What’s the secret to thinking up new link building tactics?

After studying this thought for a long time, I’ve come down to 3 fundamental questions that, if you’re able to find the most answers to, will allow you to be one step ahead of your competition.

What do you have to offer?

The best way to understand this question is to break down some real life examples. Let’s take a look at a few:

Paid links. In this case, people are offering something universal that almost anyone would accept – money.

Directories. In this case, the thing to offer is the website itself.

Testimonials. In this case, the thing is honest, positive feedback about a product or service.

Getting interviews. In this case, the thing is your expertise.

As you can see, I can go on & on and apply this to any strategy out there. The trick is, though, to be one step ahead – forget about how you can get a link out of it, but rather, just think of all the different things you have to offer.

It could be anything! The more creative it is, the more unlikelier it is people have used it for links, but the less likelier it is to scale (i.e. my expertise on disc golf, but it doesn’t scale because few websites are on this topic). I’m not saying you’re not going to find out the next big thing, but don’t focus on solely trying to find one.

For the best results, hold a brainstorming session with your team, and remember to include the stupidly obvious things (i.e. our time, or the fact we have a website on this topic!).

Bonus: what do other people or services have to offer that you have access to? I’ll explain why below.

In what ways can you offer that value?

This is where you need to get creative. How exactly can you offer it in a way that can get you links?

For example, if you’re an ecommerce site, you have products to offer. But there are a lot of ways you can use that to get links; here are just a few:

  • Offering products to bloggers in exchange for reviews
  • Offering products to related school clubs in exchange for a sponsorship
  • Offering a discount off the products to student discount programs

This is where you should spend the vast majority of your brainstorming. It’s about mixing and matching and thinking up different ways you can offer the same things to get links.

Bonus: If you brainstormed a list of things people or services you have access to can offer, then you can use these as well. For example, I have access to a video transcription service (there are a ton on the web), and I could use this service to offer transcriptions to related bloggers who have videos (“no problem! And oh, by the way, can you link to my website as the attribution for the transcription?”).

Who/what can you appeal to?

Now that you know what you can offer, and how you can offer it, you now have to figure out exactly who the different groups of people you can offer it to.

Think of all the different groups of people or organizations that might be interested in what you have to offer and in the way you can offer it.

But you also have to be very careful what you’re appealing to when you’re trying to get the link.

I’ll give you a quick example. Let’s say you realized you could create a scholarship (the what: money; a way you can offer it: to help students), and you realized a large target group is schools.

But you have to be very careful about what exactly you’re appealing to when you’re asking for the link. Here are two emails asking for the same thing to the same person but appealing to two very different things:

Hi Sandy,

I noticed you maintain one of the best lists of academic scholarships on the Web. Our company actually just launched our own scholarship; do you think you could add it?

AND

Hi Sandy, 

I noticed you maintain one of the best lists of academic scholarships for students on the Web. I was wondering if I could help continue to make it the place to go for students by suggesting a scholarship to be added that’s not on the list? I bet there will be someone out there that will be very thankful that you brought it to their attention!

No, neither are perfect, and I’d probably edit either a bit before I used it to make it perfect, but do you see the difference?

In the first case, you’re appealing to Sandy. In the second, you’re appealing to students. Sandy could say no in the first case because she doesn’t feel like it, but if she said no in the second, it would make her look like a terrible person. Who couldn’t say yes if it was all for the better of the students? And in this case, seeing that she works for an institution, she probably already has a place in her heart for them.

Here are some other higher causes you can appeal to besides students:

  • The military & our veterans
  • The environment
  • Charities & non-profits (think niche too!)

If you can make your pitch about one of these, and not the link, then no one’s going to say no. The only thing they could do is not respond, and if they do, pick up the phone! It works very well when making higher appeals.

Reciprocity

The one addition to appeals is reciprocity; doing things for others, and asking for things in return (i.e. the video transcription idea). I didn’t include this because I’ve written about this idea before, and because a lot of you understand how broken link building works. Just apply it to more things, as well as appeal to more things!

What now?

Chances are you probably read through this before you even thought about actually brainstorming, but please, get some pen, paper, and a few friends or coworkers together (and a box of pizza if that’s what it takes to get them), and get thinking!!

Make sure you follow me on Twitter & checkout my course for more awesomeness.

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 121 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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8 Comments
  1. Chris says:

    Have you read Freakonomics by Dubner?

    He say’s there are 3 types of incentive

    Economic incentives
    Social incentives
    Moral Incentive

    Derek recently wrote a blog on it & using these types of incentive as a guiding principle he covered some examples off

    I guess your charity/sponsorship examples could be seen to reflect all 3…

    1. Economic – cash
    2. Moral – helping those in need
    3. Social – been seen as a morally righteous person

    If you wrote your offer so it appealed to Sandy & the students you’re on to a winner!

    http://socialtriggers.com/persuasion-tips-help/

    • Jon Cooper says:

      That’s a great way to put it Chris, I might have to pick up a copy of that book!

      But I didn’t even think of splitting morality up into both helping people in need and wanting to help people in need. That’s awesome.

      Kudos for leaving your 2 cents!

    • Sahil says:

      That’s really a great one Chris. Jon thanks for the great tips on how to get high quality and relevant links by the mixture of both traditional marketing and the digital marketing, taking advantage of what we have and what others don’t to help them and expect them to link. The concept of reciprocity deserves more respect than anything else.

  2. This is a really cool approach. I think sometimes when you work in the same industry for such a long time you become blind almost, to the opportunities around.

    Got any tips on that?

    Naturally most people agency side don’t have this issue… client side however, is different. After working on the same website for so long, ones mind struggles to keep open and spot the gaps!

    • Jon Cooper says:

      I can totally related Michael. My best tip would be to look outside your vertical and at some surrounding, related ones. Usually they’re doing something that can also apply to you.

    • Chris says:

      Michael

      The best thing to do is try chunking

      Say you have a website selling sneakers you could chunk up into general sports wear, up again in to fashion & then again into lifestyle/culture.

      You could also chunk down eg running shoes, basket ball shoes

      By doing this you’ll find lots of related niches to start exploring for new opportunities

  3. George says:

    The “What do you have to offer?” question is crucial. I see lots of people writing fantastic content pieces, and yet they only get a few social mentions. And since the web is growing at faster and faster rates, most people will spend their time looking for high quality info rather than linking to it. I see content locking playing an important part in persuading the website visitors to link to our posts.

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