Look around you. The link building landscape has changed; in order to get the results you want, you have to do things that are real and valuable. We have to start earning our links. The days of automation are over and the days of the way link building should be are approaching as Google grows increasingly smarter.
The people who are the best at building links are those who know the influencers and those who can get people to do what they want them to do; in other words, they’re psychologists with connections. Luckily, if you take in my advice from below, you won’t need to be a psychologist (but you will need to build up those connections!).
As you should know by now, in order to get the best links, you’ll have to ask. The majority of links for must of us come from either ourselves or from the people we ask to link to us. That’s why you need to know what to say to people to get them to link to you. You have to start playing the role of a psychologist in order to get people to do what you want them to do.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a psychologist to understand why a person would link to you. For example, just take a look at the study, “The Psychology of Sharing” by the New York Times. This lays out the exact science behind why post XYZ has been shared hundreds of times across various social networks and why post QRS hasn’t. Psychology is slowly becoming one of the biggest factors for not only social media but also for link building.
When you approach a person via email or twitter and ask for a link, you need to figure out why someone in that position would link to you. Given that you make the emails personal, let’s run through a few reasons why someone would link to you:
If someone has ever done something nice to you, your immediate reaction is “how can I return the favor?” Just by taking five minutes out of your day to do something nice for someone makes a huge difference. Some of the simplest ways to do this include alerting the webmaster of broken links or poor grammar. Outside of those two, you need to get creative.
For example, one of my clients was in a niche with a very influential blogger, and at one point he was tweeting about how thankful he was that someone helped fix a huge technical problem with his blog at no cost. He tweeted twice about it to over 20,000 followers. I don’t know if the guy ended up asking for a link, but he put himself in a position where he could have gotten one without a problem.
Next time you ask for a link from a blog post, tell the author you’ll buy $10 of StumbleUpon traffic in return. If you’re asking for a link from a resources page, tell them you’re willing to tweet about their blog/website to your 1,000 or so followers. Or maybe after you ask for that link, ask them if they’d like to write a guest post on your blog. If they accept the offer, the chance of them linking grows exponentially.
People want something in return, so give it to them.
Do you do SEO for a company that has a writer or CEO that’s well known? Leverage that status when you do link requests.
If it’s an author, head on over and grab SEER Interactive’s WordPress plugin to scrape all the URLs of the people who have commented on their posts, then sort the URLs by domain authority. Chances are some, if not most, of these people will know the author and therefore is much more willing to link if the author asks them to.
If it’s a CEO or someone along those lines, you first have to figure out the audience that knows who he/she is. Once you find that audience, politely ask the company if they’re willing to send out emails from his/her email account. Although I haven’t had the chance to try this myself, I’ve heard of a few SEOs getting success from similar tactics. For SEOs, just imagine if a guy like Rand Fishkin emailed you asking to link to one of his articles that backs up one of your points in a post you wrote.
See that link up there to the NY Times study? The reason I linked to it was because it’s a source of data and information that I find valuable. Create studies like this that people love and let them do the rest. One of the few categories of links that are created without request comes from people citing a source. Another example is the search ranking factors article on SEOmoz.
The way you can use this in link requests is to help support a person’s claim. For example, if someone is writing about how the oceans are being depleted as a result of overfishing, tell them about a study you did that supports their claim and ask them to link to it in the article. Chances are they’d be more than willing to!
My guest blogging case study post was tweeted by the SEOmoz twitter account to its 100,000+ followers because it mentions SEOmoz in that post. Ross Hudgens was kind enough to tweet about my post on SEOmoz because I mentioned his twitter account. Although we’re not talking about links in these examples, it’s the same idea.
For example, one of my clients likes to write reviews of various medium level websites. Just by contacting the website and telling them about what we did we got a great response. If there was a page on their website I wanted a link from, lets say a resources page, then it would have been much, much easier to get it because I already did something for them (write a great review of their website). This also goes back to adding value. We did something for them, and now we’re much more likely to get a link in return.
Think about writing a post about the influencers in your community, and once it’s live, let those people know that you wrote about them. If your list is good enough and the right people let their fans know, that post could become the standard in your niche about who’s influential. Make sure you ask for a link from those people too.
Link building is also about who you know. I want you think about creating a travel blog at this very moment (assuming you’re not in that niche). Think about how you would start getting links today. That’s right, you wouldn’t. Why? Because you don’t know a single person in that industry. The only way to even have a chance is to start getting to know the other bloggers in the travel niche.
This is why you need to start building relationships with people in your niche. If you’ve already started doing this, then bravo, you’re doing what you should have been doing since the conception of your blog or website. Now, for those of you who haven’t, you need to have one thing in mind: Links come last. What does this mean? It means don’t walk up to Matt Cutts at PubCon asking for a link from his blog. You’d look like an idiot. Instead, do everything you can as long as you can without asking for a link, because the sooner you ask for a link from someone, the worse the response you’ll get.
With that in mind, here are a few ways to get started on building those pesky relationships:
Ever come across a fantastic post from a guy you’d like to know? Hit that “tweet” button. Sooner or later they’ll take notice.
Again, use Twitter – it’s one of the best ways to get to know people. Send the person a direct message, because this makes it much more personal. After a few DMs back & forth, ask to continue the conversation via email.
Remember that “add value” idea I talked about above? Try doing that for some of the people in your niche, but don’t ask for a link. Continue to do things like this to a point where they’re linking to you without asking (this is where producing great content comes into play).
For those of you who don’t know what Quora is, it’s a new Q&A site that more and more people are starting to use. A few months ago I was answering a couple questions when I noticed a few SEOs I really wanted to get in touch with. If I messaged them on twitter, they probably wouldn’t have enough time to message me back because of how influential they are on that platform. But on Quora, if I sent them a message or asked them a question, I could actually get a response. In the end, for the first time they saw me as a real person and not just one of the 100s of drones that retweet half the stuff they say on Twitter.
Putting a face to an online persona can make a world of a difference. Heck, if I met you in real life, I’d be 10x more likely to link to you. It’s just the simple fact of knowing who the person is outside of a small picture you found of them on Twitter.
Try going to a conference that’s relevant to your niche. If you’re an SEO, go to a Search Marketing Expo in a city near you. This is a great place to get to know the guys that publish the content you read on a daily basis.
I know it might seem crazy, but some of the people that are commenting on your posts have at least a whiff of influence in one way or another. Make sure you connect with them by leaving comments on their blog, following them on twitter, or by sending them a quick email.
For example, a guy who really liked one of my posts left a comment and shot me an email about how much he liked it. We’ve now been emailing back and forth for a couple of months exchanging ideas. His name is Kapil Kale, and he’s a great guy if you haven’t had the chance to get to know him.
Imagine if I started tweeting, linking, and talking all about Hood Web Management, a Seattle Website Management firm that isn’t as well known as a company like Distilled. Imagine if I got so excited that I contacted Kane Jamison, the man in charge, asking for an interview. I guarantee he’d say something like: “Who is this Jon Cooper guy? He’s freaking awesome!” That’s the kind of response you want to get from people.
You need to start getting pumped every time a relevant blogger posts. Trust me, people can tell the difference between a guy who tweets “New post from @pointblankseo: Why Psychologists With Connections Are The Best Link Builders” and “Have you seen @pointblankseo’s new post ‘Why Psychologists With Connections Are The Best Link Builders’? It’s flipping sweet!” This goes the same for comments. Show the author you genuinely care about their content and don’t say something like “great post!” Leave a comment that sticks with them for the next few days. Say something that gets them just as excited as you are about their content.
Take a look around you. There’s no advertising, affiliate links, or “request consultation” buttons anywhere on this blog. I don’t make a dime off this, and I’m OK with it. The only gratification I get is when great folks like you hit one of those share buttons below. It makes a huge difference!