To say that I have lost faith in building backlinks for SEO would be a huge understatement.
I have watched time and time again something rank using the standard link building practices only to watch it lose rank with an algorithm change.
The “system”, “blueprint”, or whatever it is they are calling it these days is broken; maybe not today, but it will break eventually… just give it time.
The issue isn’t building backlinks though.
The issue is the common strategies, in which we build them.
One of the harder lessons I have learned in my 10 year+ marriage with online marketing is that most marketers are putting the cart before the horse in terms of building a business online.
They think in terms of one way link building, when they should, in fact, be thinking in terms of people network building.
I’m going to give you a real-life example of networking to build your business and I think that after everything is said and done, you will agree that building a network is way more stable than building links for SEO… and much more efficient to boot.
1. Your Network Starts with Who You Know…
…who knows you…
…and who they know.
Most online marketers start with keywords and then work their way backwards into a niche that isn’t very competitive.
Then they will expand their reach by creating more content based on keywords they think are attainable and will spend the majority of their time building links to rank in search and bring in SEO traffic.
A networker will start with their existing network and determine who in their network can push their message across other channels.
As their reach grows, so does their influence in the social clusters within their ever-expanding network.
The majority of their time is spent adding value and helping others get what they want.
Real-Life Example of the Power of Networking
I have a small design company that designs websites for musicians and artists.
I don’t have any “visibility” online (no website), nor do I have it offline (no brick and mortar business).
However, I do have a friend in my network who happens to run a non-profit for musicians.
By networking with that non-profit, I am able to find business easily.
Since I am referred by a trusted source, I don’t share a portfolio and don’t really even need an elevator pitch to sell my service.
In fact, most come pre-sold.
The cost of this “agreement” was a 45-minute meeting with the board, in which I pitched the benefits of my services for their network.
Look toward your existing network for help first.
Think in terms of value you can bring to your network for the biggest ROI.
If you don’t have anyone in your network that can help, brainstorm reach-out strategies to those who could help you, but format the “pitch” in a way where they can understand the ROI for them as well.
What they are getting in return has to be just as valuable to THEM as what they are giving to get it.
For more ideas on how to grow your network, read this post on how to build a popular blog (the way Ana did it).
2. Network Expands Exponentially at the Vertical Gateways
Link acquisition for SEO purposes expands at a rate of one in most cases.
What I mean by this is that for every link you get, you have to work at the submission process.
This means that however long it takes you to do that guest post, write that snippet, or post that tweet, in all likelihood, the link is still going to be worth 1 link.
This is especially the case for links that are meant exclusively for SEO.
Network expansion however works differently.
Here’s an example:
Most design companies would target musicians at the base level (the musicians themselves), if at all.
But what if you expanded your network through verticals?
For instance, for every 50+ bands, there is a publicist, a booking agent, a club owner, a manager, a recording engineer/producer, etc.
If I spend 50 hours working with 10 managers and each manager manages 10 bands on any given day, then my network expands to 110.
Of course, it all boils down to reaching an agreement with these verticals.
If you were in the web design business, would covering the costs of a website makeover be worth the 100 bands that recorded at that recording studio?
What about a manager or publicist that build press packs for musicians?
What about the club owner who deals with bands at the local level?
What would you give to reach those musicians?
In all fairness, some link builders understand that link acquisition at the gateways is a far more superior strategy than link acquisition on the fringe.
However, it’s much harder to generate interest from the gate keepers when there is a flimsy relationship.
Plus what’s at stake from a cost/benefits frame of mind for the gate keepers is usually not in their favor.
For most link builders, it’s not about creating the most value for the visitor…
It’s about creating the most links to make the page visible.
But with that said, all the data I have accumulated in regards to link interaction have pointed strongly to the fact that in-context referrals get more traffic than guest posts or links you have built yourself.
In other words, from a networking standpoint, someone referring you is always going to give you a better return than you referring yourself.
If you attack your network at the gateways, your efforts may be rewarded exponentially.
If your network is your referral center, then they will almost always bring you more traffic than if you are your referral center.
Trust comes quicker from referral gateways because people trust people they know and respect….
3. With Networking, Results are Quicker and More Predictable
One of the biggest advantages of networking is the predictability factor.
As someone who has managed SEO campaigns (both my own and for clients), I can fairly accurately predict that if I continue to build links, I should eventually rank.
When that happens is another story altogether and depends on a variety of factors.
But networking is more predictable.
For example, a client of mine recently held a seminar for their organization, in which 100 people attended.
After the seminar was done, I placed a page for it on their website with accolades to the speakers and pictures of the seminar itself.
My client then sent an email to the speakers telling them that they were featured on the page and told them they were free to share it with anyone they wanted.
However, the resulting traffic generated more leads for my client, which in turn should spell out more sales down the road.
4. Networking Stacks Opportunities
Perhaps the biggest advantage to networking over link building for SEO is the fact that the opportunities become stackable, if you plan it right.
Here’s an example.
I do some online work for a regional trade magazine that’s trying to go national.
The website is more of a lead generation hub for the magazine.
As their online presence grows, more opportunities will transpire naturally.
- For instance, the magazine should be able to draw more writers that are location-based, which will increase the website’s reputation along search.
- Trades and agreements for advertisement to local email subscribers for third party seminars can be made.
- More networking opportunities for advertisers for the magazine from major firms will come out of seminars.
All of this will expand a network exponentially without having to deal with the irregularities of the search medium.
Networking may be deemed harder than simply establishing link points for SEO.
However, the advantages allow for a stronger base strategy, in which you can grow a real business that isn’t dependent on search engine whims.
Ironically, building a strong network first will almost always guarantee higher rankings, because you wind up building natural links from others within your network.
Image source: amazing photo by Kira Rozanov