Forget Link Building, Let’s Be Friends! Tips For Enhanced Relationships from #SESNY

Posted in Linking, SES New York

Welcome back to aimClear’s #SESNY 2013 full coverage! We had the pleasure of sitting in on another great session – Screw Link Building, It’s Called Relationship Building – with Erin Everhart, Director of Web Marketing for 352 Media Group, Jo Turnbull, Founder of SEO Jo Blogs and moderated by Internet Marketing Ninjas Chairman, Kris Jones. Guest blogging is a great way to get both links and content, but asking to guest blog can often be difficult as bloggers are inundated with pitch after pitch. To find and reach people before your competitors, stop focusing on the link so much and start focusing on the relationship. Erin and Jo both gave excellent insight into this topic. Take a peek below for a full recap!

Jo took the stage first, “Hello New York!” and went right into how to go from links to relationship building. Jo explained how she could not have done what she has done professionally without relationship building.

Why build a relationship versus a link?

  • Low cost for you and the client
  • Long term
  • Beneficial for you and the client
  • Quality link building is about relationship building
  • Stay current with shifting market dynamics
  • Don’t be left behind (w/ Google updates)

How do you build a relationship?

  • Be honest and open
  • Attend events and just be there
  • Take the long-term view – this is easier when you work for yourself or a smaller company.
  • Do something different – Stand out! Think out of the box and be more creative.
  • Ask why? Why would people want to have a relationship with you?

Case Study #1
Search London was the first case study Jo discussed. She took over ownership of this program in October of 2010 when the organizer stepped down. The goal of Search London was to grow the event and not just for links. She also wanted to know more people in the search world. Was it going to be successful or not? How do you get people to attend with all the competition out there?  These were the thoughts racing through Jo’s mind as she set out to achieve her goal.

Why is Search London called Search London? Jo pointed out you need to think of SEO as PPC AND social media. The search industry is a competitive marketplace – she figured she needed a big name to attract people to the website and the events.

Her success is worthy to note. In January of 2012, Search London had 592 members and 11 meet-ups. In January 2013, Search London had 1,120 members; a staggering 86% increase.

How did she do this? First off, she used a strong domain like meetup to attract new members and organize good speakers. You can’t be afraid to ask. Also, make sure there are catchy titles for each presentation.

Write a guest post, like Jo did with SEOGadget – how did she/how can you achieve a guest post from an event like Search London?

  • Interact with people
  • Don’t spam people
  • Choose a central venue for the event
  • Use Twitter hashtag and encourage others
  • Film presentations for later and upload to the website

The success of the event included:

  • New website for Search London
  • Google’s Pierre Far asked to speak at the meet-up
  • First day time event held on Google’s campus a few weeks ago
  • Search London now has nearly 1230 members in two years

Impressive, Jo. Nice work!

What can we learn from this case study? Could she have built this all from links? Check out what her efforts through relationship building got her:

  • Was invited to write a guest blog post
  • Gained client confidence
  • Personal brand has increased within the industry
  • People want to sponsor the event
  • Latest conference in front of entrepreneurs
  • More links to SEO Jo Blogs and referrals

And what did this cost her? $60 every six months and cost of venue hire through sponsorship.

Case Study #2
Moving along, Jo introduced another case study – SEO Jo Blogs. For SEO Jo Blogs, Jo worked freelance, ran 5 meet-ups, attended 2 BrightonSEO events, attended SMX London and SMX NYC, worked with Linklove and Searchlove and was invited to the UK Search Awards.

How do you get started on something like this? According to Jo, “Just go and do it.” What have you got to lose, right?

Also don’t forget to be…

  • Honest and Approachable
  • Don’t be afraid of using your contacts
  • Find a good blog in your field
  • Locate email addresses
  • Use Followerwonk
  • Follow people on Twitter
  • Engage in a community
  • Is there a public Facebook group?
  • Personalize the emails you send
  • Keep the email short! No one likes or has time for long emails

Attend relevant events! There are many events out there to look into (meet-ups, tradeshows, conferences, etc). Look for bloggers within your industry – approach them at events – speak to them. Talk to the press! Now think, could you build these types of relationships just from link building? No, you can’t.

Be sure to think about the long-term relationship. Don’t just be looking for that one link. It is OK to have more than one guest per different blogs. Think about becoming a regular contributor. Encourage others to guest post on your website. Interview others for your website.

Bottom line, do something different! Make sure you stand out.

Case Study #3
The third case study Jo walked through shows how relationship building can help you in terms of raising your personal profile and gain more traffic to your website. SEO at the Heart of Google was an event Jo organized. She sent the link to this event to a list of people she had built relationships with, resulting in 100 tweets of the link which then led to a spike in traffic on the website. Could it have been achieved without those relationships? Nope!

What can you do for your clients?

The final two case studies presented were based on projects she worked on for a couple of clients of hers. The first was for a Vacation Rental website whose sole KPI was to increase in rankings. Now apparently this company had a blog but had not been updating it and it is here where Jo found an opportunity.

Do something different for your clients…engage in blogger outreach, engage in reciprocal blogging through building relationships with bloggers, discover good blogs through meet-ups and search events.

For this particular client, Jo decided to update the blog weekly with photos of new cities visited. The results of this?

  • Increased in # of referrals to the client site
  • More natural link profile
  • Increase in rankings for key terms
  • Brought forward a fresh way of thinking
  • Now the agency is engaging in blogger outreach
  • Build up relationships with blog websites

Lastly, Jo shared a case study for one of her retail clients who recently moved to a new location in a new shopping mall. Jo’s idea – let’s have an official launch party with the new move. Take every opportunity! She created leaflets, placed an ad in the local paper, put together a contest/prize draw that enabled them to collect customer information. The result of this? Jo doubled sales for the day; the promotion cost only $1000 and a loyal customer of 13 years won the prize. The best news? The company, still to this day, receives an increase in number of customers.

Building relationships takes efforts. It’s hard and there will be times you may think you are not making progress, but you are. Keep at it!

Work on what you can do for your clients.

Find good blogs! How do you do this?

  • Make a list of relevant blogs within your industry
  • Conduct advanced search queries
  • Check out the blogs on the 10th page and work backwards
  • Engage with blog communities

How do you check that the blogs are genuine?

  • Check for established social media profiles
  • Look for a ‘Contact Us’ page
  • Do they have Google authorship?
  • Look to see if there are other sites on the same IP address
  • Send a test email – do they respond?
  • Use tools from SEOMoz to find the number of backlinks and Searchmetric to find out how visible they are in SERPs

Personalize the emails you send!

  • Find the contact’s name and address
  • Mention if there has been communication before
  • Compliment them on the blog
  • Explain why you want to write for them
  • Suggest a couple of topics – get their buy in!

Build a relationship that is long-term!

  • Don’t just look for a sponsored post
  • Build up a relationship with the blog owner
  • Check out the past posts on the blog
  • Don’t give up
  • Email follow up, no more than twice

Interact with the clients!

  • Agree on the content theme with the client
  • Adhere to brand guidelines and sign off on the post
  • Share the blogs with the client
  • Personalize the emails
  • Why should bloggers want your content?
  • Stick to the budget!

When the post is live be sure to tweet it! Don’t be afraid to promote it. Share it on your social channels.

Jo’s key presentation takeaways:

  • Be honest and approachable
  • Attend events
  • Take the long-term view with a business/client
  • Do something different
  • Ask yourself why would they want to work with you?

If you do this, there is no doubt you will get more links when you put yourself out there. Just look at Jo!

Next up was Erin – full of energy and candy in her hand (ready for audience members who answered her questions right). Nice move, Erin!

“Relationships require A LOT of work”
One on one interaction is the most valuable. “Turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself for the next 30 seconds.” We obey. Little did she know things would get a bit out of hand. “OK everyone, stop building relationships!” Re-group.

So how you feel when you think of the words link building? It’s hard, it sucks, and it is NOT a fun process. According to Erin, we all probably feel like wet cats. Horrible thought. You put forth a lot of effort, doing the same thing over and over again. How do these techniques make you feel?

Let’s go this route…what do you want out of a personal relationship? Value, loyalty, someone who cares, etc. So how about you instill the same when you are working with bloggers and clients? BUILD relationships like they are your friends. Find a common interest level – do it when you are looking to build a relationship.

You don’t meet someone and say, “Hey I am Erin, marry me.” So why would you say, “Hi I am Erin, gimme a link.”

Don’t lie to people! Be authentic. Sending out a massive email and bccing: everyone is…um…not the right thing to do. And it doesn’t make you look good.

Let’s Talk Blogger Outreach: Find Sources & Connect With People
Guest blogging really does work if you do it correctly. Searching for sources the old way is going to Google and typing in types of blogs. This is LAME. Why? Because competitors are doing the same thing, therefore, finding the same exact sources.

Find out who are the people behind the website. Build relationships with the people, not the websites. Instead of finding your source first, why don’t you find the people first? Brilliant. Who are they? Who is going to help you? So what does searching the new way look like? Go into LinkedIn, type in “food writer” or whatever makes sense for your industry. The list that pops up is a list of people you WANT to build relationships with. ind a person, people. Just do it.

Twitter, another resource, that has a plethora of information for finding people. Every blogger is going to have a Twitter account, or at least they should. There are a lot of tools out there to help you search through this medium. Erin mentions the Twitter advanced search tool as a good option. Another option = Followerwonk – hey, Jo mentioned this too!

Pinterest is also a great place to find good people – look at what types of content people are sharing regularly. Search through the pins, the boards and the best place – the pinners. There is a lot of content to sift though but what you find will be more targeted and more specific to what you are looking for.

Other money keywords to think about: blogger, marketer, content specialist, copywriter, editor, writer, etc. You get the gist.

Work With What You Have
Have you ever analyzed who is following you? If these people already follow you, then you have technically already built relationships with them. Take those people and filter out the ones with writer in their bio. You already have some level of engagement with these people – they know who you are. It SHOULD be pretty easy.

So what if no one likes or follows you? Well then go another route. What about the mass media? Don’t forget about those folks. In this age of relationship building, a lot of people forget about journalists. When you are looking to start building relationships this can be a great way to start.

But how do I contact people? Do your homework – find out more about these people. Find your common ground and interact with them. Don’t ever underestimate a tweet, a like, a share, and a +1. Build relationships with these people BUT don’t creep anyone out. If you know where they are going to be and what they had for breakfast then you have probably gone too far. Steer clear of the stage-five stalker status.

An example: Instead of this – “Hi, I love your site, can I guest post?” Try this – start building relationship/conversation with them – now you know each other and can possibly help each other out down the road.

And if you must email…

  • Make it noticeable – opening the email is the first step. Be creative!
  • Make it short – people don’t have time to read a novel of an email. Formatting is critical and important!
  • Use the right email address – make sure you have an @domain address. Connect yourself to them!

OR…you could always pick up the phone and call them??????? Mind-blowing idea, we know, but hey it works!

Talk To People Like They Are Your Friends
Basic, basic principle. Show you care. They WILL care back. Ask them questions. They WILL answer back. People like talking about themselves so ask them something about themselves.

Give people things – and it doesn’t have to be a free car. (“AND YOU GET A CAR! AND YOU GET A CAR!). People like giving and receiving – make sure it is connected with the industry that they can use and remember.

Be a resource! It is amazing the amount of shared knowledge in the industry. Reach out to students and student journalists.

Lend a hand – do some social good. We are all just trying to make the web a better place, right? Help out student organizations within your industry – speak at their club, then who knows what will happen? They most likely will draft a release on it and post it to their .edu website. HELLO GREAT LINK!

Oh and be sure to…have a personality. You are not a boring person. You are not a boring person.

This is real company stuff and real companies build relationships. So what is most important part of building relationships? Maintain that relationship!

What to expect?

  • More traffic like it’s your job
  • More leads than you know what to do with
  • More revenue like a boss

Convinced yet?

BUT WAIT, there’s more. Relationship building CAN’T be the only thing you do. And remember relationships are an investment. They have to incubate before you can see results. Be patient.

Are you feeling better already? We sure are!

Thanks Jo and Erin for two very thoughtful and informational presentations. We definitely want to be your friendJ Will you be ours???

Well that about wraps it up for us at #SESNY 2013. Thanks to all the speakers, moderators, organizers, and attendees for a great conference! See you all at the next one!

Photo credit: In Every Season blog

  • Chris Smith

    Somehow the majority of the points here do make sense. But “link-building” per se is still a vital aspect of growing a company. Without it, there seems to be no direction for any given company.

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