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Nudge, Nudge, Link, Link

People often struggle with building great (good? okay? any?) links to their websites. This is because they don’t understand clearly what link building is all about. On the post-penguin web, where RankBrain is getting better every day, Google wants to become as human-like as possible to provide a better search experience.

Almost everybody talking about links on the internet thinks that “hypertext” is a reference to data that the reader can directly follow either by clicking or by hovering”. That’s, of course, true, but they miss a bigger picture here – that one should also consider link literally: as a bond, relationship, connection – between people and their websites.

We spend more and more time online every year and in doing so, we have exchanged some of our real relationships for virtual ones. We have conversations with people all around the world, some of them become our friends, some not so much. Even without seeing each other at all, we can engage in social activities quite similar to those in the real world.

How do you know there’s a relationship between two people? It’s not a solid thing, it’s not something you can see directly, but you can observe the signs: affection, distaste, care, annoyance, interest, etc.

It’s the same way online. A link is not only a thing, a fragment of web structure, a part of a code – it’s also a manifestation and part of a relationship between websites and webmasters/bloggers/users. It could be an indicator of hard-earned respect, admiration for someone’s brilliance, or gratitude for solving a problem. It can also be the last gasp or any port in a storm.

I believe using this mindset can be effective when making decisions concerning link building opportunities, especially for amateur link builders, because you don’t have to be an SEO expert to know what kind of relationships are good for you in the real world, and which ones bring you down.

Types of Relationships

Behind every successful website, there’s at least one human being, longing for attention. Some will try to get it the hard way by constantly working on their content and usability. Some will try to get it the easy way by spamming, buying links, and other black hat methods.

It’s pretty obvious: if you want great relationships with people, try to be a great (or at least working towards good) person. Sure, you can buy friends with money, you can become popular by lying, or you can manipulate people into liking you – but guess what? That’s not going to last.

So, let’s have a look into a few examples of relationships you can get your website into. Let’s start with the ones you’d like to avoid, and then move on to the good stuff:

Bad Romances

Strange Bedfellows (Spammy Websites)

I believe that most people reading this don’t have too much in common with bums, frauds, or criminals. I assume that most people would say decisive “no” if invited for a drink, late at night, in a bad neighborhood, by someone who looks sketchy as hell.

So why would someone otherwise nice and respectable accept an overture from a website with nothing more than obvious bad intentions?

The SEO take-away from this is really simple: avoid spammy websites at all costs, as sooner or later (probably sooner though) it will do you harm. Even if you’re lucky enough to not get penalized, it will affect your image and make it harder to build valuable links and profitable relationships.

Overly Attached (Excessive Linking)

So, you meet this terrific person. You are really into each other. You’ve got similar interests, understand each other well, have friends in common, and it’s just really nice to spend time together. Everything is perfect.

However, then things escalate one day you’re just having dinner together and the next you’re exchanging 50 text messages, spending hours on the phone, and probably have a toothbrush at their place. You have less and less time for your friends and no time at all to try and build new relationships or achieve your goals.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got nothing against a little bit of romance, even against a whole lot of it, but there has to be moderation with everything.

My point is: if you locate a great, topically relevant website that’s has ass-kicking content that you’d really like to link to and wishes to link to you too – don’t let it go to your head and put some time and effort to plan to interlink thoroughly – this will not only save you from having highly unnatural link profile but will also allow you to promote your content in the future.

Gold Digger (Paid Links)

Everybody knows that money can buy almost everything.

However, love, care, and friendship are among those things that can’t be bought. Sure, people might want to hang with you when you are paying for their drinks, but nothing lasts forever and what happens when you find yourself “broke as a joke”? People who like your money more than you are worth way less than you invested.

This is certainly true in the link building world a well, however, there’s more to it:  

Buying friends may be a poor life choice, but it’s completely legal. Buying links on the other hand… Well, let’s just say that Google is hell-bent on ending such practices and will punish every website with an unnatural link profile mercilessly. And paid links are usually unnatural.

Good Together

Partnership

This one is obvious. It’s important to have a great partner in almost every area – not only in your private life but also at work.

Just think about all famous couples: Bonnie & Clyde, Lennon & McCartney, Batman & Robin, Holmes & Watson, Mulder & Scully, R2D2 & C3PO, etc. I’m pretty sure none of them would have accomplished as much alone.

Online, things also get easier if you find the right partner! The best choice, of course, would be a website that’s topically relevant to your niche, but not a direct competitor. A good example would be a partnership between a ski rental company’s website and a local tour guide’s website.

This will allow a lot of good interlinking between your content. You can also profit in a number of ways that are less obvious, such as exchanging leads, bigger marketing campaigns, one big mailing list, etc. – your imagination and amount of trust is the only limit.

Love at First Sight

Do you believe in love at first sight? I do.

There are those rare people that are so interesting, witty, and charming that you take to them immediately after you meet them for the first time. Sometimes such a person doesn’t even need to say anything, they tend to emanate with positive energy. They are also usually beautiful or striking in some way.

I bet you’d like to meet only people like that. And I bet that you already see where I am going with this.

There are those rare websites that are so interesting, well-designed, innovative, and smart that you like them seconds after you see them for the first time. And if you like them – there’s a huge chance that you’ll share them with people you know.

This may lead to a website becoming viral.

But even if not,  your chances of being shared or getting a natural link will be much higher if your website is compelling, smart, useful, and beautiful at the same time. Make people fall in love with it at first sight.

Family Ties

You don’t always agree with them. They may hold weird opinions or sometimes smell funny. You don’t even have to really like them (just don’t say anything mean and remember to smile). But they are your family and they will be there to help you out – no matter what, no questions asked.  

Is your website a part of a bigger company? A wider project maybe? Or maybe you’re a respected member of a certain community (niche bloggers forums for example)?

Links from other websites belonging to your organization or being somehow “linked” (not in a physical way) to you may be easy to get and quite helpful at the same time. If there’s even a slight topical relevance (and there should be – why would you call them family if there isn’t?) that’s even better for you.

Therefore, getting links from your “internet family” may be a great tactic for fresh websites that started out recently and don’t contribute much to the wider Internet yet. Who wouldn’t help a youngster starting on his very own path?

Of course, even the best family can get tired with your constant pleas for help – especially if you’re already an adult and don’t give anything back. Therefore it would be best to not abuse your family relationships and quickly move to being self-sufficient. By building other meaningful relationships of course!

Summary

The whole concept is simple: Having a relationship with a blogger or webmaster is precious. This relationship will have its unique characteristics. There are relationships that will help your website beyond imagination, and there are also those that can hurt it.

Knowing how to differentiate between the two and how to invest time (or money) in only the most profitable ones should be a big help in your struggle with link building.

Over the years, we’ve seen a ton of really bad links created in disregard of the rules stated above, and the effects weren’t pretty.

But here at Elephate, we know the difference almost organically, as we’ve seen countless examples of great cooperation turning into relationships, where the link itself wasn’t the goal, but a means to achieve a goal of higher visibility and brand awareness.

Piotr Mikulski

See all articles by Piotr Mikulski

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