Giving someone a link is actually a fairly generous gesture. But we don’t always think of it that way.
As the linker, you often link to something simply because it supports your message or because it will add to your content. From that perspective it seems self-serving. You link to someone because it serves your purpose, not theirs.
On the receiving end, you’re usually just grateful. OK, if you’re nit-picky you might wish for better anchor text or co-citation, but whatever, you’ll take it.
But the pursuit of links is far too often a highly selfish process. It’s all about me, me, me. My target keywords, my business model, my rankings. Those things may be the end goal, but going into the process with that mentality is somewhat fatal.
The linking relationship is no different than any other. If you put the other person first, it’s going to lead to a mutually beneficial partnership. If you put yourself first all the time, you’ll probably end up alone cursing the inherent flaws of the opposite sex. Right, because it’s definitely them, not you.
If all you ever put on your site is the kind of content that directly supports your sales funnel, then you’re only getting half of the point. Yes, your site should provide information to educate the buyer and make them feel safe in choosing you as a vendor. While that kind of content serves a purpose, it’s highly limited in terms of linkability. A niche authority on the web has a little more leeway.
Online authority isn’t a matter of your opinion. It develops as a result of cumulative efforts and signals.
Trusted links, citations, reviews, branding, and engagement all help build authority. You may believe your products, services, and prices are better than your competitor’s, but if they’ve got the trust, then they have the advantage.
By putting out content that focuses on needs of the rest of the online community, however, you can build that trust and the links you want. Go outside of your content “comfort zone”.
Stretching your relevance expands your reach. It’s much easier to broaden your view of what’s “relevant” to you, than to expect the general public to bend to your goals.
Go off-topic a little, and think strictly about informative or entertaining content. Stop thinking about how the content relates to you and focus on how it relates to the people who really matter: the linkers.
Be honest, how good is your content really? If you didn’t work for your company, would you share it on Facebook with your friends? If you were independent blogger would you be inspired to write about your site’s content?
Objectivity is the key to identifying your own mediocrity. Step back and evaluate your content quality honestly. If it’s only average maybe it’s time to really invest in creating something exceptional.
It’s not enough just to do another infographic on the same topic that’s been done a thousand times. It’s not enough to make another basic buying guide or how-to article. Step it up.
When it comes to web content, re-inventing the wheel is everything. If you do the bare minimum and expect to get links for it, that’s kind of selfish. When you put in the effort to contribute something awesome to the world, you’ll usually be rewarded for your trouble.
Over Branding and Commercialism
Branding is a good thing, even a great thing online. It leads to a cohesive message, a strong sense of identity, and helps build customer loyalty. However when it comes to linking it can also be off-putting.
You love you brand and, when you work for it, over time others will come to love your brand, too. But not when you ram it down their throats.
Not everything on your website needs to announce your “Super Discount Shipping Rates”. Not every title tag needs to have your company name first. Your logo doesn’t have to take up three-quarters of the above-the-fold space.
There is a time to back off the hard sell and the “in your face” branding. Sometimes a little subtlety and humility can go a long way. In link building, it’s often the difference between success and rejection.
Talking to the Right People
Identifying your link targets is another place where selfishness often rears its head. We often focus on where we want our links to come from without really thinking about what the linker wants. We assume they should link to us, because we’re great. But there needs to be a better reason than that.
When we ask for a link, it should be for something that is both compelling and specific.
It’s great to have a dream list of linkers and to strive for links from those places or people. But in order to get those links, you’ll need to cater to the needs and desires of those link givers.
Thinking only about where you want links to come from without aligning those goals with your content creation creates an almost insurmountable disconnect. Sure, you may get lucky from time to time. But with better planning – and perhaps even a little reverse engineering – we get past the selfishness and into the strategy that actually produces links.
Thinking about the end game and the benefit to you may seem like having “vision” but in reality, at least where link building is concerned, it’s actually short sighted. The more you’re able to broaden and improve your content, while targeting the right audience, the more you will find opportunities open to you. Being able to get over your selfish goals and think about what others want instead of what you want is where actual innovation comes from.