Non-Google Link Strategy: An Example of Stealth Link Marketing

My prior column "Link for People, Not Search Engines," was met with a few favorable responses and responses asking for more concrete advice/examples. Sticking with my “link for people” theme, let’s look at a real life example to hopefully provide some clarification.

To begin, let’s rid ourselves of the term “link builder.” Link building is a terribly inaccurate description of the approaches that savvy link developers and link marketers can use for generating links to client's content.

For the remainder of this column, let's forget the search engines exist, or say for the sake of argument that you already have number one rankings at Google, so you don't need any more links for rank, you want links for direct click traffic which has a chance at converting into business.

Where Would You Start the Process of Looking for Links?

links-scubaLet’s look at one real life successful link marketing project. Business names have been changed so as not to give away the name of a specific client and website that now receives hundreds of direct clicks and conversions per year that have nothing to do with Google, PPC, banners, etc.

A business located on the Florida coast sells scuba (diving) charters, training, travel services, and one day dive trips to ship wrecks. The website doesn’t sell much equipment, but does rent it and offer repairs.

Their website was quite nice, and they had been trying to rank highly at Google for years for local scuba/diving related terms. They'd paid for directory submissions, article syndication (their rankings actually dropped), and even paid for a few links on some scuba sites (perfectly good and no violation).

Nothing helped. Page 2 of Google.

The problem: they were competing with several famous dive shops and dive charter business websites, and those well-known dive charter businesses seemed to attract links without even trying.

As an aside, some sites fall out of bed and get links. The American Medical Association (AMA) is a great example. That site gets more links without trying. This phenomenon was discussed by Mike Grehan in “Filthy Linking Rich.”

It was time for this scuba website to pursue some non-Google linking strategies because no matter what we did to try and catch the competition in the Google SERPs, it might never happen due to the sheer power of the competitor's names and brands. Why waste time and money without improving his bottom line at all?

Rather than try and fight deeply entrenched well known competitors, we decided to pursue a linking strategy that would take us directly to potential scuba enthusiasts behind the scenes. Forget Google searchers.

But Where Would These People be Found?

They contacted every hotel within 10 miles of their business and pursued a co-marketing arrangement where whenever someone booked a hotel room online, in the email confirmation the resort sent them, the following line was included:

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Thank you for booking your stay at the ++++ Resort and Hotel. Please find your confirmation information below. In addition to the many amenities offered here on site, we also are proud to partner with Scuba-licious.com, where every one of our guests receives a 15% discount
off scuba lessons, charters, rentals, and more.

Print this confirmation out and learn more @ example-scuba-charter-website.com

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(Remember, this is a fictitious example based on a real campaign).

Ready for Some Amazing Numbers?

One of the resorts that agreed to this idea sends out roughly 100 email confirmations a day, or 36,500 per year. How would you like to be the only scuba charter business link in those 36,500 private email confirmations?

And here's a wonderful secondary benefit. This is stealth linking. Your competitors don't find your links by doing backlink analysis, because these links to your scuba site exist inside a private email confirmation, which exists inside your private inbox.

You might be wondering about the cost of this promotion. Zero dollars. The scuba charter company offered two free charters per year to the resort staff to use as they pleased, in exchange for those 36,000+ 9 word long sentences that contained that one single link.

This promotion started in 2008 and continues to this day. It has expanded into other areas like resort hosted scuba charters, kids scuba certification classes in the resort's indoor pool and. As far as clicks and conversions are concerned, everyone involved is happy.

And this had nothing to do with Google – where, by the way, some trickle down linking also took place due to this promotion and the scuba site now is on Page 1 of the SERPs. How about that? Forget about Google and you end up ranking higher at Google.

Forget Google Exists

Link opportunities are everywhere. The key is you have to stop thinking about Google in order to see them. It isn't easy.

Yes, Google is important, and no, you shouldn’t ignore them. Rather, get into a mindset where your strategic linking thoughts are by nature non-Google related. Nothing is better than doing a significant amount of business knowing that it will come your way no matter which way the Google winds blow.

About the author

Eric Ward founded the Web's first link building and content publicity service, called NetPOST. Today, Eric provides strategic linking consulting, link building services, training, and consulting via EricWard.com. The publisher of the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, Eric is a co-developer of AdGooroo's Link Insight.

Eric uses his experience and unique understanding of web's vast linking patterns to teach companies his link building techniques. He has developed content linking strategies for PBS.org, WarnerBros, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, About.com, TVGuide.com, and Weather.com. Eric won the 1995 Tenagra Award for Internet Marketing Excellence, and in 2007 was profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes.