Non-Content Based Link Opportunities Are Often Missed

little-link-farmerIn the aftermath of Panda/Penguin many webmasters are struggling as they decide which linking strategies to use now.

The standard answer that most search engine reps give us when we ask about obtaining links is something along the lines of “create great content, think about the user, let them share it, don’t worry about the search engines so much, and links will follow”. Maybe in a perfect world, but let’s get real here.

What do we do when the above advice is simply not possible to follow?

There are hundreds if not thousands of websites that are about very specific topics, products, services, where it simply isn't practical or cost efficient to embark on a content creation strategy. This is especially true when we really don’t know what the end result will be.

Telling your boss you need to spend thousands of dollars to create a bunch of content because that will help you rank higher sounds easy, but what if you do that, and the end result is not higher rankings? And I know this can happen, because I've seen it happen.

But this doesn't mean things are hopeless. An ironic result of the renewed focus on creating quality content is that many sites are missing out on link opportunities that are not based on having hundreds of pages of stellar content.

In keeping with my goal of providing very specific strategies that you can pursue now, here are a few linking strategies a site can pursue, even if it might not have the most engaging, magnetic, sticky, or shareable content in the world.

Non-Content Based Link Building Case Study

Here’s the scenario. You operate a farm equipment parts store. You sell new, used, and rebuilt combine parts, tractor parts, and farm equipment. Exciting things like Return Pans, Wood Bearing Blocks, Keystock and Slotted Grates. You even have Conventional and Rotary Concaves. You’ve been in business fifty years, you know your clients, they know you, and they are not eagerly anticipating your every tweet, could care less about your rss feed, and darn sure don’t have time for Facebook or your blog. Why? Because they are business growing, cultivating, and harvesting the stuff you and I eat every day.

The website for this company has no blog, no feed, and no twitter account, isn’t on Facebook, and has no interest in these things or a mobile version of their site. I know it is absolutely possible to develop a content based strategy for them and try to convince them they need things like videos of every product, a hired logger to write about farming related topics, someone to manage the twitter account (that they need to create), etc. I’m not arguing that with you. But the client is simply not interested. They don’t want to spend the money on their web site. That’s not their expertise or passion. They know farming, and simply want to be found by searchers, or noticed via links in the right places where their customers might be.

So any new content is off the table. Now what do you do?

There are still hundreds of high value link opportunities available, if you stop thinking about it as link building and think of it like marketing and public relations.

Potential Industry Connections

I start by asking the client questions, such as…

Are you a member of the National Young Farmer Educational Association or any other industry specific associations, like The Georgia Young Farmers Association, or The Georgia Seed Association?

Have they ever reached out to trade magazines with web sites, like Southeast Farm Press?

Do they offer any small scholarship opportunities to college students who are Agriculture majors?

Have they joined or donated money to organizations such as The Humane Farming Association, The National Farmers Market Association, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association?

At this point, you should see exactly where I’m, heading with my non-content based linking strategy for this client. Almost every business has a collection of organizations that they either are, or may want to consider, becoming a part of, participating with, and reaching out to.

The sublime secondary effect of this approach is you often end up with links that help you rank higher, even if that was not the goal in the primary intent. For me, the best links are the links you are glad you have, regardless of whether or not they have helped your search rank, because they are helping your business.

You don’t always need content. You need to think differently.

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.