Integration: Key Element of Link Building

In my last column, I defined link building as, "the integration of useful elements into a whole Web site to allow for the accretion of links through natural means," explaining that integration and accretion are the two key aspects of a true link building campaign. This week, I want to focus on integration – the process of incorporating parts, components, and elements into a larger defined unit, set, or whole.

So often in link building, people become so focused on obtaining links (accretion), they completely ignore what exactly they are going to have people link to (integration). This is the fatal flaw of link building.

Offer Something Special

One Christmas when I was very young, I had an idea for a Christmas present for my mom. I got a big box and filled it with my Matchbox cars. I then wrapped it up and made it look very nice. It seemed like a good idea. And sure enough, on Christmas morning, my mom was very excited. There was a big, heavy box. I was pretty excited too. But as she opened the box, I realized that this wasn't the great idea I thought it was. It was a hoax. It looked like something of interest and value. But inside, it was nothing. To this day, I'm not exactly sure why I did it. I suspect I wanted to give her something as special as that big box suggested. But I couldn't afford much or think of anything special.

Our link campaigns are that box. We do everything to wrap up our Web sites in big, heavy boxes with fancy paper. But when someone comes to our site and opens the box, the site is hollow. It has nothing to offer. Maybe you think you can't afford something special, but I assure you, you can definitely find something special by being creative.

Search for Creative Ideas

So, how do we put something of value in the box? Start by getting the creative juices flowing. First, consider your industry. Type in the general key phrases that pertain to your site and see what comes up. The search leaders in your industry have almost certainly devoted both money and creativity in making their Web sites do well. The more competitive the industry, the more this is true. Let's take a look at a couple examples.

Start by looking at the top listings in Google for the phrase, '"financial advisor." The first listing is Financial Advisor Magazine. At the top of the home page, it lists the latest Financial Advisor news:

China Hints At Dumping U.S. Treasuries – August 08, 2007
FOMC Policy Statement Gets Mixed Reviews – August 07, 2007
Lower Rates? Some Banked On Higher Rates – August 06, 2007
Income Distribution A Major Challenge Facing Advisors – August 03, 2007
Target-Date Funds Increase In 401(k) Plans – August 03, 2007

The next section lists the articles of the current issue of the magazine:

The World According to Eveillard
A Velvet Niche
Help Wanted
The Limits of Statistical Evidence
Corporate Executives Need Special Treatment

While I have never been to this site before, it is instantly easy to imagine that this site, indeed, is probably at least one of the industry leaders for all things pertaining to financial advising. If I was interested in this topic, I'd make it a point to bookmark it or sign up for an RSS feed. Incidentally, I don't actually see an RSS feed. You might want to consider that, fa-mag.com.

Apply the Ideas to Your Site

If you are a financial advisor, what could you do to compete? Do you have a region you focus on? Do you have a specialty you focus on? Below are some ideas that come to mind.

"Financial advice for people who hate financial advisors"
"Financial advice for the poor and debt ridden"
"Generation Y financial advice – Not your dad's financial advisor"

As a general rule, the riskier an idea seems, the closer you probably are to a good idea. "The Financial Advice Forum" is not going to work. It's boring and has been done.

Let's look at the phrase, "business accountant." The top listing in Google is businessaccountant.com. It has an extensive FAQ section that links out to individual pages concerning each topic. It has tax tips, again made up of individual pages discussing the tip. And it has foreign investor information, which then leads to its newsletter. Yahoo Site Explorer shows it has about 1,100 pages on its Web site.

So, if you are a business accountant, what could you do? Again, think about your business focus and specialties. How about:

"The Bar and Grill Accountant. You make the food, we'll keep you out of jail."
"The Human Accountants. Is your accountant more cyborg than you'd like? We can help."
"Starving Artist Accountants. We love art as much as you do. We're just no good at it."
"Business Accounting Hell. The worst business accounting stories anywhere on the planet."
"The Subservient Accountant. Ask our accountant to do anything day or night." Incidentally, this is actually a fusion between Trevor the Mentos Intern and Subservient Chicken. Integration Is the Key to Success

Remember, people go online for two primary reasons: to be informed and to be entertained. If you can combine the two, you are really on to something.

Integration is the key to link building success. But it is often glossed over. Ignoring integration, however, pretty much guarantees failure.

About the author

Sage Lewis started his online marketing company, SageRock.com, in 1999 during a time when most Internet companies were failing. SageRock, however, has thrived under Lewis’ direction -- growing an average of 30% every year, while also being recognized as one of the top ten search engine optimization firms in the U.S. by a third-party resource in the industry, Marketing Sherpa.

Regarded as a web marketing expert, Lewis speaks regularly to business organizations like NEOSA and COSE, serves as a resource for press about industry trends, and teaches a recurring class on search engine optimization at Cleveland State University.

Lewis has created a unique company culture that values the individual employee and client, and he has built SageRock around one principle, “The concern, respect and empathy for the individual people we come in contact with at SageRock is our single core value.”

Lewis lives in Akron with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.

Read more of Sage Lewis's columns at ClickZ.