Link Building Strategies in Troubled Economic Times

Another Search Engine Strategies Chicago is in the books, and once again I'm left with great memories of pleasant conversations and revitalized with new energy for an industry that is young, hopeful, and inspired.

SES Chicago Magazine w/ Barack ObamaFittingly, the cover of this year's SES Magazine (which lists all the classes and speakers, along with some original content) was adorned with a hip picture of President-Elect Barack Obama. This connection made complete sense to me.

After all, without social media and the search engines, we would likely have another president. A significant drive of Obama's campaign was his social media blitz at my.barackobama.com run by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. The Republicans never really figured out the new 2008 media landscape.

Another SES/Obama connection: The new administration-to-be hosts many press conferences in the same Hilton hotel SES uses. Obama's security detail lives at the Hilton. Thanks to the big dust up with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trying to sell Obama's Senate seat, Obama was actually in the hotel during SES doing damage control.

There was little to no mention of Obama at the conference, however. Just as every SES seems have a theme, whether it's social media, mobile, a new search algorithm, or a new link building philosophy, this one had a consistent thread as well: the economy.

The economy was the beginning, middle, and end of virtually every conversation. And the conversations all seemed very similar: We're OK for now, but who knows what will happen if this goes on for much longer. Then to wrap up the conversation everyone agreed on one point: if you have to be in marketing, search marketing is the place to be.

Search Engine Watch recently reported on some eMarketer stats that downgraded search. The new growth number is 8.9 percent, down from 14.5 percent projected in August.

While that's disappointing news, we should be thankful for the 8.9 percent we have. The rest of the advertising industry isn't so lucky.

You can sense the fear, however. Small companies are concerned they don't have the infrastructure to weather a long economic storm. And big companies are afraid they have too much infrastructure to weather the same long economic storm. Everyone has weaknesses. Everyone is vulnerable.

As I study this economy, I've started developing some strategies I'm beginning to live by. I wanted to share those with you here to help you in your link building initiatives and beyond.

In a time of tightening, when you have to be aware of defense maybe more than offense, growth comes from relying on what you know works. Now isn't the time to forge into new, untested territories.

This isn't to say you can't grow in a time like this. Often, you can strengthen your company in a recession and come out on the other side stronger. The key is to use tried and true methods. Go back to basics.

If you don't have a link building campaign in place, use this difficult time to take advantage of a new marketing strategy for your company.

The easiest thing to do is to get a blog. Write about your company and your industry. Be personal. Write three posts a week.

There are several great blogging tools. The easiest to set up is Blogger. Set it up to publish to a sub-directory on your main site. The only requirement is standard FTP access.

If you're reading this asking yourself how you can help your business, how you can get through this troubled time, I've just given you a path out. Become an expert. Your business will be stronger for it.

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.