You Can Build It, But They May Not Come

Am I the last person on earth who thinks of that saying, “If you build it, they will come”?

In case you’re not old, like me, that saying comes from the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams.” Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, is a hopeful dreamer who builds a magical baseball field in a cornfield. Eventually, ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series appear on his newly crafted baseball field.

While the concept is cosmic, strangely just, and inspirational, it’s also crap. If you build a baseball field in a cornfield, I’m very sorry, but you are going to have to market the hell out of that thing. You can’t just build an inspired online marketing initiative and hope “they’ll come.” I know this seems super obvious, but you’d be amazed at how easy it is to make this mistake.

Let me tell you my own somewhat-recent tale of learning this unfortunate lesson. It was for a personal site link strategy I dreamt up.

A few seasons back, I was a huge fan of Donald Trump’s reality series, “The Apprentice”. On the fourth season, I decided I was going to blog commentary on the show for the entire season. I was determined to make the best darn “The Apprentice” Season 4 blog out there. So, every Thursday night I sat down and blogged like a maniac. I didn’t miss a week, and I was prolific.

I had links to every business mentioned in a particular episode. I had business-related commentary. I had reality-TV commentary. I tried to make it fun. I tried to make it interesting. I really worked hard on this thing. And the great part was, every person who came to my blog said, “This is the best ‘The Apprentice’ Season 4 blog out there!” All five people who showed up and commented said so.

In all my efforts to create an amazing blog, I neglected to actually tell anyone about it. I thought that, thanks to all the great content, search engine spiders would find it and give it high ranking for well-searched, related phrases. Then, I figured I could sit back while the traffic rolled in and interested, impressed fans linked to my blog masterpiece. I didn’t comment on other “The Apprentice” blogs. I didn’t put out a press release. I didn’t ask friends or other bloggers or fan sites to link to it. I didn’t do anything – except create “the best ‘The Apprentice’ Season 4 blog out there.” Duh.

My point of all this is, Link Love will not just come to you – even if you create something amazing and interesting to your target audience. As you sit back, somewhat exhausted, to admire what you’ve created, it might be easy to fall prey to the mentality that if it’s cool enough, people will find it and be inspired to link to it. Wrong. You’ve got to get out there and seed the interest. It’s a simple concept, but it can be difficult to take time to let others know about your masterpiece when you’ve spent all your time creating it.

When you’re out there planting seeds you hope sprout into love for your campaign, don’t be gauche. You don’t want to come off looking fake. You need to mean what you say about your new link bait. If you are proud of what you have created, let people know. Let them know what it is and why it’s cool. Then you must actually ask if they would consider giving a link to it. Don’t forget to give them the actual html for the link. And you might also suggest a specific place on their site where the link would be appropriate.

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