BizDev Link Building: 10 Questions with Ken McGaffin

ken-mcgaffin-headshotKen McGaffin, CMO of the keyword tool Wordtracker, is one of the handful of link builders I studied obsessively in 2007 as I became a contractor and went on to form a link building agency. His approach to link building has a real “business elegance” to it and he continually forces me to grow how I think about link building. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mcgaffin.

I put together several questions for him in the hopes of learning and potentially discovering ways to go large scale with BizDev, relational-style link building. He starts with my awkward phrase “bizdev link building,” which I persist in using for lack of a substitute. Also, I should note in my initial request to him I actually misspelled his name. Luckily he decided not to “out me” and agreed to answer my questions.

Here are McGaffin’s answers – I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me!

Garrett French: How do you or have you described BizDev Link Building in the past?

Ken McGaffin: First, I’d say that the term “BizDev Link Building” is a little strange – it puts the emphasis on “link building” rather than on business development. I think that links developed in many ways can be turned into business development opportunities – and that’s why I think the most fruitful opportunities for business development can be found in sites that already link to you.

I fear that if the emphasis is purely link building for SEO, then potential business opportunities may be missed. I’ve outlined my ideas on this in a simple process (not all about business development) 8 questions to ask of sites that already link to you.

GF: Please share a scenario – real or imagined – that illustrates bizdev style link building.

KM: Here’s the process we use:

A. Create a piece of creative content – an ebook, whitepaper, video, whatever and do the usual distribution – targeted bloggers and influencers, customized press releases to our existing press contacts, mass press release distribution, twitter buzz, etc.

B. All this activity will result in a lot of coverage, many links from sites we already know and importantly, links from new sites that have not linked to us before. So a ton of links result: job done? Not yet! And this is where business development comes in…

C. Keep a close eye on referrer sites in Google Analytics and ask the questions:

  • Do these new links bring good direct traffic?
  • If so, does that traffic convert?
  • If the traffic does convert, have a good look at the site and see if there is a good fit
  • If there is a good fit, email, phone up, meet to explore cross promotion and other business development opportunities.

GF: Now please share one more – I think the stories do the best job of making the concept pop.

KM: After your call, I did a little test and emailed a number of sites that linked to us, brought traffic but which we hadn’t really done business with. Here’s an example to a site with a very specific small business focus.


We got a quick reply, had a very fruitful phone call and have now set up a cross promotion for the new year.

GF: Do you ever approach link building from a purely SEO perspective?

KM: I think SEO always has a business development perspective.

GF: What is your process for discovering or identifying potential business development link opportunities?

KM: I think it can be summed up in a phrase “the market reveals itself”. So if we do a big promotion as I’ve described above, the creative content we’ve created attracts interest, including from people, from sites, even from markets that we haven’t thought of or didn’t consider important.

GF: Are there business types/sizes or site types best suited to this approach?

KM: Having a well-known brand like Wordtracker means of course that this approach is more likely to pay handsome dividends.

I would also say it would be particularly suitable to businesses that have clearly distinct target markets – for example, an accountancy firm that specifically targets small businesses, hotels, non-profits and so on.

GF: Who should be in charge of bizdev-style link building?

KM: This really requires a team effort. A link builder might not have the authority to pursue this strategy while a business development manager might not have the knowledge to realize the the significant opportunity exists. If a business takes a siloed approach to marketing, the opportunity just might not surface or be recognized.

GF: Why is the practice of link building so naturally related to business development opportunity finding?

KM: Their act of writing about us and linking to us is a powerful way of saying, “hey, we’re interested in you” and that naturally deserves a closer look for business development opportunities.

GF: How would you train someone to spot business-development opportunities?

KM: I’d advise a good, practical multi-disciplinary test first of all where both link building and business development people had a voice. After that, I think a simple methodology would emerge specific to the company.

GF: What did I neglect to ask? What are some more links I can share with interested readers?

KM: If I was talking directly to clients, I’d look to talk about integrated marketing and focus in on the opportunities that can be missed. For example, How Lurpak’s post-Xmas campaign was left with the scraps.

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