Link building has evolved a great deal since its original inception, when you could post links almost anywhere and improve your rankings in search engines based on the quantity of those links. Today, the quality of your links matters far more than the quantity, both protecting you from the threat of a Google penalty and earning you more domain authority in the process.
Still, there are some differing philosophies when it comes to the top priorities in link building. Some argue that it’s all about intrinsic value, producing the best onsite content to naturally attract the best links. Some argue it’s about opportunism—hunting down key opportunities to exploit in a timely manner. Instead, I think link building starts and ends with relationship building; with stronger, longer-term publisher relationships, I can almost guarantee you’ll see better SEO results.
The Ideal Link
To understand why relationship building is so important, you first must understand the “ideal” link pointing to your domain. This link is embedded in high-quality content with strong relevance to your target audience, and it rests on a high-authority domain. It isn’t stuffed with keywords, and it isn’t the same link you’ve built before (in terms of destination and source). Quantity does play a role here, but it’s more about the diversity of sources you’re able to use than the number of links you’re able to build.
Attracting links naturally with high-quality content is a good way to earn lots of links, but you have no control over what types of links are built. Instead, you need to create opportunities to get your content on high-quality offsite publishers—and win enough trust and flexibility to develop your submissions even further. Opportunism may get you in the door, but relationship building will keep you there.
Targeted, Valuable Content
Publisher relationships start with offering targeted, valuable content to the publisher’s audience. That means writing content that fits squarely in their niche and providing enough unique, well-researched information that it exceeds their quality standards. Before you have this introductory opportunity, you’ll need to work with the publisher one-on-one to develop a pitch, learn about their editorial standards, and sometimes, develop an author profile. The better your relationship is at this stage, the more likely you are to be successful with your future content development.
Repetition and Audience Building
If your first post is successful, you’ll have the chance to publish more work with that publisher and start building an audience. The better your relationship is, the more opportunities you’ll have, and the more clout you’ll gain on the platform. While subsequent links don’t pass nearly as much authority as initial links on a given source, you’ll earn peripheral benefits like referral traffic, brand visibility, and of course, personal brand reputation value.
Climbing the Publisher Ladder
Reputation building also opens the door to the most important element of a link building campaign—scaling. It’s not hard to get published on low-authority sources, but you’ll need the credibility from those sources to get featured in mid-authority sources, and credibility from those to work your way up to high-authority sources. Building relationships, positively and consistently, at every step of the ladder will allow you to write content for some of the top publishers in the world, which will be a golden opportunity for your domain. Without those relationships, you’ll be stuck at the bottom of the ladder, or you’ll lose control over what publishers will accept your material or build links to your site.
How to Build Maintain Better Relationships
So at this point, it’s evident that building and maintaining better publisher relationships is a beneficial (if not necessary) strategy for your link building campaign. So how can you build better relationships with your publishers?
· Specialize. Don’t come to a publisher with the same list of pitches they’ve heard a million times over. It’s much better to specialize in a niche area, whether that’s speaking to a specific target audience or covering a specific subject. This will help you stand out from the crowd and fill unique publisher needs more easily. It’s also a breath of fresh air for editors who have likely seen dozens, if not hundreds of guest post applications all saying the same thing.
· Always add value. This is the golden rule for guest posting, and your first priority when it comes to building relationships with publishers. You may be excited to build a link to your site, but you can’t do it unless it somehow adds value to the publisher’s site. Your job is to inform, entertain, or otherwise benefit the readers of this site, so all other considerations are secondary. With that mentality, it won’t be long before your publisher views you as indispensable; make this a mutually beneficial relationship! If you don’t know where to start, make yourself a part of their community as a reader until you get a feel for what they like to publish.
· Start small. Don’t try to go all-out from the beginning. If you pitch to a top publisher with no previously existing work, you probably won’t even get a response. If you overwhelm a publisher with dozens of articles to publish, they might ignore you. Instead, start smaller. Identify some local publishers that would happily accept your work, and focus on one article at a time. This will help you ease your way into a relationship with each publisher, and as an added benefit, you’ll probably end up creating better finished work.
· Give back to readers and followers. Publishers care about you and care about the integrity of their site, but their bottom line is always going to be their readers and followers. If you take an active role in engaging with those readers and followers, to the point that they want to keep coming back, you’ll fall into your publishers’ good graces in no time. Take the time to respond to user questions and comments, and make yourself an active part of the community.
· Comply with requests. While there are some universal standards, most publishers will have their own unique set of editorial guidelines (and some will be very nitpicky about what they accept). You’ll probably get lots of revision and edit requests, especially in your first few posts with a publisher. When you do, be sure to comply with them—and comply with them swiftly and adeptly. They’re running the show here; you’re just a part of it.
· Be yourself. Don’t let your desire to please your publishers strip your personality away. Instead of becoming coldly polite and professional, show off what makes you “you” in your correspondence. Be friendly, warm, and inviting, and make jokes. Remember, your editors are people too, and they’d much prefer a human, fun interaction to a cold, sterile one.
If you’re new to link building, guest posting, and working with publishers, this might seem intimidating to you, but I can assure you it gets easier with practice. You’re bound to run into some hiccups in your first foray, and even when you’re experienced, you’ll make mistakes like pitching a bad topic or failing to respond to a reader. Perfection is not possible here; all you can do is your best for the publishers you work with, and they’ll recognize and reward your efforts in time.
And if you don’t have time to invest in link building yourself, our team has developed relationships with hundreds of editors at hundreds of publications and can help you acquire those link you’re looking for! Contact us today for more information!