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Every time you perform a search on Google, those organic results are reaching far and wide across the Internet and conducting a high-tech popularity contest. The more links that connect back to your site, the better it is for your page rank. So, if you want to boost your page rank, you need more links.
This process, when done correctly and ethically is called partnerships & link acquisition. It's an important part of SEO, and it’s one of the key things I do for companies. But here’s the thing you need to know about link acquisition, it has an evil twin: link building. The difference between these two is somewhat subjective, but it's important for SEO companies to boost rankings and build partnerships in an ethical way. Not only is it the right things to do, but it's far more effective in the long-run.
Link Acquisition vs. Link Building
Link building has a negative connotation, and is more associated with unethical methods of getting more links to your site. I do not condone these methods, and do not use them with any of my clients. I also do not work with clients if they are actively doing any kind of shady link building.
The usual (i.e. unethical way) of link building for short-term gains is to pay someone for a link. Other methods include exchanging links with other webmasters, or paying journalists to include specific links in online articles. (Most news outlets consider this behavior highly unethical as well.) If a company is paying a journalist thousands of dollars to include a link to their product, can you really trust the opinion of that writer? Definitely not. This practice also prevents other, more deserving companies from being mentioned.
Link acquisition, on the other hand, refers to the more ethical tactic of building a network of influencer relationships. By collaborating with these influencers, rather than bribing them, you can build strong relationships and achieve real results.
What link acquisition offers online marketers is the chance to build a strong partnership. When I go this route, I'm not building a link, I'm building a long-term relationship. These partnerships are more ethical, and valuable. The client only gets the link if the partner truly values their product or service.
On the SEO side, I start looking at my client's website to gather info on their product, services and target personas. Then I look at what their competitors are doing and plan how we can do better.
From there, I create a list of websites, blogs, influencers and publishers who are linking to similar products and services. I do my research and figure out a way we can partner with them. There are a lot of ways to partner, like interviews, podcasts, email marketing campaigns, blog posts or even hosting offline events.
Looking at the competition can be a valuable way to identify potential partners. I look at who is linking to the competition, but is not linking to my client. Then I dig in and do the research to figure what my client is missing; do they know the company exists? Do they know the company offers a better product or service? If the answer is no, I will connect that blogger or influencer to my client’s business development team. What I’ve done is identify a great opportunity for long-term relationship building. I may also look to my clients’ clients for link acquisition opportunities. A happy client is a great candidate to talk about how a product or service has benefited them.
All of these are excellent opportunities to earn a recommendation – and build a relationship – with someone who will benefit from and promote my client’s product.
How to Give Value to Partners
Once I’ve identified a quality partner for my client, it’s time to start considering how we can make sure both sides find it valuable. (win-win).
That value can range from a t-shirt to comped merchandise to offering a free premium account. What we are going for here is an opportunity for the partner to engage with the product or service in an authentic way. The hope is that they will love the client’s product, and link back to the original website. These types of partnerships operate in good faith. You aren’t setting out to force someone to do something, or recommend a product they aren’t genuinely excited about.
Start by saying, “We noticed you wrote something about the competition, and we think we might have a better product. Do you want to try it?” When building a partnership, consider how you can make it easier for them to try it. I really don’t recommend offering cash in exchange for a review or a link! We want to build something more genuine than that. If you play your cards right, this partner will value their relationship with you and become a long-term ambassador for your brand.
For Even More Influence, Consider PR
If you are looking to have your company featured on a big news site with high traffic, you’ll need an intermediary who has strong media relationships. A PR pro will have established relationships with writers who cover your field, and can pitch story ideas directly to those writers.
Companies, with or without the help of a PR team, can build relationships with journalists by writing a piece and submitting it. If you go this route, make sure the piece is unbiased; don't just talk about your company, take a broader look at the industry or consumer need. Journalists may or may not print what you’ve written, but it is still valuable to them. This keeps you and your product in mind, and if you launch something new they already have an awareness of you and your company.
It's true that building a quality relationship takes time. Paying someone to link to your site may seem like a faster, easier way to go. But I don't recommend cutting corners like that. By taking the time, doing the research and planning your strategy you can build strong partnerships and save money in the long run.
If you're interested in working with me to build long-term partnerships and a strong SEO strategy, book a free 30-min consultation here.