Link Building in 2019: Build Relationships, Not Links


  • Link building is an off-page SEO tactic for getting sites to link back to your site, which can help to increase domain authority and referral traffic.
  • With Google cracking down on which links to honor it’s made it even more difficult to gauge the value of each link made.
  • Focus on building relationships, not the number of emails you send. Remember: # of relationships made + relationships nurtured = links made.
  • At the end of the day, the primary goal for link building should be to get links. But, while you are doing outreach, think ahead, be efficient, and put relationships at the forefront of your efforts.

If you are any bit familiar with search engine optimization, you probably know what link building is, or at the very least, have heard the word “link building” thrown around in SEO conversations. If you aren’t familiar, let us give you a brief history lesson and some tips for building more links.

What is link building?

Link building is an off-page SEO tactic for getting sites to link back to your awesome site. In theory, the more links you have the more authoritative your site is perceived in the eyes of search engines. Well, at least it that’s how it used to work. Now, no matter how many links you build, search engines have the final say in which links to honor. Before we get too far ahead let us walk you through the mystical history of link building.

A history of link building

Back when Google first started, search engines needed a way to determine which sites to show for any given search query. So, in Google’s rudimentary days it ranked sites based on the number of links that specific page had and the exact match anchor text associated with that link. To put this in perspective, let’s say you are an autobody shop and you wrote this cool article on how to change your oil. If tons of other sites linked to your article with the anchor text “Britney Spears” your article would then rank for that exact phrase regardless of its content.

Fast forward to today, Google is far smarter and has caught on to the (sometimes shady) games SEOs and link builders play. Now, there are over 200+ factors that Google uses to rank a site and/or webpage. Links are still a part of the equation and play a relatively big part in search performance.

Link building outreach today

Link building is no easy task, you can ask any link builder out there. With Google cracking down on which links to honor it’s made it even more difficult to gauge the value of each link made. It’s caused many SEOs to give up on link building altogether or outsource link building to others who are more specialized in the area.

Now, link building requires a tremendous amount of manual effort. You first need to prospect each of the sites you hope to reach out to. Then, you need to come up with a strategy for your outreach. Finally, you need to devise a charismatic email to send and hope the prospect responds. After all is said and done, a week’s worth of emails may land you only 5-10 positive responses. After a few weeks, this can get frustrating, especially if it’s anything less than a 10% response rate for the hours and hours you spent on prospecting, strategizing, and finally reaching out to sites.

Don’t worry about the number of emails sent

Don’t gauge your performance based on the number of emails sent. What you should be focused on is the quality of emails sent. 40 great emails that engage the recipient and get 5 responses is much better than 100 poorly worded emails that receive 5 responses. For example, last month we sent about 40 greatly written emails for one of our clients and received only 3 responses. That is a 7.5% response rate and all of them turned into links. You can see this is much more valuable than the former.

We understand the following may sound cliche but hear us out. Instead of focusing on the number of emails focus on the relationships made. Yes, the entire goal of link building is to build the number of links pointing to a site. But, focusing merely on the number of inbound links and neglecting relationships is counter-intuitive. You’d be exhausting your resources. Focusing on the relationships made will increase your efforts exponentially, especially if you are an agency or freelance link builder. Remember: # of relationships made + relationships nurtured = links made.

Take this email for example where we leveraged relationships to build links:

We were able to leverage commonalities we had with the prospect. Eventually, this turned into another relationship made and a podcast opportunity!

Join groups to build relationships

Another way to build relationships is to join influencer groups or other engagement groups where you can network with other bloggers in your vertical.

“The best scalable & white-hat tactic to get links is to build a community of micro-influencers who genuinely promote each other’s content.”

– Stefan Debois, CEO of Survey Anyplace

This is reciprocal marketing 101! Groups like these make building links a whole lot easier because you are building relationships you can refer to in the future.

At the end of the day, the primary goal for link building should be to get links. But, while you are doing this outreach, think ahead, be efficient, and put relationships at the forefront of your efforts. Link building is no easy task though you can certainly make easier. It’ll take a lot of time to get to this point so if you don’t have that time leave it to the pros here at Redefine Marketing Group. We’ll be happy to work our relationships and build links for you!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason is a Cal Poly Pomona Alum, an extreme fan of marketing, and social media advocate. As a Marketing Coordinator at Redefine Marketing Group, he is responsible for the development and execution of strategy for both off-page SEO and social media marketing.
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