Can You Leverage Your Network to Build Backlinks?
One of the most popular pieces of advice given to businesses who want to build links to improve their SEO is this: take advantage of your existing relationships. But — how? Begging for a backlink isn’t a good way to gain quality links, and it isn’t a good way to strengthen connections within your network, either. So, if leveraging your contacts to build links is such a common practice, how are you supposed to do it successfully?
The answer is: carefully. Here’s a guide to using the people you know to improve your SEO.
Who Can Link?
Not everyone you know is a good candidate for helping you improve your SEO. For example, your mom probably doesn’t have a website, let alone an authoritative website with a high ranking. Still, you don’t need to limit yourself to business contacts alone, or even only those who have a website. Here’s a helpful guide for finding people in your network who can offer beneficial links.
Who do you know? Make a list of people in your life who have some kind of web presence. This should include friends and family as well as your doctors, your lawyers, your former professors, etc.
What do they have? An authoritative website is ideal, but you can also take advantage of social media pages if they have large and active followings.
Who makes website decisions? Some of your contacts might not own the website but work at it. If they don’t have the authorisation to place a link, you should try to get in contact with someone who does. However, you should be realistic with your expectations; you probably aren’t going to get a link on Walmart’s blog, for example.
What is your relationship like? Stronger relationships are more likely to result in links, and you likely can be more direct with your request when you are asking a good friend or colleague. However, it is still worthwhile to reach out to more distant connections — but you will need to be more courteous and offer something in exchange.
What Do They Need to Link?
One of the worst SEO sins you can commit is spamming links. By forcing links into comments sections, forums or irrelevant websites, you will draw Google’s ire, and your search rankings will plummet — if you aren’t removed from Google’s index entirely. Thus, whenever you place a link, you need it to make sense in the space. The content that surrounds your link should seem natural and be valuable, and to accomplish this, you have several options:
A testimonial. If you are looking for links from business contacts, especially business services you have taken advantage of, testimonials are excellent options. The other business gains an exceptional review, and you get a quality backlink with prominent placement.
A badge. Then again, if you offer B2B or B2C services, you might suggest that satisfied clients place a link to your business on their websites. Badges can be small and professional while establishing a stronger relationship and a good link.
A piece of content. Content is the most common link placement option because it is so mutable — you can create content that fits in almost any location on the web. You should talk to your contact to better understand what kind of content they would like from you, and you should work with experienced content creators to ensure that your content is high-quality and valuable. If you skimp on your content, you could damage your relationship or get your content busted by Google.
Perhaps one of the most common arrangements is a link for a link — meaning the person you are coordinating with to place a backlink might want you to place a link to them. Before you begin reaching out, you should think about what linking arrangements you would be comfortable placing on your site. You should beware contacts that ask for some kind of monetary payment in exchange for a link; you are much safer paying for link building services than buying links on your own.
How Do You Reach out?
Once you have mined your network for viable backlinking prospects and developed a plan for placing a natural link, you need to reach out. Fortunately, if you have done your research well, members of your network will likely be more than happy to place your link and associated content. The key is to avoid sounding like you are begging for a backlink, which might make even close contacts less likely to acquiesce. By making the placement feel like an exchange — they will get a link on your site — or by pitching the link like a notable improvement to their site, you can retain your power and get a valuable link.
Building links takes time and effort, and usually, it is much more economical to hire an SEO firm to find authoritative, effective placements for your backlinks. Still, it is possible to build links through your network if you are willing to sift through your contacts and develop the perfect pitch.