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SEO Link Building: The Art Of Persuasion
Posted by Cameron Francis on August 27, 2014 in Link Building,SEO

Effective link building doesn’t have to be a mystery. When it all boils down, link building can be summed up into two basic steps:

1. Find a website that you would like to have a link from.
2. Obtain a link from that site.

In reality, those two steps encapsulate the actual process of building links. All of the discussions, suggestions, commentary, etc. simply serve to supplement those two basic activities. You’re either making an effort to find sites to get links from, or you’re working to make it easier to get a link from a given site.

Today I’m making a clean break from all of the tricks, gimmicks, tactics and tips. If you look at what Penguin accomplished, it basically eliminated any reliance upon superficial, manipulative or low-quality links that can be accumulated en masse by way of spammy, black hat methods. Any results you may achieve from automated link building tools are very short-lived, and shady blog networks are being identified and zapped out of existence by Google on a very regular basis. The old practice of “throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks” is no longer valid if you intend to build a solid and effective backlink profile.

In today’s SEO environment, the only links that remain worthwhile are authentic links. Links that have been willingly offered by another human being from a high-quality website with content that is relevant to your own. Links that signify genuine value, and that represent a mutually understood vote of confidence. These types of links carry the most weight in terms of ranking in the search engines.

This doesn’t mean that other link building tactics are worthless. Infographics, guest blogging, mention links, broken link building, partnerships, blog comments, and interviews are all still valuable, and they definitely still have a place in any online marketer’s toolbox. You can still obtain great links using any one of those strategies.

But I want to zero in on the most important element of your link building efforts. I want to talk about what it means to utilize the power of being persuasive in your link building.

What Does It Mean to Be Persuasive?

In the context of building links, being persuasive can be characterized by one primary thing: Having the ability to convince another website owner that it’s in their own best interest to link to your site.

All of the other tactics, strategies and techniques pale in comparison to this one fact: People are naturally inclined to ask “What’s in it for me?”, and if you can convince the other person that it’s in their own best interest to give you what you’re asking for, you will greatly increase your likelihood of getting it.

Most people don’t like to be “sold” things. Nobody likes to feel like a “prospect”, nor do they want to spend time being convinced of why they should purchase something. They would rather be told what your product, investment or opportunity can do to help them. They want to know how they can derive personal benefit from whatever you’re offering. In classic sales training, this is known as “selling the benefits, not the features.”

This holds especially true when it comes to link building. The importance of links in the eyes of Google has been well-documented, and anyone who has a successful website understands the value of a relevant link. If you’re going to ask someone to link to your website, they’re going to want to know how it will benefit them to do so. With the amazing amount of SEO leverage that a solid authority link pointing to your website can afford, it’s not something that most webmasters are willing to just freely give away. To put it another way, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

So instead of making your product, client, brand, page, offering, etc., the centre of your pitch, put the other person at the centre. Talk about how linking to your site will help further their own product, page, brand, or offering, and how it will help their audience. Take some time to seriously consider how your website fits the general theme of their website, and how their audience could derive potential benefit from having access to your content as well. Any webmaster that has a genuine interest in adding value to their readers would be more than willing to expose them to any additional content that would prove to be beneficial.

It goes without saying that the easiest way for you to convince someone that they will benefit from linking to your site is for it to actually be true. You should be able to provide a valid reason for the other website to link to you.

Now this sounds simple in theory, but it can actually be challenging to succinctly, correctly and honesty explain why it’s worth another webmaster’s while to send a link to your site (or a client’s site).

In other words, you need to do your homework.

The Importance of Doing the Necessary Research

When pitching a webmaster on linking to your site, you need to have a keen understanding of the motives and objectives of the website that you’re reaching out to, so that you can specifically address those motivations. Not only that, but you also need to have a solid understanding of the website that you’re representing as well. This will help you get into the mind of the other webmaster, so that you can begin to see things from their perspective and understand what would motivate them to grant you the coveted link you’re seeking.

The most vital thing to remember when you’re representing a particular website or company is that you need to do so with accuracy and honesty. You should purpose to make a good impression, and to faithfully portray what you’re representing. Unfortunately, integrity and honesty are hard qualities to come by in the online marketing space, so you can really make yourself stand out by operating with high ethical standards and accurately representing your website (or client’s site) in all of your interactions.

To persuasively and convincingly represent a company, you will need to have a deep understanding of the website that you’re representing, as well as the website that you’re reaching out to. Obtaining only a superficial knowledge of either one will definitely show in your communications, and you can come off as unprofessional if you don’t take the time to conduct proper research.

Below is a list of research items you will need to cover in order to persuasively represent a business:

1. Develop an Understanding of the Business

* Unique Selling Proposition
* Products
* Brand
* Message
* Marketing Personas
* Beliefs

2. Develop an Understanding of the Industry

* Trends
* Demographics
* Influencers
* Pain Points

3. Understand the Target Website

* Products
* Brand
* Beliefs
* Messages
* Objectives

4. The Audience of the Target Website

* Interests
* Beliefs
* Pain Points
* Demographics

The main purpose behind all of this research is for you to be able to understand and determine motivations.

If you don’t have an understanding of what motivates the other party, it’s going to be hard to explain why what you’re offering should be valuable to them. And there’s no way to offer an honest explanation to them if you don’t fully understand what you’re representing, and why.

Your Next Step

The most ideal scenario would be to find an under-promoted or under-tapped resource that matches well with the website that you’re representing, and direct your link building efforts towards that end. This resource could be one of many different things:

* Unique or proprietary images – What photos or images can you offer to people that they can’t get anywhere else?
* Industry-specific tools – Think checklists, spreadsheets, templates, and other digital tools that would be valuable to others in your field.
* Valuable guides or tutorials – “How-To” content is some of the most popular on the Web. If you’re a subject matter expert in a given area, create some quality guides or tutorials to showcase your knowledge and skills!
* Unique data – Think market research, statistics, etc. that cannot be easily obtained elsewhere.
* Industry-related videos – This can be videos of industry conferences you have attended, or other relevant events.
* Industry-specific interviews – Talk to the influencers in your particular sphere and share what you learn.
* Case studies – Is there a certain area in which you have conducted your own research or seen results? Tell others about it through detailed case studies.
* Etc., etc…

It isn’t so much about the particular form that the resource takes (although that will affect how you are able to promote it), but rather it’s about the fact that it exists, and that it’s currently underperforming, or being under-utilized. You may discover that while one aspect of your industry or vertical is represented plentifully on the Web, there may be a complete dearth of information in another area. Your job then becomes to create worthy content that will “fill in the gap” and provide people with something of genuine value that they cannot readily obtain from a dozen other places online. What this does is uniquely position you to be the sole source–or one of only a very few–who can provide solid and valuable information on a given topic. And whenever you can become an authority source on the Web for certain valuable information, you have now established a competitive advantage.

Quite honestly, most people don’t make the effort to do this kind of extensive research because it’s difficult to do so. But the very thing that causes most people to shy away from it should be what attracts you to it. Many online marketers simply don’t dig deep enough to find out how to gain a competitive edge in their given field, and it is this type of neglect that causes many wesites to have a very limited shelf-life. You have to resolve in your mind that you’re going to do the hard work necessary to position yourself for maximum advantage in your particular niche or vertical, even if it means doing what most other people are simply not willing to do.

From that point you will want to assemble a list of potential target websites, as well as the humans that own or operate them. You’re going to want to identify all of the previously mentioned research points about the website. You’ll need to know the answer to these essential questions:

* What is the purpose for the website? Why does it exist?
* How does the website sustain itself (i.e., How is it funded? Is it supported by ad revenue, etc.?)
* Who is the target audience for the website?
* How will your resource (or offering) assist the other website in achieving its goals?

Once you have nailed down these motivations, the only thing left for you to do is to communicate in a manner that speaks to those particular motivations. Reach out–preferably by email–and inform the webmaster about your resource, as well as why it would be in their own best interest to link to you.

Below is a handful of excellent guides to help you with the actual act of reaching out and contacting webmasters, now that know how to persuade effectively in your communications:

* “The Smart SEO’s Guide to Effective Outreach” by Stephanie Beadell
* “A Basic Guide to Effective Outreach” by Andrew Dennis
* “How to Write an Effective Outreach Email” by Nick Bernard

Now keep in mind that this is just one way to build backlinks. The only real limit to what you can do when it comes to link building is your own creativity and ingenuity.

Check out this video for some more link building tips:

In Summary

Today’s link building practices require interacting with other human beings who have valuable websites and garnering editorial links from them.

Because most webmasters are well aware of the value of a link, they will more than likely be hesitant to link out without sufficient grounds for doing so. The best way for you to convince another webmaster to send a link to your site is to persuade and convince them that it’s in their own best interest to do so.

Understanding the goals and motivations of other webmasters is necessary in order to be able to speak to their interests. That requires thorough research.

Once you can pitch a link to another webmaster in a manner that puts their audience first, you will now be ready to engage in the process of outreach. And once you have started to outreach, you can do so with confidence, knowing that you have invested the time and effort necessary to effectively communicate and persuade in order to garner the backlinks that you need.

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Cameron Francis

Co-Founder

Cameron Francis is the CoFounder & Managing Director of ETRAFFIC, Melbourne's #1 Creative & Digital Marketing Agency. For over a decade Cameron has been providing growth marketing and digital strategies for over 2,000 small businesses, start-ups & entrepreneurs around the country.
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