Today I want to address an under-discussed and often under-served avenue of links: opportunity link building.
What is opportunity link building? It’s the act of spending time to research and understand your client’s business, website, brand, industry, and activities, with the specific intent of finding link opportunities based upon already existing behavior. And then seizing upon these link opportunities.
These opportunities take a thousand forms: mentions, sponsorships, associations, event participation, community involvement, testimonials, relationships, partnerships, interviews, press coverage, content marketing, undervalued content, competitor business closings, scholarships, 404 link reclamation, etc. etc.
Each and every one of these opportunities/tactics is worthy of a full post – and full posts have been written about them all. This post will be more philosophical in nature, with a tactical backbone.
In my experience too often link builders and SEOs fall back onto comfortable tactics to build sure links that have value. And there’s nothing wrong with that – who doesn't love sure links with value – it just shouldn't be the default first avenue for links.
My argument is that due diligence requires custom campaigns. And a very large part of campaigns is what I refer to as “opportunity link building.”
When you invest the time to understand your client, their industry, and their target audience, you’ll work much more efficiently and likely achieve more secondary and tertiary goals along the way. And in my experience, it’s the achievement of parallel goals that pleases clients most (as long as you’re delivering on project expectations as well).
Let’s discuss what I think of as the link mindset first.
The Link Mindset
One of my absolutely favorite things about link building is that anyone can do it, and that different skill sets and backgrounds often translate well into different aspects of link building.
There are fundamentally four different aspects of link building:
- The technical – understanding on-site SEO, the elements of Google’s algorithm, HTML, fluent use and understanding of new tools, etc.
- The social – can you interact well with others, consistently? Do you have the interpersonal skills necessary to represent a company well? Do you thrive on outside contact?
- The psychological – do you fare well with rejection? Do you understand the basic elements of sales? Do you know what it takes to be persuasive?
- The creative – are you commonly pushing the bounds? Testing new things? Attempting innovation? Experimenting?
Very few people come to the table with all these elements – and that’s okay. They’re all important to different aspects of SEO and link building, and strength in one area can help compensate for weakness in another. Humans can learn, especially when nurtured and encouraged.
Link building is a mindset, amplified by experience and skills. Anyone can have a link mindset, where they look at online activities through the filter of “how can I earn links from this?” – but not everyone will have the same understanding, knowledge, and skills to achieve the same results.
The great thing about link building and SEO is that information is frequently shared freely. Each and every tactic I mentioned above has supporting information that can be found with a simple Google search. With the proper motivation anyone can learn and execute a great link building campaign through broken link building.
What I've learned with time and experience is the importance of a philosophical understanding of link building. That link building is more than just the implementation of proven tactics to acquire links. Great link builders are the people who understand the why, not just the how.
Link building needs to involve understanding the client and building the links that make sense for them.
Because links aren't built in a vacuum.
Links aren't built in a vacuum
Remember when I said too many link builders fall back on proven tactics to build links?
Well, the problem with using the same tactics over and over is that links aren't built in a vacuum. Link building shouldn't be independently done from all other online (and real-world) activities the company is engaged in.
Although the same tactics can work across multiple clients, if you rely on the same tactic over and over eventually you’ll be shoving a square shaped peg into a round sized hole. Not to mention a lack of variety will look suspicious and manipulative to Google. That is why it’s so important that every link building campaign be customized to the client.
Instead of galloping off to the link race, take the time to really understand the client, in depth. That includes understanding:
- Product offering
- Unique value
- Target audience
- Etc. etc.
This level of understanding will only empower your ability to both build links that matter, and to do so efficiently.
Here is a fantastic post detailing questions for new SEO clients put together by Jon Cooper of Point Blank SEO, which are designed to better help you understand new clients.
Realistically speaking if you’re not researching and pursuing link opportunities that already exist based on client activities then you’re leaving link equity on the table – the last thing any link builder should be doing, ever.
These are real links already earned in some way - the equity just needs to be claimed. Most clients won’t have many opportunities. It’s a sad fact of life that it takes a lot of online participation to build a healthy amount of opportunity. But nearly every client will have at least a handful of opportunities worth pursuing.
Let’s look at a list of tactics that represent link opportunity at the start of a campaign.
The List of Common Link Opportunities
There are a thousand ways online to build links. There are very few limitations. Well-known tactics are often wide-spread because they tend to work well consistently for a wide variety of clients.
In reality the limit to the ways you can build links is really only limited to creativity. Nearly anything you can do online has the potential to result in a link.
Having said that, here’s a list of common link opportunities that should be examined when on-boarding a new client:
- Mentions – if you've earned online visibility, there’s a chance you’re being mentioned across the web. Simply request a link when you find a mention, wherever it makes sense.
- Sponsorship – although this skirts the edges of paid links, if you’re listed as a sponsor it’s extremely common to have an accompanying link. This isn’t a standalone tactic: you’re not going to go out and sponsor events/charities just to gain a link. But the opportunity should be considered.
- Partnership – very similar to sponsorship, if you've built a partnership with another company odds are it’s listed somewhere online. Very natural to secure a link back as well.
- Associations – again, skirting the edges of paid links. In the digital era it’s very natural to have a link back from any association of which you’re a part. If you’re involved in associations, don’t miss out on the link opportunity.
- Testimonials – once again this would never be a standalone link building tactic. But, if you’re providing testimonials and they’re listed online, it’s extremely natural to have a link to your website included.
- Interviews – often higher level employees – the c-suite – will participate in an interview at one point or another. These are great for visibility and thought leadership, and also provide a solid opportunity for further links.
- Event participation – if your company has attended an event in a meaningful way, it’s likely listed on the website featuring the event. Solid link opportunity here.
- Press coverage – have a recent surge of press coverage? You bet there’s ample link opportunity here. Just be smart about it – online media outlets are very wise to the power of a link.
- Relationships – fostered a strong relationship with another website or online company? There are numerous ways these relationships can result in a link. Just don’t be manipulative about it.
- Competitor closing – Many of the links pointing to a competitor’s website would apply just as well to your own website. Now that your competitor’s business is closing, and their website is going offline, there will be plenty of broken links that webmasters just might point to your website.
- Scholarships – If your company is offering a scholarship, there’s ample opportunity online to have it listed across multiple databases and scholastic websites, including .EDUs.
- Content marketing – if you’re putting effort into creating valuable content, but not placing links as a priority, there are good odds that you've missed a few opportunities. Content marketing can super power your link building, and vice versa.
Those are extremely common activities many companies and websites are already participating in, one way or another. As a link builder you should absolutely get to know the client and dig for link opportunities.
These opportunities will yield some of the best links you can build: extremely natural, real links that are often intended as votes of confidence and editorial in nature. Due diligence requires link builders to ensure every opportunity is examined and seized.