Somehow it’s already been three weeks since LinkLove Boston and I’m still feeling the after-conference buzz. No, I didn’t play too much cornhole at the bar; the buzz I’m talking about is from all the advanced link building techniques and energy that happens when the SEO tribe comes together: new friendships and concepts to give thought to. I’d be naive to say that I didn’t learn anything new (I most certainly did), but for me, the biggest value was not in what I learned that was new, but rather new ways to apply the skills and tools I use already. For this reason, Wil Reynolds’ presentation on link stalking caused more than one mind explosion to happen inside my head. When implemented with thought and purpose, Wil’s techniques on building links by building relationships is sure a winner.
I stumbled upon DragonSearch like any great discovery – just messing around on Twitter. I started following Ric Dragon, our CEO, after discovering he led this awesome internet marketing agency in the Hudson Valley and New York City. I would occasionally retweet Ric or respond to one of his tweets but mainly I would observe with no rhyme or reason. After a few months of this, Ric followed me back which caused a light bulb moment – there is no way I could email or cold-call Ric and expect him to respond back but here I had a direct line through Twitter. Getting followed back gave me a powerful feeling but I understood it couldn’t be abused but it could be shaped to get where I wanted to be. If I developed a relationship using twitter, perhaps I could get my foot in the door and land an interview.
So I waited, and, as Wil calls it, stalked for opportunities to re-tweet or reply when I had something of value to add. I joked and showed personality. I did what you do when you build a relationship. Since I’m writing a post on a blog branded with the DragonSearch logo, I’m sure you know what happened – the light bulb moment turned into a rad career.
When we lived in caves and drove around in cars like Fred Flinstone’s, people were networking and building relationships. The concept isn’t new, social media just provides us another opportunity to create relationships. The rules haven’t changed either – there are still no shortcuts to hard work and being genuine to give the relationship what it needs to survive. The rules and principals to high quality link building are no different. As I watched Wil’s presentation unfold it clicked: relationships are work but work for the long term. When you place value in nurturing a relationship first, the links will naturally follow over and over again. Relationships build links.
When I was stalking Ric Dragon, I was lucky because we shared a few common interests; working in the same industry and living in the same area made it easy to relate with him. When you are developing a relationship with a writer for a high quality site, it can be difficult to find that common thread and add value in the areas they have interest in let alone keep tabs on the multitude of social networks they are active on.
Wil’s methods break down these hurdles and let you get down to that sweet relationship building magic. The secret sauce is in turning the social networks your prospect is active on into rss feeds that point to a custom iGoogle dashboard. From this dashboard you are able to easily monitor activity so that when they ask a question or make a post, you won’t miss it. There is a bit of wizardry and upfront work in getting everything to harmonize but once you do, the dashboard saves you a lot of future legwork. While you may not always have the expertise in the subject matter your prospect is interested in, you can leverage your existing network to find the answer and bring value to your prospect. Repeatedly being helpful to your prospect is how you get noticed and kickoff the relationship. The link building opportunities probably won’t be apparent immediately but you’ve done your homework and tracked down the right people to get you the high value links you need, the opportunities will present themselves and you’ll be positioned to capitalize on some handsome links.
To some, all of this may seem really creepy. But in my opinion a chamber of commerce mixer is no different. People are there to meet other people and gain business opportunities. Networking is a valuable skill in all industries, the internet doesn’t change what it is. Once you start considering Wil’s concepts, opportunities will begin to present themselves much in the same way meeting new people opens up possibilities. My biggest takeaway from Wil’s presentation is to keep pushing. Don’t stop at participating on social media, sculpt it to improve other aspects of what you do. It may take time and effort but relationships provide tremendous value over the standard link building campaign.