Relationship Building Strategy & Checklist

(Link-Building Strategy – Pre-Google Penguin)

Earning higher and greater placement within search engine results this year will require much more than grassroots keyword optimization. Your keyword-specific content is only one part of the recipe for delicious results when it comes to organic traffic. The rest of the secret sauce has to do with the visibility of your domain with relevant content outside of your website.

In plain English, you could be the most attractive kid in school, but if nobody votes for you, someone else will be prom king or queen.

In plain Googlish, you have to have links (and mentions) to and about your content from pages that also have links and mentions, if you have any hopes of earning trust and authority.

So, how do you get other to link to your content? Relationship building.

Become an Influencer First (If Possible)

Similar to our high school popularity contest analogy above, for a business earn the trust of their audience, the business needs to be in front of their audience whenever and however possible.

The best way to earn trust might be to become a known thought-leader in your industry. For example, influencers in SEO such as Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, and Bruce Clay earned their reputation through teaching best practices, publishing industry news, and speaking at industry events.

Shy? Teach and share in front of a camera and start a video podcast instead of in front of large audiences. It may help to choose one person who represents your business to be the face of the company, provided they are as skilled as you and great in front of a camera or audience.

This important step can make knocking at the doors of other important people much easier, since they are more likely to talk with you if they know of you and trust you.

At a bare minimum, calendar the writing and publishing of evergreen, useful, weekly content on your company blog. The blog will give you at least some leverage when starting conversations down the road. Can’t become an influencer? Don’t let it hold you back, your SEO Roadmap will include plenty of great relationship building activities and outreach styles to still earn those links you’re seeking.

How to Plan a Relationship Building Strategy

Below are the steps for SEO Roadmap’s relationship building (link earning) initiative. Disclaimer: we do have affiliate relationships setup with many of the tools we’re going to recommend. However, we never recommend a tool we and our client don’t actively use.

Step #1 – Import Existing Relationships to Buzzstream

Buzzstream Screenshot

Diversity plays a key role in how search engines map the popularity of your content. Google has made it clear that earning more than one link from any given domain does not provide significantly more value than the one link might alone. Therefore, step 1 is get all those great links we’ve already earned in the system so we can look for untapped opportunities.

Buzzstream is by far the best CRM for managing your relationships and the links that come with them. You’ll want to choose a plan that allows you to import one link (referred to as contact) from each domain, exported from your Webmaster Tools,, Majestic SEO, and/or Open Site Explorer (we like to aggregate all four lists for better accuracy). Once you know the number, it makes it easier to select the right service level.

Either way, our friends at Buzzstream have offered up our readers an exclusive 60-Day Trial, so you can get started on your relationship strategy at no cost for the first few months.

Step #2 – Clean Up Potentially Dangerous Relationships

With Google’s Link Schemes policy top of mind, your next step in building relationships that result in helpful, rather than harmful, links involves a 30-day cleanup of your existing link profile. 30 days is a relative number that represents the average time we’ve seen this task require.

Start by optimizing site-wide links, since we know Google frowns on inbound links in the footer or global navigation of external domains. Find the site-wide links within any of the tools mentioned above. See example below:

Identify Site-Wide Links in ahrefs

Instead of eliminating site-wide links, reach out to the webmaster and offer a custom profile page they can add to their website, where your one valuable link can serve as the funnel for all that great PageRank coming from their site-wide links.

Natural Link Profile ExampleGoogle Penguin is the code name given to the algorithm update said to penalize those attempting to “game search results” with links (a primary ranking signal).

With Penguin in mind, our task is to audit our backlink profile for explicit keywords.

To the right is an example of what your link text profile should look like (without explicit keywords) – note the prominence in the brand name and image links.

Our favorite article on how to track and manage a link cleanup can be found on the Moz Blog by Lewis Sellers.

Here’s the thing, if you’re thinking about keywords as you’re earning links to improve your reputation with search engines, you’re thinking too hard and potentially setting yourself up for failure. Think first about the quality of the relationship, the relevancy of content, and the traffic potential from a link being published. Everything magically comes together from that point, and provides piece of mind when it comes to penalties.

Step #3 – List Affiliations & Memberships in Buzzstream

Possibly the easiest way to get visibility to your website is looking in your own backyard. Think about all those great relationships you already have in place, where you’ve never thought to tell them more about you, your business, or your website.

Set the relationship stage to Qualified But Not Started and tag with “affiliation” for easier sorting in Buzzstream.

  • College and alumni success stories
  • Licenses and certifications
  • Vendors (offer a testimonial)
  • Partners (cross-promoting)
  • Affiliations, collations, and alliances
  • Clubs, meetups, and groups

Step #4 – List Industry Experts in Buzzstream

More to come…..1/24/15

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