Links often come from relationships. We know that. Identifying and building the relationships is the tricky part. Below I've hit on five things I've found crucial to success when working on building relationships for links.

Know Your Mark

If you've never taken the time to watch Ocean's Eleven, I highly recommend it. The psychology in the movie that governs interactions between characters is rather thought provoking.

In this case, I'm drawn to a specific scene in which Rusty (Matt Damon) is charged with following Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) in order to learn his habits, characteristics, etc. As Rusty relays information to the group, it's clear he's truly done deep homework to understand the individual and what makes him tick.

Doing your homework on someone is not a waste of time. In fact, it's likely the most important 1-2 hours you'll spend in the process of earning a link. Here's the trick, you can't be creepy about it, you have to genuinely work to "get to know" someone. Read blog posts, learn about what they studied in school, what other things they're into, and why they are doing what they're doing. This research takes time, and depending on the situation, may take much longer than 1-2 hours.  Remember, you're working to understand this person so that you can:

  • Better communicate with them
  • Provide a true value-add
  • Decide if they are likely to engage with you or not, and determine your approach
  • Be genuine in conversation
  • Understand where they're coming from when they respond to you
  • Much, much more

Identify the Relationship Type

It's paramount that you DTR as early as possible. It's easier to define/identify the relationship on your end if you have a solid understanding of who the person is, and why they are doing what they're doing online. Is it someone simply expressing a passion? Is it a volunteer worker at a non-profit who manages the website? Is it a person driven by simply making money through their site or blog? Gotta DTR...

Gaining an understanding of why the person is doing what their doing should provide you with insight into how to build the connection. The connection is crucial and the most important part of relationship development.

Connect First, Ask Second

I've read a few posts that position this idea more as "give first, take second".  While I believe that's a decent line of thought, I think it can be misleading. The point of building the relationship should connection first. THAT is what shows you are human, not simply giving. You can never EVER give something to someone, and still develop a relationship that will earn you links.

Creating a connection is not an easy thing, but if you've gone through the first two items you'll be on solid ground to try. When starting the connection, you should have answers to:

  • Why is this person doing what they're doing
  • In what way does this person communicate (humor, quick snippets, professional, wordy/gossipy, etc.)
  • In which ways is this person choosing to communicate (email, phone, responding to comments on their site, twitter, etc.)
  • What types of things are they engaging with (information, funny notes, only related items to their site, completely unrelated topics, etc.)
  • What do I know/am I interested in that crosses over with their knowledge/interests?

This process is much easier for those with high EQ levels, or strengths related to empathy, connection, etc. These people will more naturally have the ability to be "social chamelions" who can quickly adapt nearly flawlessly to the environment around them. Please take note that this has nothing to do with individuals who are extroverted/introverted, who like to talk a lot, meet new people, etc. 

It's likely that if you've met someone with this set of strengths/abilities, they are quite genuine and you enjoy them very much. Their strengths make it easy for them to genuinely care for people, understand why they are doing what they're doing, and connect with them how they need to be connected with.

If these areas are not strengths of yours, you'll have to rely on deeper research and trial and error more than some. Don't let this stop you from working on relationship development for links, but do be aware of how the process may differ for you than others.

Find a Natural Way to Show Appreciation

Depending on the relationship type, it may be quite appropriate to simply "fulfill your end of the deal", and leave the situation at that. For instance, if you offer to write a guest post, and the person says "sure, here's how it works...", then it might be very natural to simply perform your obligation and call it good.

Bonus: As your abilities grow in this area, watch for opportunities to take a transactional/business relationship around links and turn the relationship into something different. Figuring out how to do this is not always easy, but if you're genuine and can find a deeper point of connection, the benefits can be huge.

If however you invest time in a relationship and the link(s) are coming very naturally because of the connection, then when you find the opportunity to give back a little extra, do it! Think of what happens when you receive an unexpected gift from a friend and how that makes you feel. Many times, the desire is for more connection with that individual and to reciprocate (hopefully not out of guilt). In this scenario, be the gift giver and see if you can figure what thing/thing you can do that will make that person feel valued and appreciated based on the relationship type and your connection.

Think People First, Not Links

This is the biggie, and it's hard to do when you as a link builder or other type of marketer are charged with getting those links in the door. If you can master this, you will out earn any typical "link builder" any day of the week in the link department. If everything you do is done with this frame of mind, then the steps above will come naturally, and you'll start to realize what a link really means, and how they are really earned and developed.


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