Search Marketing Expo (SMX) – Link Building & Content Marketing with John Ball

Business Owners

natural links buildingThis past Wednesday and Thursday I got the opportunity to pop in on a few sessions the SMX (Search Marketing Expo) in Seattle, Washington. Search Marketing isn’t really my primary focus, but John Ball’s session on Link Building & Content Marketing sounded interesting, especially because I do a lot of content marketing but not much link building.

It was a fantastic use of an hour and a half.

The Shocking Truths

Link Building is still valuable

Content Marketing is hot. Ever since spring 2013, it’s become the cool kid everyone wants to know. But I was a bit surprised to find out the link building was still not only very much alive, but also still incredibly valuable, despite some people’s protestations. Check out what Google’s Matt Cutts says about it:

When approaching someone for a link, use an email at your domain

When asking for someone to link to your site, make sure you use an email that comes from your domain. Be real; be personable; be human when asking for links.

You can create link building without content

WHAT?! When John first said this, I was a bit surprised. Everybody’s about content marketing and if you aren’t creating anything, why would anyone link to you? Check out the great ideas he gave, listed below.

How to do it

The steps for link building are deceptively simple:

  1. Find a target site
  2. Ask for a link

But that first step isn’t as straight-forward as you’d think simply because there are so many options for why you’d target a site.

Before I even talk about that, though, I wanted to mention one other thing: give the love to get the love. Link to people that deserve links – that you think are awesome. That can either be on a resource page (which John highly recommended) or even within blog posts.

The ideas I found most interesting were the ways to build links without content:

  • Get listed on relevant directories (where are your competitors listed?)
  • Find Resource Pages (about your field) – ask for links
  • Give stuff away
  • find anyone who’s ever mentioned your name and ask them for a link
  • Give awards (badges)

For content marketing, John offered some great ideas as well:

  • Review everything in your niche (using photographic, video, and textual reviews)
  • Interview experts in your field
  • Write testimonials for other people when they do a fantastic job for you – and if they add it to their site, ask if they’ll link to your site
  • Libraries of information – make something that other people can use; do a study and give it to someone who can use it;
  • Do original research

The 30 Second Company Reviews

At the end, they did something really awesome: they asked for volunteers to present their sites for evaluation. John’s company, Page One Power, had several employees there who each gave ideas on how to increase the volunteer’s site’s links. Here’s the summary list from all three sites:

  • Your company has products? do a give-away; people will link to it and share it.
  • Research your competitors and who is linking to them, and then get those links;
  • Pull up target keywords and ask the high ranking sites to link to you
  • Set Google alerts – for any derivative of your brand name so that you can ask for links back to your site
  • buzzSumo – find out what content performs best for any topic or competitor and find the key influencers who share your content
  • reach out to someone who is authoritative within that niche; create a giant round-up of people
  • create an infographic
  • partner up with other people and do an educational compaign about your product
  • can you get .gov links? do it!
  • get listed in resources pages and industry associations
  • find services your clients need before they come to you and after they leave you – and blog about them and see if they’ll link back and share

What do you think about link building? Let me know what you do to build links!