Do you offer link building?

I get asked this question and it makes me sad. The answer is no. If your goal is to get links, I will not help you. Here’s why, in the 10 most common questions I get and my answers.

1. You offer link audits, so surely you must know a lot about what good linking entails?

Yes I do, but just as I know how to smoke a cigarette but choose not to do it, I choose not to do link building because it is unhealthy.

2. Search engines require links to succeed, right?

Yes and no. Yes, you need a basis of good links to show that you know what you’re talking about and establish you as an authority in a space. You also need some citations (address listings) to help you perform well in local search. Finally, you need to gain new links on a regular basis. But you do not need x thousand links to compete. Linking is only one element of the algorithm.

3. When you say “gain new links on a regular basis”, what do you mean?

I mean you need to continually be creating something that is interesting enough that people will share it and/or talk about it. Regular for you might be 10-20 links a day, it might be 10-20 links a month, or it might be 5 links a year. It depends on your industry, your audience, and your competition.

4. So how many links do I need for my industry, audience and competition?

You are missing the point, my friend. But I will tell you this. It varies. It varies a great deal, and it’s better to ask a different question.

5. How often do you need to communicate with your customers and industry publications to remain relevant?

Is yours an industry that is highly seasonal, that only needs occasional reminders throughout the year and then a lot of punchy hits just before the season starts? Or is your need more consistent, but low-key? Think of how often a restaurant needs to communicate to stay relevant vs. a termite inspection company. People eat at restaurants every day, sometimes three times a day. They only need a termite inspection once a year.

6. Are you saying “if you build it, they will come”?

No. They absolutely will not come to you unless you provide them with something they need. So focus on that in your communications; what will help your prospective customers the most? Give away information, ideas, and tools for free. They’ll come back, and when they need more, you’ll be top of mind.

7. So I get the whole “create good content” thing, but what kind of content do I create?

Create what will help people. If it’s a long whitepaper detailing a scientific discovery, write it. If they only need an infographic, work with a good designer and create one. If more regular, consistent communication is key, start daily or weekly updates. Wacky Product Use Wednesday, or Fan Friday isn’t too cheesy if it’s done well.

8. How often do I need to communicate? And what do you mean by communicate?

I mean engage. It could be with social media, with blog posts or with in person speaking engagements. Whatever you have time for that works. As to how often? Let your resources be your guide. Start slow and work your way up.

9. Ok, I get it. But how does all this get me links?

Sigh. You don’t get it. It’s not about the links. It’s about building your brand, making yourself relevant, and remaining top of mind. While building a site won’t get you links automatically, being a consistent and compelling entity (person or company) will earn you links. But by the time that happens, you won’t be counting links anymore, because you’ll see how much just being a great and communicative brand does for you. And maybe you’ll even rely less on Google for your traffic.

If this all seems a bit oversimplified to you, that’s because it is. Oversimplified, not simple. The bottom line is that you should focus on building your business. Create a great product or service that customers will want to talk about. Provide excellent customer service and listen to feedback. Be useful and relevant in a way that isn’t annoying. Forget about any shortcuts to ranking #1 on Google. Google is completely focused on providing the best possible user experience for their visitors. Even if your infographic on 12 great ways to pick your nose is trending today, that’s fleeting. Because it’s not something that’s truly useful, unless you’re Kleenex.

And for the final question:

10. What if I need help? I’m just one man/woman/company.

Hire someone who takes the right approach (the one described above). Disqualify them if they use any of the following words or phrases: link juice, pagerank, article submission, directories (other than in the context of citation building), link buying, content marketing. All of these things may have their place, but they don’t belong in a discussion of branding. Approve and edit all content yourself. Know where it’s placed and who it’s placed with.

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