Make Friends Not Links

makefriends-notlinks-imageLast week our team experimented with a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) post and it yielded some thought provoking questions from fellow ecommerce professionals and business owners.

One question in particular got our office buzzing with conversation and debate.  The question addressed the topic of link building.  The inquirer wanted to know if techniques that worked in the past still hold validity today.

Our General Manager, Linda Bateman, came up with a response that really hit the spot and we want to share it with you:

Always a good question, as it sparks so much debate about how to read the minds of the spam team at Google.

Let me start by saying that in the world of linking, only ONE thing is ENTIRELY true… it’ll be all different tomorrow.

If you are in the practice of link building for the sake of SEO, then the game has completely changed.

Think about this: WHY DO WE LINK?

When you can answer that question without using SEO in the answer, then you will be on the right track.

If you switch your thinking from linking to engagement, now you have a better understanding of WHY we link.

I want to try and change your mind about building links. Instead, think engagement building, which actually returns linking to its original reason for existing: to share.

Smart companies have figured out that having 100,000 links from a myriad of directories, press releases or blog sites doesn’t tend to increase readership to their site. But, if they find a way to engage a network of people from another site, THAT can. These successful companies have figured out a way to build engagement strategies that include social and personal connections that may result in a shared link. THEN, through engagements, those companies’ sites are bringing in readership from another referring source that can now be considered a credible link. It’s just not as successful the other way around.

Think about your elementary school lunchtime cafeteria. If you have a big lunch, would you walk around the table and hand everyone a little bit of your lunch, expecting them to be your friend? Or would you get to know people first and then share your lunch? Which works better in the end?

My interpretation of all of the links talk is still simple. If the link doesn’t provide some value and makes you say “meh”, the likelihood is Google sees it the same way.

‘Techniques’ for today’s engagement strategy (link building) is the same as it has ever been. Take the time to learn the industry and find the networks of supporters who want to share information. Make friends, not links.”

What are your thoughts on link building?  We’d love to hear more – keep the conversation flowing!

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