When demand for a product or service shifts, marketing responses shift with them. Changing consumer preferences drive what solutions are offered, to whom and for how much so when I saw the following ads, I thought “what the hell is driving this?”
I am the first one to raise my hand and say link building can be tedious, difficult, time consuming and uber boring, but scary? I’ve never associated fear with the process of securing links. I’m not sure why these ads are running (no one from the ad company responded to my email) but apparently someone feels there’s enough demand to warrant an ad campaign targeting people afraid to build links.
Hmmmm. Afraid to build links…where is this “scary” mindset coming from?
Not too long ago there were some very high-profile outings by major media of mega brands like JCPenney and Overstock. People lost their jobs, pages lost their rankings and general embarrassment ensued but… did those stories scare people into not wanting to build links on their own?
I wrote the ads off as amusing advertising angles and forgot about them until I was sent this link last week, it’s an outing of a SEO company by the 9To5Mac blog. Seems the SEO company sent 9To5Mac a basic link request and 9To5Mac decided to use the exchange for attention-bait. The SEO company asked 9To5 to hyperlink a phrase in one of their recent posts on behalf of a client, they didn’t offer any money for this action nor promised a reciprocal link. As a matter of fact, the SEO was very clear to say changing the link would be helpful to them and nothing more. Instead of ignoring the request or saying no, 9To5 Mac decided to publish the email in a blog post and draw parallels between what happened to them with what happened to JCPenney.
Ouch! Trying to fan the paid link flames when there is no fire is ridiculous and serves no purpose. I’m not afraid of any aspect of link building but I am afraid of people who spread misinformation for the purpose of creating buzz.
There are a lot of ways to build links, one of the more basic but sound tactics involves sending link building requests. If you’re not familiar with how this works, here’s a quick outline:
1. Webmaster A wants to build links, brand and traffic to her website so she identifies and “targets” a handful of sites in her industry who fit the profile. Because she’s a smart webmaster, she goes after highly visible sites her customers frequent when they’re not buying from her or doing something more mundane like sleeping. She makes sure those sites aren’t linking to crap and the majority of pages are in the index. As an added bonus, she checks to see if they are active in social media and their offline community.
2. Webmaster A also makes note of what the target site publishes and when, she reads their content and becomes familiar with it. This is what makes Webmaster A so smart, she knows she has to convince the target site to give her a link so she learns everything she can about it. She even sets a Google alert for her keyword terms so she’s instantly aware when the target site incorporates new content relevant to her interests.
3. Satisfied the potential partner sites are leaders in her niche, Webmaster A drafts a well-written note to target Webmaster and asks if he would add her link. She makes a case why her content would be an asset on the target site and how both sites will benefit by the action.
4. The Webmaster on the target site receives the email and decides what he wants to do. If the email is convincing and he feels there is value by adding Webmaster A’s link, he’ll make an editorial decision to add her link (content) to his website.
The key term in this process, or any link building tactic sanctioned by the engines is “editorial decision“. When a webmaster gives a link or adds content freely based on it’s merit, that’s an editorial decision. This is the same concept used by newspapers and magazines to run stories and features, if the piece doesn’t add value, the editor won’t include it. Presenting content (a link) to someone and asking them to include it doesn’t negate the editorial decision, the editor still has to decide if there’s value before adding it. There’s no harm, no foul in bringing your content to someone’s attention, that’s called good marketing.
For reference, here are the definitions of ” link schemes” from both Bing and Google (actually, Google has two, here’s the other). Both are good resources to keep handy and reference if you’re unsure about anything you read in cyberspace.
There’s a fine line between marketing and manipulation, but in this case, outside the fact the SEO company did a lousy job with their initial link request, I don’t see where this remotely resembles what JCPenney did or can be considered a “no-no”. Do you?
Requesting editorial links via email shouldn’t scare anyone, it’s a sound tactic used by many with great success. Not only can you secure links but this type of link building can opens doors and stimulate additional promotions and special events between two companies.
Sometimes all you have to do is ask. 🙂