Ouch: Relationship Building is Not about SEO at All!
It's official now: relationship building replaces link building in SEO. I've been preaching relationships for years as part of SEO 2.0 but now the approach arrived in the SEO mainstream. I'm glad it has. There is just one problem with relationship building as applied using the old school SEO mindset: it doesn't scale! Ouch!
You can't build 100 relationships like you built 100 links in the era of SEO 1.0
So relationship building is not a one to one replacement, it's much more than link building but also much less. Most importantly relationship building is not about SEO at all. Relationship to like minded individuals is a prerequisite to get noticed and ultimately to gain links but you do not forge relationships with people only for the inbound link of it. Why?
People are not stupid and they'll notice you're behaving strangely and have something else in mind than you pretend to.
The good news is that having friends online or maybe even in real life will actually result in getting links. So how does this SEO 2.0 relationship voodoo work and how can I make it scale?
I'll give you an example that is easily to understand: when publishing online to get traction on social media you need the so called "initial push" of shares to get your message out. SEO agency employees will ask their colleagues to like, tweet, plus or vote for their new post for example. This way the article gets noticed by several others interested in the subject matter.
In case it makes sense some of them like, tweet, plus and vote as well. After a dozen or two shares the post even more people notice and thus the post becomes popular ideally. Afterwards it gets added to the curated lists of important posts etc. and thus gets additional links. This is the whole story you are after.
Sadly poor guys like myself who can't afford to pay a whole team of SEO practitioners have a disadvantage as it might appear: they have nobody to give that initial push to get the ball rolling.
They have to beg influencers to help them or something similar. Or they have real relationships with their peers and thus get the initial push organically without pushing anybody. By forging a relationship prior to publishing their flagship content they made some people potentially interested in their work and aware of them. Ideally they became trustworthy and reputable already. So once they publish their masterpiece everybody is already awaiting it and glad to give it the initial push.
So how do you build relationships in SEO 2.0 manner?
- You forget that hideous link building thing you are after.
- First you look out for great people you actually like who also cover the topic you are interested in or optimize for.
- You search for the curators, the connectors, the bloggers.
- You don't look after the egoists, the "I am an island" people, the ignorant self-promoters.
- You share their content first, you help them where you can, you promote them.
You connect with the people who are genuinely likeable as human beings and then magic happens.
These people actually like you too as long as you are likeable! You don't even have to go to expensive conferences or trade fairs. You can connect with them online using social channels of your choice.
Then one day you publish that cool piece about your favorite topic and your online peers are delighted to help you. They share it, they even link to it but most importantly they make their friends and followers notice. So in case you have something to say, to show or even to sell that has actual value the word will spread. This is how relationship building scales.
You just need 10 supportive online peers to get a 100, a 1000, or 10k shares and links!
It all depends on the content quality and the actual value. The initial push is just that, a good start. Don't look upon people as a means to an end and they will support you. Mutual aid is a natural trait of our species. SEO is just a hypermodern way to apply it.
* Creative Commons image by Arno Meintjes.