An Introduction To Link Building
It’s not often that a Small Business success captures the imagination of a nation but here in Australia, we recently had one such fleeting moment and it just so happens, provides a wonderful introduction to Link Building.
In March 2015, father & son team, Hippie dreamers, Stuart & Cedar Anderson, launched a Crowdfunding drive on Indiegogo for Flow Hive, their invention to make bee-keeping – or more appropriately, honey-gathering – considerably easier for humans and far less traumatic for bees. Flow Hive reached their US$70,000 goal in 8 minutes, US$250,000 in 15 minutes – which became Aussie TV NEWS, which fed into Social Media, which fed into the blogosphere with the end result being that by the end of the campaign, they had raised over US$13 million.
By the time that their first hives were released in October 2015, influential sites, such as Business Insider were trumpeting their success and a 30 minute Australian Story TV documentary following soon after. As a business tale, Flow Hive is both feelgood AND fascinating, because it’s not just that, for once, the little guy wins, it’s that, for once, the little guy who’s a dreamer wins. While that taps into all sorts of cultural currents, globally, where individuals feel lost in the rapid changes of the Modern world, it’s particularly pertinent for Australia. My nation prides herself on being unpretentious and the Andersons are certainly that – making them unlikely but genuine Aussie heroes.
However, from an SEO and link building perspective, Flow Hive also makes an interesting study. You see, I knew their story but didn’t remember the name, yet I found them, merely by Googling “hive kickstarter” – two terms, only two terms, when most local searches require three and national or international searches usually require three or four.
NOTE: I googled “hive kickstarter” and the Anderson’s campaign was actually on Indirgogo, not Kickstarter – even with one wrong keyword out of two, Google provided me with the right answer!
I can give you no better introduction to link building than to cite this Flow Hive example. Attempting to climb inside Google’s brain, there must be so many sites, quality sites, Social Media posts etc. that connect the terms “hive kickstarter” (or Indiegogo) to Flow Hive – possibly even through a direct link – that Google felt sure that those two wonderful Hippies and their bee friends were who I was searching for.
Link Building Explained
So, link building is the process of attempting to get other websites to link to yours. Now, in the case of Flow Hive, their (almost certainly accidental) linking strategy was:
- to find a responsive market – crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo are a hot-bed of outside the box thinkers.
- next, define your niche – I would guess that perhaps a small majority of those outside the box thinkers would be Alternative lifestyle thinkers. With no cynicism intended, they’d be Greenies, New Age, Pro-Environment etc. and Flow Hive was a perfect match
- become newsworthy – which they achieved through the speed of the market’s response, rather than their product, per se
- get bloggers & Social Media to build excitement for the product – again, their newsworthiness drove this phase, though the Aussie Hippie, Son & Dad story would have played its part &
- upon the first release of the product, become newsworthy again – predictably, the release of Flow Hive created nowhere near as much *ahem* buzz as the excitement of the Indiegogo campaign but there was enough momentum to get that Business Insider story, at least. Other than that, I can’t find any major newspaper that covered the release, unfortunately. In that respect, I’d say that Flow Hive missed a fine opportunity. If they had put aside a budget of e.g. $100,000 for Publicity – less than 1% of the Indiegogo total raised- they could have created a 30 second video commercial, starring themselves + happy animation bees video buzzing everywhere. The commercial would have created enormous publicity around the world, while building another level of links.
Link Building & Small Business
Well, that’s all very well for the near-fairytale of Flow Hive, where sites wanted to link to them but for most business sites, it’s you who want them to link to you – a far more difficult prospect. You could say that link building is a lesser but more dynamic form of Citation, in that you’re attempting to get other websites to building your reputation by mentioning or referencing your site officially with a link e.g. if online local newspapers, universities, local charities, schools, festivals, local bloggers etc. mention you, it could certainly help your site’s reputation. Further, if those links provide (relatively) substantial traffic to your site, they could actually become lucrative to your business.
The Right Way To Build Links
For most small businesses, link building is laborious and usually tedious. It really is a question of approaching sites like:
- your local Chamber of Commerce or Business forums etc.
- your suppliers or distributors or
- finding related sites and and asking for or giving them a reason to link to you
Thinking outside the box and creating content that is distributed on the internet and generates links for you is not often cheap. One idea that I’ve seen work, is creating infographics of industry-wide statistics or trends that are relevant to your industry. Then, approach other sites within your industry and ask if they’d like to use it (the protocol being that if they use your content, they link back to your site).
There are other methods but each needs discussion and planning to get the best return for your marketing budget.
The Wrong Way To Build Links
However, on a national or international level, the problem of gaining links becomes exponentially more difficult and there is a small industry built around all sorts of link building techniques, strategies, software tools etc. Some of the highly dubious techniques still being offered by SEO companies – particularly Third World-based sellers – include:
- Writing guest blog posts for you (with, once more, the protocol being that they link back to your site)
- Posting in Industry forums, using your name, which link back to your site
- Offering to get your site bookmarked by SPAM blogs etc.
Avoid them, please! You should only be associating your site with content of the highest quality as anything else may harm your online reputation.