Confession: In almost four years of working with one of my clients, we’ve only done six hours of traditional link building.*
That was spread across April and May of 2010. Haven’t done any since then, and don’t plan to ever again.
Why? Because it didn’t produce a high enough ROI (return on investment) to justify my time and the client’s money. (The fact that I hate doing traditional link building didn’t hurt, either.)
And yet, even though we stopped doing what’s generally considered the most necessary SEO tactic, traffic from search has skyrocketed since April 2010.
Search traffic is approaching six figures per month, and in May search traffic was 5x times higher than a year ago.
And no link building.
(By the way, the website sells products and the monthly revenue chart looks a lot like the one above. That’s ultimately more important than search traffic, of course.)
No Link Building … But Lots of Authority Building
Rather than link building, we’ve been doing what I’ll call authority building. It’s more commonly known as Public Relations (PR) or Media Relations.
This subject came up today during the regular #SEOchat on Twitter, and I tweeted a couple times about how this client and I are using Help a Reporter Out — HARO, as it’s commonly called — to reach out to media outlets that are looking for sources and get exposure from sources like these:
Those are some great mentions for any business, right? But understand that this is a small business owner we’re talking about — not some national or even regional company.
I know that not every small business owner can replicate the success we’ve had, but here’s an overview of what we’ve done if you (or your client) want to try.
Using HARO for Authority Building
1.) Prove your expertise via blogging. If you want USA Today to treat you like an expert source, you have to prove it on your website. This small business owner has been blogging since late 2009, creating vital content and becoming a brand.
2.) Subscribe to HARO and look for opportunities. We use the free subscription that sends three emails per day to MY inbox. I read through the opportunities, cut-and-paste anything that’s potentially relevant, then email the client for the final decision on what’s worth pursuing.
This is important: If interested, the client contacts the journalist directly. I don’t do the outreach. The office manager doesn’t do the outreach. It comes straight from the expert — the person that US News & World Report wants to hear from.
3.) Refer the journalist to relevant articles already published. With a great library of vital content (from #1 above), it’s easy to show journalists that you know the subject and can be the needed expert.
4.) Use social proof. As you start to get cited in media outlets, blogs, or wherever, do an “As Seen In” chart like the image shown above. It’s social proof. The writer from Woman’s Day is more likely to want to talk to you if she can see that you’ve already been interviewed and cited by other outlets.
5.) Be patient. Depending on your industry, HARO may not be a consistent source of PR leads. In this client’s field, there are usually 3-5 opportunities per week, but that’s rare. But, as Greg Shuey said during #SEOchat today, “when you do get [a lead] and get a link out of it … it is worth its weight in gold!”
Amen to that.
It’s better than link building, in my opinion. Sure, you can get links from some of these media mentions, but you won’t get them from each media interview.
To me, the link is great, but it’s secondary to just getting the exposure.
Exposure in major outlets like USA Today or Glamour or MSN is the kind of thing that creates trust and authority. When you have trust and authority, it’s easier to sell products and services. And that’s how you reach your ultimate goal: increasing revenue and profits.
* By “traditional link building,” I mean the process of looking for sites that might be willing to link to the client and cold-contacting them to ask for the link. There are many variations on the specifics/details, but that’s the general thing I’m referring to when I use the phrase “traditional link building.”
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)