Building connections at Columbia, NYC, in 1911 (courtesy Library of Congress on Flickr Commons)Who is most likely to link to your content?

Those who find it valuable, but especially other online publishers who know you, appreciate your work and want to help give you a boost.

How do you get their attention and interest?

By building personal and professional working relationships, on- and off-line.

Sorry, no magic pixie dust here. Blogger outreach and social networking take time and effort.

Hey, You! Gimme A Link

I thought about all this when I saw a posting on the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) site.

The “Country Vacations & Resorts” vacation rental site (hell no, they aren’t getting a link from me here) was making a bid for linkbuilding by getting bloggers to run their prewritten content as guest posts:

“Guest site [to run a Country Vacations-provided post] must be at least a PR2 [PageRank 2 on Google.] Posts are unique and only for one publication per post. Have several 400-500 word articles that will need “homes”, 1 link (required), 1 image (I provide), would be great but not required. Happy to consider exchange posts with my blog….”

They want links from sites that rank at their PR or higher (my stats show they’re currently PR2 – as a comparison, this blog is PR4) and they want one deep link back to their blog from a wide variety of other blogs.

If I saw this guest post, I would no doubt find very carefully placed links back to specific Country Vacations content, with anchor text chosen to support their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for certain keywords.

Links: Coin Of The Realm For Search

There’s nothing illegal here. None of it smacks of black hat SEO; it’s all pretty much in line with Google guidance on quality links and linkbuilding although I wouldn’t exactly call it the “natural” linkbuilding that Google says it prefers.

Here’s why all of this matters….the number, type and quality of inbound links to your content has a direct impact on where you rank in search engines. Links from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and many other social sites are “no follow” – they don’t count in Google’s algorithm (although they’re fine for humans, who DO still matter.) So, all that retweeting of a link to your blog post is not as powerful, SEO-wise, as a direct link to the post from a quality site (there are some rumblings, however, that social signals are starting to count in search for both Google and Bing.)

From what I’ve seen, everyone opining about how to get links ends up saying some version of, “Suck up to people really hard and then ask them for a link.” Let me tell you, that works a lot better with people who already know, respect and like you. Otherwise, remove your lips from their bottom, pronto.

The issue here is the randomness of the request in the example above;  it was tossed out in a travel blogger’s forum, for all comers. Hey – Newsflash! Those who are that desperate for content are not the bloggers you want.

Online publishers (well, the good ones) are rather picky about what they post. Why would anyone take some random company’s content, slap it on their precious digital baby, bore/disgust their readers and tacitly endorse a company that didn’t take the time to build a relationship?

What To Do (Instead Of Random Crap) To Build Links

**  Publish interesting, quality stuff that helps and informs your readers. Period.  It’s the hardest thing to do consistently, and the most critical.  After you publish, make sure people can find out about it. Yep, it’s a marketing game. Crafting the content is only the start.

**  Network your tail off on the social Web to get in front of those who might link to your work. Connect with people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Follow hashtags where bloggers congregate, like #blogchat every Sunday night, 8 pm CST with Mack Collier.

**  Network your tail off IRL (In Real Life.) Go where the geeks are. Attend conferences like BlogWorld and New Media Expo, South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) or niche-specific ones like BlogHer Food (for food bloggers.)  Get that blog URL on the business cards you hand out, too, and follow up after the conference.

**  Once you have a good relationship – however long it takes to build it – then make your pitch. For example, are you a California destination? Ask relevant people in your blogger network if they might be interested in a guest post from you about certain highlights of your town; even a general Q&A with you would be fine. Try to craft your guest post your way, but remember, it’s their blog.

**  Give to get. Do plenty of linking out yourself, to quality content; it is noticed and appreciated by the link recipient. I remember the days when I was a newish blogger and got a big ol’ fat link to one of my posts from a big-deal website. It happened because the author and I connected online and became friends, so she was looking out for me and helping me grow.  Thanks, Liz Strauss, for not turning up your nose at my PageRank back then. 🙂

Building links is part of blogging – that’s one reason I still run the Carnival of Cities blog carnival after all these years. It’s my way of highlighting blogs and giving back, through links and attention.

How do you inspire people to link to your content? Please let us know down in the comments….

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