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Relationship Building: More Than Just Trading Links

Relationship Building

The other day I received an email from another blogger. In it there was a great infographic blog post, which I was seconds away from sharing. Then I noticed the quid pro quo at the end of the email: Post a link to my post and I’ll post a link to one of yours.

This isn’t a new link building technique. Bloggers have been pitching bloggers for years now. Today, however, the prospect of an inbound link wasn’t just a waste of time; it made the relationship this blogger was trying to build seem superficial at the outset.

Relationships as a Ranking Factor

Recently, the marketing world realized that Google+ is as much a social network as GE is a light bulb company. Most SEOs expect a content creator’s authority, with Google+ as an identity engine, to become one of the primary factors in ranking, if not the primary factor.

Google, as Google has always tried to do, is putting expertise ahead of simple popularity. On the flip side, Facebook is putting popularity ahead of expertise with the launch of Graph Search and its deep integration with Bing. In both instances, authority is going to matter more in search than links, and the only way to build authority is to build relationships.

Out with the Old and In with the Old

Basically, we’ve reached the point in internet marketing where all of the old ways of doing business are again the way we do business.

Relationship building is like old school public and media relations, which you can either outsource to an agency or do yourself. Instead of sending press releases or pitches hoping for coverage, your offering to write content or sharing your existing content. (The good news: Social networks make this a lot easier.)

Now think back to how this was once done: You would write a personalized pitch, send that pitch to a contact and follow-up when that contact request information for you. The quid pro quo was exchange of information. Whether you were mailing, faxing or phoning announcements, you had to make the information worth the contact’s time. The worst thing you could do: Just send a press release (or, in the case of a link trading scheme, payola).

The Value of a Relationship

Suddenly, connection have become much more valuable. And valuable connections are becoming invaluable. The internet makes it easier to make connections, but it’s what happens offline that truly matters.

A true relationship building strategy is a long-term endeavor. Even if finding connections online is easier, contacting them with relevant information is what matters.

In the old days (2005), it took me a few months to develop a relationship with a cold reporter contact and a few solid weeks to develop a relationship with a blogger. Why? Because I had to find that contact. I had to determine if what I was planning to send was worth their while. And I had to maintain that relationship by providing embargoed info so he or she could prepare an article or sending information to a contact first (or exclusively).

I enjoyed every second communicating with these contacts, even just checking in to say “Hi.” And the contacts I didn’t enjoy communicating with? I’m only human. They weren’t the first people I would go to with announcements. A strong relationship, in my experience, has always been much more valuable than a casual one. Which is exactly why quid pro quo pitches, like the one I received, are so valueless.

photo credit: SalFalko