One Link Stands vs Social Media Relationships


I get mails asking for links every day.

  • Some of them are clumsy or downright spammy guest blogging pitches
  • some are old school type of “I linked to you (so link back to me)” barter attempts
  • others are legitimate and well intended offers of products to test or events to take part in.

All these messages have one thing in common: they are all cold outreach by people I have never even heard of yet despite dealing with the same topic or industry they’re in. It’s called cold outreach or cold mailing as in cold calling.

We know by now that cold calling is an outdated “outbound marketing” technique that has no real place in a modern society

where inbound marketing techniques are much more effective. You don’t have to annoy people, you can help them actually and pull them in. Still blogger outreach is one of the most popular ways to build links nowadays. It’s link building again, not getting or earning links. In the best case your product rocks and when the blogger tests it you will get a positive review. Is there no better solution out there?

Cold Outreach as a Fast Track to Links

I have written a few times that there is nothing wrong with guest blogging or blogger outreach as long as it is done right and not the only type of link building you do. In the broader context of inbound marketing it’s of course by far not sufficient.

Your goal needs to be getting people to visit your site of their own accord and then find your products.

Reaching out or guest blogging is bypassing a due process.

In a way you want to get the link right away without truly deserving it. Otherwise you would get it without needing to reach out. I understand there are many cases where you really need to get the word out the fast track way, when you are a starting out a business for example. Ideally you don’t rush things though.

Cold Outreach Limitations

Additionally almost all cold outreach types display the same limitations.

  1. They are first contact attempts by strangers out of the blue.
  2. They are one-time events, “give me the link an you’ll never see me again”.
  3. They are often one-sided, just focused on the short term SEO benefit.

You might argue that as long as it works why change it? It doesn’t work in many cases. Already there are SEO agencies who clean up their backlink profiles from generic repetitive guest posting links. Google is already trying to curb free product give aways as another type of “paid links” and so on. Even without considering these ramifications

it’s not like SEO works these days. You don’t get one link per domain like you did a few years ago to enhance domain popularity.

Today you want to get links and social media shares all the time. Old links lose value over time. Without getting shares continuously you won’t be able to sustain your rankings over long periods of time anymore. As new events unfold current news, fresh images and videos will outrank you too.

Building Relationships Instead of Links?

We’ve seen lots of articles proclaiming that relationship building is the new link building. In fact I have been one of the first people to stress that relationships are more important than technology five years ago already. Sadly the average SEO blogger dealing with building relationships for SEO is taking a shortcut usually.

Social media relationships are not a one to one replacement for links

It’s not building 100 relationships like you built 100 links. You rather build 10 relationships and get 100 links out of them in case you want numbers. Relationships are not measured by numbers. They are measured by trust.

That’s why you don’t build relationships via email or cold outreach. Outreach can be a starting point for a relationship but usually you’d use social media first to establish a relationship and then one day get a link or share.

That’s the main difference between one link stands as I like to call them and social media relationships: getting together without having to link first.

It’s like with real life mating. Approaching hundreds of potential partners in a row vs having a few long time partners in your life time like most of the people in the western hemisphere have. Luckily on the Web you don’t have to marry so the allegory ends here. Social media relationships are non-exclusive.

Technical relationship building blueprint

Let me give you a technical blueprint of relationship building that simplifies the process to make it clearer. By technical I mean one that does show only what you do and not what you and other feels while you do it. Without being authentic and open-minded this doesn’t work though. People sense that you’re just after the link and are not engaging sincerely.

Month 1:

  • Locating and following like-minded individuals dealing with your topic.
  • Following their updates, reading their articles, getting to know them.
  • Sharing valuable third party content that might be of interest to the people you follow.

Month 2:

  • Engaging with the above mentioned individuals, by re-sharing their updates, answering their questions, pointing out issues (like broken links) etc.
  • Sorting out those who don’t care, never reply or even seem to notice and unfollowing them.
  • Focusing on the friendly ones that converse and engage with you. Looking up their sites, sharing their content of your own accord.

Month 3:

  • Asking your own questions, open ones where not only a yes or no answer is required.
  • Sharing your first pieces of content occasionally, maintaining a ratio of at least 3 to 1 (three content pieces from other sources, one your own).
  • Sending private messages to your favourite peers that have followed back and engaged with you earlier on. For example you could ask for participation in a group post.

Month 4:

Congratulations! You are having links together!

  • Some of the people you send the messages to took part in your group post. Then they shared the actual post on social media.
  • Your first pieces of content you shared got some traction and even ended up in digest postings compiling lists of latest news.
  • Someone got inspired by your questions and has written a lengthy reply on their blog!

It can work after 3 months or after 6 months. In case you’re engaging daily and not only occasionally it can get results faster of course. It can take much longer though or never work at all when you are not acting genuinely, like a real person, not just a brand representative.

Relationships Equal Scalability and Automation

There are many pitfalls along the way. Also your content may be low quality or unreadable so the people wont share it despite relationships. I’m taking many things for granted here. So don’t assume that social media relationships are all you need. A blog with fresh content that gets regularly updated is a prerequisite too.

People on social media will rarely share commercial pages like for example landing pages or product pages.

The best thing about relationships is that they are “scalable” once they exist and they work automatically once they are established. That is you don’t need to contact the same people each time to share your post unlike when doing outreach where everything gets done over and over. So you get numerous links from one person. Each time something you publish rocks and they notice it they will share, like or plus it.

It’s like in real life. One night stands just mean sex once while in relationships you make love over and over.

That’s the main difference too. People care about you once you relate to each other while cold outreach is just a better link exchange. Here you exchange content for a link usually as in guest blogging.

So don’t go after one link stands aim for social media relationships and bring the flowers.

Check out these outside resources for additional insights:

  1. Screw Link Building, It’s Called Relationship Building! – Search Engine Watch
  2. Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For : zenhabits
  3. Sustainable Link Building Through Relationships – Wow Internet Blog
  4. Build Relationships Not Links – YouMoz | SEOmoz
  5. Build links not (just) relationships | Skyrocket SEO
  6. How to Scale Relationship Building to Earn Awesome Links | Thunder SEO
  7. Build Better Blogger Relationships This Valentine’s Day

* Creative Commons image by Aleera.