Links are- and probably always will be- an important part of SEO, serving as a ranking signal that search engines use to asses a website’s authority. By generating high-quality links to your website you can improve its presence over time. But at the end of the day, you need to look beyond the link to improve your SEO strategy. I’d argue that one of the greatest opportunities that precede a new inbound link is the potential for establishing ongoing relationships with the people and businesses behind them.

Great content starts the discussion

On the drive into work I was listening to a great episode of the Mad Marketing Podcast by Marcus Sheridan. With the question of “How do I get more inbound links,” Marcus’ response was right on-par: create great content that answers your customers questions.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that generating awesome content is a surefire way to earn inbound links. Controversial articles, pillar posts, whitepapers, and other forms of content marketing are wonderful.

But I’ll take that one step further and suggest the process of link-building is what can really influence your inbound links. Your approach to link-building could be more efficient if looked at the same way we earn links build relationships offline.

Links are simply icing on the cake

From an SEO standpoint, links are Google’s reward to website owners for being great marketers on the web.

Receiving an inbound link to your website is like another website owner saying to Google, “I think this company has an awesome perspective on topic XYZ, and I vouch for what they’re preaching!”

In offline terms, it’s analogous to a current client recommending your product/service to a prospective client.

The cake is the relationships we build

If links are icing on the cake, then the cake itself is the relationships we build from writing great content, navigating through the “blogosphere” to leave engaging comments on other blogs, and ultimately creating dialogue.

By building your internet marketing strategy around this mantra, you’ll experience greater results beyond the link. For instance, social shares from respected members of your industry, referrals from similar firms, and guest post opportunities are just a small list of potential benefits.

Talk about an organic route to expanding your online presence…

People linked together

You don’t need links to run a business, but you do need relationships

Most web-savvy marketers realize that Google has picked up on the dirty link-building tactics of the past. But the marketers who approached link-building online as they would approach relationship-building offline fared much better following Google’s major algorithm changes in the past year.

Why didn’t their website get penalized following the Panda and Penguin updates?

First, their website was loaded with useful and informative content that helped solve customer problems. Second, they focused on building real, genuine links (the quality over quantity approach), with their sights set on the net benefit: relationships with website/business owners.

Not only did the links themselves have more meaning on this new-found path to organic glory, but the relationships that resulted carried more significance for the business.

Let’s get back to business and start building relationships

Links are one of the many signals Google uses to rank a website. Nothing to debate there.

But your customers aren’t ranking your website- your customers are ranking your business. They want to know that you are an authority in your niche, have a solid reputation, and are respected by your competitors.

By taking a relationship-first approach to marketing your business, the links will surely follow. So please, get back to business and let the links fall where they may.

What’s Your Take on Link-Building and Establishing Relationships?

Do you agree or disagree with this approach? I would love to hear your take on links, and why so many companies are willing to put all of their eggs in the “get more links” basket, rather than focusing on the big picture marketing.

About Sara Mannix

Sara Mannix is the CEO of Mannix Marketing, Inc., a Digital Marketing Agency headquartered in Glens Falls, NY. She founded Mannix Marketing in 1996 with a goal to get clients "found" on the web through organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The company now serves over 1500 clients worldwide and employs a team of over 30 specialists, still operating under the tagline "We Get You Found On The Web." This multifaceted company is an industry leader, specializing in organic SEO, Link Earning, SEO-friendly Website Design, Online Advertising, Social Media and more. Mannix Marketing also has one of the largest portfolios of tourism and city guides in Upstate New York. These guides, which include Albany.com, Saratoga.com, LakeGeorge.com, GlensFallsRegion.com, CliftonPark.com and Adirondack.net, reach over 10 million visitors a year. Corresponding social media profiles for the region extend this reach to millions more on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and more.