As SEO’s, when we set out to tackle any short or long-term project, we must now take into account the power of relationships when plotting our overall strategy; at the end of the day, the relationships we nourish and strengthen are what really make a difference in the pursuit of our end goals. The “social” in “social media” for SEOs is all about creating strong networks of support. The old adage of ‘content is king’ only goes so far – without a kingdom you’re nothing.
In my opinion, you need to immerse yourself in any niche that you’re lucky enough to work in.
Yep, that’s right – you need to understand that working for a client is a privilege. They’re trusting you, someone that they often haven’t met, to develop the online presence of their business. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing outreach for a link building campaign, writing content for guest posts, or coming up with the entire SEO strategy: you have to care. That includes understanding the ins and outs of the business, the industry, and the influential members of that community.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling hosepipes or accountancy services, there are always people that you could – and should – be building relationships with.
The Exponential Power of Link-Building
In the arena of link-building, your relationships with prominent bloggers, movers and shakers, SEO professionals and other web ninjas are crucial. As Google’s Panda and Penguin have shown, the trend in the search engine field has shifted towards link quality over quantity. The rubber is finally meeting the road as far as link and web page authority is concerned.
Building trust is vital, and it can take quite a lot of groundwork to make that happen. It’s a lot easier to screw up that trust than it is to build it, so be careful and treat your contacts with respect; they’re not just there to help you – they’re actual living, breathing people who run sites and have families… so don’t go out to get what you want and then never call again. SEO isn’t a one night stand.
Doing Social Networking Right
The hot trend in just about every industry is to cram the importance of a shotgun approach to social media down the throats of every man, woman and child. Just “friending” everything with a pulse and a profile isn’t really the right way to do it. Aside from just connecting with peers in your niche, it’s also quite important to build a presence through value creation. Pop onto Quora every day and chime in on a question that’s relevant to your area of expertise. Create a group on LinkedIn and put some genuine effort into making it a forum for honest discourse. Write blogs posts that don’t stink. In short… add value.
Giving up your time and expertise freely on sites like Quora and Facebook without thinking of any payback that’ll directly benefit you or your client is an important thing to do. Part of this approach is all about improving the general well-being of your industry. It will also establish you as an authority, which is much more valuable overall than mere fleeting connections. But a bigger part of it is developing autonomy, which keeps you flexible as you navigate the swirling tides of SEO in your particular sphere.
A real world example where this had made a difference to me is a writing slot that I was offered on Technorati. This didn’t happen overnight, and for most SEOs who just go out to build links would have been out of reach, but because I could demonstrate that I (kind of) know what I’m talking about and able to add value I was accepted… with the help of a Tweet or two to the right person. Writing for that site, to me, is a big deal and not something I’m doing for SEO reasons; I’m doing it because I love the industry that I work in, and that’s an ethos I carry forward to each of my clients.
Being a Good Neighbor
Some may dump on the idea of Karma, and it’s true that individual good actions don’t necessarily pay off in the long run. Still, the feeling that you get at the end of the day from doing something altruistic improves your mindset and makes you better in your own work. Helping out your fellow SEOs through referrals, word of mouth promotion even a link or two is doubly important if it also helps out your clients. Use your connections to support the contacts most deserving of it, and the love will eventually find its way back to you.
It is, however, important to remember that if you’re building relationships to get yourself some links that you actually need to build those links. It’s all too easy to write lists, make friends and forget the end goal. James Agate wrote a post about this a while ago and it’s something I stumble across every so often and make myself read every time I do. Life is all about give and take, so remember to take every now and again
As an SEO, you expect your work with current and potential future clients to be the most taxing part of your life. Oddly enough, it often turns out that networking with people in industries that, up until now, you really didn’t care about is far more challenging. Ultimately, you live and die by your connections with your (client’s) industry cohorts. Cherish and cultivate your relationships with those whom you share a vocation, because they’ll be the ones who can help or hinder your efforts.