Accidental Link Building Through Blogging

At last week’s Next Generation Marketing Conference (which was a second cousin twice removed from exceptional – get yourself to Martinsburg June 12th) I heard something spouted from one of the attendees early on that I haven’t read or heard for a good three or four years. Somebody actually said in reference to blogging:

“I don’t have time to read blogs.”

I’d forgotten my reaction to this statement, but I soon remembered it was akin to taking a punch to the bread basket whilst simultaneously slapping yourself on the forehead ‘doh-ing’ on each slap. A sort of violent anathema to the belly rub head pat trick.

So simple even a bambino can do it.

Then again….

In the good old days when I was holding the torch for all small business sheet metal bloggers I sneered at this type of comment with that truly condescending attitude of them being unable to get it. Now the torch is a little dimmer, I fully understand why somebody wouldn’t want to start writing a blog, but not reading blogs seems absurd considering they’re part and parcel of the Web’s rich tapestry. If you come across a blog page while searching for something in particular and it provides you with the information you’re after then it serves its purpose.

But that isn’t doing blogs or indeed the commenter much justice. We’re ostensibly talking about actively searching blogs on topics and interacting with them as an amorphous lump in themselves. I can see how the idea of taking time out to actively seek out another layer of information could appear problematic. However, it’s about you finding the information you require and consuming it at a time and a place that suits you. It doesn’t matter whether you find a Wep page, a blog, a video, podcast, wiki, or whatever on a given topic, you have the choice to bookmark it or add it to an rss reader to refer to at a later date or consume when you feel like it.

You control your content.

The broader point being made was that it makes sense to monitor your business and industry online and how you go about checking the plethora of sites of every variety of Web .0 there is out there. Reading blogs will get you everywhere and nowhere, but setting up Google Alerts that monitors the search terms for your specific business and industry niche will. It takes thirty seconds to sign up and then you receive an email with the urls of posts or pages that contain your chosen terms. Talk about the mountain coming to Mohamed. Not only are you tracking the conversation, but the fruits of that tracking are coming straight to your inbox.

When it comes to reasons for actually starting a blog I could bore you to within an inch of your life, but I find that isn’t the best of approaches.

So let’s look at facts and bottom lines.

Let’s pretend that the bottom line of your online business is to generate sales or leads by being found in search engines for specific keyword searches. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t grasp the concept that the closer you are to the #1 spot for a given keyword you are, the more people will click through to your site.

The way you achieve better rankings for a given keyword are plentiful and can range from the bizarre to the downright dishonest, but if we’re going to oversimplify things there are two primary factors that search engines take into account:

1. What appears on your page. In other words, content and keywords.
2. What happens off the page. In other words, linking.

As search engines stand at the moment, links are the prime currency. Links make the Web go round and determine your standing (ranking) in the search engines. Links, or to be more precise, worthwhile links, become harder and harder to get as the Internet grows and search engines close loopholes to prevent anybody from gaming the system.

Link building can be absolutely soul destroying. It can also epitomize the very essence of watching digital paint dry. But that is only when you’re doing the rounds of obtaining links for the sake of getting links from places where anybody could get links. These links are fairly close to useless in and of themselves.

Good relevant links from authority sites are worth more than their weight in gold – which isn’t really surprising considering they probably have no real dense or mass to speak of being of the digital ether and all that. Links from government sites, university sites, large blogs and newspapers are next to impossible to obtain and either terribly expensive or simply not for sale. (Let’s not pretend links aren’t bought and sold! But let’s just clarify that we don’t do it round here.)

Web owners, if they link out at all, and are remotely savvy, won’t link out to any old nonsense. Why should they? After all, we tend to only send stuff to each other via email that we think somebody else might get a kick out of or find useful. And that should be your aim in your thinking when building your site:

Will people get a kick out of it?
Will they find it useful?
Does it inform?

We can break those three questions down quite a bit further, but that’s not where we’re going with this. I’m simply agreeing with this post about how blogging ROI can be measured in terms of link acquisition (read it – it doesn’t waffle nearly as much as this post does!). It isn’t the only reason to start a blog by any means, but let me just point you to selection of links my Tinbasher Blog has managed over the years from what some would agree are authority sites.

UK Times Top 50 Blogs List

Your Business Blog Telegraph UK Blog Roll

The Guardian – here and here.

Small Business Blogs Selection – BusinessWeek

Tinbasher in British Library Archive

BBC Lancashire Blogs

Now I didn’t solicit any of the above links and you don’t have to be an SEO to understand that these links are from some pretty big and important sites. You could argue that they aren’t on-topic links and that the anchor text could be a bit better, but come on, I didn’t have to do anything for them. No rump shaking, no nothing. Not bad for a five person sheet metal shop in Colne that now ranks #1 and #2 for the search term “sheet metal” on google uk! (Yes, I also know that’s a fairly generic term, but if you rank for the generics you invariably rank for the longer tails such as “sheet metal fabrication”.)

The Tinbasher just rolls along getting a couple of these types of links a year with an article or three thrown into the mix over the same twelve months with a handful of blogs a month also thrown into the mix. I should probably work a little harder myself to get a few more links from sites within its niche, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s similar to Barack Obama’s superdelegate strategy: drip, drip, drip as opposed to deluge. Well, that’s how I justify it to myself.

Now I don’t want you thinking that you can just start a blog these days and expect links from top notch sites. It won’t happen. I receive(d) this kind of link love for sticking my neck out when business blogging was still in diapers. Right place. Right time. People were grasping for any kind of real life business blog examples, and it just so happened that The Tinbasher proved itself to be the polar opposite of the type of business people expected to blog.

However, there’s absolutely no reason on God’s green earth why you can’t start a blog for your company in your given niche and let the link building take care of itself if you inform, are useful, and people in your industry get a kick out of it.

Believe you me, most industries have hardly begun to scratch the surface in terms of blogs on a macro level, and on a micro level, where it’s a reflection of your business in your industry niche there will be only you even if when they do.

If you blog correctly in the first place, the links will come. You can take that to the bank.

As the old saying goes: “Give a man a blog and he’ll look as dumb as a fish; teach a man how to blog and it’ll cast the right bait for him!”

Or words to that effect. 😉

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