Cocktails and compassion: why relationships are key to getting high quality backlinks

how to build backlinks

There’s a common belief that you need to keep your best content on your domain. The idea behind this activity is easily understood: you squirrel away your knowledge so that all who visit your domain are impressed by your many, many precious content gems. Inevitably, you end up foregoing building high quality backlinks in favour of keeping everything central.

Yet unless your website is The Go-To in your vertical, or quite high in the SERPs, I’d wager a bet that your content might not be getting as many eyeballs as it could be.

Because between yourself and your ideal audience exists a gap.

And to extend this metaphor, you’re going to need a few bridges to unite with the hearts and minds of your readers.


Your potential bridges: earned media vs owned media vs bought media

digital media trifecta

In the graphic above, you can see that you can choose a variety of media to bridge that divide between your brand and your ideal target market. And if you’re already producing content – that’s owned media – you can easily segue into acquiring earned media – that’s backlinks, or blogging on other domains.

I’ve said before that coming up with idea is often the most cumbersome aspect of content marketing.

But with guest posting and building backlinks, it’s actually the process of finding an appropriate, lucrative place to publish that requires the most muscle.


You know that our attention is scattered, and we’re subject to a number of marketing messages per day. It’s increasingly hard to get on the radar of those you need to impress – that’s your publishers, who’ll be publishing and sharing your content with their audience, and linking back to your website. They already have clients, customers and other collaborators to attend to. Your email pitching a guest blog post will likely be at the bottom of their to-do list.

And let me tell you: it takes a few key ingredients to get to the top of a to-do list.

Yet it can be done – with authenticity, tenacity, strategy, and a genuine desire to be of service.


The case of the cold email

Imagine this common scenario: you open your inbox, and you receive an unsolicited cold email. The sender is bestowing you with a flurry of general, tepid compliments. They love your blog, because it’s um, really, “informative”? You make “good points”. Rest assured, none of these attributes will ever be tied to a concrete example.


I get emails like this all the time, generally from people who have no idea how to form relationships with publishers. Sometimes they produce infographics which are in no way relevant to my audience or my area of expertise, but generally they just want to write an article.

I delete these emails 99.9% of the time. They don’t spark my interest, and it’s not because I don’t know the sender.

I reject these types of solicitations because these senders don’t even attempt to establish a relationship with me. They don’t care about me, my audience, or my business. They just want a backlink.

That doesn’t sit right with me.

And I’m not the only one.


Relationships > links

Let me tell you something: I have rock solid business relationships with people I have never even met before. And I developed these by reaching out with genuine admiration, expecting nothing in return, and then built high quality backlinks from there. Sometimes my processes is intentional, but sometimes it’s not. Case in point: I connected with Mackayla from Social Stylings initially just because I found her content incredibly useful. When I approach from a genuine place of respect, I’m often met with a warmer reception, not to mention, a place to publish my blog articles...and a high quality backlink! 

And if I’m being truthful here, a new friend for happy hour (it’s happened!).

I know it sounds idealistic to be extending generosity online, with no expectation. You’re building a business after all, and you need to see a return on investment. What I’m saying is not to spend your time and energy expressing your adoration for others with no end goal, but to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. One where you empower each other, share knowledge, and extend assistance.

So how is it done? How do you build long-lasting business relationships, and a portfolio of high quality backlinks?

The approach I take to networking and building relationships is overtly feminine. The verdict from the doctors themselves proves it: I am primarily estrogen dominant. To segue into biology briefly, those exposed to higher levels of estrogen in the womb have an arsenal of social skills. They find relationships more fulfilling when a certain degree of emotional intimacy is reached, are more agreeable, emotionally expressive, and significantly more altruistic (Fisher, 2009).

This isn’t to say I know how to be objective and assertive. I most certainly know how to stand my ground, as those close to me will tell you. Yet it’s not unlike me to hug a client and tell them just how much I LOVE their Instagram or latest blog post – it’s just in my nature.

As such, the following approach will probably feel more natural to those who are similarly estrogen-dominant.


Make people feel good

I’m an active Instagrammer, and I follow many other business accounts for education, inspiration and motivation. But I don’t just double tap these posts – I leave them thoughtful comments, beyond random emojis. If I’m commenting on a promo for a blog post, I’ll ensure I actually read the post, and then expand upon a point they made or ask a question. This demonstrates I’m engaged, and interested in what they have to say. People like to be valued, and they like those who value them too. The idea is to ensure that that person associates you with those warm, fuzzy feelings, so that they’re more open and reciprocal to what you have to say.

It’s also worthwhile sending a personal note, either via email or Instagram DM. I do this occasionally just to let people know I dig their work. Keep it short and snappy, and not too sappy. You want to be their business equal, not their fan girl.


Collaborate with those who share your audience

As a marketing specialist who works with fashion and lifestyle businesses, I like forming connections with businesses who share the same audience, yet operate in other verticals. For example, if you were a graphic designer, you might find it beneficial to collaborate with an illustrator. If you're a personal trainer, you might find value in guest posting on a naturopathic blog. You get the gist. 


Aim slightly higher, but not too high

The key here is to partner with businesses of a slightly higher calibre than yours around 70% of the time. The other 30% of the time you can collaborate with other newly established businesses.

It might sound overly-diplomatic, but there’s a method to my madness.

Standing on the shoulders of giants is valuable advice for those seeking to get ahead. Yet if your business is newly established, wishing for Goliath’s sympathy may not be realistic. So aim high, target the lower hanging fruit, and then work your way up the chain.

Determining a blog's or business's value can be tricky to ascertain, but good yardsticks include:

  • Instagram follower count
  • Facebook Likes
  • Domain Authority
  • Years in business
  • Linked In connections


Collaborate, don’t pitch

When you pitch a guest post to another blogger or business, you need to emphasise your value. Much of the time, the person you're contacting might not know you exist, and sometimes your insight just won’t cut it. To ensure your email gets read, you need to ensure your value is compounded, with your guest post being just the start of the daisy chain.

When I approach another business to guest post for, I propose we do a guest post swap. The reason is two fold: We can access each other’s respective audiences, and if I’ve chosen to collaborate with them, I definitely want their trusted advice on my blog.

Then, when promoting our respective posts, we each promote via our respective channels (Instagram, Facebook,  Twitter, email newsletters, etc), extending our respective reach.


Send your ideas in the first email

There’s no one correct formula for pitching a blog post. But after you’ve connected on Facebook or Instagram, hit them up with an email proposing your content ideas. Don’t send them an email asking if they’d be interested in a guest post swap, without even mentioning your brilliant ideas. No body has time to sit around imagining what marvellous ideas are percolating in your brain. Outline 3-5 blog post ideas for their blog, and then ask what they’d like to write for you. Make 3-5 rough suggestions, but give them free creative reign.


Support them with your $$$

Nothing says you value a person’s expertise more than sending them your hard earned money. I’m being serious here. I’ve ended up hiring a few of the people I’ve collaborated with, because I believe in their value as experts, and they’ve gone on to benefit my business.


Stay in touch

All relationships require labour of some sort. In order to grow and evolve, we need to tend to these relationships consistently, because without our regular attention, we fall off the radar. It’s true that we might find comfort in relationships we can leave and pick up when suits us, but in business, this isn’t really the case. Ensure you stay in touch with your collaborators; send them occasional emails, comment on their Instagram posts, and share their work on your own channels.

As you can ascertain, there’s a lot more to a high quality link building strategy than getting your blog posts published on Huffpo. But when you focus on the humans that are central to your strategy, and approach with altruism in mind, you’ll find your strategy turns into something far more valuable.

It becomes an ecosystem of support, and that’s fertile ground for your own business to flourish.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage, CoYo, Ralph Lauren and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.