Link Love: How to Get It, How to Keep It

Maintaining any healthy, balanced relationship takes a lot of work. There’s the compromise, the willingness to do things for each other, and, of course, the endless honey-do list.

When you’re talking about a relationship with the online users who share your interests, maintaining this balance is critical, takes effort, and relies largely on the reciprocal sharing of links. Those links need to be earned through commitment and value given first without expectations.

By linking to valuable content and driving traffic back and forth within a neighborhood of good sites, you can provide your users with an expanded universe of knowledge across a myriad of subcategories within your content area. In addition to nurturing the ongoing dialogue you strive to produce with your users, the creation of this neighborhood will establish you as a credible source for relevant industry information.

But how do you ensure your content will be linked back? How can you reduce the threat of unrelenting linking? Below are some thoughtful and proven tips for those who are, like so many of us, pining for link love.

First, remember that, as with love, you must be prepared to give before you can receive. When looking for link love, first be willing to link to articles outside of your site to drive traffic to additional relevant and interesting content. By building this outgoing Web of links, you’re establishing a content link neighborhood, as well as allowing others to link to your site from theirs.

Secondly, as P.J Fusco wrote in “Finding Link Targets,” “Link building is not a set-it-and-forget-it series of tactics.” As your neighborhood evolves and you migrate through various discussion topics, you must nurture these newer relationships and give them the time and attention they each need to grow and mature.

Select the sites and content you link to carefully. Be critical of the creator’s style and message to ensure they reflect what you’re trying to relay. Assess commitment to reciprocal linking and staying power by looking for content depth, frequency of postings and comments, blog readership, and outside links.

The perfect match in link love occurs when there are links to your content and you link back to others while avoiding the reciprocal link rings Fusco discussed. This reciprocated love honors the intentions of all quality content providers and allows each to grow its own linking neighborhood.

Recognize the creators of the quality content you link to and be sure to give credit where credit is due. In contrast, be wary of content providers that spam their way through the space by tagging indiscriminately, tweeting the same thing repeatedly, or posting irrelevant comments on blogs. Spammers hurt the relevant flow of information and frustrate readers looking for legitimate content.

Another tip to keep in mind would rattle traditional-relationship experts to the core: it’s OK to cheat. In fact, it’s good practice.

Just because a Web site contains content that’s almost always relevant to yours doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to linking to that site exclusively. Play the field! By broadening the number of sites that link to you and, in turn, the number of sites that link back to you, you’ll increase your visibility, traffic, and, of course, your link love.

With links, as in all content, it’s critical to be real and keep it real. Be sure your content is authentic and also has a permanent home on your site. No one likes to follow a link from a relevant article to an error message because the content is no longer active on the site.

Remember, when you place your content out there for linking, provide quality content that will attract others with similar content interests. Be yourself, just make sure “yourself” is interesting and relevant to your brand and your community. While not everyone will think of you and your content as their type, remain consistent to your brand and don’t sacrifice your identity just to earn love from links.

Join us for a one-day Online Marketing Summit in a city near you from May 5 to July 1, 2009. Choose from one of 11 one-day events designed to help interactive marketers do their jobs more effectively. All sessions are new this year and cover such topics as social media, e-mail marketing, search, and integrated marketing. Register 30 days in advance and get a $40 discount!

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