I know what you may be thinking, and no, this article isn’t all about reciprocal link building. It is however, about a simple technique to get backlinks to your site, by first reciprocating with a helping hand.
As an online business owner, if your content isn’t garnering any interest in your site, then you’re most likely not getting any natural links. And if you’re not getting any natural links (coupled with the fact that you’re probably not actively seeking and obtaining backlinks), then your presence in Google is probably non-existent. Sorry, but them’s the breaks.
If you’re willing to think outside of the box though and put in some time and effort - even giving a little when you may get nothing in return – then I’ll show you a simple method that can be used as part of an overall link building strategy. It works for me and, depending on your industry, may work for you too.
Free Links. Reciprocity Style!
I can’t stress enough, how much it helps to be a go-giver when it comes to manually building links for your website, and there are plenty of ways to do this if you consider how many websites out there need your help.
For example, there are an abundance of “links” or “resources” pages around; some of them are very helpful and authoritative, while others are completely useless. The really good ones try to provide links to other highly related websites that will actually be of value to their visitors (kudos to them!).
Yet sometimes they make mistakes, or slowly over time they just get too busy to keep updating. The result is that their once useful page has now become a page littered with broken links and, what’s worse, links to sites that have drastically changed and now offer no value what-so-ever to their visitors.
Now here comes that outside-of-the-box thinking…
These types of pages can be valuable link opportunities, if you can learn to spot the good ones and then set out to help them remember why they started a links page in the first place.
Reciprocity Method in Action
Consider the following example:
The page is clean, well organized, themed and authoritative. It’s also well aged and has a PR of 5. This could be a great dofollow link for any site geared towards Law.
There’s no information on how to get listed though and it doesn’t appear as if they accept suggestions, so now what?
If you start to click on some of the sites they’re recommending, you’ll soon notice that they’re linking to a lot of 404 errors (I counted more than 6) and at least one parked ad site, which is devaluing their informative page.
This happens because large portions of sites, even though they’re trying to provide value to their visitors, either don’t have the time to update or they forget to monitor who they’re linking to. They simply haven’t noticed that the educational law related site they linked to back in 2005, is now an abandoned URL or worse yet, a parked domain for poker ads.
Therein lies your opportunity to get your own related site listed on the page.
By doing the homework for them and providing them with a list of each dead link you’ll not only be offering something of value, which will increase your chances of being listed, you’ll also be initiating the clean up of their page, which helps them and can result in even more link value to your site if you do in fact get listed.
Since they’re nice enough to offer their email address at the bottom of their page, why not use it? You’d be surprised at how many authoritative sites openly welcome comments from their visitors.
Pros, Cons and Limitations
Using some custom email templates I developed, I've been able to obtain some very authoritative links for my clients. This is because 95% of the sites I approach with this method (and there is definitely a technique to approaching them) are extremely grateful that I went through the trouble of trying to help them.
It also works because you’re emailing them with a purpose, rather than to just ask for a link, which naturally opens up the lines of communication. And now that you’ve helped them out, it provides an excellent opportunity for you to “suggest” that they add your highly related site to their newly edited links page as a reward. If you’ve been helpful, your site is decent, related to their industry and they already have a links page, why wouldn’t they consider adding you at this point?!
A real downside is that it does take some time to go through their page and click on every link, especially if it's a larger page. I suppose you could use an automated program, but keep in mind that the automated broken link checkers won’t catch the parked ad domains or reported attack sites and those are often the best errors to report.
The upside is, you don't need to locate every single bad link, just enough for the site owner to go "yikes!".
Remember though, the more errors you do locate and the less links the page includes, means more benefit to you if your site is added.
Granted, not everybody will reward you with a link. Sometimes you may just get a friendly “thank-you!”. Other times they’ll fix the errors and not even respond to your email. In this case, it’s definitely a good idea to follow up in a couple weeks as so many manual link building methods result in the link on the follow-up email.
In any case, you’ve at least brought your site to the attention of another site in your industry and plus you’ve done your good deed (or ten) for the day. Of course, the more you send out, the better your chances of success!
Make Good Things Happen for Yourself and Others
There are other ways to use the Reciprocity Link Building Method too. If you’ve got a flair for design, find and point out any design errors or things that could make their site better. If your talent is editing, locate and report some of their grammatical or spelling errors. If you’re good with images, clean up a few of their fuzzy product pictures for them (Tip: so many sites have pixilated images because they add a large image and then scale it with the <img> tag height and width properties).
Whatever your talent may be, use it for their gain and make good things happen for them… and in turn you.
When you think about it, ALL links, whether paid or natural, reciprocal or not, are obtained as a result of giving something of value. Even with linkbait, the link is only given if your content fulfills some ‘want’ or ‘need’ of the reader. Just as nothing in life is free, the same remains true for link acquisition. Instead of spending money buying links though, spend some time and effort and you might experience some awesome, risk free, rewards.
Want some help with this link building method? Join me on twitter.
If you found this article useful, please watch for my follow-up articles at CanadianSEO including; How to Find Reciprocity Link Prospects Using Custom Search Operators & Reciprocity Method Email Templates.
Melanie Nathan is a veteran SEO consultant and founder of CanadianSEO. She has a particular passion for authority link building and the use of authoritative content to attract links.