Link building, before there was Penguin

Back in 2008/2009, I embarked on an ambitious link building scheme for a global brand with HUNDREDS of resellers.
These resellers also had their own websites.
But there was ONE BIG problem.
They barely mentioned the global brand and they didn’t link back to it when they did.
If you had your eyes open, this was a big link opportunity waiting to be seized. And a big branding opp. too.
The “easy” way is to contact each reseller and ask them to either mention the brand and/or link to it.
The problem with this approach is as follows:
– people are lazy, they will likely not bother
– there’s no incentive to do so
– there’s nothing the brand could do if the reseller didn’t link back
SO, how do you get people to link back to you without something tangible in return?
Enter DEJAN PETROVIC, my SEO mentor and link builder extraordinaire.
He came up with the idea of an ‘authorised reseller’ badge with a link back to the global brand.
Nothing like a bit of validation via shiny gold badge to serve your link building efforts!
1. Badge looks good on reseller website, reaffirms commitment to global brand.
2. Global brand gets link back to own website from hundreds of other, relevant sites. Brand awareness increases.
3. Everyone wins.
Now in order to make this a success, we knew we had to do one very simple thing:
Make it SUPER EASY for these resellers to add the ‘authorised reseller’ badge to the site.
Like I’m talking, so easy, literally anyone could do it.
We took into account the differences in design of every reseller website.
So we made badges of different sizes and colours for them to choose from.
This way, they didn’t have to shoehorn the badge into the design of their site.
There was something for every website!
We provided full embed instructions too.
We had a page setup on the global brand’s site with everything clearly explained.
All the reseller had to do was choose the badge they liked and then copy and paste the code onto their own site.
This reduced friction. And maximised compliance.
Because it was SO EASY. and subtle *heh*.
Remember, this is a life lesson on “what’s in it for me?”.
Sometimes you extend an olive branch but it’s just a small olive branch. The receiver gets something in return and you haven’t lost much, really.
Not sure this is the right analogy but go with me on this one.
Talking about gains, naturally this tipped in the favour of the global brand.
They gained the most because of the influx of relevant links.
But these resellers also spruced up their credentials with a spiffy badge on their site.
It made them look better than before, because in order to get a badge, you have to be worthy of it!
And that means trust.
Keep in mind this was over a decade ago, at a time when we didn’t know about Penguin (the (in)famous link focused algo update that shook us all to the core).
It wasn’t black hat per seo – but you could argue it wasn’t pure white hat either. More of a grey hat tactic.
Whatever you call it, it worked. And it was legit for its time.
Could such a scheme work today?
I’m yet to run into another situation where such a method would need to be used.
The goal was to deliver more link equity to the global brand’s website.
And you can still achieve this with a similar method. But in the age of nofollowed links, you lose link equity.
Of course, traffic is another major benefit to getting an inbound link.
But considering the product (a staple of the tiling industry), this wouldn’t matter as much as a ranking boost due to higher domain authority through backlinks from relevant sources.
Think about household name brands you remember and use over and over again, despite the many other worthy alternatives.
This is what this global brand sought to achieve: recognition & adoption over and above any other similar brand.
I daresay, this was achieved. I wasn’t able to measure the brand impact but judging by the growth in traffic, increase in rankings and over 80% adoption rate by resellers, I’d say this was a success.
So when your site needs links, focus on what makes the most sense for it – where will there be a traffic benefit, where will there be a link equity benefit.
Sometimes simply asking for a link is effective but remember, if there’s no incentive, you won’t get it.
Doesn’t mean you have to throw money at it, as in, pay for every link placement.
“make content that is link worthy” is often repeated.
And I agree, but sometimes you have to get the word out and let people know.
You’ll get some social shares out of it at the very least but this in itself is part of the journey.
Links are important but building links for the sake of it is a self defeating venture.
Quality over quantity, every time.
You know this to be true.

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