Building relationships and trust as a business is extremely crucial, especially with your audience and the top players within your industry. 

With this trust comes credibility and authority, which also build your network and business relationships. This applies to your website and its backlink profile as well.

While building links with a classic, monotonous outreach email would work 15 years ago, now there’s more emphasis on building a connection to receive valuable links.

In this article, we will discuss the role of building relationships in acquiring backlinks, ways to create these bonds, and the importance of maintaining them.

Why Great Links Are Built With Relationships

First, let’s understand what determines the value of a backlink because relying solely on the domain or page authority and other proxy metrics is different from building links and relationships.

Some key factors that matter more than the backlinking website’s authority include:

  • Website Relevance: The linking domain must provide engaging, high-quality content that is relatable and niche-relevant to the target audience of the websites you reach out to; this means there must be an industry overlap between your website and the ones you’re targeting.
  • Page Relevance: Where you place the link in your target website’s article, the anchor you use, and whether it is contextual or not play a huge role in determining its quality and impact on your backlink profile. 
  • Page Traffic: If your backlink is placed on a page with existing traffic and engagement, your link will likely intrigue some of them; this means the popularity of that page could also drive referral traffic to your website, or create more brand awareness of your company.
  • Domain & Page Inbound Link Equity: Having high-ranking websites or pages (or pages or domains with decent links themselves) point backlinks to your site is itself also a good indicator of a robust and trustworthy backlink profile. Some may call this the tier 2 level of links (the links pointing at your links.)
  • The Company Itself: This is where the process goes beyond just building one link. Instead of focusing on a single link placement, it’s better to understand the backlinking website’s company to find potential future partnerships.

High-quality links go beyond just sending loads of generic emails daily. This starts by elevating your perspective that “any link is a good link”.

Once you step away from the transaction-driven idea of link building, you’ll have room to take each opportunity, and link strategy carefully and focus more on the quality of the campaigns your building, and taking a more strategic approach.

This involves creating content with top-quality standards and maintaining a relationship with these websites so you can continue to nurture that connection – not just to get links but to collaborate on other marketing activities.

How Relationships Matter For Successful Link Building

Now that we’ve established that building relationships with other websites is directly related to acquiring high-quality links, let’s examine more ways in which building relationships matter for link building.

Stand Out In Inboxes

Practically speaking, any professional would first check their direct work emails and then proceed to respond to less urgent ones, mostly from people they know. Unknown or cold emails fall in the gray area, where they can respond or simply ignore them, considering these flood their inboxes.

So, spammy, generic emails i.e. pleading with them to include your link won’t work. Instead, with a relationship-building approach, you would do a basic run-through of their website to find connection-centric areas to suggest a partnership, which already sets you apart from other cold emails.

It shows you’ve done your research and acts as a nice icebreaker so you can get a foot in the door.

Open The Door For New Opportunities

Once you approach link building with a relationship-focused approach, you also build your trustworthiness, reputation, and credibility. Suppose the backlinking website is genuinely impressed with your work. In that case, they might even vouch for your content to other website owners, exposing your brand to more potential opportunities within your community.

Play your cards right they might even be sending you gifts because they’re so impressed with your content and collaborations!

Similarly,if you get a high-quality backlink, or a feature on a particularly reputable website, you can use that as an example to show your other prospects. That one relationship can act as further leverage which gets you other links. For example, we used our published feature on Foundr, to leverage a conversation with someone at AppSumo, which led to us being mentioned and linked to in this article. 

Similarly, we do this for clients, where once we’ve helped them secure guest posts in respected publications, or they’ve been mentioned by prestigious organizations – we use this as a seal of endorsement, and it helps us get a foot in the door, in another high quality website.

Availability Of Repeat Business

Finding relevant prospects is already hard enough, so you have to make the most of the ones you get, and when you build relationships with other website owners, you can even use that existing relationship to build links to other pages, or projects that you own, instead of having to create new connections from scratch.

Benefits of Link Building

To ensure that relationship building is a worthwhile effort and investment in your long-term links and SEO efforts, here are several advantages of including it in your link-building strategy:

  • White-Hat Link Building: Acquiring links from industry experts, influential personalities, and reputable blog or website owners is a genuine method that encourages sustainable and organic link building that does not interfere with Google’s guidelines. Sure, there are more manipulative methods that could gain results faster (in the short term), but the risk is much higher.
  • Growth And Collaboration Options: Once you connect with one influential expert, you open up opportunities with other professionals, allowing you to tap into networks and resources that accelerate your business growth and success.
  • Increased Credibility And Authority: When credible sources endorse your brand, it supports your credibility and improves your website’s authority by increasing your search engine rankings and showcasing your content’s value.
  • Improved Brand Awareness: Building relationships with well-known or popular brands also increases your brand’s visibility by introducing your website to its target and offering more exposure, traffic, and potential links.

Interested in exploring the wonders relationship link building can do to your website? TLG’s strategies connect your brand with other prominent websites in your industry, so get in touch with our team to know more.

Steps To Follow Before Sending A Cold Email

It’s established that to build relationships; you must create a stellar outreach email that strikes the right balance between link-building and forming a community.

Here are three things to watch out for before you send your cold emails:

Find Relevant Contacts

One of the first things you have to do to start building relationships is to know who to create them with, and that involves contacting the website’s point of contact.

One method is to reverse engineer your competitors’ backlinks, using Ahref’s Link Intersect feature. This will lead you to websites that are interested in your niche. 

Since they linked to your competitor, there’s a fairly high likelihood they’ll link to you as well, or allow you to do a guest post.

Next, you need to shortlist the most relevant domains and identify the decision-makers of those companies.

For reference, the best people to contact for small companies are the CEO, CMO, and marketing- or content-related professionals. For mid-sized companies, look for people who focus on the brand’s SEO or organic growth, and for large enterprises, focus on SEO-related positions like SEO manager, Head of SEO, or the Head of Content of a specific region.

Get Noticed

Prioritize getting on their radar before emailing to ensure they know you exist. Wooing unknown people through outreach requires immense creativity and patience. If they know about you, they are more likely to open your email.

Start by connecting with them via Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms; research and learn about their content, engage with what they publish, and stay updated with their experiences regularly. This involves leaving honest comments on their posts that show you understand and appreciate their work.

Try not to make your appreciation seem overly “fluffed” with generic or exaggerated comments like “great post!” or “the best thing I’ve seen on the internet today.” Such comments don’t add value to the discussion and may indicate an ulterior motive.

Plus, when people see you pop up on social media more and more, you’ll even get some inbound messages from people who want to interview you, or share your content. Like this example below of someone at People Management magazine who reached out on LinkedIn.

Initiate An Offering

One of the best ways to connect with another website, mainly if you aim to build relationships, is to offer something without expecting anything in return.

You can start by mentioning your target website’s business, content, or case studies in your articles, sharing content on social media with your audience, or interviewing the website or blog’s founder and writing about it. You could even leave them positive comments on platforms like LinkedIn, ProductHunt, Yelp, etc.

Once you’ve placed their links on your website or shared , you can email them casually explaining why you liked their content and what made you share it. This is a great way to initiate a conversation that can also lead to you receiving a link back.

7 Practical Methods in Relationship Link Building for 2024

Do Your Research

After engaging with your prospects, you’ve gathered some information about them. Still, go through their social media and blog to check for anything valuable you can mention in your pitch.

For example, if they recently launched a business vertical that interests you, congratulate them on hitting that milestone and share your opinion of why you appreciate it. You don’t have to get overly personal (please stay away from discussions about their kids!), but aim for a light icebreaker to show you did your homework.

Better yet, try to make that personalization, something that is as relevant as possible. If it’s something within an article, or something that pertains to your topical/industry crossover, then that’s ideal. It also makes for a smoother transition into the rest of the email about your offer.

Find Common Ground

We are more likely to trust people who share similar values and goals as ours, and when we build relationships, it’s crucial to focus on finding this common ground. Focus on finding prospects within your niche so they can relate to your business. Plus, acquiring relevant, contextual links holds more value.

If you were previously introduced to the prospect or you were both part of something together, mention this in your email to jog their memory or at least spark a sense of familiarity. For example, you and your prospect were part of the same business seminar; use this to “connect” with them to ensure they know that it’s someone genuine reaching out and not purely a cold pitch focused on building links.

Stay Human

One of the worst ways of building links, not just in terms of relationships but also for search engine algorithms, is an automated outreach process. An overly automated, mechanical approach to outreach is easy to spot –  so the receiver of your emails will know if it’s spammy.

It also generally tends to degrade the quality of the link building process as well. The better quality, higher-authority sites will tend not to reply, and you’ll be left with the link farms who respond to everyone anyway.

Showing you’re a real, living, breathing human is critical to building trust. You can also showcase this “humanness” by being active on social media, having an “About You” page with a picture on your website, and sharing content that you find valuable and honest. Give that audience something to relate to.

Create Engaging Content

A crucial part of your content marketing strategy should be creating content that people can rely on and find interesting or resourceful enough to share with their audience; this also applies when building links.

When you decide on a topic, consider your research. Will it answer your audience’s questions or solve their problems? What keywords should you target for this topic? What is the purpose of discussing that specific topic? Is it interesting enough to keep a reader’s attention?

Capturing your audience’s attention requires more than a well-written, grammatically correct article. Having an idea of the aim, expectations, and execution process will ensure you produce high-quality, relevant, and link-worthy content.

Respond and Interact

Simply creating good content and posting it is not the end of the process. You  need to be present, responsive, and engage with your audience online, and that includes paying attention to the comments or queries on your blog or social media posts.

Even if someone simply appreciates what you’ve shared, respond with a genuine “Thank you” so they know you care enough to engage with others. You can also leave comments on, share, like, or retweet others’ posts, but stay authentic in your discussions and don’t be rude.

Website Trustworthiness

Specific website markers indicate a trusted online source, so you should grace your website with these markers to build its trustworthiness. Start by creating a high-quality website design that looks professional and is easy to navigate.

Ensure the content is current, comprehensive, and correct across all your web pages, blog posts, or product/service pages. Make sure to include author details, citations from reliable sources (i.e. trust symbols), high-quality graphics, and up-to-date research. You should also maintain a good backlink profile by linking to other trusted sources and linking them to your site. For obvious reasons, inbound links from other reputable websites will improve your own SEO and credibility. While outbound links put your site in the right “link neighborhood” and make for a good user experience.

Participate In Industry Events

Networking and connecting with experts in your specific niche couldn’t get easier than attending industry events like conferences, seminars, workshops, or industry panels. There’s no doubt that face-to-face interaction is a great way to introduce yourself, have engaging conversations, and exchange contacts.

You can also join online communities and forums to participate in discussions with prominent professionals. This can lead to interviews, being asked to offer a soundbite in one of their upcoming content pieces – or it can simply get you that proverbial foot in the door, in case you want to proactively share content with them.

Bonus Strategy: Three Account-Based Link Building Methods

Account-based link-building practices combine complementary strategies to build relationships with specific contacts among high-end publications or websites.

The aim is to increase targeted placement rates, improve the quality of links, and improve search engine rankings; here’s how to go about it:

1. Surround Sound SEO Strategy

The Surround Sound Strategy is an organic marketing strategy that focuses on increasing third-party recommendations of your brand, product, services, or content on highly ranked pages – to maximize the amount of traffic and visibility you can get.

For example, you’re selling a recipe book and have created multiple posts or blog content to share with your audience. While you can drive conversions by keeping track of your rankings, imagine the impact if other top-ranking food bloggers mentioned your book on pages which rank for the keyword “Best Recipe Books in 2024.”

Not only do you benefit from the brand awareness, the highly contextual link – but you can also drive the referral traffic from those highly ranked pages as well.

Here’s a specific example of Woodpecker being mentioned in some roundups about outreach tools.

Recommendations like this can significantly increase traffic to your website, but how do you get them? 

Fortunately, SEO tools like Ahrefs or Semrush can help you identify potential opportunities to mention your products or services. 

Here are the steps to take:

  1. Brainstorm the relevant keywords where there is topical crossover. You can use some clustering tools like KeywordInsight, or use research from your SEO tool to do this, but you will need to filter through them. For simplicity, start with the roundup-related keywords like the “best X” or “top X” pages, which are related to your product or service. 
  2. Scrape the top 20-30 results for each of those keywords. (I don’t recommend going any deeper), and then filter out unsuitable targets like competitors, or directories.

Side note: The list may even include forums, industry communities or even Reddit. It’s also worth being mentioned or posting on those threads if they are ranking in the SERPs, although this is of course more of a form of “crowd marketing” rather than link building.

  1. Vet the final list of targets – and identify the websites that link to your competitors and don’t link to you. Add these prospects to your “target accounts” list so you can reach out to them and request a backlink.

This is the general overview of how it’s done, but you can of course speed up this process, by using a tool to scrape the Google SERPs for your list of keywords. DataforSEO API, or similar tools should do the job. 

2. Original Research

Original research is highly valued among reputed columnists, bloggers, and journalists, making it an effective manual link-building tactic for passively attracting high-authority links. High-end publications thrive off new and unique trends, data, or statistics that come as additional stories to existing discussions or a new story altogether.

You must do manual work to identify which publications are worth approaching, what research or data they like publishing, and what websites they already link to. Start by conducting a backlink analysis of existing research reports in your industry and checking the publications linking to them.

For example, in our industry, Backlinko has a popular study they conducted on the analysis they did on 11.8 million Google Search Results.

So we would conduct backlink analysis on the study, to see the high authority websites linking to the study.

So in this example, I’d say the 5 sites shown above are good examples that we would add to our target list. The idea is to then conduct this backlink analysis with more research reports, until you have a substantial list of niche-relevant publications, which you add to your list. 

Next, you need to create an original research idea that revolves heavily around your expertise and the general content preference of those target publications Once you’ve selected your best idea, reach out to them briefly, explaining the what, why, and how in a simple email.

This way, you can check first if they’re interested instead of putting all the work in and wasting your time with a rejection. Remember that you must have a unique and knowledgeable topic that adds value and isn’t just “filler” content to build links—that’s the only way to get their approval to proceed.

3. Editorial Partnerships

Editorial partnerships involve an “exchange” with content editors and strategists that benefits both parties’ link building efforts. This could be a guest post exchange, sharing insights into each other’s content, conducting an online discussion, etc.

Many top affiliate bloggers use this secret strategy to acquire massive amounts of links on the exact websites they wish to appear on. Although this method requires a lot of writing, you can bring in a content writer if the demand rises.

Start by finding 10-20 high-quality, niche-relevant websites that publish articles written by guest authors. Identify a topic they would like, write an article or the summary of your idea, and reach out to these bloggers to exchange quotes and publish the content on your websites.

Similarly, you can use this same post to mention other bloggers and include their links, which some will reciprocate by including yours. This method not only gets you more valuable links but also diversifies the type of websites from which you acquire your links. Remember that guest posts are a common tactic, so you have to come up with topics that stand out to see positive results with this strategy. With higher authority sites, you’d benefit from either using the content gap method to create the content idea, or having something which is backed up with very specific expert opinion or a research report.

How TLG Achieves Great Results with Relationship Link Building

Despite being a link-building “agency,” TLG strictly avoids generic strategies like blasting automated emails with generic templates or buying links from mediocre databases.

We closely follow many of the strategies mentioned above throughout our link-building process, and the one area we shine at in building relationships is targeted manual outreach and the conversations we have with the prospects.

We put in the hard work to do our research and only then approach our targets with a relevant and valuable plan of action, which not only gets high-quality backlinks but also creates a cordial relationship with a vast network of trustworthy websites.

Building relationships with website owners should be a priority if you want to revolutionize your link-building efforts. If this seems like too much work, or you need something to supplement your ‘high touch’ link building – contact TLG and let us help you expand your relationships online.