In 2010 I wrote on the concept of “preciprocation,” which I lifted straight from non-profit efforts I observed at or around that time. TLDR: Do superficial favors in hopes of generating a reciprocal gesture (a link) from a publisher.

Nothing wrong with link building gimmicks in my book, but I’d like us to consider thinking past the gimmicks and into genuinely benefiting our allies and potential allies within our market’s ecosystem – all while building links for ourselves.

Your time is valuable – here’s the gist of the concept:

  • An ongoing link building campaign can require hundreds of monthly work hours (strategy, initial prospecting, strategy-alignment with prospects, MORE prospecting, qualifying, pitch development, outreach and at last “publisher management” through to the link).
  • The time spent actually embedding target links (in content, in outreach emails etc…) is mere minutes in comparison. Sometimes just seconds.
  • Including links to your non-competing allies and potential allies in your vertical could potentially benefit you at some point too, and the time cost is pennies.
  • Don’t crow about it afterwards though – just do it. If it’s valuable and appreciated you’ll hear from them.

This idea crystalized for me on a sales call with a prospect (we didn’t land) in the local visibility SAAS space.

I pitched a guest placement campaign and for some reason thought to ask about their market allies, which they had earned in droves. Allies such as practitioners who recommended them in conference presentations and blog posts, other local SAAS providers with non-overlapping value with whom they shared leads, industry journalist supporters and more.

They weren’t super hot for the idea – benefiting allies and footing the entire bill. No problemo. But my brain kept spinning after the call. I couldn’t help but get excited about the concept of linking to those in your industry who already send you leads, for example. Or who send you tons of referral traffic. Or who share similar vision for shaping the practice or industry itself. Systematically build the visibility of existing allies and you can’t help but benefit, and you’ve already committed to the cost of the work. So why not?

Further, your earned placements – and their readers – genuinely benefit from justified and essential outbound links… So first step, if you’re genuinely open to considering this approach – look in your logs to see where traffic comes from and build links to those pages or websites to accelerate referrals. Second look back through your email inbox and think about those amazing people who send you actual sales leads.

How well do the websites of the allies line up with your content placement efforts? If they’re not currently a great fit, pitch them an idea. Collaborate on something. Or consider even writing something for them designed for co-citation within your upcoming campaign. If they’re on board and the content helps demonstrate or sell their brand’s promises then it could be very worth your effort.

And yes – the majority of value from your work should go to you. But remember that this work is all sunk cost. It costs you practically nothing to link strategically to your allies from your own efforts. And to not-yet-allies who you’d love to connect with more formally. The core concept here is – ultimately – efficiency. You could be creating even more value from your link efforts by benefiting your allies.

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