Unconventional Link Building: Brand Advocates Are Link Builders

If you landed here to get a tip/trick/idea/screenshot, don’t worry, you can get that in the second half of the post. But as is customary here, I want to create some context by telling you a story.

While the weather is still pristine in Philadelphia, I walk to the coffee shop where I like to write on the weekends. On this particular morning it was quite beautiful outside. As I was on my way, I cut through a park to stop and enjoy the nature.

Moments after I sat down on a bench, a women and her friendly dog sat down next to me. After the usual small talk, I asked what her dog’s name is.

“His name is Grib,” she said.

“You mean like the Russian word for ‘mushroom’ (Гриб),” I asked.


The conversation continued.

Unconventional link building and brand advocating that led to a sale

After musing over our admiration for mushrooms and the Russian countryside, she asked about my backpack and wanted to know where I got it.


“I got it online. I love Adidas Originals and the only place I could find it was in Finish Line’s online store. I had a great experience ordering it and got it shipped with no problems.”

“I can give you the link to it if you like.”

She pulled out her iPhone, typed in the link I gave her, pulled up the site and bought the backpack – in the park – on the spot.

Is that link building? Maybe not in the traditional sense that some SEOs consider link building to be, but it’s link building to me because the principle is exactly the same:

You help people discover stuff. You help businesses sell stuff.

And think about this – because I acted as a brand advocate for Adidas and Finish Line, I could influence a complete stranger, who has a dog named Mushroom, to instantly buy a product. Two brands won and the stranger on the park bench got something she feels will make her life better.

How a brand advocate used Twitter to get a blogger to give a followed link

Alright, here’s an unconventional example of how this works in a more traditional link building sense, but that illustrates how a brand advocate can influence one site to link to another site.

As you can see from the Twitter conversation, I reached out to Roger Dooley on behalf of Joost De Valk because I’m an advocate, not an affiliate, for Joost’s WordPress SEO Plugin. It’s a great product that I have benefitted from and I trust the plugin enough to tell others about it.

There was no personal gain by asking Roger to give Joost a link. But I felt like it would create a better experience for anybody who read Roger’s excellent post about writing headlines to have easy access to Joost’s plugin.

So what?

Please don’t get hung up on thinking about how to scale getting brand advocates to build links for you on a tactical level – that’s not the point of my post.

If you’re an agency-side SEO, I challenge you to think beyond just improving a site’s rankings, but to think about developing skills to get buy-in from your clients to creatively find ways to accentuate what your clients do well, and how they uniquely solve problems for people, as a catalyst to build links.

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  • http://twitter.com/madeale Alessio Madeyski

    totally love this post! I’m doing some stuff like this myself. In fact, tomorrow I will be in Milan to put a face to my linkbuilding efforts. I don’t call it “linkbuilding”, but “trust building”, a smarter way to have links.
    Not scalable? could be. but it’s more long term for sure and deal with PEOPLE not with search engines.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thank you, Alessio. Trust building – that’s exactly it. Let’s say for some strange reason Matt Cutts announces that even getting authoritative, quality links is going to diminish as a key ranking factor, then what?

      Links for the sake of rankings doesn’t mean the bills will get paid and the staff will get what they’re owed. Great products and great customer experiences do.

  • http://www.equotemd.com/ Michael J. Kovis

    I’m with Alessio. Loved this post as well. Truly shows everyone that link building should not be all about increase page/domain strength and pushing rankings. You can build links that send some excellent converting referral traffic to your site. That is, if your site is built for such.

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  • JasonManion

    And this is why just having a great product and great service matters so much. You can have the best rankings or best ad presence, but without that quality follow-through, the business fails. Great post, Dave!