What is Relationship-based Link Building? (+6 Strategies to Get Started)

Relationship-based link building

What it takes to build the best links in SaaS

In 2016, Google employee Andrey Lipattsev confirmed during a Q&A session that backlinks are in the top three factors Google considers when ranking pages in search results. 

But if you've ever tried to build backlinks for your brand, you'll know one thing: it's pretty tough. Not only do you need to find a place to put your backlinks, but you also need to incentivize the site owner to place the link for you.

Naturally, many brands turn to placing backlinks on social media platforms or buying links from shady sites. Backlinks from social pages won’t increase your domain rating significantly and buying links from unreliable sources can earn you a penalty from Google. Ultimately, you could risk tanking your domain authority. 

So what should you do instead? 

Enter “Relationship-based link-building.” And in this article, we'll explain this method to you in detail. 

To understand the nuances of relationship-based link-building, we need to define a few key terms. 

Let's start with “link-building” (sometimes called “link earning”). When you build links, you place backlinks on web pages outside your domain to drive traffic to your website.

Link-builders generally divide linking activities into two categories: black-hat backlinking and white-hat backlinking. Black-hat SEO techniques place links using methods that violate search engines' terms of service (as well as advertising laws in some countries), while white-hat SEO techniques build links legitimately. 

Relationship-based linking is a type of white-hat backlinking that relies on more than just cold outreach (i.e., contacting a site to ask them to place a link for you). Instead, organizations that use relationship-derived linking cultivate a network of sources from industry leaders to link naturally.

Now, most brands don't have a network like this — and that's where agencies specializing in backlinking come in. Agencies build relationships and backlinks for you. 

We'll cover how they do this next. 

MediaBerry isn't the only agency that offers clients relationship-based backlinks, but we certainly do things differently than other agencies. 

Most agencies work like this: you commission the agency to get links for you. Then, their link and content strategist reaches out to potential influencers, publications, and brands to build a network. Sometimes, the agency will ask to build a link upfront. Other times they will use “first touch contact” (where they try to build a relationship before asking for a link). Some agencies also outright purchase links.

For many brands, this type of linking provides a reasonable Return-on-Investment (ROI).  

However, there are some critical problems with it. Check out our comparison below to see the biggest differences between the two methods.

Differences between outreach-based and relationship-based link building

MediaBerry takes a “warmer” approach to building links. When we place links, we analyze the contents of the webpage and find the perfect place to link to it in our partner's content. The partner then publishes this link after you approve it. 

The brands, websites, and organizations we link to aren't just our business partners either: they are organizations with social authority that we stand behind.

Of course, you're probably wondering what our link-building strategies look like in practice. Let's cover that next (though we won't divulge all our secrets, of course!)

MediaBerry's strategies 

Have you ever heard the saying, “don't put all your eggs into one basket?” We sure have — and we live by it! MediaBerry doesn't just use one approach. Instead, we use a mixture of creative link-building strategies, including: 

Our ABC Model

Our ABC Model is a mutually beneficial model we use when exchanging links within our network. 

In short, it works like this: when we write new articles, we include links to our partners. Then, before we publish the article, we run the link by the partner. If they agree to the placement, we get a link in return.

The ABC model relies on the “x-for-y” rule, meaning that for every link we build to a partner's website, they build an equivalent link to us. 

This system benefits everyone — as backlinks are shared equitably between network partners. 

MediaBerry's ABC link building model

Guest Posts

Guest posts are articles we draft, edit, and submit to websites inside and outside our network.

While other agencies place guest post links in any old article, we take a different approach. Specifically, we design our guest post topics around resources from our clients. 

For example, if we were producing a blog post on “How to fix broken links,” we would choose links from clients whose content increases the quality of the article — like a client within the SEO community that sells an interactive tool to find broken links on your site.

And when we place those links into the guest post, we fit them into the content organically. So, if we wanted to link to a blog post explaining how to rank for a competitive keyword, we would give it a natural anchor like “how to hit Google's first page.”

While MediaBerry's approach to guest posting requires more planning than conventional approaches, it allows us to:

  • Create high-quality posts readers love
  • Place more links readers want to click-on
  • Develop Search Engine Optimized (SEO) content that ranks on the first page of search results

“Link insertion” is the practice of placing links into content our partners have already drafted or published. 

Inserting links into existing articles benefits both the publisher and you. Adding links to their articles allows the publisher to freshen up their content without completely re-writing it. Adding links to existing content can give you a backlink from a webpage that already ranks highly on search engines. 

To insert links into existing articles, we study your content, find articles that could benefit from it, and add your link. Or, in some cases, you provide us links from your website that you want to distribute.

Editing links into existing articles allows us to:

  • Place high-quality links quickly (as it usually takes us around a month to publish a link in an existing article)
  • Get a link from a high-performing article 
  • Get results faster

“Link rotation” is the practice of diversifying the source of your backlinks. We do this in two ways. 

First, we diversify the types of articles we place your links in. That means we give you links in new guest posts, existing articles, and fresh content published by our partners. 

Link rotation strategy

Second, we diversify the publications we place your links in. While many agencies will give you link-after-link from the same site, we give you links from a range of sites according to your preferences. 

And to ensure these links work for you, we space them out using our data-based approach to link planning. This approach helps us ensure you won't be stuck with backlinks from the same publications repeatedly. 

Your “link assets” are a collection of your most clickable or shareable content. These assets are integral to your brand, as they give customers and leads valuable information about your niche. 

MediaBerry uses link assets to design a linkable content strategy for each client. As part of this strategy, we study your content and map out:

  • What anchor text your links need (anchor text is the text attached to the link)
  • What your content contains 
  • Any keyword research we've done on your brand (including target keywords for each link)
  • Whether each link is high-priority, medium-priority, or low-priority 
Link asset strategy

Then, we share the linkable content strategy with our partners so they can link to you when your content is relevant.

Outreach techniques 

Outreach techniques are tactics agencies use to connect with other websites they want to place links with. Generally, outreach techniques include cold calling, sending unsolicited emails, or commenting on a brand's articles for the purpose of relationship building.

MediaBerry focuses on cultivating win-win relationships through networking, word-of-mouth referrals, and other “warm” outreach strategies. 

We're also very selective with our collaborations. We only partner with reputable brands that publish high-quality content (and have a good domain ranking!). And once we have a good relationship with a site, we nurture it carefully. 

Now that you know a little more about our linking strategies, you're probably wondering how our process works step-by-step. Let's cover that now. 

How we work

We work in three key stages, including:

  • Phase 1. Preparation = We evaluate your needs, build a campaign plan, and set up a tracker to monitor links
  • Phase 2. Service delivery = We build your link asset and place links 
  • Phase 3. Outcomes = We assess your campaign's success and send you a performance report

Now. Let's look at ‘Phase 2. Service delivery' a little closer. While the processes inside this stage are complicated and flexible, they generally follow two patterns. 

If we are building links in guest posts, we generally: propose and plan a draft → prepare the draft → audit it → approve the links with clients → work on the post with the publisher → publish it. 

That process generally looks like this:

MediaBerry's guest post process

Alternatively, if we are building links in existing or new content from partners, we generally: find places for potential links → prepare a “wishlist” of link placements → pitch the links to partners → add in the links –> hit “publish.” 

That process generally looks like this:

MediaBerry's link exchange process

So what are the advantages to our approach?

MediaBerry's relationship-building approach to linking: benefits and a case study 

Creative relationship-based link-building is a fantastic way to boost your website's SEO. And we can prove it. 

Research shows that 51% of marketers notice positive effects 1 – 3 months after starting a backlinking strategy. 

And though it's a common observation, our own work shows that building links increases your domain ranking. Domain ranking is crucial — as researchers in a study of 11.8 million Google search engine results found that a strong domain rating “strongly correlates with higher search engine rankings.” They also found the #1 Google result had an average of 3.8 times more backlinks than results ranking #2 – #10. 

In five years, 92% of marketers think Google's algorithm will prioritize backlinks. And this seems like a fair bet, too, as Google partially built its PageRank algorithm on backlinks

But while we could sit here all day and list the many benefits of building relationship-based links, what can it do for your business in practice?

Let us tell you a story. 

In late 2020, a company that produces high-quality AI software approached us with a problem. Despite having an excellent team of marketers, they didn't have the bandwidth to undertake a whole backlinking strategy in-house. 

So we designed them a data-based strategy that gave them 62 backlinks. 

project execution for building 62 backlinks

And what did it do? Our strategy (which you can read about here):

  • Drove their domain ranking from 49 to 67
  • Increased their organic traffic by 2,772% (from 9,034 visitors a month to 259,500)
  • Lifted their referring domains by over 304% (from 464 to 1,876)

And that's just one example of a client we've helped. There's more on our ‘Our Results' page.

Investing in your site can be daunting, but you don't need to be afraid! Relationship-derived linking is a tried-and-true, data-driven approach to boosting your website's domain ranking.

At MediaBerry, we believe in our approach to building relationships and links. 

So if you're interested in working with us, contact us and get started! 

Michael Rarick is the CEO and Director of Sales at MediaBerry. His mission is to help SaaS companies grow their market share through white hat, relationship-based SEO. Connect with Michael below!

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