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Relationship Building: How to Earn Trust & High-Quality Links



Building trust with your audience is an essential component of any content marketing strategy.

When you build trust, you build authority simultaneously. And, when you check off those two elements, you forge connections that lead to long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.

“Mutually beneficial” includes peers, followers, customers, and fans linking to your content. If you provide real value, they will repay you in turn – it’s that simple.

The question is, how do you start building trust and connections in the first place? What should you do off the bat?

Read on.

1. Refocus on Creating Link-Worthy Content

If you want to build links to your site, first concentrate on creating pieces that are link-worthy. This is content people turn to as a known resource for their questions and problems.

It sounds simple, but it’s harder to pull off in practice.

That’s because few people understand what you need to create high-quality, backlink-worthy content.


Consider these questions and you’ll get what I mean:

  • What are you going to write about? Have you vetted the topic with research into your audience’s interests, questions, and problems?
  • Will you target keywords in the content? Which ones? Have you done keyword research?
  • What goals do you want the content to accomplish for your brand?
  • Who’s going to write it? Who’s going to edit it? Will you include branded images or infographics?
  • Most high-quality content needs research and references to relevant stats. Who’s going to pull those?
  • When will you publish?
  • How will you promote the post?

Now take these questions and multiply them by the number of posts you want to publish monthly.

That’s a ton of work, planning, scheduling, and strategizing.

However! The sooner you get comfortable with the fact that link-worthy content takes hard work, the sooner you can lay down workflows, processes, and practices to make it easier.

Relationship Building: How to Earn Trust & High-Quality Links

Remember, high-quality content covers all of these areas:

  • Audience-relevant
  • Well-written and well-researched, with references to trusted sources
  • Organized with clear, informative headers
  • Showcases originality of thought
  • Entertains, educates, informs, or delights the audience

For an example of link-worthy content, look at Oli Gardner of Unbounce. He has written masses of great content to grow their brand.

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The best example is a mega-infographic, The Noob Guide to Online Marketing, which clocks in at over 13,000 words and 15 million pixels. This single, massive piece has earned thousands of links and over 150,000 downloads to date.

Relationship Building: How to Earn Trust & High-Quality Links

The sheer mountains of work that go into content pieces like this pay off in spades.

2. Respond, Engage, Interact

Posting incredible content isn’t enough to earn readers’ trust.

If you’re a silent presence that emerges to post blogs, only to retreat into your Fortress of Solitude, you’ll never get anywhere.


Instead, you need to be responsive, present, and engaged online.

  • When readers post comments and questions, reply. Be conversational.
  • Maintain active social media profiles. (You don’t have to be on every platform – just one or two that make sense for you/your brand.)
  • Post comments to others’ content and blogs. Engage in authentic discussions!
  • Share/like/retweet posts, and @ people in your network when relevant.

3. Show You’re a Real Person

This point ties into point #2. Showing you’re a real, living-and-breathing human being is essential to trust-building and relationship-forging.

People want to know there’s a heartbeat behind the brands they turn to – not a cluster of greedy, boardroom robots trying to wring every last cent out of their pockets.

Engaging with people online can help you do this, but there are some other ways to showcase your humanness, too:

  • On your website, include an about page and a picture of you. People love putting a face to a name.
  • In that vein, include a clear picture of yourself on all personal social media profile pages associated with your name. That means a portrait/headshot that’s close enough to show your face. (If you’re using a picture where you’re a minuscule ant against a landscape background, zoom in!)
  • Again, maintain your social presence and post regularly. Ghost accounts are a red flag for most people.

Have you noticed a theme, here? Showing you’re human is about staying open, honest, and transparent. If you want to build relationships, online or off, you have to share bits of yourself and remain present.

Rand Fishkin talked about this back in 2011, but what he said then is still relevant today:

“SEO at its core is about great content combined with earning great references. Sharing openly, honestly and adding value with that content is far more likely to produce returns in the form of links, reputation, references and customers than staying closed and secretive.”

Bonus tip: Remember to build relationships offline, too! The more people who know and like you only increases the chances that you’ll earn links naturally. Go to relevant conferences, events, meetups, or anywhere you can start building relationships.

4. Make Sure Markers of Trust Are All Over Your Website

Think about what you look for when you want to find a trusted source online. Those markers are exactly what should be gracing your site if you want that trust for your own brand.

Most of us notice these factors unconsciously during our internet browsing sprees, but they are key to supporting a trustworthy presence online (in addition to great content and an active social presence).

According to Jakob Nielsen, websites communicate trustworthiness in four main areas:


Relationship Building: How to Earn Trust & High-Quality Links

  • Design quality – Professional appearance, clear navigation
  • Up-front disclosure – Being honest and transparent about anything that affects the customer relationship
  • Comprehensive, correct, and current content – Webpages, blog posts, and product pages all fall under this category
  • Connection to the rest of the web – Links go out to, and come in from, other websites

For a drilled-down look at the trust elements that can make or break your site, look at this chart from Fishkin’s article mentioned earlier:

Relationship Building: How to Earn Trust & High-Quality Links

5. Link to Other Trusted Sources in Your Content

The final puzzle piece for earning trust?

High-quality links.

It’s the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That means if you want to build a stellar link profile, link out to other trusted sources in your content.

Aurora Harley, writing for the Nielsen Norman Group blog, has some great insights about why your content and online presence need to be linked to the greater web (both linking out and in):

“An isolated website that does not link to and cannot be found on third-party review sites, social media, or news outlets appears to either have something to hide or not be a fully established, stable company.”

An unconnected, lone website is suspect, in other words. It vouches for no one and no one vouches for it.

Since the internet is all about interconnectivity, it’s no wonder people and Google give sites with no link profile the side-eye.

In particular, linking out to high-quality sources does two things for you:

  • It associates you with those sites. If the person who clicks the links in your posts finds those links lead to great information, it speaks well for the value you’re providing.
  • It builds your authority. Anyone who reads your posts will be able to see that you know industry sources and have done your research (read: you’re an expert).

The best part about linking out is that it’s easy to do. If nothing else, integrate it with creating link-worthy content.

Trust Online is Earned, Not Grabbed

Perhaps the most important takeaway for successful trust-earning, relationship-building, and link-winning is you can’t rush any of it.

No relationship is built overnight, and you can’t win trust through one interaction. Instead, a user or customer needs to see that you’re true to your word over and over. It’s something that can only happen with time.

When you treat link-building as a long-term game tied to building true connections with your audience, you’ll have a better chance of going further.

Don’t grab for people’s trust – earn it, and the links will follow.


Timeframe: Ongoing, on a daily/weekly basis

Results detected: 3-month minimum time frame

Average links sent per month: 30-40, depending on the effort put in

Tools needed:

  • Skilled content creators (copywriters)
  • Your social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Ahrefs for link-tracking

Benefits of relationship building:

  • High-quality sites finding your content and linking to your site acts as a trust factor and a ‘vote’ for your credibility, which ties into higher Google rankings. Ongoing link-building will build DA (domain authority), which builds overall website value.
  • Link-building through relationship-building is a long-term, evergreen, “worth-it” process to earn solid, lasting growth and higher rankings for your website. Earning trust and links through relationships is a much more lasting process than overnight, quick link-building tricks.


How SEO Works in Digital Marketing




Search engine optimization (SEO) is an integral part of digital marketing.

SEO helps with brand discoverability. When done right, SEO can create the most consistent and by far the highest-quality traffic source which doesn’t require on-going maintenance.

Yet, SEO is usually the most isolated part of the marketing. Whether it is an in-house team or a third-party service that’s delivering your SEO campaigns, it usually exists on its own without really communicating goals, progress or results to the whole company.

This creates silos that can lead to poor results and even reputation crises.

How does SEO work in digital marketing and how can a business make it work better?

What is SEO?

SEO is a collection of tactics (content, technical, link building, even website security and usability) that ensures that your website is easy to understand for search engines.

Basically, it ensures a machine knows that your page will be easy to find to a human being who is looking to solve a related problem.

Search engine traffic is one of the highest-quality traffic for many reasons:

  • Unlike PPC (paid) traffic, it doesn’t require an ongoing investment to keep coming
  • Unlike social media traffic,  it doesn’t require an ongoing work to keep coming
  • Unlike social media traffic, you are not interrupting people’s browsing. Instead you give them what they were actually searching for.

In other words, it is consistent and it converts well. No other digital marketing tactic beats that.

Apart from driving direct traffic, search engine optimization helps build brand awareness by increasing your brand’s organic findability.


Keep Your Whole Team Aware of Why SEO is Important

The great thing about today is that everyone understands the value of ranking high on Google! Sadly, however, many folks only know that they “need SEO” without having really understood what that means. 

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SEO these days is too hard for a digital marketer to do alone. Many SEOs find themselves in situations where an executive will simply come down and go “Why are we not ranking well for ‘dingwobble’?” 

Keep working hard with teams for them to understand how they contribute to the SEO process:

  • Product Marketers who are responsible for the business, personas and messaging understand that SEO is critical to driving the bottom line revenue numbers they are looking at. Part of the persona developing process should be the development of the “digital persona” – what websites and search terms are these people looking for? This helps the product marketer when it comes time to develop messaging, as that is going to be critical for developing the content, so the right search terms better be there!
  • Field Marketers responsible for the campaigns need to know how SEO fits within their campaign, how it in fact is core to our demand generation, and how to make sure to keep the campaigns integrated.
  • Marketing Communications is creating the content, so SEO should very well be top of mind for them, as the content itself will be critical in impacting how successful SEO will be.
  • But that’s not all! Often, other groups are creating content (Press Releases, Blog Posts, Presentations, etc.) that also end up on the web and impact SEO. Whether it’s Corporate Communications, Investor Relations or even Legal teams, working with them is critical.
  • IT manages the infrastructure and can be very critical to the technical aspects of SEO.
  • Sales and customer support teams are at the forefront of marketing talking to your future and current customers, so they need to be involved in the SEO strategy. Creating relevant content goes beyond keywords. It needs to address real problems and answer actual people’s questions, and your client-facing teams will be your best source of inspiration here.  
  • Executives also care! While they can’t often influence the day-to-day of SEO, they will care a lot about the bottom line, to which SEO contributes.
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Educating all of these people about SEO helps empower them, as well as position yourself, the SEO, as the subject matter expert who is not just someone back-office who gives very little visibility into the black box of SEO, but someone who is actively educating and contributing to the organization’s success.

Review and discuss common KPIs early and often to make sure everyone knows what victory looks like to the team.

Additionally, SEO should be a solid part of any project launch as it impacts every stage of product positioning. From choosing a business name to choosing a website builder, your initial efforts should be driven by SEO best practices.

What is the key to SEO success in a constantly changing environment?

As a practitioner of SEO, I believe that you need to look to ensure you are looking at both developing yourself in both depth and breadth of knowledge. A key danger in the name of being informed or being a part of the SEO community is spending all your time debating tactics and practices rather than testing them. 

Additionally, SEOs as with all employees need to look outside their field to stretch and learn how to be more well rounded. This could mean learning to code, or educating yourself in some other area of the business you work for.  This will expose you to ideas others may not have.

As a manager of people, success is really about diversity of expertise. Who you hire and the kind of people you hire will be far more valuable than much of what people invest in with regards to SEO programs. You have to have people who can roll with the punches and develop a skill for self-management and personal growth. 


Finally, I think knowing what your real goals are in having an SEO program are the key to long term success. The reality is you may get more traffic, but if that traffic is not from qualified leads and generates real revenue then the benefit may be very little. Having well defined goals and metrics will also help you avoid chasing algorithm changes and focus on the big picture.

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SEO is the most essential long-term digital marketing strategy but to make it really effective, you need a knowledge team that is well-integrated into the company’s life. Good luck!

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is the brand NINJA at Internet Marketing Ninjas as well as the founder of numerous startups including MyBlogGuest, MyBlogU, ViralContentBee, TwChat and many more.

Ann Smarty has been an online marketing consultant for 10 years providing high-quality digital marketing consulting through her services and courses (both free and paid).

Ann Smarty’s content marketing ideas have been featured in NYtimes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, Search Engine Land and many more. She is known for her indepth tool reviews, innovative content marketing advice and actionable digital marketing ideas.

Source: Ann Smarty

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