Link Building 101: Utilizing Past and Current Relationships

Link Building 101 Utilizing Past and Current Relationships

Link building can be a difficult task, requiring knowledge, patience and trust. Going after good links is a project, not an overnight success.

Despite this, link building is something anyone can do, especially if they have a valuable website and confidence interacting with their peers. Starting with a few basic strategies that can help build confidence and understanding, increasing the success of a campaign.

This is doubly true if you’re new to link building, or launching a new link building campaign.

There are five strategies worth examining and trying at the start of a campaign, four of which we’ve already covered:

This post will cover past and current relationships for link building.

The Power of Relationships

Building relationships has become quite popular in the current link building environ, especially by those pushing link earning over manual building.

Building strong relationships is the foundation of marketing. And, as link building is but a small niche of online marketing, it makes sense that we take relationships into consideration, not to mention create and foster further relationships as we work.

Too often I hear about link building and relationship building as if they’re mutually exclusive, which only makes sense if you take into consideration link building circa 2010: build links until your eyes bleed.

When link velocity, density, and quantity were the key considerations, of course relationships weren’t valued (or were undervalued) in the pursuit of links. Building a relationship is a slow tactic, requiring authenticity, care, and investment. Building links like a robot simply isn’t a feasible strategy.

Now, building links and relationships are definitely no longer mutually exclusive tasks. The truth is that people link to people, and building relationships is a great way to secure outstanding links.

Furthermore, building relationships is often important to a new website or a website looking to broaden their visibility, which goes hand in hand with link building. So, if you’re already working to build relationships, you should be considering links as well.

Building Links Through Relationships

There are a variety of ways to build links through relationships. These methods don’t have to be manipulative and should be pursued on a case-by-case basis, when it makes sense within the relationship.

Here are a few common ways relationships can result in links:

  • Due to interaction:
    • Participating in events, surveys, interviews, etc.
    • Creating an event, survey, interview, or piece of ego bait yourself.
    • Reviewing or giving a testimonial.
    • Doing something nice/worth mentioning.
  • Creating a partnership/cosponsored programs.
  • Thought leadership.
  • Natural mention that you can ask changed to a link.
  • Simply asking (in an intelligent fashion).

These activities all have benefits outside link building, but keep links in mind if you’re engaged in any of them.

For links, it’s worth organizing relationships into two separate categories: previously established relationships, and current relationships.

Both of these can be ongoing relationships, but they need to be handled differently as typically you’ll be doing different tasks, and established relationships should be handled with care, as well as examined for past linking.

Previous Relationships: Incorrect Linking and Mentions

Previous relationships are definitely the first avenue of relationship links to explore when starting a link building campaign, as opposed to current/newer relationships.

Older relationships often represent great link building opportunity based upon improper (or lack of) linking.

This happens naturally over time – either the link was made improperly, it was a simple mention that could/should be a link, or the page it was pointing at was modified, moved, or changed.

This was covered partly by the 404 and link reclamation and Web mention pieces.

Following the advice of those articles should help capture links resulting from previous relationships that are incorrectly linking to a dead page, or mentions of your website without actual linking. However, due diligence requires us to dig deeper.

Take these steps to review prior relationships and any links that resulted from them.

1. Review Past Relationships

Make a list of any and all previous relationships. Don’t limit this to online relationships, either! Obviously to secure a link a website will need to be involved, but links can start offline, too.

Making a list gives you a good starting point, as well as helps you better internalize the website’s history. Fully understanding a website will drive creative thinking later on in the campaign when you’re pursuing bigger and more creative links.

2. Review Links Coming From Prior Relationships

Use a backlink tool to explore where your backlinks are coming from, sorting by referring domain. A few common tools for this:

Please note that these are all paid tools, but essential to SEO and link building. If you’re starting a campaign, you should subscribe to at least one.

Let’s look at how to navigate to linking domains in OSE from Moz.

Enter your website’s URL into the tool:


This will take you into the tool, displaying your inbound links from other websites. Navigate over to Linking Domains:

OSE Linking Domains

Now, switch this to display all links to the root domain, as opposed to links to the page:

OSE Switching to Root Domains

Don’t forget to click filter.

This would be a good time to click around and explore if you haven’t done a full backlink analysis.

Once you’ve found a past (or current) relationship linking to you, check out which pages are linking and in what fashion by expanding the selection:

OSE Expand to Pages

Simple as that. If you want to make the data more sortable/filterable, you can download your backlinks as CSVs and manipulate them around in excel. Learn how to do this in the competitor analysis post.

3. Determine if Any Links Point at Wrong Pages or Link Incorrectly

Manually check the links to see if any of the links are pointing at less than optimal pages. Check for:

  • Links going to 404s.
  • Links pointing at out of date pages.
  • Links going to the wrong pages.
  • Links highlighting old products.
  • Etc.

This is a good chance for clean-up work. Although individually each link won’t make a huge impact necessarily, they add up. Also, it’s a great first step into the project, establishes confidence, and helps get early movement.

4. Search for Mentions

Searching a site for mentions of your brand, product, company, or key figures of your company (such as your SEO or CMO) is the next step.

Here’s a Google search, which is the simplest and most direct fashion to search another site for mentions: “brand” OR “unique product” OR “” OR “” OR “” OR “Company CEO” OR “Company CMO”

Start with that search and see what you can find. If you’re unfamiliar with search modifiers you can read more about it here. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what you can find, just remember the most vital part – using the site: search modifier.

If you’re able to find any mentions it should be a fairly straightforward process to contact whomever you have a relationship within that company/site and ask if it’d be possible to change it to a link.

Keep in mind the age of the mention and the strength of the relationship. Asking someone you just met to change a 3-year-old mention into a link might not be appropriate.

Current Relationships: Engagement

This is probably the most straightforward way most websites get links from relationships: through engagement.

Typically these relationships form via social media/direct real life connections. Here’s the typical process:

  • Common interaction with another person in your industry who you met either through a conference, a common friend, or simply interacting online (via social media).
  • Trust established overtime, and a relationship forms.
  • Common communication, offering and receiving advice, asking for social shares, etc.

Somewhere throughout this relationship a link is almost always formed, if the other party has a website. Whether it’s on a “sites we like” style page, an industry news/roundup article, or even just by being on their mind when they’re creating new content.

How does this factor into a new link building campaign? Simple – just ensuring these style of relationships are leading to links, as they should.

If you’re the one who has fostered the relationships, you should know this answer to this immediately. If you aren’t getting links through invested relationships, likely all it will take is reaching out and being more engaged. Ask whomever you have a relationship with if/how you can contribute, if they’re involved in any upcoming events, if they’d include a link to your site on their site, if they would review a product, etc. etc.

Everyone is always working to promote – do something to help them out. For example:

  • If you’ve used or still use their service, write them a testimonial. Testimonials almost always link out to the provider to further the credibility of the testimonial/review.
  • If they’re hosting or sponsoring an event, offer to help. This works especially well if there’s a site specifically for the event. One of the most standard ways people show gratitude online is by writing a thank you and/or providing a link.
  • Participating in a group interview or survey. Group interviews and surveys are common in almost every industry. If you know of one happening, offer your time/opinions. Once the content is published there’s almost always links to those who were involved, unless it’s anonymous or fairly substantial.
  • Create a group interview, survey, or event. Not only does this lead to link bait content (if done correctly it should be highly sharable), but also the people involved often link to something they’ve participated in. So figure out an interesting way to involve people you’ve established relationships with in your industry.
  • Just do something nice. This isn’t really a link building strategy as much as a marketing strategy. However, it can and often will lead to links, if you’re routinely generous and giving back to your community, as well as those you’ve built relationships with.

The key here is to work intelligently. Don’t blatantly ask for a link from a site or someone you have a relationship with. Ask instead how you can contribute in a meaningful way. Meaningful actions will always lead to the best links you can build – natural, editorial links that make sense.


There are really two ways to build links through relationships:

  • Find a mention, bad or incorrect link, and ask for it to be fixed to a proper link.
  • Engage within your industry and create relationships authentically, while keeping links in mind.

When starting a new link building campaign or even just a new website, building relationships is one of the most powerful ways to create new links and boost visibility in general.

Building strong relationships will lead to great links, better visibility, better social media engagement, mutually beneficial opportunities, and an overall better market presence.

There’s no reason in today’s legitimate link building world that relationship building and link building have to be mutually exclusive. So, if you’re working with a new website, or trying to grow a website, and creating relationships is on your radar, you should be thinking about link building as well.

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