Building Links on Your Offline Time

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Link building doesn’t just happen online…it can quite easily happen when you’re nowhere near a computer, when you’re simply talking to someone, wearing a t-shirt with your site’s name on it, sneaking in a mention of a URL during a quick chat or a major speech, etc. In short, there’s much more to building links than can be undertaken using a keyboard and a persuasive email.

Dropping Your URL in Conversation

Case in point: the lovely and talented Lisa Ditlefsen, co-founder of my blog, SEO Chicks, and amazingly talented offline marketer in her own right. Lisa, possibly not the most prolific blogger (to hear her tell it) due to a massive variety of reasons (like winning tech awards, parenting, and being busy planning a wedding), remains our most important link building asset. How does she do this? It’s simple…she constantly promotes the SEO Chicks at every relevant opportunity. Whether being interviewed on video or going to lunch with the head of a major IT firm, Lisa’s talking us up, and we’re getting links.

Promotional Products People WANT

Second case in point: It’s no secret that BOTW gives away the most coveted t-shirts at every conference.

Their logo-emblazoned attire adorns the majority of SEOs at least a few days out of every year, and I’m happy to speculate that several elderly men at my gym could identify this company on the basis of having to exercise behind me when I’m on the treadmill. A free giveaway turns into an amazing marketing technique. Their pink tank tops really are spectacular.

Professional Speaking and Networking

Conference speaking, for many, is the key to getting some truly fantastic links for their sites. There’s the bio in the conference bulletin, there are live blogging sessions, there are posts that reference controversy, and, as always, there are the exchanges made of business cards and personal information. This builds links. You fascinate me with your opinion on link bait, I write a post about it and link to you, someone else references my post which links to you and they link to you in turn, and so on and so forth.

How, then, can you leverage this for a business that sells tulip bulbs, for example? Since women are the minority in SEO currently, marketing SEO Chicks really isn’t too tricky…but what if you need to get links for something a bit more mundane?

Give stuff away: people love free stuff, no matter what it is. I, myself, have snapped up free crap at every possible occasion, especially if it’s orange or it bounces/glows. Put your URL on it, and give it away. Even if this does not get you a link, it most likely will bring in traffic, and that’s the bottom line. Whether it’s a really nice hoodie or a tacky sheet of stickers that your kids will adore, this kind of thing gets your name out there.

Be Nice to People

Be nice to people in social situations: typically speaking, if you’re a nice and polite person with even an ounce of charm, other people want to talk to you and hear about what you do. Good time to sneak in your company’s name with just enough of a sense of mystery that the person you’re talking to can’t help but find you online. Whether they know your URL or they use a search engine to find you, the point is that they’re looking for you, and they’re seeing what you offer. They might even link to you for some reason.

Hand out business cards with your URL on it: yes, this may sound boring and old-school, but it does get people to come to your site, and if those people have sites and like you, they may link. Cram the card into a fishbowl for the chance to win a free lunch at your local Mexican restaurant, pin it to the bulletin board at the coffee house down the street, and give it to every single person you meet. One bit of caution here, though…if you’re planning to use a business card for serious marketing, please make sure it’s professional. This isn’t the time for cuteness.

Make sure your friends, family, and connections know what you do: I can’t count the number of times when someone’s said “I really wish I knew someone who did x” and I’ve been able to pipe up with a contact. Knowing what others do, and having them know what YOU do, is key to keeping yourself out there. People tend to be good at reciprocating niceties such as this, and the more good people you recommend, the more you’ll be recommended in turn. Some of these people may have sites…

Julie Joyce owns the link development agency Link Fish Media, is one of SEO Chicks, and contributes to Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Gurus.

Julie Joyce
Julie Joyce owns the link development agency Link Fish Media, is one of SEO Chicks, and contributes to Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Gurus.
Julie Joyce

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  • Barry Welford

    Thanks, Julie. A most useful reminder of what the rest of life, other than the virtual online world, is all about. You really need to budget a proportion of your time on that too. After all making contacts is probably making links too.

  • greg

    Let us know if you need more shirts Julie. Pink, black, long sleeve, short sleeve, hoodies – whatever your heart desires.

  • Julie Joyce

    Thanks Greg! I DO happen to have an office full of people who could seriously enjoy hoodies…ahem.

  • Dan London

    I’ll take a hoodie, greg. thanks.

    and good article. I think people tend to not see the value of some of it because it is so hard to track the actual roi/value of these efforts.

  • Ben Moreno

    Hello. This is my first time commenting on this blog. Thanks for the useful post. I plan on going to Vegas in February and handing out business cards to the folks I meet there.

    I think offline promotion and link building is probably more useful than online. Simply because there is usually personal human interaction, which can make much more of an impression.

  • Joey

    This is a great article but the one point that has helped more than anything is the last one, Be Nice to People. I can’t second enough how far that goes and how much it will help you in the long run in any piece of your business. I get complemented on our customer service and we don’t do anything crazy except, be nice. Anyway, thanks for the post 🙂

  • Julie Joyce

    Thanks everyone, and Joey, I completely agree about being nice to people. It’s kind of a sad commentary on the world when you actually get excited about good customer service in ANY industry, but I definitely remember it.

  • Ankur

    Hey this method did work for the hardcore yelpers when was just a alexa 50k floating aorund the web.

    The had “hey, check our your review of your establishment on yelp!” cards, and then they would give stickers out that say “people <3 me on yelp” – old school does work!

  • kiran

    Yes I agree with you for this point “Dropping Your URL in Conversation”.

  • Loren Baker, Editor brand loyalty in the publisher and SEO industry is karazy. They are a company for many to emulate.

  • Julie Joyce

    Agreed on BOTW. You’ll also find it very difficult to find anyone in the industry who will say a bad thing about those guys personally…again, it’s good to be nice.

  • melian guilfoyle

    Great advice, all of it, but I’m itching to make some items to give away. I also think url-dropping is an effective technique. thanks

  • randfish

    Oh man – I have to be nice to people?! Sheesh… This SEO thing is really hard. 🙂

    Great post, Julie.

  • Barry Goggin

    A great reminder of promotion opportunities we all have every day.
    Being passionate without being overbearing can work also and people will get caught up in your enthusiasm and want to know more.
    I have been to medical conferences where wealthy doctors will line up to get pens, folders and so on. No one wants to miss out on that potential amazing free gift. You see people comparing notes to see where the hot gift may be!

  • Chuck Linker

    Hi Julie, its Chuck agin. It seems I gotta keep learnin you on link building. You forgot things like spray painting your url on the sides of buildings like a grocery store where lotsa people go. Tattoo it on your head and go to a concert. Call people from the phone book and tell them your url (best to do late at night so it makes an impression). I could go on but I think these 2 is enough for you to get started.

  • Chris

    How ridiculous and unnecessary is this post?
    Do you teach us how to breath to morrow?
    come one.. the joke is over.

  • Julie Joyce

    Chris, I’ll try and write a post about how to spell soon. Maybe that will be of use to you.

  • Ankur


  • Keri Morgret

    You can even do this when you’re buying something at a store, if what you’re buying somehow relates to your website. The more unusual the better.

    The other day, we were in a used bookstore, buying some books about WWII warships. Rather than just paying for the books and walking out, I mentioned that these would be great for the hobby we (my husband and I) were in, which is making 1/144 scale model warships and battling them. The bookstore owner thought that was interesting and unusual, took a business card, and really wanted to see the action on YouTube. I doubt we’ll get a link in this case, but it only takes a little more effort and you’re likely to get people interested and involved.

  • Julie Joyce


    That’s a great example, and thanks for your comment.

  • Atlanta Dentist

    Thanks Julie, I have enjoyed reading a few of your link building articles.