By now most of us know that SEO is shifting toward the importance of quality relationships and connections with popular websites as opposed to deliberate link building. After going through and trying to remove links that weren’t so natural (or leftover from your old strategy), it’s time to start building these relationships and working with sites that Google can really trust.

You want any type of connection you can get—mentioning your company, publishing content, etc.—but we can’t ignore the fact that links do still matter. The question, then, is pretty simple: How do you reach out to these authoritative sites, establish a connection, and build a link without appearing like you don’t care about the relationship?

How SEO is Changing and the Catch 22 We’re Left With

To be fair to Google, the idea of important relationships being greater than link building for SEO has always been their mantra; however it is only recently that Google has made serious moves to show marketers and SEOs that they are serious.

A few of their changes we saw this year include:

  • Matt Cutts writes a blog post about guest blogging. Head of Google Webspam team Matt Cutts wrote on his blog that guest blogging for links is over. He included several videos in his post that show that he has been saying this for years, but it was this blog post that really got through to people. He explained that in the past this strategy worked, but times have changed.
  • Panda 4.0 algorithm update was a major algorithm change and data refresh that impacted 7.5 percent of English queries. The update focused on eliminating spammy websites from the top of Google results, and many claimed they saw a drop likely due to links that were in an author bio (or appeared to be specifically build for SEO purposes). The biggest advice following this update was to focus on high quality relationships.

While publishing or working with a poor quality website for links has long been something Google has taken seriously, it’s only now that marketers are starting to realize that it’s those highly authoritative websites that have the real power. Good content on good sites is great, but consistent content on popular websites and links is even better.

The Catch 22: Unfortunately, realizing this now seems like it’s too little too late. Everyone has the same idea as you, and there are only so many popular websites available in your industry. These websites are getting bogged down with requests for guest content. You want to become the authority, but you need help from the authority first. What happens when you feel like it’s impossible to break into this new strategy?

Unique Tips to Getting Connected with Authoritative Websites

Reaching out directly to an authoritative website in your industry is never easy, so consider some of the following tips that might help you get there:

  1. Start small and reach out to your connections. Think indirect.

Even if you aren’t close with some of the biggest publications like The Huffington Post or Forbes, you’re bound to have some connections in your industry. Continue to keep those relationships strong and eventually get to a point where you feel comfortable asking them if they have any inside tips about publishing on some of those sites. They may know someone who knows someone, so you could meet that popular website indirectly. Any introduction you can get would be helpful.

  1. See who is publishing on those websites and reach out to those authors.

Oftentimes major publications and websites will have a strong set of guest authors (as opposed to only in-house staff). Chances are major websites are not looking to add new authors, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t reach out to current authors and see if they would want to connect. Start by talking with the author about his/her own personal website and working with him/her that way. This will help you build up that relationship before you ask about working with the very authoritative website.

Even if you cannot get introduced to someone at the website you have in mind, if you have a good relationship with the guest author it’s more likely that they will reference your work or your company when relevant.

  1. Continue to link back to the authoritative website.

This isn’t a strategy that’s too unique, but it’s something worth mentioning. Whenever you’re writing a piece of content, whether it’s for your website or another website in your industry, use that authoritative website’s studies and articles as references. When you do, tag them whenever you promote your article socially to get them to notice you.

You also want to make sure you’re engaging with the website as much as possible, so create an account (if possible), continue to comment on articles, and really spend some time making yourself known before reaching out to anyone. Going even further, it’s important not to forget about social media. Social media is an excellent place to comment and share articles.

  1. Use their services.

Don’t underestimate the power of being a customer first. When I reached out to the site Bufferapp, they responded to my email and thanked me for having used the service for the last two years. It wasn’t something that I had mentioned in my email, but something they looked up on their own. This shows that you care about the company, which can help give you that seemingly impossible “in.”

A Quick Reminder

You need to continually create quality content on your blog and show that you know your stuff. You should not even attempt to connect with authoritative sites if your website isn’t full of great content itself. You might not be popular yet, but this is crucial if that’s your end goal.

Also remember that you’re playing the long game here, so expect this whole operation to take some time.

I highly recommend checking out this article our own Managing Partner Adam Heitzman wrote on Inc. Magazine that gives more tips and even evidence that SEO is moving toward some PR focused mentalities.

If you have any other unique tips for working with authoritative website and establishing relationships, we want to hear about them. Let us know your thoughts and your experiences in the comment section below.