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Don’t let your business make this basic mistake online

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I see it over and over again.

In between the squawking about how blogs are already passe and how Twitter is going mainstream, there is a fundamental Old School operating concept of the Web and social media that is routinely ignored by many organizations, mostly through what I suspect is simple lack of knowledge and fear of a netiquette misstep.

Here it is  -  they fail to acknowledge the link.

If a blog links to your business/organization/nonprofit/product/service, the simplest way to acknowledge is to leave a comment on the blog post that linked to you.

If someone links to you in their Twitter stream, then acknowledge with a return tweet.

If someone writes on your business Facebook page Wall or uploads a great fan photo, write something back.

When someone links to you, particularly in a two-way conversation tool like a blog, that is the blog author’s way of saying “I acknowledge you and find you link-worthy.” Someone is talking about you with that link. It may be good. It may be bad. The important thing is that they’re digitally waving at you.

If I were a real, live person standing in front of you waving, would you ignore me, or would you engage and talk about your business/organization/nonprofit/product/service?

Of course, you’d engage….unless you don’t care, in which case, you’re on the wrong blog and there’s nothing for you here at Every Dot Connects.  (Go watch old Van Halen videos, maybe?)

You should acknowledge because people behind keyboards are real, too, and links are important.

Links are the coin of the realm online.  They are a “vote of trust.” They drive Google authority. They are a powerful “communication path.” They provide helpful background information.

Most wonderfully, they can shed light on hidden gems that might otherwise be lost in the Webby flood. Through a well-placed link, an influential blogger or wired journalist can bring millions of people’s attention to worthy Susan Boyle-like businesses or services that would otherwise labor in obscurity.

Sure, if you’re a big business with lots of Web traffic (or a small organization with a tiny staff, or a one-person organization like me who writes for more than one blog) it’s tough to keep up with all the inbound links. I discussed this issue on Twitter with the ebullient Dell online community guy Richard Binhammer, who said that while he and his company certainly keep track of who is linking to Dell and its blogs, they only go back and provide “commentary when warranted.”

Well, sure. Some conversations in real life are ignored when appropriate, some just get a cursory nod or “hey, thanks” and others elicit a more active exchange. It’s the same online.

This assumes that there is a mechanism in your business or organization that TELLS you when there’s an inbound link, and from whom.

I think that half the battle with lack of response to links is that the right people….

  1. Don’t even see data about links or Web traffic or Facebook business page commentary, and
  2. Don’t know what to do with the data if they get it.

The answer is to:

  1. Get an internal communications system set up so that you see, immediately, when people link to you (to start, here’s how to see when someone links to your site and where to set up a Google Alert for your URL.)  Then….
  2. Recognize the value and acknowledge the link.

As a travel writer and tourism consultant, I link to travel-related and state/county/city tourism organizations all the time.  Usually, I am trying to highlight a place in a positive way because I love and support travel.

The only way I can ever get a comment response to those links in my blog post is to send an email to the linkee, saying, “Hey, I linked to you. Come say hello!”

Um, I’ll wait here while y’all think about the absurdity of that. :)

Don’t be “that guy” online  -  acknowledge the link.

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This post was written by:

Sheila Scarborough - who has written 31 posts on Every Dot Connects.

I'm a freelance writer specializing in travel, NHRA drag racing and social media/Web 2.0.

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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Elmo Says:

    Well done, Sheila. This is excellent advice and something which should certainly be put into practice.

  2. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Thanks very much; I finally thought, gosh, maybe they simply don’t KNOW. That’s when it’s great to be a blogger - you just sit down and try to address the issue.

  3. Erin Davenport Says:

    You’re on a roll this week Sheila. This is great information. Keep it up.

  4. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    By the way, I don’t know why my danged gravatar won’t work. I do have a face, I am not a chess piece. :)

    Here: http://sheilascarborough.com/_wsn/page2.html

  5. Julie Tereshchuk Says:

    Content rich, as always, SS… Liked the waving analogy, plus the info about figuring out who is linking to your site (and what to do about it!) Just forwarded it to road warrior Trev who is heading to a Sterling Commerce trade show next week in San Anton… I figured there’s gonna be SOME geek out there blogging about it. In today’s economy, no company can afford to miss any attention that comes their way.

  6. Jessica O'Riley Says:

    Well said, Sheila!

  7. cheap traveler Says:

    Yeah but…

    In a blog situation, you should be sure to put a different page link in the comments than appears in the blog itself, for SEO purposes. Nobody really knows how Google penalizes multiple links, but there’s plenty of rumor mongering that the more of the same on a page, the more risk they’ll be discounted or at least reduced in value. Plus if they link to you from their site and you link to them from yours, that’s a reciprocal link and most SEO experts will say that’s a wash in the search algorhithms. It may result in a few hits, but it probably won’t help your search engine efforts.

    You can thank the scammers who are always trying to game the system for all this.

  8. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Hi cheap traveler,

    Thanks for the Google-y tip; it’s annoying how much mental effort has to go into figuring out how to please the Almighty Search Engine. Phooey.

  9. Roxanne Darling Says:

    You’ve raised a great point Sheila - and one that I pass on as well.

    I think a big part of the problem is that many people don’t actually know when they’ve been covered. :-)

    And the caveat is that when a blogger is being paid or compensated in any way for related content, they should be putting the “nofollow” tag inside their outbound links to avoid getting penalized themselves by Google. That limits “Google juice” for the buyer but it protects the blogger from penalties. But also in that case, I think it is the buyer’s job to keep track of those postings anyway - without relying on a blog dashboard or Google alert to find them.

  10. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Thanks, Roxanne. Hadn’t thought about making outbound links “no follow” on posts that are compensated for in any way. Hmmmm.

  11. Maggie Says:

    I completely agree with you Sheila. Respecting a link back is very important and it’s sad that many companies overlook that basic etiquette.

  12. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Hi Maggie, Thanks for visiting. Before companies can be polite, they have to even be aware that someone’s said “Hi!” of course. ;)