Let me clarify something unambiguously before we move on. I am not asking you to pay micro-celebrities to say something dishonest, to let you guest post on their blog, or to put a link up.
I am asking you to pay a micro-celebrity to write a guest post, or do whatever they do best, on your blog.
I feel like I'm on repeat with this, but the message keeps failing to stick. Pay people who always get natural links, and you will get natural links. Would it earn you links and attention if Rand Fishkin wrote a post on your blog? Would you pay for that kind of attention? Yes?
Then why aren't you thinking about your clients the same way?
Throwing Money At Them Won't Solve the Problem, but it Will Help
The "guest post culture" that SEOs have embraced has led us into a peculiar kind of entitlement when it comes to content. We've let ourselves believe that content should always be free, that it's always enough to do it just for the exposure.
Most people don't think like that. They see you asking for content and expecting it for free, and they think you're ripping them off. They think this because, if the content's good enough to capture an audience, it's true. Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal didn't become semi-famous by writing a bunch of guest posts for exposure. He did it by creating hilarious comics that inspired online discussion and sharing, like we talked about over at KissMetrics. (Yeah, I can smell the irony too.)
SEOs have grown accustomed to doing outreach without spending money because we're used to thinking of spending money as buying links. But buying the labor of a trusted, popular internet celebrity is the most ethical way you can build links. Asking for their time without compensation? That's the unethical move.
So stop basing your link strategy entirely on the "generosity" of sites willing to publish your content for "the exposure." Stop thinking that every writer you hire ought to be a ghost-writer. Stop believing the lie that it's impossible to buy links naturally.
Start browsing Flikr and DeviantArt for high end photobloggers and graphic designers who have a large and rabid following.
Start clicking through YouTube for talking-head videos that have earned hundreds of thousands of views (and the video creator close to nothing).
Start browsing the web development forums for contributors who are there in every discussion with something useful to say, and hire them to develop a tool for you.
Start browsing Amazon for published authors and offer them money to write a post on your site.
You don't have to put them on your payroll, but you damn well better put their name on your site, bold and proud. Just buy a one-off project and watch the results.
I guarantee there will be no going back after that. You'll see that nothing attracts links better than somebody who already attracts links.
Image credit: Shazeen Samad