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How to Engage Thought Leaders in Your Vertical

One of the most difficult aspects of SEO company work, especially for small independent firms, is the feeling that every website that ranks above yours is a potential competitor you have to work against. Veterans and professionals know that this is hardly the case: often times, successful professionals are happy to trade tips and tricks with their peers if given the opportunity.

Traditional networking skills are a must when it comes to engaging thought leaders and industry voices online. Reaching out to others in your industry is simple thanks to the internet, and you can leverage your connections and networking opportunities to help build better links and raise your rankings in the process. Even if you’re a skilled B2B networker, some of these tips may not be obvious, and are certainly worth reiteration if they are. These proven tactics will help you reach across the digital divide and build relationships with other leading professionals in your field, and build a stronger foundation for your business in the process.

Find Networking Opportunities Online

If your online social networking and network building strategies are restricted to contacting people directly over major social networks, you’re missing out on richer online networking resources. There are plenty of web services and seminars for professionals that will get you valuable face time with like-minded industry professionals looking to build new connections just like you are. Lanyrd.com, Mixergy.com, and Underground Online Seminar are just a few examples of valuable online services that will put you in contact with a wide range of industry professionals that can help you expand your own opportunities.

Engage Your Sources and Return The Favor

How many times have you cited market research from a blog or article you happened to find through search engine results? Was the author’s data valuable to your business? Did it help you justify a decision or change your mind about your SEO practices? Thank them for their effort!
Dropping a line to writers and fellow marketing peers for a source you’ve backlinked or referred to for your own business is an excellent outreach strategy, and one that takes the least amount of time and effort to do. There’s no work involved in actually finding these new potential contacts—if you’ve found their work, you’ve already found them. Thanking them can be as easy as leaving a comment on a blog or reaching out through social networks or email. The idea sounds completely obvious, but this is easily one of the most overlooked networking opportunities professionals are bound to encounter regularly.

Do Your Own Research

In the same line as the previous tip, doing your own research can attract plenty of opportunities directly to you. Answer interesting questions and research industry-specific problems, then post your experiential results on a personal or professional blog to make your business more easily discoverable in search engines. This is an excellent way to broadcast yourself to the rest of your vertical and be noticed. Networking is a reciprocal relationship, and you have to do your part as a worthwhile contact and make yourself a valuable asset to your associates. Sharing your insights with concrete numbers and graphically mapped data points attracts the most attention, and can quickly raise your worth as a worthwhile contact to your associates.

Syndication Is A Golden Opportunity

Contributing to an industry-relevant syndication site is an excellent opportunity for everyone involved. For SEO professionals, syndication offers an outlet to hone your craft and write about your own work for an enjoyable change of pace, as well as an opportunity to reach more of your industry peers and leading community members. For publishing partners, you are providing new content and contributing another professional voice to a wide pool of expertise and valuable content. For potential new clients and anyone else that happens upon a syndicated article you’ve written, it gives them name recognition for your services if they ever find your business or your articles in the future.

Don’t Reach For The Highest Rung In The Ladder First

A major mistake practiced far too often is the idea that you have to go directly to the top to reach significant leaders you can “benefit” from. This is a great way to isolate yourself and your business from the connections that really matter: the up-and-coming professionals and new voices that are making their first major splashes.

Building valuable connections is a game of breadth, not height: expand your reach by networking with mid-level professionals that are more willing to network and happy to share their experiences with you. You never know how valuable your connections could be to you in the future, so it’s better to build a large pool of connections with potential and talent than a few lucky breaks with highly successful top leaders.

With a reliable network of industry contacts, your ability to engage industry leaders and the rest of the community becomes easier. You can leverage your connections in your work by backlinking to their content and providing content that they can link back to you with. Building new leads and developing valuable cross-referenced traffic is far easier when you can use your industry contacts as part of your SEO strategies. As you find more success with these insider engagement strategies, it will begin to show in the quality of your work as well as your search rankings and conversions.

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