In Part 1 of Ultimate Link Building Guide for New Websites we covered the difficulties that online marketers face today, and the first steps in properly building an online presence on the Web. New websites have that first hump they must get through: getting their name out there.
Developing and executing a whole link campaign involves a lot of risks, but the organic rewards are high as well. In this second installment, we shall focus on the implementation of the campaign that you have developed.
I. Create your link building checklist.
1. Find the purpose.
As we have mentioned before, your link building campaign should have a specific reason for being. It should just be a singular idea wherein all the campaign strategies will branch off from. Align your goals within the group in order to execute the campaign well.
2. Assign the tasks.
You and your team members should have a detailed guideline about the task at hand. Map out who does which part of the project clearly so as to avoid management confusion in the future. Choose people wisely—they should be responsible and dedicated.
3. Plot the timeline.
Some teams would be lucky enough to run with the website/brand/company from the beginning. However, there will be times wherein you’ll be hired in the middle of an ongoing campaign. To avoid slip-ups and miscommunication, sit down with all the key people involved with the project to plot down the target dates for the goals.
4. Target key areas in your website.
The Site Map is the often overlooked part of a webpage. Visitors would usually skip over this area and would head straight for your content. However, in your campaign, the Site Map (yours, your competitor’s, and your prospect’s) will greatly help you.
Find out what pages the links are directed to. Rank them accordingly so that you know which website you’ll target. Jot down the keywords that you’d like to use in your content. (In the previous article, we have shown you ways to do keyword research.) Finally, identify the types of websites you’ll target to get links. We’ll discuss more about this below.
5. Generate ideas for finding link opportunities.
And while you’re at it, categorize them:
a. Basic link opportunities:
Linking out to these sites may move your rankings. But in general, they require low effort and will reap low rewards.
i. Search Engine Submission – Easy as 1, 2, 3: Submit your webpage to various search engines/directories and you’re done.
ii. Social Media Presence – Create a solid foothold online by creating official social media pages for your brand/website. Make sure it has content before you promote in order for your audience to interact with it.
iii. Local Directories – If you are targeting a more specific part of the general population, we suggest that you hunt down your local directories and submit your website to them. It’s a bit more labor-intensive, but it can yield interesting data for local SEO projects.
iv. Web 2.0 (Squidoo / Hubpages) – Websites like Squidoo and Hubpages are like article directory sites, but better. With Web 2.0 pages, you can interact with your audience easily, enabling you to reach out to them faster. Write articles on a topic related to your site then link out for maximum exposure.
v. Blog Comments and Forum Posting – Make yourself heard. Actively participate in major industry forums, blogs and discussion boards. Replying to posts relevant to your niche/industry will have a two-fold result: 1) you can get backlinks from the post and 2) you can get your name out there and establish online reputation.
vi. Social Bookmarks – A simple and important, yet often unnoticed, link opportunity is social bookmarking. People are driven to websites with a high social signal (number of times your article has been read/shared/liked). This can then introduce your new website to others with relevant tastes and give valuable backlinks.
Submit your website to StumbleUpon, Twitter, Pinterest, Delicious, Technorati, and other industry-related bookmarking sites. Put your social sharing buttons prominently on your site, but make sure that they don’t crowd your layout.
b. Advanced link opportunities
These require more attention and effort from your end. Gratification will definitely be delayed, as the results here develop over time and not instantly as some would like to believe.
i. Linkable Assets – This, by far, is the ace in your link development campaign. Quality content is what drives your audience into your website. And it’s not just about the articles.
Think of what you can offer to your target market: an infographic containing facts about the current industry trends; a video tutorial on how to train a Rottweiler; an interactive flash simulation about the risks of buying out another business… The possibilities are endless. Create this content and watch your audience link to you naturally.
ii. Guest Posting –While comment marketing and forum participation gets your name out there, guest posting helps you reach out to a wider set of audience and really solidifies your authority in your niche.This process requires long-term planning, since you don’t have a hold of your prospect’s reaction. Your campaign may hit bumps at the onset.
iii. Brand Profiles – As you move along in your campaign, you will find strong communities in your industry. We suggest that you join these groups and build complete profiles that will give people a background of who you are and what you do. Not only will you cement your credibility, you will also give your brand a face. Just don’t overdo this by joining all the groups you can get your hands on—lest you be tagged as a spammer.
6. Follow the ACT System.
A – ASK: Just ask for the link. This best works if you have a standing relationship with the webmaster or owner of the website.
C – CONTENT: Give people a good reason to link back to you. Create content that is valuable and relevant at any given time—an evergreen content.
T – TIME: As mentioned, plan out a timeline along with a process that would work best for you.
II. Monitor your linking efforts.
Of course, all efforts would be in vain if you don’t track your link building efforts. Build separate spreadsheets for your basic and advanced link building:
1. Record the following data for your basic link building:
a. Date of Linking
i. Blog comments and forum posts: Track if the comment/post has been approved by the webmaster (if it’s not auto-approved), and then see if anyone replied to it. Keep a healthy environment by giving relevant and timely information to your readers. Don’t simply say thanks—add to the knowledge pool.
ii. Social bookmarks: If you can, look up the people who shared your content. You may chance upon a thought leader (lucky you!) who you may engage in a conversation.
2. Record the following data for your advanced link building:
a. Date of Linking
c. Quality Metrics: Check the domain authority, page rank, number of followers, number of backlinks, etc. of the page you’re linking from or the page linking to you.
d. Contact Details: Keep a record of the people you’re reaching out to. Put in their name, email address, website/webpage, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, etc.
i. Linkable assets: Find out who tweeted about/shared/liked your content. Thank them and ask for their feedback.
ii. Guest posting: Regularly check if your post was approved. If it was, great! See if anyone replied and again, continue engaging people. If not, you may follow up with the webmaster. One of two things may have happened: 1) the webmaster might be busy and haven’t gone around publishing your post or 2) your article was rejected by the editors or the webmaster himself. In this case, find out why your article was rejected. It may be for lack of information or relevance, wordiness, or the topic simply didn’t fit the niche of the site. Be thorough with your execution to avoid these kinds of pitfalls.
III. Analyze, measure and report your link building.
Alongside monitoring, you should understand the meaning of the numbers that you’re crunching out. Showing the return of investment (ROI) would be one of the best ways to give you or your client an idea of how effective your campaign is. To properly evaluate ROI, you must be able to plot out the project’s profitability. However, Google Analytics cannot pull out this type of information. You can, though, if you know what to look at.
Before starting anything, you must first set expectations. Link building and search engine optimization (SEO) in general are hard to quantify in terms of ROI. Long-term SEO strategy results are not easily seen. They tend to fluctuate and are subject to uncontrolled variables. Because of this, calculating ROI entails more than just monetary value.
Assess growth in all areas where SEO and link building has an impact. Include rankings, traffic, conversions and revenue into the equation in order to get a complete report.
- RANKING – This is the simplest indicator of growth.Determining your rankings will only be meaningful if you’ve done your assignment and created a good set of keywords to target.
- TRAFFIC – Rankings and traffic should work hand-in-hand. A rise in rankings usually means the same for traffic. If not, there must be a problem. Check your keywords again for consistency.
- CONVERSION RATE – Rankings are irrelevant without traffic, and traffic is irrelevant without conversions. Track how well your campaign is doing in this aspect, as this is direct tied to revenue and profits. Factors which can impact conversion rates include confusing navigation, bad user interface, coding problems, or irrelevant content.
- REVENUE – In the end, this is the main gauge of success. Compared to the other metrics, many other factors affect revenue. As long as you know where you stand on rankings, traffic and conversions, you can gain a deeper understanding for how effective and efficient your efforts are. To get your classic ROI measurement, compare your revenue to expenditures.
If your online marketing is doing well, you will see growth in all four areas. Should there be an area wherein it is lacking, you’d be able to pinpoint them immediately using these trackers.
But remember that it’s not all about the numbers. Sometimes the way you explain your charts can make or break your reports. Another tip: during the first few weeks or months of your reporting, walk your client or the person you report to through the spreadsheet in real time. You may opt to use Google Drive for this, so you can show them what the contents of the reports are and what they mean.
IV. Rinse and repeat.
The beauty of a link building process manifests itself when you find that you can easily repeat the system over and over again, continually building and re-building over mistakes, and therefore improve your services. We believe that businesses succeed when they optimize their process scalability.
Once your basic services become repeatable tasks, it will eventually show in the books: costs are reduced, time is maximized, and success rate is higher. It is then that the company can move on to bigger and better things since they have the basics down pat.
We hope that this series helped you in creating a kick-ass link development campaign. Just remember that while you’re executing your campaigns, treat the Internet as a living, breathing being: you can’t just harness it the way you want it to. The best you can do is create strategies to work alongside it.