An Ultimate Link Building Guide for New Websites (Part 2)
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.
An Ultimate Link Building Guide for New Websites (Part 1)
Many search engine evangelists believe that it’s easier to build links for new websites rather than old ones. They’d rather commit time and effort coming from a clean slate rather than to do reverse engineering on an existing site, just to cater to its needs.
However, with the World Wide Web growing exponentially each day, it’s difficult to make a dent in the search engines. On the first quarter of 2012, about 240 million URLs were registered (roughly 60 million per month), a 14% increase from around the same time in 2011. This, along with the recent Google Panda and Penguin updates, makes for a very stressed link developer. With this staggering amount of websites and mind-twisting updates, how can you possibly keep up?
In order to help you jumpstart your campaign, we at SEO Visions decided to curate the top link building sources for you to sift through. This will be the ultimate link building guide for new websites.
But… Why build links in the first place?
SEOVisions believes that before you start anything, you must first align goals with all your team members. We can’t have the traditional marketing team going off in one direction, while your online marketing group decides to focus on something else. Find the purpose of your link building campaign in order for you to execute it well. Is it:
Maybe you find that your business has to develop its purpose. Consistency in the design and feel (tagline, writing style, logo, etc.) of your website will help in building your brand.
To drive more traffic into your site?
Your traditional/offline marketing can only do so much in terms of driving traffic into your business. Focusing on e-Commerce might boost the number of visitors to your site, creating a higher chance for them to become buyers and eventually, brand advocates.
To improve search results?
You’ve already established your business’ name, but maybe you feel that you want to do more. Targeted keywords and strong anchor texts will help in improving your rankings in the search engines.
For business expansion?
Connecting with thought leaders and the movers and shakers of the industry, and eventually being affiliated with them, could mean more business for you. You could easily get referrals or have possible ventures with other people through your contacts.
To increase your visibility online?
Building your online presence could secure you a foothold on the consciousness of your audiences. Your goal would be to become the top-of-mind brand in your industry.
All of the above?
Of course, all businesses would love to have all of these results in their online marketing campaigns. For some great link developers, a domino effect can be achieved. But not all are lucky. Hopefully, the tips below will help you land your purpose.
Plan your link building strategies.
Once you have defined your objectives for your link development campaign, it’s time to strategize. Campaigns do not just spawn overnight. Link builders will have you know that a lot of their time is eaten away just by sitting down and thinking.
1. Keyword Research
Any marketing professional, traditional or otherwise, would know that one key element in creating an awesome and sustainable marketing campaign is to study your audience. Your online audience, however, makes this a bit easier for us since we could easily delve into their heads by checking out what they’re searching for.
Doing keyword research will help you find out what your customers want. At the same time, you will see what you need to do in order to rank for those certain keywords and phrases. You may find that you need to develop a whole strategy for content in order to reach the needs of your clients. Maybe you need to restructure certain phrases on your site to optimize link building. Or maybe (but hopefully not), you might need to overhaul your website altogether!
So how do we do keyword research? Kristi Hines of Kikolani shared her tips on how to set it up on the blog, KISSmetrics:
a. Set up your spreadsheet.
There is no point in research if you don’t put your data on record. Kristi details in her article the parts which your spreadsheet should have. You need to have several details intact: the keyword, its competitions, its global and local monthly searches, and its approximate Cost Per Click (CPC). Aside from the keyword, you may get all the other details via the Google AdWords Keywords Tool.
b. Unearth your keywords.
Yes, we specifically mean “unearth”: During your research, you will find out that you will have to dig deep in order to determine which keywords work for you. Some ideas will come to you easily. However, there are some cases wherein you have to think laterally in order to find the correct ones for your business. Try to practice mind mapping so you can visualize your brand better.
c. Use tools to find extra keywords.
Kristi also shared several free and paid tools which can assist you in discovering additional keywords:
SEMRush – This helps you check keyword information from your competitors. It can track both organic and advertising keywords and has significant data on its movement on the web (backlinks, follows and nofollows, anchor texts, etc.). This tool is offered in both free and paid versions.
Google AdWords Keywords Tool (GAKT) – Google also offers its own tool. GAKT simplifies keyword research by showing you several keyword ideas spawned from lateral expansion.
For information on the terms used in the GAKT, go to Google AdWords Help.
Google Search Suggestions –Another great tool to use is the ever-popular Google Search Bar. With the auto-suggest function, it can show you popular searches for certain phrases. In the screenshot below you can see that the phrase “keyword research” is not even finished, yet Google is already showing several suggested and relevant phrases.
Other Search Engine Suggestions –Don’t discount the power of other search engines in doing keyword research. Yahoo! and Blekko have the same search suggestion box as Google. You may be able to get new ideas across the different platforms.
d. Analyze and choose your keywords.
Once you have your first list of keywords (we say ‘first list’ because there is a high chance that this set of keywords will change over the course of your campaign), you should now dissect each item and narrow down this set into (1) your keywords/phrases for the website and (2) the topic ideas to be used for your content strategy.
Again, Kristi shows us how to use tools in analyzing your keywords. She used SEOMoz’s tool which has Keyword Difficulty and SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Analysis. It helps in identifying the difficulty level of the keyword that you chose in terms of competitiveness in the market. Consider the domain authority and the number of root domains linking to the phrase when choosing your main keywords, then consider the information value of the others to pick the keywords for content topic ideas. The conclusion of Kristi’s article has more information on how to collate the data, jot it on the spreadsheet, and decide which keywords would work best for you.
2. Analysis of Competitors
When you’re done setting up the groundwork for your research, you should now check the other side of the fence. More often than not, you’ll find that there is a lot of good information stored in your competitor’s database.
a. Analyze your competitions’ content.
We cannot stress this enough: content is king. No matter how overly used it is, we refuse to subscribe to the idea that it is cliché simply because it has not, and never will, lose its meaning. That said, your first focus on competition analysis should be their content.
Begin by sifting through your keyword list and see which sites organically come up consistently. Chances are, they have a rock-solid pool of content that Google is enjoying crawling on.
Aside from their text content, look for rich media content as well. These include photos, videos, podcasts or infographics. These types of content are easily sharable via their social media profiles, and are thus boosting their online presence. Contents like these do not merely feed search engines. They are now considered as algorithmic factors, so don’t be a stranger to social media.
b. It’s not about the numbers.
Now that you’ve established which competitor sites have a lot of content, you must now find out which ones have the juicy content.
In the field of link development, it’s not always about the numbers. Maybe you’ve encountered a time when your content had a whole lot more shares and links than your competitors’. Yet, their contents continue to trump you in the SERPs. How does that happen?
Among the possible reasons for their continuous reign in the searches are their inbound links. Compare the domain authority and the page rank of the websites linking to you and to them. The last thing you should check is the number of links coming to the site and the number of unique linking domains.
These metrics move you to and fro the SERPs. Knowing where the snag is will help you make up any ground between you and your competitors.
c. Assess the structure of their site.
A quick on-site audit will show you the strengths and weaknesses of a website. Consider the following details when doing the audit:
- Keyword targeting
- Text or copy
- Alt tags
- Anchor texts
- Hierarchy of content
- Site map
- User interface and user experience
You can gauge how SEO savvy a company is just by looking at these parts. Consider tinkering with their robots.txt as well to see if there are certain types of content that they don’t want to be crawled.
3. Content Strategy
We’ve already mentioned how important content is. However, note that content is nothing without a proper execution strategy. You can’t just keep on creating content after content without considering external factors to your brand or website. This is just a recipe for disaster.
Your content strategy must be aligned with your link development strategy. While these are two separate entities, one cannot (and must not) live without the other. Content without links is just thin content no matter how awesome it is. Link building can only do so much to your online visibility if it is without great content.
Know that when you’re creating a strategy, there must be clear and definitive lines as to what should and should not be done. Many marketers fail to see the need for outlining how to get to the goal, and instead focus on what the goal is. To avoid this, do it like the journalists do: 5 Ws and 1 H:
Determine the main agenda of your strategy. Outline your objectives and know the purpose of your campaign.
Assign the tasks to people who will be accountable to the project. Make sure you specify their deliverables per day/week/month. Also, know who your target audience is. Your content should speak directly to a niche who will understand what you’re saying.
Determine the reason for pursuing the strategy in both business and user perspective. It should answer “So what?” clearly.
Build timelines and deadlines to execute each part of the plan. However, maintain that the timeline is fluid enough to accommodate changes, yet still rigid to follow deadlines.
Answer the question, “Where does this fit in?” Your content strategy and link development strategy should not veer away from the overall goals of the marketing strategy as a whole. Do not treat online marketing as an end point.
Solidify your plans in order for you to reach your goals. Make everything as concrete as possible to avoid fluff in your reports. Make sure that you track all efforts in your campaign.
Ready for more? Read Part 2 of our Ultimate Link Building Guide for New Websites!