As a key component of a hub and spoke online marketing strategy, blogs can be very effective for social media network engagement, online PR, customer service, and as search engine optimization assets. While there are numerous cases studies of business blogs (I like to think Online Marketing Blog is one) providing tremendous value, blogs are simply software tools and what you get out of them is in proportion to how well you know how to use them. One of the common areas of lost opportunity with business blogs is link building.
Despite Panda, Penguin and maybe someday “Zebra?”, updates from Google to further filter out what constitutes useful content and links on the web, links will always be valuable for attracting traffic. Some online marketers chase exploits, tricks or shortcuts only to get spanked by a black and white named-animal update from Google. Why not spend that creativity on something of value and competitive advantage that withstands the advancing filters applied by search engines?
Here are a few timeless tips for building natural links that will attract and engage customers to your business blog:
1. Create content worth linking to. No matter how many tactics you find here and elsewhere, there simply is no substitute for creating content that others may find useful. With an Optimized approach to online marketing, understanding your market and customers is essential for developing an approach for content, SEO, Social and promotions that result in links. If you understand what content types, topics and formats resonate with influential link sources and the communities around them, your content promotion and social networking efforts can become more effective, more quickly and a “win” all around.
2. Competitive Link Research on competing web sites or blogs will help identify who is linking to competitor sites that are not linking to yours. This is back link analysis 101 and can still be useful for spotting opportunities of all kinds. For example, if another web site or blog is already linking to multiple competitors in a list of resources relevant to your product or service, there is a chance they’ll link to your blog about the same product/service category as well. Monitoring the competition using SEO link tracking and social media monitoring tools can reveal many, many different types of linking and content opportunities. They can also reveal what NOT to do.
3. Engage on other blogs and industry news websites that allow comments. Interactions should always be useful, timely and relevant. Simply promoting links to your event or blog post as the first time comment does not provide much value. It’s like interrupting a conversation and trying to sell something to a group of people that know each other and you’re the stranger. Develop connections, ask questions, answer them, share resources and recognize others that contribute. When guided by topical themes and objectives, those behaviors can be instrumental and developing connections with influential link sources and the media.
4. Make Sharing Easy where ever you’re publishing useful content, especially on blogs. While the social proof offered by Twitter, Facebook, Google+ counters is fairly superficial, they do work at attracting attention and validating to the reader that the blog post is worth checking out. Make the act of sharing easy by including sharing options but also by including titles that are social media optimized. Share titles will pre-populate a Twitter sharing window with text that is more interesting from a social share perspective.
Don’t leave it to the reader to write their own description of the blog post they’re sharing, although that ability should certainly exist. Of course, title tags should be keyword optimized for search engines. Sharing expands the visibility of your content on social networks and communities. Shared links can be a useful signal for search engines and the expanded visibility can catch the eye of another blogger or journalist that might link back to the source from their own website or blog.
5. Guest post on other blogs and include a link to your blog in the bio. In the course of getting to know blogs that already rank well on the keyword phrases you’re targeting, you may notice that they often accept guest blog posts from others. Contact the blog owner and suggest a compelling post that would be first and foremost, valuable to their readers. If it makes sense editorially to link from within the guest post to your own blog, be sure to use relevant keywords as the link text. Do not use the exact same link text every time. Make the anchor text relevant to the source and the destination.
6. Write testimonials or case studies for services and software that you use. They may publish with a link back to your blog. Testimonials must be well written, genuine and specific in order to be useful for the service/product owner. Get at the essence of what’s great about the product or service and even add something unique. If you’ve written a review of the product/service on your blog, that can also get you a link from their press page.
7. Event and Job listings should always have a link back to your blog. Blogs can be useful recruiting tools that help candidates understand the culture of your company. When purchasing job listings on other web sites, add a link to your blog. The listings may expire, but may also introduce your blog to candidates that write their own blog and decide to write about a listing with a permanent link to the hiring company blog. The same goes for event listings, which like job listings, are often syndicated to networks that turn up in RSS feeds, as Tweets and updates on other social networks.
8. Distribute optimized news via a wire service with a link to your blog included. PRWeb, is a pioneer in providing competitive SEO value with press release distribution. It is essential the the release is well-written and offers compelling news worth sharing and linking to. Many blogs and some news web sites will re-publish your press release exactly as it was distributed, including good links back to your blog. Journalists use News Search engines to look up past press releases and research on stories, which presents an opportunity to be found and included.
9. Contribute Op Eds or Articles to industry web sites, online newspapers, magazines and association websites. Your article can include a link to your blog in the credentials area. If you suggest content to another web site such as a letter to the editor, why not keyword optimize the title? You might also include a link back to your blog where you’ve written many more articles on the same topic. Those links build credibility of your article and also for you as an author and subject matter expert.
Along the lines of op eds and contributed articles, be sure your media relations efforts include a link request when an industry publication decides to include you or your company in a story. Many newspapers and magazine websites have a policy of not linking out, but if you are diligent in asking and give a good resource for the link destination, it could pay off very nicely. News websites can be very useful to search engines and link sources.
10. ABN – Always Be Networking and growing your social networks, email lists and channels of distribution. Share especially useful content from your blog where relevant. Be useful to others and they will useful to you by promoting your content and attracting links. Don’t be gratuitous when sharing links to your own content, but when you have something particularly special and valuable that’s highly relevant to a particular network, then by all means, share it with them. Some are bloggers as well and may link to it from their own blogs as well as pass the link along to others.
11. Sponsor content on web sites or newsletters archived to the web that allow you to include a link. It may be a nofollow link, but it may not. Many newsletters sent via email are archived to the web or have landing pages on the web. Ask those newsletters if you can buy an ad or even contribute a short article. The article credits should include a link to your blog where there are more resources on the same or similar topic.
12. Hire bloggers to write content for you. They’ll often cross-post it to their own blog with a link back to yours. Of course, you should be considerate and simply mention that this is ok, don’t ask them or require them to do it. If you have regular contributors to your blog, those bloggers may be prone to promoting and linking to their work on your blog as a way to build attention to themselves.
Bonus tip: When others link to you, THANK THEM! Building good will is one of the most underrated marketing skills online. Be genuine, thoughtful and courteous. Also be SMART and driven to get links where it makes sense.
What linking tactics for blogs have you found to be most effective? What challenges are you facing in attracting other sites to link to your blog?