One of the most common questions I hear related to link building is, “Where do I start?”
Whether in a blog post or a conference presentation, link building experts often focus on specific tactics when giving advice. The message can sometimes come across as, “Here are some things — go do them, and you’ll be set.”
But that’s not the case.
It’s important to realize that while these individual tactics are great, they are really part of a much bigger picture: a link building campaign. That’s where we must start.
When setting up a link building campaign, here are a few questions to ask.
It’s one of the most basic, yet frequently overlooked, questions when it comes to link building: Do you know what your goals are?
I often see businesses putting content out there with the idea that it will simply generate links. However, links alone don’t necessarily mean success. Some questions to consider:
In order to create and measure a successful campaign, we have to know what a “successful” campaign actually is. This will also help us create campaigns in the future.
Note: It’s also important to align your link building goals with your overall business goals. For example, if you are trying to drive more site traffic, then your link building goal/campaign should reflect that.
Establishing your goal is the first step. The second is understanding what it’s going to take to reach those goals.
For example, if your goal is get links from 10 major news sources, a blog post probably isn’t going to cut it. However, if your goal is to have your site referenced by a set of influencers in your industry, a blog post may be just fine. What you will need to determine is what type of blog post you’ll have to write and how you will get it in front of those influencers.
Knowing what will help you figure out how.
When creating a link building campaign, it’s key to have a specific target audience in mind. Just creating an asset and putting it out there, hoping it’ll appeal to someone, isn’t the ideal scenario.
With a specific audience in mind, you can create something that truly interests them and increases your odds of being picked up.
Get granular! You don’t have to go all “Mike King Personas” on it, but really focus on a specific audience. Once you know who that audience is, start documenting their information:
Not sure how to find this info? Here are a couple of great stalking tools:
You’ve identified who it is you’re targeting; now it’s time to understand what they like.
By gathering as much information as you can, you give yourself a better chance of creating something that your audience will like. Tools like Followerwonk or even Klout can help you compare users and show what people are interested in.
I was at a conference last month and one of the speakers said, “If you want to get in front of me, talk to me where it’s least crowded.” He mentioned that for him, Google+ was extremely noisy and in turn, hard to pay attention to. However, his Twitter feed was much quieter and easier for him to see who was talking to him.
Know where it is your target wants to be reached.
Websites will typically provide the best way to contact someone, whether on the contact page or perhaps in a blog post. For example, when I’m going to a conference, I reference connecting on Twitter and Google+.
I never mention Facebook or LinkedIn because I don’t use those for general networking — when I get requests in either of those places from people I don’t know, I simply ignore them.
A good way to determine where individuals prefer to be reached is to look at their contact pages and to check their social feeds. A quick scan of their Twitter feed using AllMyTweets may return a “DM me” or “Email me at” and can point you in the right direction.
This is a mistake I made during a campaign years ago that still infuriates me to this day. We created a kick-@$$ campaign that was fun, had a cool prize, and should’ve been awesome. Except for the fact we launched it at the wrong time.
There were a ton of other contests running, a big industry trade show was happening, and for our target audience, it was a crowded time. If we had waited another week to launch, it would’ve done much better.
Be aware of what’s happening with your audience. Are there trade shows, holidays, or quarterly meetings that may be coming up? You want your campaign to stand out — and if it’s in a sea of other things, it won’t.
Now onto the actual goods. What are you going to offer your audience that will make them want to link to you?
The first place to look is at what you already have. Dive into your analytics to see what has performed the best in the past. What type of content generated the most referrals? Also take a look at OSE or Majestic to see what is driving the most links.
Last but not least, identify what content generated the most shares. BuzzSumo can show what got the most shares, what type of content it is, and who shared it. Pretty great.
The goal isn’t to use old material, but to figure out what you’ve produced prior that can perhaps be repurposed, updated, or just inspire you.
This is the really important part, but hopefully all of the research you’ve done in the previous seven steps should make this much easier. After all:
Identify what type of asset you will be using for the campaign (blog post, video, email, mailer, etc.) and then identify all of the other assets you will need. For example, you may need tweets and status updates, perhaps you’ll need open graph tags, images, or even suggested responses to comments or posts.
Get as much as you can in order ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling when the campaign launches.
We’ve all left a brainstorming session where great ideas were flying around, only to realize that nothing was actually assigned to anyone. What a bust.
Identify roles before launching the campaign:
Know who will be responsible for each piece to ensure that nothing is missed.
Woo! Everything is in place. Do we just start telling everyone?
Create a plan for how the campaign will roll out. Will you be targeting specific people first? How and when will you be contacting them? Will your Twitter team be following up? After how long?
These are good things to know and will ensure that you aren’t bombarding people or overlapping on any of the efforts. No one likes that.
While there are surely many more questions to ask when it comes to building a campaign, these 10 should point you in the right direction. And remember, every campaign isn’t going to be a home run, but the least you can do is try and set yourself up for success.