Using Brand Building Strategies to Improve Link Building

by Jason Acidre on December 13, 2012 · 43 comments · Content, Search


Link building has changed a lot these past few years, especially this year when Google has rolled out its anti-link spam update – better known as the Penguin update.

These changes have given birth to an era where different ideologies in marketing are being integrated to SEO. Search engines are constantly evolving, and our approach should too.

Keyword-focused link building is long gone (in most cases), wherein the only way to win in search is to authentically build a brand as an authority.

I’ve been saying this a lot lately, and will certainly do it again here. Start applying branding principles to make the most out of your link acquisition campaigns. Brand building is the new link building.

Here’s a good question every link marketer should ask themselves every time they try to build links:

Would this content placement, interaction or idea surrounding the link be eventually helpful in solidifying our brand values and equity?

Strong brands are winning the web (social/search), and that’s a challenge that link builders have to accept. Link building is getting bigger, in which it encompasses different practices and approaches to achieve maximum results.

It has become more of a branding and traffic/lead generation tool these days (and not just for search engine optimization). Seeing link building in that point of view will help you more in getting the rankings you think you deserve.

Google is getting more complex every day, and the capability to understand how links are being utilized over the web can simply throw ton of ideas on how they should be weighing links.

Link building is Brand building

Branding is about committing to the core principles that a company believes in, such as championing a cause, leveraging thought-leadership and/or USP.

Here’s a very insightful slide presentation from Paul Isakson, explaining how brand building has evolved over time:

Imagine if we can all assimilate that mindset on how we build links. People and search engines would certainly find the commitment worthy of being shared and seen.

When you know how you want people to see your brand, you’ll resist shortcuts and spammy tactics just to get the job done.

As what Paul has mentioned on his presentation, define who you are and what you stand for, and then commit to it. Let the brand identity that you are aiming to project lead how you communicate your brand’s ideas.

Brand Ambassadors

People are more to trust people than the brand itself. It’s easier to convey a brand’s message when it’s coming from the people behind the brand, because people will more likely listen.

Invest on developing personalities who can carry the brand’s flag, because real people are more apt when it comes to building awareness, shaping brand identity and in reinforcing perception.

This is where thought-leadership is also built, gradually, which is a strong factor that can set the brand in a better market position.

Here’s a great sample, Leo Widrich, co-founder of Bufferapp, has been really active in guest blogging when they were just starting to promote Bufferapp.

The strategy didn’t just propel their business’ to reach 100,000 customers, it also allowed Leo to become one of the most credible social media practitioners in the industry.

Of course, that end-result is adding more value to the brand, and it’s certainly opening more opportunities for them (links, mentions, followers, customers, loyalists, etc…)

Try to build someone up who can continuously provide solutions to your market’s common problems through the content they’ll be distributing across the web. Few advantages that this strategy can bring to your link acquisition campaigns:

  • The more your brand ambassador(s) publish content on different sites as well as reach out and interact with other people in your industry, the more they can build relationships, which is very important, especially in link building, nowadays.
  • It’s also a great way to establish the brand in different sectors of the industry, as ambassadors get to build strong authorship (which is also one of the strongest signals that search engines look into in gauging trust and credibility).
  • It will be easier to penetrate popular industry publications with strict editorials, as the value proposition they add along their contributions is apparent, such as the ambassador’s expertise and following/readership.

Update – 3-14-13

Hey readers! – It’s Anthony Pensabene of SkyrocketSEO.   While penning a post in real time, I reached back into the Kaiser cannon to add some insight here, discussing a tactic I use to build authority and good associations with advocates.  Enjoy!

Associations

Relationships/associations are very important for businesses, because it allows brands to look more credible, especially when they are associated with other high quality brands in its industry.

And in our time, the best way to show off these associations is through the content we provide to our own audience. That’s why inviting industry peers to contribute content to your own site is very powerful when used as a branding/marketing strategy (and a win/win for both parties).

Known advantages of utilizing associations for your campaign’s content production:

  • The site will be able to collect and send out more trust signals as it strengthens its author portfolio (particularly if authorship markups will be implemented).
  • Acquiring natural links, new followers/readers/leads, and social mentions from both parties’ network as the content gets promoted on both ends.
  • Strong brand impression as new visitors get to see other trusted entities contribute/collaborate content with your brand.

Both SEOmoz and Search Engine Land have been successful at this form of branding strategy, seeing that they allow their associates to regularly publish high-quality content on their sites (like being associated with the industry’s other top brands such as SEER Interactive, SEOGadget, Distilled and BlueGlass).

Another strategy that you can do, if in case some of your peers or target influencers are busy to write new content for your site’s blog, is to ask them to republish some of their old content (that is really relevant to your audience).

Here’s an example: in 2007, Rand Fishkin wrote an article about strategies on how to grow a blog’s audience (which he has updated early this year).

I also remember 2 years ago, the original post from 2007 was republished as a guest post (with permission) on a social media blog – see the post here.

Republished post in 2010

Republished post links back to the original content

The impact to a brand of having someone as influential as Rand Fishkin to do a guest post on its blog is definitely beneficial, in terms of branding perspectives.

I’ve also encountered this strategy, but I was the one on the other end (and seem to work well in referring new traffic). Since I allowed a Brazilian SEO blog republish some of my evergreen posts and be offered in a different language.

A US-based tech VC firm also asked me recently if they can republish two of my blog posts on their blog (since the posts are something that their audience are really interested in). You can see the post here and here.

So as a publisher, why would we allow you to republish our content, when people can just read ours? Here are a few pointers on doing a pitch for content republication:

  • If your site targets a different audience and already have established readership/following. Your pitch will have higher chances for approval (ex: your audience are startup owners who’re interested in SEO).
  • If your readers speak a different language. Translating our content is a very enticing proposition.
  • Pick older posts and offer it to a different audience (ex: old but evergreen SEO content and share it to social media practitioners).

Positioning

When you’re doing link acquisition, it’s imperative that you always think if the effort will push the brand to the unique position it wants to occupy in its target market.

That’s why targeting the right sites and publications – where your target audience really are – is as important as the quality of the message you’re trying to communicate.

Always put a place for your brand’s unique value proposition on your content and interactions. The more people see you as an authority in solving a particular problem in your industry, the more that they’ll trust and go to you.

Links should be used as passageways for people who really care about what your brand is committed on doing. Make it easier for them to find you. Acquire links from sites that you’d really get click-through visitors (sites that have your audience).

Strong brand messaging on relevant authority sites, that’s the key to get the links that influence brand perception and search optimization.

Long-term Perspective

Aim for long-term growth through link development by building useful pages or getting links from useful pages that people will constantly find and consume. Don’t build links just for the sake of volume (or just to make your report look great).

Useful content can continuously attract visitors (through search and other referring websites), which means getting links or being visible through these pages will allow you to:

  • Get constant traffic/leads to your site
  • Attract more possible linkers and followers
  • Continually build awareness and brand impression

So how can you inject this principle to your link building campaigns? Here are a few samples:

  • Acquire links from pages that are already ranking for informational keywords, because they get visitors that can easily be engaged. Interact and add value/useful information on the discussion, because this is certainly a good opportunity to make your brand stand out (ex: popular Quora threads, discussion on an industry forum, or a popular blog post).
  • Create useful and evergreen content that your target market searches for and host it on high DA (domain authority) publications or UGC sites. Published content on these types of sites can easily rank for both competitive and long-tail keywords (like pages from Slideshare, Youtube, etc…), which can help you continuously build brand awareness and generate traffic.

A brand is a progressive story, and content (distribution and interactions) as well as link development are efficient platforms you can use to communicate the progress of the brand’s story.

Quality, Authenticity and Consistency in messaging

The quality of the content you produce/distribute and the interactions you make can reflect the quality of the products/services you offer.

Treat every interaction and content as your own product. Always be at your best when contributing and participating on discussions on other sites.

It’s also important to be selective with the channels and topics you choose to disseminate branded content (content and interactions that somehow demonstrate your brand’s unique selling point and field of expertise).

The more you focus on bringing quality to your content distribution campaign – and being consistent with it – the more you can develop a strong and positive customer/market perception. That’s where you can control how people collectively see the brand’s values and personality.

TL;DR – Build a strong brand presence online to win at search. Search engines will obviously continue to favour brands.

And the best way to align content and link development efforts with the core values of the brand is to have a clear definition of how you want your brand to be seen by people.

For more live samples, I highly recommend to check out Justin Briggs’ case studies on building high-powered links and Wil Reynolds’ post on how they do RCS.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

chad levin seo hop December 13, 2012 at 10:42 am

You really outdid yourself with this one jason. Very well explained. This branded link building is so important these days because overuse of anchor text can really hurt. Have you seen any positives coming from raw linking. just the http://www.yoururl.com? Adding a co citation with the branded link works extremely well. I would really like to send you a gp on it if thats ok with you. Just email me via my info submitted.

Another term i have been toying with is brandable blogging. I think it should be used more often!

Chad @SeoHop

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Paige C. Willey December 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I’ve long been a believer that great brands get links because they do awesome and noteworthy things. Internet is the new word of mouth, and when people have a particularly good or bad experience with a brand, that is where they talk about it, and with links.

I think more and more people in the SEO sphere are beginning to realize the importance of helping clients build a brand.

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Pedro Pereira December 14, 2012 at 2:34 am

Hello Kaiser,

Usually I totally agree with you but this time I have some doubts. Your talking about pure Marketing and Branding, not in SEO.

The real challenge is how to continue doing good SEO where you can balance all the strategies, branding included…

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Phil @ Click Click Media December 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Fantastic article Jason :) I think it is important for a brand to reach out and interact with the internet community and by doing so they will cement themselves as an authority and trusted source in their market / niche.

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Melba Ortiz December 17, 2012 at 6:16 am

Great post Jason. PRE Panda, link building was used to get Google to visit and index yoru site. Now it’s used to get your name and bussiness out there, and it’s the best way to achieve long term success.

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Jeffrey December 18, 2012 at 12:33 am

This is a great new look for backlink creation. I salute on your effort to put up such a great article. Thank you so much…

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Dromedary Tough December 18, 2012 at 6:01 am

Branding is great if you want a long term and stable income. When I made my blog, I wanted to get my name out there, and to get a loyal group of readers. Each month, I build links via guest blogging, and social media. I’m seeing great results, and hopefully by 2013, I’ll have a very busy blog.

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Ydeveloper December 18, 2012 at 6:37 am

That’s why we are building ‘Ydeveloper’ a brand for custom ecommerce development. Linkbuilding is already been turned to relationship building, and we are more likely to find more resources that connect our brand to the potential customers.

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Greg December 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I really appreciated this article. After reading it, it gave me a lot of insight on what needs to be done to create a real presence on Google. It also made me realize I have a lot more research to do now and long term. I think I will be bouncing around this site for a while.

Thanks again!

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Glen Koch December 19, 2012 at 12:52 am

I’ve been in SEO for a couple of months now, and I still continue absorbing every piece of information I can. This blog post has been really great. I learned a lot of new things. Thanks.

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Nick Stamoulis December 19, 2012 at 7:27 am

People want to do business with other people. That’s why it’s a good idea for service oriented businesses to have a face of the company. A person that will use social media in their name and get to know clients or customers. This helps form a connection that is stronger than the connection formed with a brand name only.

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Tariehk December 19, 2012 at 7:52 am

Nice post. I also agree that building trust is important and not just using spam tactics because if people start seeing you around more and more offering great help, they will want to check out what your site and if they go check out your site and you have more great resources then you have just got yourself a new follower. The key is to just provide quality and it is best because there is already so much junk out here.

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Thomas Kane December 19, 2012 at 10:53 am

Another amazing article Mr. Acidre. If I had to make a list of the most intelligent and informative blogs on the net regarding branding, SEO and the digital world of advertising, you’d be at the top part of it.

That slide was invaluable good as well. Thank you for the post.

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Kaiserthesage December 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Thank you Thomas! Appreciate the comment and would really push myself hard to provide more useful stuff next year. Enjoy your holidays man!

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swapnil December 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Branding is an activity done to create a unique identity of a particular product, service or company, Creating a brand of our company or product or service becomes ultimately necessary in today’s present age of Marketing.
Today, SEO companies in Mumbai and also in many other areas have been striving hard to create their own identity in the huge competitive market.
You have mentioned very good points in respect of creating a brand image and reputation among the audience, I really appreciate your work, keep writing such informative posts.

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Imogene Rogers December 19, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Link building is always tricky business and almost always time consuming. Tips like these help a lot, thank you a lot.

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Kay Ester December 20, 2012 at 3:37 am

The way you treat your link building is the way you treat your brand. At least that’s what I’ve gathered from this post. So if you make a half-assed effort, you get the same results.

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Patricia Meyer December 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I really like articles that discuss link building like this, helps a ton when it comes to planning out a link building strategy.

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Randal Darwin December 21, 2012 at 1:18 am

Very helpful article, hoping there’ll be more like this. Brand building is a very sensitive subject and a small mistake could destroy a lot of progress.

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Bruce December 21, 2012 at 4:17 am

Great post concentrating on the crux of brand-building.

Since Penguin and Panda the job has become harder for “small” brands – but with a few of your tips it is certainly still possible to compete.

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Shannon December 22, 2012 at 10:11 am

Wow what an amazing post. This is just what I needed. I have been trying to get past the competition and their spammy link tactics. I need to try something new and I think this will be a great approach for me. Thanks!

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Jan Desmet December 24, 2012 at 7:40 am

Alot of good information in this post. My main language isnt english so i had to read it twice :). Im pretty much new at this so i will write down these tips and remember them.

Awesome article! Greets

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kevin December 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Wow you are right link building is a brand never thought of it that way. You get links by being a good brand thats the best link building stratergy get people to talk about your site(on the internet)
Great post btw

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Tushar December 31, 2012 at 5:22 am

Thanks for explaining the whole importance behind link building. Now I understand link building is just not adding a link, instead creating a good relationship with fellow bloggers and other domains. Creating a whole new brand, which impress others.

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Bryan Carver January 4, 2013 at 4:33 am

Nice read. While some might have problems accepting the changes, I think everything will be better in the long run.

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Aleksandar January 4, 2013 at 8:22 am

Like Glen Kloch, i am new to seo in general, just last 4 months. I’ve been in some courses about seo and i read a lot, but your explanation here is awesome. Tnx

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Ed January 7, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Building a brand is more than producing a list of products and services and convincing people to buy or support them. Brands need to know their target market better. Understand what their needs are and find a way to communicate with them.

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Jules@Filipino Virtual Assistant January 14, 2013 at 2:33 am

Link building can help you in promoting your site. If you’re doing this, then you’ve got a right idea. You need to have a correct marketing strategy in promoting your blog. If you’re doing this, you have the right idea. If you wanted to become successful, you have to engage in Link Building.

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Masooma Kazmi January 16, 2013 at 9:59 am

Link building can help to get huge traffic for a blog. It helps in promoting a website. It can give good rank in Google. I have read your article thoroughly and found it very informative.Thanks for sharing these useful link building tips.

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Marzena April 22, 2013 at 7:08 am

Very inspiring and informative post :) Backlinks, content, brand ambassadors… They all are very important part of positioning your website in the internet. But measuring the effects and monitoring the results is also vital. With help of modern tools (like Colibri) you can achieve even more.

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Brian Curliss June 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Hey Jason,

I love the thought of branding focus. We are totally going to implement branding into our linking strategy. I’d love to see your thought on using software like http://www.DeckPresenter.com instead of SlideShare for build a brand and links.

Cheers,

Brian

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Ravi Janardhan August 4, 2013 at 4:23 am

This is yet another interesting and awesome post. Thanks Jason.

This is royal route to achieve long term results, which many link building practitioners are missing. Also the slide and link you mentioned on brand building and guest blogging are equally very helpful.

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Yugam September 17, 2013 at 2:44 am

Hello Mr. Jason,

Yesterday I subscribed your blog, and you can’t believe that from yesterday and till now I’m reading your blog. Thank you very much for sharing such a useful information. Seriously WOW.

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Jason Acidre September 17, 2013 at 4:06 am

Thank you. Really appreciate the comment!

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