Comprehensive articles with actionable tips and strategies on social media and online viral marketing from Jason Acidre.

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PlusBlogging – How to Dominate your Market in Google+

ripples

Google+ has been the majority of discussions in the Search industry since the start of the year, and it’s almost certain that it’s because of the sudden merge of social and personalized search results (Search, plus your world).

The amount of users joining Google’s social platform is aggressively growing – reaching over 100 million users worldwide (since the start of February this year) in a short period of time. However, this amount doesn’t really prove how engaged their users are in the platform, given that I’m personally not that active on using this social network, and most of my friends aren’t utilizing Google+ that much as well.

I wrote a post last month on how to build authority on Google+, as having a Google+ strategy is seen to be very significant in marketing a business this year, basing from the changes that Google is continuously rolling out through their search algorithm updates.

So in this short post, I’ll just be detailing and dissecting some factors that can help boost your SEO, content marketing and social campaigns using your Google+ brand/profile page or by PlusBlogging (blogging on Google+).

Blogging is a very powerful marketing tool, and that’s a fact.

  • A regularly updated blog can get a site 55% more traffic through search engine traffic and social media sharing. Imagine that happening to your Google+ page, knowing that pages from Google+ now do show up on search results for relevant search queries.
  • And having a strong following base on social networks can increase the effectiveness of marketing a business by 63% (Google+ is a social network), as it can build more brand advocates that will help disseminate the brand’s message, which can then improve brand awareness/retention and eventually develop customer relationships through online conversations (responding to people commenting on your posts on Google+).

The moral of the story: Treat your Google+ page as an external blog. Offer thorough, unique, interesting and relevant posts on Google+, as this strategy can attract and cultivate shares and activity to your page.

The more you share content through the platform, is the more you put social traction to your overall campaign, given that putting out great content on Google+ and implementing solid promotions for these Google+ posts can drive more comments, +1s as well as reshares (improves sharing within the platform) that will result to acquiring more followers, as your content get across your target audience.

Here’s an excellent sample of a blog-like post on Google+ from Leodor Selenier that I saw last week:

The post’s activity was also impressive, getting 400+ +1s, 200+ reshares and 100+ comments:

And by studying the ripples of the post, you can really see how influential and authoritative the author is in his industry.

Optimizing a Google+ post

Include a title for your post

You can use your target keyword(s) on the first part of your post, by simply making it as your post’s headline. You can easily do this by putting asterisks before and after your headline (*your headline that includes your keywords*). It will look something similar to this:

Link back to a resource

Link out to your website or a page from your site, as once people start resharing your content, you’ll have higher chances of getting referred traffic from people who have seen/read your Google+ post.

Use Images or Videos on your Posts

Visually attractive images can entice people to sharing your content and clicking the +1 button, as it will display more prominently on people’s streams. Including videos to make the post more comprehensive is also a good strategy to getting more people interested and for making them share your content.

Tag people within your post

Mentioning other people or citing them as a resource in your Google+ posts can initiate conversations and might also make the people you have tagged to share your content to their circles, particularly if you’re sharing something that will be useful to their followers as well. You can tag other people in your posts by simply typing the “+” or “@” right before their names or by clicking the “add more people” on the post’s options.

How to promote your posts on Google+ 

There are many ways to promote your posts on Google+, especially if you’re going to consider them as a big part of your content marketing strategy (just like how you promote and build links to your great content). Below are some ideas on how you can build traffic and activity to your Google+ posts:

Share it on other social networks

If you really have a worth-sharing content that’s posted on your Google+ page, sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and Stumbleupon is an effective approach, especially if you already have a strong following base on these networks.

Tag people from the comment section

Create a post that asks a thought-provoking question and is worth solving through conversations. Ask other people’s thoughts on your post, and you can do this by tagging them through the post’s comment section.

Build contextual links to your Google+ blog posts

Cite your original Google+ (blog-like) posts on your site’s blog posts or through the content you distribute externally (like guest blogs, press release, slide presentations, ebooks, newsletters, etc). Send traffic to your Google+ posts, as it will allow you to corner people to sharing the content, clicking on the +1 button, leaving a comment or adding you to their circles (as these are the obvious options that they’ll have once they’re on your Google+ post’s page).

Invite other bloggers for a guest PlusBlog

If you’re already an authority in your field and have a wide audience on Google+, you can certainly try inviting other bloggers to do a guest post entry on your Google+ page, where they can also promote their websites and their Google+ page. It’s a win-win for both parties, as you’ll be able to get more people to interact within your page, and your content partners get more exposure from your own network.

Outreach

Reach out to people who you think would really find your content interesting and would share it using Google+. Make a list of active sharers/linkers in your industry with their contact details (Google+ profile and email). Contact them and let them know about your post.

Measuring your Google+ content marketing strategy

All strategies require measurements to justify their efficiency and to ensure that you’re not wasting your resources on it. But in order to measure your campaign, you’ll first need to set up its objectives. Here are some goals that you can raise to align this strategy with your business objectives:

  • To grow your Google+ network (people adding you on their circles)
  • To increase the volume of traffic and leads referred to your site/business through your Google+ page.
  • To develop the reach of your brand’s message using the social platform (amount of +1s, reshares, mentions and comments on your Google+ posts/profile).

You can use Google Analytics to determine the volume of traffic/leads your business is getting through this Google+ campaign, by basing it from the data derived from the time you’ve launched the campaign. From the traffic sources, see if the social platform is capable of sending high percentage of unique visitors that have low bounce rates.

You can also use Klout to see your Google+ audience’s behavior in relation to your campaign, as this web-based tool is able to show your performance within the social network. Track your numbers weekly to know if you’re social campaign is improving.

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Alternative Approaches to Improve Blogger Outreach

Blogger outreach is one of the most predominant tasks of marketing a website these days, seeing that links acquired from blogs are considerably valuable in terms of obtaining better search rankings, sending leads as well as in developing brand presence in a targeted community.

There have been so many ways on how link developers/online marketing teams have successfully penetrated blogs for link opportunities, wherein most of the methods are already conventional when it comes to building natural-looking links. Some of the popular approaches include:

  • Experiential review
  • Pitching guest blogs
  • Offering branded-infographics
  • Fixing broken links

However, the more these tactics are being used – probably being widely used nowadays on any industry – the more they get saturated, making the competitiveness of link acquisition become more intense, which often leads to lower response rates and stricter editorials for outreach campaigns.

The list of alternative approaches that I’ll be sharing/discussing below is comprised of the methods that our team have recently been experimenting with and others that I’ve personally thought of that were inspired by various emails I’ve received lately.

Update: you can also check this post by Chris Dyson for more solid techniques and tools for blogger outreach

Help Install Authorship Markups

You’ll rarely see Google+ author profiles on non-tech related queries on Google’s SERPs, and one reason could be is that many verticals aren’t aware that this markup exists. That’s a good entry point to get into bloggers’ radar, especially on industries that aren’t that tech-savvy.

Offering to help them implement this markup on their blog/site is a good way to spark conversations with your link targets, as this can help build long-term relationships (preceding to content and/or link partnerships for instance).

Initially, it’s important to build a list of blogs that you can approach to using this angle for pitching, by identifying blogs in your industry that haven’t implemented authorship markups (rel=”author”)on their blogs yet.

The best way to do this is to first study your industry’s SERP for informational content-based queries (like how to’s, tips, blogs, etc…), and see their posts’ source code and check if they have the rel=”author” tag in it (just simply do a “ctrl+f” from the source code).

Once you already have a list of the blog prospects that you can reach out to (excel sheet), you can then start crafting your outreach template that will explain to your prospect why this markup is so important nowadays and how it can benefit them as bloggers (you can say that it can improve CTR on SERPs and can protect their content from scrapers, etc…).

Propose the idea of installing the markup by giving step-by-step guides on implementing it to their site as well as on their Google+ profiles, or you can direct them to a more extensive post that give instructions on how to implement authorship markups.

After building a good rapport with your link targets, it will be easier to pitch for a link, a guest post or they might just throw a link down your way if they chose to blog about the experience.

Giveaway Free/Paid Ebooks

Bloggers do need resources most of the time, especially for the active ones blogging on an industry-specific niche, as these resources validate the credibility of their works. Sending or offering them large documents that are based on extensive research (could be your own company’s whitepaper or others’) could be very substantial to them, as they may find it as a useful resource for their future blog posts.

I remember sending a blogger (that eventually became a friend) – Rob Sellen – the PHP for Dummies ebook, 2 years ago, and received a link from him. That’s one solid proof that this technique could work and initiate conversations that can lead to link acquisition.

And from a link building perspective, you can also gain more from this approach, particularly if the ebook that you’ve offered to bloggers are from your company (and is of high value), and have links within it directing to pages in your website. Since, if the bloggers you have reached out to decide to upload the PDF file in their domain, you can pretty much acquire a link from the document itself.

Suggest topics and tell them you’ll get readers to that post

I’ve been receiving several topic recommendations from my readers through email since last year (and I apologize if I haven’t written anything about those suggestions yet). Though I found most of the suggestions engaging and interesting, I think they lack a certain incentive that can really make me more excited to write about them.

If they’ll offer to help promote, build links and send traffic to those suggested posts, will I be more enthusiastic in publishing them? I think that’s a big yes (to me, in a bloggers’ point of view).

Treating your blog prospects with the way how you approach reporters/journalists when pitching a news story (for link building purposes), will make them feel more important and will increase the likelihood of getting your suggested topic being published.

When pitching a topic to bloggers, it’s best to provide resources that they can use to make the post more thorough. And offer compelling and click-worthy titles (here’s an excellent guide by Dan Shure on how to create click-worthy titles for blog posts) to increase the chances of getting positive responses from them.

Once your prospects agree to write about your suggested topic, you can start discussing the things that you can do to help promote the content. There are a lot of ways to do a solid promotion for the content that you’ll be suggesting such as:

  • Using the linker outreach method.
  • Promoting the content via related forum threads, Q&A’s and blog discussions.
  • Sharing the content on different social platforms and reaching out to other bloggers in your industry to see if they’ll be interested to share that content.
  • Referencing to the post through your own content distribution efforts (slide presentations, press releases and guest blogs).
  • Offer paid discovery for the content via Stumbleupon Ads (especially on highly authoritative blogs/sites).

Blogger’s posting frequency as the basis of your pitch

There are so many blogs out there (probably on any niche) that have busy owners and can only spend a little time in creating new content to update their blogs. Most of these bloggers (bloggers who can only write once or twice a month) could be constrained to write more frequently by their day jobs or own businesses.

Studying a blog’s weekly/monthly activities, and basing it from the volume of comments they receive for each post, the traffic they are generating, keywords they are ranking for in contrast to the amount of blog posts they are only able to publish each month, you can definitely see a hole from there, which can make it easier for you to make a way into their community by presenting yourself as a guest blogger or a regular contributor.

Leverage these facts when pitching a guest blog, and put emphasis on how their community can gain from that partnership. Let them know that you can cover for them just to keep the blog on attracting new visitors/readers/subscribers.

Using Social Media  

I’ve had few successful outreaches through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter when requesting for guest blog opportunities (for clients), as bloggers seem to be more approachable in these areas (given that most people who spend time on these networks are in their “social” moods compared to the common atmosphere when reading emails).

There are no actual tricks here I suppose. All you really have to do is to get to know the person who you’ll be reaching out to, build conversations and somehow get into their radars.

Offer Premium WordPress Themes

I’ve just thought of this one a few weeks ago, when I realized that I have received several emails requesting if I can donate a premium WordPress theme to them. I do have quite a few of them – including Thesis, Genesis and ThemeForest – but never thought of donating it to other bloggers.

Many bloggers (both newbies and seasoned bloggers) out there use free WordPress themes, and many of them do provide high quality content to their readers, but have limited budget and couldn’t invest in a premium blog template – a flaw that you can easily fix.

Manually review your list of blog prospects (you can also use this link prospecting method to find blogs in your niche) and separate those who have poor blog layouts or are using free WordPress templates, but offer valuable content.

Once you have generated a segmented list, you can start creating your email copy for this type of pitch, which will focus on offering premium WordPress themes to your link targets.

Provide Logos

Personal and independent bloggers do sometimes have hard time working on their own blogs’ logos. Offering to create a logo for them and giving it away for free is a good way to create conversations and link opportunities as well.

Email them by first introducing yourself as a reader of their blog, and giving compliments on the way they deliver their content. Then try to ask if they’ll be interested to have a new logo for their blog created by you (for free), as a small contribution for their cause. More often than not, this kind of blogger outreach receives positive responses (whether the idea is rejected or not, most will almost always optimistically respond to the gesture).

We did this one for one of our link targets, he hasn’t used the logo yet, but he did like the gesture and gave us links (to our client’s important landing pages).

Introduce yourself as a blogger when pitching for guest blogs

Bloggers are more likely to entertain bloggers than outreach guys who present themselves as a part of a business website’s online marketing team (based on my personal experience). We’ve experienced so many frustrating situations when pitching for guest blogs (especially on industries that already know how this game works).

Many bloggers, nowadays, do realize the value of their blogs for the link building and branding campaigns of the bigger players in their field, which makes it a more lucrative business for bloggers, as most of them will only offer sponsored posts if they know you are in the big leagues.

Introducing yourself as a blogger and letting them know where they can see your works (the blog that you’ll be hosting separately and where you can publish your sample articles/posts to for your prospects to see the quality of your work) seems to have higher response and approval rates, pretty much on any industry.

Using this method actually allowed our team to acquire solid links from top and authority travel blogs/news websites (with links to our client’s website from the author bio as well), where all we had to do was to set up a new blog, put in some well-written blog posts and use it as our persona when pitching for guest blogs.

The common price range for sponsored posts in the Travel industry is about $50 – $300 per post. Now, think about how much you can save if you can just create a new blog, have an awesome blogger on board, and start building relationships and pitch for free guest blogs.

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Image Credit: Alexandreev
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Inbound.org – A New Learning Tool for Inbound Marketers

Inbound.org is a newly launched community-based content sharing website – created by two of the most renowned thought leaders in the field of inbound marketing, Rand Fishkin (Founder of SEOmoz) and Dharmesh Shah (Founder of Hubspot).

It’s a very promising community, basing from the reception it gained from active online marketers worldwide (getting 10,000+ visits on the second day of its launch – and on a weekend), considering it as a new home of the best educational web-based materials in the industry.

I do personally consider Inbound.org as a learning tool for both new and seasoned online marketers, as you’ll see some of the most brilliant minds in the internet marketing industry sharing not just high-utility articles/guides, but highly linkable works that you might have missed reading before.

It’s also a great place to connect with other content creators in the industry, engage and get into their radars, as well as a place to promote your “great content” (relevant to inbound marketing).

In case you’re wondering what inbound marketing is (as defined by Wikipedia) – it’s a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by your prospects/target audience, which is dissimilar to traditional marketing principles that often focus on interrupting its target market through excessive advertisements/promotions.

The whole strategy is usually composed of organic online marketing practices such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Link Development
  • Social Media
  • Content Marketing
  • Analytics
  • Conversion Rate Optimization.

Features I would want to see on Inbound.org in the future:

Advanced Search feature

It would be easier for users to find specific posts or topics that they want to look for within the site if it has a search feature.

Top links of the week

I noticed that the arrangement of the list of posted links on the front page changes a lot and it’s possible for people who are checking in for updates to miss other awesome content. Curating the top links (voted by users) for each week could be a good solution to this, and can also be a good reward for awesome content creators.

Favorite links (bookmarker)

With a lot of links being submitted to the site daily, it would certainly be hard to keep up on reading everything that you’ll find interesting through the website. Adding this feature will make it easier for users to save links that they might want to check/visit/read again

If you’re keen to learning more about the overall processes that inbound marketing involves, you can check out Inbound.org and follow them on Twitter @inboundorg.

Bonus Round

Here’s a great infographic from Voltier Digital (created last year), explaining why you should invest on this marketing approach instead.

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Online Brand Marketing – Building a Strong Brand Presence using SEO, Social and Content

seomoz beginner guide to seo

I have been writing a lot about online branding for the past several months, seeing that this practice is being more relevant and significant to the changes that search engine algorithms have been continuously implementing to serve better results to their users (particularly in developing new signals for new ranking factors and algorithmic changes such as Panda and Search plus your world).

Apparently, the more search engines evolve, is the more all the available known channels for online marketing become a single component of an entire strategy, making integration the most efficient way to drive visitors, build a solid brand, generate sales to your business and to withstand any imminent/drastic game-changers.

Securing and maintaining an online business these days is very much attainable if it has a marketing campaign that is somehow focused on building a strong brand for some reasons.

Why is Brand Marketing so important in Search?

  • It improves your business’ lead generation, because it’s easier to sell things when you’re a trusted brand.
  • Higher success rates from acquiring links naturally or through sending out requests to other webmasters/bloggers.
  • Search engines are more to favor brands when ranking pages on search results (because people simply trust them). This increases your site’s chances of getting higher search rankings for difficult keywords, which leads to more targeted traffic that are searching and probably in need of your business.

Measuring the success of your online branding campaign:

  • The best metric to base your campaign’s achievements is usually through the increase in amount of leads/sales/revenue you have generated from the campaign.
  • The increase in visitor loyalty as well as new visits (that can all be tracked through your Analytics’ audience behavior report).
  • Increase in branded search (people searching for your brand name on search engines).
  • The amount of natural brand mentions through editorial links, citations and/or social mentions.
  • Approximate amount of engaged users (or possible brand advocates), that can easily be analyzed by setting goals for both macro and micro conversions (subscribers, ecommerce sales, returning visitors, service inquiries, etc…)
  • Increase in amount of followers on key social networking sites that you are active on using such as Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
  • Share of search and traffic differentials by estimating and comparing your site and your competitors’ common targeted keywords, amount of search engine traffic and traffic price (value of obtained traffic), which can be monitored using SEMrush or Compete.com.

I will write a more in-depth guide on how to measure your online branding campaigns in a future post. But for now, I’ll focus on discussing strategies that you can perform to improve brand awareness and improve search/social visibility through brand-centric methodologies.

Sending Out Brand Signals

Creating brand signals more often than not occurs on your own turf, and most of the time, these signals are the reasons that make your visitors come back for more, share your content through their networks (word of mouth), and/or buy your products or services.

Below are several ways to optimize this area of your website to maximize your traffic’s overall site/brand experience.

Visually appealing web design and identity

A strong and recognizable brand has to have the knack to grab its audience’s attention instantly, and one of the most efficient ways to be successful in this area of persuasion is through effective/appropriate design and uniqueness of identity.

It’s important that you continually test your site’s design, logo and copywriting approach that will be based on how you want to be perceived by your audience.

Optimize page titles with your brand name

Incorporating your brand name in all of your site’s title pages, especially on pages that can constantly acquire social shares and can obtain better search rankings for highly searched keywords, helps in sending out massive brand signals, as your pages are going to be able to make your brand name more visible in different channels such as Google search result pages and other social networking sites (when people are sharing your content).

User experience

Making everything in your website easy for users – from navigation, knowing what your website is all about to making your visitors absorb what your business’ value proposition is – establishes better user engagement and eventually develops brand awareness.

This in turn allows your business’ cause to propagate by aiming for your users’ soft side, by making them more interested/fascinated for them to share the information and/or overall experience to various social networks.

Social proof     

The number of people following you on different social networks can greatly impact how new visitors see your brand, given that the more numbers you present, is the more impressive and credible your brand will appear to them.

Building a solid following base on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is as important as building your targeted keywords’ rankings on search engines, since it doesn’t just benefit you from a branding perspective, but in generating traffic and lead-referrals as well.

You can make your social widgets visible on your site by placing it above the fold (or on your blog’s sidebar) to both attract people in following you on these social networks or in showing off your authority on these spaces. I’ll be giving more tips on how to increase your followers through content and social involvement below.

Trust seals

Another way to motivate your new visitors to check more of what you can offer is to put emphasis on your brand’s accomplishments, like including client/customer testimonials, places where you have already been featured (media coverage) and/or your company’s badges/awards. Making these things available to be seen by your visitors can lift your brand’s importance in your industry and can immediately establish trust and cultivate interest.

Identify Unique Selling Point and Focus on Marketing it

It’s a conventional wisdom in traditional marketing – and in any kind of war – to focus on enhancing your strengths. Putting your best foot forward is a principle that also applies in online marketing, because focusing on making your strengths more known can almost effortlessly shoot your brand on the top of the food chain and making it an authority in a particular field of your industry.

It’s best to know your company’s unique value proposition (what separates you from your competition) before actually starting with your branding campaign, as once you already know your business’ arsenal, you’ll be able to formulate a more laser-targeted approach for marketing, making that solid edge as your shortcut (almost) to being an authority.

Once you know what your role is in your industry, you can then start marketing that unique selling proposition through the content that you’ll generate. There are many content-centric methods that you can use to make yourself more visible in search as well as in the social sphere:

  • Create expert content and offer it as a guest blog. These works should focus on tackling your expertise and should also be submitted as a contribution to sites where your target market is. Choose sites/blogs that offer relevant content and have high amount of traffic (not necessarily sites that offer the same services/products as yours, but rather to sites that accommodates the same type audience as yours).
  • Launch rich-media content based from extensive research and be visually presented that will allow your target audience to explore more of your industry’s area such as infographics, videos and presentations and utilize social media and targeted outreach to promote them.
  • Establish web content partnerships by becoming a regular contributor or columnist to niche-targeted blogs or industry-specific news websites.
  • Utilize your site’s blog section well, by regularly updating it with high value, comprehensive and relevant posts. These posts can be more focused on building up your business’ unique value proposition, and use content-based link building (like simple linker outreach, editorial link outreach and social media promotions) to make them more visible through search, link referrals as well as social media.

Keyword Strategy

Keyword research and content development always go hand in hand in every start of campaign, especially in SEO, but of course these 2 vital processes will also play an important role when you’re trying to build a brand. Why? Because your campaign’s target keywords and the pages where they’ll be used will help your brand obtain the right audience.

Basically, once you’ve sorted out the list of your campaign’s primary as well as secondary keywords, it will be the best time to lay out your plan of attack to rank for those keywords that will help define your brand as whole – a brand that gives answers to those particular problems. And the best way to rank for your big list of keywords is to create useful content for each of your targeted keyword.

It’s important that you create useful content, since people will more likely share and link to your content if they’ve found it valuable or worth linking to. It’s also easier to request for links from other webmasters and bloggers if they will find your content really useful and worth sharing to their own networks/followers.

Search engine optimization is getting more complex every day, and if you want to own an industry-specific keyword (high search volume, but very competitive), you’ll need to own its support keywords as well (secondary or long-tail keywords). Basing from how search engines work these days, it’s a game of complete dominance – and brands have more ownership in this era. Like what Wil Reynolds said on my recent article on Technorati “stop putting crappy content in your site and start acting like a brand”.

Static Marketing in Social Media and Community Discussions

Static Marketing is a scalable way of marketing content/sites/personal brands over the web, as it’s a process that’s more apt to size up with minimal work exerted. As Ross Hudgens had explained, this type of marketing is important, especially in this age of marketing, knowing that it will act as a force multiplier for future active marketing efforts.

One great and plain example of this is a simple placement of social sharing buttons at the end of your blog posts or above the fold (making social sharing as one of your content’s call to action). Being consistent with this allows your content to have more chances of getting shared by people who can see/read your post any time in the future. This scales the ability of your site’s content to be marketed freely without putting too much effort to it.

Applying static marketing to other facets of social media and other forms of relationship building can definitely impact your site/personal branding efforts, as the more you consistently contribute to your community using a uniformed persona is the more you are able to develop brand retention through impressions to those who you are engaging with or to other people who will see your contributions/conversations.

Becoming known in your field by being everywhere can drive awareness, but to effectively implement this strategy for branding purposes, it’s important to be in the right places (relevant blog discussions, forums, social networking site discussions, Q&A threads, etc…) and to make use of elements that will make others see you as remarkable such as:

  • Consistency with your avatar or profile picture
  • Consistency with your name/username on your various social platform accounts, when leaving comments on other blogs, on forums and on Q&A websites.

Branded Link Building

Most people in this industry have known link building to be a practice that enables sites/pages to rank for keywords through building links from other websites that have those keywords used as anchor texts and to pass through PageRank (authority/popularity).

However, link building has also changed over the years, as it’s been also a great marketing tool for generating traffic (through referred traffic from websites where you have a high-CTR link) as well as in making a brand more known to its target market through branded anchor text links.

At this stage of search, it’s vital to build a link profile that can also maintain and constantly develop a brand’s prominence over the web, not only because it’s being used by search engines as a ranking factor/signal, but also because it creates more opportunities for your site in terms of linking, direct and referred traffic, by cultivating culture and interest generated through being almost everywhere.

The great thing about building branded links is that it allows your site to assimilate the industry keyword(s) your site/brand is aiming to achieve, especially if you are offering very relevant content, and you are also able to extend your subliminal message to people who will often see your branded links.

Allocating 50 – 60% of your link building efforts to this type of link building tactic will also make it easier for you to acquire links (since it’s easier than building links that focuses on getting exact-match keywords as anchor texts), plus this will more likely result to improving your site’s domain authority, which will then allow your inner pages to rank for the keywords they are designated to rank for.

There are many ways that you can do to build branded links and here are some:

  • Create and promote embeddable infographics that will link back to your site using branded anchor text links.
  • Target blogroll links by establishing connections with bloggers in your industry. You can easily find blogs that have this placed on their sidebars by using queries like: [industry keyword] “blogroll”.
  • Submitting your site to business and geo-specific web directories. Use your brand name as the anchor text for the link and be sure to offer unique descriptions for each submission.
  • Use branded links on your author bio when submitting guest blogs or columns.
  • Organize contests or awards, and then provide embeddable branded widgets to participants or nominees/winners.
  • Get interviewed by finding bloggers/writers that conduct online interviews related to your industry. You can use search queries like [keyword] intitle:interview, [keyword] intitle:Q&A with, [keyword] “expert interview”. You can certainly ask for links directing to your site through these kinds of opportunities.

Own your Brand’s SERPs

When it comes to online branding, defending your own turf in Google’s search results, particularly for your main keyword (which is your brand name), is top priority. There will be times that you’ll have tough times in your business, where other people or unsatisfied customers might publish something negative about your brand, and that could certainly hurt your image if those kind of content will show up instantly on Google’s top 10 results when people are searching your brand (or doing research about your brand).

The good news is that there are online reputation management techniques that you can use to ensure that you’ll own the search results for your brand name.

One method that you can use to protect your brand in search results is through building strong external profile pages (can be both for personal branding or your company), which will include your brand name in its page titles and will also link back to your main website, by creating accounts and optimizing your profile pages from web 2.0 properties like:

Distributing press releases, which will include your brand name on the title of the articles, is also another great method to shelter your SERP. It’s best to create and submit newsworthy content to press release submission sites, as its likelihood to be fetched by authority news sites is higher if it contains interesting data and have a newsworthy angle. You can also check out this list of 50 free press release submission sites.

Interviews are also a powerful branding tool, as it strongly demonstrates your authoritativeness in your industry when people see it in the top results when they search for your brand. If you’re getting opportunities for interviews, always try to suggest if they can include your brand name in the title of the post/interview.

Lastly, build links to your other important pages (pages/categories in your site that can be very useful to your visitors), because this can somehow trigger the sitelinks that will show up for your site’s organic listing. This basically allows your site to occupy the first 7 positions for your brand’s search results. But you can always demote pages from your sitelinks through Google Webmaster Tools if you think that they aren’t relevant for searchers.

Google+ Brand Page Optimization

With the recent merge of social and personalized search and the birth of “Search plus your World”, Google+ has just been more momentous for marketers, and this sudden change in the ball game has been a severe indication of brands taking over the SERPs.

Optimizing and building your authority on Google+ is essential this year, since Google is really pushing the idea of having Google+ related content (content shared by users’ circles as well as relevant pages on Google+) in their search results. If this continues, it could be a bigger fraction of their search algorithm’s ranking factors in determining quality, popular and authority content.

Here are some of the methods that you can implement to improve your Google+ Brand page’s performance:

  • Install authorship or publisher markups in your site that reciprocates with your Google+ profile.
  • Optimize your Google+ page by completing your profile and by incorporating your target keywords in it.
  • Make the Google +1 button very visible on your site’s pages, as you will want to attract visitors to clicking it.
  • Promote your Google+ page and build links to it, through the content you generate and distribute, as well as from the discussions that you are building from relevant communities.
  • Increase your activity within the social platform, by building conversations, sharing useful content to your circles (to increase the chances of getting +1s and reshares), finding and connecting with other influencers through ripples, and launching live Q&A sessions.

Leverage Social Media

Social media has always been a branding tool and the more it’s being used by people (especially by consumers) the more it will be an instrument for mobility to brands. There are many ways that you can utilize social media to develop a strong brand presence for your business and listed below are most of them.

Use content to drive social media interactions

Effective social media marketing is usually powered by content, as it’s the best way to convey messages across the web and generate a strong following base. Making your content as the basis of your social media campaign will make it more scalable as well as actionable for your target audience, given that they’ll have more reasons to follow you.

But don’t just share your own content, share others’ works as well, since this can also help you establish connections/relationships with other content creators in your industry (which are mostly influencers), and these connections will help your campaign along the process of marketing your own brand (absorbing their followers, having them share your content, getting links straight from them, etc…).

You can also create socially engaging content that are proven to attract social shares (particularly if the content can be marketed well) such as curated and crowdsourced content.

Engage your followers through conversations

Social media can also be a great CRM tool, given that it’s one way to communicate real-time with your customers and followers. Responding to your followers’ questions (on Twitter, Facebook and Google+) can help build a strong foundation for your brand as both an authority and an approachable entity in your industry (and this can make most of them to trust you as a brand and eventually become brand advocates).

Build Branded Content

Create branded content that will not just stand as a linkable asset, but a distinctive brand asset as well. Provide extensive free resources such as monthly free ebooks and comprehensive guides stored and available within your site’s domain, as this will not only allow you to get bookmarked by your visitors, but will also keep your visitors coming back to your website – and that’s definitely a good branding strategy.

Some awesome examples of this approach:

Hubspot’s Free Monthly Internet Marketing Whitepapers and Ebooks

Affilorama’s Free Affiliate Marketing Lessons

SEOmoz’s Beginners’ Guide to SEO

Monitor Brand Mentions

You can use brand monitoring tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Search and Topsy (well those are just the ones that I regularly use) to keep track of people mentioning your brand.

Monitoring brand mentions is very important, since it allows you to identify people who you can approach or connect with (and hopefully turn them into brand loyalists). It’s also easier to pitch for experiential reviews if you are going to reach out to people who have already linked/shared your brand, as they already have tried using it, or have been actually interested with what you’re offering.

Another way to monetize existing brand mentions/citations is to build 2nd tier links to them, particularly if the linking pages (where your brand have been featured) are constantly sending traffic to your site and have high conversions, because this simply means that those pages are already ranking well and are getting regular traffic from search engines.

Pushing them more to rank higher or to sustain their rankings for their targeted keywords simply translates to a continuing stream of referred traffic to your site (traffic that highly converts) and tons brand impressions.

Here’s a good sample of this method:

Jon Cooper of Point Blank SEO featured me last year on his post on the top link building blogs for 2012, and it’s currently ranking on the top page for “top link building blogs”.

It’s indeed sending traffic to my site, and has awesomely displayed my blog as an authority in the field (which is really good for branding, since I was listed on the first spot). And now I’m building a link to it.

Create and Promote Viral Content

Viral marketing will always be one of the most powerful tools in marketing, and that definitely counts in branding as well.

The great thing about this style of approach in marketing is that it benefits the brand in so many ways, may it be through the links that the site will be able to garner from the viral campaign, the rankings that those links will result to, or to the brand retention/awareness that it instills to a specifically targeted market (it’s always a win/win/win situation when successful).

But of course, viral campaigns require intense planning, implementation and analysis, since it’s a method that’s certainly tough to be replicated for future marketing efforts. However, there are some ways that you can do to make your attempts to launch a viral content work in accordance to your plans. Here’s a slide that I’ve created months ago on creating, promoting and scaling viral content:

 

Always remember that the best way to build links and promote a brand is to create high value content and letting people know it exists, as you can always amplify your content’s greatness by working your way up through hustling on the outreach part.

You can also use tools such as Google Trends and Trendsbuzz to get more ideas for topic titles and on the right timing of when to publish your content by monitoring trending topics that could be correlated to your niche.

Go Visual with Branded Images

Users’ behavior towards the web is growing and evolving to a more complex state every day, and one proof of that is the success brands gain through using compelling and visually attractive images to market their brands. Pinterest is one of those places that you might want to explore these days to get a hold of a set of audience who can be more engaged with your brand, as this social platform has been growing rapidly these past few months.

Neil Patel recently shared an extreme guide to marketing through Pinterest, with some really interesting data and tips on how to maximize your efforts in marketing your site through this platform.

You can create branded images and promote it on Pinterest. There are a lot of forms of images that you can use for this strategy such as typographic images (with remarkable messages), humorous images, infographics, product images (that should be visually attractive), recipes, artistic photographs of places and the list will surely go on.

Once you have your images set, you can start identifying active users on Pinterest that could be interested in your industry. Make a list of them, as you can reach out to them to promote or request to repin your images (they are more likely to repin your images if you are providing a good one). Here’s a quick guide on how you can do link outreach through Pinterest:

  • Start with Google search by using this query: “[industry keyword] site:pinterest.com”
  • Once you get the results, you’ll see different pages on Pinterest that provide relevant images about your industry, you can choose the first one (and eventually move on with the other results or other related keywords later on).
  • Choose any image on that page that have repins (or you can also go after each one by one to see the people who have repinned the image)
  • Most of the profiles seen on Pinterest have a link to their Facebook profile (seeing that it uses social logins for its users).
  • Check their Facebook Profile.
  • Prepare your outreach template (this not an actual sample, just made the screenshots for this post).
  • Send them your message via Facebook.

Active users on Pinterest usually have the “Pin it” button installed on their browsers, so just by simply directing them to the webpage where your image is hosted, you’ll have better chances of having your image shared on Pinterest. You can scale the process by continuously lurking on other popular images in your industry.

Curating images from other web sources is a good approach as well (but always give credit to its owners), as I’ve experienced tons of referred traffic from Pinterest through the infographics that I’ve curated mid last year.

One last thing…

 via SEO Ryan Gosling

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

Social Contest Marketing for Buzz and Links

This entry is a guest post by David Klein, Director of Orange Line. Follow him on Twitter @davidaklein.

It’s no secret that social media based contests are a sure fire way to gain brand exposure, social followers and links. There are many ways to go about executing your contest so I thought I might go over some ideas and tips that have worked wonders for clients in the past. I’ll be getting into everything from which social platforms work the best, tools to help you out and how to score links all over the place during the process.

I’m pretty excited to be writing about this topic mainly for one reason. Building a strong social follower base is key to a brand’s survival. Why? Well, it scares me to think how many businesses rely mostly on Google’s organic traffic for business and just how much a strong social following is contributing to organic rankings. The organic search game is a volatile one so take advantage of your contest and start growing your follower base. The potential for your Facebook fans getting your brand message to their friends is great! Since Google+ posts are now being indexed in the SERPs, there’s a whole other angle to start thinking about.

Besides those obvious benefits, there is another big one that usually makes the contest pay for itself. What am I talking about? Why user generated contest of course! If you choose to go down the path of running a video or photo contest, then you’re in luck. This is great fodder for your brands blog, Flickr, Youtube, Pinterest, Vimeo and all other social networks you’re on.

Excellent Past Examples

I thought I’d put it out there what I thought were amazing examples of social media contests from beginning to end. The brands mentioned are in no way affiliated with me, they just got my attention and inspired me in my contest efforts. We’ll take a look at a couple big brands and a smaller one to put things in perspective.

Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice

Part Facebook contest, part viral marketing stunt, Burger King hit it off big with their “Whopper Sacrifice”, which called on people to de-friend 10 people on their list. As you can see from the graphic above, there were nearly 200,000 people with one less friend. Everyone who was let go as a friend was then notified of the contest and this quickly got the attention of Facebook and its users. They quickly deemed that the contest violated their TOS and it was shut down. Needless to say, the failed stunt was a huge success not only because of the 20,000 people who axed friends to eat a whopper, but also because of the viral marketing that ensued.

Coca Cola’s Recycle King

This was an awesome campaign for building brand awareness and establishing themselves as a giant corporation that cares about the state of the planet. They made an app powered by Facebook Places to showcase recycling locations throughout Israel in an attempt to encourage bottle returns. The end result was a huge amount of check-ins as well as UGC by the truck-load, which was an added bonus. You can see now how many people wrote about this campaign (including links) and shared their videos all over the place.

Grand Velas Wedding Contest

Here’s a great example of a smaller brand making some headway in the social contest game. The Grand Velas offered up a dream wedding at one of their resorts and, in return, they turned some heads. With a package worth over $13,000 USD, you know the followers would come in droves. Thanks to a case study by Milestone Internet, we can see some juicy details about how the whole thing turned out for Velas Resorts.

  • 6,733 new Facebook “Likes” (203 new likes on the very first day of the contest)
  • 1,649 posts/feedback to various status updates with contest updates
  • 697 new Twitter followers (updates made on 4 property Twitter profiles during contest)
  • 2,687 visits & 4,404 page views to the wedding site blog
  • 3,762 visits & 12,401 page views to the wedding site itself

Not too shabby! Pretty much all the Facebook and Twitter accounts for their properties are doing quite well and they’ve rocked out a few more contests in 2011. There are thousands of resorts to have a wedding at but Velas is doing an amazing job keeping up the interest and spreading their brand throughout the wedding community.

Picking The Right Contest

Those with a smaller social following will want to choose their prize wisely. If the goal is to get more followers and drive brand awareness, you’ll have to bring the goods. I highly recommend sticking to something related to your niche to ensure that you attract followers that might one day convert into customers. I’ve seen a lot of brands run with a free iPad, which is fine if you’re just trying to make numbers, you’ll just get everyone and their mother flocking to the contest and very few of these people will ever actually give you money.

Another factor to keep in mind is the user interaction, which can make or break a contest. A video or photo contest is going to result in tons of awesome content you can re-use on your blog, Facebook photo galleries, Flickr, Youtube and all the places that take it. This is content you’d not normally get a chance to acquire as it’s user generated, so make the most of it.

I’m personally a big fan of combining social platforms to get the most bang for my clients’ buck. Facebook is, of course, where everyone is at these days and it certainly cannot be ignored. Once you have those fans onboard, you can continue gently bombarding them with branding efforts for as long as they’re following. Youtube is another winner because you have the ability to procure a ton of awesome content and get already established accounts showering you with love. Video content also tends to be shared a lot more and keeps users engaged for longer. I highly recommend checking out Google’s guidelines for running a contest on Youtube.

Applications to Run Your Contest

I’ll be sticking mainly to Facebook contests for this post but you can run them on Twitter, Youtube or whatever social platform your user base connects with you most openly. Facebook has certain rules about running contests on their platform, so make sure you read over these thoroughly. Luckily there are 3rd party apps that make the process a whole lot easier and let you stay within the guidelines. I’ll be going over a few of the best options but if you dig around I’m sure you can find others.

Staying within the rules of the platform you’re running the contest on is a must, as you don’t want to risk your business’ profile. More importantly, these apps make the whole contest setup and implementation a whole lot easier. There are also better ways to spend your time so let’s take a look at how these apps can bring your contest up to speed.

Votigo

I’ve had some serious time put in with Votigo and the whole package is pretty impressive with an emphasis on easy. Their platform caters to companies of all sizes and contest packages start as low as $60 per week, which is very doable for just about any business. They have your bases covered when it comes to running contests on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Mobile and even contest micro sites.

Votigo covers just about every other angle of your contest, which also makes it my top choice. The reporting, administration and analytics aspect is quite thorough and is perfect for those of us who want to know every little detail. If you’re low on manpower or time to run your contest, then you can count on them to handle that in addition to some legal aspects.

Strutta

This Canadian social contest startup has a really powerful package that I’ve had the pleasure of using with a few clients. Their packages focus around Facebook and Micro-site contests with a few custom options, including their really powerful API. Prices for their contest packages start at $199 + $99/month so it’s really a good deal for what you’re getting. I’ve used their sweepstakes package on Facebook and it performs really well, is extremely easy to setup and get going and it looks great to boot. The only downside is that you get more bang for your buck going with something like Votigo.

Wildfire Apps

Anyone who’s been marketing on Facebook should be well aware of the app suite from Wildfire. Their promotion builder is really a powerhouse of a marketing platform that does contests, but there’s a lot more to it that the competition. The contest promotion portion of the app allows your to run sweepstakes and contests as well offer coupons, group deals and a plethora of other marketing tasks. I’m also a huge fan of their pricing structure, as it allows for just about everyone to run a contest.

Prep & Launch Time

The contest promotion starts with you and there’s definitely plenty to be done! Before officially launching and promoting the contest externally, ask what your brand can do to spread the word. Obviously the platform you’re launching on will be a great start, but make sure to have the following prepped and ready to go at the click of a button:

  • Blog post with all the juicy details about the contest including links, photos and perhaps even a video from someone at your company.
  • Have a newsletter? This can be a huge initial push that could make or break your contest.
  • Make a new landing page for Facebook, twitter, youtube, etc. to push the contest.
  • If you have a podcast, make sure to get a mention out during each episode.
  • Even if you’re contest is a video based one, make sure your Youtube viewers know about it.
  • I recommend scheduling up Tweets promoting it to your followers twice a day while the contest is running.
  • Get your employees to think about how they can spread the word within their social circles and prep a game plan.
  • Have any contacts that might require a phone call to see if they’ll help spread the word?

These steps can really give an incredible initial push so that your closest followers are in the know first and you don’t leave out any option. I also like to have some eye-catching graphics done up to drive website visitors over to the sign up page. Our last contest drove nearly 2700 contest signups from the promotional graphics on the site!

Inbound Marketing Strategies

This is where the icing on the cake takes place when it comes to all the benefits of running a contest. While the main goal is always to build brand awareness and get new social followers, I can’t help but think link a link builder and there are a lot of link opportunities just waiting out there. These are the kind of links that will add a lot of diversity to your profile and you don’t need to worry about getting a certain anchor text or not. Just utilize these tactics to build links that look and feel natural.

Some of the inbound linking methods described below are not even close blown out to maximum capacity so I’ll leave it up to you to sniff out the multitude of other opportunities. Your best weapon is the contest prize and it will make life easier if it’s something kick-ass. We recently had a client do a Facebook contest with a prize worth a substantial amount from their showroom. It created such a sensation within their niche that a couple dozen blogs covered it, just about every related forum had a thread about it and it was a smash hit at generating social chatter.

Contest Sites

My first go-to resource for promoting a contest is, of course, sites that exist solely to let everyone else know about the promotion. There are plenty of these sites and a number of them provide you with a lot of entries, but you’ll also get a link and promotion from some of their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Like I said above, I’m only listing a few here and I’ll leave it up to you to find the rest.

A quick Google search will bring you many more sites like these but most of them will look like they’re still stuck in the 90’s. The results obviously vary, but it doesn’t take long to submit to a few dozen sites like this and it usually pays off. You’ll find that some require a fee or reciprocal link which is fine, just use your judgement. I usually link back to the sites within my client’s blog post for their contest with a “featured on” section of the post.

Press Releases

This one is a no brainer even though most people just submit one press release to, say, PR Web or PR Newswire and call it a day. If you have a larger budget, I highly recommend submitting a unique version of your press release to a few of the other larger wire services for that extra push. The client that pushed the expensive prize managed to get journalists talking on various authority blogs from all over the news spectrum. We managed to track over 4 dozen links just from this alone and rankings were on the up and up shortly thereafter.

PPC

I know you’re thinking, “OK, well how is PPC going to build me links?” Fair question! I usually recommend putting aside a small to medium budget for media buys even though we’re spending all sorts of money so far. As the old saying goes, you have to spend money to make money and it couldn’t be more true in this situation. As far as PPC/Media buys go, I usually do the following:

Facebook – hit this pretty hard because you can really break down your target market and attract some perfect contestants. It works great if your contest is based on Facebook as well because that person doesn’t leave the site once they’ve clicked on your ad.

Adwords Content Network – We’ve routinely bought ads on related forums and have had some serious success in bringing in new customers. The key here is to pick an active forum in your vertical and create one eye catching banner or the right ad copy. Be prepared to spend some money here and you’ve always got to be prepared to lose some too. The most important part is that you learn what works for your niche and what doesn’t.

Blogger Outreach

The biggest and brightest blogs in your vertical are always going to be an amazing resource for getting in touch with the community. While outreach usually involves some form of link begging via email or Twitter, it more than often requires some form of payment. While buying links is against Google TOS, it’s still a thriving practice among most firms. Keep in mind that this is a risk you’ll have to take and always discuss it with your company. Most forms of building links are against Google’s TOS anyway, so just be smart about it.

Lately, I’d say that Twitter is almost a better alternative to getting in with a blog in your niche. Why? Well, mainly because you can build a relationship first by following and reTweeting their posts for a week or two in advance. This should get you on their radar and make the approach all the more easy as you’ll have something to talk about.

Coupon/Deal Forums

There are hundreds of forums pertaining to this topic and nearly all of them have a section for contents/sweepstakes. Companies who sell products should be active on these forums even before they have a contest running as they’re a great place to market your deals when they do come about. Keep in mind most of these sites don’t like direct submission from companies so build up a normal user profile or find a service that does submissions like this. While I’m getting a little into grey areas of marketing, let’s keep in mind the mantra of “risk vs reward”.

Social Media Marketing

There are literally endless amounts of dollars you can spend on getting some social mentions for your contest. I usually like to have a budget of $300-500 for this, although you can do some serious damage with just $100 if you’re smart. The goal here is to get a good amount of social buzz drummed up so that more and more Tweets and Facebook shares get spread across the timeline land!

Fiverr.com – You can get a load of Facebook page shares and Tweets from people here for just $5 bucks, of course. I usually spend some money here from people with related followers and the results are all over the place. The one thing that’s for sure is that it doesn’t cost you much so you might as well throw $25 dollars into it and see what happens.

Sponsoredtweets.com – This is where you can really get some traction for your contest and if you have a big budget, you can get a big celebrity! I’ll admit we rarely get to make use of the service, but when we did, the results were phenomenal! The Twitter accounts you’ll find on Fiverr are usually built up for bulk and the followers are not really that engaged. We had a cooking related contest a while ago, got a few celebrity chefs to push it and the outcome blew all other social promotions away.

Facebook Pages – If you use the search function on Facebook you can find a lot of pages and groups related to your niche. These are great places to share your contest link but I’d be wary about being too spammy so use your judgement. There are also a few place like Facebook.com/SocialMediaContests & Facebook.com/entertowincontests that are for nothing but posting your sweepstakes. You can also buy posts on pages through Fiverr, and again, I’ll say you’ll see mixed results there.

User Engagement

One really important aspect is to keep the hype going while the contest is running. I see a lot of contests start and then end without a peep during the whole time span – this is a huge mistake. Make sure you’re replying to blog comments, Facebook posts and Tweets about the contest. I’d recommend encouraging users to share the contest with their friends so it shows up in other people’s news feeds more often than not.

If the contest prize is something you can hold, make sure to take pictures and videos throughout which will encourage users sharing and commenting. We’ve even thrown in a second mini prize to go with the main one because enough people shared or reTweeted a certain blog post about the contest. The last time we experimented with this we got over 1200 FB shares and a few hundred tweets about it! This drove a whole bunch of new contestants and is forever in our trick bag.

Wrapping It All Up

Your last big user engagement comes in the last couple of days before the contest ends. It’s a great opportunity to hype things up and get people chatting. I also like to prepare a newsletter blast to announce the contest is coming to an end in a few days, and then once more to announce the winner. On that note, I’d also make a post to your new fans about signing up for your newsletter to get wind of your next contest which will be “coming out soon”. If you had an awesome prize/giveaway, then your chances for sign ups will be huge.

If your contest required user generated content in the form of a video or photo, then make sure you make full use of that. We’ve done all sorts of things like blog posts containing the top 5 strangest submissions, photo gallery posts and other means of blogging and content submission to the client’s Facebook page. If your contest was a hit, you more than likely have more content than you know what to do with.

That about does it. I think I’ve rambled on long enough and hopefully I’ve got you pumped to run your own contest soon. The success of your second and third contests will be out of this world if you do all of the above correctly and learn from the mistakes and things that didn’t work the first time. By the time you’re running that third contest you should have a hefty amount of social followers, and that will push your results to new levels each time.

Author Bio: By David Klein, Director of Orange Line – online marketing specialists based in Sydney, Australia. Visit us to inquire about our winning social media marketing services.

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Building Authority and Influence in Google+

Google plusWhen Google announced last week that they’ll be starting to roll out Search Plus your World, it became more evident that search is shifting towards a simpler way of retrieving data for their users by merging personalized search and social search on their result pages for logged-in users (including relevant Google+ pages).

This sudden – but already foreseen – move from Google is definitely going to make massive changes on how businesses should market themselves, as this is certain to affect traditional online marketing methodologies.

There are billions of searches happening everyday (worldwide), and with the recent report from ComScore, stating that Google+ has already reached 67 million users since last November (and is expected to grow more in the coming months), they can easily develop this as a culture to searchers/users, in which the only thing that seasoned marketers can do is to adapt.

Google+ is Google 2.0, and in Rand’s recent whiteboard moz video on why a Google+ strategy is vital to marketers and businesses, you’ll see how they are really pushing Google+ on their search results.

So why is building your brand’s presence on Google+ necessary:

  • Google+ is already taking over search results, if you’re an authoritative figure in this social platform, then it’s easier to yield traffic and leads to your site/business, as your Google+ presence will improve your search visibility.
  • Google will eventually pull social and brand data from this channel to determine highly authoritative figures/content in any industry (AuthorRank).

Goals and objectives in building your Google+ Authority:

  • Increase the number of people that have you in their circles.
  • Increase the number of re-shares and +1’s of your Google+ content (content you share).
  • Increase the number of mentions of your Profile/Page in Google+.
  • Increase external activity, which can be measured through the amount of +1’s of your site’s content.

Below are just some tips on how you can build and continuously improve your authority on Google+.

Authorship Markups

Optimizing your content by including the rel=”author” tag and reciprocating it with your Google+ profile has been one of the most efficient ways in increasing your posts/pages’ SERP click-through rate, as it’s perceived as a more trustworthy and credible content when displayed on search results.

Authorship markup

I’ve written a guide last year on how you can implement this markup to a website/blog and you can check the post here.

Google+ Button

Of course, allowing your site visitors to +1 your content is also one of your Google+ strategy’s foundations, as Google uses these sharing/voting data to analyze the strength as well as the popularity of your website and its content.

The placements of your Google+ 1 button is very important, as making it more visible increases the chances of your button being clicked by your readers. You can place it above the fold or at the end of each of your site’s content to draw actions from your visitors.

Optimize Google+ Page/Profile

This is basic, where most of the task will only require you to complete your Google+ profile, and to allow your page as well as your posts to be publicly visible to logged off users and in search results. Your page/profile’s tagline and introduction are its meta description, so optimizing it by including your targeted keyword(s) may also enhance CTR and attract people to adding you.

You can check out Kristi Hines’ guide on how you can easily optimize your Google+ page.

Promote your Google+ page on your other social platforms

Perhaps the easiest way to attract people to add you in their circles is to first start with the social networking sites that you already have a following base (Twitter and Facebook). Promote the link to your Google+ profile/page through these networks, and that’s probably it.

Promote Google+ page via Content Marketing (CTA)

Include a link to your Google+ page whenever you distribute content externally (guest blogs, slide presentations and videos), especially on your author profile. This method has proven to have high success rate, particularly if you’re providing high-utility content on websites where your target audience are highly engaged.

Use the link to your Google+ page/profile as your external as well as your site’s socially engaging content’s call to action, to attract more of your audience into adding you to their circles.

Linking to your Google+ page from your Blog comments

Comment marketing is an effective way of reaching out and building relationships with your link prospects (and even in targeting their readers/followers), as by simply contributing to the discussion you’ll be able to be recognized in your industry as an active contributor.

Linking to your Google+ page instead of your site’s homepage can help establish a stronger foothold when aiming to build relationships, as it puts more emphasis on building a connection rather than just building a link.

Leading blog owners and their readers to your Google+ profile, very possible if they’re finding your comments really useful, are more perceptible to taking actions (adding you to their circles). And using this method also sends positive signals to Google, as you are building relevant links to your profile.

Build Conversations

Reach out to people that have you in their circles or people within your circle by communicating to them. You can start off by commenting on the things they share on Google+ or by responding to people who comment on your posts. It will eventually give you more exposure when people in their circles start noticing your conversations with them.

Engage the right people in targeted discussions and you’ll certainly do fine.

Share useful and relevant Content to your Circles

The more you are sharing valuable content on Google+, the more chances of getting your posts re-shared and/or +1ed by the people in your circles. This builds up your authority and popularity as a user, as people are finding you as a great resource of content in your industry.

Personalizing your posts, by including your own opinions about the content you are sharing, can entice commenters, which again can improve the social data that Google will be collecting from your account.

Connect with Influencers through Google+ Ripples

Ripple is a feature on Google+ that allows users to see the flow of how a certain content has been continuously shared on Google+, in which users can see the top sharers as well as the influential ones who have shared that particular content (a very powerful set of data that can be viewed in a separate webpage).

Casey Henry of SEOmoz wrote an extensive guide on how to use Ripples to connect and engage with influencers and you can check it out to learn more about how to utilize it in collecting data, studying your target audience’s behavior towards content and in finding influencers in your industry that you can target to build relationships with.

In case you’re wondering what it looks like:

Tagging People in your Circles when promoting your own Content

You can specifically do this when you have cited or linked out to their works from your content. It’s one of the best ways to get into their radar, and hopefully to have your content shared by them.

Increase activity on your Google+ page

There are a lot of events that you can do to make your Google+ page more active such as:

  • Launching live Q&A sessions, where you can invite people to ask industry related questions and have them answered by you or an invited guest (this is being done on Facebook fanpages and Twitter to increase the number of likes/followers).
  • Using Google+ brand pages as a platform for CRM, wherein you can accommodate and/or address consumer-related discussions.
  • Organizing contests, which is quite a common approach on other social media platforms to increase the number of followers and to build brand awareness.

My takeaways

Google+ may pollute search results, by serving bias content (seeing as results would be based from personal and social activity). Finding more useful and spot on content/information could be disrupted by this move from Google.

On the other hand, marketers might find it harder to shift their strategies to getting more social, especially to those who have been accustomed to backend marketing, but in the end, all that we can really do is to adapt to these changes.

Keep on building great content, because when you keep on producing useful content, people will always know how, where and why they need to find you.

If you liked this post, you can add me on Google+ and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Linker Outreach: A Method for Social and Editorial Link Building

Social linking has been one of the most significant and realistic indicators of how credible, useful and/or authoritative a content is these past few years, helping search engines identify high quality pages over the web, and to the extent of somehow improving their search results.

With different social platforms being widely used by people worldwide, link building seems to be much easier than before, especially in reaching out and engaging your link targets.

Social links are now being perceived as the future of links (probably the replacement of the old links that most of us have been accustomed to). However, editorial links voluntarily given by authority websites to cite credible sources around the web is still the best kind of link there is, in my opinion.

As this way of linking to documents passes more value, given that the links are in some ways more descriptive, relevant and have longer lifespan that’s capable of constantly generating referred traffic (especially if the linking page is getting search, social as well as referred traffic).

Now, what if you can get these 2 types of strong links through one solid approach? A method that can improve your site’s social branding and link graph, by offering your content to specifically targeted people in your community – the linkers.

Principles:

Let’s start off with the things that you’ll need to get started in using this approach to acquire social and editorial links.

  • A linkworthy content (not your homepage).
  • Social platforms where you can find natural linkers in your industry.

Linkers are the ones who take the time and effort to personalize or even add comments on the things that they share to their circles, that’s how I personally see it. And most linkers don’t exactly realize that they are linkers.

In this age of the web, pretty much everyone is capable of being a linker – on any industry – thanks to the sudden rise of social media, where almost everyone has the liberty to contribute and express their opinions, especially on topics that they are really passionate about.

So in this post, I’ll be sharing some guides on how to find and identify linkers in your field as well as on how you can approach them effectively (including a few samples below).

Finding Linkers in Delicious

Delicious is definitely one of the best places on the web to find great and popular content that people share and save on any niche – also a good place to find link targets.

In finding linkers through this social platform, you can first start by using Delicious’ search feature to find the most bookmarked webpages in your industry:

Delicious search

See the users who have commented on the bookmarked link by clicking on the number of saves.

So what I did after that is check all the profiles of those who have bookmarked the content on new tabs (yes, I did everything manually).

And see if they have links to their websites from their Delicious profile page.

Check their websites and collect their contact details from there (you can list them all in a spreadsheet, to have an easier process once you start reaching out to them).

With the tests that I’ve done a few weeks ago, it was really easy for me to contact CreativeCaravan, since they already have their email address mentioned on their banner, as seen above.

In scaling your link prospecting with Delicious, you can expand your search for possible link targets by tracking the users who have saved other popular (most bookmarked) content related to your niche through your search’s related tags (placed on the right sidebar of the results page).

Crafting your Pitch

After building your list of linkers to contact, you can then start creating your email copy. Here are a few tips for creating a copy for your email outreach:

  • Keep the message short and clear.
  • Let them know where and how you’ve found them.
  • You’ll need to offer a highly linkable content. In the samples that I’ll share below, I used my recent post about different SEO strategies for 2012 as the link that they can refer to.
  • Don’t give them instructions, since they are natural linkers, and they’ll know exactly what to do next after checking out your content.

Below is the actual copy that I used in testing this approach:

Results:

After sending 20 personalized emails, I got 6 positive responses (30% response rate), with 2 offering to write about the content that I’ve shared to them,  1 proposing a possible business partnership, all of the 6 sharing the post on Twitter, and with the rest, I didn’t receive any response at all.

The accuracy of my tests is not that definite at this time, given that I tested it on a holiday season, where most of the people that I contacted were probably on vacation. Although, most of the responses that I received were really interesting, as most of them have replies longer than the copy that I’ve initially sent to them.

Here are some of the awesome responses that I received from the approach I tested:

From Glen McNiel:

Glen also tweeted the post (he’s a great guy!).

From Paul Wylie:

Paul shared the post on Twitter:

Paul also took the time to contextually link to the post I’ve shared to him (with brand and author mention) on his post about Marketers’ dependency on Google for Traffic and Advertising:

From Andy of CreativeCaravan:

Andy’s tweet about the post:

Bonus Round

You can use the same approach on other social sites (like Twitter, Stumbleupon and Google+) by finding linkers in your industry from these social networks, contacting them, providing a link-worthy content and sharing it to them.

In finding Linkers on Twitter:

You can use Topsy to search for personalized tweets for a popular web content (within your niche) on Twitter, because these users are the ones that will possibly spend time writing about your content (especially if your material is exceptionally written or extremely useful).

Topsy allows you to see the people who’ve shared any web content on Twitter, and it also displays the profile of the users when you hover on their Twitter handle, and there you can see their websites (where you can contact them through email).

In finding Linkers on Google+

What I like about Google+ is that most of its users are very descriptive and more often than not express their own opinions when they’re sharing content to their circles – definitely the linkers that you want in your circle! You can use Google search to track users who have shared a content on Google+ (using this query: “URL of the post” + “site:plus.google.com”).

You can also use this scrapping method to export search results to excel. Once you have a list of Google+ pages/users, you can find their contact details or contact them directly through their Google plus profile.

Ok, that’s Gianluca (he’s a popular figure in the SEO industry), so you’ll really have to provide a great content to be prepared for these kinds of situations (contacting an influencer).

In finding Linkers on Stumbleupon

Stumbleupon is a vast place full of linking opportunities, knowing that this social networking site is home to highly intellectual social media users (most people that I personally know who’re using Stumbleupon are really smart people). In searching for Stumbleupon users (or stumblers) who have bookmarked a particular site/content (in your industry), you can also use Google search by using this search query: “URL of the site/page” + “site:www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/”.

Extract the list of search results and start contacting them through their profile pages.

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

We are also offering Search Marketing and Link Development services, you can hire us here.

Image Credit: Shortgreenpigg

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SEO Strategies and Inbound Marketing Best Practices for 2012

SEO is warIn 1998, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin received funding from Andy Bechtolsheim, no one really expected for Google to grow or to be as big as it is now. And perhaps, not one person expected for it to create massive job as well as business opportunities for people worldwide, which is now one of the most competitive and in-demand industries in the web space – Search Engine Optimization.

People have speculated enough – for over a decade of its presence – that the industry is predestined to die (particularly on every year-end posts/articles predicting that next year, SEO will be dead, I guess most of you have seen this statement a lot). Seeing that SEO is still continuously evolving, we all might not see its end anytime soon.

Given that it keeps on evolving, does it mean that SEO will be requiring more advanced methodologies? What is advanced, really? In my opinion, advanced SEO (now) is all about efficiency and appropriate marketing channel integration. That’s how Google is gradually transforming its services, and obviously, search/inbound marketers are already moving at this pace.

So what’s your approach for next year?

Here are some of the best practices (that I know and some of my ideas as well) on search, link development, social, content development, conversions and online branding for 2012.

On-site Optimization

Let’s start off with the basic website optimization processes, as this is the foundation of any online marketing strategy.

  • Site Structure – it’s best to have all your site’s important pages be very accessible to both users and search crawlers through a good site navigation scheme, as this will allow your important pages to be crawled, indexed and be ranked by search engines.
  • Page Titles – use unique titles for each of your site’s page as well as specific “keywords” that actually pertain to your page’s content. It’s also important for your title tags to target humans/users and not search crawlers.
  • Optimized Internal Links – using partial match anchor texts on your internal links to support the site’s landing, useful and deeper pages in terms of indexation and search rankings.
  • Length and value of content – in-depth content obviously gets higher search rankings (in some occasions), especially for informational content, these days.

These four are the foundations of a website that I see that might have bigger impact on search next year. But of course, there are also other areas of a website that need to be optimized for search, as search engines use hundreds of factors to map out the best and most relevant content for their users. For more tips on on-site optimization, you can check out my other (older) posts about it here and here.

Rich Snippet Optimization

Building trust upon first impression of the site is definitely one of the most effective ways to market a website next year (and as always), as it enhances the chance of selling your products/services to your visitors once they can see that you are offering real value to them.

And optimizing your pages to show up trustworthy on Google’s search results by having rich snippets for your pages’ search listings is one way to exemplify trust and prove that you’re an authority in your field. Here are some of the on-site optimization techniques that you can employ in optimizing your pages’ search listings:

  • Schemas – using microdata on your web pages’ source code (you can visit Schema.org to learn more about how to apply microdata on your website).
  • Authorship markup (rel=”author) – you can check out this post for a more extensive guide on how to implement authorship markups on your site/blog.
  • Optimized videos embedded on content, as Google’s search results are also displaying video snippets for pages that contain highly optimized videos.
  • Optimizing your list pages for search
Authorship Markup

The main benefit of having rich snippets for your pages (when they are showing up on search results) is that it increases the click-through rate of your listings – even they aren’t positioned on the top spot –since they are able to psychologically attract users through the perceived value of the content, which strongly suggests that your site/page is worth seeing.

Trust Optimization

As I’ve mentioned above, and even before – SEO is all about trust! The more people trust you, the more that search engines will place you higher on their search results, seeing as you truly deserve the spot.

Rand recently published a post on SEOmoz on how to prove trust over the web, and in this part of the post, I’ll just use one of his graphs in measuring a trustworthy website (since Rand has already mentioned everything that’s significant to this area of site optimization and I personally think that there’s no other better way to demonstrate it).

Mobile SEO

According to Google, 1 out of 7 search queries are happening from mobile devices (14% of overall search queries and almost 30% on some industries such as restaurants) and also reported to grow up to 22% of overall search next year.

Mobile users are still a growing segment of any industry’s target market, particularly when it comes to search, since businesses are also able to target users through building and promoting their own mobile applications, so tapping in to this area of marketing can be very promising for small, medium and enterprise-level businesses in 2012.

Here are some of the best practices on optimizing your site for mobile users:

  • XHTML code validation – you can use W3C’s mobile validator to see if you’re website is mobile friendly.
  • Testing the actual display as well as user-experience of the site when on mobile devices.
  • Implementing traditional on-site optimization such as the use of strong page titles, relevance of content to headline/page description and inclusion of inbound and outbound links within the content.
  • Long-tail optimization for speech recognition search, particularly on pages on your site that are getting mobile traffic or geo-targeted visitors (which you can track via Google Analytics).
You can also check this mobile search optimization guide for more tips and mobile search statistics.

User Experience Optimization

User is king in 2012 – as mentioned by Gianluca Fiorelli on his recent post on SEOmoz’s Youmoz – which makes design/usability testing a seamless strategy to be integrated with your online marketing efforts, since we all do want to satisfy the traffic generated by our campaigns, as this will always give positive results in terms of branding and conversions.

UX optimization usually streams through three major processes:

  • Collecting data from users (feedbacks).
  • Analyzing the site’s performance and results through the users’ feedbacks.
  • Making revisions and testing it again.

Some of the most known forms of usability enhancements are as follows:

  • Ensuring a user-friendly navigation scheme for the site, including the appropriate anchor texts for each destination page, specifically to direct visitors to the information that they’ll be looking for within your website.
  • The internal funnel of the site, an element that contains visitors and making them stay longer on the site (providing what they really visited for or more than what they have expected to see).
  • Site speed optimization, which is very important nowadays, as it’s being used as a factor by search engines in determining high-utility websites. You can use Google’s Page Speed Online to test your pages’ performance.
  • Removing or reducing distracting elements in the site to improve user activity.
  • Testing the site’s display on different platforms (different browsers, screen resolutions, mobile devices/browsers, etc…)
  • Readability, grammar as well as reading level of the content, in which you’ll mostly tailor your content to accommodate the specific audience that you’re targeting.

You can also use free usability testing tools like Usabilla and Silverback to improve your visitors’ experience when browsing your website.

Conversion Rate Optimization

SEO is the part that drives specifically targeted traffic to a website, while CRO is the side that converts the generated visitors into customers by compelling them to take actions once they are on your website/landing pages.  Combining these two practices is probably the most powerful approach to online marketing.

Based on Google’s recent algorithmic changes/updates, it is somehow evident that they are already on this path of determining high quality pages to be returned on their search results, by simply collecting user as well as website usage data.

This just means that the more that the users of a certain website are engaged (taking actions, staying longer in the site and/or frequently visiting the site), the more that it will be granted with higher search rankings, given that users are finding the site useful and valuable based on the usage data.

Conversion rate optimization is an area of website optimization that focuses more on testing site elements in order to refine results, particularly on how to increase user activity and of course, to improve the site’s ability to generate more revenue.

The major processes of CRO can be broken down into 5 segments:

  • Goal setting – identifying and deciding the goals that the website should achieve (leads/sales) as well as in building metrics to measure the campaign’s performance.
  • Measuring the site’s performance – knowing the benchmark of the how the site is performing, specifically with its current capacity to achieve your targeted goals, through analytics, user testing and surveys.
  • Analyzing existing data – this is the process that allows you to identify the site’s problems, which also allows you to determine areas of the website that might need revisions to be tested, based on the collected data from the 2nd stage.
  • Implementing changes for the testing phase – optimizing the conversion rates of the site’s important landing pages is usually done by employing the revisions that you have visualized to have better impact, based from your initial research and analysis. It’s also important to track everything that you’re about to test, as these changes are the ones that will justify your results.
  • Testing – you can use Google Website Optimizer to test the changes that you have implemented from the last stage by comparing their results (through A/B testing or Multivariate Testing).

Here’s a more extensive guide on how to implement CRO to your website from Unbounce.

CRO is a looping process, wherein getting positive results from your tests wouldn’t mean it has to stop, as you’ll need to continuously find more ways to refine the strategy for maximum results.

Enhancing your site’s CRO campaign by using/integrating methodologies that are mostly used in SEO is a strong as well as a scalable approach to marketing medium to large websites. Here are some of the integral methods that you can use:

  • On-site behavioral targeting through geo-targeted, demographic-targeted and/or contextual webpage content.
  • Absolute relevance of the landing page to its targeted keyword(s).
  • Increasing the amount of keywords that a certain strong landing page can rank for on search results, by building more links to it using variations for its anchor texts (short-tail, long-tail and semantically relevant keywords). Given that the more traffic that the page can generate, is the more you can increase your site’s conversions.
  • Segmenting types of traffic through efficient keyword research – and this will usually encompass the implementation of appropriate keyword targeting for the site’s pages (separating buying keywords from general information keywords). Here’s a great deck that explains a lot of SEO methods that can be used to improve conversions.
  • Also, here’s a good line from Patrick Altoft: build more links to important landing pages, rather than important keywords.
  • Strengthening the page’s main call to action by making it more obvious.
  • Putting emphasis on your product/service’s value proposition through the landing pages’ content to improve conversions.

Linked Data

Linked data is a practice that interconnects related data, information and knowledge on the semantic web (as defined by Wikipedia) through URIs and RDFs. Basically; it’s a process that assembles pieces of data retrieved from different open databases to form a single channel that will store all the interrelated information, which can serve as a more extensive resource about a certain subject.

A great example of this type of content is World Bank’s open data – this was a tip sent to me by Hannah Poferl a few months ago.

As you can see, most of their pages (from their data center) contain solid statistics extracted from different open databases that could be very significant to many existing or ongoing studies, which means these pages are of high value to both large and small communities (and would definitely mean a linkable asset that will continuously gain and attract natural links).

Making this a part of your campaign’s content development strategy might just earn you a lot of authoritative links, especially if you can link important datasets related to your industry or to its target market.

The outcome of the content may also be compelling enough to be worthy of ranking for highly competitive keywords, particularly if you can build a good navigational structure for these pages as well as obtain quality links through its promotion stage.

Learning how to create this type of content is quite hard, but the good news is that there are lots of available resources over the web that you can start with to know more and understand how linking open data works. Here are some of the resources that I’ve found very useful through my own research:

Continuously Upgrading Strong Pages for Freshness

I’ve been an advocate of this method for quite some time now, and will definitely be doing this more next year, as I’ve personally tested this method and has proven positive results in terms of getting higher search rankings. Especially now with one of Google’s recent update – Freshness – you can certainly dominate the SERPs for years if you have a solid content that can offer evergreen information.

Freshness doesn’t necessarily imply that a document should be new based on its inception date, but rather plays around many factors that can consider and indicate the content’s authoritativeness. Cyrus Shepard of SEOmoz recently published an article about the factors of freshness that may influence rankings.

A good sample of this method (I’ve been using and over-promoting this one a lot) would be my SEO strategies resources page:

Basically, it’s a compilation of my blog posts that I regularly update – every time I have a new post that’s suitable to be included on that list – which makes the page more powerful, as it’s continuously upgrading.

Here’s another tip:

Linkable Asset Creation

A linkable asset is a robust component of a website that aims to stand as the best content in a specific area of an industry. This type of content is capable of:

  • Serving as a link magnet that can continuously attract linkers.
  • Ranking for highly competitive keywords, as it can attract natural links.
  • Consistently generating traffic, since it can rank for highly searched keywords.
  • Sending out massive brand signals.
  • Producing highly fascinated leads, given that the content is exemplifying your expertise in the field.
  • Improving your site’s domain authority, through generated traffic and usage data.

There are certain elements that a web content must have in order for it to be a scalable asset, such as:

  • Appeals to a large audience
  • Content is evergreen
  • Have high content value

Ross Hudgen’s deck on creating a link building machine is a great guide to start with. And to get you more inspired, here are some of the best samples of linkable assets in this industry:

Using Statistics to Create News

This is probably old news to most of you, but again, solid data is still big news to any industry. Launching a survey that will gather relevant information to give solution to a particular or a well-timed issue in your industry can just give you massive linking opportunities.

You can use tools like SurveyMonkey in conducting your research/survey. Then after collecting the necessary data, you can then present your survey’s results in a graph format or you can as well choose to present the data by including it to rich-media contents (video, slide presentation or infographic).

Extending the reach of your results is very possible once you have released your initial content (that will host the statistics), as it will be easier to pitch your story/statistics as a resource to news websites, columnists, editors and even reputable bloggers in your industry.

Interactive Infographics and Data Visualization

Richard Baxter recently shared a list of interactive infographics that really caught my attention. Infographic creation and marketing has proven itself to be an efficient online marketing tool this past year, and many are saying that it’s already being overused by marketers worldwide, which might lessen its value in the coming years.

However, enriching your approach to data visualization – as a marketing channel for your content development strategy – by making it more interactive is a different story. It takes time to develop one, but its results can definitely be overwhelming, mainly in attracting solid links to your website.

via TheDailyBeast

In creating interactive infographics, here’s a video tutorial that I’ve found useful via Larry Ferlazzo.

Online Branding with Social Media

Branding is evidently one of the biggest factors that search engines will use in determining authority websites next year, knowing that brand-based data is one of the simplest metrics that they can use to measure authenticity and web popularity.

The most common metrics that search engines might use in assessing a brand’s importance over the web could be through:

  • Search volume for the brand name
  • Brand mentions from other websites (without link)
  • Amount of branded anchor text links directing to the website
  • Brand mentions from users on social networks

Judging from these metrics that Google is using, it is somehow certain that branding in SEO will mostly require the practice of social media in order to cultivate brand mentions, brand awareness, branded search queries and most especially brand advocates.

Using Social Media for CRM

One thing that really empowers businesses today in social media, is the benefit of having it used as a tool for customer relationship management (CRM), given that a large share of audience in most industries are actively using the web (particularly social networking sites) these days.

Social media, as a channel for CRM and customer support, can positively impact the efforts of building the brand’s online presence, and can definitely cultivate brand mentions, spread brand awareness, and branded searches from highly satisfied users and from people that the brand will be referred to.

Brand Building through Content Marketing

Externally distributing content or crafting extremely awesome web-based content can also help in building a strong brand presence for your website, as these types of content can send out massive brand signals. Types of content that can boost your social media and brand marketing campaign may come in forms of:

  • Videos
  • Games
  • Applications
  • Free web-based tools
  • Awards
  • Contests
  • Whitepapers
  • Free Ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Guest blogging

When distributing or launching heavy content marketing campaigns, it’s also important to make them have strong call to actions, such as following/liking you on social networks (Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+), as this will allow you to measure and scale your campaign(s).

Tracking Brand Mentions and Utilizing Brand Advocates

As you are building your brand and user-engagements through social media, it’s also vital to monitor brand mentions. You can use free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search to keep track of people talking about your brand, especially those who are citing your brand positively.

Keeping track of these people also means that you’ll need to make a list of them (use excel), as you can utilize this list in scaling your online marketing campaign (especially in link building). You can segment your list, particularly the ones who are mentioning you on Twitter, and see those who have blogs. Engage this area of your list (like offering freebies for reviews, VIP access, coupon codes, etc…) to get more contextual link opportunities.

Rapport Building through Content Creation

Building relationships has been one of the most effective and scalable ways to build high value links to a website these past few years, given that relationships can also take online businesses to a higher level in terms of acquiring links as well as in generating business leads through network referrals.

There are many ways to build relationships online, which most of the time starts with conversations through community discussions (forums, blogs, Q&A sites, social networking sites) as well as on industry conferences. But targeting to engage influencers in your industry might take you some time, there are still ways that you can do to get into their radar – by simply creating compelling content that features them.

Some of the most effective content formats that you can use to build connections with your link targets:

It’s always important to notify them once you have published your content, as most of them would share it to their own networks, which opens your doors for more linking opportunity, as this can somehow validate your site’s credibility.

Bonus Tip: If your client won’t authorize you to do this within their domain, try to start a niche-targeted blog (that uses a “personal” approach) that will focus on creating these kinds of content (it’s easy to build these types of content, as you’ll mostly focus on researching, curating posts in your industry, outreach for interviews, etc…).

Once you get to talk to your link prospects and have them thanking you for featuring them on your user-generated content, it’s then easier to penetrate guest blogging requests to them (which I think is a win/win/win situation for your client, your self-hosted blog and your link prospect).     

Link Building in 2012:

Link building in 2012

Targeted Link Building

Targeted link building is more of a principle than a practice. It’s a perception that focuses on building the right anchor texts to the right destination pages from the right and highly relevant linking websites. Other factors that make a link building campaign more targeted:

  • Focusing on your list of link prospects! As sometimes, people tend to get distracted by obtaining fast live links from general niche websites. You can refer to my recent blog post for extreme link prospecting, use it wisely.
  • Building links that people will actually click – through the position of the link within the document, or the length as well as the usage of powerful words in the link to attract users to clicking. Studying the top websites sending referred traffic to your site is also a good way to get ideas on how to build your artificial links.

Bonus Tip: Building links to undiscovered powerful pages of the site.

Basically, it’s just digging through your Web Analytics to track unseen opportunities that might help scale your link building campaign – particularly in generating specifically targeted search engine traffic – by pushing pages to rank for the keywords which people use in finding the page.

In discovering powerful pages of your site:

  • On Google Analytics’ Traffic Sources > Keywords
  • Segment keywords that have high user activity, which can be measured through the % of new visits and its bounce rate (keywords that have high % of new visits + low % of bounce rate).
Analytics link building

Having these traffic data segmented will eventually guide you to the right anchor texts to target for your strong pages, as some of the data that you’ll be finding indicates that people see those pages relevant to the search term they have used in finding them.

These pages are then easier to optimize and also have greater chances of achieving higher search rankings, especially when you start building links to them, seeing as they’re already showing up on search results (for their newly targeted keywords), and most of all, the data that you’ve collected prove that these pages have high user-activity.

BizDev Link Building

Recently, Eric Ward’s works and perceptions on link development as well as on how he really sees where this business is going have heavily influenced my own views about the link building business – and his BizDev link building style is certainly one of them.

BizDev link building is a methodology that concentrates more on the business end rather than the site’s search rankings – as defined by Eric Ward.

Brilliant examples of this technique can also be found here:

Although, probably the most excellent example of bizdev link building that I’ve seen so far was a technique that a got from a thread at Webmasterworld (by “viggen”):

  • Find authors of upcoming books (2-4 months before they get released) in your niche on Amazon.com.
  • Contact the author and ask if he/she’ll be interested to review another book or interview another author who writes about the same field or industry (preferably the ones that they might need for their own research), as this can help him promote his upcoming book. Basically, you’ll be offering help to the author in promoting his new book by creating a content that will be published in your website.
  • Once the content is done, you can start contacting the publishing house of the reviewed book and let them know that you have an extensive review of one of their books posted on your website. This can get you some links and social shares from the publishing house’s end as well as the author who wrote the review.
  • Another advantage of using this method is that many universities in the US and UK have publishing departments, which means you can have higher chances of engaging people who are authorized to reward citations from an .edu domain (knowing that they also have blogs and they also enjoy citing resources).
  • Benefits of the technique: you get a link from the author of the upcoming book, you get a link from the publishing house (could be from .edu), you receive a high quality content, and you get to build a strong reputation in the academic sphere of your industry.

User Generated Viral Campaigns

Viral marketing will definitely be still one of the most powerful marketing tools out there next year. This method has a lot of faces, and with social media growing larger every year, tapping more in to your target audience’s passions could be a little more interesting to implement – basing on the increase in web users’ online activity and involvement.

A good approach to this type of marketing is to support or create a movement (could be politically-related, perennial issues, etc…) that relates to your industry or a belief that your business genuinely believes in. Once you have this part sorted out, you can launch campaigns that will encourage actions from your targeted audience such as:

  • Collecting online signatures and compiling them all in a single webpage, which participants can freely share on social networks or link back to (online signatures can come in form of a link to their social network profile/blog, which may also include a statement from each participant). You can also choose to automate this process by allowing users to just key in their contributions using an online form and have all submissions moderated.
  • Interviewing real people (not industry influencers) and compiling their contributions in a single webpage (this will be more interesting if it’s a video). You can also scale this approach by allowing users to send in their own videos (it’s like allowing them to have their opinions about the issue heard).

People are more likely to share the content if they feel that they have slight ownership of it.

My Call to Action

I will have a Christmas/2011 testimonial /link love post this week, so if you liked this post, you can just tweet this:

You don’t necessarily have to say that I’m awesome or what, feel free to say anything alongside the #Kaiserthesage hashtag, and I’ll take screenshots and include them on my next post, and of course, I’ll be linking back to your websites.

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Image Credit: Poibuts