Link Building Strategies for Smaller Brands in a Competitive Space

by Jason Acidre on October 24, 2011 · 83 comments · Content, Search


Big vs SmallLink building is a very exhausting, and usually, the most frustrating aspect of website optimization, especially if you’re one of the small ones who’s competing against the bigger names in a certain industry that have all the means to speed up the implementation of the tougher and time-consuming tasks (tasks that are capable of returning results faster).

In search marketing, when you are competing with the bigger brands, you get mostly tied up with limited strategies to fight back, as these brands are willing to spend a lot to take preemptive actions and dominate the SERPs, which sometimes lead the smaller ones to resort to desperate measures (like web spamming).

Another disturbing thought in the Internet industry is that webmasters are now more aware of how to profit from their sites by selling links (paid reviews, paid guest posts, etc), which locks down the opportunities of gaining great links for smaller commercial/business websites.

However, there is one misconception about SEO that people usually reckon as a basis for winning – the size of your budget. Yes, it does matter, in some areas, but in this generation of link building, it’s not the big that eats the small anymore, but rather, it’s the fast that overtakes and eats the slow (got that quote from my big bro). In this age of marketing, time and creativity is the key to be successful.

So how can you size up your links when you’re in a highly-competitive space?

Link Distribution

Homepage is where your brand is.

Most websites that are already active in the search game commonly use their homepages to target their most important keyword (industry/niche keyword), and I have nothing against that, but these days, focusing on branding techniques in optimizing the site’s front page is more capable of returning greater results, I believe, given that it causes curiosity and brand awareness to your visitors.

Using online branding methodologies such as using your brand name as anchor text when linking to your website from your distributed content like guest blogs, interviews, author profiles, web directory listings and community-based interactions can help in:

  • Increasing search volumes for your brand
  • Acquiring sitelinks for your site’s search engine listing
  • Improving your homepage’s search and social visibility
  • Attracting natural brand mentions from other websites/social networks

Power keywords for power pages

A powerful keyword that will help your campaign draw huge amount of specifically targeted visitors will always need a powerful content to host it. Powerful pages in your site may come in a form of viral content/link bait and comprehensive resource articles/case studies.

Your site’s important landing/product pages can improve its own search rankings when surrounded by these types of powerful pages, especially if these pages are able to receive massive social signals and natural incoming links.

Putting a solid content as a front for your requests will also increase the chances of getting high quality links, as the rarity of the information stored within the content leverages the value proposition of your link placement requests – which means building more robust deep links to these inner pages (with your targeted anchor texts) is much easier than requesting for links to direct to your homepage.

Several ways to build links to your power pages:

  • Cite them as a resource when participating on online conversations (forums, blog discussions, Q&A sites)
  • Contextually link to them on guest blogs, interviews and press releases.
  • Search for industry links/resources pages and request for a link placement (have higher success rate when you’re offering a highly resourceful page).
  • Incentivize linking like embeddable badges/infographics/videos, or by offering a free report/whitepaper in exchange of sharing the content via social networks (can be automated if you use Cloudflood).

Blog posts for your long tails

Blog posts are certainly the best way to target long-tail keywords for your campaign, since this type of webpage seems to naturally rank for unsystematic strings of search queries, particularly if your site is already recognized as a trustworthy site by major search engines (high domain authority).

Several ways to empower linking to your blog posts:

  • Social media promotion, where you can amplify your content’s visibility through the conversations you’ve built in your social networks. Linking to industry influencers from your content can also help in establishing conversations and getting social shares from them.
  • Request links from media curators in your industry (search for weekly/monthly blog roundups happening in your sector).
  • Promoting content on Commentluv-enabled blogs. You can use commentluv’s exclusive search engine to find blogs in your niche that use this WordPress plugin.
  • Citing your blog post as a resource when contributing on community-based websites like forums and Q&A sites.
  • Slowly build your site’s domain authority by diversifying your links’ sources and links’ destinations – since having a strong domain authority will make your blog posts’ listings (even the recently published ones) show up more prominently on search results.

Remix Marketing

Guest blogging is probably the most effective link building technique of this generation, and at this time, it’s already being excessively used on almost every industry, which dries up the chances of smaller websites to have their submitted content approved (whether because the submitted content sucks or the subject is too common).

Today’s web is oversaturated with content, and many of them are just rehashed work, though, there are still some that can really stand out.  Everything in this industry is a remix, where most great creations always draw its soul from a deeper influence.

Getting content ideas from other industries that might haven’t been created or overly used in yours can be a good approach to catch up with your bigger competitors. Here are some methods that you can use in generating ideas for your guest blogging campaign:

Content Exploration

Utilize Stumbleupon to find interesting topics in your industry or even in other industries that you can use, draw inspiration from and/or recreate for your own campaign. Take note of all the interesting content that you can correlate or recreate in your industry and list them in an excel sheet.

Some examples:

  • “keyword” in 100 pictures – then submit it as a guest post to an authority photoblog, or an influential media in your industry. You can easily build this content by collecting great images and compiling them all in one post, and then giving link attributes to the owners of the photos.
  •  “keyword” in “location” (ex: 20 Best “SEO” blogs in “Manila”) – submit it as a guest post to a regional blog or news site. You can also create different lists for different locations where you might be targeting traffic from, as this can also help you develop relationships (through conversations) with the sites that you’ll be including on your list(s), which can also result in securing more link opportunities.

Recreate News

There are many blogs that infrequently update their postings (2 – 3x a month), and you can certainly find many of these in any industry. Being updated with the current news in your industry can help you penetrate good content from these blogs, but of course, you’ll have to make your content more unique than what the original source of the story is providing. Here are some tips on how you can use this for your guest blogging campaign:

  • Follow news sites in your industry.
  • Remake interesting news articles that you’ll find and include your tips and takeaways (make the post useful and informative).
  • Contact industry blogs who might be interested to publish your post (most likely blogs that don’t update regularly).
  • Link back to your website through the “about the author” section.

Interviews and Crowdsourced content as guest blogs

Interview popular personalities in your industry and offer the finished content as a guest blog. Typically, the output of this content is very useful, knowing that it gives answers to industry-related questions.

This method will also allow you to scale link opportunities to your site, since you will be able to establish/build relationships with the people that you’ll be interviewing, which you can use in the latter part of your link building campaign.

Curated content as guest blogs

Gather the best content in your industry, compile them into one post and then offer it as a guest post to authority blogs in your industry. This approach has a high approval rate when submitted as a guest blog, knowing that it saves the target blogger’s time of creating the resourceful article.

Some of the best samples of this method as a guest blog:

Kinetic Text Typography

Converting your articles or audio files (podcasts, etc…) into a video in kinetic text typography can extremely grow your site’s incoming authority links as well as natural links/citations, particularly if you can disseminate the video by using it as a front in submitting your guest blog entries, in which you’ll just have to provide several unique introductions (with the video embedded within the submitted content) to be able to offer it to various authority blogs in your niche.

Edge Marketing

Focus on selling your brand’s edge or its primary identifier through your externally distributed content, as this methodology will help nurture your site’s identity within your industry. Allocate conversion-oriented content contributions to influential media/blogs in your sector to propagate your projected image, such as putting emphasis on your area of expertise to establish your brand as the authority in that extent of the industry.

You can use Citationlabs’ outbound link scraper and contact finder tool in building a list of specifically targeted link prospects where you can distribute your content. One reason why this is the best tool to use in this particular method is that it can speed up your process of gathering the right targets for linking, as the process’ foundation is based on other list pages (ex. list of best blogs in a certain industry) – these are basically the sites that you’ll really need to acquire a link from – and the tool will do the rest, automatically, in collecting important data from these pages.

Using the tool:

  • Search for pages that list the best/authority blogs in your industry. You can use search queries like “best [keyword] blogs”, “top [keyword] blogs” and/or “list of [keyword] blogs”.
  • List all the URLs of the list pages in an excel sheet or notepad that you’ll find from your search and you can then start using the tool’s outbound scraper feature.
  • Paste the URLs of the list pages that you’ve found in the outbound scraper feature.
  • Download the report for the scraped outbound links from the list pages.
The exported file will look something similar to this:
  • Go to the contact finder feature of the tool to extract the contact details of the link prospects that has been generated through the outbound scraper.
  • Paste all the URLs extracted by the outbound scraper feature for the tool to automatically search for the target link prospects’ contact details (this will normally include the target site’s contact page, about page, email address and/or contact form).
  • Wait for a few minutes for the results and you can then export the list of URLs with their contact details.
The exported file will look something similar to this:

Citationlabs offers affordable packages to gain access to their tools:

  • 250 MB of bandwidth (equivalent to 10,000 requests) – $10 per month
  • 500 MB of bandwidth (equivalent to 20,000 requests) – $15 per month
  • 1,000 MB of bandwidth (equivalent to 40,000 requests) – $25 per month
  • 2,500 MB of bandwidth (equivalent to 10,000 requests) – $50 per month

Once you have generated your list of prospects with their contact details, you can then start producing content that exemplifies your expertise in the field and will somehow be very interesting to your prospects’ followers/readers. You can also start engaging your link targets through your outreach campaign.

Improve Brand and Market Awareness

Brand building through industry and community-based discussions is one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to fortify a website’s online marketing campaign. Conversation participation amplifies branding in such a way that a business entity is able to make actions and contributions to its target market through relevant discussions.

These community contributions are then able to make your brand’s authoritativeness more apparent to its target audience, and sends out signals that can create awareness and advocacies.  Several methods that you can use to improve your brand’s ability to engage its audience are:

  • Strong presence on relevant forums, blog communities and Q&A sites.
  • Constant content distribution on key and influential media in your industry (authority blogs and news sites).
  • Authentic involvement on social media through conversations.
  • Expanding your sources for link opportunities by seeking through conversation threads (from authority forums, blogs and social media pages in your industry) and from sites linking to pages that are ranking for your secondary keywords.

Invest on Building Linkable Assets

Create the “best” content in your industry that can withstand time – evergreen content – as these types of web pages will be highly capable of constantly attracting natural links to your site for a long time (as long as the content is seen useful by its targeted audience).

Developing a robust page in your site that can prove itself as the best content about a certain area in an industry and will stand as one of the domain’s pillars have high acceptance rate when requested/pitched to other sites for a link. These pages can definitely improve a site’s domain authority, brand presence and traffic conversions.

Elements of a powerful linkable asset:

  • Useful and/or highly informative
  • Visually attractive
  • Comprehensive
  • Evergreen
  • Capacity to target multiple types of audiences
  • Have a strong call to action
  • Targets a high search volume keyword

Several samples of linkable assets:

  • Rich media content like infographics, kinetic text typography, slide presentations and/or high quality videos.
  • Annual blog awards.
  • Crowdsourced content that aims to answer an industry-specific question.
  • Industry conference/seminars’ landing page (which you can always repurpose).

Promoting your linkable assets:

  • Social media promotion
  • Email link/blogger outreach
  • Paid advertisements (PPC, Facebook ads, Stumbleupon ads, Buysellads.com, etc…)
  • Citing it as a resource when building informative links through forums, guest blogs, newsletters, whitepapers, Q&A sites and/or blog discussions.

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

Image Credit: Annisahmad

Jason Acidre

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

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