,

How I get quick wins in SEO and Content Marketing

I’m not really used to writing shorter blog posts – and I’m also guessing that most of you already know that I always write long-form content and comprehensive tutorials related to online marketing.

So I’m going to try something new, well not that new, since I’ve written some posts in the past that are just 500+ words in length – although, there’s something that I would want to test on this one.

Anyway, there’s this one question that seems to be asked to me more and more for the past 2 years of being a consultant:

“How do I get quick wins in SEO and content marketing for me and/or for my clients”?

organic search results

My answer is quite simple, I believe that the real key to any effective and result-driven online marketing campaign (whether it’s relying on search or content marketing) is through a solid research phase.

This stage usually includes the following areas to have a sustainable content strategy for both search and social campaigns:

  • Keywords
  • Audience
  • Competitors
  • Methodology

Although, I mostly look out for two things:

  • Understanding what your target audience really needs and seeks for, and then being able to provide those needs.
  • Determining what your competitors have, and basing your methodologies on what appears to be their weaker spots.

By having insights from these 2 research processes – knowing your audience and the strengths as well as weaknesses of your competitors – it’ll be easier for you to come up with the unexpected hooks that you can use for your content.

These are the information and the ideas that you can provide that your competitors aren’t covering yet, and might somehow be needed by your target audience.

Content is an investment

Content is a brand asset that can help you scale your marketing and lead generation. Because a single content can alter how your business will perform in the future.

One blog post can drive you hundreds of leads/sales in its lifetime, so what more if you have dozens or hundreds of this type of high-performing content.

Perhaps, that’s the reason why my main approach when it comes to content marketing only revolves around 3 primary elements:

  • Comprehensive
  • Actionable
  • Evergreen

And how do I come up with a content that’s comprehensive, actionable and evergreen? Back to step 1, I try to understand my audience and I study my competitors’ existing assets.

Surefire Formulas?

With formulas, that’s where I’m not sure. But mindset, there is. Our profession requires lots of complex processes. But I love to simplify things, not just to make it easier for me, but to also make it damn easier for my team.

My principle in SEO is very simple, as you only have to optimize for two things:

seo

And same thing applies in content marketing:

content

The truth is, it’s really easy to promote (great) content when you’re sure and confident about it. And don’t forget to reach out to those who’re really interested about the subject of your content.

Because at the end of the day, search and content marketing will always be a battle of who stands out the best.

Special thanks to: Myles Vives and Benj Arriola. We were supposed to do a video about this topic earlier, but might do it another time.

Also, if you want me to write a longer and more detailed version of this post, please let me know in the comment sections. I would be happy to write one (but not sure when, as I also have 2 big posts coming out this month – off-page SEO in 2013 and beyond and a comprehensive guide to content promotion).

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

The True Value of Link Building in Post-Penguin Era

trusted links

There has been a lot of talk around the industry that the ROI in link building is diminishing. Mainly because of the constant algorithmic updates (particularly Penguin) that strongly impact this marketing platform, as well as with the shift that Google wants to take on in revolutionizing its search.

However, I’m still one of those who won’t really believe that link building will soon be over as an effective medium that can help websites/brands earn more and win over their competitions on the web.

Let’s recap several advantages of link building and why it wouldn’t likely be extinct:

  • It can drive referral traffic, especially if the links are contextual and placed on high-traffic and thematically relevant pages/content.
  • Links and brand mentions help businesses become more authoritative and visible to their target audience (link building is more efficient as a branding tool).
  • Links help sites (and web documents) in getting found and discovered, not just by search crawlers, but also by users.
  • Links can also increase a website’s conversions.
  • Link building still directly impacts a site’s ability to rank on search results.

I’ve handled sites that heavily relied on SEO/link building alone for the past few months – without the help of content marketing, social media and other traffic/lead generating channels – but were still able to produce tremendous results (bringing us closer to the business’ goals) in a short period of time.

organic search results

traffic overview

Although we all know that it’s always best to have a diversified source of traffic, it’s given that it’s not the way how it works on other niches.

Perhaps that’s why I strongly believe in link building as a very significant process in this age of online marketing. It can still yield results – overwhelming results.

My thoughts on Penguin and the future of link building

What I really love about SEO, as a profession and an industry, is that it continues to challenge its practitioners. While search constantly enhances and evolves itself, it also tests and changes/improves our own views and principles along the process.

Let’s start digging in through few of my observations based on our team’s available data. Although, I’m sure that I’ll be updating many of the things that I’ll be mentioning in this post in the coming weeks.

Possible Google Penguin filters

Matt Cutts mentioned that the new version of Penguin – Penguin 2.0 – goes deeper on to the site’s inner pages (the links pointing to them), as the first Penguin mainly targeted homepages.

Some practitioners argue that this isn’t true, although our data somehow suggests that it is (which will be shared on the latter part of this post).

Below are the factors which I think Google Penguin 2.0 uses in determining a site’s degree of penalization – based on my initial assessment – listed in particular order (according to each factor’s weight).

  • The quality of the link source. It’s easier for them to identify spammy websites or link networks these days (sites with Panda-prone content, contain tons of manipulative links, and have low user-engagement rate).
  • Degree of penalty could be based on the ratio of # of bad vs. good links pointing to the site’s pages.
  • Thematic relevance of the linking domain(s).
  • Amount of links with exact match anchor text pointing to a page (over-optimization), as well as their positions in the linking pages (sitewide, footer, comment section, contextual, etc…). But these might only serve as supporting metrics for the first factor I mentioned.

Ratio of # of Bad vs. Good linking domains

I think that the degree of the penalty from Penguin 2.0 depends on the ratio of bad vs. good links pointing to a certain site, as I’ve seen a couple of the sites we’ve been handling that were mildly hit by the recent Penguin update.

For instance, the site with the stats I’ve shared above was also hit (by 27% loss in search traffic).

penguin 2.0

The site has only a few linking domains to it, since we’ve only focused on getting links from 3 high DA sites (through regular content contribution).

linking domains

Though the problem is that several spammy sites have scraped the content we’ve published on one of the sites we’ve contributed to. So basically, the ratio of good and bad domains linking to the site is around 4:13.

If Penguin has devalued the other domains linking to the site, then this may have caused the slight decrease in search traffic (as the links are no longer passing ranking value to the site).

Another case is from a huge site we’ve been working on for months now that have thousands of great links, but also have a few hundreds of bad ones, specifically from:

  • Scraped content hosted on spammy websites/content farms.
  • Negative SEO.
  • Directory links, articles and social profiles with exact match anchor texts (built by their previous SEO service provider).

links - sample 2

This was slightly affected by the recent Penguin update, with 17% decrease in organic traffic.

penguin 2.0 - 2

The loss in traffic wasn’t that massive knowing that it has thousands of good links. Although, I will still need to observe it in the next few weeks to ensure if Penguin was really the reason behind its gradual loss in traffic (penalties usually have sudden drop and not gradual decline in search traffic).

The last one is from a small blog that I’ve been helping out in the last 4 months. We’ve managed to grow its search traffic by 500% in the first 3 months, but lost 38% of its organic traffic after the Penguin update last May 22, 2013.

penguin 2.0 - 3

The main reason was I didn’t check its historical link data, and just recently found dozens of spammy links pointing to its inner pages (from link networks) – which were built by the SEO he previously hired (early last year) – as I thought that the site was launched September last year.

Here’s a sample:

sample spam link

This site has less than a hundred linking domains, and the ratio of good vs. bad LRDs directing to it is around 20:45.

links - sample 3

I believe that regaining its search traffic is still very doable, so as to the 2 other sites I’ve mentioned above.

In getting their search visibility back, the link development campaign should focus on three things:

  • Build more quality links from trusted and relevant domains (have high DAs) to outnumber the bad links pointing to the site and its pages.
  • Disavow links that you have no control of via Google Webmaster Tools (disavow tool).
  • Try to remove low quality links (obvious spammy links) by contacting webmasters and requesting for link removal.

Diversity is crucial, but not a requirement

To make a site’s link building really diversified, it needs people (real people) to genuinely link to it. This means you need to really get out there and do remarkable things for people to talk about your brand (this is where content, relationships and other awesome stuff come in).

Artificial link building is promotional work, and no one is saying that it’s not allowed. Don’t forget that link building is also a marketing tool that can help your site get found (by your audience and search engines).

So if you’re going to use artificial link building methods (such as guest blogging, linker outreach, forum marketing, etc…), make sure that you can get the most out of them.

Consider these techniques as mediums to get more traffic and potential linkers to your site’s content, rather than just using them to draw signals to manipulate search rankings. Become more visible in few chosen communities where people are most-likely to share or link to your works.

You don’t need hundreds or thousands of unique LRDs

Number of unique linking root domains allows you to become more competitive in terms of having more ranking power in search results – that is what it was before.

But I think many have misinterpreted this, as many have disregarded the quality of the domains that they are trying to get links from (just to make their sites have more LRDs than their competitors).

I’d still choose and recommend having repetitive link acquisitions from a few chosen strong domains (that are entirely relevant to your site) than link dropping on hundreds/thousands.

Because this approach will make your link profile look more authoritative, based on the relationship that it’s building with other high authority domains in its field (think 5 solid contextual links from SEOmoz vs. 50 links from other not-so-popular SEO blogs).

As I’ve mentioned on the first sample website I’ve shared above, it has only 3 solid link source (in which we’ve continuously contributed content to), but the results were far greater than what most would expect.

Monthly link audit is imperative

You’ll never really know if you’re already a victim of negative SEO. Remember my mistake on the third sample site I’ve shared above? I forgot to dig deeper on its historical link data, and see where it got us.

If only I knew that it has dozens of spammy links (built by its previous SEO) before last week’s Penguin update, then I could have suggested earlier (few months back) to have those links removed or disavowed.

Avail link research tools like Open Site Explorer, Cognitive SEO and/or Ahrefs to easily monitor your site’s new and old links.

Another thing to consider in your link audits is measuring the impact of your existing links, and treating them as a part of your site’s assets (particularly those that are continuously sending referred traffic and conversions – as well as linking external pages that are ranking very well in search results).

Make these incoming links more powerful, by building 2nd-tier links to them.

Relevance and Context

Links are far more powerful when they are being clicked by users. It passes more trust and ranking power, based on the usage of the link, as well as the relationship between the linking page and the destination page of the link.

It’s easier to entice people into clicking a link when they are relevant to what readers/surfers are seeking for or interested in. Several factors that can increase clicks on links:

  • Position of the link
  • Length of anchor text
  • Traffic of the linking page
  • Context and sentiments of the texts surrounding the link
  • Relevance of the content to the link’s destination page

Building more links that can attract referred traffic can definitely send out more positive signals about your site/brand, which impacts your site’s ability to rank better on search and convert more referred visitors.

AuthorRank

Being a verified author (through authorship markups) and having a strong author portfolio (for AuthorRank) is more important than ever.

trusted links

Verified authorship will amplify the strength of the links you are building and other authors are building for your site, since these citations/mentions are expected by search engines to be more credible and trustworthy – based on the level of trust that other people see in your author profile (from both social and web graph).

Image credit: The Evolution of Search by Tom Anthony

Key takeaways:

  • Start growing your author portfolio both in and out of your site.
  • Build relationships with other authors and publishers in your industry.

Anchor text – partial match, branded links and co-occurrence

I have always believed that the most important role of links (in SEO perspectives) is to mainly absorb and pass domain authority back to your site, for it to have more ranking power (making all of its indexed pages capable of ranking highly on search results).

Using descriptive anchor texts was – and is still – the best way to make search engines understand what the link’s destination page is all about.

Although many have abused this ranking factor in the past to manipulate search rankings (and up until now), Google is still able to use other methodologies to understand links – knowing that this is very important to them.

Some of the most efficient anchor text strategies that can help bring more value to your link development campaign are:

  • Using partial-match anchor texts, rather than exact-match. This approach doesn’t just make your links look natural and diversified, but it also makes your links highly descriptive for both users and search crawlers.
  • Build more branded links to your site, as this can still impact your site’s overall ranking ability, given that this type of link can pass domain authority and trust.
  • Since Google is also applying phrase based indexing in their search algorithms, utilizing co-occurrence (placing generic keywords near linked or unlinked brand mentions) to help search engines determine and understand what your brand is about.

co-occurrence

Link building is about building the right signals – to build trust.

Links are gateways to experience. And most of us know that great experience is what makes brands remarkable and it’s also the main thing that Google would really want to serve to their users.

eric schmidt

Great links begin with great content/experience. And great content/experience over the web wouldn’t be accessible to people without links. That’s why link building will still and always be significant.

Link building is valuable, because it’s a part of a bigger process. SEO, branding, content marketing and traffic/lead generation are far more effective with links!

For more advanced link building tutorials, you may check out some of my other posts:

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

,

How to Increase Conversions through Brand Strengthening

I remember being asked about the single best piece of advice I can give for improving conversions on a group interview on Crazy Egg late last year. Although there are a lot of factors that can really influence site conversions, I chose the one which I believe has the biggest impact – branding.

I’m pretty sure that there’s a lot, but if I have to choose one, I’d definitely say the perceived value and trust built through the middle of the funnel processes. These processes involve content and strong brand indicators that a site builds to promote itself such as highly-informative blog posts, design/presentation/experience, reviews and mentions from other people/sites, and a lot more.

These things have fueled my business, seeing that most of the clients we have acquired through my SEO services page (3% – 5% monthly conversions) are majorly attracted by what they have seen from my content and from what others are saying about my brand.

The truth is, it’s easier to sell things when people (especially your target consumers) are already aware and fascinated by what your brand is putting out on the web (think Amazon, Zappos and Shopify).

Basically, by building a strong online brand presence, you’ll be able to acquire more qualified traffic that can easily be converted into leads and/or sales.

Conversion Optimization is a broad marketing principle, which encompasses different sets of activities (such as A/B, MVT testing, data interpretation, landing page optimization and more). And if you’re more interested to learn about those stuff, here are some useful resources that you might want to check out:

I’ve shared these guides and tutorials upfront, as I won’t be covering any of the topics discussed on those articles on this post. This guide will be more focused on how brand building can improve your site’s ability to convert visitors.

Brand Positioning Factors that Improve Conversions

Building a strong online presence allows brands to easily communicate with their target market, which deeply contributes to how a brand can persuade its audience in using their products/services.

Awareness

Letting your target consumers know how your brand can help solve their problems – through education – is an important aspect of online branding, as it can influence buying decisions and brings them a step closer to your goals.

Differentiation

Brand attributes such as unique value proposition and pricing, can also increase a brand’s chances of getting more interested users/consumers than its competitors. Highlight how your brand is unique or different in your space through your branding activities (on and off the site).

Perceived value

The way how people see or think about your brand or the quality of its products/services can extremely affect your site’s conversions. It also scales your brand’s marketing process, given that it naturally generates endorsements from satisfied users/customers, which then raises your brand’s credibility.

Online Marketing Mediums used for Brand Strengthening

The efforts you do to get your brand out in the open, opens more great opportunities – like brand mentions, links, social shares, endorsements, brand impressions, traffic – which all can help build trust, authority and conversions.

Content Marketing

This marketing platform is probably the best method to educate potential consumers. It’s also one of the best ways to get discovered over the web, seeing that seeking/relaying information is always the first big step.

Another thing to consider is that this marketing practice blends well with search marketing (and as everyone says – “content is king”).

Popular types of content that you can utilize to communicate and engage with your audiences are:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Visuals (infographics, images, interactive landing pages, etc…)
  • Ebooks and other web-based comprehensive learning materials

Creating the content is just a fraction of the entire process, since promoting them makes content marketing whole.  Here are several content promotional techniques you can try implementing for your content:

You can also check out Quicksprout’s advanced guide to content marketing for more extensive tips on content marketing.

Always remember that the more you push out useful and relevant content to your target audience, the more your brand gets stickier to them.

Social Media

Social media marketing is not just about utilizing different social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and many more) to promote your brand.

It should also involve and integrate other online marketing activities – such as content, relationship, and influencer marketing as well as using it as a customer relationship management platform – for it to be really effective as a branding tool.

Use social media to leverage your site’s existing assets and also to build new ones. Some of the significant factors in which social media can bring to your branding efforts are:

  • Constantly grow brand loyalists and followers through content and interactions.
  • Build relationships (with influencers and target audience), which can help produce more endorsements for your brand (ex: using positive mentions to your brand as testimonials).
  • Forcing virality through relationships and following base.
  • Improving your brand’s perceived value through connections and associations.
  • Build trust and improve brand perception when social media is used to address solutions to customer-related issues.

Authority Building

Becoming a leading brand in your space can certainly translate into more conversions/sales, because people already know what you are capable of providing.

There are so many online marketing strategies that you can implement to gradually become the go-to-brand in your industry. Some of the most effective tactics may include the following:

  • Connecting and getting endorsed by other influencers in your field.
  • Getting press coverage (which is very doable if you’re focusing on promoting your brand’s unique selling point).
  • Publishing content regularly on other popular publications in your industry.
  • Getting interview opportunities.

Another advantage of getting brand mentions from top influencers and publications is that it’s a great trust indicator/seal when placed or showcased within your site (which is a powerful element that can affect conversions).

trust seal

Optimizing for experience and engagement

Offering the best experience possible for your users/visitors is imperative in this age of online marketing. Aside from helping your site perform better in search (as most of Google’s algorithmic updates are based on usage), it can also help make your site become more remarkable to its users.

It’s easier to get endorsements when people are sticking around and getting remarkable experience from your site.

Areas of your site’s pages that you can continuously test to improve experience and visitor engagement are:

  • Call to action
  • Readability
  • Content structure
  • Thematic internal linking
  • Design
  • Accuracy of headlines and meta tags

Improving your site’s engagement rate can definitely increase its conversions, since people are more willing to take the next necessary action.

Other resources that you might find helpful in improving user experience and visitor engagement:

Measuring the impact of your branding efforts

Monitoring and analyzing your marketing activities has been more essential than ever, and that’s the best about doing it online – it’s measurable.

Analytics is a very vital marketing process, because your data gives you better insights on how you can further improve your campaign.

It allows you to easily identify what’s working, so you can do more of it.

There are a lot of ways to determine if your online branding campaign is yielding results, especially when it comes to driving conversions.

But it’s also important that you’ve set up your site’s goals on your Google Analytics account, so you can efficiently measure each branding channel you’re utilizing.

In case you haven’t setup your Goals in Google Analytics, you can check this step-by-step guide from Google.

Monitoring brand mentions/links with conversions

In your Google Analytics dashboard, go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions and then click on “Referral”.

referral-ac

Monitoring social networks that are sending converted traffic

Go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions, and then choose “Social Network”.

social-ac

You can also monitor it by choosing Traffic Sources > Social > Conversions.

social-conversions

Monitoring branded content assets with high conversions

Go to Content > Site Content > Landing Pages. It will then display your site’s top landing pages (that will certainly include your content assets).

Once the list of the pages is displayed, check the upper right corner of the traffic graph, and then click on the “Goal Set”.

goal set

This will show your top landing pages’ conversion data.

content-conversions

Monitoring the conversions of your branded search

The best way to determine the conversions of your branded organic keywords (people using your brand name or product’s name when searching) is to create a Custom Channel Grouping.

To create a Custom Channel Grouping, go to either Assisted Conversions or Top Conversion Paths, choose “Channel Groupings” on the primary dimension tab, and then click on “create a custom Channel Grouping”.

channel grouping

In creating your channel groups, you’ll first need to input a name for your grouping and its label rules, and then to set specific rules. For branded organic keywords, you can just set it to only include keywords coming from organic search and then define the brand terms that people will most likely use in finding your brand.

branded keywords

Whereas for the non-branded search, you can just exclude the branded terms that you’ve defined on the branded organic keywords’ group.

generic keywords

This will make it easier for you to monitor how your branded keywords are performing in terms of conversions.

branded vs generic

Again, these things will give a good direction for your campaigns, as the data that you’ll be able to collate will help you identify the tasks that are bringing you great results.

Identify what’s working, and do more of it!

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

,

How to become an Influencer through Content and Relationship Marketing

Being an influencer has a lot of perks. Aside from being respected in your industry, it also opens a lot of opportunities for business/professional growth.

Prominence or an influential status is very important in online marketing, since it can almost always speed up the process of getting your audience/customers’ trust.

It’s also a viable metric that search engines will eventually use (AuthorRank) in determining sites/brands that genuinely deserve to be more visible on search results.

There are two major factors that helped me grow my brand and my blog’s audience for the past two and a half years (and I’ve also written about it in the past – 1-2 punch marketing):

  • I’ve written dozens of content that are targeted to my prospects/peers’ audience.
  • Built relationships that regularly shared and syndicated my content.

In any road to becoming an influencer, content will always play a very significant role. Content helps brands and individual publishers communicate and build relationships with their readers, other content publishers and other industry influencers.

My experience as a publisher taught me a lot of things, particularly in making me understand several aspects of marketing that can really help a brand make an impact to its audience.

intelligenthq

I found that visual through one of Instant.ly’s most recent posts about the psychology of influence. Although in this post, I’ll be sharing the things that you can do to get to the different areas of influence mentioned on the graph above.

Peers

Your connections speak a lot about your brand. Getting associated with other known entities raises your credibility in your industry, as well as the perceived value that people will see in your personal brand.

Improving your brand’s social proof by connecting with other like-minded people (especially publishers in your niche) and having their trust to vouch for you will help you build a strong reputation.

Identify those who you can help (and of course help you as well) build a better/stronger brand. Make a list of them and start interacting.

Build conversations through participating on their communities’ discussions or through social networking.

Share their works to your own readers/networks as well, to really get their attention – as they’ll definitely reciprocate as soon as they see that you’re providing content that might also be useful to their followers.

Having industry peers will allow you to scale your content’s social sharing and link building processes, given that it can create a subtle cycle of syndicating both parties’ content.

Share Actionable Ideas

Real influencers educate. And the best way to educate is to make people do things for them to actually understand what you’re imparting to them.

Always keep in mind that if you want to compel your readers, you need them to have something to act upon or try doing after taking your advice.

Actionable content is far more engaging than other forms of content, in my opinion, as it exemplifies authority and expertise.

Whether your content is lengthy or concise, what’s really important is to make certain that your readers can take something from it that they’ll be excited to apply.

Unexpected Hook

I believe that there are two ways to become an authority:

  • Be the first to do or come up with something.
  • Be the best one to interpret that something.

Uniqueness, originality and approach are some of the most known factors that shape industry visionaries and influencers.

Offer something that won’t be found anywhere else, because unexpected hooks and a-ha moments make online publishers more remarkable.

Do a content competitive analysis before creating or while drafting your content. You can simply do this through a quick Google search of the working title of your content.

competitive analysis

Determine what’s missing from their content and be sure to have those areas of the subject included on yours. You can also add your own ideas (based on your experience and expertise) to make the content more personalized, unique and compelling.

Make your content more comprehensive than the ones provided by your competitors – that’s one of the best ways to make your content stand out.

Identity and Value Proposition

Having a strong and clear value proposition as a brand and/or an appealing identity will help you become more competitive and remarkable in your industry’s online space.

value proposition

Committing to your brand’s identity and value proposition is also a great way to be consistent in your content marketing and relationship building activities, seeing that you’re already aiming for something that you want your brand to be known for.

Influence other Influencers

If you can influence other influencers, then you can certainly influence almost anyone in your industry (especially their circles and followers).

The key to getting your industry’s key influencers’ attention is to know the kinds of content that they read and learn from – and be able to provide them.

Start by studying their social media activities. Research on what they usually read and share, particularly those that really get them excited.

Knowing these things will make it easier for you to connect with them (since you’re writing about what they are really interested in).

For instance, I’ve been following Wil Reynolds’ works ever since I started doing SEO (mid 2010). And since my work was heavily influenced by his’, I kind of focused on writing about topics that I know he’s also interested in (hardcore link building and bizdev-SEO).

Eventually, I got really lucky.

Another way is to get to their circles’ radars, to increase the chances of getting them to find your content. We all know that relationship is very important, knowing that it can move your content from one influencer to the next. Continuously grow your network along the process.

SEO

Scale your content marketing efforts by ensuring that your contents are optimized for search. Sharing actionable ideas wouldn’t be as effective if no one can find and consume them.

By integrating SEO to your content strategy, the likelihood of becoming an influencer in your field is higher. Because having good search visibility will allow your content to constantly get new readers and potential followers (especially when your content aims to impress your target audience).

In any industry, being good is not enough, and becoming the best is not necessary. You just really need to stand out.

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

44 Creative and Innovative Link Building Experts and Their Strategies

Update: This post was originally published last Sept 3, 2011, which was entitled “26 creative and innovative link building experts and their strategies”. A lot of changes have happened in the link building scene these past several months, which made me decide to update this big list of resources. 

With the constant advancements that occur on various search engines’ algorithms, it is certain that the search and link game will be harder in the days/months/years to come compared to what it was like a decade ago.

Search users’ behaviors tend to grow and change as these developments arise and being employed by search engines, which makes the online marketing space more competitive, especially when it comes to link building.

Many say that link building is tough, well, yes, it is, seeing that the search industry is still in its youth stage and still has immense potentials of growing.

There are also a good percentage of companies all over the world that are still in the juncture of realizing the importance of building a strong web presence for their brands. If this other piece of the pie starts to get involved in the online marketing game, then that might just inundate the web with more sites hungry for links, which clearly means a birth for more spammy linking tactics or a new dawn for more innovative strategies.

Nowadays, in order to be efficient and to truly attain great results from your link building campaigns, you may have to fully require creativity in your strategies for reasons such as:

  • Search algorithms continuously change in order to keep up with their users’ needs.
  • Competition – on any industry – keeps on growing by the day.
  • Web users are getting smarter.

The rules in link building may frequently change, but its essence as an aspect of web marketing will always remain vital, whether it integrate itself to other new developments (like social signals), as it is the most uncomplicated way for search engines to determine websites’ authentic popularity and authority.

Having that said, I decided to list some of the most creative and innovative link builders in the industry that I know, including their works that somehow influenced my views as an SEO, and perhaps to serve as an inspiration in developing your own link building strategies.

Rand Fishkin1. Rand Fishkin, Founder and CEO of SEOmoz“white hat SEO evangelist and the face of modern Search”

5. Eric Ward, Link Evangelist at Adgooroo“link building wizard”
Wiep Knol6. Wiep Knol, Founder of Gila Media“creative link marketing expert from the Netherlands”

Tom Critchlow7. Tom Critchlow, Former VP of Operations at Distilled (now works for Google) – “the face of Search’s next generation”

Michael Gray
8. Michael Gray, President of Atlas Web Service and author of Wolf-howl“legendary link ninja”
Todd Malicoat9. Todd Malicoat, author of Stuntdubl“one of the pioneers of link baiting”
Garrett French10. Garrett French, Founder of Citations Lab“content-based link building expert”
Rae Hoffman-Dolan11. Rae Hoffman-Dolan, CEO and Managing Director of MFE Interactive“the link interrogator”
Ross Hudgens12. Ross Hudgens, author of Authentic Marketing“thought-leader on scalable link building”
Napoleon Suarez13. Napoleon Suarez, SEO Consultant at SEER Interactive“out-of-the-box link building specialist”
Ryan Clark14. Ryan Clark, CEO of Linkbuildr“ingenious link development strategies straight from Canada”

Melanie Nathan15. Melanie Nathan, President of CanadianSEO – “link building extraordinaire”

Hugo Guzman16. Hugo Guzman, VP at Zeta Interactive and author of Enterprise Interactive Marketing“corporate-level link building expert”
Justin Briggs17. Justin Briggs, SEO Consultant – “the link building scholar”
John Doherty18. John Doherty, Director of Distilled NY – “the fastest rising pundit on the Search sphere”
Debra Mastaler19. Debra Mastaler, author of Link Spiel“the link guru”
Dan Cristo20. Dan Cristo, Co-founder of Triberr“the serial web entrepreneur and developer”
Tad Chef21. Tadeusz Szewczyk, SEO blogger at SEOptimise and author of SEO 2.0 at Onreact“Global SEO player from Germany”
Kristi Hines22. Kristi Hines, author of Kikolani“leading media curator in the industry”
23. Jennifer Van Iderstyne, Online Marketing Director at Search Slingshot“the link building artist”
Wayne Barker24. Wayne Barker, Online Marketing Consultant at Boom Online – “the link specialist from Nottingham”
Julie Joyce25. Julie Joyce, owner of Link Fish Media“the link specialist”
26. Michael King, Director of Search at iAcquire – “advanced inbound marketing strategist”
richard baxter27. Richard Baxter, CEO at SEOGadget“the link gadget”
jon cooper28. Jon Cooper, Author of Point Blank SEO“the link building prodigy
paddy moogan29. Paddy Moogan, SEO Consultant at Distilled and Author of the Link Building Book“the link wizard”
d7ac2fd6d788d54f55f94f2650fd838d30. John-Henry Scherck, SEO Consultant at SEER Interactive – “the link mechanic”
d4f22u1a2235x2t0l73432. James Agate, Founder of Skyrocket SEO“the guest blogging genius”
de89d42d1f5abc2c1d4dd05c55a1128133. Kane Jamison, Founder of Content Harmony“the data-driven content strategist”
mypic34. Stephanie Chang, SEO Consultant at Distilled – “the link building teacher”
Back Camera35. Ed Fry, General Manager of Inbound.org“the link baiting prodigy”
cyrus shepard36. Cyrus Shepard, SEO and Content Marketing Consultant for SEOmoz – “the content astronaut”
1675b74ff21652c29edde2c7e82f0a3937. Peter Attia, SEO Consultant at Cucumber Nebula – “Any color of hat link building expert”
anthony pensabene38. Anthony Pensabene, Content and SEO Consultant at Skyrocket SEO – “one of the best writers in the industry” 
bill-slawski-1039. Bill Slawski, Author of SEO by the Sea“the link scientist”
michael martinez40. Michael Martinez, Author of SEO Theory“the link theorist”
chris dyson41. Chris Dyson, Author of Triple SEO – “the link MacGyver”
chris gilchrist42. Chris Gilchrist, MD and Founder of Hitreach“wordpress SEO expert from Dundee”
tim grice43. Tim Grice, Head of Search at Branded3“the link wizz”

Some of my Link Building Posts

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and/or follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre
Image Credit: Justmathing
,

80/20 Link Building Tactics

mozcon

I’ve been practicing the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 rule since the start of this year, which is basically focusing on tasks that can actually get more results, but will only require minimum amount of efforts.

This rule is pretty much applicable in link building as well, even in online marketing as a whole (as explained very well on a recent blog post by Dan Shure) – wherein you can just allocate more of your time on implementing processes that can help maximize the efforts you exert through the results that you’re sure they can generate.

Just like what Dan advises people who want to apply the 80/20 rule in SEO:

  • Figure out what’s working and do MORE of it.

  • Figure out what’s NOT working and do LESS.

In link development, value results to volume. Making sure that you’re brand is offering real value will help ensure the results that you want to expect from it (whether it’s increasing traffic, brand impressions, shares, sales, and most especially – links).

Below are several link building activities that don’t necessarily need lots of efforts but can certainly help impact your business goals.

Evergreen Content

This type of content asset can tremendously help throw a bunch of links to your site over time, as people will always find them useful.

Some of the most known forms of evergreen content are encyclopaedic articles (think Wikipedia), case studies (particularly using your products/services as the solution), and comprehensive tutorials (blog posts, videos, PDFs, etc…).

Having more of this type of content on your site can constantly grow your link profile, knowing that the information within the content will somehow be never outdated (and can be a valid resource that other publishers can reference to).

link-growthFor more tips on this, you can check out my old post on how an evergreen content can automate your business sales and marketing.

Annual Events

Branded events are another asset that companies/businesses have that can improve and scale their site’s linkability, especially when you have a strong landing page for it that will just be updated every year.

Just think of MozCon. It’s one of the biggest events in the industry that takes place once every year. Its landing page gets a ton of links, along the promotions and the reviews it gets (once the event is done).

mozcon

This platform, when used as a link building machine, is very effective because it offers value. And it’s certainly worth linking to.

mozcon links

You can also check out Kane Jamison’s guide on building links with local events for more extensive tips.

Author Profile Pages

If the faces of your brand are active on content marketing as well as in publishing ton of content outside your website (columns, guest blogs, etc…), then you might want to optimize your people’s profile pages.

rand

Why? Because it’s inevitable for them to get mentioned by other content creators. More often than not, other publishers link mostly to Twitter handles, personal sites or none at all, when they mention people.

So start creating these profile pages, so you can easily reclaim unlinked mentions when you see one.

Get links from ranking pages

Pages that have good rankings, even for long-tail searches, are great source of links. Not just because they can pass ranking power back to your site, but also with the traffic that they can continually send to your site (since they are receiving visitors constantly from search).

There are a lot of link building methods that you use to get links from ranking webpages, such as adding value to the existing discussions whether it’s through blog commenting, forum posting, answering on a Q&A thread, and/or even doing broken link building if it’s a resources page.

Try to do a web search of all the long-tail keywords from your list. And check the high ranking pages for each search result and see if you can help add more information on their content.

quora

The more valuable your contribution is, the more it’ll be noticeable to the page’s incoming traffic (which means higher chances of getting more referred traffic from them over time).

I did get a few links in the past that are still sending me good traffic for the past 2 years (wherein some also converts). Think of them as a traffic channel, not just link sources, to get the most out of them.

For a detailed tips on how to do this, you can check out these guides: this and this.

Build pages from other websites that will easily rank

Guest post or regularly contribute on publications that have strong search shares. These are typically the top sites in your industry (which have really high Domain Authority, Alexa Rank and SE Traffic Price – a metric provided by SEMRush).

Distributing content (that also targets some of your keywords) on sites that are obviously winning it on search will benefit you in so many ways:

  • The content will have better chances of competing in the top of the search results, and it can constantly get traffic, which means that it’s capable of sending you more qualified traffic as well.
  • It can help strengthen your brand presence, as it can continuously get impressions.
  • The link obtained through the contributed content will surely pass ranking power back to your site (because of the authority of the site and the topical relevance of the content).

For example, this post that I did on SEOmoz last year is still sending me traffic, good leads and potential clients to my business up to now.

linkable asset

You can also utilize popular document sharing sites in building external pages which can easily rank on search results, such as Slideshare, Youtube, Scribd, Pinterest, and many more. As these user-generated content sites have strong search share and domain authority, which you can use in targeting your other long-tail keywords.

Partnerships and Associations

I don’t really agree that much with other SEOs or link builders who advise that you need one link from hundreds or thousands of unique domains to really compete in search.

Yes, it’s true that you need a diversified link profile (but you also need to keep in mind that it should be natural).

I’d prefer having multiple links from a single, but trusted domain, than manually reaching out to thousands of sites just to do a guest post.

Because having many links coming from an authority and relevant site proves a deeper relationship between the two websites. If you’re getting lots of links from an authority site, then it implies that you’re also an authority, right? And that’s definitely a strong signal that search engines can use to help them determine how important your site is.

Leveraging partnerships is a very strong link building tactic, especially when you’re associated with brands/publications that have high traffic (audience that you’re also targeting). It can grow your own readership/user-base as well as help you improve your site’s search visibility.

There are so many ways to maximize your existing partnerships, such as:

Becoming a columnist for them – contributing content to your partners’ websites on a regular basis will make your brand more visible to their audience. Just look at what Distilled does on SEOmoz’s blog. They are there. Every week!

Cross-promotion of content – have a section in your site as well as in your partners’ websites that can promote each site’s new content. Gizmodo has been doing this for a while, and it’s sending good amount of visitors to its partners for sure.

gizmodo

Blogroll links – yes, they still work, in referring lots of traffic. It’s also good for branding, particularly in letting your audience know who you are associating with. Always remember that trust is a big thing in online marketing (it makes you more linkable).

Get content from other influencers

Inviting guest bloggers (authority bloggers) to write for your blog is probably the easiest way to bait links. Because they are already experts in the field who have readers who’ll share the content or link to it. And most seasoned bloggers link back to their own piece (which can be their guest blogs too) when they need references.

Another way to get great content from industry influencers is through interviews. But the thing is, most interviews don’t get lots of link love because they tend to be unremarkable. Ask really tough and interesting questions so that they’d be more enticed to link (or some of their followers) to it in the future.

Using Images to build links

Images will always be link and shareworthy because basically the web needs it, whether it’s an infographic, meme, photograph, cinemagraph, typography, GIF and the list goes on.

I have an extensive guide that can walk you through this strategy and you can check it out here – Ultimate guide to link building with images.

Product Reviews

Getting reviews of your products is one of the most powerful links you can get over the web, because links from reviews can send you potential customers who’re almost ready to buy.

Another great thing about having your products reviewed by bloggers is that it helps maintain a positive branded search results for your brand/product.

review

Peter Attia recently wrote a post on how to get blogger reviews (with awesome samples of his own outreach), which you might also want to check.

There are several methods to getting your products/services reviewed by bloggers:

Getting your existing customer base to build links for you

Add an optional field on your sign-up form where customers/users can enter their website’s URL. That’ll make it easier for you to find customers who have their own websites/blogs.

If they liked your product/services, then you have higher chances of getting reviewed by them once you start pitching (or sending them free products that they might like to review).

Getting links from your Twitter followers

You can import the list of your followers using Followerwonk. Segment your list and separate those who have websites/blogs. Since they are already following you on Twitter, contacting them wouldn’t be as hard as contacting an unfamiliar prospect.

Create an affiliate program (use OSIaffiliate)

Offering affiliate commissions will not just improve your traffic and sales, it will also increase the amount of reviews that your products are getting (which is good for branding and link development as well).

But a lot of affiliate tracking and program software generate links that aren’t really helpful or good for SEO (which is why most affiliate marketers mask their affiliate links when promoting products).

Although I found one recently that does have an affiliate link technology that allows merchant sites to get SEO value from the affiliate links directing to them or their product pages – which is OSIaffiliate.

Making your ranking pages more linkable

Pages that are ranking highly for informational keywords have great potentials of becoming a link magnet/machine, because they are constantly getting found by researchers (which could be content creators) looking for specific information.

Start digging your analytics’ search traffic and webmaster tools’ search queries data, and find informational keywords that you are already ranking well for.

For example, I recently found out that one of my pages is ranking highly for the search term “social media marketing strategies”.

social media

The landing page is getting good amount of traffic each week and has also managed to get a few editorial/natural links (as it’s somehow a good resource).

analytics

But the page is not that comprehensive yet, so what more if I transform it into the ultimate resource for social media strategies, right? It will surely attract more links over time, with just minimal effort!

In short, find pages from your site that’s already ranking for informational keywords, then improve and optimize the content for researchers/linkers.

Using Zemanta

Zemanta is a paid content distribution platform that has over 300,000 publishers within their network. Basically, it is guiding tool for publishers where it displays content recommendations while working on their new content.

zemanta

Advertisers or paid users can get their content or images be displayed more prominently in the content recommendations area, which can obviously attract more links.

Rand did a quick review of the service back in 2010, and here are some of the notable advantages of the tool/service (that Rand mentioned) on how it can improve and semi-automate your link building:

  • They can improve branding amongst a blogging audience (as bloggers will see your site/brand name while they write)

  • They can draw in direct links (if the blogger chooses to link to your work in the post or as a “related post” at the bottom – or through links from image references)

  • They can attract direct traffic from the bloggers themselves, who are likely to click on links/content that appears to be interesting

Relationship Building and Influencer Marketing

These two marketing principles take time to implement, but investing on them is definitely a must in this age of marketing. Since having industry peers and alliances can benefit your campaign for the long haul (in terms of branding, social sharing, content syndication, absorbing traffic/followers and most definitely in link building).

Start getting involved in your industry’s online community and make friends with other content publishers in your space. Because once you have your own peers, hitting the publish button will only be the hardest task you’ll have.

There are two keys to be successful with this approach:

  • Consistently provide the content that your network of influencers will likely share to their audience.
  • Reciprocate by sharing their works and adding value to their community as well.

For more tips about this marketing initiative, I have an extensive step-by-step tutorial on how to build relationships as well as on building more powerful content that you can check.

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

Enhanced by Zemanta
, ,

5 Inbound Marketing Methods that can Drive Traffic and Conversions

interactive content

Inbound marketing – or combining different online marketing processes such as SEO, content marketing, social media and conversions – has been one of the most effective ways to hit a site’s various business goals in one go, like driving more specifically targeted traffic, improving revenue and/or building a stronger brand mind share.

Aside from involving practices that is measurable, utilizing inbound marketing as an approach to reach a business’ target audience (without disrupting their online activities) has proven itself to be very effective in terms of scaling and growing businesses in a shorter span of time.

Some of the most known advantages of implementing these practices as a whole are:

  • Processes involved are cost-efficient and can be implemented in-house.
  • It works on almost any size of site/business and on almost any industry.
  • Can help cumulatively achieve business goals (like constantly generating traffic, leads, conversions), through all the past and current efforts done to improve the brand/site.

There are so many tactics that you can choose inside the inbound marketing realm that can really help your business grow. Although, in this post, I’ve chosen to highlight a few strategies which I believe can really grow both traffic and conversions when implemented continuously.

Find and optimize for long-tails with high engagement rate

I wrote an extensive guide about this keyword audit process 3 months ago, which I didn’t really expect to become popular and well received.

The whole strategy only requires 2 things: basic SEO skills (basic content optimizations) and your site’s search traffic data from Google Analytics.

As I’ve explained on that recent post, its core concept is based on two aspects:

  • Determining variations of search queries that are sending highly qualified traffic to my site (often keyword variations that I haven’t primarily targeted for my existing pages/posts).
  • Optimizing the pages/posts to match and be ranked/served on those long-tail searches.

Basically, you’ll first need to find and uncover search phrases (that you didn’t really intend to optimize your site’s pages for) that people use to find your site’s inner content.

You can easily identify these search phrases or keywords through your site’s search traffic data (on Google Analytics), by using and depending on engagement metrics such as Average Visit Duration and % of New Visits.

excel

By segmenting your list of keywords using these 2 metrics, you can get the keywords that are working really well on attracting highly qualified traffic to your site (as these new list of keywords are generating highly engaged visitors to your site based on your data).

Once you have already determined which keywords are driving highly engaged visitors to your site, you can then start reoptimizing the pages where those keywords are generating quality traffic.

Areas in which you can use those newly discovered keywords to target for your already existing pages can be through their Title Tags, Meta Descriptions and/or through building internal links using the new set of keywords as anchor texts.

viral-marketing

For more tips on how to do this optimization strategy, you can check out the full case study here.

How does it improve your conversions?

Since you’ll be able to attract more qualified traffic to your site, getting more visitors that will more likely convert and take actions will be a lot easier.

Regularly contribute content on high-traffic publications

Getting regularly seen on high-traffic publications in your industry is one of the best ways to solidify your brand presence in the online space.

That presence doesn’t just help you reach your target audience, but it also helps your brand establish itself as an expert in the field, which makes it easier for your brand to gain your market’s trust (that often leads to increase in conversions).

Trust is a very important factor in the online marketing sphere, whether it’s about building strong trust signals to get better search visibility or getting more people to buy from you. And this inbound strategy is definitely one of those that can really boost the trust that both search engines and real users can see about your brand.

contributor

Becoming really visible in your online community, by contributing on popular blogs/content hubs in your industry, will help you absorb the right traffic back to your website.

And the best thing about it is that the traffic that you’re generating will have higher tendencies of converting, since they’ve found you through known trusted sources over the web.

Finding the top blogs/publications in your industry is easy (use Google Search). Make a list of them and segment your list by using site and traffic metrics to gauge each prospect (I prefer using DA and Alexa traffic rank in determining strong sites).

blog prospecting

Pitching to become a contributor or a columnist is the challenging part. Here are a few tips to increase your chances of getting accepted:

  • Prove your expertise by making sure that you’re also providing exceptionally useful content on your own site. These can serve as your writing samples once your target prospects start asking about what you can offer to their readers.
  • Be a part of their community by participating and adding value in their popular discussions/articles.
  • Know and understand what their audience want and what types of content are working well in their blogs, and use this knowledge as your pitch’s value proposition.

Build content that drive conversions

Content is imperative in this age of marketing, because it can be considered as a platform wherein a business/site can initiate communication with their target audience.

Web-based content assets are stronger when they are created for a purpose or if they have goals set to be achieved, as they can serve as landing pages which can attract your incoming visitors to take actions that will benefit your business. Content goals may include:

  • To increase social media followers or social sharing activities.
  • To attract or acquire links.
  • To build relationships with targeted influencers.
  • To rank for an industry keyword in search results.
  • To increase subscriptions (newsletter, feed, tools, etc…)
  • To drive more leads or sales.

There are plenty of types of content that can help generate conversions to a site, such as:

Case studies

case study

How to increase search traffic through keyword audit on Google Analytics

Comprehensive guides/tutorials

tutorials

The Advanced Guide to SEO

Interactive Content

interactive content

Life of Pi on Digital HD

Ebooks

ebook

Branding in the Inbound Age

Using content assets is certainly one of the most scalable ways to market and grow a business online, seeing that it can almost automate the marketing and sales processes of a website.

Content assets, especially evergreen content, can help websites get found easily (particularly if you’re providing information that is frequently searched). Another advantage of having ton of content assets within your site is that they enable you to continuously nurture potential customers, without the need of directly engaging new traffic/leads.

The more you help your prospected customers understand and be informed with the solutions you are offering (through your content assets), the more it’ll be easier for your site to sell its products/services.

How to create and promote content assets:

There are 4 phases in using content assets as a part of your marketing strategy.

Research

  • Know your content’s primary goals (is it for links, shares, lead generation, etc…).
  • Implement keyword research to ensure that you’ll get maximum results, especially when the content asset gets older.
  • Analyze its potential audience, and determine how you want the content to be consumed by them.
  • Gather all necessary information when drafting the content to make it comprehensive, as well as to make it hard for your competitors to replicate the content asset.
  • Visualize the outcome of the content while on the ideation process. It can help straighten out the development process.

Development

  • Build the content according to your research and outline/draft.
  • Have the content proofread and edited before launching it.
  • Ask other departments or other industry experts/bloggers for feedbacks if necessary.

Promotion

  • Make sure that the content is optimized for search.
  • Reach out to industry influencers, particularly if your content is of high value and can be really useful to their followers.
  • Reach out to known linkers in your industry.
  • Use paid channels to make the content more visible to targeted users if necessary (like Stumbleupon ads, Facebook’s sponsored stories, etc…).
  • Leverage social sharing and linking through existing relationships (through content distribution, guest blogging, their newsletters, etc…).
  • For more tips, you can check out these posts on viral marketing techniques and content promotion strategies.

Measure and Optimize

  • Track your content if they are achieving the goals that you’ve originally set. Learn from your data and make your content marketing process better and replicable.
  • Maximize your content assets by regularly updating their calls-to-action (like promoting your site’s new offers).
  • Study its search traffic data and see what other variations of search terms that people are using to find that content. Optimize the content for those other keywords to generate more traffic to it.
  • Update the content whenever something new comes up (that’s relevant to its topic). This will help the content maintain its search visibility and for it to also be the go-to-source whenever the subject is being discussed (think Jon Cooper’s complete list of link building strategies!).

User Experience and SEO

Improved usage data results to better search rankings, given that search engines are after what users really like.

Offering better user experience also increases the shareability of a site, since users more often share great experiences, and this precisely means more referred traffic for you.

Aligning UX with SEO is very important these days. I really liked what Jonathon Colman mentioned on one of his past presentations, that:

“SEO is about helping people find what they want and presenting it to them in a way that they expect.”

And UX is pretty much based around the same principle. So below are some areas of a site that you can improve to increase both its traffic and conversions.

Site Speed

Optimizing your site’s loading speed can bring tremendous results to your business, such as:

  • In improving customer satisfaction.
  • In improving search rankings, particularly on highly competitive keywords, as Google use site speed as one of its major ranking factors.
  • In reducing bounce rates and improving conversions and transactions.

There are lots of resources over the web that you can check out for improving site speed, such as this, this and this.

Information Architecture

Making it easier for your users to navigate your site is a huge factor that can really increase activity on your website. And this also affects how search engines can easily crawl, access and rank all of your site’s important pages.

Here are few guides on how you can optimize your site architecture:

Here are 9 more tips for creating great user experience:

Absorbing more followers through collaboration

Collaborating with other influencers, publishers or organizations in your industry to create content is another great way to generate free content that can attract more visitors to your site.

Using this strategy to drive traffic to your site is easy, since you can surely get views from the followers of those whom you’ll be collaborating with.

Few great samples of this type of inbound tactic in actions are:

Another way to collaborate and get maximum results from other influencers in your field is to invite them to become guest authors in your site’s blog. It’s one of the easiest ways to get more readers, followers, expertly made content (which can rank on SERPs) and links to your site.

How does it improve your conversions?

Associating with other known brands in your industry can increase your brand’s perceived value, which can help improve your site’s conversions.

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

, ,

Building better Brand Signals to Improve Search Visibility

Online branding has become a very important component of SEO over the years. Given that brand signals, as a search ranking factor, made it easier for search engines to determine a website’s authenticity and authority.

A study from SearchMetrics a year ago also somehow proves how top brands appear to have a ranking advantage, making it more obvious that search engines do favor strong brands on their search results.

Rand also discussed brand signals on a post he did back in 2011, which briefly explained the areas of a site that can be utilized by search engines to assess its brand power.

brand-vs-generic-signals

There are 2 sides to online brand development, in which the other side tackles activities happening off the site. And that’s what I’ll be discussing more in this post.

Search algorithms use several brand-based metrics in determining the strength of a brand’s web presence and importance (which I’ve also explained on a post I wrote 2 years ago on Technorati):

  • Brand mentions from other websites’ content (also based on the authority of the sites mentioning the brand).
  • Amount of branded-anchor text links directing to the site.
  • Volume of search queries for the brand.
  • Brand mentions from social networks.

Basically, the more quality signals coming from external sources that pertain to a brand, the more search engines will understand how important the brand is – and this can simply translate to better search visibility.

So how do you create more brand signals to your site?

Cultivate branded search

Brand keywords are known to drive better conversions, since the searchers are already aware and interested of what the brand is providing.

Mark Leech has explained this very well in a post he did last year on Zazzle Media’s blog:

 “brand keywords will drive the biggest share of traffic, conversion and click-through rate across your search marketing, whilst also delivering the best ROI and CPC/CPA. This is due to both lack of competition on your brand term and the high conversion/interaction propensity of a user searching for your brand”

There are ton of ways to increase the volume of brand searches to your site, and most methods involve real “marketing” initiatives.

Display ads and remarketing

Online advertisements can easily put the brand name out to its target audience, and helps strengthen brand recognition – which often leads to increase in brand-related searches.

For more tips, you can check out this comprehensive guide to remarketing.

Focusing content development on brand’s expertise

Consistently providing useful content about the solutions that your business is capable of providing will allow you to get better market mind share.

A brand’s content makes it easier for search engines to understand what they are about as well, and this allows the brand name to assimilate the industry terms that it’s somehow aiming to be searched for or be associated with.

brand keywords

The more you produce high-utility content about a particular niche in your industry (or the specific expertise you have), the more people will be directly searching for your brand.

Launching and promoting branded product lines

Branded products get reviewed, researched and searched almost always, especially if they offer real value to users and have been promoted well.

branded products

As Mark mentioned (noted above), branded searches tend to have higher conversion rates, and often can create longstanding positive effect to the brand.

Some of the commonly utilized methods by online marketers to promote branded products:

  • Display ads
  • User/experiential reviews
  • Affiliate programs
  • Guest blogging (Bufferapp has been very successful with this method)
  • Content marketing
  • Online PR

Content, Social and Link Building

Content is what drives a successful social and link development campaign. It’s also one of the elements that make a brand unique and incomparable to its competitors in the online space.

These 3 marketing practices are more efficient when they are integrated into a single approach, particularly when primarily intended to be used for improving online brand presence (not just for search).

Here are several content, social and link marketing activities that you can implement for brand building purposes.

Developing content assets

Build content assets that are evergreen and appeals to a large audience to enable your campaign to continually acquire social shares, brand mentions, links, traffic, leads and conversions.

An impressive example of this is Truck Classifieds’ Truckpocalypse:

truckpocalypse

Providing foundational content within your site can help ensure that your brand stays on your audience’s radar, as these brand assets have higher chances of performing well in terms of ranking for industry head terms based on usage and other signals that they can continuously acquire.

Content assets – such as interactive landing pages, free ebooks, extensive resources, etc… – are also easy to promote, seeing that these types of content offer high value information (making it worth sharing and linking to).

Inject real company stuff (#RCS) in your content marketing campaigns. It can tremendously help build a better perception for your brand.

Anyway, I’m planning to write more about this next week, on how to create content assets. But for now, you can check out SEER Interactive’s guide on how to identify RCS content (from your competitors and/or from your own site) for more tips.

Associating with larger publications

Become a regular contributor on larger publications in your space, because they have a lot of traffic (and they have the ones that you’re also targeting) and they have a lot of authority that they can pass through down back to your brand/site (in both branding and SEO perspective).

contributor

This tactic is a scalable way to continuously drive traffic, generate brand impressions, and build trusted signals that search engines can use to gauge your site’s importance and expertise.

Viral campaigns through social media

Investing on building content types that have high potentials of getting socially shared can help your brand be discovered, which is really good when it comes to getting new impressions, followers, readers and potential loyalists.

This is pretty much the same with developing content assets, though the only difference (I think) is the goal of the content.

Create something that appeals to social media users (specifically from or interested in your industry), and you can use several promotional methods to get the branded content out, such as linker outreach and paid social ads (you can check out this post for more tips on pushing your social content).

Building your social media follower base

Having social brand pages on different social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc…) is just the start. The key to make them a marketing arsenal and be one of your site’s biggest sources of branded signals is the activities that take place within those platforms.

Let your content drive your social activities. The more you create useful content (and the more people share them), the more interactions you can make, and definitely more signals they can send out.

Share stuff from others as well, particularly those that you think will be really useful to your followers. It’s also a great strategy in getting to your target influencers’ radars, and eventually in absorbing their followers as well.

Getting press coverage

If you are doing real marketing sh*t and if you’re really offering products/services/solutions that’s valuable, then getting press mentions for your brand is very viable.

One of the most known advantages of getting featured by a-list media sites is it boosts the authority that both people and search engines see about your brand.

as seen in

Here are 2 guides that you might want to check out if you want to try this brand building technique:

Combined branding efforts to get more co-citations/co-occurrence

Your content marketing, SEO, link building and social media campaigns help get your brand’s message out. And as these processes get you ton of marketing opportunities, it also allows your brand to get voluntary mentions/citations from other content publishers (using your brand as a reference).

Unlinked brand mentions from other website’s content that are in close proximity with relevant industry keywords will be more important in the near future. This type of citation is considerably a strong brand indicator that search engines will count and use as a factor in ranking your website.

no-link-mention

Consistency in implementing online marketing processes that are really driving results for your campaign is the key to be the go-to-brand in your niche/industry.

TL;DR

Strong brands can rank and compete for competitive search terms. They also have higher conversions, because they aim for their market’s trust. Brands can easily get links, shares and loyal followers, because they demonstrate authority.

Brands give and share great experiences. And that’s pretty much what SEO is about.

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