How to Construct and Use Personas for Link Building and Social Media

by Jason Acidre on May 28, 2012 · 43 comments · Search, Social


As defined by Wikipedia, a Persona is a role played by an “actor”. In marketing, personas are commonly used to better understand a certain industry’s target market’s behavior based on demographics, needs and interests.

This marketing concept (which is often used in market research) enables marketers to easily build a solid content strategy as well as approach in sending specifically targeted messages to each persona that represents a segment/type of audience.

However, in this post, I’ll be discussing more on how to use created personas in doing actual link acquisition and social media marketing practices, by using them as ambassadors that will help scale the process of marketing a brand over the web.

The great thing about using personas to be used in web marketing is that they can serve as a link magnet and linkable asset that will help generate more natural links and social mentions as well as strengthen a brand’s online presence through continuously building its authority in the industry.

Shape Identity, Value and Thought-leadership

In creating personas, it’s important to first come up with a unique identity that the persona will be embodied with, which should also appeal to a bigger segment of the industry’s market and can cultivate interest through the content that he’ll be producing/sharing (pretty much like being an image consultant).

Let’s say you’re handling a brand that’s in the automotive industry, you’ll definitely want to cover the topics that can easily generate attention (technology, entertainment and/or DIY side of the industry), because it’s easier to build readership and attract links from these areas.

Once you’ve already molded a good target for your persona’s unique role in the industry, you can then start with the basic details that your character would need such as:

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Niche/expertise
  • Profile Picture(s)
  • Profile pages (Twitter, About.me, Google+, etc…)

There are also several approach that you can choose from to ensure that you’ll be benefiting from the persona that you’ll be building up to meet both short and long-term objectives:

  • Choose a member of the organization that will most likely be present as long as the company/organization exists, like the company’s CEO or one of its core members. Build their online presence/personal brand through content marketing, wherein they can just provide data and hire ghostwriters/editors to document and transcribe their content ideas.
  • Create and develop an expert persona from scratch, which you can use and keep for as long as you want.
  • Hire, borrow or rent identity from freelance bloggers in your industry (that have an impressive content portfolio).

Once you have sorted this phase out, it will be easier to build value from it, which will often come from the persona’s perception and influence.

Authorship and AuthorRank

Authorship markup (rel=”author”) could possibly be one of the most significant signals/factors that Google might use in determining authority pages/websites from their indices, and it might as well turn into one of the strongest types of artificial links one can build in the near future.

Build solid authors that will disseminate authority and influence through content contributions on different blogs in your industry, as search engines are more to reward great authors with more prominence in their search results. If search engines know that your brand houses reputable/credible authors, it will easily translate to better search rankings.

Action Plan

This approach to link building and social media may take time for it to harvest tangible results. However there are still plenty of ways that you can do to speed up the process of achieving the campaign’s short and long-term goals – by simply gaining from each action that will be taken.

The best thing about this method is that it can work on small to enterprise-level companies, for the fact that people follow people, not companies and people can easily build relationships, companies can’t.

Phase 1: Research

This stage of the strategy will only take at least 2-3 days to be completed and will involve these processes:

Link prospecting

Find blogs, sites and influencers in the industry that your persona will engage and try to acquire a link from for the succeeding stages of the campaign. You can use this link prospecting method to start off and Followerwonk to find influencers in your industry (and download the list to excel).

Prospect Segmentation

Segment your list by level of difficulty of acquisition and by level of priority. You can easily distinguish the ones that you’ll need to prioritize based on domain-level metrics (PR, DA and traffic data – SEMrush, Compete or Alexa) and brand metrics (social following, readership/subscribers and strength of community).

Create 2 different lists that you can work on immediately, one for speed link acquisition (blogs that you can easily submit a guest post to – using queries like “keyword + write for us”), and the second one for authority link building (high-end blogs and news sites in your industry that you must acquire a link from).

For the list of authority blogs, I highly suggest to start with 10 – 20 prospects that your persona will try to engage and land a guest post on for the initial stage of the campaign (first month).

Content Strategy Development

Make a list of topic ideas that’s based on your persona’s target niche/area(s) of expertise. You can start by listing at least 20 – 30 working titles for your posts that will cover basic to advanced topics.

Sort your list into three different categories (for materials that will be published on the company’s own blog under the persona’s name, for speed guest blogging and for the authority blogs you aim to land a guest post on).

Grow your list of topic ideas along the process to keep your campaign on track.

Few tips on generating topic ideas:

  • Base your content on keywords that your persona’s target audience will most likely use to find the information that the content contains. You can use keyword tools like Google Keyword Tool, UberSuggest and Google Insights.
  • Get ideas from other authoritative blogs in your industry and from your competitors as well, expound their ideas (and give credit to them).
  • Follow and subscribe to news sites in your industry to instantly generate news-related content ideas.

Email Outreach Template Creation

Craft email copies that you can use for your outreach (for guest blogging opportunities). It’s best to make your copies easy to personalize and straightforward.

As for the authority blogs that you’ll be aiming to obtain a high-value link from, I highly suggest making everything personalized (and it will also be better if you’re already on their radar before contacting them for better conversions).

Linkable Asset Inventory

Find existing highly linkable content (hosted on your company’s site/blog) that your persona might be able to use, since some bloggers/editors do ask for writing samples before accepting or entertaining your requests for an opportunity to contribute a guest entry to their blogs.

Phase 2: Content Development

After doing your research, you can then start creating content based on your inventory and content strategy. Start with the content that you’ll use for your own company’s blog, since you can immediately use this to promote the persona and can also be used as a writing sample once you start reaching out to other blogs for guest blogging opportunities.

Have a strict schedule with your content production, as this is the key to building a solid momentum for your content marketing campaign.

Create descriptive outlines for each of your topic idea before assigning them to be written out by your copywriters, so it will be easier for them, as well as to you, in meeting your target standards for the outcome of the content (in terms of information, format, voice and extensiveness of the content).

Continuously create content for the entire period of the campaign, as this will stand as the foundation of the strategy and the persona’s influence.

Phase 3: Connect and engage

Start getting into your prospects’ radar, especially the authoritative/influential ones on your list. You can start on implementing this phase right away after publishing your persona’s first blog post, though this stage is a recurring process that you really need to be consistent with (alongside the persona’s content distribution efforts).

Participate on Discussions

Become remarkable to your target prospects by leaving intelligent remarks on their blog posts. If you’ll be focusing on engaging 10 – 20 people on your campaign’s first month, you can easily build conversations with them through their posts’ comment threads. Be interesting, catchy and intelligent.

Share their works on Social Networks

This one’s pretty basic and very self-explanatory. It’s best to personalize your tweets/shares to make it more appealing to your target prospects, especially if you’re mentioning them on your tweets/shares.

Phase 4: Disseminate Content

Reach out to your link targets for guest blogging opportunities (to both high and low priority prospects), since by this time you already have enough content from your pool that you can submit right away to them. And by this time you’ll also have a rock-solid writing sample that you can present if ever someone asks for it.

This stage of the strategy is doable on the second week of the campaign, particularly if your content writers have hustled on the first week of the campaign in producing content.

Developing and growing a strong social following for the persona will heavily rely on the consistency of his/her content distribution (both on and off-site), making this phase very critical.

There are also other methods that you can do to leverage and promote your persona as an industry expert such as:

  • Mentioning the persona through the site’s other external content distribution campaigns.
  • Conducting a group interviews (crowdsourcing) and including the persona as one of the expert contributors, then publishing the content on high-traffic industry site/blog(s).
  • Pitching bloggers to do an interview with the created persona.

Phase 5: Build Alliances

Track the people sharing your persona’s content, especially those who have substantial following/readership (you can use Topsy), as these people can help you further with your content marketing campaign, if you can have them on your side, sharing your future posts/guest posts.

Build relationships with them by sharing their works on social networks as well and conversing with them (you can easily start by thanking them for sharing your content). Grow these kinds of connections, as this will help you to semi-automate your content promotions in the future.

Phase 6: Scale

There are so many things that you can do once you’ve successfully established an authority figure/expert persona for your brand, as it’s expected to attract and create more linking opportunities through editorial mentions and certainly higher conversions for link requests (guest blogs, resource links, etc…).

Here are some other methods that you can implement to ensure that the persona will be in top shape and stay ahead of its competitors:

Find where other influencers in the industry contribute content to

Expand your list of prospects by knowing where industry influencers absorb more readers/followers from. You can use simply use Google to extract this data and scrape the results using this method.

Setup Google Alerts for the persona’s name

Make sure that you’re tracking your persona’s name on Google Alerts, so you can easily be notified if someone has mentioned it on other blogs/site. With this, you can create more hard-to-replicate links, just by asking people who have linked/mentioned the persona to give attribution to the company’s site as well (like requesting to include the company where the persona works next to his/her name – ex. Jason Acidre, marketing consultant for “Affilorama”).

Start pitching for regular columns

Since the persona has already built its authority and credibility as a source for industry-related information and has created a strong portfolio of content, it will have higher chances of getting accepted as a columnist on authority blogs and news sites.

Momentum is Key

This strategy is very doable and can certainly obtain great results in under a month or two of thorough implementation, just look at Jon Cooper of Point Blank SEO! You just need to know if you’re on the right track, and then push harder if you’ve proven that you’re doing it right.

So how would you know if you’re doing it right? See if people are sharing and finding your content useful. And see if you’re receiving “natural links” from it. If yes, then you are on the right path. Take advantage of that start, and start building the momentum (which means to create and promote more valuable content).

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

Image Credit: Membruto

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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