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

by Jason Acidre on May 28, 2012 · 42 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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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Armon May 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Wow! You always amazed me with your post. I’ll surely follow each phases you have here. Thanks and Congrats again Jason.

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Kaiserthesage June 1, 2012 at 2:14 am

Thanks for dropping by man!

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William Rufino@Hollo Interact May 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Wow! Great tips on building personas!
Thank you for such great content :)

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Benji Ortiz May 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Hey Kais,

Great post as always. Let me give your readers some additional tip (especially if they are enterprise level social link builders):

In creating a persona with scalability solutions as a mindset, remember to build them with the idea that they can be given to a client. You can add this as a service/product/package for clients and in turn train social link builders on how to create professional personas that is aimed to building authority.

Pitch eight to twelve complete personas (with accompanying social media profiles). A minimum of three to six personas can be used per SMB-level campaigns.

Use Web 2.0 websites that focus on articles or sites that promote authors. Once these author profiles have been built up within a week, you can move on to guest blogging while using the web 2.0 websites as work citations in your email. This proves to your guest blogging prospects about the credibility of your Personas and give them a peek on the level of their work.

Once you’ve reached a level of articles, guest posts, and other pieces of content, create a web property for a client where you can put those 3-6 personas. This web property can then work as an off-shoot site for the client where they can publish content, blog, or press releases.

As a package, this means that a team can work on making personas, content, and properties that a client will pay for in order to build links and authority. It goes without saying that all of these will be pointing a link to a client.

Hope this helps.

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Kaiserthesage June 3, 2012 at 1:01 am

Very useful tips Benj! Thanks man!

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Glenn@Web Project Manager June 9, 2012 at 9:37 am

Could you let me know the time duration for such an activity to be implemented. Also for which industry. An example would be fine. Tks

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Jack Sander May 29, 2012 at 1:18 am

The “Persona” concept is totally new to me, therefore I really enjoyed your article. From what I’ve read, creating several authors and linking them to our sites, could boost up the search engine rankings. It seems a complex process, but taking into account the results, I consider it’s a great opportunity.

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Alessio Madeyski May 29, 2012 at 6:49 am

Really good post! and what I like is that really curating relationships with people can give SO much people tend to have no idea.

Talk with people, do not only work with them.

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Chikara May 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

Quite a lot of effort to go through to get a link. I definitely think this method would work for anyone who is ready to invest sincere effort in link building.

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Arwin Adriano May 29, 2012 at 8:53 am

I like your concept on how to use Persona as way of making a rock solid craft.

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Jeff Bronson May 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Great , practical ideas, but there is one thing I find confusing…..
“Hire, borrow or rent identity from freelance bloggers in your industry (that have an impressive content portfolio).”

You are saying to make it appear (via Authorship), that this Freelance blogger is now a part of your organization?

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Kaiserthesage June 3, 2012 at 1:04 am

A lot of companies who are active on their online marketing campaigns do invest on hiring freelance bloggers (that are already well-established in their industry’s blogosphere, particularly those who have published works on different authority blogs), though hiring them to write for you may cost more. So I guess, offering them a different deal, like hiring them just to help endorse the brand through content without having them generate the actual content should cost less. Just an idea I’ve thought of.

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Jeff Bronson June 4, 2012 at 7:34 am

I see, thanks for clarifying.

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Ingo Bousa May 30, 2012 at 2:26 am

I call bullshit. That’s all.

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Pavel May 30, 2012 at 8:48 am

I’ve never thought of using personas for the purposes of link building but it makes alot of sense with Google’s emphasis on authorship authority building. I will try to use your tips above to develop a persona of my own.

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Anton Koekemoer May 31, 2012 at 2:31 am

Phase 3 is the section that carries a lot of weight in the post. If you engage you help to share links to your site or and help increase your presence online in the various Channels. Overall very interesting views you’ve shared on using a persona for link-building. Will be sure to do some more research on the topic.

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James Finlayson May 31, 2012 at 8:05 am

Great post. The only thing I’d add is that anyone in the UK needs to be careful with this. Under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 a “person is guilty of forgery if he makes a false instrument, with the intention that he or another shall use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person’s prejudice”. Under the The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 Schedule 1 part 22, it’s also an offence to be “falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer”.

In other words, whilst this is an awesome tactic, in the UK it’s an offence to claim to be someone you’re not UNLESS you explicitly state publicly that you’re actually acting for brand X.

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Kaiserthesage June 3, 2012 at 1:07 am

Appreciate the tip James, and I definitely think that this one is important, given that it might turn out to be something that could become a liability to the brand instead of helping it to move further. Thanks!

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Ben June 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Wow, never considered a ‘persona’ for link building, but might have to give it a go!

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MaryPablate June 6, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Great tips and tutorials, I agree that you have to engage your readers/visitors for maximum exposure but the simplest trick is to provide valuable and quality thing, you need to be more honest and professional to build friendly relationship with your readers.

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Brian June 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

Fantastic post! I have been doing exactly this for my seo clients for a while now. It definitely works… although kind of slowly. It is a great long term strategy for websites. Much props.

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Total Bounty June 9, 2012 at 12:42 am

Great post you got here. Very useful for social media marketing specialists like me. I manage some of the many social profiles of my client and we just can’t stress enough how important choosing and portraying the most appropriate persona is in link building. – Jules

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James June 16, 2012 at 9:25 am

I am going to follow all the instructions above, but seriously, I’ve never thought of using personas for the purposes of link building but it makes alot of sense with Google’s emphasis on authorship authority building.

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Olly Hillyman June 17, 2012 at 9:03 am

I’m very happy learning new marketing phrases everyday! It was a very magnificent and essential post after all and I honestly tell you these that I already acquire this idea on the company and on my clients as well. This blog post was remarkable.

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James King August 14, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I’ve heard the word “Persona” being tossed around alot and I wasn’t quite sure what it meant exactly. Thanks for the explanation as well as the action plan. I see I have a lot of work to do.

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daniel blinman@marketingbyweb November 21, 2012 at 5:16 am

This post was absolutely phenomenal. Literally about to kick-start our personas at my agency and this will prove invaluable.

Followed you on twitter Kaiser, weird how similar our tweets are. We tweeted the same content, in the same order today. Mental!

With regards to the legal issues James discussed, how much of a problem will this be?

We are about to create roughly 10 personas covering a total of 50 clients. Is there a chance of us facing legal problems further down the line?

Thanks again for this awesome post!

Daniel @ Marketing By Web

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Joseph "otepsphere" Enmanuel January 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm

This article helps me and come up with an idea. As I always expected from your blog post. I’m expecting more explosives content from you this year 2013.

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GlennComanda July 31, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Nice technique, thanks. Just some questions though.

If the personas’ purpose is to become a sort of like ambassadors for the brand, why not just “install” someone specific to the client a person/blogger that can work on the client’s branding effort and educate him about your online marketing effort? That way, there’s no trickery involve in the process and I think with regards to the cost, it will be justified since creating personas itself takes some of your time too. Or if it’s really beyond the budget, why not just train the client’s marketing people or the client himself(if it’s a small business) to act as the brand ambassador and just be there to support with tactics inclined to maximum exposure(online marketing)?

Not that I’m not familiar with this tactic myself, I’ve also had implemented this years before with some success. But in the end, I begin to question my effort. Is it really worth to trick your customers this way?

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Ces December 16, 2013 at 2:09 am

Hi Jason.

I’m wondering if creating a persona is still applicable after all the algorithm updates. I am way behind SEO news obviously. Just wanted to know if I’m on the right track, as I’m planning to create a brand persona for a company I’m working with.

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