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Anti-Penguin Link Building Plan

The Penguin update or Google’s webspam algorithm update, which was launched last April 24, did create massive impact to many online marketers and webmasters’ mindsets on how they should be performing search engine optimization from now on. It’s indeed another game changer, knowing that the update collected several negative reactions from webmasters around the world.

The Penguin update was aimed towards spam tactics, and was said to have affected at least 3.1% of English search queries on its first roll out. It’s expected to grow more as Google will certainly be implementing more changes around this algorithmic update, which is quite similar to the Panda update that lasted for over a year for its enhancements.

So how will you know if you’ve been hit by this update? There are a few things that you can do to see if this update has burned your site:

  • If you’ve experienced sudden loss or meltdown in search traffic (especially if there’s a dramatically decrease in your top keywords’ rankings) on and after April 24, 2012.
  • If your site is not ranking for its brand name on Google’s search results.

If you haven’t been affected by it, or if you’ve seen some increase in search-related traffic, then it might just mean that your competitors were the victims of this update, which made your site rank higher than its previous search rankings.

Penalized sites or sites that have been affected by this new algorithm update are still in Google’s indices, which mean that there are still ways to get back in the game! However, this will surely take time to get your site back in top form.

Disclaimer: Everything that I’ll be stating below are just several options that I’ll personally be implementing in case I work on a site that has been hit by this recent Penguin update, wherein most are based on my own understanding of how search works, and everything listed here are theoretical and I’m not saying that they will certainly work.

From what most experts have observed, Penguin is an algorithm/ranking factor update that is more focused on link behaviors that allows them to easily identify spam and manipulative signals. Dr. Pete Meyers discussed some of these possible factors on his recent post on SEOmoz:

  • Aggressive exact-match anchor text
  • Overuse of exact-match domains
  • Low-quality article marketing and blog spam
  • Keyword stuffing in internal/outbound links

My hunch is that this update is not yet stable (for sure) and will more likely be upgraded to total devaluation of low quality/spam/unnatural links to somehow neutralize the growing fear of Negative SEO. Not allowing these links to pass any value will decrease the rankings of those who have benefitted from it in the past, and will also protect those who might get abused by unethical link attacks in the future (building crap links to competitors).

Anti-Negative SEO

Knowing that link spams will generally be the basis of this recent update from Google in determining sites that are violating their guidelines, Negative SEO will certainly be a growing challenge, as people might take advantage of this loophole to gain and outrank their competitors.

The best way to protect your site from this uncharted territory is through your already existing link profile, especially if you already have obtained great and high value links pointing to your domain, and adding more of these types of links to your site to make it more solid in the eyes of Google, given that they are more to assess your site’s percentage of good vs. bad links based on their historic index.

Eric Siu from Evergreen Search also wrote an in-depth guide on how to protect your site from Negative SEO, you might want to check it out.

Study your links’ anchor text distribution

There are many tools out there that you can use to determine how your links’ anchor texts are distributed and/or well-varied, such as Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer.

In using Majestic SEO (paid version), you can download/export all the inbound links directing to any of your site’s pages stored in their historic index into an excel spreadsheet:

In this case, I used Affilorama’s link profile as an example, wherein out of the 2,500+ links extracted through Majestic SEO only 147 links were only found using exact match anchor texts (for the keyword “affiliate marketing”) – which is around 6%. This means that the site is pretty much safe, given that the target keyword wasn’t overused as an anchor text for its incoming links.

There’s also a simpler way to do this analysis, by using Open Site Explorer (on the anchor text analysis feature of the tool):

If you are sensing that you might get in trouble with the amount of the exact-match anchor texts that your site’s main pages have, you can then start adjusting your link acquisition campaign to target other keyword variations, such as focusing more on branded anchor texts or other industry head terms.

Identify the link types that your site has

Download your site’s link profile from Open Site Explorer in CSV format and run it on Link Detective. This browser-based tool will show you an approximate division of the type of links your site has acquired in the past.

The sample given above is from a site that has been hit by the first roll out of Penguin (and is not from the first sample I’ve given). As you can see, this site has used several manipulative tactics (blog networks, massive directory submissions, etc…) for their past link building campaigns.

With this data, you are given with a clearer view of the types of links that you have to beat in terms of percentage and of what methods to use to cover these links that could be pulling your site away from the SERPs.

Study your links’ attributions

Use Ahrefs.com to analyze the attribution of the links pointing to your site (the tool has a free version that allows you to access almost all the important details you’ll need from your site’s link profile).

The tool will allow you to see the numbers of text-based, image, framed, nofollow, as well as redirected links to your site. Assessing this will enhance your link development’s precautionary measures, such as:

  • Balancing or increasing your site’s amount of incoming nofollow links
  • Decreasing the amount of redirecting links to your site (as some might be fetched by search engines as a manipulative scheme to pass through PageRank to the site).

The pro version of the account provides more access to your site’s link data, wherein you can also download it in CSV format and easily track the redirecting links to your site.

Put Balance in Everything

Once you know what your site’s link profile looks like, it’s then time to put balance in everything that you have already built and you’ll try to be building next.

It’s best to start with the things that you have control of or can be controlled, like the links from sites that you have personally contacted to acquire a link from to remove or modify your links (link networks, sitewide links, sponsored posts, etc…) and let go of those that you have no control of, because it might just waste your time and resources (approved blog comment spams, link from a scraped content, etc…).

Tip: don’t modify the links hosted by authority domains/sites that have exact-match anchor texts and have good link placements.

Modify existing links that could be harming your site

To efficiently balance your link profile, particularly to those who have overused their main targeted keyword(s) as anchor texts, you can always start by modifying your old links. Here are some ideas on what to do with your links:

  • Vary your old links’ anchor texts using partial match anchor texts and/or branded anchor texts.
  • Change obvious paid and manipulative links to nofollow.
  • Modify and balance your internal links’ anchor texts, especially internal links that are pointing to pages that have been heavily hit by Penguin. You can use Open Site Explorer to track your internal links’ anchor texts.

Find sitewide links that could be affecting your site’s rankings

Find sitewide links to your site that might look suspicious to Google and get them out of your way by requesting for removal (in case the linking site is topically irrelevant to yours) or modifying its anchor texts (branding) or changing their link attributes to nofollow.

Sitewide links that aren’t bringing you referral traffic might not be worth of having them, preferably links placed on low-traffic and low-quality sites. There are many tools that you can use in finding sitewide links that can be trouble like Google’s Webmaster Tools or Majestic SEO.

Majestic SEO recently published a post on how to use their tool in investigating unnatural links, and finding bad sitewides is one of them.  The great thing about their site explorer feature is that it allows users to find the most linking domains to their site, along with the each linking domain’s Alexa rankings.

Basically, you can easily track poor quality/traffic sites that may have sitewide (footer, blogroll or sidebar) links to your site based on the Alexa Rank (as Google might just have flagged these sites linking to you as spam or unnatural).

You can also find these sites through Google Webmaster Tools, by checking the domains that have many links to your site.

Make a list of those you think would be more-likely be flagged by Google as spam/manipulative/unnatural, and see if these sites have brought traffic to your site in the past months through your Google Analytics account. If they haven’t, then you might want to start removing those links.

Continuously Acquire Good Links

Getting hit by Penguin doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the game, that’s why building more quality links is more important than ever these days. It’s the best way to get back to the game! Here are few more reasons why acquiring solid links is your best way out to this drastic update:

  • It will cover the bad links your site has previously built, and eventually develop more trust signals to your site.
  • Build a stronger brand presence for your site, which obviously what Google is seeking nowadays.
  • It can protect your site from Negative SEO (in case someone will try to pull you down from the search results in the future).
  • Good links can get you referred traffic, so while you’re striving to get back your loss rankings, you’re still generating traffic to your site.

Mindset is imperative in this shift of the game. Always think of getting links that will not just help you get better search rankings, but links that will also help you build a better brand for your business, and links that will get clicked from relevant and high traffic sources.

Some of the link building methods that you might want to focus on these days:

  • Editorial link building or content based link building
  • Authentic community contributions (on highly relevant forums, blogs, social networks and Q&A sites).
  • Content distribution (guest blogging, news creation, infographics, etc…) that will help you build more social signals for your brand.
  • Getting link opportunities from authority sites that are linking to your competitors.

You can also check out my post on scalable link building for more link building tips and strategies this year.

Build more solid support content

Create and publish more explosive content in your site that will generate social signals, and then internally link them to the pages that are designated with your keywords affected by the Penguin update.

Explore more of content marketing, because it can certainly bring more positive results to your site from both SEO and lead generation perspectives. You can also read one of my old posts on how to get more social shares to your site’s content.

Final Tip

If you’re worrying that you might not get better search rankings for your target keywords (exact match) if you’ll focus on getting more partial anchor text links – do not. Let the page’s content deal with the keyword targeting. Make the content speak for itself and be genuinely more relevant to the search query it’s targeting for it to achieve better search rankings.

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

Image Credit: JigglySama

A Link Development Strategy for Large Websites

Building links to websites has been known to be one of the most important processes in making a business website more visible to its target audience, as links are able to improve the rankings of a certain site’s pages on search engines to be served for web searchers specifically seeking for what those pages are offering (information, service and/or product).

Links are also considered as a powerful element of the web, knowing that web users are also able to discover pages by being directly referred through linking web pages that connect pieces of information. It’s basically a source of web traffic and a building block of information (both for users and search engines).

There are so many ways that businesses and marketers can use links to promote their websites, though most of the time, developing link building strategies are more complex than what we usually expect, as it would sometimes need science to fully understand its entire process (basing it from the nature of a certain vertical, competitiveness, understanding changes on search algorithms and availability of resources).

Link building is situational, and that’s what makes it complicated. There is no one-size fits all strategy, since what works for others might just not work for your campaign. However, there’s one practice that can extremely work well for any type and size of website (news, blog, magazine, affiliate and/or ecommerce websites), and that’s:

Building strong links to the site’s categories.

The value of optimizing categories for links and search

Categories are known to be the foundational passage of a website’s structure that allows visitors to navigate and flow towards your site’s desired business objectives (to cultivate activity, capture leads and/or sales).

Ecommerce sites use departments/product categories to segment relevant products, as it’s a way in which their visitors can easily find the specific product(s) that they are really looking for. And this also occurs to other types of websites, making these pages very essential parts of any website.

Optimizing (building solid links to) categories is imperative, if seen and analyzed in an SEO perspective (particularly to large websites):

  • Categories are more likely to rank better on search engines for industry-specific terms, as the page’s content heavily depicts the targeted keyword(s).
  • Categories are composed of highly relevant internal links that flows down through product pages, information pages or articles, which makes the page more relevant for users. Pushing high quality links to your categories will allow your inner pages (products or articles) to rank better on search engines for the long-tail keywords they are assigned to, as the value of the incoming links (to your categories) are passed through and distributed along the internal pages it supports, which will allow the PageRank to fully circulate within the domain (since your product pages will most likely link out to your site’s other pages as well).
  • Internal links to inner pages also (presumably) use their targeted keywords as anchor texts (exact match), which also add weight for the internal links to influence search rankings.
  • Categories have high user activity if set as a landing page, since users (especially search traffic) click-through internal pages instantly – most of the time – when they land on a category page through search engines (compared to aiming to direct all your traffic to the homepage for industry-specific keywords).
  • Continuous link building to a site’s categories makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index all the site’s both new and aging pages, which allows your inner pages to be regularly calculated for relevance that can make their search rankings constantly improve or be maintained.
  • More links driven to your other important pages (categories) will boost the site’s overall domain authority, which can then allow your homepage to rank for general industry keywords as well as with your other internal pages.

A great link building strategy requires the full collaboration of on and off-site optimization processes, because the more your links are pointing to a solid content, the more they’ll be efficient to have impact on search rankings.

Finding keywords to match with your categories

Categories are already good keyword identifiers – for they let your visitors know what topics, products or services are within those certain site departments.

Judging from the category itself, you can easily identify appropriate keywords to target by basing it through page perspectives. If you have a category that tells people it contains everything you’ve written about Link Building, then it will most precisely be efficient to target the keyword “Link Building” for that page/category.

Just to give a quick overview for the keyword research phase of this strategy, I’ll try to use Cadence Wu’s graphic design blog – You the Designer – as a live sample.

You The Designer

As you can see above, I’ve highlighted the site’s important categories (Inspiration, Articles, Resources, News, Tutorials and Contests).

But if you try navigating each, you’ll notice that each category wasn’t optimized for search, as the site’s category are not targeting specifically targeted visitors, as their categories aren’t using industry-related keywords (primarily on the title page as well as the incoming links pointing to each category).

The title page of the category was too vague. But if a more specific string of keywords were used that match the blog’s target audience (like “graphic design inspiration”), the page could be a very strong landing page that’s enough to drive highly interested traffic to the site. The page will also have high chances of ranking for the term, as the page fully describes the targeted keyword.

Also, if there were links built from external sources that use a more descriptive anchor text to the category, it could pretty much improve the category’s search rankings for a keyword that gets purposely searched by users (most probably the site’s target audience), and can also improve referred traffic to the page.

Allocate keywords (that a certain market really use when searching the web) to a site’s different categories for them to have better chances to rank, instead of trying everything to rank on a single webpage of the site (most people do it to their site’s homepages).

Given that categories have high user-activity and click-through rate within the page, making it act as a landing page for search traffic can increase your site’s conversions, which is an added value when it comes to improving search rankings, since search engines are now considering usage data as a ranking factor.

Once your categories own most of your campaign’s secondary keywords, it will be easier for search engines to understand what your brand is all about – and you can have better chances of ranking for your main keyword.

Another way to make this approach to link building more effective is to create custom categories (for content-centric websites, but could also work for ecommerce sites) to serve as landing pages for exact match queries.

Here are some quick samples of my own custom categories (you can actually see them on my blog’s footer links):

SEO Strategies:

Link Building Strategies:

Both have high user-engagement and low bounce rates:

I used the same pattern, wherein both custom categories internally link to my blog posts using each post’s targeted keyword as anchor text. The links that these categories receive from external sources are all passed through and distributed to my posts, which helps them rank better on search engines.

Types of links you can build to your categories

There are many link sources over the web that you can try obtaining links from for your site’s categories, and I’ve listed some of those link building methods below.

Guest blogging

Considered as one of the most effective link building, content marketing and online branding tools these days, seeing that contributing content to blogs where your target audience is at helps generate more traffic, awareness to your brand and produces links that can really affect search rankings.

Links and resources pages

Requesting to be included as an additional resource to links pages can also benefit your categories through traffic referrals (as people do utilize these pages, particularly on buyer’s research phases). This can also help your categories rank better, if the targeted keywords (partial or exact match) will be used as anchor text. You can also use the broken link building technique when trying to obtain links from list pages, as most of the time these kinds of pages contain links that are directing to defunct web pages (dead or 404 external pages), particularly lists/resources that have been around for more than a year.

Contextual links

Acquiring in-content links for your categories is possibly the best type of link that gives greater value in terms of improving search rankings. There are many ways to build editorial/in-content links such as through expert interviews, finding broken links on already existing documents and offering your page as a replacement, and by getting better link positions and anchor texts from sites that are already linking to your site (but try to get new links for a different category).

Press release

If you have released a new product line, tool, free resources (infographics or whitepapers) or have ventured out to a new set of topics/products, doing press release would be also a good way to build links to your site’s categories. Changes on your categories (like redesign, new product to be launched on a certain category) could also be newsworthy and can be used as an angle to create a story. But for highly interesting changes or updates, try to pitch the story to industry news sites.

Sitewide links

Blogroll, footer and navigation links directing to your categories from link partners (especially from related blogs/websites) can also help drive relevant traffic and somehow influence your categories’ search rankings. Several ways to acquire this type of link could be through building relationships with bloggers, sponsoring blogs or building/buying websites/blogs that are related to your niche.

Community discussions

Communities such as blogs, forums and Q&A websites are good sources of visitors and highly-relevant links, especially if you’re contributing genuinely to the community, since most of their users will click-through to your links if they find your contributions useful.

If you have a large website, and you consider your blog section as an important department/category of your site, leaving comments to other blogs can be a good way to build links to your site’s own blog, since it can attract your blog prospects’ audience back to your site’s blog, when you continuously build conversations through blog comments.

You can build links to Tools, free resources and product categories through forums and Q&A sites, particularly when answering to members who are asking about a certain problem that your product/tool can provide a solution to (this is something that I’ve tried before with Affilorama’s affiliate marketing tools).

Business directories

Submit your site’s categories to relevant business/web directories. Links from these sites can naturalize the link profile of your website, which is good in developing domain authority and trust.

Finding Link Prospects for your site’s categories

Link prospecting for this strategy is pretty much the same with how you’ll normally do it on a site-level prospecting, but the difference is just that you’ll be treating your categories as a separate homepage, given that you’ll have different top competitors for each of your site’s category (their keywords).

There are many ways to find sites where you can acquire links from, and there are also tools like Garrett French’s Link Prospector, that automates the process of finding link opportunities for your outreach and link building campaign, wherein the tool generates a list of relevant that will highly depend on the methods you’re looking to execute.

There are also other manual link prospecting methods that you can do to find link opportunities for your site’s categories using free web-based tools like Google search and SEOQuake. Here’s a quick preview on how to do it:

Step 1: Configure your Google Search’s settings

Step 2: Disable Google Instant and allow Google search to display 100 results per page, then save your new Google Search settings.

Step 3: Start finding link prospects using Google Search.

Step 4: Scrape and export the ranking pages as well as SEOQuake’s displayed site data to excel by viewing and copying the CSV version of the search results and pasting everything to an excel spreadsheet.

Step 5: Paste the search result’s CSV format to excel.

Step 6: Clean and segment the list

  • Go to “Data” and choose “Text to Columns”
  • Choose “delimited” for your data’s file type and click on “Next”
  • Check on “Semicolon” and click on “Next”, and then “Finish”
  • Now you’ll have a better looking list of target link prospects.

Step 6: Continuously expand your list by using other related search queries, finding sites/blogs linking to your competitors (using Google’s Blog Search feature) or by using your other categories’ targeted keywords for your prospecting queries.

For a more comprehensive guide on how you can improve (filtering and expanding) your list using this method, you can check out this complete guide to link prospecting with SEOQuake.

Queries for Finding Link Prospects

Google search is certainly the best tool to use in finding highly relevant pages on the web, and using it as a research tool enables a link building strategy to have a strong foundation.

Knowing where you can acquire links that can really help achieve your campaign’s objectives (rankings, traffic and branding) before actually implementing your strategies is vital, as this will serve as a guide for your campaign to be streamlined efficiently along the process of marketing your website.

Planning early on will get you ahead of the search game, and that’s why creating a big list of link targets is essential before launching a link building campaign.

To successfully build a good list of link prospects, you’ll need to know how you can find them – and using Google search is one of those things that you can do to start off. Below are some advanced search queries that you can use for different intents of link building:

Guest blogging:

  • “keyword” “write for us”
  • “keyword” “guest blog”
  • “keyword” “become a contributor”
  • “keyword” “guest article”
  • “keyword” “guest column”
  • “keyword” “guest *” inurl:blog

List/resources pages:

  • “keyword” inurl:resources
  • “keyword” inurl:links
  • “keyword” intitle:list
  • “keyword” “suggested resources/websites/sites/links”
  • “keyword” “recommended resources/websites/sites/links”

Interview opportunities:

  • “industry” intitle:expert interview
  • “industry” intitile:interview –job
  • “your competitor” intitle:interview –job

Blogroll:

  • “keyword” “blogroll”

Web directories:

  • “category keyword” “directory”
  • “category keyword” “submit url/website”
  • “category keyword” “websites”

Sponsored posts/paid reviews:

  • “keyword” intext:paid review
  • “keyword” intext:sponsored post
  • “keyword” intext:sponsored review
  • “keyword” intext:paid post
  • “product name” intitle:review
  • “product name” “ratings”

Blogger Outreach Methods

Approaching bloggers is getting more complicated compared to the old days of online marketing, seeing that most of them have already realized the worth of the links that they could pass through to business websites as well as with the value of the traffic that they could also refer to other businesses.

Guest blogging as a link building and marketing strategy is also getting oversaturated these days, which makes the competition in penetrating content (and links) harder, as editorials get more strict and some also make use of these aspect to gain more profits through their blogs (which leads them to only offer paid guest posts).

However, there are still so many ways that link marketers can utilize to efficiently get their target bloggers’ attention, wherein both parties can benefit from that certain partnership. The real key to a successful blogger outreach campaign is for the approach to have a good value proposition, for bloggers to have the interest in working with you.

Here are some of the methods/approaches that you can do to improve the success rate of your outreach campaign:

  • Pitching guest posts that you will heavily promote via social media and link building.
  • Offering infographics and other rich-media content that the target bloggers’ audience will really find interesting and useful.
  • Experiential review of your products and/or services.
  • Find broken links within their site/blogs and help them fix them. You can suggest a page on your site that fits the context of the page as a replacement to the dead links that you’ll find (you can use Chrome’s Check My Links extension to find broken links on webpages).
  • Helping bloggers install the authorship markup, especially on non-techy niches.
  • Giving away free or paid ebooks to bloggers that they can use as a resource for their future posts.
  • Offer premium WordPress themes and/or logos for their blogs.
  • Engage through email and try to suggest topics for them to write, and then tell them that you’ll help send traffic to that particular post if ever it gets published.

You can also check my post about alternative approaches for blogger outreach for more extensive guides on how to do the some of the methods I’ve mentioned above.

Anatomy of an Effective Email Outreach Template

Sending emails to your prospects is a big part of your link building campaign, because it is the actual link building work. Crafting emails to be as effective as it can (by continuously testing your copies) is very important to maximize the time that you’ll be spending in engaging your link targets and in trying to obtain better link positions from their websites/blogs through your requests.

An effective email template is usually consisted of parts that can easily be modified to make the copy look more personalized when received by your link prospects. This effect makes the receiving end more responsive to your requests more often than not. Below are some of the most important elements that your email outreach copy should contain:

Introduction

It’s important that you introduce yourself to your link prospect first and to greet your prospect using his first name. Introducing yourself as a blogger and letting them know where you publish your articles sometimes do have greater impact, as your prospects will have the impression that you already know how your industry works.

But if you have already engaged your prospects through the initial phases of your campaign, like actively participating on their community and have already conversed with them through social networks, you can have higher chances if you’ll make the introduction part more personalized (like complimenting their most recent post).

Proposition

Offer a valuable contribution to their site, and describe what kind of contribution you’re willing to provide to their community (guest post, infographic, etc…). You can also add a short explanation of how your proposition will benefit their community.

Personalized closing

The last part of your email copy is as important as how you have started it. Including your prospect’s name within the body of the email will make it look more personalized and could somehow increase your emails’ response rate.

Tip: In my experience, shorter and straight-forward copies tend to have higher response rates.

Here’s an actual copy of my own guest blog outreach template:

Hi (Name of Webmaster),

I’m (Your Name), and I blog at (My Blog or Client’s Blog). I’m just wondering if I can pitch a guest post to (Prospect’s Blog). I’m thinking of writing about (Initial title for the guest entry), as I think this post might be useful to your readers.

Let me know if this works for you or if you have other suggestions.

Have a great week (Name of Webmaster)!

Regards,

(Your Name)

Keeping track of your links

Monitor your outreach, link acquisitions and its results as you move along with your link building efforts to be able to measure the effectiveness of your campaign and to have more ideas of how you can achieve your campaign’s objectives by basing it through the movements of your results.

Make a list of all the prospects you have already contacted, engaged with and have successfully built links from as well as the improvements on the rankings of the keywords you are targeting (especially on keywords that are driving highly-engaged visitors and are easily converting), to gauge if your link building efforts are generating great results to your website in terms of increase in traffic and revenue.

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

A PDF copy of this post will also be available for free download later this week, which will include more sample templates and link reports. Subscribe to my newsletter for updates.

Image Credit: dretavia

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Linker Outreach: A Method for Social and Editorial Link Building

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

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

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

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

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

Principles:

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Linkers in Delicious

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

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

Delicious search

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crafting your Pitch

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

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

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

Results:

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

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

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

From Glen McNiel:

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

From Paul Wylie:

Paul shared the post on Twitter:

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

From Andy of CreativeCaravan:

Andy’s tweet about the post:

Bonus Round

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

In finding Linkers on Twitter:

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

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

In finding Linkers on Google+

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

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

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

In finding Linkers on Stumbleupon

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Shortgreenpigg

Extreme Link Prospecting With SEOQuake

Search for Link Prospects

Link prospecting is definitely one of the most critical parts of targeted link building, as this is the process that initiates your campaign’s goals, specifically in acquiring valuable links from high quality and relevant websites.

Setting a plan in finding opportunities for link acquisition is important, since this helps your link development campaign grow its own strategy, in ways such as:

  • The methods that your campaign will most likely involve to acquire links (based on your link prospects).
  • The approximate amount of links that you can acquire in a certain period of time (based from your industry’s online competitiveness, demand and activity).
  • In segmenting high priority and low priority prospects (that can help elevate your campaign’s productivity and results).

These past few months, our team has used several link building tools, like Raventools and Citationlabs (and they were really awesome), to semi-automate our link prospecting efforts. However, there’s this one method that actually helped us gather hundreds/thousands of highly targeted link prospects in just a few minutes – that I did enjoy abusing as well – through SEOQuake’s SERP overlay feature.

Here are some of the things that I really liked about this link prospecting method:

  • Returns highly relevant link prospects
  • Fast
  • Free

The things you need to execute this method:

  • Google Search
  • SEOQuake for Chrome (you can download it here)
  • Microsoft Excel

Step 1: Google Search Settings

First off, you’ll need to let Google show at least 100 search results instantly. You can easily configure this through Google’s Search settings, on the upper right corner of Google’s webpage.

Search SettingsOn Google Search’s preferences, disable Google Instant and modify the number of search results by allowing Google to display 100 results per page.

Search Preference

Step 2: Start Searching for Prospects

Once you have configured Google to display 100 results per page, you can now then start looking for link prospects by using keywords that specify your link targets (“keyword + determiner”; ex: “gardening blog”)

Search for Link Prospects

Pro tip: Be as specific as you can with your search queries for Google to return highly relevant pages. You can also use advanced search operators to ensure that you’ll get what you’re really looking for (such as allintitle:, inurl:, site:, etc…)

Step 3: Scraping/Exporting Search Results and Site Data Using SEOQuake

On the top part of the search results, SEOQuake has a feature that will allow you to view the results in CSV format.

 SEOQuake CSV search results

Copy the entire thing and paste it all in an excel spreadsheet.

Copy the CSV data

You can actually save the data directly through the plugin’s SERP feature, though it will ask you to send the request via SEOQuake’s server (so you might as well want to do it this way).

Once you have pasted the data to an excel spreadsheet, it will look something similar to this:

Ok, so the list looks like crap, and you will have to fix it by separating the contents of each cell into several columns – and here’s how:

On your excel spreadsheet, go to “Data” and choose “Text to columns”.

data to text to columns

Click on “Text to columns”, then choose “Delimited” for your data’s file type and click Next.

Choose Delimited

Check on the “Semicolon” option, as it is the delimiter used in the data, and then click Next.

Choose Semicolon

As you can see above, it will let you see a preview of the outcome of your data when choosing for the delimiter to be set.

After clicking the next button, click on “Finish”, and you will have a better looking list of link prospects that will look something similar to this:

List of link prospects

The list of the URLs of your possible link targets will include site metrics such as the number of pages indexed by Google, Pagerank, Alexa Rank and many more, just like how SEOQuake’s SERP feature shows these metrics through Google’s SERP display.

You can also configure SEOQuake to only display parameters that you’ll want to use when prospecting for link opportunities through its browser settings (on the upper right corner of your browser).

SEOQuake Settings (Chrome)

You can choose the parameters you only want to show up on Google search results:

SEOQuake Parameters

Step 4: Expanding your List

Creating your initial list of link prospects will only take you a few seconds (based on what I’ve done), and of course you’ll also have to segment/sort that list out (which I will be explaining on the latter part of this post). Moreover, expanding your list is not really hard, as there are many options to choose from to make the most out of this method, such as from:

  • Other semantically related search terms that your campaign is targeting to rank for.
  • 2nd to 5th page of your initial keyword search (which means 100 – 400 more possible prospects, though these sites may be of low relevance or quality).
  • Through Google’s suggested “related searches”, which you can see below the search result pages (this could give you hundreds or more prospects to your list).
Searches relatedJust repeat the process by copying the results’ CSV data and pasting them to your list, and you’ll eventually have a larger list of highly relevant link prospects.Larger list of link prospects

Step 5: Segmenting your list

The easiest way to sort your list is through segmenting your data through the Alexa Rank’s column, as it provides unique set of numbers that will allow you to classify highly authoritative sites (single to 4 digit numbers) from average websites in your industry.

This area of your list will also allow you to determine high priority prospects, low priority prospects, duplicate domains and irrelevant authority sites (Facebook, Youtube, authority news sites, etc…).

In filtering your excel list, you can first start by highlighting the Alexa Rank’s column.

Highligh Alexa Rank Column

Click on the Alexa Rank’s entire column (on “column G”), go to “Data” and click on “Filter”.

Filtering your listClick on the arrow placed on the Alexa Rank column’s right corner, and then choose “Sort Smallest to Largest”.

Sort list smallest to largestYou will now have your list sorted based on each domain’s Alexa Rank. In this ordered list, you can separate high profile sites as well as sites that wouldn’t be that relevant for your campaign, wherein you can just start working on the sites that you can realistically build relationships with or acquire links from (probably sites that have 4-6 digit Alexa rankings).

Sorted list of link prospects

Bonus Tip: Reverse Engineering Competitors’ Links

You can also use this method through Google’s Blog Search to find blogs linking to your competitors (by simply using the search command “link:www.yourcompetitor.com”) and include these results to your list of link prospects.

Reverse Engineering Links through Google

Again, you can use the process I’ve mentioned above and continuously improve your list of link prospects by scraping sites linking to your competitors.

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

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Viral Content Marketing: Creating, Promoting and Scaling Content

Last Saturday, October 29, 2011, I presented about Viral Content Marketing at Mastering Online Ranking Conference. MORCon is one of the most awaited yearly SEO conferences in the country, as several of the country’s top-gun SEOs unite to share their knowledge (and some of their secrets) about the online marketing industry to our small local community of Internet professionals.

I was lucky to be invited to present at this event and definitely fortunate to receive a lot of positive feedbacks about my presentation, given that it was my first ever speaking gig. My slides from MORCon are below, and I might also upload a video of my presentation (though it’s in Filipino) in the coming weeks. Any questions about the presentation, feel free to drop a comment below.

 

Some Images from the Event:

Kaiserthesage presenting

My PresentationJason Acidre and Benj Arriola

With Benj Arriola, SEO Director of Internet Marketing Inc.

Xight InteractiveWith Xight Interactive

I was awarded with a plaque of appreciation by Org president Whin Clores.

Q&A Panel with other speakers.

With Benj Arriola at the after event gathering

Discussing Conversions with PPC Expert Juanito “Cell” Jacella of Cellconversion

With SEOWall owner – Zaldy “Major” Dalisay

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

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Link Building Strategies for Smaller Brands in a Competitive Space

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

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

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

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

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

Link Distribution

Homepage is where your brand is.

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

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

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

Power keywords for power pages

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

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

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

Several ways to build links to your power pages:

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

Blog posts for your long tails

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

Several ways to empower linking to your blog posts:

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

Remix Marketing

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

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

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

Content Exploration

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

Some examples:

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

Recreate News

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

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

Interviews and Crowdsourced content as guest blogs

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

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

Curated content as guest blogs

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

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

Kinetic Text Typography

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

Edge Marketing

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

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

Using the tool:

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

Citationlabs offers affordable packages to gain access to their tools:

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

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

Improve Brand and Market Awareness

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

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

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

Invest on Building Linkable Assets

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

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

Elements of a powerful linkable asset:

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

Several samples of linkable assets:

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

Promoting your linkable assets:

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

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

Image Credit: Annisahmad

Scalable Link Building Plan for Corporate Websites

Corporate Link BuildingIn the natural world and history of big corporations, monopolizing smaller businesses is one of the most conventional wisdoms that they all perceive as a key to progressively succeed in their own respective industries. That business outlook can surely work and bring in just about the same results when it comes to link building.

Large businesses have the biggest advantage when competing for search engine ranking positions, given that they have the funds to size up the reach and efficiency of their online marketing campaigns. However, some may and do fail, mainly because of the funds that they are able to expend and the intention of speeding up their objective’s development timeline, which often results to participation on link buying schemes (that will eventually be caught by Google).

Establishing a corporation takes time, and that’s somehow equal to establishing your brand’s online presence and reputation.

Link Building in this Generation

This process is vastly recognized as the most vital phase in terms of making keywords rank on search engine result pages (SERP). But today, link development seems to play a much bigger role than just to support, maintain or improve your keyword(s)’ search rankings, since it can be utilized as well in influencing other aspects of online marketing such as:

  • Building a strong brand identity through relevant interactions.
  • Setting your brand as an authority in your industry through editorial and contextual citations.
  • Sending trust signals to search engines through high-value link acquisition (visibility/placement and relevance).
  • Maintaining the prestige factor of the company’s site through the quality of external sites endorsing and linking to it.
  • Generating leads and highly targeted traffic through externally distributed content.
  • In managing the company’s online reputation.

The principle of a sustainable and scalable link building strategy should be able to fortify as well as to prolong the brand’s authentic popularity, which in turn can influence the site’s search rankings by means of natural linking, seeing as execution of this marketing perspective is a strong indication of trust to both users and search engines.

8 Ways to Build Links to Corporate Websites

1. Corporate Blogging

One of the most significant factors that enable corporate blogs to transcend and stand out in their industry is the ability of their organization to breed extremely talented bloggers that can showcase your brand’s expertise in the field. Building a team of experts that can shape their own individual personalities and presence on the web through providing solid content/interactions in and out of your domain can tremendously increase your site’s linkability (given that strong web personalities can naturally attract links).

You can also stretch the capacity of your content production within your organization by encouraging each department to contribute and share their expertise (from management, labor, accounting, legal, marketing, etc…). In this way, you are increasing your site’s chances of attracting more link opportunities from different sectors and given that most of your contributors (employees) will voluntarily promote their own contributions to their own networks, which is a good way to develop linkers within your group.

Tasks that your team of expert bloggers can employ:

  • Guest blogging, wherein they can build their own personal brand that’s still incorporated to your organization (link attributes to your site).
  • Community participation, where they can contribute to relevant discussions on other authority blogs, high-traffic forums, Q&A sites and social networks, and eventually bring the discussions back to your site.
  • Reach out to and engage link prospects (thought-leaders and authority figures in your industry) through social media interactions to improve the depth of your brand’s reach and contacts.
  • Strict content editorial analysis, to assure that the site as well as your distributed content is providing high quality information to possible linkers.

Basically, you’ll want to establish your bloggers’ reputation as an authority, individually, in order to generate relationship-based links to your site along the process.

2. Constant Addition and Promotion of Viral, Useful and Evergreen Content

Adding new content to your site simply equates to adding new high quality links, may it be internal or external. Continuous creation of content that can go viral and be useful to your target audience can result to links through social bookmarks, shares or resource links/mentions.

It’s also important to implement a strategic keyword distribution on all of your cornerstone (viral/evergreen) content, as people who will be linking to your content have high possibilities of using the content’s title as anchor text when linking back to it. This will allow your keyword-focused content to further improve its search rankings and generate highly targeted visitors through organic search.

Types of content that you can constantly add in your site:

  • Comprehensive resource articles (like tutorials, extreme lists or how to articles)
  • Interview other industry experts or crowdsourcing
  • High-utility rich media content like infographics, videos, podcasts and slide presentations
  • Research, case studies and survey results
  • Downloadable and redistributable whitepapers
  • Link bait type blog posts
  • Free to access web-based tools/apps

In promoting your viral/evergreen content:

  • Gather and build a contact list of webmasters that might be interested to link to your content, preferably sites that host thematic resource pages or curated posts, since offering a valuable content for them to link to have high response rate when doing email outreach compared to requesting for a link directing to your homepage.
  • Promote the content through social media, which normally involves Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Stumbleupon, Google+ and/or Reddit outreach, wherein you can use your personal, professional and industry-related relationships in starting the syndication.
  • Disseminate the content by highlighting it on your externally distributed content (like guest blog posts, whitepapers, press releases, interviews, etc…). You can also link back to your viral content as a resource every time you participate on discussions on related forums, Q&A sites and blogs.
  • Pitch the story to news websites, if the content is newsworthy. Provide all the necessary resources (links) that they might need and keep the pitch concise.

For a more extensive guide on how to promote your content, you can check out my older post about how to get editorial links.

Lastly, make these viral and highly linkable content internally link to your site’s important landing pages using their targeted keywords as anchor texts, given that these content will eventually gain stronger page authority over time as they naturally attract incoming links/link juice from external websites that will be all passed through to your site’s important pages, which can in turn boost your landing pages’ organic search rankings.

3. Blog Incubation

I stole borrowed the term from Rand Fishkin, but I think the concept is still somehow related to what he had originally described. The main objective of this strategy is to strengthen your brand’s online presence through consistent content contribution or collaboration on other reputable blogs in your industry. Below are some steps on how to implement this method:

  • Identify the top blogs in your industry that have strong following and determine the site/blog’s strength using metrics such as domain authority, traffic data as well as homepage PageRank.
  • Collect their contact details and try to request if you can submit a guest blog post. Once your guest blog has been published, help in promoting the submitted content and be as responsive as you can to the comments that your guest entry will receive.
  • Build a good relationship with the blog owners and try to submit more content to be published on their blogs (resourceful and non-promotional posts). Try to submit content twice or thrice each month and respond to their visitors’ queries and comments, as this will establish your brand on these highly anticipated industry sectors.
  • The more visible you are on these high quality blogs is the more you are able to build high-value links (links that have high click-through) and the more you can absorb highly-targeted visitors to your site through highly exemplified brand signals.
  • You can also choose to include emerging blogs that provide high-quality content in your campaign and have high potentials of growing as an authority in the field. Invest on them by helping them promote their blogs, contributing content or helping them out financially (optional).
  • Another alternative is to hire bloggers to write about topics related to your industry and provide them with tools that they’ll possibly need to maintain the external support blog(s) such as domain registration, hosting services, SEO-related tools, autoresponders, etc…

4. Organize or Sponsor Events and Incentivize Linking

Use offline and online events as a channel in marketing your brand, as there are lots of link opportunities on these occasions (mostly driven by brand impressions), particularly if you’ll be able to physically/virtually interact with your target audience. Here are some of the types of events that you can choose to organize or sponsor:

  • Meetups
  • Seminars
  • Conferences
  • Webinars
  • Awards

It’s imperative to specifically target individuals and organizations that have online presence, since you’ll be encouraging them to share the experience of attending the event. This call to action is very doable if you have hosted/sponsored the event or have presented as a speaker. In finding local events (meetups) to sponsor, you can use Meetup.com.

You can also incentivize the linking processes for the events that you’ll organize, like offering Widgets to serve as certificates for attending or being part of the event (ex: widgets for nominees, winners, speakers, participants/members, etc…), to intensify the chances of obtaining links from the event’s participants. Naturally, these widgets will link back to your site once installed, so it’s also important to make the process of acquiring the widget easier for your participants.

Grow your organization eventually by making your event(s) commemorated annually or yearly, as this will allow your group to continuously expand its own network, especially in collaborating with other experts in your industry.

5. Cultivate Link Builders within your Organization – Your Employees

Most people in this generation have their own social networking sites accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc…), and some may have their own personal blogs. Educating your employees how important links are for your business will be extremely valuable for your online marketing campaign, particularly in promoting and syndicating your site’s business content to various social networks, given that social signals serve as a significant factor in search engine rankings these days.

Orient your members on how you can all execute this phase in your online marketing such as automating the social sharing process (ex. Twitterfeed or Triberr) or by sending mass email to your employees every time you have a new content published on your site. Just imagine how many retweets, Facebook likes/shares and Google +1 you can get if you have 100+ employees who are socially active on the web, it can extremely impact your content’s performance in terms of visibility.

6. Build a Community

Creating a strong community with a large amount of active followers that consistently participate on conversations is very advantageous when it comes to establishing your brand as an authority in the field as well as in generating brand advocates that will voluntarily link to your domain.

You can choose to acquire and re-brand an existing forum in your industry that already has stable flow of traffic or build a new one that will be hosted within your site’s domain. The main key to a successful community is to be as supportive, useful and responsive as you can to your members and to display leadership through conversations related to what your business excels on.

Exceptionally useful threads and conversations do attract links, especially when users link back to it as a source of industry-related information. It’s also a great way to demonstrate your brand’s expertise and establish trust that can help your business acquire more leads and referrals through voluntarily given links.

7. Social Media Integration

Social media has been a very influential sector of online marketing and search engine optimization in these past few years. The main objective of aligning your online marketing campaign with social media is to amplify your brand visibility on social networks where you can easily interact with your target market (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc…).

In this segment of marketing your brand, it’s important to increase the quantity as well as quality of your followers in order to improve your business’ reach, seeing that the process of expanding the reach and visibility of your content allows it to encompass more natural citations/links through your networks’ networks.

Some of the ways that you can implement to improve the number of your followers on popular social networks:

  • Launch a contest that includes following you on social networking sites in the mechanics.
  • Maximize your call to action on each of your site’s content by implementing force multipliers, in which you can encourage/manipulate your visitors to act on simple tasks such as sharing the content on various social networks (tweet, like, FB share, Google+1, stumble, Linkedin share, etc…) and to follow you on social networks you actively update.
  • Use your social network profile links as CTAs on your email signatures, offline advertisements, free whitepapers and guest blog posts – learn more about static marketing.

8. Brand Monitoring

Tracking your brand’s reputation on different web channels is vital these days, especially for large companies, seeing as consumers are now more capable of dismantling strong brands over the web with just a negative sentiment about their experience with the brand, and this can certainly affect your business in many ways – both in marketing and conversions.

However, in link building, monitoring your brand’s performance in terms of search, social and content can help you develop a much stronger brand identity and uncover more link opportunities. Below are some steps to execute in using this area of online marketing to build links:

  • Find positive mentions about your brand, products, high profile employees (in-house blogger, CEO, consultants, etc…) and branded services on Twitter, blog posts, forum threads or news articles.
  • You can use tools such as Google Alerts, Twitter Search, Social Mention or Trackur to track these mentions.
  • Try to contact users that have positively mentioned your brand (through Twitter or blog posts) and thank them. Once you have established a connection, you can then offer to send free samples of your new products/services to them and ask if they’ll be interested to review your new product(s). This should have a higher acceptance rate as they have already experienced and possibly liked your previous product/service.

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Online Brand Development – Old School Link Building in Social Media Age

Brand is the core element of most lucrative online businesses and websites today. From a cool business name to a striking lobrand developmentgo or to a unique identity, a site’s brand appears to be its solid ground, which makes most of its parts possible to be scaled, given that a highly trusted brand looks more appealing not only to its targeted audience, but to other related market as well.

With today’s modern and powerful age of marketing, there are many channels – and probably more coming – that businesses can utilize to get their products/services in front of their target audience in areas of online marketing such as search engine optimization, pay-per click, social media marketing, affiliate marketing, mobile marketing and email marketing.

They all seem to sound too complex, but the good news is that all of them are aiming for one same goal – to make your business earn more money. These areas may differ in terms of methodologies, but in the end, they all land on the same page, where they are all able to be integrated into one overpowering marketing campaign that can strengthen your site’s brand, which is very important if you’re planning to prolong your business’ productivity for years.

Rankings VS. Brand

High search engine rankings for profitable keywords (keywords that users use to find what they need or want to purchase over the web using search engines like Google and Bing) is achieved through two traditional web marketing processes: on-site optimization and link building.

These two processes require monotonous tasks and months of work to fully materialize, given that many sites are competing for keywords in order to generate organic traffic through relevant search queries and eventually earn from those highly targeted visitors.

Returns from rankings: High, especially if your site is obtaining thousands of free and high-quality traffic from search engines through relevant and high volume queried keywords, which increases your chances of selling your business.

Building a strong brand presence for your site also does take lots of time and effort. However, setting your brand in your industry as an authority can get you almost the entire job done, as it is:

  • Easier to sell if you are a well-trusted brand
  • Easier to gain your visitors’ loyalty
  • Easier to get high quality referrals from other authority sites
  • Easier to obtain higher search rankings for your targeted keywords
  • Easier to attract and acquire natural links from other websites
  • Easier to generate more traffic and leads from different sources (search engines, social media, etc…) as well as second time buyers.

Obviously, social media is more about branding, whereas the more your business interacts over the web, is the more people are being aware of your business. Though, social signals are now being used by search engines to help determine popular and trending websites/pages/brands.

Returns from social media branding: Medium, if done solely as procedures from this branch are much slower compared to SEO, but very high, if integrated with search.

Your brand name is your most important keyword

Companies will never end in relentlessly competing for high-stake keywords, but with your own brand, who knows. Focus on shaping your brand externally, while you are targeting highly profitable keywords within your territory (through publishing high-quality content in your site that will naturally target keywords), as it is a tactic that’s more engaging and appealing to both users and search engines.

Integrating all valuable and known to be efficient sources for web popularity – like link building and social media – can result to unimaginable height and speed of success if done appropriately. Given that having a strong brand presence can naturally attract links (authority brands are link magnets) and most authoritative brands can pretty much rank on any keywords they choose to, as search engines are rewarding highly trusted sites (reputable brands) with higher rankings on their search results.

Special Note: Never attempt link building if your site contains poor content.

17 Ways to Integrate Traditional Link Building with Social Media for Brand Development Purposes

1. Blog commenting

  • Leave remarkable and intelligent comments that will be useful to the discussion to be able to attract other readers to visit your website and to increase your chances of being mentioned by the blog owner on his/her future posts for asserting an idea.
  • Build conversations by responding to others’ questions or replies on your comments.
  • If you want to build a solid reputation for your brand, then present yourself worthy of it. Link building efforts should be as heavy as your brand want to stand out (skip the great post drop link tactic).
  • Use your name or brand as your links’ anchors instead of keywords. You can also link to your social network accounts (Twitter or Facebook Fanpage) through your comments to increase their visibility.
  • Use a Gravatar, as it helps in building your brand across the blogosphere, especially when people in your industry starts seeing you almost everywhere, particularly on well anticipated blog posts.
  • Share interesting blog posts or comment discussions on social networks to further engage with the bloggers you are aiming to be in contact with. This will also allow your comment links to be indexed faster by search engines.

2. Forum posting

  • Actively participate on high traffic forums that are related to your industry. Build an authority figure by genuinely interacting with the community. It’s a place where people interested in your business want to learn more about it, so do not just drop links.
  • Leverage your site’s content visibility through informative contribution, or basically by using your site’s resourceful content as a reference in helping out other members. Manipulate readers into visiting your site by displaying your expertise in responding to threads.
  • Use your site or brand name as your signature link’s anchor text instead of keywords. It’s also best to include links to your Blog, Twitter or Facebook account to improve your follower base along the process of building your reputation on these sites.
  • Use the same avatar and username on all the forums that you’ll choose to participate actively to consistently build your brand’s presence in your niche.

3. Q&A sites

  • Almost similar to forums, where you have to genuinely contribute to the community by sharing your expertise and using your site’s useful content as the much comprehensive source of your answers.
  • Connect with other influential people in your industry by following them on sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers.
  • Links from these websites are known to pass high amount of trust, as it’s seen as “useful links” by search crawlers, particularly if the link is placed on the upper part of the document’s body (usually the top or best answer).

4. Web design

5. Infographics

  • One of the most important factors of marketing your website through infographs is the inclusion of your site’s logo within the image.
  • Infographs have high tendencies of going viral through social networks and also when being embedded by linkers on their own blogs. It’s important to monitor its performance and possibly to track sites that have used it, as some might not give proper link attribution to its original source. You can simply track this by setting up Google Alerts for your infograph’s title (ex. “how to create a magnificent infograph [infograph]”).

6. Guest blogging

  • Submit guest posts to blogs that have high traffic value (measurable through Alexa traffic rank, SEMRush and Compete.com) and domain authority (measurable through SEOmoz Toolbar) within your site’s niche or somehow related to your industry.
  • Put emphasis on your site/brand name by using it as your link’s anchor text on your author bio.
  • You can also promote your active social network accounts through your author bio, given that it’s easier to engage with people on these networks.
  • Respond to comments and/or retweets on your guest blogs to attract readers in visiting your site and to display an approachable image to future visitors of that page.
  • Watermark images that you’ll be using on your guest blogs with your logo.

author bio

7. News pitching

  • Pitch your story to news websites if you have groundbreaking news related to your industry. News sites usually have a link to a “send a tip”, “submit news” or “contact editors” page placed on the footer.
  • When pitching your story, it’s best to keep your message concise and straight to the point, where you can highlight the angle of the story straight ahead and include links to resources, which can be a content/blog posted on your site or a press release you have published.
  • It’s also advisable to directly submit your pitch on their site’s given contact details and not on their personal social networking accounts or email addresses.
  • You can also sign up on Help a Reporter and become a source for reporters, where you can pitch your story to almost 30,000 journalists.
  • If the story will require more in-depth information, you can always offer your client or yourself (in a discreet manner) to be interviewed to give further data or statistics to complete the story, which of course can gain your site a strong link, plus a good brand exposure, knowing that in-content links from news articles have high click-through as it’s contextual.

8. Get interviewed

  • Find bloggers who cover topics related to your industry and ask if they’ll be interested to do an interview of you or your client.
  • Showcase your site’s best content whenever it’s possible when on interviews, as sharing it through this form of content have high chances of being viewed by their readers and may establish good impression for your brand.
  • Mention how people can contact or connect with you by also linking to your social network accounts or by inviting readers to subscribe to your blog’s feed – a good call to action on the closing part of the interview.
  • Respond to comments and retweets as well as to help the blog owner promote the content (preferably through your own networks).
  • This page also shows up on SERPs, in case someone tries to search your name on Google, which is actually a good trust signal to users.

9. Attending/speaking at conferences

  • There are a lot of opportunities in getting links and in leveraging your brand on offline events such as industry conferences, blog meetups and seminars/workshops, as you have the chance to socialize with like-minded people – there’s no better way to interact than live social networking.
  • Teaching results to natural links and brand recognition, since attendees more often than not cite remarkable statements from speakers through blog posts or share it on social networks, which can help in your making your brand more visible by absorbing attention from their networks.

10. Extract link opportunities from related foreign websites

  • Expand your brand’s reach by scaling the process of your campaign’s link development. Find sites from other countries that are related to your industry (could be or not a competitor) and study their link profiles.
  • You can search for these sites through country-based directories, Google search localized extensions (ex. Google.com.ph, Google.de, etc…) or large directories like Dmoz.org. While you can use Open Site Explorer or Yahoo Site Explorer to track sites linking to them.
  • Extract the best linking sites (have high domain authority, good traffic and provides quality content) and contact them to request links or start building relationships with them.

countries stats

11. Image submissions

  • Produce original images/photos that can capture your target market’s interests and have potential to go viral (something like these). Upload them to photo sharing sites like Flickr and Photobucket. Optimize your images’ description to increase their chances of getting aggregated on Google’s image search.
  • Make your uploaded photos link back to its original source, which will be a page that hosts the photo/image in your site.
  • You can also submit or upload your infographs on these sharing sites.
  • Watermark your photos/images with your logo.

12. Coin a new term

  • Invent or reinvent terminologies, techniques or start a meme in your industry and make sure that when people search for that term they’ll find you first, to ensure that you’ll get proper link attribution when people start writing about its history. You can create a specific page on your site that has the sole purpose of defining the term.
  • Continuously use and promote the term through your succeeding blog posts, guest blogs or when participating on online discussions.

Green-hat SEO

13. Create your own Wikipedia page

  • Create a Wikipedia page for your business/company, but it’s important to create the content in a professional (and non-promotional) approach. Focus on citing factual information about your company including its history, achievements, editorial citations from trusted websites and multiple valid resources.
  • When creating the page, it’s also best to link out to other relevant Wikipedia pages (internal linking), seeing as it’s the basic model of their site’s content. Having a Wikipedia page for your business can really amplify the level of trust that people and search engines see in your brand, knowing that with its highly-trusted domain, it’s certain to be returned as a result when people try to search your business name on Google.
  • You can also create Wikipedia pages for terms that you have coined, but be sure to research your entry first, by seeking if the topic was already created. (ex. “Siloing in SEO” is still an available subject to be created). You’ll also need to publish a page in your site that discusses your chosen subject extensively, for you to be able to include a referential link from that Wikipedia page to your domain.
  • If you are already an influential individual in your industry, you can also choose to create your biography page on Wikipedia, which can link to your website and cross-link to your business’ Wikipedia page.
  • Actionable example: if you are running a travel website, research about upcoming tourist destinations, then see if information about the place is still not available on Wikipedia. Be the first one to write about it (make the content as comprehensive as you can), then create the Wikipedia page about that certain destination and use your published content as the main reference for the subject (it’s highly recommended to include other sources as well).
  • More tips on creating an encyclopedic article on Wikipedia: How to Create your own Wikipedia page and Wikipedia: Starting an article

14. Tools/Widget

  • Offer free and useful tools to your target market and stress your brand as its creator. Free tools – particularly those that are very useful and unique – have its own way of persuading links towards it and it’s also an excellent way to spread your brand to the public, as these kinds of incentives get easily shared.
  • You can also choose to automate the social sharing process each time users utilize your free tools.
  • Actionable example: Say if your site is selling pizza, why not try to build a tool where your visitors can make their own recipe of the pizza that they’d want to order. They can drag and drop the ingredients through a split screen (list of ingredients and finish product, then eventually press “submit order”). Once they are done, a pop-up window can display which will allow your users to share the experience on various social networks.
  • Set out an ego bait (rankings of the best in your industry), where you can inscribe your logo in the embeddable widget.

15. Monitor brand mentions through Google Alerts

  • Set up Google Alerts for your brand and/or for name of the site owner to track sites that mention your site with no link attribution. It’s easier to request for links from sites that have already cited you, don’t forget to ask them nicely.

16. Distribution of branded whitepapers

  • Produce exceptionally crafted and extremely informative whitepapers/free report/research in PDF or slide presentation format then submit it to document sharing sites such as Scribd, Docstoc, Issuu and Slideshare.
  • You can also distribute and offer the document to active bloggers in your industry, since they can use it as a giveaway on their paid information products or courses and they can also use it in capturing their visitors’ emails through opt-in offerings. Having your whitepapers available for download on authority and high-traffic blogs can definitely give your site some high-value links (coming from your PDF) and works excellently in improving your brand’s visibility.
  • Awesome example: Brian Clark’s free SEO copywriting report, which successfully made its way to numerous blogs’ sidebars.

ebook distribution

17. Video marketing

  • Create videos that have high potentials of going viral, as they do translate to links if marketed really well (try Stumbleupon Ads!). Build an active channel on Youtube and engage other users to subscribe and entice them to visit your site by promoting it appropriately through your videos and your channel’s elements.
  • Actively participate on Youtube’s community by leaving comments on other videos (especially those that are related to your industry), seeing as the more you are contributing in their community, the more you are able to build internal links to your channel (which passes massive Pagerank to your channel that can all be passed through your website) and the more you are able to attract visitors to your Youtube channel.
  • Pimp your channel by adding your logo, completing your profile and of course by uploading videos that will both be useful and entertaining to your target audience.

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