November 15, 2018 Update: We’ve asked SEOs in the field and the in-house Raven SEOs about link building strategies for 2018. We’re pleased to provide the updated Link Building Guide.
Yes, link building improves a site’s search engine rankings – but many seasoned SEOs forget the other important advantages of links, like building a strong brand presence and generating transactions and conversions.
Here are 8 link building methods that also double as marketing techniques to empower a site’s overall marketing efforts, conversions and lead/sales generation.
1. Comment seeding
Blog commenting has been used for years to build links and relationships with target authority link prospects. (Sadly, spammers also use this method to build exact-match anchor text links from dofollow link sources.)
But this method for link acquisition can also yield leads when used to demonstrate expertise.
First, make a list of the authority blogs in your industry – especially sites with huge search share (lots of pages ranking well on search results), solid content and an active community. That’s a good indication that high-value comments will have the capacity to entice readers to visit your site.
Next, join discussions of sites on your list, preferably on posts focusing on evergreen content. Authenticity is the key to stand out in commenting. Add value to the discussion.
The best comments should be valuable enough to almost function as a separate blog post. These kinds of comments attract clicks and can also initiate conversations that help you build relationships.
Tips on comment marketing:
- Only leave comments on posts when you can add something useful and relevant.
- Use a real name – no keyword stuffing.
- Be consistent with your avatar using a service like Gravatar so people more easily remember you.
- Focus on recently published posts and evergreen content. This will allow you to continuously absorb traffic from the post for a longer time (especially if these pages rank higher on SERPs for commonly searched long-tail queries/topics).
- Always remember that you’re doing this task for branding.
2. Forum marketing
When I first started blogging, most of my clients found me through my contributions on industry forums. In the same way comment marketing works, you can easily attract people to your website by becoming an authority.
Start by choosing 2 or 3 top forums in your niche, then participate on threads when you can add something of value.
Share useful tips on forums in your industry, especially on highly-trafficked threads or threads ranking for highly-searched industry-related long-tail search queries. The more people take interest in what you have to say, the better your chances of converting them.
Tips on forum marketing:
- Be consistent with your avatar to help users remember you.
- Don’t over-market. Focus on helping other members.
- Don’t spam the signature section. One branded link to your site, landing page, or social networking profile is enough.
- Prove yourself as an expert in the field, but don’t be a jerk.
- Be as comprehensive as you can when sharing tips (particularly those getting lots of attention from other members).
3. Link reclamation
Many sites that have been around for a few years have acquired editorial mentions or links to assets (such as offline events, product launches, content marketing campaigns, newsworthy content, etc.). Track and reclaim those natural brand mentions that didn’t result in links.
There are many methods and tools to find these missed marketing opportunities:
Use Google Search to find brand mentions and un-optimized natural links
Search for your brand, product or event name using Google’s Blog search:
When you find brand mentions with no link attribution, contact the owner of the website and ask that they add a link to your site.
- Search for links containing the wrong URL version of your site
- Use Google image search to find sites that used your logo(s) or original images without proper link attribution. Upload your photo or paste the source page of your photo to search other copies of it over the web.
Use a tool to track social mentions
Enter your site or a blog post’s URL into a social mention tool such as Keyhole or Social Mention to find those who have mentioned your site’s homepage in a positive way. These people are already aware of what your brand offers and could represent possible link opportunities for your site.
Use Google Alerts to track future brand mentions
Set up a Google Alert for your brand, representative(s), product and/or event name to be notified via email of mentions on the web.
You can also use this method to improve your link acquisition campaigns – it’s easier to request and acquire links from those who already have you on their radar.
Use Google Webmaster Tools to track broken links
Reclaim incoming links to your broken pages (404 pages). Use Google Webmaster Tools to track crawl errors to your site and to find links from external sources causing those errors.
Check each of your site’s broken pages and see which sites/pages are linking to them. You can then contact these sites to request that they direct to a new page or you can redirect the defunct page to another relevant page of your site.
4. Press coverage
Getting your business featured by news sites is a great strategy to increase leads. People will trust you more when they see you are being mentioned by reputable sources of information.
Matt McGee recently shared a strategy he has implemented for small business clients focused on building the business as an authority through press coverage. The brands focus on building highly linkable materials that can also earn press attention.
Focus on making your site a great content resource/hub for your specific niche. Once you’ve proven expertise in that field, it’s easier to become a news source for reporters/journalists.
5. Guest blogging
Guest blogging allows you an introduction to readers from other blogs, improves your search rankings through links and empowers you site’s online brand presence.
Sharing your expertise with other authority blogs will not only grow your own site’s readership, it can also improve your site’s ability to convert more visitors as you acquire more readers and leads through new channels related to your industry.
Before starting a guest blogging campaign, develop a list of prospects. Find at least 50 blogs with high traffic, a strong community and a big social following, or niche blogs where your target audience might be. Seed your content (see No. 1) on these top blogs, as their domain’s authority will help your guest post rank higher in search results.
Then create a working list of ideas you can pitch to your blog prospects. Focus on content that will show off your brand’s unique value proposition to increase the likelihood of generating conversions/sales.
Optimize your guest posts for higher rankings and don’t forget to promote those articles via social media.
Bonus: Check out James Agate’s recent post on how guest blogging can help increase your site’s conversions.
Links in newsletters, especially newsletters from bloggers with tons of subscribers, can be a boon to marketing efforts.
The first step is always subscribing to the newsletters and observing the type of content they provide.
Next, try some of these approaches:
- Send them an email, mentioning that you are subscribed and enjoy their content, and ask what it takes to be featured on their newsletter .
- Provide and offer exclusive content for their readers (videos, webinars, podcasts, etc).
- Find partners that complement your business and offer a partnership wherein you’ll also feature them on your monthly newsletter.
Q&A sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers are great places to seed useful content, since there are likely many questions in your niche that you can answer with expertise. These pages usually rank well for long-tail search queries, too.
The key to standing out on Q&A sites is to be as comprehensive as you can when contributing your answers. The more people find your answers helpful, the more they’ll vote your answers up (which makes your contribution more visible).
8. Pinterest marketing
Pinterest has been one of the most powerful traffic and lead generation channels for several industries this year. Studies show this social platform is capable of sending more customers and business transactions to websites than Facebook.
Industries getting the most juice from Pinterest include automotive, food/beverage, travel, lifestyle, fashion/clothing, gadgets, design/architecture, physical products, outdoor and sports gears as well as services like gardening, wedding and event organizers.
Images most likely to go viral on Pinterest include:
- Compelling product images
- Instructional/how-to images
A few tips on using Pinterest:
- Provide rich and compelling images hosted on your site. Cross promote the pages where your images are hosted through other social networks you are active on.
- Bu>ild a follower base on Pinterest by promoting your account through your website/blog and other social networking profiles. Follow people in your industry and engage them.
- Use descriptive keywords for the image’s title and description so they can easily be found by users searching within Pinterest.