Do you remember the first time you ever earned money from a job? Perhaps you worked at a fast food restaurant, or maybe you mowed a neighbor’s lawn. Getting that first paycheck was a thing of beauty. When you bought your first ice cream cone or baseball card or jewelry using those funds, it was all the better knowing that you had earned it.
The same could be said for getting links for your website.
In the early years of search engine optimization, links were built by calling in favors, sending out requests, and cannily targeting the right sites. It led to a boost in traffic, yes, but it was hardly organic. The bump in page views reflected good strategy, not good practice on the part of your business.
Now, however, things are changing. There’s a greater emphasis on earning links through the high quality of your site, rather than seeking them out yourself.
In some ways, it’s simpler. You want people to come to you, rather than you having to beg them for the links. However, that doesn’t mean any less work on your part. To earn these links, you need to follow four guidelines to boost your online strategy:
- Put great content first
- Establish your expert credentials
- Pursue smart social media
- Brand your company right
Put Great Content First
Yes, you’ve heard this one before. But it bears repeating again and again, because it always holds true: Great content will produce great results. When you offer people original information about topics they are interested in, they will link to you of their own volition. You will not have to seek them out and beg for the link.
Content comes in many forms. It could be blog posts, podcasts, white papers, ebooks or anything else you can think of. The key is to make it relevant to people in your industry. Make sure you are providing a helpful resource that they can reference again and again for information.
This will accomplish two things. First, it will build goodwill for your site. People willingly link to the things they find interesting and helpful, and you won’t have to waste time on outreach. Second, and equally importantly, great content can go toward the second step of the link earning equation, which is establishing yourself and your brand as an expert in your field.
Establish Your Expert Credentials
If you’re writing a blog post about examples of great coffee marketing, the first brand that pops to mind is Starbucks, right? They’ve done an outstanding job of establishing themselves as the top expert on coffee and coffee marketing, so much so that there’s no one else even in the equation. That should be your goal for your company.
Whether you are in the heavy construction rental business or the customized jewelry business, your goal is to increase your company’s profile online. This means providing all the content mentioned above. But it also involves a combination of other things, such as weighing in on the latest developments in your industry on social media – we’ll get into that a little more below – and participating in online discussions and forums relevant to your customers.
When people think “expert,” you want them to think of you. Then they will seek out your site when they need expert opinions, evidence or testimony about anything related to your industry. You will receive links without having to go through the tedious process of setting up a guest blog post, which can take time and effort most companies would rather avoid.
Put a special emphasis on the people who make up your team, because people trust faces more than they trust companies. If you have a great salesperson, spotlight them and try to build their online profile, not just your business’s.
Pursue Smart Social Media
As alluded to above, using a smart social media strategy is also part of establishing your expertise, as well as providing great content. The days of dull, inane business social media accounts are long past. People want to follow Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with something interesting to say. They also prefer leaders to followers; that is, they want to read fresh ideas and original insights, rather than the same-old, same-old regurgitated across 10 different social media accounts.
Here are a few ways you can build your brand on social media, which will spur people to take your ideas seriously, increase traffic to your pages, and result in earning links:
- Lead conversations on LinkedIn about the big issues in your industry
- Reach out to other business leaders on Twitter
- Post videos that explain confusing things about your industry and cross-promote them across all your networks
- Solicit questions and answer them on Facebook
- Host Google Hangouts for people in your industry
Brand Your Company Right
Branding is also a hugely important component of landing links. Think of this as the long-term portion of your strategy. Link-building is a short-term strategy; you target a website for a guest post, get it written, and move on. But branding your company will take an investment of time as well as money. You need to establish a mix of credibility, name recognition and values-driven marketing that defines who you are and what you want to accomplish.
When you’ve started to do this, you’ll find that you earn back so much more than you might expect. You’ll get links unbidden, of course, which is the main driver of your plan. But you’ll also earn industry respect and be exposed to new people and companies that can help your own expand. In short, you’re investing for the long haul rather than the thrilling but short-lived payoff of seeing your page views spike.
The Final Word
Don’t waste another minute on link building. Instead, shift your focus to link earning, and watch your long-term plans come to fruition. It still takes hard work, but the payoffs are much greater and, like the ice cream cone you bought with your first paycheck, much sweeter.