One of the most frustrating things about doing a link campaign is that usually, we’re doing it because no one else wants to, or no one else has the time to. Link building is one of the most outsourced parts of SEM and much of the time, we’re one of a handful of agencies working on the overall online marketing strategy for a client.
Many times, we’re also one of a handful of link companies working on the same campaign. Are any of us communicating regularly and sharing information? No, we aren’t, and that needs to change.
Part of this responsibility lies with the client, to provide us with that information, but part of it resides with our company as well, for advocating for it. I definitely believe that too much information can clutter your brain needlessly; but much of the time, links are treated as a totally separate entity because they are offsite.
No developer needs to give us coding permissions and we can do our job well enough without having access to analytics data. However, let’s take a look at how we could work a marketing campaign if we all put our heads together. Since this is a Link Week column, let’s assume that you’re building links.
Pay Per Click Ads
I do run a medium-sized PPC account for a client, and I’ve previously worked on dozens of them, so I’ve seen firsthand how effective they can be when they’re properly tuned. There seem to be two main lines of thought with what to market with paid ads:
- Cover all the top spots for your brand and desired keywords, period. No matter what your organic rankings are, buy ads for those keywords.
- Build links for keywords you aren’t buying ads for and pay for keywords that aren’t giving you top organic rankings.
Whether or not your query is a local one should be something you take into account here. For one thing, when queries get localized, organic listings are pushed further down the page, well below the fold. See the local pest control query below:
You can’t even see the first organic result (which is a Wikipedia entry) and spot 2 is occupied by a local pest control service that isn’t anywhere in my paid listings or my local ones. That’s a number 2 spot, one usually coveted, but I’d have to scroll through an entire page of potentially relevant results before I would see it.
If you’re looking for a pest control service, it’s probably because you need one now, and if you’re being shown loads of relevant local results in the paid and local sections, why keep going?
The local Terminix ad, at paid spot 3, shows a Google map and has a phone number. If I’ve just seen a giant centipede slithering across my ceiling, that’s who I’m calling right now, because if I keep scrolling, it may drop on top of me. Yes, that’s happened.
Here’s where I would say link building is fantastic, but maybe due to the way local queries occur and results are shown, we should be buying ad space in order to capture leads. I’d potentially back off on trying to build links for [pest control] and focus more on link building for the brand or for long-tailed queries. In other words, I’d choose my battles with links.
Now let’s take a non-local query and say that you wanted to buy pest control supplies. See the results below:
That number-one organic spot looks good to me, and I’d click on it. It looks like what I need. The title is good, the snippet is relevant, etc. The three paid results don’t look that relevant to me, and I’d certainly not click on one that misspelled my city’s name. This is a case where I’d not buy an ad, most likely, but would definitely keep building links to try and keep that spot in the SERPs.
Basically, it could come down to a case-by-case basis. The key is to see how different, important keyphrases display for you, then keeping an eye on your analytics and make sure you’re tracking conversions.
(I actually wrote about using PPC for link building a few years ago for this column if you’d like more detail about how PPC can be a great asset to a campaign when you’re building links.)
Obviously, you can use social visibility in order to promote your content in order to generate links, but links built in this way are not always easy to measure, as it’s not a direct process much of the time.
Below are a few quick tips to make social and links work well together:
1. When you have new content, let your social media team know about it and make sure they’re publicizing it. If you don’t have a team (or even a person), then do it yourself. Unless your site is on everyone’s radar 24/7, you need to let people know that you have something new.
2. Make sure your content is easily socialized by using social buttons on each piece of content. As with most things, if it’s not easy, people won’t do it.
3. Don’t just half-ass social media. Many people think that it’s an easy job, and maybe parts of it are easy if you’re a generally outgoing person, but there’s a lot of nuance to it. You can’t simply tweet links to your content and expect people to lap it up. You need to interact, tweet other content that isn’t yours, and actually engage with people.
Social media has also opened up a world of discovery for guest posts, as you can quickly engage with bloggers on sites you’d like to post on instead of emailing them and hoping your pitch got through.
Don’t have a social media team? Free or low-cost tools make it fun and accessible for you. See my favorite three idiot-proof ones listed below:
Crowdbooster helps you look over the analytics of your Twitter account and can alert you to followers that are influential. Not everyone who’s listed as influential will immediately be tweeting your content of course, and many times, it’s just fine to engage with people without huge numbers of followers. If your content is not relevant to one of your influential followers, it may not get spread around anyway, but the less influential followers who find it to be relevant can add up.
Followerwonk lets you search Twitter biographies by keyword and can help you find new people to follow who are in your niche. You can also compare users and run analysis on both whom you’re following and your own followers. Using the [pest control] example again, if you did a search for Twitter users who have this in their profile, you’d see something like this:
Icerocket has a variety of ways to search through various social media platforms and blogs.You can also set your search to auto refresh (and save your searches) which is very helpful if you are doing a lot of discovery. I usually just go straight to the Big Buzz section, which pulls in relevant social information from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, video, and images.
Even if you don’t plan to use Icerocket to connect with anyone just yet, it’s great for getting ideas for content, and the home page can quickly tell you what’s popular across all the channels.
One of my biggest pet peeves is with webmasters who don’t use a 301 redirect to send the non-www version of their site to the www version, or vice versa. I don’t care which one you pick, just do it, please. Without a 301 on one of these, two versions of your site can get indexed. It’s such an easy problem to prevent.
While we’re talking about 301 redirects, keep an eye on pages with inbound links if you need to move or remove them, as you can at least preserve some linky benefits by putting in a 301 for the new page. Otherwise, all those links coming to a 404 page are just going to become someone else’s broken link fodder.
And, that leads us to 404 errors, which no one seems to agree on how to handle. It’s common to find links going to 404 sites and using that as broken link building leads, and that’s a great way to get good links, but you don’t want anyone else doing that to you, do you?
Figure out how you want to handle 404 errors and be consistent. If you use Google Webmaster Tools, you can find your 404 errors in the Health/Crawl Errors section. Clicking on the 404′d URL brings up a box that gives you more information so you can click on the Linked From area and see if any outside sites are linking and getting a 404.
Also, while I admit to being overly impatient, things like page load time can definitely affect link building. If you’re sending an outreach email asking for a link and the page you propose having them link to takes 20 seconds to load, that busy webmaster may give up and you’ve just lost a potentially great link opportunity.
My favorite technical tool that’s as idiot-proof as the social media tools I mentioned above (yet still amazingly robust) is Screaming Frog, which is a downloadable crawler that can identify loads of potential problems that you can fix. If you’ve never run it on your site, download it and do so. If you’re not familiar with the information it gives you, take a bit of time and wade through it on their online user guide.
Considering the host of problems caused by improper use of a robots.txt file, make sure you run yours through a validator like this one.
Obviously, there are many other parts of a marketing campaign to consider, as you could add conversion tracking, offline branding, etc. These are simply the three most common other components that I’ve personally dealt with (and have experience in) for current and former clients.
The key point to remember is that working in isolation in your own niche can definitely have benefits, but sometimes more communication leads to bigger and better things.
Getting a fuller picture can open you all up to how to do your own area better, and as I’m sure you know, there are many business owners wearing all these hats. Not everyone has a social media staff or an IT team. Most people do realize that they need links though, and thinking more about how to pull from other areas can be incredibly beneficial.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.