One of the most effective link building tools I use is a customer survey. Surveys are usually written from a customer service standpoint: companies want to know the opinions of the people who buy from them and crave feedback on how they’re doing. Honorable intentions for sure but in today’s link marketing, it’s less about where customers stand and more about where they’re going.

In the past, I provided a general questionnaire to the company that contracted my linking services, then pulled demographic information from the site’s web logs. Using web logs is still a viable tactic but I’ve come to understand that today’s Internet is different and I need to adapt what I do along with it. The explosion of Web 2.0 and social media type sites is changing the way we work and the way I market for links. My general questionnaire has morphed into a finely tuned survey that’s administered not only to the site owner but directly to the customers using the site as well. I’m less interested now in the opinion of one than I am in the opinions of many.

The questions are written to find out where the customers go when they’re not on the client’s site and what motivates them to buy when they’re there. I keep the survey short and simple and try to focus on finding sites they’ve had direct experience with but will prompt them to provide the names of any bloggers, social media, forums, and online publications they’ve heard of. “Hearing of” is almost as important as sites used in certain industries so I look for threads of commonality and pull sites mentioned by more than a handful of respondents. They’re labeled as “authority” sites and pursued for linking and advertising opportunities.

For example, I recently surveyed an organic co-op and found 20% of the respondents paid for an online subscription to a green magazine. The magazine hadn’t popped up in the client’s referral logs or in the inbound link structure of the competitors I checked so I was surprised to see so many customers mention reading it. After negotiating with the magazine I was able to get an interview for the co-op’s president, purchase advertising and buy their mailing list for a cross promotion that included a link incentive. In the end, almost 50 links were secured from a site that had never crossed my radar before the survey. Not too bad for asking a couple of simple questions.

It’s been interesting to analyse the surveys and identify the similarities in responses. The more niche a client site, the more repetition in its customers answers. The information has been helpful and armed with the knowledge of where to go and what to dangle as bait. I’ve been able to focus on securing quality links and building beneficial business partnerships with influential sites like never before.

Viral linking and surveys

Surveys are versatile little things. Don’t just think of them as information collectors: they can also be used to make content viral. We’re all familiar with viral ads but how about viral surveys? Offering valuable giveaways and incentives in exchange for taking a survey increases the chance the survey will be passed and linked to. Look to demographically similar groups within Google and Yahoo Groups as additional sources to seed the survey.

Surveys and reputation linking

One last suggestion on how to use surveys to attract links. Survey results are highly desirable to the blogging and business community since they provide verifiable evidence and substantial content. After adding the survey to your site, contact influential bloggers and editors within your industry for an exclusive opportunity to use the results before they’re made public. Exclusivity and being first with a story is golden in the blogging community and you’ll be rewarded with content links to your site and mentions in the future.

Since most online businesses know they need a quantity of inbound links to rank well, being proactive in terms of understanding consumer habits is intrinsically linked to a company’s growth. Take the time to ask your customers where they go and what they do and use the information to build your presence accordingly. Remember “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Week Column

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About The Author: of LinkSpiel.com and Alliance-Link is based in Fairfax Station Virginia and offers link marketing consultations and content partner services.

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  • http://dlperry.com DLPerry

    Surveys are a good tool, if you can get participation. It sounds like this isn’t too much of a problem for you – are there any tips you can share on improving response counts?

    And I’m curious – is there a favored method of implementing surveys? ie: do you build your surveys from scratch, or do you use specific software to create, implement and manage them?

 

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