There’s been a lot of debate in the SEO community lately regarding social media versus traditional linkbuilding methods. While some SEOs argue that social media links are the wave of the SEO future, traditionalists staunchly maintain traditional, authoritative links from quality sources are still the best way to go.
Whatever your stance, I think it’s easy to agree that gaining links from trusted authorities is desirable for any site — but that doesn’t mean the rise of social shouldn’t affect our outreach methods.
We’ll start with the obvious: social sites allow you to network and build relationships with industry players and authorities. Someone who’s gotten to know you over social media is going to be more receptive to a link request than someone receiving a random email from an outside party.
Further, social media offers a quick way to see that you’re a legitimate source with an active interest in the field — you’re not just out to spam any email address or Twitter account you can get your hands on.
However, social media also offers an ideal way to find and target industry users for specific linkbuilding outreach campaigns, too. Of course, before you can start targeting, you’ve got to identify who you’re trying to reach.
Identifying Your Target Audience
There are three main strategies for choosing your linkbuilding targets:
- Industry Players: These are the active, trusted people who rank well in your industry and can give your site a hefty SEO boost.
- Audience Platforms: Reaching out to larger platforms can give you access to your target demographics (a mommy blog with a strong following in your demographic, for example).
- Natural Sharers/Curators: These are the people who’ve amassed an audience based on carefully selecting and sharing content from outside sources (MariaPopova from Brainpicker is one example). You may find them more receptive to linkbuilding campaigns since they have a strong interest in finding high-quality links.
Iron Out Your Persona
If you’re building links for an outside site (a client’s site, for example), you’ll need to build an appropriate online persona to match. Obviously you won’t do well reaching out to a fashion blogger with your SEO Twitter account. No matter what social site you’re using (Twitter, Delicious, etc.), your account should match the industry you’re reaching out to.
If you’re trying to build links for your own website, you’re the primary source and voice of your linkbuilding efforts. There’s no need to build a separate persona: just use the social media accounts you already have.
Only Use High-Quality Content
Choose the highest-quality content you have for your linkbuilding efforts. You’ll get better results by promoting informative content (an infographic, a comprehensive case study, etc.), not your homepage link.
The content you choose should be highly original and offer real value to your target audience — something that’s exciting, something they haven’t seen before.
Here’s a look at the various outreach methods for social networking and bookmarking sites.
Search Twitter Directories & Search Engines To Find Applicable Users
Aside from searching Twitter for relevant keywords or hashtags, several sites make it easier for linkbuilders to find and analyze relevant users:
- Directories: Twitter directories such as Twellow and WeFollow are perhaps the easiest way to find relevant Twitter users. Search by relevant tag (“writers,” “SEO”) or user location. Twellow also has “Twellowhood,” a searchable map which lets users find Twitter users near them.
- Search tools: Sites like Listorious and Followerwonk allow you to search Twitter bios for desired keywords. Followerwonk also lets users analyze a Twitter user’s followers, so if you find one applicable target, you can easily search the other accounts that target is following.
Search Klout For Industry Influencers
Klout lets you easily search influencers by category (“SEO,” “bloggers,” etc.). Better still, Klout lets users connect their profile to a variety of other accounts, including their WordPress site — meaning minimal research for linkbuilders is required. Keep in mind that you’ll need a Klout account in order to access the site’s search services, however.
Search Delicious For Like-Minded Users
Delicious requires more legwork than Twitter or Klout, but it’s a unique way of finding users already prone to sharing. There are three main ways to search Delicious:
- By tag: Enter in your keyword and you’ll the most popular links from that category, or “tag.”
- By site: Enter in a competitor’s URL to see the users who’ve bookmarked it in the past. Alternatively, use tools like Quantcast.com to find out your site demographics — Quantcast has a section to see which other sites rank well with your site traffic (Wall Street Journal readers also tend to read Smart Money, for example).
- By related article: Find an article that’s relevant to your content? Search that article on Delicious and peruse the users who’ve saved it.
Most professional users will have their website clearly listed on their profile. For better luck, try investigating the users who enter in a unique description for the site you’re bookmarking — you’ll have a higher probability of finding the serious users over the casual ones.
Stumble Categories For Guest Posting On StumbleUpon
If you’re sick of paging through “Write for Us” Google results, StumbleUpon offers an attractive way to quickly discover new blogs. Simply enter in your targeted topic and you’ll be able to click through relevant stumbled blogs in a matter of seconds. You can also comment, network, and discover new ideas for content while you’re stumbling.
Search Newsroom Leaders On Digg
Digg currently has a beta feature called “Newsrooms” that collect the most influential topics and users by category. If your subject falls under one of Digg’s Newsroom categories, you can browse through the Newsroom’s “Leaders” (the top Digg users in that particular category).
Search Google+ For Relevant Users
As Google+’s role in Google search increases, it’s doubly important to start courting major players on the network. Find PeopleonPlus.com is a useful G+ directory, but don’t forget you can also search the site through a simple “site:plus.google.com” search.
Search & Analyze LinkedIn Profiles, Groups And Answers
A networking powerhouse, LinkedIn contains three fantastic ways of finding relevant targets:
- Advanced Search: Search member profiles by keyword via LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature (located in the top righthand corner of your profile). You can tweak your searches to include only certain industries or groups as well.
- Answers: Check out the Answers section to browse through LinkedIn’s “Top Experts” or “Category Experts.” For a more tailored response, search for applicable questions that relate to your industry and target relevant responders.
- Groups: Searching for relevant groups or looking for leads in group forums can often pull up some terrific targets.
The Golden Rules Of Linkbuilding Outreach Campaigns
No matter how you choose to contact your newfound targets, always remember the following four “golden rules” of linkbuilding:
- Have a purpose. Whyare you contacting that specific person? Tell your target exactly why you’re reaching out to him.
- Tell them how you found them. Showing your research helps showcase why you chose that particular target.
- Keep it short and sweet. Your targets are busy people — get to the point quickly or risk wasting their time.
- Call them by name. The quickest way to get your message deleted is to lead with a “Dear Sir or Madam.” Do your research and learn your target’s name. It’s the simplest rule, but it makes a huge difference.
Remember, like any part of linkbuilding, social linkbuilding research takes time. These methods may give you new and original ways to find targets, but they don’t cut any corners. The same rules apply: build your networks. Build trust. Start communicating and sharing relevant content.
Do the legwork, assemble your contact list. The links will come — but it’s going to take some real and serious effort on your part.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.