What is it about your website (or your organization) that is truly linkable? What’s the most effective way to structure a link building campaign? What is the most effective first task for a link builder?
By creating an inventory of link building assets, you lay the foundation for a sustainable link building campaign, whether you’re a one person business or leading a link building team at an organization with thousands of employees, and hundreds of thousands of website pages. The most effective way to structure a link building campaign is based on the organization’s linkable assets, and the most effective first task for a link builder is to create a linkable assets inventory.
We’ll begin with a working definition of link building assets, follow with a process for creating a linkable asset inventory, and then provide resources and encouragement for turning your assets into links. We first advanced the link building asset idea in 21 Link Builders Share Advanced Link Building Queries.
Link building assets defined
A linkable asset is a person, web page or other resource capable of inciting a person or organization to create a link. We’ve identified two broad types of assets: the “tangible” link building assets on your website, and the “intangible” link building assets of your organization.
Download the Link Building Assets Inventory Worksheet >>
Inventory the link building assets on your website
Start your assessment with the website. Because the site’s pages and functions already exist, these “tangible” assets can result in links with minimal reliance on others within the organization…or even with the sole work of the link builder. These asset types are high-level suggestions to get you started thinking along these lines.
What pages currently attract links? From whom? Why?
Pages on your site that already attract links are the most likely to attract more links, and with the least amount of effort. Understanding why people have linked to these pages can help you when you’re crafting your outreach link request emails. You can, using the Yahoo Site Explorer (YSE) data in the SEOBook Toolbar, identify the pages on your site that attract the most links. You can also pay a fee (or register your site and get that data free) to use a tool such as MajesticSEO to download link data about your site, it has a report that orders your pages by the number and quality of links. YSE data seems fresher (and is FREE, while supplies last), but tools like Majestic are much faster. We outline a method for identifying most-linked pages of a site here.
Tab-by-Tab site navigation linkability assessment
Asking the owner or marketing manager what’s linkable on the site is a great place for linkbuilders to start. However, nothing beats a systematic, tab-by-tab nav and subnav exploration. In this assessment, the link building strategist thinks “laterally” and or “creatively” about each core section of the site… the question is: “is there a site out there that would want to republish, reuse or mention this particular content.”
High-quality, well edited and moderated forums and blogs are the more obvious examples. Jobs pages are one example of a site section that’s often overlooked for link building potential, as are upcoming events pages, white papers, webinars, and so forth. Test whether an asset actually has corresponding opportunities with a few quick queries. If anything turns up, put that page or section into the asset column for deeper queries.
Widgets, free apps and other forms of content?
Though these should show up in either your tab-by-tab assessment or the YSE site dig, definitely ask the appropriate folks in your organization if any of these assets exist. We “found” a highly-linkable 300+ page free ebook that was part of an old lead generation campaign during one linkability assessment phase for a client. This little treasure was worthy of its own dedicated prospecting and outreach campaign. Ask people internally, and ask across departments as much as possible to dig up any assets that may escape your attention otherwise.
Brand, organization’s good reputation in industry are unique value proposition
Sometimes, some companies truly are linkable simply for “being themselves.” Bloggers and other analysts writing about a competitor really aren’t having a complete discussion without mentioning industry leaders. People who compile lists of similar organizations but leave this company off have presented an incomplete view of the industry. In these occasions of obvious omission, link builders should strike up a genial email conversation and lead the page owner towards the only obvious course of action – a link!
Data points for your linkable asset inventory:
Here are the spreadsheet columns we recommend for documenting the tangible, linkable assets on your website.
- Asset Type
- Linkable pages/site section URL
- URL of sample link target for this particular asset (note: it’s not an asset unless there are link opportunities!)
- Query used to find this particular topic
- Suggested queries for deeper prospecting
- Total number of distinct queries per asset
Inventory the link building assets within your organization
Assessing an organization’s intangible linkable assets is a bit more tricky, and typically involves a bit more conversation, fact-finding and general back and forth internally than identifying the tangible assets. Knowledge leadership is one example of an intangible linkable asset; however, you have to get this asset to perform an interview, write an article, or get on a podcast at a specific time. When it comes to intangible assets, by and large you’re creating more work for someone. It should be understandable that you have to convince them that their work is worth the effort or even the cost.
At least 5 hours of link building work a week
An hour a day link building investment adds up, and in time can translate into a steady flow of quality links. If you have determined the strategy and processes of your link building campaign, from prospecting for opportunities to qualification to outreach, then 5 hours a week will go to good use. If your hours can extend to writers, developers and/or designers within your organization then all the better. Most web design and marketing roles in an organization can and should be viewed as link building assets.
Innovation creators and thought leaders
If your organization’s thought leaders already write a blog or publish articles consistently in your industry’s media, then your job gets simpler: find them more opportunities for relevant and valuable links through article placement and interviews. Selling the value of this kind of media participation isn’t that hard, but getting someone to buckle down and actually write or even set aside an hour for an interview can be tough if they’re not already in the habit. Make very sure you have buy-in before finding and confirming placement and interview opportunities. Further, make sure you know and capture the data (monthly traffic, target audience, etc.) that will help your thought leaders decide where to put their efforts.
If your organization has a PR department, or even if they have someone who occasionally handles PR functions, link builders should learn more about their capacity and willingness to help out with link building. Make sure press releases have followed links with appropriate anchor text, and make sure that they place the press release beyond the standard submission sites. Many industry vertical media sites freely publish press releases. If the PR functionaries write or manage thought leadership creation, they may be eager to learn of more quality sites that accept content submissions and publish to a relevant, targeted audience.
Any department that consistently publishes or updates onsite content
Is someone posting new jobs, products, events, software updates, technical usage updates, pod casts, videos or other content as a regular function of their day-to-day work? In many cases, there are sites that aggregate and publish this information and provide followed links. These assets should have shown up in your tab-by-tab assessment above; they’re included here because in some cases you can and should put the burden of acquisition on the departments creating the opportunities – especially if by creating a feed they could “set-and-forget” their link building.
Partner relationships, licensed technologies and vendors
Are your partners linking to you? Do the companies who you buy from have a link to you? Have you created your “Powered By” badges? All of these relationships are potentially linkable assets. Get the partner, licensee and vendor lists and investigate their websites – be sure to proceed with caution and through appropriate channels for outreach though. Many of these relationships are likely to be very personal, and ideally and link request should go through the person most familiar with the organization.
Is there available budget to pay for directory listings and other sponsorships? If the organization already has directory links, find out which ones… many industries have ten or even tens of high quality directories that could drive relevant traffic, not to mention a rankings increase.
Data points for your linkable asset inventory:
Here are some columns we suggest for documenting the intangible, linkable assets of your organization.
- Asset type
- Name of person or department considered to be a linkable asset
- Sample URL demonstrating asset’s linkability – probably this will be a competitor, or someone who has used this asset for link building
- Demonstrate the existence of link prospects (sample queries, lists of vendors, etc)
- What quality and quantity of links could be expected?
- What support, deliverables, resources will be required for execution?
- How quick or easy to execute (scale of 1-5).
Inventory to action: prospecting, qualification and acquiring links
Remember that throughout your linkable asset inventory (download here) the end goal is action that will result in more links. The point of the inventory though is to outline the scope of your opportunities, and help you to create a campaign that will best support your marketing objectives and resources. Choosing where to start can be tough. Here are some ideas, assuming you don’t need to create linkable content.
Some thoughts on selecting a starting point:
- Build more links to your most-linked and/or most-linkable assets
- Start with opportunities that require the least work (for you or other departments)
- Start building links to assets with the highest number of quick opportunities for links (based on your test queries)
- Start with the departments you’re most connected with – start with internal allies
- Start with the assets and prospects that interns can execute on effectively
- Start with link-oriented outreach that supports a product or service launch
Having chosen a starting point, you still face considerable workload and campaign structuring in order to execute effectively and meet your link building objectives. Here are some tools, resources and guidance for making link building an ongoing, asset-driven practice at your organization.
Keyword-Based Prospecting for Link Opportunities
- Create your list of asset-oriented link building queries.
- Look at the SERPs occurrence frequencies of your target keywords to find opportunities.
- Harvest your competitors’ backlinks with large-scale backlink data collection processes and tools.
Qualify your link opportunities
- Read and implement the Guide To Qualifying Link Prospects For Relevance, Value & Potentiality.
- Also consider some other values for qualifying link prospects.
Outreach to acquire links
Bill Slawski’s Creating an SEO Content Inventory sparked the linkable asset inventory concept for us. That article includes a content inventory spreadsheet.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.