Scott Fasser, Director of Customer Experience at Optify and I shared a number of B2B linking tactics and then hosted a lively Q&A session. We ran out of time and couldn’t answer everything submitted, so Scott and I decided to split the remaining questions and answer them here.
Q. Is submitting press releases as a method for link building efficient? Will submitting too many press releases hurt your SEO?
Scott: Press releases, if submitted properly, are an effective way to build short term links and to syndicate news and content. The search engines use different indexes like news, local, etc. which have different lifespans. The news index has one of the shortest because they cycle so often.
So, you can’t just shoot out one news release and expect success. Having a plan for syndicating on a regular basis – no less than monthly is the best strategy.
Optimizing the release for the focus keywords and submitted with the right service is a good strategy – especially when combined with an on-going PR effort to build excitement for news and participate in reviews, stories and roundups.
Q. In terms of micro sites or blogs, it is better to have them on a unique URL linking back into your main site or as a root in your main site?
Scott: Microsites and blogs are distinct and serve different purposes. A micro site can contain a blog as part of the strategy and tend to be driven by specific campaigns. There should definitely be links back to the main site from a microsite.
There should also be a blog on the main site that provides content for longer tail phrases, interactivity opportunity through commenting/sharing and internal links.
Debra: Regardless why you set up a blog or microsite, keep in mind they will only be SEO effective if worked like any other site. You need content, social signals and inbound links pointing to the blog/microsite in order for it to pass link popularity and/or traffic to your main site.
If you can promote these micro sites and blogs, great! But if you can’t, even if you use a site like Squidoo as your microsite base, be prepared to receive little algorithmic influence. You can’t pass along what you don’t have.
Q. How effective are link exchanges? Does Google penalize you for engaging in them?
Scott: Link exchanges are helpful if it is a very relevant content on the pages that are exchanging links. Partners, customers, industry associations are all examples of where a link exchange makes sense.
Participating in a large scale or questionable link exchange program should not be pursued as those types of situations – non-relevant content essentially – can cause some penalties.
Debra: If your customers are using mobile devices to access your site, they’re looking at other sites too. Increase exposure of your brand by adding/swapping your company link with influential blogrolls in your niche. These links aren’t heavy hitters algorithmically but because they are text links, they will be seen online and via mobile.
Q. Now that we have a list of prospective links, what are the most effective outreach methods?
Debra: No matter what industry you are in or what type of link you’re after, establishing a point of commonality between you and your target increases your chances of getting a link.
Once you identify a list of sites you’d like to secure links from, figure out what you have in common with the site owner/company. Do you both know the same people, worked at the same company or went to the same college?
Have you both blogged for a certain site, been a Foursquare mayor or been active on an industry forum?
You’re going to have to do a little homework here, we play a game in the office I call the Six Degrees of SEO Bacon which I patterned after the Kevin Bacon game to find a hook we can use. Spend time looking at the owners About page, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter bio’s for a clue or three you can use in an initial email to show a point of commonality.
Go beyound the usual flatter-them-for-a-link spiel, in todays’ jaded online world your email needs to say more than “you have a great site” to get the link.
Q. If you host infographics on third party sites, how to you get the links to your site?
Debra: There are three ways you could do this, (1) include an author bio, (2) include a sponsor or courtesy link or (3) include cut and paste instructions at the end of the infographic.
A terrific example of a third party site providing a courtesy link can be found here on Mashable and in the image below.
This particular graphic was created by Mat Siltala from Dream Systems Media for Pinnable Business. Mashable linked to Pinnable Business in the body of the post preceding the infographic and gave them a courtesy link at the end of the article so double bonus here.
Mashable rocks and is the exception rather than the rule on linking out from content areas, most media sites won’t so you’ll need to ask for a sponsor link or provide copy and paste instructions for the graphic.
Q. To me, reviews seem more like a B2C item. Can you talk more about how they’re relevant for B2B?”
Debra: In my presentation, I suggested reviews were a powerful and effective link building tactic for B2B sites. Companies selling B2B have a more difficult time attracting links (IMO) because of internal and and competitive hurdles.
Not only do they have to convince competitors to link to them but often they have to convince management to let them ask. Since the search engines don’t make allowances for what kind of industry you’re in, B2B sites can be doubly challenged with getting links and social signals to their pages.
In the past, I’ve had success using product and service reviews as a way to attract B2B links, I find they make linking out less threatening and provide lead generation leverage. A great example of this concept is dpReview.com, a blog devoted to digital camera reviews. It is owned by Amazon.
If you review every piece of hardware, software or service in your niche, you will build a reputation as a neutral subject authority which in turn will attract links. Companies and prospects will subscribe to your RSS feeds, follow you on Twitter and comment if you use a blog.
You can also include reviews from industry thought leaders on your review site, eventually they’ll come a-calling for a guest post when they see what you’re pushing. Guest posting leads to more inbound links, tweets and other forms of social media and the best part is, your guest authors will be helping you do it. Win!
Think of it as becoming the Wikipedia of your industry. People have no trouble linking to Wikipedia because it doesn’t threaten their bottom line and it provides tangible information.
They also link because in many cases, its the only neutral informational source out there. The only thing I recommend doing differently is including video and podcast reviews to help with universal search placement. The more your site is seen and found, the better.
Of course you can take the concept and substitute news and education for reviews but in my case, I’ve found reviews most effective.
Q. One of our competitors has a lot of paid links – is this ever worthwhile? I thought Google assigns a penalty for this.
Debra: They do and lately, they’ve been assigning a lot of them. Is it worthwhile to use paid links? You’ll find a wide range of opinions on this, for me the question begs another – “can you afford the consequences if caught“?
If yes, then the decision is yours but if there is any hesitancy, it might be a good idea to stop and think before you run out and pay for links.
Pages rank the way they do (in large part) because of their backlinks. A common tactical suggestion is to aquire the same links as your well ranked competitor. It’s good advice but should you grab the same links if you aren’t sure they’ve been editorially given?
I don’t advocate rising to a level of mediocrity just because the guy ahead of you has, the links you see may not be the only reason a page is ranking well.
You don’t need the same link, you need a better one, use the competitors backlink profile as a guide, not a blueprint. Look at everything they have and most importantly – what they don’t have – and then go secure your own.
Always keep in mind it’s not what you do that makes a difference, it’s where. When you are doing competitive analysis, look less at the links you’re finding and more on the pages hosting them.
The anchor text, the page and the history behind it are sending the bulk of the ranking weight. Find a better page. Or find a similar page, negotiate your way to an editorial link and then socialize the heck out of it. Imitation may be a sincere form of flattery but in this situation, being totally unique wins.
Regardless if you call it a penalty, a slap or being ignored, if Google thinks you’re using paid links, they think you’re using paid links and that’s when things start happening.
You may see a:
Dip in rankings or
Disappear from the SERPS, or
Remain the same but get a Google love note
That last one has been happening a lot lately, it means you’re hearing what Google thinks about your backlinks. “Thinks” is a nice way of saying Google assumes you have paid and unnatural links pointing at your pages and they’re letting you know they know.
The flip side to getting a note is not getting one, in which case you’re left to wonder why your pages are falling or gone from the SERPS. The ”why” is harder to figure without a note but in the end, the remedy for either situation is the same – more content, more signals, more links.
If you need some help getting started, try using my Linking Blueprint series, it outlines a number of effective and proven link building tactics you use. The best way to regain your rankings is to regroup, rebuild and promote!
For an encore of the webcast, please visit http://searchmarketingnow.com/proper-and-effective-link-building-9735
Until next time, good linking!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.