SEO is a game of tradeoffs and opportunism. Do you go after that single high-value keyword, or do you cede it to a big competitor while growing your long-tail traffic? Do you pay up for professional copywriters, or rely on user-generated content to fill up your pages? Will you write great blog content by spotting emerging stories the second they hit Twitter, or by writing thoughtful long-form pieces?
One key choice that SEO campaign managers need to make is where their content should live. The standard practice is to write some good content on the site you’re optimizing, but to also sprinkle some guest content on other sites, both for recognition and for links. But in the most competitive verticals, maybe it’s not always ideal to have the sales funnel start on the site you’re optimizing.
Sometimes the best place for a landing page is on a site you don’t control.
When To Put Your Landing Page On Someone Else’s Site
There are a few common scenarios in which the right place for a landing page is on someone else’s site:
- You have good relationships with reviewers, but little time to invest in building a site that ranks. In this case, it makes sense to reach out to reviewers and give them whatever help you can in order to get a thorough review. (Don’t worry so much about how positive or negative the review is: people tend to buy products with grammatically correct reviews, even if they’re negative.)
- You’re selling a specific product that people find by searching for generic terms. In this case, the long-term economics of search favor the retailer over the producer. In one campaign, I worked with an electronic publisher—they spent many fruitless months working hard to rank for generic terms related to their product, and only stopped when it became clear that Amazon, Target, and Walmart would all derive at least 5X the marginal profit from any given visitor.
- You have a limited budget and a narrow list of targeted terms. Some businesses just aren’t worth a full-time marketer’s full-time attention, but could still get some useful traffic. In that case, it can be a waste to move a site from ranking #150 to ranking #15, when you could get them linked from the page that ranks #1.
- You have a partner with a great online presence. If you’re selling a product through an online retailer or a joint venture, it can make sense to optimize a page on your partner’s site, rather than on your own. This can be used for good or for ill, but it’s a nice technique to keep in mind.
- You can finagle a lot of good guest blog posts. If you know lots of bloggers and know they’ll let you post on their sites, you can use their established audience to your benefit by cranking out guest posts. One technique is to use Google’s timeliness factors to your advantage: stagger your new posts so that one of them will always be earning a timeliness bonus, rather than running them all at once.
In these cases, your “landing page” won’t be the typical “hard sell” you’d be able to pull off for a PPC landing page or a page that ranked #1 organically. But it’s often better to create an off-site page that can create some interest and convert a few visitors, rather than building an “orphan” page that never ranks, on a site you own.
How To Get SEO Value Out Of Off-Site Landing Pages
The three best ways to get SEO value out of the third-party landing pages are:
- Promote Branded Searches. If your third-party landing page promotes Bob’s Widgets, and Bob won’t ever rank for [widgets], it’s still beneficial to get more people searching for [bob's widgets] by name. (In fact, you can even try for [widgets by bob] so you have a chance for some white-hat Google suggest optimization.)
- Use targeted anchor text. If you create a guest blog post about [widgets], you can still link to your [fuzzy blue widgets] landing page. That’s a good way to divert the link-juice in a way that benefits your business.
- Target the sophisticated customer. If your blog posts talks to a generalist audience, you can still hit a more sophisticated group of customers with your on-site content. Most blogs are more general-interest than the sites they link to, so it’s entirely possible to write a 400-word blog post that leads in to a 2,000-word exposition on the same topic. By treating the blog post as the widest part of the conversion funnel, it’s possible to draw in more users. This works expecially well in complex B2B SEO campaigns, but it’s a fine tactic in other cases as well.
These pages are not a substitute for a standard SEO campaign, but they are a good way to reframe an SEO campaign in a tough vertical.
Putting These Pages In Context
In many ways, this isn’t a new idea: every good SEO manager knows the importance of positive press, and marketers all know that there’s more than one good distribution channel out there. In a way, this is more of a measurement paradigm than anything.
Don’t underestimate the importance of measurement, though. A good campaign evolves based on what works and what doesn’t, and what works is defined by how success gets measured.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.