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A Campaign Prep Checklist For Link Builders
This is the fourth and final installment of our Link Building Blueprint series, as a refresher here are the first three posts:
- Part 1 – A Link Building Blueprint: The Foundation
- Part 2 – Utility Linking
- Part 3 – Proven Ways to Use Content to Attract Links
Our blueprint has, up to this point, outlined multiple tactics, provided how-to examples and source sites to draw links from. It’s a solid starting point for building links, so what are you waiting for? If you answer “the time” – I feel your pain.
Link building is the most time intensive part of the SEO process and one that never ends. It’s also one of the most important parts of the program, so a better question at this point might be “Am I ready to build links?”
This isn’t a question to entertain lightly, screw up the initial linking program and you can set yourself back months from a ranking and marketing perspective. No matter how you answer, there are a handful of items you should consider before moving forward. Let’s look at the process of getting started and talk about pitfalls to avoid so your time and efforts pay off.
Over the weekend, my daughter Mary Katherine and I started painting the fence around our property, we live on five acres so there’s a lot to do. Mary Katherine loves to paint and was enthusiastic about the project until she heard we had to scrape, sand and repair any broken boards before we could start painting. Her enthuiasm waned as the morning wore on, she was gung-ho for the “fun” part (painting) but wasn’t interested in the mundane and laborious prep work needed beforehand. I lost her by lunch time and am now finishing the job myself.
Besides wanting to share how I spend my weekends, my little analogy mirrors the link building process. Most people want to jump in feet first and start linking without doing the prep work. You don’t have to do the prep work on the more basic linking or at all for that matter, but without it, you risk missing a lot of good information and may create more work for yourself in the end.
I’ve outlined the prep questions and pre-campaign steps I use when launching a link marketing campaign; they’ve served me well through the years and can hopefully do the same for you. Here they are:
1. Are all the pages on my site, especially those I plan to link into:
- Working? Free of broken links, images etc?
- Have contact information displayed on the site?
- Have email capture options?
- Updated content?
- Does the page correspond topically to the keyword in the anchor?
- Is the page hosting the keyword term in the Title?
2. Am I using a wide variation of keyword terms as anchors?
- Have you written out all variations of the anchor text phrase/link so you don’t “overuse” one phrase and neglect others?
3. Do I have a strong internal linking structure?
- If more than twice removed from the home page, is there some cross linking to the home/category pages?
- Can a bot accessing the page I’m linking into, find it’s way further into my site?
Hopefully, you’re answering yes to this first round of questions.
Making sure the site is in good working order is a must, using an anchor text link and linking into broken pages or those not optimized for the term minimizes the effect of your inbound link. You can take full advantage of all the SEO elements you’ve built around each page when you can control the anchor text link and where it points.
Another set of helpful prep questions centers on the type of linking you’ll do:
4. Do you have a credit card or PayPal account open and available? (Most of the directories accept PayPal but there’s still a few who don’t so have a major credit card ready)
5. Do you have a track-able email account set up for any profiles you need to open?
6. Do you have a large stable of well-written content to offer? (If you stumble on a guest posting opportunity, you need to be able to offer unique content immediately and get the spot before someone else does)
7. Do you have at link mining tool available? SEOBook tools, Linkscape, Raven Tools – etc, you’ll need to use one of these (or something similar) to explore back links and generate reports.
- Have you taken a test run with your link tool? Know all it’s features?
8. Do you have access to a storage facility other than your computer?
- DropBox is currently my new best friend – I recommend this (note: I am not affiliated with this product) or another service like it.
- Don’t store all your linking data in one source, always plan for a backup. I’ve learned the hard way :(
9. Have you identified list sources, forums, and highly visible bloggers in your niche? If you plan to drop link filled articles on content sites, you’ll want to promote them through these types of platforms. Know in advance who you’re targeting, set up accounts in the forums, start commenting on target blogs and pay for mailing lists.
10. Have you found a press release submission service and know their rates/rules?
11. Does your website have a Twitter account set up?
- Does your Twitter handle easily identify who you are (use the name of the site) or targeted keywords?
- Did you provide an informative/fun bio on your Twitter account that includes the URL to your site?
- Do you have a retweet service lined up? Know how to use it?
TIP: no matter where you drop content, tweet the location URL and encourage retweets (RT)
12. Are you visible on Facebook, MySpace or a niche social media site?
TIP: Use GoToWeb2.0 to find a social media platforms in your niche and get involved with them.
TIP: Be sure to add your blog to the Networked Blog category on Facebook for additional exposure.
13. Do you have an alert service or three in place focused on your:
- Company name
- Name of all your competitors
- Phrases like “news” plus your keywords/company etc
The best way to keep up with what’s happening in your niche and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves is to have information come to you. Google Alerts is fine but don’t depend on one, use several.
Ultimate Prep Point
I consider the first 13 items here basic housekeeping, they’re all points you should take care of before you start the linking process. However, the next two questions are the most important part of your pre-work and crucial to your success.
14. Have you asked your customers/demographic what turns them on?
Don’t be fooled by the casual nature of the question, it’s absolutely the most important piece of information you have to answer before you spend the first dime on linking tactics.
I see a lot of SEO’s throw infographics, white papers and articles into cyberspace and wonder why they fail. The content might be good but if it wasn’t targeted to the right group or at the right time? FAIL.
Don’t break the cardinal rule of link marketing:
~ know the emotional motivation of your target audience ~
15. Have you issue a survey to your customer base to:
- Find out what they’re reading
- Find out where they’re going
- Find out what they want
- Find out who they like
- Find out who they’re talking about
I recommend running a customer survey once or twice a year, depending on the size of the business and the mailing list. You’d be surprised at how much helpful information you’ll glean from people if you simply ask.
16. If you’re running sites or blogs targeting a broad audience and have no ‘customers’ to send a survey to, use sites like Forrester Research and eMarketer to help you target trends and demographics.
Once you know what your audience likes/wants, developing a link marketing campaign gets much easier.
To close, I hope my prep points and pre-steps help in your linking endeavors, like I said, they’ve worked for me over the years and I really can’t work without them. Linking is hard even when doing the basics, but when you start getting into the more aggressive strategies? It can be brutal which is why I make sure I’m well prepared before launching the first tactic.
It’s not just linking, it’s marketing! Until next time – good linking!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.