Note from John: This is a guest post by Tom Mcloughlin, who works for The WebMarketing Group, an SEO company based in the UK. You can follow them on Twitter for more link building tips, or add them to your circles on Google+.
Twitter has taken the world by storm since it burst on the scene in 2006 and now sees more than 100 million people log in every month and has a total of more than 200 million registered users. It’s an absolute juggernaut and now even your nan and your dog are tweeting the latest from their action packed lives.
For link builders though, there’s more to Twitter than telling people you just ate an egg sandwich and watched Two and a Half Men (I hope and pray no-one’s ever done that). If you haven’t yet been using Twitter in you link building efforts, then now’s the time to start. I’m going to provide you with a few ways to get started, including some fairly obvious ideas along with some other slightly more complex approaches that use Twitter to provide you with a red hot list of link targets.
Before we get into any specific activities, the key thing to remember when using Twitter is that it is a great place to interact and build relationships. All of the suggestions below will benefit from a foundation of retweeting the people you are targeting, replying to their tweets and generally making them aware of your presence. Then when you start to ask them for stuff, they are more likely to be responsive.
Right, off we go…
A really simple way to identify a great selection of blogs in your target niche, along with an indication of how strong they are, is by using the list of followers of a key influencer.
Using a tool like Twiping or Simply Measured’s Twitter Analysis you can export the key details of someone’s Twitter account (followers, URLs, Name etc). You’ll be given a whole host of great information, but the key things we’re interested in for this activity are the No. of Followers and URLs. Assuming that the users with more followers will have stronger blogs (which I know isn’t necessarily true, but it’s a good guide), I sort on No. of Followers, largest to smallest.
This sorts the users roughly by how influential they are and gives you a set of results which indicate how difficult some links may be compared to others. Users with fewer followers may be new in the game and more open to working together, but ultimately have weaker sites. Those with big follower numbers will be more likely to have strong blogs and provide a great link, but probably get approached every day for guest posts and will be a tougher nut to crack. It’s then a question of pulling out the sites which fit best for your campaign and reaching out to see how much success you get (John has written about some great ways to get the best results from outreach).
It’s amazing how many people will be following you on Twitter, but not linking to your website. In theory, these people are all interested in what you have to say, so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be happy to link to you given sufficient reason.
To find out who those people are, export your own twitter profile information as we did in the previous point and cut the URLs column into a separate sheet. Using the Find/Replace function, remove all the http:// and www. so you are only left with the root of the URL (e.g. johnfdoherty.com). Then export your site’s link profile from the Linking Domains tab of Open Site Explorer. Remember to change the setting to “Show domains with links to pages on this root”:
Put these two sets of URLs next to each other in the same sheet and then use the ‘Remove Duplicates’ function to get rid of those which appear in both lists. You’ll then be left with a list of sites which belong to people who follow you on Twitter, but aren’t linking to your site. It’s now outreach time again, take each site on its own merits and tailor the approach to get the best results.
The list feature in Twitter is another easy tool which can give you straightforward access to blogs and websites in your niche. The obvious route is to simply scan some of the key lists and make a note of sites you find (I haven’t found a tool that can automate this after Export.ly was taken down, so if you have any suggestions please add them in the comments).
I also like to create private lists and include key people in the target niche so I can see what they are saying at a glance. This allows you to identify any potential opportunities which might arise from things they are talking about, as well as getting all the key people in one place so you can interact regularly with them and build a relationship. If you’re working in a number of niches, a tool like TweetDeck is great for having a column for each of your niches. After interacting for an appropriate amount of time (you be the judge of how long that is depending on your circumstances!), you can start broaching the subject of working together in order to find a mutually beneficial approach.
Use Search + Google Docs
There was recently a fantastic post on SEOMoz from Ethan Lyon breaking down how to use Twitter to identify guest post opportunities. The idea isn’t a new one, but Ethan’s done a great job of making it as efficient as possible using Google Docs.
(Ethan’s YouTube Vid)
Essentially, all you have to do is input your niche phrase (the more general the better) into this spreadsheet and it will go away and crawl Twitter for tweets which mention ‘guest posting’ or some variation of it. It then pulls through the link within that tweet so you are presented with a list of URLs related to guest posts in your niche! Not all the results will be perfect, but if you carry this process out a few times a week over a month you will end up with a great list of potential targets for guest posts.
As well as Ethan’s great approach above, there are other ways you can use Twitter’s search function to find people who could potentially link to you.
Find out what questions people are asking in your industry using the “?” “[industry]” query and then either produce content which answers the question on your site and tell them about it (politely asking for some form of recognition!), or ask them if they’d like you to contribute a guest post on their site which solves the problem.
Often we also overlook the local factor when using Twitter, but this can be another great way of finding someone in your niche and is only down the road. A search like near:leeds “guest post” “seo” OR “marketing” could bring back some great opportunities, not just for links, but for wider business relationships as well.
So there you have five ways to go and use Twitter to find potential link targets. I’m sure i’m only scraping the surface of Twitter’s potential on this front, so it would be great to hear any other methods people have had success with in the comments. Each approach will get more successful as you hone the searches involved and the targeting of the outreach, but there’s no doubt you’ll be left with a huge list of sites to get in touch with.