Linkbuilding is always a hot topic in the industry, with people wanting to know how to build more and better links faster while putting in less time. Linkbuilders have historically just thought about “how can I get more links with better anchor text”? It doesn’t matter where you get the links from, in their estimation. Rather, it matters that you get the right anchor text.
I think this is the wrong way to look at linkbuilding. At the very least, it’s shortsighted and doesn’t give you the full impact that thinking about linkbuilding in a different way could. I call this type of linkbuilding linkbranding.
Since I came up with the term linkbranding, I’m also responsible for coming up with the definition, right? So here’s my attempt:
Linkbranding is focused on acquiring links from high-quality sites that have attracted your ideal audience. These links will not only become stronger by virtue of being a linkable asset for that site, but will also gain social mentions and will pass referral traffic. The goal of linkbranding is to use other websites to brand yourself as a thought leader.
From Link Recommendation to Link Collaboration
In linkbuilding up to now, links have been counted as votes and thus recommendations by other websites. This still exists, but does not necessarily further your brand. Sure, your company may then be seen as being affiliated with, or vouched for by, the other website, but it is a more passive recommendation. Here, I am really talking about sidebar links and mentions on links pages.
Linkbuilding today has changed. We are moving away from link-begging, asking for someone to recommend us, and towards link acquisition of a different kind, which seems to involve more work (as you are creating high-quality materials, either on your site or as a guest article on another site), but when we take a look at the amount of time put into begging for links and the amount of time put into creating content that could receive a high return, I think the content is a better investment.
So we move away from this passive link recommendation mindset to a more active link collaboration mindset. With the goal of this content being to build not only a link to your site, but also to be shared wider and to help the website where the content was placed to get more traffic, what we end up doing is effectively co-marketing the content together. Both parties win.
And, since this high-quality content often must be pitched, actively agreed upon by the two parties, and vouched for socially, it is normally thought leadership content that the target site is hosting, thus allowing you to build your brand based off of their audience.
I began thinking about this because the SEO industry is growing up and we are maturing into veritable marketers. We are beginning to care about personas, about brand message, and about our audience once they hit the website. We’re concerned about the search engine bots and organic traffic still (those are measurements of the success of our work), but we are no longer limited to that.
The Linkbranding Process
The linkbranding process will differ slightly from the typical guest posting or content creation/placement in that we start from a different place. Instead of simply thinking
“Where can I get a link from?”,
“Where does my audience hang out online?”
Personas and Brainstorming
We start by building our company’s customer personas. Once we think about who our best customer is, then we must brainstorm the kind of content that they enjoy. Can we create that? Ideally, we are thinking how we can attract these customers to our site.
Brainstorming also involves thinking about, or finding out, where our customers hang out online. Of course, you can use tools like Facebook Insights to see who is looking at your page and then do an analysis of their profiles if you can to see what else they might be interested in. Or, come up with a list of websites where you think they hang out, then go research and qualify these potential prospects.
Linkbranding qualification is more complicated than simple linkbuilding qualifying. In typical linkbuilding, we look at:
- The strength of the site;
- The strength of the page we want a link from (if applicable);
- Can we get anchor text;
- Have they linked to sites like mine before;
With linkbranding, we still take all of this into account (ultimately we’re about links, right?), but now we also have to qualify:
- The site’s community and possibility for engaged new users;
- Get an idea for their traffic stats (something like SearchMetrics Essentials will show you their SERP visibility over time);
- Qualify their social channels and the chance for amplification through those.
The first one to qualify is their Twitter account. First, you must find the Twitter account. You can do this manually, by going to the site and searching for a button, or simply input the site below and click the “Go!” button. It will open the Top Domains tab for that site in OpenSiteExplorer. One of the top should be Twitter if they have one.
Use this URL: http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/domains?site=SITE%2F
To find the number of Facebook likes (hence the popularity of their site), use this: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=website.com
Those should get you started.
Finally, we set out to acquire the link in the same way we have done so before, by building a relationship, getting the idea approved or the pitch accepted, and then helping push the content live. The one key difference with linkbranding is that you should ask your point of contact if they would be willing to share the article out over their social channels. Most people are not adverse to this, but something they don’t even think about it! Simply asking them nicely will get you a long ways.
What do you think of this idea of linkbranding? Is it a bunch of hot air, or does it seem viable? I’d love to hear your thoughts.