My friend Paul Jarvis asked this great question:
Almost all of my clients want more traffic to their website, but it ends there (as in, they have no idea what to do and social media isn’t doing anything for them). In broad strokes, what do you suggest?
Simply put, for your clients to get more traffic, they need to earn high-quality, relevant links to their sites. No matter what anyone says, that’s the secret sauce.
- When I say ‘high-quality‘ I mean that the links we’re earning should come from websites that have been recently updated, are well designed, and are actively publishing content.
- When I say ‘relevant‘, I mean the websites that we’re earning links from should be related to your industry.
Gone are the days when you could build 500 low-quality links and see your rankings climb. You want to slowly, incrementally earn high-quality, relevant links for your website to see your traffic increase.
But how do you do this? How do you know what sites to earn links from? Or what resources to create to attract those links? It’s a multi-step process:
- First, you need to identify the communities of sites you want to earn links from. These communities are groups of sites that are linked by topic or audience.
Then, you need to ask yourself why would these communities want to link to you? What type of resources are they already linking to? The answer to these questions gives you direction on the type of resources that you need to create in order to earn links from these communities.
After that, you need to put together the asset that you want to use to earn links.
Finally, you need to get in touch with influential sites in these communities and start a relationship with them. Your goals should be to build a relationship with them, provide value to them and their audience, and find an opportunity to work with them to promote your content and products to their audiences, earning you a link.
In practice, there are a lot of moving parts to this. Let’s walk through an example for an eCommerce website to see what this can look like.
Let’s pretend that you, dear reader, own an eCommerce website that sells acupuncture supplies to acupuncture studios. You want to get more traffic to your website. What do you do?
Who do we earn links from?
You want to start by thinking about the communities that you want to earn links from. The specifics of the campaign should wait until later.
By thinking through the community that you want to earn links from, you’ll be able to better focus your campaign on your audience. In practice, I’ve found that thinking about the community first is the difference between saying:
“To earn links, we need to launch a podcast!”
“We want to earn links from acupuncture studios that are using our supplies. To do this, we’ll launch a podcast about marketing for acupuncture studios. We’ll interview our customers about the marketing strategies they’re using to grow their business. Then, we’ll earn links from their websites by asking them to post about the podcast on their site.
With the second example, we have specific direction on the audience for the campaign, which makes implementation easier. This is the difference between a lot of the link building strategies you can read online and an outreach focused campaign. By defining your audience first, you have direction on who you’re targeting with the campaign before you start thinking about the ‘what’ of the campaign.
So, how do you figure out which community you should focus on? There are a few strategies you can use:
- You can survey the sites and communities in your industry and begin identifying the sites you see linking to your site, your competitors’ websites, and other sites in your industry.
You can work with a colleague to brainstorm the type of communities that you want to earn links from.
You can analyze similar industries and see the communities that they’re earning links from.
There are a few tools that you can use for this analysis:
- You can use Majestic SEO to look at your competitors’ websites and other sites in your industry and see who is linking to them.
You can LinksSpy to run a Competitor Link Analysis and Link Intersect Report on your competitors’ websites to identify the websites that are linking to your competitors.
For our example acupuncture supply website, we might decide that there are four communities that we want to earn links from:
- Acupuncture Supply Review Websites that review different acupuncture supplies and provide recommendations based on price and quality.
Acupuncture Studios that purchase and use our products.
Conferences & Conventions that are focused on an audience of acupuncturists.
Acupuncture Schools that provide training and certification.
What are these communities linking to?
For each community that we want to earn links form, it’s important to identify what resources and sites they’re linking to, why they’re linking to these sites, and what we have of value to offer that can earn us a similar link.
For your website, you’ll want to study the communities that you’ve identified and ask yourself ‘what value can I provide?’
For our hypothetical acupuncture supply website, let’s take a look at each community we want to earn links from:
- Acupuncture Supply Review Websites are linking to product pages on other supplier websites. They’re linking to these product pages from within product reviews. To earn a similar link, we can offer them samples of our product to review.
Acupuncture Studios are linking to supplier websites to communicate to their clients the quality of the supplies they use. To earn a similar link, we can offer our clients a badge or testimonial that speaks to the quality of their practice and supplies.
Conferences & Conventions are linking to supplier, vendor, and attendee websites in exchange for a gift, donation, sponsorship, or ticket purchase. To earn a similar link, we can donate supplies to these conferences and conventions.
Acupuncture Schools are linking to scholarship programs for acupuncture students. To earn a similar link, we can launch a scholarship for students enrolled in an acupuncture program and then promote this scholarship to acupuncture schools.
For each community, we can begin to identify the resources or assets that they’re linking to and what we can do to provide value and earn a similar link.
What assets do we need?
An ‘asset’ is a resource that we’re creating or making available as part of our campaign in order to build a relationship with the community andearn a link. For this project, assets could include:
- Product samples that you’re making available to review sites
A podcast that you launch to interview authorities and experts
Your time and knowledge that you make available for other people to interview
A scholarship that you launch and promote
To earn links from outreach, for each community that you’re targeting, there are specific assets that you’ll want to prepare as part of each campaign. During outreach to these communities, you’ll use these assets to open a conversation, begin a relationship, and earn links to your website.
For our hypothetical Acupuncture supply website, let’s take a look at the assets we’ll want to prepare to earn links:
- For Acupuncture Supply Review Websites, we’ll want to set aside samples of our products to send to them to review.
For Acupuncture Studios, we’ll want to prepare testimonials that speak to the quality of the acupuncture studios’ practice and their supplies.
For Conferences & Conventions, we’ll want to set aside samples of our products for conference to gift to attendees.
For Acupuncture Schools, we’ll want to launch a scholarship for students enrolled in an acupuncture program.
Once we’ve selected a community and asset, we’ll want to prepare that asset. Then, we’re ready to begin Digital Outreach and build relationships with the communities we’re targeting.
How do we connect with these sites?
The final step is to contact sites within these communities and start a conversation with them. I treat this outreach like a high-touch business development or sales relationship:
- I research my prospect to learn their name, background, email address, and related details.
After that, I map out my first four emails to them. What do they care about? How do I make this conversation about them? What do I say if they respond positively? What do I say if they respond negatively? What do I say if they don’t respond?
Then, I prepare a personalized / customized email to send them.
Finally, I send my first email to them. I use Yesware to track if/when they open my email, manage my templates, and remind me when to follow up.
In your outreach, you don’t want to immediately ask for a link. That’s a bit too forward.
While one of your goals is to earn a link, you want to focus on building a positive, ongoing business relationship with your prospect and the site they’re associated with. In the long run, that relationship will be more valuable to you, your business, and your website, than a single link. In your communication, focus on providing value to them, not asking for something for you.
Putting It All Together
To get more traffic to your website, you need more links. To earn links for your website, you need to:
- Identify the communities that you want to link to you.
Research the types of resources and assets that these communities are already linking to..
Prepare a similar resource or asset for your website.
Start a conversation with influencers in the communities you’re targeting. Build a relationship with them. Provide value. Work with them to find an opportunity to promote your products and content to their audience.