Link building is something that unites creativity with business savviness. On one hand, you need to create something worthy of drawing a crowd. Something people will want to share with others, including their audience. But you also need to be business oriented when creating this content, because that’s how you’re going to know if you’ve hit your goal numbers.
That’s it, at its core: link building is all about using your creative expertise to get the numbers you need in business, plain and simple.
And if you somehow lack the skills required to create highly-engaging, valuable, or otherwise sharable content, then you should be looking to outsource some work. Copywriters abound, and work within different niches, so they are used to interacting with people in your market.
Whichever path you choose, it is critical that you link build if you want to get anywhere. It’s how you’re going to grow your business, increase your conversion rate, and rank higher in searches thanks to SEO.
If you’re ready to learn how to link build, including all the proven tactics, and things to avoid, read on for more.
Before you begin link building, you actually need to build a community. Doing so improves your brand visibility, which unsurprisingly, helps your SEO.
But the benefits go much farther than that still. As it turns out, major brands use these communities to create loyal audiences, which in turn helps with backlinks.
Take the last time you really loved a product, for example. Changes are you actually gave it a review, a positive one. And maybe you shared it with a friend or two. At the very least told them about it.
Well, people tend to do this with the things they love, whether it’s a new song, a body lotion, video game, makeup product, or something else. And people’s idea of sharing it with others in this day and age constitutes as more than just word of mouth. We spend so much time online these days, using social media, that it’s become our new platform for sharing things like this.
It’s why forums, tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram captions are all filled with quotes like “You can get my comfy, yet stylish, shoes at…” typically followed by a link to a website, or even an account mention.
And in an ironic twist, when people link to your webpage thanks to a negative comment on a forum, or a blog post that shares your product in a negative light, you can still thank them. A link is a link, so it doesn’t really affect your SEO to have it there. This is why so many huge brands, like Apple and Amazon, are quick to bounce back after negative press. Because for every negative news piece there is, their exposure grows that much more.
Still, this obviously shouldn’t be how you ideally build your links, let alone your community. The negativity is unavoidable for every brand out there, but it shouldn’t be what you rely on to gain exposure.
That being said, community building doesn’t happen overnight, which is why companies like Google and Apple have their own forums. It’s like setting up a mecca of constant news flow and commentary. Journalists have been known to peruse them in order to get their hands on stories they can write about for their publications.
It’s kind of a genius concept, really. By creating a platform where everyone is welcome to voice their opinions, comments, concerns, questions, or praise, you get people to interact with each other. And you can swoop in and reply to any burning questions at any point in time, which further drives the momentum behind threads.
At the end of the day, everyone is interacting, sharing, and communicating, as a proper community should. And the bystander journalists can simply browse through, find something worthy of printing, and boom, there’s another backlink to your content.
If you’re still unsure of how to use forums, or integrate them into your website, consider adding one into your support or FAQ. Otherwise, you can use Reddit to form an online community for your business. Just remember: Reddit hates self-promotion.
Offline events are still relevant today, even in the age of technology. Think of things like conventions, or fan meetups. Some of these events gather people from all over the world, all united by their love of something. It could be a show, a medium, a genre, or an entire industry.
That means if you have a presence in that event, you’re likely to not only directly interact with your audience, which could help with your audience personas, but also it can encourage them to post about the encounter online.
Ah, there’s the connection.
Events like these are typically heavily photographed, with media channels blogging about it on the spot. Fans will flock to booths and people they deem inspirational (you), and take photographs they will later post online. New customers will be excited over finding your brand for the first time. They’ll immediately start following you on social media, which means they’ll continuously fall in love with your products and services, and eventually link to it from their blogs, or social media channels.
In the end, even though it’s offline, it will be shared in one way or another. And it will drive brand exposure, making your audience grow that much more. It’s like laying the groundwork for both immediate and delayed backlinks.
More Miscellaneous Tips
There are many more ways to go about building a community. But not all of them are as intricates as using Meetup for offline events, or setting up a forum. Some of these tips, such as leveraging established communities (think Slack and Discord channels), involve much less work, since you’re not setting anything up yourself.
If anything, in this particular scenario, you’re having to build a connection between your established community, and the bigger one that has somehow created itself.
But obviously, not many small brands have the pleasure of having this happen to them. So, to keep things more relatable, think about simply making your URL share-friendly. Making it easier to use ensures people are more likely to share it around well beyond forums. This is something anyone can do with link shorteners.
If you’re up for a little use of creativity, try creating seasonal landing pages as well. These landing pages will serve as guides to more content, albeit for a limited time. Not only do people hate missing out, which plays in your favor as told by psychology, but it also creates an air of exclusivity around whatever it is you’re promoting in the landing page. It’s only there for a short time, experience it now! Kind of like the holiday favorite Peppermint Mocha by Starbucks.
And finally, although this may seem obvious, create memorable products. It’s not enough for your products to be on brand. It’s not enough for them to be usable, or even relatable to your audience. Above all that, they still need to be memorable.
Consider the Sasquatch from the Jack Links Beef Jerky commercials: even though the last few aired in 2017, everyone remembers them. They stick out in your head, making them memorable. But what was it about these commercials exactly?
They were different than any other commercial at the time. Maybe ever, really.
Some of them were rather hilarious, using humor to make their brand more enticing.
The point was to “feed your wild side,” as if to say that whenever you needed something different, something snack worthy that wasn’t your typical granola bar, you could reach for jerky. How exciting!
The same sasquatch was featured in several commercials, essentially making him the mascot for the brand for a long time.
Everything came together to create something instantly recognizable that set the tone for the brand and what people could expect from it.
Of course, we can’t talk about memorable products and commercials without talking about PR stunts. They’ve been done over and over again by many brands, but it seems like they really hit the mark more often than not.
First, what’s a PR stunt?
Landing pages with amazing visuals (infographics, which typically means you should outsource some help, unless you have the skills and time) and statistics. This especially works well when the landing page is interactive.
Anything that is essentially original in style and content, while still being onbrand. It will get a strong emotional response, such as laughter.
Now that we got that out of the way, why does it matter? And why does it work?
Well, it’s simple: people like content that entertains them. Think about all the things we do in a day. Get up, pour the coffee, get ready, bolt out the door to handle errands, get work done, clean up our homes a bit, maybe meet some friends, or do some grocery shopping, etc.
Between all the stuff on our to-do lists, we have our handy phones to keep us sane. We have social media, we have memes, we have PR stunts, that are worthy of the five minute breaks we give ourselves before picking up our takeout.
Entertainment helps to combat the monotony of daily life. It helps us connect with the youthful, carefree version of ourselves that we never seemed to quite appreciate enough at the time. So when a PR stunt is good, it gets coverage, it gets shared, and it creates more backlinks for you. All because you made someone’s day out there a little better.
We’ve all seen it done, whether or not we realize it. Remember when Apple released the iPhone 6 and despite its gorgeous, sleek look, there were many reports of it bending in people’s pockets? Well, KitKat used it to its advantage.
27,000 retweets later, that could have easily been 27,000 followers who subconsciously picked up a KitKat later, on their way home from work.
This is a prime example of newsjacking, where you take something that is relevant in the country you’re promoting in, and tapping into their culture.
For instance, 2013’s Super Bowl suffered a power outage, and so many companies jumped on that. But none of those newsjacking examples would be applicable outside of the States. We are the only ones with a Super Bowl.
Also, it doesn’t need to stop at a tweet. Newsjacking can really take on a life of its own, with landing pages.
For example, during the Solar Eclipse of 2017, Warby Parker took it upon themselves to create a themed contest, landing page and all. The purpose? To get people to participate, and help build backlinks, all the while potentially winning a chance to take in the eclipse with their team in Nashville.
So, some takeaway tips if you’re interested in newsjacking:
Stay up to date on the news, obviously. It’s how you find things to piggyback off of, and prove your relevancy. Consider outlets like Drudge, which refresh constantly, or even Google Trends, to see what’s causing waves.
Error on the side of caution. That means don’t take newsjacking too far. Don’t make the mistake of selecting news that is genuinely sad, devastating, or outright controversial. Keep it light, keep it approachable.
If there’s a big retail day coming up, like Black Friday, for instance, set up a landing page around the topic, and announce what it is you’re doing to celebrate. This serves as a digital flyer, of sorts, and gets shared around social media and forums. This is especially true if you’re offering discounts and sales.
Do not remove seasonal landing pages, even after the fact. Keeping it up generates trust in Google’s eyes, so you benefit from collected backlinks whenever the season comes back around.
Sponsorships, as in scholarships and grants. This is when you offer a generous sum to help someone get through college. Or in Apple’s case, several people.
It goes without saying that this isn’t for everyone. You certainly need the capital to pull this off, so it’s only for very well established companies. But if you ever get to this stage in your business, this is a great way to give back to your community. It’s a philanthropic way of increasing your numbers, while also sharing your wealth for a good cause.
That being said, it should go without saying, that this should be a genuine decision. You can’t just set up an entire program to get backlinks. The purpose behind this is to help other people, whom may want to work for you later on down the line. Offer a helping hand, because you know how tough it is out there, and you can sympathize on the student loan front.
And in return, yes, you do get backlinks.
This is largely because publishers love covering heartwarming stories like this. It’s valuable and helpful to young students, and even their parents. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual messy news we’re constantly bombarded with.
For some reason, businesses hate giveaways. We see them all the time on social media, especially Instagram, but it’s almost as if it’s just certain niches, like makeup brands and select clothing retailers.
But giveaways are one of the best ways to get backlinks. It ramps up attention on you, improves brand awareness, and gets people to participate on something that generates backlinks for you, in exchange for a chance to win something that they genuinely want.
For example, take Warby Parker’s giveaway. Yes, they are on a roll as a company, follow their every move, if you can.
In honor of their 7th birthday back in February of 2017, they had a giveaway involving free scratch-off games with a chance to win glasses for life. Participants could pick up these scratch-offs in store, or they could do it digitally on a special landing page. If someone scratched off one, two, or even three pairs in a game, that’s how many they won. But when someone scratched off four, they won the grand prize: glasses for life.
And of course, people went crazy over it. There was Bustle writing about it. The Manual did the same. JumperMedia linked to it and did a whole post to celebrate the company’s brilliant marketing moves. And you bet all the backlinks directed people over to Warby Parker’s landing page for the giveaway.
So, you’d be wise to host a giveaway, and really ramp up the ads and social media posts around it. Set up a good landing page. You never know who’s going to find it exciting enough to write about it.
Here are some extra tips if you’re going the giveaway route:
Giveaways don’t always have to be object based. You don’t need to give away products, unless of course you want to. An alternative is to give out special discounts that run for a certain amount of time. Make sure to track the sales during that time, as well as traffic, so you know how big the impact is. Tweak accordingly.
Use every available tool to let people know about it. That means adding a banner on your homepage, announcing it in your newsletter, advertising it on your website and blog, letting people know about it on every social media channel, and telling people about it in stores, if you have any physical storefronts.
Psychology has taught us that when we give people something, they’re more inclined to want to return the favor. Use this as an honest, good business practice by giving influencers one of whatever it is you’re giving away, and pairing it with a handwritten card saying something like “Here’s a little something to try. I hope it serves you well, best wishes!” Note, you’re not asking for anything in return at all, but the chances are high that they will want to link to your website or landing page as a result.
Get to Writing
Yes, we live in the age of technology, where everyone is super busy running around town with work on the mind, errands, little to-do list reminders, you name it. We live and breathe for the little moments in between, maybe while standing in line for coffee, or at the checkout counter at the store, where we can check our email, play that little mobile game, check our social media feeds.
But you know what? We still read. It’s just that the level of popularity of actual books has gone significantly down. But that just means the way we read has changed, but we’re still very much into reading. We love digital books, articles, blog posts, tweets, useful guides, and more.
In fact, the top way to connect with your audience is to create content that is focused on copy. Yes, you want to balance it out with graphic design, and video content, so it’s not just walls of text, but at its core the copy needs to be there, and be good.
And the top two things any company can create are buyer guides and tutorials. For instance, what you’re reading now is a tutorial. It’s teaching you something, giving you ideas, providing resources.
The more informative and useful a guide is, the more likely other content creators will want to link to your post, just because it’s so valuable. They know their audience would benefit greatly from it.
One such company that’s done this right is the outdoor guru REI. They have a blog titled “Expert Advice” where they offer guides on everything an adventurer could ever want, from outdoor basics, to mountain climbing, and everything in between.
And you bet it gets read. The engagement on these posts says as much, with most of them being rated five stars, followed by hundreds of comments.
But why? What’s so special about it?
Well, for one thing, it’s on brand, and allows them to write about the very activities that their entire company is based around.
Another factor is that they are known for hiring people who actually get out there and do the things they’re promoting. They hire hikers and backpackers, and campers, and climbers. People who actively use the items that they are selling.
That means customers love going into the store because they can get real insight and recommendations from trusted sources.
And this blog is just an extension of that. For anyone who can’t make it into the store, but still has questions, this is a great resource. The answers are likely to all be there, in a post, all meticulously organized by outdoor activity.
More than this, however, is the fact that REI can treat it as another way to sell products. For instance, in their post that teaches people how to layer up for the cold, they link to ski and snowboard jackets, as well as fleece and soft-shell jackets. This in turn makes it easier for customers who are actively shopping and looking for options. And it also makes it possible for them to understand why those products are worth the price tag. Everything is explained in the post.
So, here are the takeaways: copywriting rules over every other content type out there for a reason. It’s informative, it’s helpful, and it’s easily accessible even in quiet train rides home. While videos and graphics help break up the monotony, copy reigns supreme still, and likely always will. You’d be wise to build up your blog with many guides that can help your target audience, while simultaneously selling items.
These links, along with the backlinks from those linking to your expert resource blog posts, are guaranteed to earn you visibility.
Building A Blog 101
If you’ve been reading this section wondering how on earth you’re going to build up a blog, rest assured, this guide is here to help.
For starters, building up a blog takes time. It takes months, if not years, of regularly creating content, for it to be built up and fleshed out enough to be taken seriously.
That’s why so many entrepreneurs hire consultants who can steer them in the right direction from the start, so no time gets wasted. It’s also why so many freelancers get hired, since they specialize in creating all types of content for brands large and small.
So, if that seems like something you’d be interested in, make sure to start looking around. Ask fellow entrepreneurs who they know and have worked with in the past, or consider your own network of people whom you may have worked with before. There are many platforms out there, and agencies, that pair you with the right person as well.
Moving right along, a well-designed blog is an information hub. It’s there to provide as much information and value as possible. This encourages people to engage with the content, hence forming a community. This, of course, attracts links.
That means every blog needs to be highly targeted, and useful to said audience. Say you run a small indie game development studio, what would your audience be like? Well, for one thing, they’d be a mixture of gamers and aspiring game designers. We know this because there has to be someone playing your games in order to stay in business, and also, because you’re small, you’re more likely to appeal to people who are full of game design hopes and dreams. You’re the underdog in a sea of AAA, and they can relate to that on a smaller scale.
That means for an indie game development studio, a useful blog is one that caters to both. Blog posts about the upcoming games, progress on current projects, and updates on things like patches are a given.
But blog posts about life behind the scenes would work well too. A look at what the design looks like behind closed doors. What’s the office like? Who works on what? What are some of the ways you unwind between tedious tasks?
Take this example and brainstorm what it is you’re selling. Who does it appeal to and why? Let the answers guide your blog design, and make sure to stick to it. Anything that seems out of place, or gets added in just because isn’t going to cut it. Always stay on brand, on theme, and on track.
Link building is the ticket to gaining online visibility. It’s your way of building up an audience that is invested in what you have to offer, both free and paid alike. But much like with marketing, it’s not something that happens overnight. In fact, to link build, you need to community build first. Otherwise, all of your attention-grabbing tactics will come across pushy, strange, and untrustworthy.
The good news is that there truly is no rush. As long as you keep your nose to the grindstone, you can build that fanbase. That means constantly posting on your social media channels, regularly publishing new blog posts, creating videos, etc. Eventually, you’ll have enough content on your hands, and enough followers, to be able to link build gracefully.
And when that moment comes, know that there are many tactics you can use. Some of them are highlighted in this guide, certainly the most popular ones that you should consider using the most. But there are so many more possible tactics out there you could also use.
Just remember to keep things approachable. Stepping on toes is how you gain fame for the wrong reasons. And although that’s just fine in terms of backlinks (no such thing as a bad backlink), it’s not fine in the big picture. You want your business to grow in waves of positivity, keeping you connected to your loyal fanbase.
So, which of these tactics do you think you’ll start with, giveaways, discounts, newsjacking, or something else?
Let me know in the comments below, I love hearing from you all!