If you want to outrank your competitors on Google, building links from other websites is just as important now as it was 10 years ago.
However the way we obtain them couldn’t have changed more. Thanks to big updates to Google’s search algorithm, like 2012’s Penguin update, SEOs can no longer exploit the system by purchasing links on random blogs, posting mass links in forums or comment boxes, or offering reciprocal links to related sites.
While this has given us all better search results and made the playing field much fairer, it’s now a lot harder to build links than before. So how do you impress Marketers and Web Admins in 2015, and show them that, unlike all the SEO spammers they get in their inbox, you actually deserve a link on their site?
Trade your content for a link, not your money
Many of the biggest brands in Australia use a strategy called ‘Content Marketing’ to earn the bulk of their backlinks. They use their industry expertise to produce something their customers will find useful or entertaining, and they exchange this content for online publicity. This might be a how-to guide, a video tutorial, a white paper, an infographic or an opinion piece, essentially anything that’s insightful and valuable to someone interested in their industry.
Content Marketing isn’t the SEO strategy of choice simply due to necessity, the links it can generate also transfer more value from an SEO perspective. Google gives more credibility to your links if the pages and websites they’re on are full of high quality content. This means plenty of text, not a ton of outgoing links and lots of other sites linking to them. These are things you tend to see on respected blogs and news sites, as opposed to directories and forums.
So what can a small business do?
You might be thinking, “that’s all good for a big business with a huge marketing budget, but what about my small business?” While a big marketing budget might make content a little easier to produce, it’s not the biggest factor. The most important element for success is your own knowledge. Big brands can hire agencies that offer creative ideas and media contacts, but the copywriters and designers who produce their content don’t have anywhere near the level of expertise that a small business owner has. When a Journalist is looking for an expert to comment on a story, or an Editor wants a guest columnist to write about an industry trend, they don’t want to talk to the marketing team, they want the business owner who’s at the coalface.
How to set up a content marketing plan
Producing your own content takes time, but the value of the links you can earn makes it well worth the investment. Here are some steps to take to start creating your own content to build links.
- List all of the topics that you/your staff know about
Obviously this’ll include your product/service (hopefully!) but consider topics that are related. For example, if you were a rug retailer you’d probably know the latest rugs on the market and how to choose a good one, but do you also know how they’re manufactured, the history of rugs, or how to clean rugs?
- Find out what questions your customers are asking
To prioritise your topics, it’s important to know where the most demand for knowledge lies. Ask your sales staff or whoever has the most contact with clients/customers every question they’ve been asked.Now see what Google can tell you. What does the search bar auto-suggest when you start typing the name of your product, and what do the suggested searches at the bottom of your results say? These will tell what information people are looking for, and which questions are probably going unanswered.Also see what people are writing about in your industry. Buzzsumo is a great tool that will show you the most shared content for any topic. Check Google News to see what journalists are writing about. Is there a big story or trend in your industry that you can comment on?
- Decide what to produce
Once you’ve found your in-demand topic, consider the best format to produce your content. If you’re not a strong writer it doesn’t have to be text based, you can shoot 3 minute videos on your iPhone and host them on YouTube. Also consider your audience, say you’re making a tutorial for how to use a piece of software you sell. Do people want to read a 1500 word blog post, or would they prefer a video so they can see what you’re talking about.
- Contact relevant media and pitch your content
You don’t need to have completely finished tutorial or video to start pitching to journalists and editors. However you do need to have an idea. Email the most direct contact you can find and explain (shortly and succinctly) what you can write about and why their users will want to read it. It helps a lot if you’ve already engaged with them in some way. For example if you advertise in their directory or print publication, or if you’ve commented on articles.
- What to do when you’ve secured an opportunity
When you find a journalist or editor who wants to accept your offer, make a commitment for when you’ll supply the piece. A link might be the main goal, but don’t make your contribution contingent on it. It’s always the decision of the website, and sometimes it’s better to build a good relationship so you can keep contributing in future, hopefully to other websites too.
For more information about how to use content marketing, and other strategies to build links, check out this post on our Optimising blog.