How To Naturally Build Links Without Guest Blogging

LinkWhen I was a digital marketing intern over the summer, I spent weeks sorting through client link profiles trying to rid them of “bad links.”  Many of the sites I looked into barely had any “good links” to speak of.  This experience made me realize how important it is for companies to take control of their link profiles.  However, “link building” can be a touchy subject in SEO as it is often associated with less-than-honest marketing tactics.  Marketers have taken to calling it “natural link building” to avoid being associated with pre-Penguin link spammers.  Although “link building” carries a stigma to some extent, it is still an extremely important part of successful digital marketing strategy.

In this post, I share some creative ways to gain more “good” links for your website (without being shady, of course).  And in case you’re wondering about the title, guest blogging is not on the list because everyone is already doing it.

How Does Hummingbird Affect Link Building

Before we talk about how to naturally build links, we of course need to discuss Google.  As we know, Google is constantly changing its algorithm to make search results more relevant for the end user.  According to Nate Dame at Search Engine Land, the Hummingbird update is a new search engine rather than just an algorithm update that is forcing marketers to focus even more on linking to quality content.  Read more about the update in Dame’s Hummingbird article.

Make a Consistent Effort

It is important to make natural link building a constant part of your strategy instead of a sporadic effort for two reasons.  First, you want to make sure that your company stays relevant.  To do this, you should be putting effort into your content strategy and providing value to your customers on a regular basis so they will return to your site.  Second, you will set off red flags if you have sudden spikes in linking activity with long periods of nothing in between.  That will make it more likely that your link building efforts will end up being penalized and hurt you in the long run instead of help you.

Have a Presence on Google+

It’s becoming more and more apparent that Google+ is an important factor in search rankings.  And now Google+ posts are even showing up in search results, which means it’s absolutely necessary for your company to post content on Google+.  Get more tips on getting Google+ shares and other scalable link building tactics from Jason Acidre on the Moz Blog.

Reclaim Links

According to Acidre, reclaiming links is “probably the oldest trick in the book of white-hat link building.”   You can reclaim links by using tools like Open Site Explorer to locate all the links to your site that are no longer working or are linking to the wrong version of your page.  Some of your broken links may just require a simple fix.  Other links might need a 301 redirect, which is a bit more time consuming but doing this will not only improve your link profile, it will also improve the user experience on your site.  (No one likes being directed to a page that no longer exists.)

Another way to reclaim your links is to find out who is talking about you on the web by using tools like Google Trends or browser alerts.  Search for reputable sites with strong PageRank that are mentioning you.  If these sites aren’t already linking to you in their content, you can get in touch with the site to ask them to kindly link back to you in the content.  Emma North wrote a great post on how to reclaim links and more creative link building techniques for the Koozai blog that you should check out.

User-Generated Content Sites

The method I came across in my research that I liked best is utilizing user-generated content sites.  These sites rank highly in search results, especially for long-tail keywords.  My favorite UGC site is SlideShare, but Pinterest and YouTube are also up there.  What I like best about SlideShare is that it’s a great forum for you to be able to repurpose your content and get more use out of it.  You can easily make a SlideShare presentation out of a popular blog post or video you have created, for example.  The goal of using UGC sites in your natural link building strategy is to provide something that is useful to your audience and matches the long-tail keywords they search for.

You might also take a popular news story and figure out a way to relate it to your industry.  For example, digital strategists Kristian Henschel and Julian Cole used Lindsay Lohan, a very popular figure in the tabloids, as inspiration for a SlideShare presentation.  They created “A Digital Strategy for Lindsay Lohan,” which to date has received 71,792 total views, 131 embeds and 24,626 embedded views.  Finding a fun and creative way to demonstrate their knowledge of digital strategy really excited Henschel and Cole’s audience and inspired them to share and link back to the content.  This also brings up the importance of linking to your website through all your UGC site efforts so you receive the full benefits for your link profile.

Conclusion

Natural link building can sound like an intimidating and complicated process.  However, the more I read about “natural link building,” the more I see that it is simply content marketing with an emphasis on promoting your content and building relationships.  Create great content that your customers and others in your industry find useful, make sure to place it where they can find it, and they will naturally want to link and share.

If you have more natural link building tips, share your comments below.

How To Analyze Your Competition’s Social Media

SocialMediaCompetitive analysis is a necessary component of any marketing plan. If your brand has a presence on social media, which it most likely does, you can benefit from analyzing your competitors on social media as well. Gaining insight into your competitors’ social media strategies can help you create benchmarks to guide and measure your social media strategy. This knowledge will allow you to do a number of things, such as choose the right social networks for your audience and use social media more effectively to enhance your brand. Also, a social media competitive analysis can help you find opportunities your competitors may have missed which will enable you to create a loyal community for your brand online.

Here’s how you can conduct a social media competitive analysis in six steps:

1. Identify competitors

As you probably already know, the first step of your competitive analysis is to identify who your competitors are. At this point, compile a list of your competitors but don’t start searching for their social pages yet. You’ll want complete Step 2 before you delve into the details of their social media strategies

2. Determine what you want to find out

Before you begin, you should first determine a specific objective or question you want answered for your competitive analysis. Some examples of objectives are:

  • Should our company use Pinterest?
  • Do we need to grow our social following?
  • How are we performing compared to our competitors on our social media sites?

Setting an objective will help guide your competitive analysis and keep you focused as you gather information.

3. Start a spreadsheet and identify networks

Take your list of competitors and place them on a spreadsheet. For a comprehensive analysis, go through each competitor one by one and find all of their social media profiles. Or if only one or a few social media sites are relevant to your objective, search for your competitors only on those sites. Indicate on your spreadsheet whether or not your competitors have a presence on each of the sites you want to analyze.

4. Determine what you will analyze and for how long

Once you have your objective set and have found where your competitors have profiles, you can determine what aspects you want to analyze for each specific site. Also, you will save yourself a lot of headaches by determining the length of time you’ll use as you perform your analysis. For example, instead of just tracking posts, you’ll want to track posts per week or posts per month.

5. Gather data

The specific data you track will vary from site to site. It will also depend on the objectives you’ve set. Included below are some areas you’ll most likely want to focus on, but this is not a comprehensive list. I have broken down the type of data you’ll be looking at into two parts: Followers/engagement and Content.

Followers/engagement:

Track followers

One of the first aspects you’ll most likely want to find out is the number of fans and followers your competitors have for each network. Finding the number of fans and followers is a quick way to see an overall snapshot of your competitors’ popularity on social media. Remember to also track their fan to follower ratios (# of people they follow/# of people who follow them).

Track engagement

To get an idea of how engaged your competition’s followers are, see how many reposts, shares, likes and comments each of their posts receive. Again, you should use the timeframe you’ve determined to compile this data. Divide the number of posts by the number of shares, etc. for that timeframe to determine the average engagement per post for that specific timeframe.

Track growth

If possible, gather data on your competitors for the previous timeframe. For example, if you’re analyzing comments/shares per month, look at the previous month’s data. Then find the percentage change month over month to determine the growth rate of your competitors. This will help you create a benchmark for your own social media campaigns.

Content:

Track posts

Find out how active your competitors are on social media by tracking the number of posts they make in your specified timeframe. Be sure to break the posts down into categories. For example, on Twitter you would want to separately track tweets, retweets, replies and favorites. It’s also important to record what types of content they are posting. Are they using a lot of photo or video content? Do they ask lots of questions? Do they do contents and giveaways?

Analyze blog & website

Remember that blogs and websites are also pieces of overall social media strategy. You’ll want to find out if your competitors have blogs. You should also take a deeper look into their blogs to see if they’re using Google Authorship on their posts. Are your competitors using FASS (fast action social sharing) Buttons in their posts? How many comments do their posts receive on average in your given timeframe and how many posts are made? Do your competitors link to their social media profiles from their website? How many of their web pages have links to their social media profiles? As you can see, there is a ton of information you can learn about your competitors’ social media efforts from their website and blog, so don’t skip this step.

Analyze paid media

Even though you most likely won’t be able to find out how much your competitors are paying for social media ads, you should include paid social media efforts in your analysis. Finding out whether or not your competitors are using paid advertisements on social media will give you a good understanding on whether or not paying for social media would be a good fit for your brand.

Analyze brand

Have a look at the images and logos used across each of your competitors’ social media profiles. How are they branding themselves? Is the look and feel of each site consistent? Can you see differences in each site that hint at how it is being used by the brand? What is the voice of the brand? Is it the company’s voice or a specific person?

6. Analyze overall efforts

Now that you’ve thoroughly analyzed your competitors’ followers, engagement, content and brand on social media, you should add a component to your spreadsheet where you can reflect on your findings of each competitor’s overall efforts on social media. What do they do really well? What are they doing differently? Or what are they doing really poorly? You should also determine how your brand compares to your competition on each individual component and overall. Once you’ve completed all of these steps, you should be able to go back to your original objective and reevaluate your own social media strategy.

Conclusion

Understanding how your competition is utilizing social media is an extremely effective way for you to position your brand to stand out. You won’t attract a loyal following by simply maintaining the status quo on social media and following along with what everyone else is doing. Having a thorough understanding of your competition will enable you to brainstorm new ideas to improve on the things they are doing well and to keep your fans engaged. You’ll also be able to more accurately benchmark and measure your campaigns. If you continually follow up on your competitive analysis about once a month, you’ll be able to stay ahead of your competition and make the most of your social media efforts.

Read more

I used these articles as references to write this post. Give them a read to learn more about how you can conduct a social media competitive analysis.

Step-By-Step: How to Do a Competitive Analysis on Social Media – Christopher Tompkins

How to Conduct a Social Media Competitive Analysis – Ashley Stuart

How to Do a Social Media Competitive Analysis – John Cade

Do you have any tips on how to conduct a social media competitive analysis?  Leave your comments below.