Two Great Ways to Unearth Link-Building Opportunities

treasure chest buried in sand

Link building can be intimidating to undertake. It’s laborious, speculative, and many organizations don’t know where to start so they avoid giving it the attention it deserves as an important factor for ranking well in search engines. Instead of pursuing links sporadically, it’s wise to go into it with a plan on how you’ll devote your efforts. Less time will be wasted and the results will be far more effective. To get off on the right foot, it’s important to understand how to unearth the link-building opportunities that have the best likelihood of providing SEO benefit.

treasure chest buried in sand
credit: Ryan McVay / getty images

Mine Google’s Search Results

Considering that the basic premise of link building is to get links from websites that Google considers authoritative, it then makes sense, as a method of finding these websites, to ask Google who they are. Here’s how:

  1. You’ll need a list of your most desirable keywords. These are the words you’d most like to be found for.
  2. Prioritize your list.
  3. Starting at the top of the list, do a search using the keyword. I recommend not being logged into a Google account in order to minimize the effects of Google personalizing the search results based on what they know about you.
  4. Investigate each search result.
  5. If the search result is a competitor, they’re not going to be receptive to a link request, but before you move on to the next search result make note of them by creating a list of competitors. This list will come in handy later.
  6. When the search result isn’t a competitor, you’ll want to review the website while contemplating on how they may be persuaded to link to you. If you believe there may be a way, add them to an outreach list.

Pan Through Your Competitors’ Links

Another great source of inspiration for link-building opportunities is to review the links going to your competitor’s websites, especially any competitor who’s showing up in the search results in a better position than you for your important keywords. This is where the list of competitors from the Google searches comes in handy. Their ranking success is due in part to their links, therefore learning about the types of links they’ve been able to attain will help guide your outreach strategy. Furthermore, you may decide to reach out to many of the same websites.

You’re going to need a link research tool to do this. The best ones cost money in the form of monthly subscriptions, but they likely either have limited-feature options you can use for free or they have free trial periods you can take advantage of.

When doing this research, be sure to use the URL of the specific web page you wish to learn about as opposed to simply using their domain’s URL. For example, if your competitor’s product page is showing up in the search results above your product page, then use their product page’s URL as opposed to simply using their home page’s URL.

When researching a competitor’s URL, you’ll likely discover dozens or perhaps even hundreds of links. Don’t be intimidated – the more inspiration the better. You can, however, potentially end up with a list of thousands, or even tens of thousands of links, more than you can ever go through individually. Professional SEOs have methodologies for analyzing such lists to weed out dead ends and create a prioritized list of websites to investigate. This saves time and increases your likelihood of finding valuable link opportunities, so if you find yourself in this situation and you wish to be thorough, consider hiring a professional SEO.

How to Spot That Diamond In The Rough

You’re essentially looking for websites that are trustworthy resources that have a readership likely to be interested in the content of your site. Ideally, links from these websites will send valuable traffic to your website and they’ll send signals to the search engines that your site has authority. For more on this, visit Google Will Ignore Your Link Building Efforts Unless You Focus on Quality.

If the search result is an article, investigate the rest of the website. Ask yourself if you can approach them by offering to write a contributed article. You can also investigate the author. Can you pitch story ideas to them that relate to your business? Can you offer up experts within your business to be sources of quotes for future articles?

If the search result is a complementary product or service, ask yourself if you can create a resource on your website that would appeal to their website visitors.

If the search result is an organization that does activities related to your products, ask yourself how you can get involved. Can you sponsor one of their events?

Next Steps

Creating an outreach list of potential link-building opportunities is a major part of the link-building process, but it’s only the beginning. Your next challenge is to approach these websites. Email them, use their online forms, call them on the phone, or even send them a letter by mail to start a conversation about getting a link. Be sure to communicate why linking to your website would be truly beneficial to their readership. Ask them for their ideas as well.

Don’t be discouraged when your attempts don’t seem to be working out. Keep in mind that link building is a numbers game that can be thought of in terms of prospecting. You won’t always strike gold, but going through the process will, over time, pay off. Link building is time intensive so I recommend scheduling dedicated time on the calendar on an ongoing basis.

Now that you know what it takes to launch an effective link-building campaign, give it the attention it deserves. This is your chance to take control of how you rank in the search engines.

7 Common Dangers of Social Media Illiteracy to Your Business

Most people can agree that social media is a large part of modern culture. So much so, that it can be easy to make the mistake of thinking that (aside from the very young, old, or the counterculture) most people know everything they need to about social media.

While most people use social media on a regular basis, you may be surprised to find out how many people are, in fact social media illiterate.

Social Media Illiterate (def.): Individuals who may or may not use social media often, but do not understand all of the important nuances and subtleties that can make the difference between appearing either intelligent and clever or, thoughtless and idiotic.

Here’s the terrifying reality: These people WORK IN YOUR COMPANY.

So, here are seven common dangers of social media illiteracy to look out for in your business.

Oops key on a keyboard

1) Most 20 year-olds aren’t the social media experts you think they are.

Be wary that most 20-somethings aren’t sufficiently well-equipped to build and safeguard brands. Conduct online research on your potential new employee before giving him or her this important title.

Even so-called social media specialists, whom you may have hired to helm your social media campaign, have been known to screw up on a very public scale due to negligence.

The importance of hiring someone who is fully social media literate cannot be over-emphasized.

2) Failing to realize that employees represent themselves AND you and your company.

Never underestimate the power of an employee to unwittingly take down your brand. This might seem utterly ridiculous, but humour me for a moment:

You know that a brand is a carefully curated perception based on what your company represents. It can take a good deal of time and effort to build it and should be safeguarded at all costs.

Both you and your employees (from the top executives to the most junior interns) need to be educated on the ins and outs of social media. Much of this can be accomplished by relaying researched best practices to employees but the remaining gaps should be filled by experts in inbound marketing who can teach the necessary skills and knowledge to avoid costly mistakes.

3) Failing to reread your tweet/post/blog before you publish it.

Once you write a post tailored to each of your buyer personas or target audiences, be sure to put yourself in their shoes and re-read your post. Consider how they would interpret it and how it would appeal to them or possibly turn them off.

The truth is that a bad social media post can spread like wildfire. Even if you manage to delete a terrible post once you realize your mistake, it may already be too late. Think of what a parent tells their kids (‘Look both way before you cross the street!’ – this is almost the modern equivalent). Once it’s posted to the Internet, it’s there.

The power of screenshots is significant. They take less than a second and allow a mistake of yours to become immortalized on any computer or smartphone without your consent, knowledge, or control. And unfortunately, the screenshot is here to stay.

If your followers are very influential in their social media circles and a lot of people begin sharing or retweeting your post-gone-wrong – you or your employee can single-handedly, potentially irreparably, damage your brand.

4) This goes for spelling, too. STAHP MSPLLING THIINGS. DONT UZED POUR GRAMRR.

No matter who you are or what you represent, it simply does not reflect well. That is not to say you can’t use everyday, casual language (if it fits the context and the brand). Whether you like it or not, you WILL be judged, so be aware.

Of course, sometimes mistakes happen. Having someone on your side who is social media literate will minimize such accidents, and will ensure they are quickly and thoroughly cleaned up if they do arise.

5) Failing to apologize when you make a mistake (and to fully recognize and publicly acknowledge it when you have).

When making a post that you notice begins to garner negative feedback, here is exactly what not to do:

• Delete negative comments

• Ban loyal fans from your company’s social media pages, accounts, and online groups

• Tell those with negative feedback be quiet or leave

• Ignore desperate appeals from broken-hearted, loyal customers

Don’t be one of those companies who continues to dig themselves deeper and deeper. Be sure to admit your mistake as soon as you realize it. Ignore this warning at your peril.

This brings me to my next point.

6) Failing to listen to good advice and forgetting to stay humble.

Continue to research and listen: read blogs on the subject (clearly, you’re off to a good start), discuss grey-area topics with other industry professionals, subscribe to blogs, Twitter feeds, and LinkedIn groups with people who know more than you about social media.

Never forget to stay humble, we can all learn more and improve, and we never know when or where that education may come from. Pride too often creates crucial blind spots that can hurt your company’s edge, perceived intelligence and adaptability.

7) Failing to have an active presence on social media (A.K.A. giving your competition a leg up).

This is one of the biggest mistakes your company can make. Your competitors are getting an edge on you by *deep breath in* gathering intelligence on the industry and their customers; making important connections with other industry leaders, customers, and prospects; reading and analysing the market at large; establishing a presence to simply say “we’re here, we’re current, we matter”; giving customers that extra level of value-added service to make them feel that they matter; and generating leads and new business for their company – *PHEW*. There’s a lot you’d be missing out on without a good, consistent social media presence.

That’s the power of social media literacy.

Google Will Ignore Your Link Building Efforts Unless You Focus on Quality

The foundation of Google’s success in providing relevant search results has been its ability to evaluate links.  They consider each link to your site to be a vote towards how relevant and important your web pages are.  These votes add up and contribute to how well you rank in the search results. Each vote, however, is not considered equal.


 A Vote Counted vs. A Vote Ignored

Google’s ideal link situation occurs when a web page with great content is published, then people who are authorities on a topic notice its value and decide to link to it from their websites because it will be helpful to their readers. Google would consider this a good-quality, natural link. The challenge for Google is evaluating every link on the Internet, and their solution is to program their automated system to recognize if:

  • a link is good quality and would work well as a vote towards authority, or
  • a link is of such low quality that it should be ignored in terms of conveying SEO benefit.

Like Sherlock Holmes, Google’s algorithm looks for clues.


Clue #1 – The Topics of Focus are Relevant

When a website has a topic of focus,and they link to one of your web pages which features either the same topic or a related topic, this sends a clear signal to Google that this link should count as a vote. Think of a fashion blogger linking to an up-and-coming clothing designer. Alternatively, if there’s no relationship in topics, this would signal that this link should either have an extremely weak vote or totally nullified vote.


Clue #2 – The Quality of the Source

Google’s system judges the importance of the website that’s linking to you, primarily by examining their inbound links.  If they are deemed to be authoritative, their link to you will be considered a strong vote.  A link from a fashion blogger who’s very popular will be regarded as a much stronger vote than a link from someone who’s just started their blog.


Clue #3 – How Natural the Link Appears To Be

Google examines the linking website for clues that indicate that links are for sale.  If this is suspected, that website’s outgoing links will, in all likelihood, not be counted as votes.  Same goes for links that can be generated by website visitors, such as links in comments sections. Google also examines the link itself.  Their algorithm has developed an eye for:

  • links that look natural, such as linking to a website by using the company name, product name or the URL, or even saying “hey check this out”.  This is how normal, unsolicited links tend to look.
  • links that look unnatural, such as linking to a website by using that company’s most desirable keyword. For example “cheap medications online”.

Focus on Quality

Link building remains a very important part of ranking well in the search results. Creating great content alone will only get you so far.  Getting noticed by the right websites, and getting links from them is essential.  Invest your link-building efforts towards quality links from quality websites because a few strong votes will far outweigh a multitude of low quality votes that are either extremely weak, or that don’t count for anything at all.

Top 4 Tips When Doing Your First Social Media Audit

SM_Strategy_PROSARYou are all set!

You have an online strategy that might include some advertising, keyword searches and inbound marketing tactics, but what about social media?

Often, you want to develop a social media strategy but don’t know where to start.

What channels should you include?

Which one is best?

And what about your current presence?

How can you improve it?

Are you doing ok?

To have a first glimpse at your own presence and to better evaluate your own needs when you first meet with a social media expert at PROSAR, here is a look at what you should be considering!

I have to say, I love this infographic because the 3 main tips explained here are my own starting steps when first developping a social media strategy for a new client.

Step 1: What is the competition doing?

If you don’t know where to start, look at your competition. What are they doing online? Do they have a Facebookpage? A Twitter account? A YouTube channel? A blog? And what are they posting? What direction does it go? Are they trying to position themselves as an expert in your field? Are they just trying to be fun and entertaining? Are they offering discounts?

You can consider the number of likes or followers that they have but also consider their size when making this assumption. If the company is global and you are local, it will be easier for them to gain a more substantial fan base. The same goes for their time on social media. If your competition has been there already for a few years and post daily, they will tend to seem more popular than you. It takes time to buid a readership and solid fan base.

Step 2: What works?

Social media is all about being unique and standing out. This said, success stories and proven strategies should not be ignored. When following the progress of your competition, see if any tactics stand out. Are there any successes that you can notice? A tutorial that went viral? A contest that had many participants? A tweeted event or hashtag that flooded news feeds?

Become a fan or a follower of your competition’s pages, keep an eye out for their blogs and see if any trends seem to be more popular than others.

Step 3: What is best for me?

There is no science to this next step. You are the expert of your own industry and know your clients best. According to your needs and your competition, you should be able to choose a channel where you want to establish your presence. Social media is there to compliment your marketing strategy and help you implement some parts of your plan. Use it with this in mind.

Step 4 (My own personal recommendation): And now what?

If I can make one personal recommendation, it is to seek help. You will notice when doing your own personal social media audit that what works best is a constant presence in different mediums. You are an expert in your field but with a bit of help, you can assure that your strategy will work in social media as well. Read up on more social media tips from the PROSAR blog, and give us a shout to build the best possible marketing strategy for your business!

For the whole infographic from Awareness, see below!


5 Reasons Why You Need a Content Marketing Strategy

The term Content Marketing is relatively new, but the concept has been around since the dawn of commerce. Content marketing is simply using information strategically to communicate with your market. What has changed since the first messaging merchants is the complexity and scope of that communication and its delivery. Here are five reasons why you should be taking a structured approach to your content marketing.

Notepad with words content marketing concept and glasses
credit: getty images/ designer491

1. Myriad Touchpoints
The ad guys in Mad Men had it comparatively easy; they could focus on a killer ad campaign knowing that a high percentage of their market would absorb their newspaper, TV and radio ads. Since the halcyon days when a campaign brainstorming required a brain-numbing amount of whisky, the Internet has given the information and communication world a whole new environment. This new landscape is vast, cluttered and omnipresent.

A minority of small companies are treating their websites as strategic communication hubs (unfortunately most are still virtual brochures with a link to their dormant Facebook page). And even if you are paying attention to your website, simply keeping it up-to-date isn’t sufficient. Blogs, online communities, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+… there are myriad touchpoints where your existing and potential market could connect with you. A strategic content marketing plan will determine which are best for your company and what needs to be done to properly support them.

2. Consumers Want More Info
The Internet has empowered consumers like never before. They now expect to easily find online all required info about any product or service, as well as reviews, user comments, instructions, how-to videos… in essence they want it all and they want it now. A strategic plan helps you to determine how you can most effectively provide that information in a compelling way.

Early advertising guru David Ogilvy understood the importance of content marketing. He maintained that “(t)he more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Ogilvy helped the industry to appreciate the value of understanding your market and providing the right information in an appropriate manner. And even in those simpler times, this Mad Man realized that “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.” The fact that the communications and marketing world has become all the more complex underlines the importance of Ogilvy’s insight.

3.Open Lines of Communication
In addition to providing you with countless ways to connect with your market, social media and blogs also enable a two-way communication. This may seem daunting but it can be an incredible opportunity. A dialogue with consumers is a direct means to learn from your market and gather valuable information.

Ensure that the bulk of information about your organization online is under corporate stewardship.

4. Your Brand is Linked to Your Content
While you are putting good content out there, it is important to also listen to what is being said about you. Scanning the web for mentions and responding swiftly and appropriately has become an important aspect of brand stewardship. Whether you are thanking someone for kind words or a helpful suggestion, or addressing a misperception or mistake; dealing with it publicly and honestly helps you earn loyalty.

Essentially, it all reflects on you (or your organization if you really don’t want to take this personally). I believe that a company’s brand is now formed as much by the unofficial and/or unpaid content online as it is by the paid media and carefully crafted PR. Online, everyone hears you scream — the Internet hears everything said about your company and saves it for anyone to read. Your brand is living 24/7 online and you are probably unaware as to how it’s doing.

5. Much of the Content Online is Crap
This proliferation of information on the Internet has bred a lot of poorly researched, badly written and pathetically self-serving crap. (Yes, yes, there is also a ton of really good content, but be honest, when you research a purchase online, what percentage of the information is both helpful and well-written?)  So users need to sift through the garbage to find what they are looking for. If you’re churning out less than stellar material, you could be doing more harm than good and actually tarnish your brand.

Conversely, if you are actually producing relevant and readable material, you can help to define your brand as trustworthy and a valued online resource. This positioning moves you a whole lot closer to a buying relationship.

Writing compelling content is not easy, heck, just writing good informative content is challenging. With professional guidance, a strategic plan determines what content you should be producing, what you should be writing, what your staff can do, and what professional marketers/writers should create for you, as well as a schedule to make sure it actually happens. And this structured process makes it much easier to deliver good content.

What would you add to my list of reasons to approach content marketing in a professional manner?