Can we box the term “link building”?
As Will put it: “Link building really is a terrible name for what modern SEOs do.”
I couldn’t agree more. We’re telling stories, adding value, helping people, organising information in to useful infographics, developing new content and creative concepts.
Modern SEOs want to make the web a better, friendlier, cooler, more intelligent place. So do we.
If you’re not thinking like a modern SEO, here’s the bottom line. In the past year, our industry has seen algorithm update after algorithm update to weed out domains reliant upon a link profile littered with lower quality, manipulative, paid links. For those sites that are still benefiting (or, pretending they’ll always be fine, even though they used to rely on spammy link building methods *but* they’ve changed now, so it’s going to OK, right?).
I’m not the only one who knows your time is coming to an end.
A few months ago, we got fired by a client who said our link building methods were “too white hat”. We’d got them mentions (and links, natch) from The Huffington Post, Mashable, The New York Times – and lots of really good sites buzzing with audience, oozing social metrics, tweets, likes shares, whatever.
The problem was that this particular client could buy a much higher volume of links for less money. I’ll be honest, that does get to me – because those bought links are doing their brand no favors. We were getting them coverage, mentions, positive sentiment from authority figures in their vertical. We call that PR, without PR.
Good riddance. Of course, there are more and more online marketing teams who can understand the difference every single day. When 30 Seconds to Mars tweeted some of our client work, and over 1,000,000 people eyeballed our content, we knew we were right. I’m so excited about the future of what we, as an industry, can do.
Let’s shift from link building to audience targeting
So, we need to make a start at getting better at finding the opportunities for our brands to appear in front of the right eyeballs. It’s not a huge change, actually – people who build links are terrific at getting contact data, writing pitches and always following up. All we need to move away from just link building is a push to find new ways to find our audience.
We need really targeted outreach, instead of asking for simple guest posting opportunities.
How Builtvisible builds links
Back in November, I presented a methodology to find and market to your target audience with Twitter data, using Builtvisible (formerly SEOgadget)’s own marketing as the example.
During the research I profiled potential customers for Builtvisible in the UK by job title. For the presentation, we used ‘typical’ Marketing Directors as a start point.
I did a write up for Wall Blog here: http://wallblog.co.uk/2012/10/26/turning-seo-link-building-into-seo-audience-targeting-with-twitter-profiling – we got some really interesting sales enquiries on the back end of that coverage, precisely what I’d intended to happen.
Finding the audience
Think about Builtvisible’s target audience – CEOs, CMOs, In House Marketers. Imagine we’d like those professionals to become aware of us, to get their eyeballs on our brand or to get them to connect with us in some way. How would you do that?
If you have an understanding of what content those people are sharing, you’re in a powerful position – a typical CEO might discover an article and find it worthy enough to share. Great.
But what if our CEO sees a shared item from someone they’re influenced by? Would that make the message more powerful? I think it would.
Finding the influencer intersect
Identifying who influences an individual is rather easy. The real trick is to find the influencers of a representative sample group of your target audience. In other words, the authority figures who seem to be followed by lots of individuals in your target audience.
Rand Fishkin would be a very good example of an influencer of SEO people.
Your can find the influencer intersect with Followerwonk – and it’s really easy to get somewhere, fast:
Clicking the “followed by all three” filter link reveals who our three Marketing Directors all follow:
Getting to the data
So, we want to get in front of our target audience, and we’re going to attempt to get our content shared by an influencer in that group.
All we need to know is where to put our content!
A few weeks ago, I presented to one of our US clients (who operates in the film / movie media space). We took 3 famous film critics and analysed what they were sharing – and most importantly, where. Here are the top domains most frequently shared by our film critics:
That data is derived from Tweetarchivist – a tool that archives advanced Twitter search queries. Hat tip to Oliver Mason for the search query:
filter:links from:@ebertchicago OR @KermodeMovie OR @LouLumenick
Which results in the following data (note the Excel export option!):
And there’s a bunch of Twitter analytics happening in the results, too:
Turning the data into a chart
Exporting the data into Excel, all you have to do is extract the shortened URL using a =MID() query from the original tweet, and then use =UnshortURL() using SEO Tools for Excel, and you end up with something like this:
Does it work?
Yes, I think it does. You learn a great deal about a market when you’re looking for influencers and learning what they’re sharing, because, you’re gaining an understanding of what works in that particular vertical. You’re understanding the people who are passionate about that space.
In my opinion, if you’re starting a content marketing campaign with a query in Google for sites that accept guests posts, you’re doing it wrong.