Why collaboration is king: How to synchronise for strategic link building

A  late 2018 article in Medium magazine claims:

Link building was being declared dead for years. A lot of businesses who could not learn and adapt to the rules and the requirements of the skills and tools had to give up on link building.

Undeniably, link building has become increasingly challenging. Yet with no sign of Google dropping links as a metric from its core ranking algorithm, it is as vital as ever.

To be of any value, link building must have a measurable financial impact. For e-commerce brands, rather than building hundreds of links to one big hero piece, this often means earning a handful of links to a whole host of product pages.

Effective link building is and always has been challenging – it requires agile strategy, skill, and sustained effort.

Most importantly, however, the key to effective link building for e-commerce brands lies in cross-departmental collaboration. From product and brand to PR and SEO, all teams should view effective link building as an important performance driver. Much like site-speed, we believe that link building shouldn’t be an isolated task, but instead, should be part of your integrated marketing efforts, baked-in to the whole marketing team’s intuition.

Taking e-commerce beauty brands as an example, this blog post pairs effective link building tactics with specific team members, to highlight the diversity of opportunities available and the methods of obtaining them.

Product & brand teams

The opportunity:

Earning highly relevant coverage and building links to the product pages which drive the most revenue, in order to improve rankings and increase traffic.

The problem:

Everyone knows that acquiring backlinks to product pages is notoriously tricky. Asking journalists to link to products because you gave them some content isn’t a mutual agreement, and often you’ll be told that a product link is classed as advertorial and swiftly receive their media pack.

The solution:

Transform your products into news. If you want free coverage and links to a product page from journalists, you should expect to give them a news story and not a commodity to flog.

How can a product team help make news?

  1. Let your PR team know when you’ve restocked a best-seller so they can tell the world.
Restocked skirt
  1. Stocked a weird item that somehow disrupts industry trends? Are you the first site to stock a UK exclusive? Let your content and PR team know all the relevant details so they can spin a press release for their contacts.
  1. Cross-reference and/or track SKU data around significant events in a content or PR calendar – did you see a rise in sales of red lipstick after Rihanna wore it at the Met Gala? Outreach your unique product data! Believe it or not, this stuff makes the headlines and creates further product hype.
Berry lipstick

PR team

The opportunity:

Traditional PR typically measures itself on coverage and traffic through online placements, but what if it also met your digital marketing and SEO goals too?

Brand coverage can lead to product links. Additionally, traditional PR activities such as events, competitions, and product launches provide the perfect content for link building.

The problem:

It is often sadly the case that PR and SEO teams and agencies are siloed and work against one another rather than with. This doesn’t have to be the case though and it’s something Builtvisible is working to tackle.

But, as it stands, PRs and SEOs are striving to meet different KPIs and therefore have different approaches. Chasing after links isn’t a PR’s job, but arguably, creating newsworthy link opportunities is.

The solution:

Firstly, some rudimentary SEO training will allow marketing teams to align, to leverage traditional PR activities for digital KPIs.

How can the PR team easily help bag links?

  1. By using sites such as HARO, PRs can keep their eyes peeled for contributor opportunities whether that be interviews, Q&As, or expert quotes. By offering insights in press releases from your founder, makeup guru or any relevant insider, you can earn yourself a nice piece of coverage, as well as a link back to your website.
  1. Have you just signed a significant brand or product collaboration or partnership? Brand collaborations are highly anticipated and an easy story for journos to sell. No doubt you’ll already have planned your launch party, but is your new collaboration product page live and optimised? If so, it’s a no brainer to include an anchored link to it in any press releases to transform brand coverage into product page links.
Brand collaboration
  1. By sharing activities* with the other departments: this may seem like an obvious one, but it’s staggering how many missed opportunities there are due to a lack of communication between PR and SEO.

*At a very least, your digital marketing, SEO and content teams should have eyes on any PR activities and calendars. That way, they can build pages for those social competitions, optimise product pages for new product launches and take offline presence online, to give PRs extra assets to disseminate to their little black books.

SEO team

The opportunity:

Building links is futile if there is no understanding of which pages need links, how many they need and what the overall effort is to get those links relative to the increase in traffic and revenue. However, as well as steering the direction of link building, SEOs can easily contribute to the process with data – and lots of it.

The problem:

For obvious and rational reasons, SEO teams often tend to pass over all offsite SEO and link building activities to their ‘creative content team’ – even though a lot of invaluable tools, data and insights into link opportunities lie with them, first and foremost.

The solution:

Link building isn’t always the result of a creative hero content piece. SEOs should play to their strengths and use everyday tools to identify, compile and automate bulk link building opportunities and spot quick wins from a technical perspective.

How can your SEO team get more involved in the process?

  1. (Old but gold) provide your content and promotion team with Ahrefs Link Intersect data so they can spot the gaps and understand what is working for competitors.
  1. Find old affiliate redirects and no-followed links from PR coverage and pass those over to PR teams. They can then take advantage of their strongest relationships by asking journalists to update to followed links.
  1. If you’re an e-commerce stockist brand, identify competitors’ out of stock products* and pull their corresponding backlinks so that your outreach team can go out and realign them to your equivalent product pages.

*You can do this using your competitor’s out of stock indicator (e.g. ‘currently unavailable’) and a quick Screaming Frog crawl.

Step 1 – Use the Custom Search tool under the Configuration navigation to search a website using its out of stock indicator.

Screaming Frog - step 1

Step 2 – Using Amazon as an example, we copied and pasted their identifiable out of stock copy from the HTML into the search navigation under the ‘contains’ filter’. We’ve used two search strings to be extra sure.

Screaming Frog - Step 2

Step 3 – Run a crawl of the site using that custom search to return all of the product pages that contain the “out of stock” string. We recommend doing a quick manual QA as well to ensure no errors.

Screaming Frog - step 6

This list of tactics is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully demonstrates the potential for a more effective approach to link building once responsibility is shared out across each of your digital marketing teams.

We’re always open to conversations and questions, so get in touch if you’d like to have a chat about your link building strategy or need help with internal training.

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