In our first link building workshop, I proposed a shift for link building from an “anchor text” and SERP manipulation mentality towards link prospect engagement and content creation/promotion. Not only does this method (also outlined in our new link building book) improve your trust and authority with search engines, but it weaves you into the culture, conversation and commerce of your market. By building these mutually beneficial relationships you create a more defensible linking position in your market, a position that’s much tougher for competitors to replicate.
This article proposes a shift for link builders out of the SEO department and into a more strategic, “opportunity-identification” role in which they lead other departments towards productive relationships and effective, impactful link acquisitions. Link builders, we challenge you to become Link Strategists, and help guide your company or clients towards a more natural link profile, and help make it an organization that recognizes the significance and value of links to SEO and beyond.
1) Content Department + Link Strategist
Which departments in the organization create new content (from articles to product pages to videos to job listings, etc.)? Do the creators actually know what types of content they’re competing with in the market? Do the creators understand who their audience of potential linkers is, and consider them as a part of their overall target audience? Do they know the basic directories and aggregators for the types of content they create, and know how and why to submit to them? The link strategist analyzes the content and publishing market, identifies market pains solved by content, and then allies with public-facing content creators and illustrates what they can do to make their content more engaging to the linking audience.
2) PR Department + Link Strategist
PR has already picked its media targets and established key relationships. They’re on a roll. However, were they aware of how many guest publishing opportunities exist in your market space? Did they recognize the ocean of interview opportunities you can discover for your company’s thought leaders? Do they know which media outlets have the strongest SERPs presence for your market? Do they understand that offering your site as a platform for others they can create more content placement opportunities?
The Link Strategist should work to understand the PR department’s objectives, and then help to discover and qualify PR prospects that will also have a solid impact on inbound links. Further, the Link Strategist can and should provide insight into linking best practices.
3) Social Media Department + Link Strategist
How is the social media team in your organization achieving its goals? Are they creating widgets or other embeddable brand experiences? How are they engaging the market? I hear from Brian Chappell of Adapt Marketing that he’s often a linking advocate for social media projects in one of his companies- and sometimes a VERY simple tweak to a widget can result in massive inbound links. The Link Strategist should work to understand the goals of the Social Media department and identify any quick and easy link wins in their current projects. The Link Strategist – already versed in Advanced Search Operators – should know how to identify the footprints of likely widget embedders. Further, with tools such as BackTweets.com Link Strategists can guide the Social Media team (and the PR team) towards power publishers and influential sharers.
4) SEO Department + Link Strategist
Link Strategists should NEVER forget their roots, or how links work as value signals that enable search engines to better determine relevance and rank for web documents. Is the SEO team tasked to improve rankings for specific pages or site sections? The Link Strategist should identify most-linked similar pages on other sites and identify what attracted these links. If the SEO team has engaged in extensive link buys then the Link Strategist can and should work to naturalize the backlink profile (and establish stronger referral traffic streams). Further, with the SEO team the Link Strategist should keep a close eye on competitors, their emerging link building plays, and their impact on the link graph using competitor backlink analysis.
Ideally, Link Strategists move link building campaign design out of an SEO-only activity by engaging with other departments within the organization, understanding their goals and then providing qualified prospects and best practices that result in quality links that drive leads, traffic and SERPs position.