Ken McGaffin, in the first of his Link Building Made Simple series of articles, explains how to form a simple strategy that will get your link building campaigns off to a great start.
Be specific about what you want to achieve
The more specific you are about what you want to achieve, the easier it will be to reach your goal.
Your objectives could be about:
- Increasing direct sales from your site
- Building links to improve your SEO
- Increasing your presence on specific authority sites within your market
- Making more people aware of your brand name
- Improving your search rankings for anyone searching on your brand name
Which of these you choose depends on your own business situation.
Take some time now to think about what your objectives really are. Talk it over with your partners, your staff or other website owners.
Even having this discussion can help clarify your approach to link building and what your priorities should be.
Many people who start link building don’t succeed.
Why? Well because link building takes time and effort and if you underestimate that you may become disillusioned and give up.
Set your expectations too high, too early and you will fail.
So start cautiously and give yourself a chance to succeed. For example, your objective might be:
“to publish six guest posts on external sites within the next two months”
Once you’re reached your objective, set another higher one and stretch yourself a little bit more.
Setting the right expectations – ‘defining your objectives’ in management speak – at an early stage sets you up to succeed.
An objective has three essential ingredients:
It must be measurable – if you don’t know how to measure it at the start, how will you know that you’ve succeeded? (in the example above, I’ll know I’ve succeeded when I’ve got six external posts)
It must have a target date – things can really drift if you let them. But there’s nothing so motivating as setting yourself a deadline – a target date by which you achieve your objective. (I’ve said “in the next two months” - that’s clear)
It must be realistic – you must feel that you really can achieve your objective. (Do you have the time and the ability to write six good posts in that time?)
Only you can answer these questions so think about them, draft some objectives then sleep on them overnight.
It’s worth spending the time doing this honestly. The resulting clarity will mean that your link building efforts have a much higher chance of success.
And once you’ve done that you must do something really important:
“Write your objectives down and paste them up on the office wall”
The funny thing about people is that once we set ourselves a goal, we have a natural, stubborn tendency to stick at it. But whatever your goal, the important thing is that you set it and that you write it down.
When you reach your goal, set another and write that down too!
So we’ve looked at a modest objective: “to publish six guest posts on external sites within the next two months”.
But very quickly we realize that our objective does not go far enough.
What external sites do you want to get links from?
And here we can introduce the idea of relevance, so that it’s not just external sites but:
“to publish six guest posts on relevant external sites within the next two months”.
So, if we make handmade chocolates, we’ll want links from relevant chocolate sites.
If we sell mountain bikes, we’ll want links from relevant mountain bike sites.
Yes, of course we will, but that too is limited.
I think that many link builders can be too blinkered in their view of what is relevant. As a result they miss out on some very useful links.
You need to think about link building in a creative way.
So ‘handmade chocolates’ are not just relevant to sites about chocolate, but to gourmet foods, artisan product, quality gifts, delicatessens and so on ...
And ‘mountain bikes’ are not just relevant to sites about mountain bikes, but to all types of bike, to outdoor activities, tourist destinations, fitness sites and so on ...
We’ve got to take time to think about what market segments are relevant.
Which market segments are relevant?
A ‘market segment’ is a clearly definable segment of a large overall market. If you understand which market segments are relevant to your site, then you’ll uncover link prospects that you might not initially have thought of.
And you’ll be able to customize your approaches to each segment - which of course, increases your changes of success.
I’ll take a couple of examples to illustrate the point.
Let’s look at www.dna-worldwide.com who offer both commercial and individual DNA tests. The home page gives a good indication of the sectors that are important:
As you can see, DNA Worldwide are going to be interested in market segments such as sites concerned with paternity, ancestry sites, legal sites and so on. And they’ll want links from them all.
So of all these, where do they start their link building?
The answer must be the sector that brings them the most business at the moment. So if the Ancestry industry accounts for say 50% of their business, then they should concentrate on link building to that sector first.
Let’s look at another example.
SurveyMonkey.com is the market leader in online survey software, so you might think that the places they should look for links are from the market research segment.
But that would fail to discover many legitimate link prospects.
Indeed, SurveyMonkey.com as DIY survey software could be seen as a threat to the traditional market research industry and established sites within the segment may not be keen to undermine leading players by linking to SurveyMonkey.com.
Instead of chasing links from the market research industry, SurveyMonkey.com should be looking to the market segments that it serves. And should be seeking to get links from authority sites within that sector who influence what others do.
So in business, links from magazines who advise businesses would be useful.
In education, links from teachers who use technology and advise others on how to use technology would be useful:
And in the software industry, magazines who cover subjects such as usability testing are going to be valuable:
These links demonstrate the variety of sites that could be potential link prospects for SurveyMonkey.com. (These link examples were all found using the Link Builder tool - more of that later.)
Brainstorm market segments
One useful exercise is to brainstorm the market segments relevant to your website. This diagram shows the market segments that should be relevant to SurveyMonkey.com:
It really is important that you spend time exploring such relevant market segments for your own site. Once you’ve done, that prioritize them and start your link building with the most important segment.
Choose your target keywords
Search engine traffic can bring significant numbers of potential customers to your site. However, such traffic will not happen by accident - you’ve got to optimize your content to attract search traffic.
Search engines match results pages to the words people use when they search - keywords. So if you don’t use the keywords people use to search, then your site won’t appear in the results - and you won’t get the search traffic.
However, you can never guess your best keywords – you’ve got to do the research.
If you’ve already got a website, check which keywords are bringing you traffic at the moment.
If you’re just starting out try out the free Keywords tool
To be successful for your target keywords, you’ll need links from relevant external sites - and you need to include keywords in the anchor text wherever you can.
The obvious place to start is with your internal links - the menu items, categories and other internal links on your site that you have complete control over.
So if you supply mountain bikes, using a menu item such as ‘new products’ is wasteful. Consider something like ‘New mountain bikes ranges’ because the anchor text contains the keyword mountain bikes.
Planning and preparation are everything
If you just jump into link building without careful thought you’re going to miss many opportunities and make a mess of those that you do find.
If you’ve thought about and worked through everything in this article, you’re already well ahead of the competition.
Let’s move on and in the next article we’ll look at how assess your current situation, so you can get the most from your link building efforts.
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Link Building Made Simple
Read the rest of the articles:
Link Building Made Simple introduction
Link Building Made Simple 2: Measuring your success
Link Building Made Simple 3: Current situation
Link Building Made Simple 4: Networking and link prospecting
Link Building Made Simple 5: Content creation
Link Building Made Simple 6: Promotion
About Ken McGaffin
Ken McGaffin is an experienced internet marketing consultant and has worked for major pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies, government bodies and non-profit organizations.
Ken unveils the secrets of successful link building in his 384-page e-book, Successful Link Building
You can watch recordings of his extremely popular (and free) Link Building Webinars