November 4, 2009

13 Advice when Link building through Social Media

I have tried to teach these methods so many times it almost hurts my head to think about it. However, from what I’ve learned, the advices below are completely useless if you’re not the right kind of person. This blog post will discuss some advice on link building through social media.

What is link building
“Link building” is a term used by search engine professionals to describe the practice of actively working to receive inbound links to your website. Inbound links are important due to Google’s evaluation of links as a mean to rank different websites in relation to each other on a search engine result page (SERP) for a specific keyword. Long sentence, but in short; Links are what make you or brake you in the battle for visibility in the search engine.

If you have a lot of links pointing to your website’s index page, and a lot of links pointing towards sub-pages and (if applicable) posts, then your value in the search engine is better than for a website that doesn’t have the same amount of links.

Thus “link building” is the process you undergo to actively promote your content in a way so that people who haven’t thought about linking to your website, now do.

Traditional link building/Social media link building
The main difference between traditional link building and social media link building is the focus. When you are working with traditional link building you are focusing on anchor texts in your back links from specific web pages. When you are concerned with social media link building, you focus on the person behind the web page you want to get links from.

On my behalf. Focusing on the person behind the page is much more important and efficient then trying to get one link from one page. By focusing on the person behind a page, you can relatively easy find a way in which you can get more then one link from the same source without that much effort.

Preparing the content
On any given work day a traditional link builder would write an article or a blog post, or produce some kind of content. Then he/she would use the main keywords found in the title and header of that post to search for other posts with this keyword. Let’s say I would want to rank for the keyword “Love handles” as I am running a “get skinny – fatty!!” spam blog it would look something like this.

H1: “Love handles are cute But Dangerous”
Title: “Diet : Love handles are cute But Dangerous – getskinnyfatty.com” (Category : H1 – domain.com)

In the description and in the first paragraph I would use some related keywords (see below) that I am going to link bait in order to catch such readers attention for relevance. Then I would write a short and to the point article ending with a couple of ads for diet pills.

Sourcing the potential linkers
Then I would continue by looking at websites ranking for words related to fat people with love handles. An excellent way to get related keywords is to go to Google’s own service “Google KeywordTool“.

As a keyword I would enter “fat people with love handles”.

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 6.46.52 PM

I hit the button “Get keyword ideas” and below there is a list of keyword suggestions on variations and of related to this specific keyword. Next to that is also an estimate of the search volume for this keyword as well as an indication to how many others that are currently buying adwords for the specific related keyword.

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 6.48.47 PM

Still as a traditional link builder I would probably choose the word “best workout for love handles” (or some other keyword found further down the list) above as it is not that exposed to marketing and it is strongly related to the diet pills that I am marketing on my “get skinny – fatty!!!” web site.

Then you would search for it in Google to find websites that rank for this specific keyword.

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 7.19.15 PM

The traditional link builder would then harvest websites that mention these words and e-mail the contact addresses of these websites, their webmasters or any other person, asking to make a link exchange, or asking to pay for a link from a specific page with a specific keyword.

The difference of the two link building tactics
It is at this last step where the two different tactics actually start differing. It is important to note here that what I am about to tell you might come off as evil. But it is merely an example and I would never (cough) do this in reality.

What I would do when focusing on social media link building would be to go to the blog search and search for the same keyword. Then I would sort by date.

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 7.54.29 PM

I sort by date in order to find people talking about this topic right now. Relevance or ranking is not very relevant at this point. Now I am not looking for a good page, but I am looking for a good person. A good person is someone I think I could make an impression on, that would also find my content relevant. The later of the two criteria is best found when sorting for date.

What kind of people to look for
Now the diet vertical is one of the spamiest in the industry and it will thus take me a lot of time to find who I’m looking for. I am looking for a blog that holds a couple of criteria. I want the person to be self loving, have some kind of vanity, be interested in diet and if possible also give a lazy impression. What I am also looking for is some kind of social online engagement.

This could be seen from the following elements present in a blog:

  • A big picture of the author or on the about x page (vanity)
  • Titles asking questions or one word head lines (insecurity)
  • A looooong blogroll list (crying for attention)
  • Big social media buttons, and loads of them (activity in social media)
  • Best case scenario would be to find a blog with a close up on a love handle (knowlege about overweight)

Big no no’s are blogs that contain boxes looking like the two below:

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 8.09.55 PM Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 8.10.36 PM

These people either sell links or want to earn money from their blogs. You will not get anywhere with these people at this time. They will be approached by one of your “victims” later.

As I am writing and getting examples for this blog post on the fly, I feel I need to change my searched for keyword. I need to find a suitable blog for this purpose. These things happen all the time. You’ll source for websites with all the wrong keywords. At this time I’ll switch keyword to something like “Why am I so fat” or “I need to loose weight” or possibly even “How can I loose my love handles”.

And WOOPS here we found it. I won’t link to this blog, nor will I tell you where to find it or which keyword I used to find it out of respect for the person. I guess the one’s of you who really want to know who this blog belongs to can find it, but please don’t as this has nothing to do with this person, but a sourcing technique for link building in social media. Again: I am not doing this to be evil, but I am doing this as merely an example. But with a title like this it is difficult to resist:

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 8.27.31 PM

Almost too perfect to be true. The problem however is that the person doesn’t seem to have a single picture nor does the person have any social sharing buttons available on the blog. I could continue working to find such a blog, but I guess you see the point.

How to turn the process social
First thing you should do is to find another post on the same blog that is not related to your topic, but that you know enough about to talk about for 15 minutes or so. (15 minutes of talk are a hell of a lot of comments and tweets) Getting to know someone online doesn’t have to require that much in common, but saying the right things are important.

If you would contact this person on directly in the post about weight loss, then you’re busto. That is not the way to do it as the person don’t have a relationship with you and really don’t want to talk about the big belly first thing. So you find the other blog post, and you start out by writing a comment on that post. The comment has to be direct and relate to some specific phrase in the blog post. That way the person knows or thinks you have actually read and thought about what they have written.

The connecting angle
The only exception when you actually can make direct contact on the content related to your topic is if you would have two blogs with authors that you would like to connect to. Then you should try to connect their two blog posts with a comment such as “I read in this blog [link]….” in both blogs. That way you start building a relationship between the two people.

That way you become the start off glue in their relation. That can be highly beneficial in the long run. However, let’s continue.

Reaching out in another forum
The most common situation is that you now find some other place where the blogger is active. If this is Twitter it is perfect as you can follow anyone. Facebook is more private and hence something I wouldn’t recommend as a first touch off base. LinkedIn works miracles if your aiming for a professional exchange angle. However, the main point here is that you find and connect with the person on another platform. When making contact with the person you write them a message relating back to the comment you made, in the post you “liked”.

If there are social media buttons this is very simple as you can click a button, connect and then start chatting away. Otherwise you’ll have to do some searching on the various platforms. It is worth it, so do it.

How to get the links
This is the best part of it. You DON’T ask for the links. I promise you they will come any way. Just do the “get to know” thing. Be positive, tell the person about your project, give them a link to your “Top 10 diet tips” if they ask for an example. But also give them a link to the post you want to build links to.

  1. One post with a resource
  2. One post with a purpose

The longer you talk to the person, the higher the probability that they will link to you. If they have a lot of followers on Twitter, try to keep this talk as public as possible. If you’re doing it on Facebook, then keep the dialogue on the wall. That way you let the friends of the person you’re talking to know what you’re about at the same time.

Getting them onto your IM
Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 9.07.29 PMNow is the time when you work on getting them onto your Instant Messaging tool. This is the fastest and easiest way to keep the long term relationship going. Sort the contacts you make under the topic that you know they are interested in. On most IM tools you can create groups.

Build this group of people for a while. Now once you publish content that you think they might be interested in, then you ask for their opinion on that specific piece of content. “Hey, I just wrote a post about…. what do you think?”. If it is relevant to them, they are likely to pick it up and link to it. Or give you feedback, in which case you credit them with name in the bottom of the content which makes it even more difficult for them to not link to you.

The more vain they are, and the better you thank them in your credit, the higher is the likelihood that they link to you. Again… and again…. and again… and again… 🙂

Why make this effort
Well, you know the person is devoted and engaged in loosing weight (in this case), you know they are so engaged about it that they write about it in a blog. By spending your time wisely and connecting this person to yourself, or even better, to other people with the same interest, you become the hero for the day.

At the same time, you know that you have something to give to this person and thus you just wait for him/her to ask for it. You keep the goodie in your back pocket for the right time. Cause you know that if you’ve helped this passionate and engaged individual get better at what they talk about –> then they will recommend you to others that ask about that specific thing. Thus you’ve created a little ambassador for yourself.

LINKS WILL COME YOUR WAY as a result of this effort.

Person instead of Page
This practice can be employed on many different verticals. As I said before, a traditional link builder focus on the page, but a social media link builder focus on person. You shouldn’t aim for direct closure, but for multi closure in the long run.

I know some of you out there reading this have crazy management demanding results by the minute. Perhaps you pay for your links today. Please ask them to get at least one day per week for this. It won’t give you immediate results, and if you’re a bad social networker, it probably never will, but for those of you who know you can network –> This method will bring you loads of links in 6 months to a year.

Natural, free, Google friendly links.

Rounding up the whole deal
I know the genuine people out there feel like I am an asshole for writing this post in such a cynical way. However, I am not really writing it for you. I am writing this post for those of you who struggle every day to build links that aren’t happy about your situation and want to try something new. Focus on person and not on page. In some verticals this might even be a good strategy even though you buy your links. Some people have many websites and why not try to hit a load of link acquisitions at once instead of just buying them one at a time.

Focus on person not on page. That is ONE way of building links through social media. There are loads of other links that take their origin in Facebook or from Digg or other social websites. For some ideas on how to do that, please have a look at my post about social media CRM or just wait until I get an urge to write a monster like this one again.

For those of you who had the stomach to stay this far into the text. Please make comments so that I can fill the holes in this one.

//Jesper

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11 Comments
  • Björn Alberts, November 4, 2009 Reply

    It was well worth 10 minutes reading this post. It is worth underlining two things you wrote, not all people will succeed in this. One have to love detective work and to network. The other thing is that everyone thinking about how to use social media must also change perspectives. It's a long-term game. Except if you run specific campaigns.

  • Jesper Åström, November 4, 2009 Reply

    I couldn't agree more Björn.

  • Christian Rudolf, November 5, 2009 Reply

    I have some feedback!

    1. Linkeconomi. Sure, you can get links but links is also about economics and your strategy have a alternative cost. You touch this issue but I belive this part needs more attention

    2. Do u have data you can share for campaigns like this. It would be very interesting to check

    3. People might find this very manupulative but the person linking to you actually gets a lot from your relatiobship. This is not a one way thing. You have to offer him value in his life, just as he has to offer value to you. This is us humans. This is how we work. If you think this is manipulative. you have really high thoughts about yourself. That you are diffrent from the rest of us.

  • Christian Rudolf, November 5, 2009 Reply

    Also, I forgot a relevant question. How do u scale activities like this. Difficult, yes, impossable, no. Ask the question and start to think about it!

  • Jesper Åström, November 5, 2009 Reply

    @Christian - I agree with your assessment as well. About the data --> I will share this with you when I see you on Saturday. I am not going to post it in my blog. I am not that transparent yet :P... But I can show it to you when I see you.

    You can scale this method to a certain degree. Ie. How many contacts can you handle? Secondly you train and get better at giving people things they can share with others. If you have 10 contacts in a certain group, with sharing you could probably learn how to get at least 10 good links out of these people and their friends. 10 links to a single post is more than most web pages out there.

    Combine this with some automated link building as well as some social bookmarking and you are in a good position. How much time you spend on each post is dependent upon how much the potential revenue for that post is.

    I also agree with your assessment of how manipulative this process is. However you need some tough skin if you work in certain verticals. One of them being the one described here.

  • @collentine, November 5, 2009 Reply

    Very good post and written in a clear, easy language:)

    Creating relations with more influentual bloggers should work the same way. If you put down the time for getting the exposure then why not go for the value of a link on a popular persons blog instead of aiming at google-rank?

  • Christian Rudolf, November 5, 2009 Reply

    This linkbuilding and some traditionell linkbuilind is probably a very strong combo!

    However, you might view this as more of PR or advertising. Connecting with the rigt people might get u massive secondary effects. I have been inside one of these storms and seen it

    Also, I might ad, this type of linkbuilding is fun, very social and u actually meet people!

  • Jesper Åström, November 5, 2009 Reply

    @collentine - this blog post would have been six times as long if I would have covered all aspects of making relations online. This time I talked about people who has the sole purpose of building links. I would probably not use this method alone if I would build lasting relationships with influential bloggers. The risk you take with each blogger is too high as you might go busto at any time. So, I would suggest a more cautious approach.

    Thus I agree with your comment, but I will need a couple of more posts in order to build that complexity to something understandable. Please stay with me and come back with more comments as I am highly inspired to write more!

    @Christian - as I said to @collentine - if you target high value bloggers you need to be more careful. Thats all :) I'll write a post about it.

  • PLANETwebfoot, November 10, 2009 Reply

    Great tips. I agree with other commenters that this is definitely not the route for everyone, however with some time and effort this could be very successful. Thanks for the article.


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