August 25, 2011: What makes a good link builder? Some might say attentiveness, technological proficiency, or tenacity. Some might argue a combination of all three and then some. A lot of different skills come in to play when it pertains to becoming proficient at link building.
Link building seems simple in principle but is difficult in practice. While even a new student of SEO understands the value in inbound links, being able to execute actual campaigns to acquire these links is another story.
But because a good SEO strategy needs links (like a good marketing strategy needs communication) and because someone is under the gun to generate results, they make mistakes. Perhaps that is partly to blame for what happened in the J.C.Penney scandal earlier this year. Perhaps it’s why someone’s PR pitch gets called out in popular sites like this one and this one.
Here are five common mistakes I have seen when executing link building campaigns, and the steps an SEO should take to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Failing to Properly Identify Contact Information
The first step in link building is identifying potential link opportunities. In doing so, care must be made in identifying accurate information. This includes:
- Site owner name
- Site owner contact information (email, phone, social media, etc)
Take the time to get the right information and spell correctly (especially names, titles, and company information). If the target website has multiple authors and contacts (as many publishing sites would), do the due diligence to attempt to find the best possible source.
The more valuable the link would be to your SEO strategy, the more time should be taken in finding accurate contact information.
Mistake #2: Failing to Understand the Market
Understanding how people search for a business product or solution is really part of the entire marketing strategy. Link building is in many respects, simply a form of the marketing communications process.
Link builders must understand the potential value the organization provides for a target market, when looking for the most applicable, quality websites to obtain links. This often includes:
- The right industry publishers
- Social communities and online forums
In addition to site identification, the understanding of the target market aids considerably in communication strategy. This understanding impacts both the direct outreach and how a link builder positions the opportunity in detail.
Mistake #3: Failing to Connect Value
Taking outreach to the granular level, each link request should demonstrate value for the recipient. If you’re asking a site owner to link to your content, web page, and/or website, you should be able to immediately answer the following:
- How this link asset benefits the site owners readership?
- Why the link asset is related to the recipient’s website?
My opinion is that you also want to incorporate “how you’re going to help the site owner develop the possible link” (which might mean code assistance, content development, etc), but that might be overwhelming.
You are getting something of value if that site owner links to your content. Make certain to provide enough value back in the process.
Mistake #4: Failing to Understand the Competition
An SEO’s competition is a combination of traditional and keyword-related organizations. Within these areas, different competitors have different links, often for a wide range of reasons.
Search engine marketers should evaluate link profiles for all competitors, using tools like Open Site Explorer, Yahoo Site Explorer (soon to cease to exist), or Majestic SEO, in an effort to understand how and why these sites gain inbound links.
SEO’s should also directly evaluate competitive content strategy, for opportunities to expand and improve upon a client’s (or sites) own content marketing initiatives.
Mistake #5: Failing to Persevere
Any moderately experienced SEO has faced this: the website or organization that offers little to no content. Or the site owner that places so much restriction on communication (and that might be because of outside regulation) it feels like every avenue for link building is blocked off.
This is where tenacity and creativity come into play.
The review of social sites like Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon may help spur creativity. Keep tabs on SEO publications for link strategy ideas. Fill your RSS Reader with industry-specific news publishers to keep up to date with the latest trends and information.
Wrap Up and Final Thoughts
Link building can be challenging, particularly in competitive markets or where your arms are a tied with limitations. However getting the right things done with link building at the start, can ultimately make the difference in providing long-term value for a web business.
What common mistakes have you noticed in the link building campaigns you’ve run or encountered? I would love to hear your perspectives via the comments below.