Make no mistake, fast websites and good content are some of the best assets businesses have in their search engine optimization efforts, but without links, a digital enterprise is sure to be relegated onto the second page and beyond (lower in the index). That's not where you want to be, nor does anyone, so focusing efforts on acquiring more and better links is all that can, and should, remain on your digital agenda. But not, perhaps, in the way you might think.
Building links for the sake of building links can feel like a fool's errand. There's too much to lose (e.g. firstpage rankings) to use the many shortcuts available, that while in some instances can provide a quick boost, rarely result in any long-term competitive advantage. In fact, many of the more popular approaches (like comments, directories, site wide footer links on client sites, etc.) can actually damage a good link profile severely, put your good digital name in jeopardy, send your website falling down the search results pages, and drive your conversion metrics much lower as well. There's a much better way and it's quickly being adopted, or should we say "rediscovered," by the savviest digital brands in operation today.
The most fruitful approach to acquiring the citations your enterprise website needs is to be more artistic as well as more scientific than your competitors are when it comes to content development. From the development of videos, production of survey and research data, to the creation of long-form articles, the higher quality and more diverse your content assets, the more opportunities you'll have to acquire Web-based citations. But creating or developing content isn't nearly enough, publishing (distributing and marketing) that content is where the best separate their enterprises from the competition and how they find their sites in such rewarding locations on the search results.
Essentially, it's time to rethink SEO entirely, adopting an all but tried-and-true method used for many years to raise awareness before the Web, as you know it now, was ever even imagined. SEO isn't dead (yet), but digital public relations (DPR) is alive and well. And when it comes to public relations in the digital world, a creative and nearly scientific audience outreach strategy is going to prove to be absolutely everything. Fortunately for you, in this month's Mastering Search column with Website Magazine, that's just what you'll find.
Outreach is a term that is often bandied about the search engine optimization industry in discussions of building links. The reason is that the more effective the outreach (the methods, tactics and strategies you use to identify, contact and manage those relationships that can result in links) the more effective the overall link building campaign and SEO efforts will be. Over time, you'll end up acquiring links for the benefit of your enterprise, which by their very nature are capable of sending Internet visitors to a website. That's the dream, and it's not such a far off reality.
Keep in mind that links don't typically build themselves or emerge from the digital ether. While an elite few will be able to generate the necessary number of citations by their mere presence, as a result of creating the best products for example, or being part of a broader network which exchanges links with itself, the rest are going to have to work at it. That means you'll need to work tirelessly in pursuit of those opportunities - understanding who is leading the conversation and setting its tone, gaining the attention of those link prospects in whatever way necessary and maintaining positive interactions. It should be done thoughtfully, respectfully and tactfully, and when done well, you will you be able to secure placement for competitive keywords over the long term. Fortunately, it's a whole lot easier thanks to social media.
The time spent on search engine optimization and now in digital public relations (DPR) should be divided, nearly equally in my own experience, between the identification of link targets, contacting link targets (be they website or actual individuals), and managing the integrity and activity of those links (the relationship itself). That's digital public relations in a nutshell.
First however, it's essential to find those websites (and more importantly, people) willing and able to provide a link. There are several questions to ask yourself in the linktarget identification phase of your SEO initiative. While it should go without saying that any company or individual that is referenced in a content item should be contacted in the hopes of acquiring a link, it's also necessary to pursue those who carry influence in a particular niche in the hope of raising awareness of a published content item. Depending on the vertical in which you are optimizing, you're almost guaranteed that there will be a few heavyhitters, those whose opinions mean more than others. It's on these influencers that your outreach must focus.
While search engines are of course quite useful in identifying those websites and individuals that can be deemed influential, they can be cumbersome to navigate. Fortunately, many software solutions exist which fill the void. Little Bird and BuzzStream, for example, are fast becoming popular tools for finding influencers on different topics but there are, of course, many others including Traackr, TapInfluence, and Zoomph to name but a few. Users leveraging these influencer marketing platforms are able to understand not just trending news and the most talked about and most shared information on social media sites and the Web in general, but also identify and manage outreach to those deemed most influential.
The Web is changing and the most enterprising Internet professionals understand how. It's not prudent any longer to pursue links, but rather relationships with those who control the conversation, influence others and who are capable of sending traffic separate from the search engines. SEO isn't dead, but it's certainly evolving with some effective practices of the past - namely digital PR.
To truly become a master of SEO and secure your website a top ranking on the results pages, you'll need to stay tuned in to the latest changes and developments happening at the search engines. Discover a few of the most important recent stories below, and make sure to subscribe to Website Magazine's Mastering Search Newsletter and you'll be increasing visibility and drive new visitors to your Web property right away.
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ What's Your GEO-Rank? Find out where your website ranks in specific geographic (local and global) locations at popular search engines
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ Salary Trends for Search Marketers: What can you expect to earn from a professional career in search marketing? A new SEMPO survey tells all
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ The Rich Snippets Shakeup of 2013: The value of authorship markup and other rich snippets will likely be dialed back in the coming months
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ More Website Pages, Higher Rankings: Contrary to popular opinion, more Web pages on your website don't exactly equal higher rankings
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ Page Preview Control: in Bing Website publishers can now manage the page previews that are shown in Bing from within Webmaster Tools
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ Give Bing (SEO) a Chance: There's more way to drive website traffic than Google and many ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§Net professionals are looking at Bing
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ SEO Evolves into Digital Revenue Optimization: Content marketing platform BrightEdge is offering up a some relief to webmaster's anxiety about losing keyword-level data
‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨¬¢ Bing Image Search Gets Pinned: A new image collections feature has emerged on Bing which integrates data from social pinboard Pinterest