Use Link Prospect Segmentation to Create Content, Conversations and High Rankings
The data produced by large-scale link building research can provide invaluable content strategy insight. By identifying and targeting agenda-based segments within your link prospect list you can drastically improve your link acquisition rates. Further, you set the stage for long term conversation-based relationships with these segments that provide value far beyond influencing the search rankings.
1) Identify the Rank-Influencing Link Prospects for Your Target Keywords
When researching link prospects the best place to start is with the sites that currently support the rankings for your target search terms. Links from these sites have proven their impact. Build your list of rank-influencing link prospects as large as possible - 100,000 link prospects is an excellent target if you have automated processes for separating the wheat from the chaff. You can do great link building work with 1,000 link prospects or even 100, but with thorough data sets you ensure accurate, comprehensive segments of the influential media in your market. Further, with large data sets you will have more contact points in the link acquisition phase of your project.
2) Identify Link Prospect Agendas and Organize into Agenda Segments
Once you've qualified your link prospect list based on the goals for your link building campaign you must spend a great deal of time reading through these sites and identifying their agendas. When identifying agendas you ask questions like: "what reason does this person have for publishing?" Once you've asked this question and recorded your analysis for a random sample of 100 or so qualified link prospects you'll begin to see the essential agenda segments of the rank-influencing media for a space. Once you've answered this question for your entire link prospect data set you can create meaningful, actionable segments. Understanding link prospect agendas not only enables you to write targeted content, but informs the link offers you make in your acquisition phase.
3) Develop Content that Targets Your Rank-Influencing Link Segments
Each of your rank-influencing link prospect segments is a distinct audience that links to content that supports their agenda. They will link to your content so long as it enables them to reach their goals. Brainstorm content ideas for each distinct segment. Think in terms of "titles" without concern yet for type of media (video, article, wiki, podcast etcetera). Think about potential contests, group interviews and aggregated industry overviews that could provide wider exposure for this link prospect segment. Think about embeddable widgets and quizzes that speak to the agenda of this segment. Now you can begin creating content that you know will generate more links from the sites with high impact on your search rankings. If you believe a certain segment will already respond to your existing content then you can - and should - begin immediate outreach.
4) Offer Content to Your Rank Influencers and Acquire Links
Begin acquisition outreach as you develop content for your link prospect segments. Write personal emails that show your interest in their agenda. Ask a question. Subscribe to their RSS feed or newsletter and let them know. Then tell them about your content and show how linking to it can help their core agenda. Expect and engage with all responses - this is a critical phase in which your responsiveness impacts your link acquisition rates. Finally, tune up your calls to action and be sure that it's simple to copy and paste the link from the email you send.
5) Developing Your Rank Influencer Relationships
One key way to maximize your link outreach efforts is to identify ways to develop and grow your relationship with your rank influencers. If they reject your content offer you can learn a great deal by having a conversation about why they decided not to link. If you have subscribed to their RSS feeds or email newsletter you can make a point of adding value through insightful comments in email or directly on their content. Some segments may want to subscribe to your newsletter, which keeps your content and expertise on their radar. Be aware that rank influencers are often purchase influencers within your market. Is there data or executive access you can provide them that will help them to fulfill their agenda? Always treat a link - or a rejection - as the beginning of a conversation that can create long lasting value for both parties.
Thinking of your link prospect segments as distinct audiences can produce powerful rank influence and even purchase influencing results. Through careful, thoughtful segmentation, content that targets these segments and conversational, agenda-based outreach you show the market that your company is a relevant, valuable player in the space. The links that they make to you tell the search engines the same thing.