Link Building 101: Introducing the Link Strategist + 4 Ways to Add "Link Thinking" Into Every Project
Link Building, like SEO (or content strategy for that matter :) should start well before a site, product or service gets launched to the market. Marketers ideally "bake in" a link building hook into every new page that gets published on their site, even if that hook is simply "being remarkable. *"
Link Building As Afterthought
Link building, too often, happens as an afterthought. Links are often viewed as outside the context of the business or even the website - something to be tacked on later, as shingles are added to a house.
We often discuss group interviews as a method for baking links into great content. And it works for building links, brand, good will and targeted traffic. It's still afterthought link building though, and it leaves clients with no real internal change that could impact their link building efforts into the future. (This is in part why we wrote the Link Building Book.)
This has gotten me wondering - are we (Ontolo) link builders or are we simply marketers who build "link thinking" into what we're good at, which is research plus starting and continuing influential market conversations with written content? And if so, how do we help businesses build "link thinking" into what THEY'RE inherently good at **?
Introducing the Link Strategist
I believe that your organization requires a link strategist, whose first responsibility is to understand the market's linking audience and what compels them to link. Her second responsibility is to the organization as a whole, and to each and every one of its departments, where she works to connect their brightest stars with your market's linking audience.
In From “Link Builder” to “Link Strategist” I recommended that the link strategist work closely with the content department, the PR department, the social media department and of course the SEO department. I missed the dev department though...
In a recent conversation with Jeremy Bencken of WebSimple (Jeremy built and sold ApartmentRatings.com) I had a glimpse of a link strategist's mind at work. By leveraging his internal web development resources, his understanding of what his linking audience responded to, AND his knowledge of his target audience's apartment-seeking needs he created and promoted free web-based tools that helped drive referral and organic search traffic.
He described scenario after scenario in which they leveraged their development and data-gathering strengths for link building. Lucky for his company their CEO was also a link strategist ;)
4 Ways to Add "Link Thinking" Into Every Project
It's important to note that your organization, more than likely, already has a link strategist. Here's what she does that's so valuable:
1) Network Internally
The link strategist enjoys talking with people from all areas of the organization and is genuinely interested in what they're trying to accomplish. She can naturally sniff out the "best and brightest" of your organization and can understand how their goals and objectives can be woven into a link building strategy.
2) Report On the Linking Audience
What does the linking audience respond to? Why? The link strategist can answer this, and tell you which members of your linking audience will have the biggest boost in the SERPs. Ideally the Link Strategist gets involved in the early phases of a project and can deliver a list of recommendations (tailored to the department, with jargon they understand) and prioritized link prospects.
3) Define the Role of the Link Strategist
The link strategist will have to do everything at first, as she develops out the requirements of her role. This will include everything from link prospecting, link qualification to developing and executing link outreach campaigns. And, probably, this will be in addition to her regular job description duties. We salute you, Link Strategist!
4) Establish the Internal Credibility to Pitch Projects (and Spend Company Resources)
Because of all of her internal networking, she sees opportunities for building links AND business. And this will lead to developing out ideas on paper that she will have to bring to the light of day in order to feel fulfilled (yes we know the insistence of an idea ;). Whether she leverages internal, skunk works help our gets official buy in, the link strategist will have to work hard to establish enough internal credibility to get help. More than likely, this credibility will be won by simply doing everything herself the first time.
What else? What other ways can marketers add "link thinking" into their efforts? I'll be watching for examples and look forward to hearing yours!
* Here's one way to find what your linking audience considers remarkable...
** Link strategists rejoice! We built the Link Building Toolset to enable that ;)