When you add social media to the equation, the network effect can
multiply the yield from your link-building efforts. You can use this
effect to help your content spread virally, or to develop relationships
with critical influencers.
1. Blogging for Links
Blogging can also be effective in link development. How effective
a blog will be depends highly on the content on it, the market space,
and how the publisher promotes it. The first thing to realize when
starting a blog is that it is a serious commitment. No blog will succeed
if it does not publish content on a regular basis.
How frequently a blog needs to publish depends on its topic
matter. For some blogs one post per week is enough. For others, it
really needs to be two to three times per week, or even more
Blogging is very much about reputation building as well. Quality
content and/or very novel content is a key to success. However, when
that first blog post goes up, the blog will not yet be well known, will
not likely have many readers, and those that do come by will be less
likely to link to a little-known blog.
In short, starting a new blog for the purpose of obtaining links
is a process that can take a long time. But it can be a very effective
tool for link building. Just remember that patience and persistence are
One of the best places to get links to a blog is from other blogs.
This is best done by targeting relationships with major bloggers and
earning their trust and respect. Here are a few key things to think
about when building these relationships:
Be patient when developing relationships with other bloggers.
Trust and respect do not come overnight. And they certainly do not
result from starting the relationship with a request for a
The publisher should target a portion of its content at the
interests of the major bloggers.
Over time, this process should turn into links to the
publisher’s blog from the major bloggers.
Other lesser-known bloggers will begin to see links on the
major blogs and will begin to follow suit.
This can pay big benefits. Vizu, a market research company,
published a study (http://answers.vizu.com/solutions/pr/press-release/20070305.htm)
that showed that 67.3% of people found what blogs to read by following
links from other blogs.
It is also important to leverage the social nature of the
blogosphere. Publishers just launching a blog should try to provide a
personalized response to every person who comments on their blog. One
effective way to do this is to send each and every one of them a
personalized response by email that shows that the comment was
This helps to deepen the interest of the commenter, creates a
feeling of personal connection, and increases the chance that the
commenter will return, and possibly add more comments. Nurturing the
dialog on a blog in this fashion helps that dialog grow faster.
2. Leveraging Social News and Tagging Sites
Social media sites such as Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious, and
others can play a big role in a link-building campaign.
Becoming “popular” on these sites can bring in a tremendous amount
of traffic and links. Although social news sites such as Digg bring lots
of traffic, this traffic is usually of low quality, and will have a very
low revenue impact on the site receiving it. The real ballgame is to get
the links that result.
For example, stories that make it to the Digg home page can
receive tens of thousands of visitors and hundreds of links. Although
many of these links are transient in nature, a significant number of
high-quality links result as well.
When pursuing social media strategies, there are a variety of best
practices to keep in mind:
The number one guideline is to remember that the focus of this
discussion is on “social” media sites. Your success on these sites
is wholly dependent on the response of the group of people as a
whole to your strategy. If you do something that irritates the
community, you can quickly find yourself called out and exposed in
Great care is recommended when working with these communities.
Make sure you are a positive contributor. Take your time and build a
reputation with the community. “Give more than you get” is a great
principle to keep in mind.
If you create articles for social news sites such as Digg,
Reddit, and Propeller, focus on topics that relate to keywords
relevant to your business. As a result of doing this, your articles
can quickly end up ranking very well for those keywords, and the
relevance of the inbound links will be high.
The key insight into how to make that happen is to use the
competitive keyword in the title of the article itself
and in the title of the submission of the
article to the social news site. These are the two most common
elements that people linking to such articles grab when selecting
the anchor text they use.
Sites such as Delicious and StumbleUpon are different in
structure. Delicious is a tagging (or bookmarking) site used by
people to mark pages on the Web that they want to be able to find
easily later. StumbleUpon shares some similarities with Delicious
but also offers a content discovery aspect to its service.
Both of these sites have “popular” pages for content that is
currently hot on their sites. Getting on those pages can bring lots
of traffic to a site. This traffic is of higher quality than what
you get from social news sites.
Users coming to a site via tagging sites are genuinely
interested in the topic in a deeper way than users who spotted a
snappy article title on a social news site. So, although the traffic
may be quite a bit lower than on the social news sites, publishers
can also earn some quality links in the process.
Tagging sites are best used in attempting to reach and develop
credit with major influencers in a market space. Some of these may
link to the publisher, and these are potentially significant
3. Forum and Social Network Participation
Building relationships with other bloggers as outlined so far is
good, but there are additional ways to interact with others and in the
process to let them know you have content they might be interested in.
Any environment in which social interactions occur is another good place
to invest time and effort.
Sites such as those of the current market leaders—LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter—can be used for
link-building purposes without actually getting the link juice directly
from one of these sites. Major forums that relate to your area of
interest also represent great targets.
The guidelines are basically the same: become an active part of
the community. The goal is to become recognized as an active and trusted
contributor to the community so that based on your contributions there,
people will begin to develop an interest in the other things you may
have to say.
For example, people may begin asking for your opinions on other
related topics. This creates opportunities to take the dialog further.
Relationships and networking are essential to increasing
Of course, in the process of building relationships in a social
media environment, you also have the potential for people to submit your
content into those social media sites, which can lead to links. You can
also take the next step and reach out through the social networks or
forums to make direct contact with people to let them know about your
content. This is similar to emailing people, but with a few important
Publishers can send out communications to their friends on
those networks. Assuming that they have treated this designation
(that of friend) with any level of seriousness, instead of
“friending” everybody in sight, the communication can be a bit more
informal than an unsolicited email would be.
Publishers can also join groups on these networks related to
their market space, and then send messages out to those groups.
These groups will provide them with the ability to reach new people
with related interests.
Messages broadcast through these networks cannot be
personalized, so a more general message needs to be tailored for
these types of broadcasts.
These are social networks. Beware of broadcasting too many
messages or poorly targeted messages. Many publishers made this
mistake, became pariahs in their communities, and lost the leverage
these communities bring to the process.
Personalized messages can be sent on a 1:1 basis as
One strategy for approaching an authority site is to make initial
contact by friending someone senior who works at the company that
publishes the site. Then the publisher can develop the relationship with
that senior person without asking anything of her. Once the relationship
is established, a more informal approach can be used to introduce the
great content on the publisher’s site.
4. Offline Relationship Building
Leveraging online platforms for the purpose of building
relationships makes great sense, but there is no reason to stop there.
Do the major influencers in your space speak at conferences? If so, go
to one of these conferences and introduce yourself. This can include not
only bloggers, but also other people influential in your
Another related tactic to consider is contacting the publisher of
an authoritative site and offering the publisher a free seminar/webinar,
with you as the speaker. Or you could propose a joint marketing campaign
with the publisher. Either way, call it part of your company’s outreach
campaign to build relationships with leaders in the space.
If you do this, make sure you articulate well the unique nature of
what you will present. You have to attract their interest with the pitch
before you can take the next step. Make sure you bring a lot of value in
the actual presentation.
Then collect business cards, answer questions, and make yourself
available to answer follow-up questions by phone or email. Once you have
done that, you will have a ton of relationships with people involved in
the authoritative site.
There are other ways to extend this too. For example, you can
sponsor the organization in some fashion. There are, of course, sites
that link to their sponsors, and this may be a win, but it is a link
that Google will want to discount (because it is “paid”), so you should
not count on that aspect of it. The other win is that sponsors often are
able to establish a deeper relationship with the organizations they
Last but not least, most likely you have other
businesses/organizations that you interact with in the normal course of
your business. Once again, you can ask them directly for links, but you
can also ask them for introductions to other people in your space. This
type of networking can be an effective way to build relationships that
eventually lead to high-value links.
5. Some Success Stories Using YouTube
It may become more important for your brand or company to be on
YouTube than to be advertised on TV. For some that day has already
arrived. As of January 2009, Hitwise and comScore both rated YouTube as
the #2 search engine on the Web.
YouTube has launched careers, such as that of YouTuber “Brookers”
who was hired by Hollywood celebrity Carson Daly because of her zany
videos. YouTube has also brought international fame to previously
unknown bands, such as Sick Puppies, a band popularized by the hugely
well-liked and inspiring Free Hugs video set to the Sick Puppies song
“All the Same” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4).
Then there are the hugely successful viral campaigns by commercial
organizations, such as Blendtec’s Will It Blend that we
referenced previously in this chapter. This is a brilliant video series
on various household objects that are run through a Blendtec
blender—including marbles, rake handles, and even iPods.
Blendtec isn’t the only company that has had success with YouTube.
Intuit, maker of the Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax software, ran a
YouTube campaign known as the Tax Rap. It was a pretty off-the-wall idea
suggested in a brainstorming session; as luck would have it, Intuit was
able to secure rapper Vanilla Ice as its front man. After that, it
decided to just pull out all the stops—avoiding any corporate marketing
feel to the campaign.
Seth Greenberg, group manager of Online Advertising and Internet
Media at Intuit, says, “Rather than people making fun of our campaign we
wanted to poke fun at ourselves.” They went to Vanilla Ice’s house in
Palm Beach, Florida, and spent several hours there shooting. Vanilla Ice
has been a big supporter of the campaign, according to Seth. What is
interesting is that Vanilla Ice is a polarizing figure. But that is what
is making it a phenomenon on YouTube. (AdCritic.com said, “I don’t know how
to read this campaign....”)
The campaign received more buzz offline than online. It was
covered by news outlets such as CNN, as well as local stations.
Entertainment Weekly listed Vanilla Ice’s Tax Rap
as #10 on its Hit List. And it made it onto Page Six of the
New York Post.
The key to the Tax Rap video campaign (http://turbotax.intuit.com/taxrap/) was not just that
Vanilla Ice was the front man, but that it also encouraged participation
and viewer support. There was a contest with prize money of $50,000,
with users encouraged to create their own rap about taxes to compete for
Intuit made a sizeable investment, including buying a Contest
channel and a Branded channel on YouTube, as well as paying for
visibility on the YouTube.com home page. Those were
crucial factors for Intuit’s getting more than 1 million views of its
Online jewelry retailer Ice.com made its first foray into YouTube
marketing with its Mr. Cupid interviews of passersby (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPkW1gnhoQg). Executive VP
of Marketing and Founder Pinny Gniwisch put some videos up of himself
conducting impromptu interviews on the streets of New York City, in
Times Square, on the ski slopes of Utah, and elsewhere, prior to
Valentine’s Day. Pinny said the videos did very well for the
YouTube has been used effectively for brand damage control as
well. For example, the CEO and founder of JetBlue Airlines put up an
apology video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r_PIg7EAUw) on YouTube
because of a Valentine’s Day winter storm incident—a campaign that was
One product that got some excellent brand recognition and building
from being on YouTube was Smirnoff’s Raw Tea. Smirnoff produced an
uproarious music video called “Tea Partay” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTU2He2BIc0), with
Social media expert Neil Patel (http://www.pronetadvertising.com/about/) notes that the
problem with most popular YouTube promotions is that YouTube gets the
links and the original site usually does not. That means the search
engine visibility benefits do not usually transfer to the company’s
Even without creating your own site or hosting your videos on your
main site to draw links, YouTube offers much in the way of brand
visibility when the campaign is well executed. That doesn’t just mean
posting a great video; marketers must also know how to take advantage of
the social nature of the site, to build up friends and to get on user
Jonathan Mendez of Optimize and
Prophesize is an evangelist for the power of tags for marketing
on YouTube. His advice is to make copious use of tags on your videos
(ensuring, of course, that the tags are relevant to the content), to
spread your tags out among your clips, to use adjectives to make your
videos more visible to folks who are searching based on their mood, to
have some category descriptor tags (bearing in mind that YouTube’s
default search settings are Videos, Relevance, and All Categories), to
match your title and description with your most important tags, and not
to use natural language phrases or waste tag space on words such as
and and to.
Do not be afraid to make a start, even if it is modest and has
little budget behind it. You won’t get anywhere without experimenting
with the medium. Ongoing experimentation provides you with the best
chance to find a formula that works for you.
6. Social Media Tips for More Sites
Although we have outlined some of the basics of how to work with
social media sites, each site has its own quirks and opportunities. What
follows is an outline of tips to use on many of these sites.
You may not think of Wikipedia as being useful in link building
since it NoFollows all its external
links. It is not a wise idea to simply go onto the site and create a
page for your company. Unless your company is well known, it is likely
to be promptly removed. However, links from Wikipedia can be valuable
because many people treat it like an authoritative site, and if they
see your link on Wikipedia they may choose to link to you. This can
include some pretty influential people.
Therefore, you may want to build trusted relationships within
the Wikipedia community. This will require an investment in time, but
it can bring some nice rewards. Here are some specific tips on how to
Build up your credibility (long and virtuous contribution
history, user profile page with Barnstar awards) before doing
anything that could be construed as self-serving. It is not good
enough to be altruistic on Wikipedia unless you
demonstrate it. It has to be visible as a
track record (e.g., do squash spam and fix typos and add valuable
content, but do not do it anonymously).
Negotiate with an article’s “owner” (the main editor who
polices the article) before making an edit to an article to get
her blessing first.
Use Wikipedia’s “Watch” function to monitor your articles of
interest. Better yet, use a tool that emails you (e.g.,
TrackEngine, URLyWarning, or ChangeDetect).
The flow of PageRank can be directed internally within
Wikipedia with Disambiguation Pages, Redirects, and
Make friends. They will be invaluable in times of trouble,
such as if an article you care about gets an “Article for
Do not edit anonymously from the office. This could come
back to haunt you. Tools exist that could embarrass you if you do
so. One public domain tool, WikiScanner, is able to
programmatically take anonymous Wikipedia posts and identify the
organization that created them. The tool cross-references the IP
address to make the edits with the blocks of IP addresses of more
than 180,000 organizations. Do not take the risk.
Plenty of other wikis are a lot more edit-friendly than
Wikipedia and let you contribute valuable content, get links, and
build relationships. Examples include ShopWiki, The NewPR Wiki,
Codex, and conference wikis such as Web20Expo. Some even pass
link juice, which is a nice bonus.
As of early 2009, Flickr is the most popular photo-sharing site
on the Web. It can be an effective tool in gathering traffic and
exposure for your website. Lots of people search on Flickr, and images
in Flickr can rank prominently in web search results. If people find
your images on Flickr, it can cause them to click through to visit
your site. As with other social media properties, this traffic can
lead to links to your main site, but it is an indirect approach. Here
are some key tips:
Always use tags—as many as possible while still being
accurate. Surround multiple-word tags with quotation marks.
Make descriptive titles for your photos.
Create thematic sets for your photos.
If the photo is location-specific, go into Flickr’s tools
and geotag the picture by finding its location on Yahoo! Maps and
then dragging the picture onto the map to pinpoint its
License your photo with Creative Commons and state how you
want the user to credit you in your photo’s description.
Meetup.com is a site designed to help
groups of people with interests in a common topic “meet up.”
Completely aside from any SEO concerns, these meet-ups can be
excellent networking events.
Get involved with relevant local meet-ups and get your Meetup.com member
profile page linked from the Meetups page, which will pass link juice
to your profile and then on to your site.
Twitter has established itself as the leading microblogging
site. It allows its members to contribute microblog posts (a.k.a.
“tweets”) that are limited to 140 characters. It has become an
environment for real-time communication with a broader network of
people. You can use Twitter as an effective platform for promoting
your business. It is just another channel for communicating with your
customers and market.
The basic concept is to become an active member of the community
and build a large network of followers. As with other networking
sites, many important influencers spend time on Twitter. If you can
use Twitter to develop relationships with these people, that can
provide some very high-quality links.
In addition, if you create some high-quality content, you can
gain a lot of exposure as a result of getting a lot of “re-tweets”
(whereby people forward your message to all of their followers).
Particularly interesting tweets can get significant visibility for you
and your company. Here are some more specific tips for leveraging
Twitter for relationships and links:
Create a subpage or microsite dedicated to Twitter. For
example, Zappos created http://twitter.zappos.com. Our recommendation leans
toward creating a subpage (e.g.,
http://www.yourdomain.com/twitter) as this is
likely to do a better job of passing link juice back into the rest
of your site.
Avoid getting your message blocked by a recipient’s email
spam filter or adding to an already overflowing inbox by using
Twitter’s direct messages.
Contact influencers in your Twitter network by working
through those in common with you. Identify the common “friends”
with Tweetwheel.com. You can send
your request for them (e.g., to check out your latest post) as a
7. Social Media Summary
To sum up the social media strategy, it is useful to think about
it as an old-fashioned PR/marketing strategy. Marketers used to think
about the number of “impressions” they were able to create in people’s
minds. The more impressions you can create the better. When TV, print,
and radio were the only media to worry about, this was relatively simple
The current environment is much more complex. The people you are
trying to reach use many venues, and all of the various social media
properties are part of that picture. Whenever you have a social media
property that a large number of people use, there is an opportunity to
reach them. Success in reaching them depends on becoming a trusted
member of that community.
Since there are many large communities, it can be complex and
expensive to establish a presence in all of them. But presence in each
one does add to the number of opportunities you have for creating
impressions in your target audience. Since major influencers in your
market may be using these communities, you have an opportunity to reach
them as well.Pursuing social media sites can be a very effective strategy. It
does require a real investment to do well, but when it’s done well the
strategy can provide some nice benefits.