Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : Social Networking for Links

1/12/2011 11:36:14 AM
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 often.

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 required.

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 link.

  • 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 ( 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 read.

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 that community.

    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 links.

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 readership.

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 distinctions:

  • 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 well.

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 space.

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 sponsor.

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” (

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. ( 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 ( 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 the prize.

Intuit made a sizeable investment, including buying a Contest channel and a Branded channel on YouTube, as well as paying for visibility on the home page. Those were crucial factors for Intuit’s getting more than 1 million views of its video.

Online jewelry retailer made its first foray into YouTube marketing with its Mr. Cupid interviews of passersby ( 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 company.

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 ( on YouTube because of a Valentine’s Day winter storm incident—a campaign that was well received.

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” (, with preppies rapping.

Social media expert Neil Patel ( 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 website.

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 subscription lists.

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.

6.1. Wikipedia

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 proceed:

  • 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 Categories.

  • Make friends. They will be invaluable in times of trouble, such as if an article you care about gets an “Article for Deletion” nomination.

  • 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.

6.2. Wikis

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, WordPress Codex, and conference wikis such as Web20Expo. Some even pass link juice, which is a nice bonus.

6.3. Flickr

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 location.

  • License your photo with Creative Commons and state how you want the user to credit you in your photo’s description.

6.4. 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 member profile page linked from the Meetups page, which will pass link juice to your profile and then on to your site.

6.5. Twitter

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 Our recommendation leans toward creating a subpage (e.g., 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 You can send your request for them (e.g., to check out your latest post) as a direct message.

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 to execute.

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.
  •  Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : More Approaches to Content-Based Link Acquisition
  •  Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : Choosing the Right Link-Building Strategy
  •  Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : Types of Link Building (part 2)
  •  Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : Types of Link Building (part 1)
  •  Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing : Further Refining How Search Engines Judge Links
  •  The Art of SEO : How Links Influence Search Engine Rankings (part 2) - Additional Factors That Influence Link Value
  •  The Art of SEO : How Links Influence Search Engine Rankings (part 1) - The Original PageRank Algorithm
  •  Developing an SEO-Friendly Website : Optimizing Flash (part 2)
  •  Developing an SEO-Friendly Website : Optimizing Flash (part 1)
  •   Developing an SEO-Friendly Website : Content Management System (CMS) Issues
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