Charlie Marchant gave her talk on how SMEs can gain links across multiple different sectors, especially notoriously difficult ones such as gambling and e-cigarettes.
The strategies she discussed included small business features and interviews, data outreach using YouGov and Google surveys, media and news jumping, influencer marketing and blogger outreach, and flick photo links. All the discussed techniques came from a Content Marketing perspective, and not SEO link building basics such as directory listings and video syndication.
What To Do Before Link Building
Whilst it might be tempting to jump straight into link building, Marchant made it clear that the work you do to acquire links is only as effective as the groundwork that is laid out beforehand. Marchant uses an in-house SEO checklist but the main points she highlighted was to make sure that website navigation is clear and CTAs are enticing. Without having an SEO-friendly website in place, it would be a waste of resources to build links to pages that visitors will not convert on.
The next step is to ensure that the website you are trying to build links to has credibility devices that the visitor will trust. This is imperative for visitors that you want to convert, but also for editors and bloggers that you want to work with to gain links. You must ensure that the website is trustworthy and valuable enough to link to from their content. Otherwise, you are fighting a losing battle.
Marchant recognised that digital marketing agencies all have clients who want to be at the top of SERPs for extremely competitive terms such as “credit card”. However, building links for these keywords can be fruitless from early on. She recommended looking for some ‘golden eggs’ in keyword research. These are keywords with high search volume with low competition, but still have commercial intent. If you cannot find any keywords as such, Marchant recommended targeting keywords with lower search and compeitition to gain initial traction and improve your chances of ranking for competitive terms later on.
Following Google’s Medic update, the below qualities of your website are extremely important to consider:
Therefore, you must make sure your author bios and ‘meet the team pages’ display relevant information and qualifications. When pitching to publications, editors and publishers want to know content is coming from a credible source. Marchant also recommended building up a profile of internal staff members as key writers on various online platforms as part of your link building.
You must have a clear idea of where you want to get links from. Prioritise good quality directories, high quality links from blogs, articles and news websites over spammy ones. The best way to find targets for link building, according to Marchant, is competitor research. She recommended Majestic as a great tool to do this. You want to replicate competitor links for your client’s or own website, but also look for any gaps where your competitors have not managed to get links.
It is recommended to build your client’s profile by publishing articles on industry publications. In the e-cigarette sector, publications include Spinfuel, Vaping360, Cigbuyer and e-cig.org. Marchant noted that some link builders will think one link from an industry publication is enough, however, gaining several will build up your client’s credibility.
As Marchant already knew that news sites and academic publications were increasingly covering e-cigarettes, she knew it would be ideal to find an angle profit on the current interest. Therefore, they ran a data study to find out the UK’s opinion on vaping vs smoking and discovered 43% of Brits thought vaping was better for their health. Whilst it wasn’t as big a percentage she hoped for, it was newsworthy enough to secure in total 267 links (including Yahoo Finance).
If you are working with a small budget, an affordable source of data is to look through science and news journals. Especially in the e-cigarette sector, a lot of the articles written are based on debunking science and finding fresh angles within data studies that already exist. By linking back to original studies, your unique content has a backbone of authority. Freedom of Information and Office of National Statistics are a great, free resource for data too. If you need a quicker turnaround of data, then YouGov and Google surveys are a good way to go.
When researching competitors’ backlinks, Marchant noticed they were gaining links from high authority publications such as Cambridge University and The Mirror. When following the links, she realised they were all coming from image credits of a competitor’s Flickr gallery of vaping images and not actual articles. They had set this gallery to creative commons so that any website could use the images as long as they linked back to the competitor website. On the back of this, Marchant set up their own SEO-optimised gallery of e-cigarettes and vaping images.
Marchant noted that it can be challenging to gain links from respectable websites when you’re working with a gambling website. In order to do this, the content has to be unique and relevant in order to convince editors to publish your articles.Their link building campaign centred around the controversial news coverage of loot boxes – the in-app purchases such as virtual prize boxes in video games that work like slot machines – as many of the players that fall victim to paying lots of money to these gimmicks are children. Marchant designed a survey in a way to create a headline-grabbing figure on the UK’s opinion on loot boxes “When asked, 60% of Brits were in favour of regulating loot boxes as gambling. That’s more than the % of the British public who voted for Brexit.” In total, Marchant gained 250 backlinks.
The final link building technique Marchant detailed was media and news jumping via Twitter using #prrequest and #journorequest. By setting up email notifications on these hashtags, you don’t need to sift through hundreds of tweets on their respective news feeds.
Marchant summarised that data studies and surveys where you can find interesting data can help outreach to trade and industry publications. Media and news jumping can also help your clients piggyback on trends, and Flickr galleries can help gain links without having to pitch actual articles. These link building tactics, according to Marchant, can work for any type of business, no matter how small or niche.