This may be of some interest.
Posted by AnnSmarty
How effective is your link building campaign? I bet your answer is “I wish it could be better.”
Talking to business owners and executives on a daily basis, I have yet to meet one who would be satisfied with their link building strategy.
Everyone needs links, yet they are getting harder and harder to get.
Change your link building mindset.
How link building is similar to lead generation
In any business marketing strategy, we’re really interested in one thing: sales.
Yet, if we keep focusing on that end goal, we won’t achieve much. A customer may need up to eight touchpoints before they finally make a purchase. If you only focus on that final sale, you’re missing out on all those extra steps that drive your customer to buy.
It may sound obvious (so I’ll stop here) but the point I’m trying to make is: Marketers cannot focus on the final sale. We need something in between — a secondary metric that will bridge the gap between “a stranger” and a “a buyer”.
This is where the notion of a “lead” came from, i.e. a contact which we consider our prospective/possible/future customer.
A journey from a “a stranger” to a “lead” is shorter and much more predictable than a journey from “a stranger” to a “a buyer”, and once we turn a visitor into a lead, we can reach out to them in a much more meaningful and personalized way (via email, Facebook re-marketing, on-site personalizations, etc.).
What does this have to do with link building?
In link building we need links, just like in marketing we want sales. But focusing on the final goal is just as limiting in link building as it is in marketing.
Very few link builders these days do anything beyond sending an email, then using automated follow-ups. There’s no “lead generation” in link building. It’s either “link or no link” reporting.
And that’s where that process is broken.
In link building, all those bloggers, publishers, editors, etc. may also need several touchpoints (from something beyond an email). Furthermore, they may not be proper decision makers within the publication you are targeting.
If you apply that lead generation process to link building, you may see much better results, and more importantly, those results will keep growing the more leads you acquire.
How to add lead generation processes to your link building strategy
1. Define your linking leads prior to creating content
In B2B marketing, this is called outcomes-focused data strategy, which basically means you need to know exactly what you want to achieve (the outcome) before you start developing your strategy of achieving said outcome.
This concept is — sadly — seldom applied to link building.
What usually happens:
- The content team creates what they think is a great content asset.
- The outreach team identifies website owners who are likely to be interested in that asset, and starts the outreach.
Both teams are working in isolation.
But what happens if you turn that process around?
- The outreach team shows the content team what’s attracting links on a specific topic (with examples). This insight should come from prospect research, current or upcoming trends, from previous outreach campaign data, etc.
- The content team (in collaboration with the outreach team) creates something better than what currently exists on that topic. At this point, both the teams may involve those linking leads in the actual content creation (by reaching out and asking for expert opinions on the topic).
- The outreach team delivers that content to the contacts they identified prior to the content creation.
Depending on the outlined link building opportunities, the linkable assets should take a specific format or angle, for example:
- Curated lists of resources: Make sure your article fits one of the existing categories in the list, better fills a gap, or fixes an existing broken link.
- Links from influencers or experts: Prior to publishing your article, reach out to those influencers and get their quote (opinion) to include in your article. Influencers are more likely to link when they’re featured on that page.
- Links from peers and friends: Follow those people everywhere and start interacting with them on a daily basis. Think of this as “lead nurturing” — increasing your chances of creating long-lasting partnerships.
- Editorial links from popular blogs: Track down authors and editors of those sites and start interacting with them on social media. Consider inviting them to contribute a quote to your article as well.
By letting your link building research guide the content creation process, you will end up with a highly successful campaign that is still delivering links (without the need to do the active outreach anymore).
2. Organize your linking leads
As we said previously, in link building the end goal is a link. But different leads will need a different number of touchpoints to finally link. Plus, more links are better than one.
This is where a lead nurturing process comes into play.
Just like B2B marketers using different methods to “warm up” leads and take them close to a sale, in link building you will get many more links if you keep reaching out to your leads to remind them of your asset.
If you’re using an outreach tool (both Pitchbox and Link Hunter are good options, depending on your budget and complexity of your project), it will handle some of the lead nurturing for you. At the very least, any outreach solution will:
- Save all the emails you sent
- Update the email status and dates (replied, bounced back, followed up, etc.)
Many link building teams will find that sufficient. I recommend going further and using a solid customer relationship management approach, which would also include:
- Creating a detailed profile for each lead (which would also include their sites and columns, social media profiles, etc.)
- Reaching out on social media (through ads and/or manual outreach)
If you want to go even further, you can adopt a well-organized customer relationship management strategy towards your linking leads. To get you started, here’s a solid comparison of major CRM types, as well as lead generation and nurturing platforms allowing you to properly organize and monitor your link building prospects.
You can set your link acquisition workflow and automate some parts of it (like follow-ups) while being in full control of everything that is going on.
3. Find alternative contacts and decision makers within each publication
In B2B, this process is called “account-based marketing”, i.e. when you know exactly which company would make your ideal customer and you start researching how to best onboard it.
In link building, this strategy applies to huge multi-author publications that would make ideal and ongoing backlink providers for your content. Think of the New York Times, Mashable, or a huge research magazine in your niche.
Emailing one of their authors with a request to link to your study or your infographic may not be enough (in fact, it will hardly ever be enough).
To investigate publications I’m really interested in getting links from, I use the following tools:
I don’t use Linkedin for outreach, but I just love its company profiles, which show me which friends (or friends of friends) I have associated with those entities. I have been introduced to quite a few great publications this way:
Twitter bio search
While Linkedin may be useful to identify existing contacts, Twitter is great for building new ones. For bigger publications, all you need is to find people including that publication in their bios.
A tool called Twiangulate is a great and free option for doing that: Just specify the company name (or its Twitter handle) as a keyword and the tool will find all the Twitter profiles that include it:
Now create a separate Twitter list to keep in touch with all of them.
Website’s “About Us” page
This may seem obvious, but it’s often a missed step. Many publications list their whole editorial team with all the emails included on their “About” page.
Try developing an outreach strategy for each of those emails. For example, a CEO may not be the best contact to request a link from, but they may reply and give you clearer directions for who to speak with, so ask for a contact!
4. Diversify your touchpoints
In my experience, an email is still the most effective link building outreach method. Truthfully, I’ve seen better success with a follow-up email versus the initial email.
But other ways to reach out certainly increase your chances of hearing back. These include:
- A simple Twitter follow or retweet (no requests here)
- A DM (especially when journalists claim their DMs are open for pitches and ideas)
- A comment on their personal site
- A LinkedIn message
- Adding a contact to a Twitter list (Twitter will notify them)
- Tagging them on social media (especially when they’re referenced or quoted in your content)
The bottom line here: Simply being there may remind them of your request and prompt them to open your email.
5. Diversify your assets
With diverse touchpoints comes the need to diversify your assets. Your outreach will be more effective if you give your linking leads something of value to include in their article.
If your initial email and the first follow-up weren’t successful, try creating a visual summary (an infographic) in your second follow-up to give them something fresh.
The process may turn quite easy and effective if you provide your outreach and content teams with tools enabling them to handle the creation of those assets. These tools include:
- Venngage (to create slideshows and infographics)
- Google Docs (to create ebooks and whitepapers)
- Surveys (to collect ideas and stats)
- Invideo (to create videos)
6. Keep an eye on your team performance
Your team is everything. If you fail to train them properly or distribute tasks among your team members effectively, the whole process will fail to move along.
At the very least:
- Include your outreach team in your social media marketing so they can extend their outreach methods beyond emailing. Tools like Agorapulse will help in that process. You can set up lists, monitor certain keywords, save and delegate certain updates to turn them into tasks, etc.
- Track your outreach activity. Tools like Email Analytics will help you with that. It will generate daily and weekly reports showing you how actively your team was emailing and how many responses they got. It will also save all emails to backup conversations.
7. Optimize your landing page
Your linkable asset should make an instantly positive impression on the people you email. There may by different ways to achieve that, but certain things help for just about any SEO campaign:
Your page needs to be ad-free
I’ve seen lots of people not willing to provide “a free link” to a page that is monetized with ads. There’s no point in arguing with your linking leads on that. It’s easier to remove the ads from the page you’re actively link building for at the moment. Besides, more often than not, it’s very easy to do.
Create CTAs targeting your linking leads
This one is a little bit advanced, but it will help a lot. Adjust your CTAs on the linkable asset page to fit your linking leads rather than your regular ads.
For example, instead of “Sign up for a free trial”, you may include a press coverage link or invite visitors to download additional data or resources.
Using Facebook pixel to record everyone who initially landed on the site through your linkable asset is another great way to re-market your asset to your linking leads.
8. Keep an eye on those links
Very few people will reply to you saying they have indeed linked to your content. But knowing if they have is important because conversion is a crucial part in the lead nurturing process. It doesn’t stop your relationships with your lead, but it impacts your interactions going forward. Those leads who end up linking to you are your best friends. Cancel your follow-ups, thank them, and keep interacting with them on social media.
Again, if you are using an outreach platform, chances are the link tracking will be included. Otherwise, check out Site Checker that has a handy link monitoring feature included.
Safe links mean those we cannot control. This turns a link building process almost into a form of art, or a well-manufactured serendipity (one of my favorite business concepts). You need to do a lot before reaching your end goal, all while keeping your end goal in mind.
These days, when any site owner — professional or amateur — is bombarded with link requests, you need to up your link building game. Luckily, there’s a neighboring marketing area that you can learn from: lead generation. Adopt more complicated and more diverse outreach methods to acquire great links to your website. Good luck!
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This may be of some interest.
Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the B2B world with companies generally reducing marketing budgets. At the same time, many B2B companies are maintaining or increasing marketing spend as we’ve seen with most of our clients at TopRank Marketing.
While there has generally been a shift from explicit sales/push marketing content to brand messaging that is more aligned with the times and empathetic to customers, sales expectations still exist for B2B brands during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The challenge many B2B marketers are facing is to understand how to navigate both the short term changes in what works for customers in the current environment as as well as in the long term, post-crisis.
According to research from McKinsey, one of the biggest changes that has happened is the boost in importance of B2B digital over traditional means of engaging customers – 200% more than before COVID-19. This move to digital means higher expectations by B2B customers of self service as well as B2B ecommerce experiences. With those changes in expectations come changes in marketing, short and long term.
Not only do B2B companies need to mitigate sales losses because of the uncertainty during the pandemic but those who want to continue being the best solution and top of mind for customers when purchasing behavior comes back need to look at what pandemic-era tactics will stick after the crisis has subsided.
For a great overview of how to measure marketing goals in a crisis, be sure to check out Birdie’s post here.
How buyers feel about B2B brands short and long term will directly contribute to which brands are the most relevant as budgets open up and business solutions investments experience substantial growth. Some of the long term metrics include branding goals measured by share of voice for social, share of search and earned media.
So, can B2B marketers do to optimize and measure their pandemic era marketing?
Content is the kingdom. Providing customers with information and resources for surviving and thriving during the pandemic that are useful from the customer’s perspective is a good starting point. Demonstrating how the B2B brand’s solution provides value in the current environment is also essential for creating relevance and utility with customers. Of course, useful information isn’t all there is. The shift towards digital, B2B brands need to make sure the digital experiences they provide are 100%: Information is easy to find, the inquiry or ordering process is easy and fast, there are zero glitches in using online systems.
Search is even more relevant. As mentioned in the research from McKinsey, self service is an increasing expectations amongst B2B buyers. One way buyers are performing self serve marketing is through the use of search engines.
An emphasis on search also helps B2B brands reach sales goals without being “salesly”. This trend has been picked up on by savvy B2B marketers with 63% of marketers saying it will be most important during the pandemic according to a survey by Conductor. This confidence is also exemplified from data reported by G2 Crowd showing B2B tech categories having a 200-600% increase in organic search traffic during the pandemic.
Of course to make search work, B2B brands need content and SEO best practices in place to ensure optimized visibility for what customers are looking for. We’ve seen many B2B brands emphasize SEO during the pandemic which enables buyers who are no longer attending trade shows and engaging in experiential or field marketing activities to use search engines for finding useful information and solutions on their own terms.
Findability works best with credibility. Customers are as skeptical of brand marketing as ever and are tiring of the “in these uncertain times, we’re here for you” ads and messaging. While bypassing that with search engine optimization and advertising works well for connecting with customers, optimized content that has added 3rd party credibility can work even better.
In our own research in the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, 77% of B2B marketers say their prospects rely on influencers for information. Confidence in influencer marketing is on the rise for B2B marketers. 63% of survey respondents believe they would have better marketing results with an influencer marketing program.
So, crisis era marketing that emphasizes SEO to help buyers pull themselves to brand content that also includes credibility inspiring content from industry experts is what can really create trust and the confidence for buyers to make the connection. This is why SEO and influence are essential partners for any B2B marketing effort during and after the pandemic.
Measuring the impact of B2B content marketing that is optimized and influencer activated means understanding the search phrases and topics of influence that are most relevant for customers and then tracking the brand’s relevance, engagement and conversion for those topics.
For search marketing, key measures include:
- Topic visibility reporting & share of search for those topics
- Referred traffic to content optimized for the target topics
- Conversions from target topic content
Influencer marketing, metrics to track include:
- Share of voice on topics of include
- Growth of brand affinity with influencers
- Reach of topic content amongst influencer networks
- Engagement and conversion performance of topic content shared by influencers
- Growth in affinity of topics and brand in social
- Growth of organic brand advocacy by influencers and their networks
Uncertainty is a dangerous state for businesses and making no decision is often worse than making the wrong decision or failing fast. Understanding the shifts in buyer behavior can help B2B brands gain confidence in the role content marketing will play in the short and long term. Relevant content that is both findable for increasingly self-serve buyers and credible through industry expert contributions can give the competitive advantage needed to perform both short term and post-pandemic.
The post Three B2B Marketing Tactics That Will Outlast the COVID19 Pandemic appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.
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