Social media is being used more and more these days by Web marketers. It’s a great source of high-quality links. The first step is in deciding to utilize social, but earning the attention of others is easier said than done.
In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers four of his favorite tactics for squeezing the most link juice out of social media.
“Howdy Moz fans and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about social media and using social to earn links. Now link building is still an important process, an important part of SEO, and it also drives traffic. Because links are so critical and yet link building classic link building stuff, like directories or comment spam or buying links, a lot of those old-school link methodologies and black hat link methodologies are out of there, social is actually one of the big focus areas for link builders. But it’s a tough thing to do, and so I want to try and walk you through some tactics to get started with this.
These are four of my favorites, and I use them all the time. This is in fact one of the primary methodologies that I use and that Moz uses to earn a great majority of the links that we’ve earned over the last five years. First off, number one, interactions that are in links. This is kind of the classic, “I’m going to engage with a community, with a person, with a brand, and I’m going to hope that through those interactions I can earn links back.” If you do this right, you almost always can.
First off, I highly recommend interacting early and often. Early because a lot of times, especially if you’re trying to get links from a popular site or a popular brand that’s got a strong social presence, being in the first five or ten comments, interactions, engagements when they post to their Facebook page, when they make a Google+ post, when they launch a new blog post, when they put up a new video, really helps you to be seen by the editors who are almost always watching. Whoever is producing the content is keeping a careful eye on those.
Although I know I don’t always respond directly to Whiteboard Friday comments, for example, I’m almost always reading or someone else here at Moz is, and you can almost always see us in the comments engaging and interacting.
When you do that interaction, make sure you’re adding value. Please. What I mean by this is you might think it’s great to say, “Hey. If I say, ‘That was a really great post. I learned a lot. Thank you so much for publishing it. You’re an inspiration to me.” You haven’t added any value. It’s not that I don’t love seeing comments like that, trust me. It makes me feel great. Makes me feel like a million bucks, but it doesn’t add value. It’s not memorable. It doesn’t strike a person as, “Oh wait. Who is that? I need to learn more about them. I want to figure out their point of view,” all those kinds of things.
By adding value to the conversation, you make yourself stand out in the comments. This person, if they add value by doing a little bit of detailed research, by referencing some other content, by making the conversation more interesting, when you see a post that has great comments, you look at who made those great comments. You often click to that person’s profile. Those will latently earn you some links. I’ll talk about those in a sec, but it’s also a great way to get on the radar of those editors.
Once you’re on people’s radar, that’s when you should offer to help. Offer to help out. Oftentimes, the people that I’ve seen have the most success with this tactic are those who help without being asked to do anything. For example, I write a blog post with some statistics labeling some stuff, and someone else goes and does additional research and produces a new graphic based on it and says, “Hey, Rand, would you like to use this in your post too? I think this is a great visual representation of the data you collected here.”
Oh my god. Not only am I going to put that in my post, I’m going to want to high five that person, and I’m definitely going to want to give them link credit back to their site. Those offers to help without being asked are a great way to use the interactions in a community to drive links back to your own site, and you can do this, not just on blog posts, but on Facebook pages, on Google+ posts, on YouTube comments, all that kind of stuff.
Number two, searching for link likely outreach targets. Chances are that if you’re doing any kind of link building campaign specifically, you’re looking for the right kinds of people who will be likely to link to you if you ask them or if you engage with them, if you offer them something, if you guest post for them, if you do some work for them, whatever it is.
Using some tools, find people on Plus, Followerwonk, Google site colon searches, particularly helpful for sites like Pinterest or YouTube or Tumblr, those kinds of things where you can do a site colon query and you can add lots of parameters in there. For example, I only want bio pages. So I’m going to do a site colon, LinkedIn/in to find people who have this particular characteristic. Actually LinkedIn’s own site search and people search works pretty darn well. I’d add them in here, LinkedIn as well.
Fresh Web Explorer, by they way, also very handy for this, particularly for the blogosphere and finding blogs. Google blog search is pretty good, but it’s a little random at times. I’m not quite sure I get the relevancy. Fresh Web Explorer is nice because you can order by feed authority, which generally correlates very well to the number of readers that a particular feed has. So that’s great for finding popular blogs.
Using a service like Followerwonk or any of these, you can also do more advanced things. With Wonk in particular, I can find the intersection of, for example, people who follow me and also follow Moz. Then I can say, “Boy, these people in here who follow both of us on Twitter, oh my god, they’re fantastic link targets.” Now I can take that list, I can export it directly, and I can start going through and saying, “Hey, now give me the domain authority of these sites and let me order this.” Wil Reynolds from SEER Interactive uses this tactic and blogged about it. I think he was one of the first to do that. This type of stuff is excellent for that identification process. Who is going to be a link likely target?
Number three, post content that will capture a target’s attention and then ping them or cc them. For example, let’s say I have a travel blog or a travel website and I tweet something. I analyze @Hipmunk and @Kayak in my latest blog post, here’s the URL. You know what’s going to happen as soon as I do this, right? The people who are monitoring, who are doing the social monitoring for Hipmunk and Kayak, they are going to go to this URL. They’re going to check it out, and they’re going to want to see who does better in the rankings.
If one of them wins and one of them is clearly better for certain kinds of things, they’re likely to put that on their press page. They’re likely to tweet that. They’re likely to endorse it. They might even reach out and ask, “Hey, here’s some methodology stuff. Did you consider doing it this way or that way,” blah, blah, blah. It’s starting that conversation, getting the engagement and potentially getting that endorsement to give you a link right back to your site, which is fantastic. That’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Don’t pander. Do not just go outright and say, “Oh, I’m going to go gush about this brand.” It’s very transparent, and it doesn’t work well. It’s inauthentic. It’s easy to spot that.
Do make content that the target won’t just want to retweet or repost through social, but might actually want to reference and link to. This is why endorsements and recommendations work very well, particularly if you have a brand or if you happen to be someone that they want an endorsement from. Do any type of research, data, studies, graphics, videos, content that they would want to post on their site, that they would want to reference when they create content. That type of stuff can be invaluable.
Number four, finally, when you’re doing social engagements and you have built up a big community, a big following, you’re posting lots of stuff that’s getting lots of interactions, retweets, plus ones, shares, likes, etc., what happens is that you actually earn latent links, and many people in the SEO field believe that this is actually what’s causing Google to have such a high correlation between things that rank well and social metrics. This is what happens.
I post a graphic to Pinterest. It takes off. Lots of people repin it. People on Tumblr pick it up and reblog it. It gets a lot of automated republishing. There are services like Topsy that pick up popular content from all over the social web, Pinterest included, and then republish that, and that is often what you’ll see if you go to Open Site Explorer and look at Just Discovered Links. You’ll see all these kind of republishers who are linking to social stuff, anything that’s been posted socially. You get included in people’s blog posts editorially, and that leads to links. No surprise.
So this process, just doing this social stuff gets you these latent links, and that’s one of the reasons that social is such a powerful channel, because it can be used in all of these direct ways. But even indirectly it’s earning you links through the content and the interactions that you’re posting.
This week you might notice I’m using this fancy new Moz pen which apparently has my signature on it. Please no one forge me handing over my mortgage. I don’t actually have a mortgage, and I hope that they’ll be making these available for some folks because they’re super cool. I just found them in the Whiteboard room.
With that, everyone, I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.”