Friday, June 27, 2014

How to Choose the Right Social Channels to Reach Your Customers by John Clark

The socialsphere continues to expand with new channels or new and improved features launching nearly every day. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+… the list goes on.

For the user of these social networks, the question is how much time do you want to spend posting, tweeting, pinning, creating or following?

For businesses marketing to these users, the dilemma is how to optimize your marketing investment, content, and business impact by reaching the right prospective customers in the right channels.

But which channels are a must-have for your business?

The reality is it’s virtually impossible to do them all – or at least do them all well. And you shouldn’t try, frankly.

There are dominant channels for every industry and type of product or service. What you need to know is which channels are dominant for your market and focus your organization’s time and money on winning against the competition in those targeted channels.

In social media, it’s about quality, not just quantity. Doing two or three channels really well with consistent, highly engaging content that is reaching and interacting with your target audience is what will lead to conversion and customers.

5 Questions to Determine Your Dominant Social Channel(s)

If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself these questions:
  1. Where is your target buyer?
  2. Where is your competition?
  3. Is there an untapped opportunity?
  4. How many channels can you do well, consistently?
  5. Are there geographic differences you need to take into consideration? Channels, competitors, etc.
Let’s use a couple different competitive landscapes of companies to illustrate how you would choose the dominant channels for your organization. I’m using two groups I’ve set up:
  1. A landscape of soda brands, and
  2. A landscape of top cloud computing providers.
One of the first differences we notice among the tens of thousands of companies we track is whether the company is a business-to-consumer (B2C) or a business-to-business (B2B) player. As social media channels have matured and other niche players have entered the market, there has been some natural delineation across the B2C and B2B lines.

For example, LinkedIn is used primarily for business networking, job searches and highly-focused B2B advertising. Facebook and Instagram are more personal and consumer focused. And Twitter is an interesting hybrid with active usage by everyone from teenagers to famous athletes and actors to professionals, and companies using it to reach both consumers and businesses.

Who is Where Among the Top Soda Brands?

First, we attempted to choose soda brands that were standalone products versus big corporate names. In this landscape we included Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Faygo, Jones Soda, Mountain Dew, and Sprite. We intentionally did not add Coke (classic) or Pepsi, as Coca-Cola does not separate its massive corporate presence on social networks from its Coke product presence, so we would not be comparing apples to apples (or in this case bubbles to bubbles).

Pepsi Co actually does have separate Pepsi product social handles, as it does also for Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and other specific brands. This product versus corporate branding is an interesting topic in itself that we’ll tackle in another blog.

In looking at the high level social matrix for this landscape, the soda brands have a consistent presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Another thing I have seen in B2C brands is a great use of images in their social media, especially when it comes to food and drinks, which drives stronger engagement. So, it’s not surprising to see Instagram topping this list.

Soda Landscape Social Matrix 6 14 How to Choose the Right Social Channels to Reach Your Customers

Google+ and YouTube are interesting. Clearly most brands are attempting to add these to their list, but we’ll have to see how the engagement looks to see if that’s working for them.  And in terms of LinkedIn, this isn’t surprising, as these brands (other than Faygo and Jones Soda) are one brand of much larger organizations as noted above, and LinkedIn tends to be focused on company presences, not product.

As noted above, this is just one step – discovering where your competition plays. Next, you want to dig in a bit more beyond pure presence to see where these companies are truly delivering content and engaging versus just setting up a basic presence.

It’s About Engagement, Not Just Showing Up

Let’s start with Facebook.

The first thing that pops out to me is how some of the larger brands like Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are not leading the Facebook popularity contest. Sprite is in the lead for Facebook Likes, followed by Dr Pepper in a close second, and Moutain Dew in third.

soda facebook likes How to Choose the Right Social Channels to Reach Your Customers

Dr. Pepper is also a top poster, averaging 1.5 posts per day. Jones Soda pops to the top for frequency as well, and again, Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke are the laggards. From this, I am expecting to see these two diet brands show off in some other social channel.

soda facebook posts How to Choose the Right Social Channels to Reach Your Customers

But as I noted above, quantity of likes and posts is fine, but more importantly is how many users then engage or share that content. When we look at this landscape’s total engagement, we finally see Diet Coke make an appearance. So the brand may be doing less than one post a day, but it is engaging with its followers. Dr. Pepper is clearly turning out to be the overall channel leader in Facebook across all key metrics.

soda total engagement facebook How to Choose the Right Social Channels to Reach Your Customers
Pepsi and Mountain Dew continuing to lead. Total engagement is the aggregate number of interactions (likes, comments, and shares) of posts on this company’s Facebook page during this time period.




Are the Same Brands Leading on Facebook and Twitter?

Diet Coke is clearly putting more investment in Twitter, coming in second for total followers (at 282,000+) behind leader Mountain Dew (with 363,000+), with Dr. Pepper hot on its heels (269,000+). Mountain Dew is also the most prolific on Twitter, tweeting more than 17 times on average per day.

Here, Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke again taste flag, with an overage .50 tweets per day. Mountain Dew also has a loyal following, with the highest total engagement, followed by Dr. Pepper and Diet Coke.

soda average tweets per day How to Choose the Right Social Channels to Reach Your Customers

What about Instagram? Mountain Dew is putting emphasis on this channel as well, where it has the most followers of the group (nearly 65,000) and has the heaviest total average engagement per post, followed by Sprite, Diet Coke and Dr Pepper. If I was in this group, I would seriously evaluate what Mountain Dew is doing to grow its fan base and create great content that engages its followers.

Is Cloud Computing Hot in Social Media?

Now, let’s check out the cloud computing providers.

First, you’ll immediately notice a lot more white space in our charts. Twitter is clearly a must-have as is YouTube, but a real mixed bag for Facebook and LinkedIn, with Instagram barely showing up. This could signify an opportunity or could mean that the customers and influencers for cloud computing are focused on Twitter and YouTube, so emphasis needs to be there.

Cloud computing social matrix How to Choose the Right Social Channels to Reach Your Customers

In digging through the data, Twitter is definitely the favorite of most of these providers, with healthy follower figures, heavy daily tweeting – Cisco averages 10+ tweets – and growing engagement across all primary players.

While all these companies are on YouTube, AWS and Rackspace are the only consistent ones bringing in significant numbers of followers (in the thousands) and high engagement levels.

These same two companies bubble to the top of Facebook, with the most likes and total engagement. Could this be because these two companies focus on public cloud and more on developers versus enterprise customers? This is just a speculation, but it goes back to answering the question of, “Where are your customers?”

While these are all cloud companies, their target market varies.

Time for You to Answer the Questions

Look at your own company’s social footprint, and then answer those five questions above and see where you should prioritize your social investment.

Just because a social network exists, doesn’t mean you have to be there. In the same light, if you are competing against a much bigger company or companies, pick the channels where you can have the most impact and engagement and invest to win.

Courtesy of Convince & Convert, LLC

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Top 10 Tips For Local Search Success by Wesley Young

Many local businesses today are overwhelmed by the variety of local marketing choices available. Unlike the old days when a small handful of advertising outlets would cover the majority of your audience, the sheer volume of marketing options has seemingly flattened the reach of each advertising channel.

Business owners see all the different ways that consumers are seeking out, discovering and considering local businesses, and they don’t know where to start.
The key to getting started is building a strong foundation for local search success by checking off the basics. From there, you can take advantage of other opportunities, including paid media, to generate even greater visibility for your brand.

Here are my top 10 tips for best positioning your business in local search:

1. Ensure Key Information About Your Business Is Accurate & Accessible

One of the most important aspects of local search is ensuring that your business’ information is consistent, accurate and accessible throughout the web. Yet 50% of small businesses have inaccurate online listings, according to a survey by ConstantContact. If your business information is outdated or appears in different ways in different places, it will not only lower your visibility in search — it will make it difficult or even impossible for potential customers to find you.

A good approach to tackling this issue is to take advantage of local listings services, including LocalezeAxiomSinglePlatformYext and Universal Business Listing to actively manage your business information across local search platforms.

For the most popular sites such as Yelp, Google,, and Dexknows, be sure to manually claim your listings and make any necessary edits directly right away.

2. Populate Your Top Local Business Listings

Once your basic information on local search platforms is accurate, build out your listings on the most popular sites to include additional information that potential customers are looking for.

The 2013 results from our forthcoming Local Search Association/Burke Inc.’s “Local Media Tracking Study” show there is a variety of information beyond business name, address and phone number that consumers are looking for when reviewing a local listing.
Source: Local Search Association & Burke, Inc., “Local Media Tracking Study,” June 2014

Over half of consumers are interested in hours of operation, website address, and pricing information. Additionally, more than one in three consumers (38%) are looking for online reviews (more on that later). It’s also valuable to add business photos, menus and service offerings and other relevant information to fill out your local business listings.

Building out your listing is easy, so set aside time to do it and do it right. And if anything with your business changes — e.g., you go from limited hours on Sundays to none at all — be sure to update that on your local listings quickly so that customers don’t show up to your empty business.

3. Build A Website With The User Experience As The Key priority

shutterstock_137363432-home-page-iconA business website is the leading component of any business’ local marketing strategy – it’s essentially the “home base” from which digital interaction with your business begins and ends. The website is the most important place for existing and potential customers to learn about your company before deciding on whether to move forward with a purchase.

Local businesses benefit when they invest in developing a contemporary, appealing, easy-to-use website. This includes using a visually appealing color scheme and attractive visual content (more on that below), as well as incorporating straightforward navigation.

A user’s experience on your business website should mirror the experience you want customers to have with your business overall. Outdated information, dead links and long page load times should never be considered acceptable. Additionally, avoid using Flash media on your business website since it may negatively impact your site’s search ranking potential and not load on some browsers and smartphones.

4. Optimize Your Website For Search

shutterstock_151358642-magnifierWhen building a great business website, keep in mind that many potential customers won’t see your work if they can’t find it. Optimizing your website for search should go hand-in-hand with building an effective website.
Basics for boosting business website SEO include:
  • Ensure your website title goes beyond your business name to also include what it is and where it’s located. For example, if your business is called “Wesley’s Oasis,” it will be difficult for search engines to pick up on the fact that it’s a spa located in Austin if that’s all you include in your title tag. Make sure that potential customers can find your business in search by listing all relevant information in the website title: “Wesley’s Oasis – Full-Service Spa – Austin, Texas.”
  • Create individual pages for each business location as well as each product or service your business offers. This will raise the visibility of each in search, making it easier for potential customers to find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Use keywords and phrasing that potential customers are most likely to use. Don’t go overboard trying to “keyword-stuff” every page, but don’t use industry lingo to explain an offering that the average Joe would describe — and therefore search — differently.
  • Don’t leave contact information just for the Contact page. Include basic business name, address and phone number information on every page of your website. This not only boosts SEO, but also makes it easier for a potential customer to contact or visit your business.

5. Start A Blog To Provide A Steady Stream Of Content

An easy way to build your website’s local search visibility is to start a blog, which will provide a steady stream of new and relevant content for your site. A blog — which can be featured prominently on your website homepage as well as promoted in your business’ social media channels — is a great opportunity to provide thought leadership on your industry and highlight new business offerings.
This additional fresh content will raise your site’s SEO results and provide an ongoing mechanism to drive traffic from the social web to your site.

6. Leverage Visual Content, Including Photos & Videos

In this age of Instagram and Pinterest, visual content plays an important role in appealing to potential customers. Consumers today are attracted to large photos and engaging videos that demonstrate a brand’s authenticity and value. Both photos and videos also help to boost website SEO and improve visibility for local listings.

Basics for integrating photos and videos include:
  • Add large, compelling photos to your website homepage that illustrate the character of your brand and the diversity of your offerings.
  • On the homepage or the About Us section of your website, add a short “Welcome” video introducing the visitor to your business so they can see who you are and develop a level of trust with your business.
  • Incorporate photos and videos into products and offering pages on your website. Consider short how-to videos and the like to demonstrate how useful the product is, or how easy it is to put together, etc.
  • Add photo albums and videos to your social media pages (more on social media later). This will boost visibility for your updates and provide followers with rich content about your business.
If your business hosts photos on Flickr or videos on YouTube, you will also benefit from the opportunity to include a variety of keywords that link your content back to your business.

7. Ensure Your Business Website Is Mobile-Friendly

Mobile DevicesOne of the biggest missteps your business can make is not optimizing its website for mobile. Local mobile searches are not only on the rise – the majority end in a purchase. If a potential customer attempts to access your website via mobile but is tripped up by pages not loading, sizing issues or the inability to find basic information, they are more likely to go back into search until they find one of your competitors who has a better mobile interface.

Start by conducting a mobile audit of your current website to determine the types of mobile consumers that are visiting your website, and what they’re looking for when they access your site. Then work with a mobile website developer to create a slimmed down version of your desktop website that highlights the most important information potential customers are looking for, delivered in a format that is easily viewable across smartphone devices.

Additionally, use call-to-action messaging throughout the mobile site to make clear what consumers can accomplish via your mobile website, such as schedule appointments or purchase products. Use large, bold text that is easily viewable on a mobile screen.

8. Engage On Social Media Channels Used By Your Target Customers

Social media provides a way to keep in direct, ongoing contact with your business’ most loyal customers about new offerings, promotions and the like. Profiles on Facebook, Twitter, etc. also rank high in online search and create backlinks to your website, boosting your website’s visibility. These benefits come at no added cost to your business.

Begin by determining which social media channels make the most sense for your business, based on the types of content you will be able to share and the channels your potential customers are most likely to be using.

Then create an editorial calendar for what content you’ll post and when, such as promotions, giveaways, photo round-ups, new offering announcements and blog updates. Use posts to link to your business website to drive traffic. And always engage with users directly about their questions or concerns.

9. Encourage Reviews To Add Credibility To Your Business

reviews-240pxOnline reviews are playing an increasingly critical role in driving consumers’ purchasing decisions. The quantity and quality of reviews also strongly influences how your business appears in local business listing results.

But while you want to encourage customers who have a positive experience with your business to leave reviews, you don’t want to improperly incentivize them or even bully them to do so.
Instead, use a soft approach by featuring a list of top review sites on your website and asking customers to share their feedback with you. Print phrases such as “Let us know how we’re doing” or “Please leave your feedback” on your receipts or invoices. Even consider adding a review button in your business email signature.

10. Pay Attention To Your Success – And Adjust Your Approach As Necessary

Once you begin implementing these tips, keep close track of your progress. Create a regular and ongoing reporting method so you can see what’s working, and what needs to improve.
By building this framework, you’ll be in greater control — and achieve peace of mind about your local marketing strategy.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

The 10 Worst Link Building Assumptions by Julie Joyce

Over the past few years, one of the biggest problems I’ve faced is educating clients about search marketing — about what’s reasonable to expect and what isn’t in the world of link building.

It can be difficult, especially in the winning-the-business stage, to admit that you can’t turn lead into gold, but being honest and clear with clients to set appropriate expectations can set you up for success in the longer term. If they’re the right client, they’ll be smart enough to understand.

When we started the company, we stayed quiet and let the clients dictate what we did for the most part, mainly because we didn’t yet have our footing. We’ve always discussed risk with our clients, but we didn’t advocate for all the things that make our jobs easier and make links work better for them.

Since then, we’ve gotten better about speaking up and advocating for everything from technical changes to better content. However, we still have a way to go, as we’re still facing some severely problematic assumptions about link building.

I’ll list them for you here, and you can share this list with your co-workers, bosses or clients. If you, or anyone you know, is operating under one of these dangerous assumptions, it’s past time to get educated.

1. I Can Tell You How Many Links It Will Take To Rank.

I can certainly guess (42, always), but that’s only after spending a lot of time doing analysis and research.

My problem with this assumption is that it sets the whole relationship up for failure from the beginning. I can’t predict algorithmic shifts or what your competitors are doing (or what you’re doing without telling me), so it’s irresponsible for me to pretend that I can, just to get your business.

2. I Can Tell You How Long It Will Take To Make You Rank.

I’ve seen some sites rank for whatever terms they want after we’ve been building links for a few weeks, and I’ve seen some that take months. That depends on a variety of factors so, again, it’s irresponsible to guess.

3. I Can Guarantee What Position You’ll Hit.

At least a dozen times over the years, potential clients have tried to figure out why I won’t guarantee certain rankings — because they’re spoken to several SEOs who will. (A guarantee like this is a warning sign of a questionable SEO.)

Perhaps I’d be more likely to consider this if I had full control of the online market environment; but even then, I think it’s crazy to guarantee a specific spot.

4. If Something Makes Me Rank In The Short Term But Is Risky, It’s Still Worth The Risk.

I guess that’s true if you like to churn and burn sites or rely on PPC. However, the many ways to rank quickly are the kind of methods that can easily come back to haunt you.

Obviously, my idea of risk and your idea of risk may be very different, but throwing 30 exact match anchor text links at a page just because you say that moved the page up three positions in the SERPs is just a bad idea.

5. Once We Get To Where We Want To Be, We Can Stop Doing Everything We’ve Been Doing And Let It Ride.

We’ve dealt with a few clients that stopped using our services when they were doing well. Then, when things started to go south again, they wanted to start back up again.

Even if you feel like resting, your competitors are probably still moving forward so, at some point, you’ll start to fall behind.

6. I Don’t Have The Knowledge To Be Able To Look At Your Backlinks And Figure Out All The Bad Things You’ve Done And Are Still Doing.

This isn’t usually a big problem with my contract clients, but it’s been an issue with some short-term consulting gigs.

It makes me feel like anything good that we do will get cancelled out by all the spam links that keep being built intentionally in an effort to rank well quickly.

7. You Won’t Have Problems If You Follow Google’s (Current) Guidelines.

Just because you follow their guidelines doesn’t mean that you won’t become a casualty of an algorithmic update, an accident, or simple poor rankings.

There are loads of people doing things the right way and their rankings are abysmal. That’s one reason that sites are so driven to take on massive risks. Following Google’s guidelines doesn’t guarantee online success, ever.

8. You Can’t Be Penalized (Whether Manually Or By An Algorithm Update) For All The Bad Stuff In Your Profile Even If It Was Done A Decade ago Or You Didn’t Know About It.

You don’t just get grandfathered into Google’s good graces because you’re an innocent or uneducated victim. They really don’t care.
Matt Cutts, Google's Head of Webspam, Explains
Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, Explains

9. Any Free Link Is A Good Link.

I used to believe this, wholeheartedly. Now? I’ve seen some vicious penalties on sites that never bought a single link, never did outreach to get links, and basically just got screwed by having linkable sites.

10. I Can Do This Well Without Your Input.

I can do it, yes, but I don’t know your product or service like you do, and having an inside perspective means that the work I do is much better.

Having you paying attention and catching my mistakes is particularly awesome because, again, I don’t know your business like you do and I might make an incorrect assumption.
What’s the solution to this? Continued advocacy and education, or is there something more? I’d love to hear what client assumptions you face, as well as how you handle them.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Step-By-Step Guide To Link Building For Boring Industries Or Products by Matthew Barby

Within the current search landscape, most search engine optimisation campaigns have become increasingly content-led. The majority of the campaigns that I work on revolve largely around the production and placement of high quality content on top-tier sites.shutterstock_126540911-content
This approach to search engine optimisation is more akin to a typical PR campaign than a traditional SEO campaign — and the former, in my opinion, is the way that most digital agencies should be positioning themselves.

Yes, I’m gonna say it: content marketing is the way forward.

Now that I’ve got that buzzword out of my system, we can move on.

Creating truly engaging, fun, linkable content may not seem that daunting when you’re an exciting B2C company that has a quirky product behind it. Just look at the likes of Red Bull and their Stratos project or Oreo’s Daily Twist campaign. These were genius ideas that have already become iconic content marketing examples.

But it’s not always easy when you don’t have the kind of brand value or creative positioning that those companies have.

Around 90% of the companies that I work with operate within what you would typically classify as “boring” industries — I’m talking businesses that manufacture special valves to go within specific types of machinery.

There’s not the same kind of scope to do some of the more exciting product-related marketing activities, and these businesses are often incredibly brand-conscious. Plus, proposing to drop a bloke from space doesn’t always fill my clients with confidence in our work, let alone our sanity!
There is a solution, though — and it’s something that we’ve been executing to great effect for a number of our clients.

Positioning Your Clients As Thought Leaders

One of the approaches from which we’ve seen fantastic results involves positioning our clients as thought leaders within their fields. This works really well within B2B industries, especially when their product/service is very niche.

The idea behind the thought leadership is to develop some key members of staff within the organisation as experts within their field and have them featured across a number of top-tier publications (both online and offline), then use the reputation that we’ve built to bring in leads. This could be through search, social, offline or a number of other channels, but it all stems around the content we create.

Here’s a typical approach:
  1. Identify key members within the organisation that we can run some thought leadership pieces around.
  2. Develop the message and story that we’re looking to position around the individual that falls in line with the values of the brand.
  3. Optimise their online presence to reflect the image that we’re trying to convey. This includes scripting their LinkedIn profiles, Twitter bios, etc. and ensuring that all of their online and offline presence falls in line with the message we’re conveying. In some cases there has been a personal blog set up for the individual to further amplify their image.
  4. Identify the top-tier publications that we’re going to target in order to get some coverage for the individual and wider brand.
  5. Develop a content roadmap that covers the major topics that we’re going to focus on and collate this against major industry topics, events and wider company news/campaigns.
  6. Work on a reputation catalyst to give us some credibility when pitching to the top-tier publications. What I mean by this is that we look to get a profile piece on a respected industry publication so that we can use this as a catalyst for further placements in the future.
  7. Identify industry influencers, journalists and major content producers so that we can work on building relationships with them.
  8. Get to work!
As I mentioned, content is at the heart of all this. This is where we will develop in-depth white papers surrounding the latest topics within the industry and work on some more visually appealing content that will appeal to some of the publications we’re targeting.
Digital Asset Creation
(Click to enlarge.)

The above diagram is the general framework that we look at when generating new content to plug into any digital campaign. This could be something as simple as a text-based article, or something as complex as an interactive microsite with multimedia-rich content. The same principles apply.
So, let’s delve a bit deeper into each of the steps for building out a thought leadership campaign that delivers SEO results…

Step 1: Identifying The Thought Leaders

It doesn’t matter how big or how small your company is — thought leadership is about positioning your business in a way that allows you to be perceived exactly how you wish to be. With this in mind, it’s really important that the people within the business are brought to the front of the campaign.

When the emphasis is more product-focused, we’ll usually look to position one of the technical staff as a thought leader. This allows them, as the product specialist, to talk about the science behind the product (particularly relevant in more technical niches).
Alternatively, senior executives or directors are prime targets to position as thought leaders, and they’ll come with a fair amount of credibility when you’re approaching publications — even if they’re not known at all.

I’ve found that the best way to identify your thought leaders is to outline the key objectives for the campaign and align the skill-sets of each key stakeholder against them. For example, the objective could be to generate awareness for the technical superiority of a product, it could be to establish the brand’s CSR credentials, or it could be that the business needs a wider international feel. Each of these objectives could be aligned to a different person.

Step 2: Developing A Story

Strategic storytelling plays a huge part in the branding of most major companies. The majority of the well-recognised brands on the planet have clear messages and stories that run deep through the heart of their companies.

Look at Aston Martin, a heritage UK car manufacturer. Many people dream of one day owning an Aston Martin, and their brand always has classy, professional and suave content campaigns, playing on the link with the likes of James Bond to create this overwhelming sense of luxury.
innocent-drinksInnocent Drinks are another of my personal favourites. The business entered a hugely competitive marketplace in which everyone said they would fail. The result was quite the opposite, and that was primarily due to the story that they had intertwined with their products.

It has become cool to drink Innocent Smoothies. They place a huge focus on environmental sustainability and go against the processes of many major corporations.
They talk in detail about their humble beginnings of selling their drinks at a music festival, asking people to let them know if they should continue the business by placing the empty bottle in either a bin labelled yes or a bin labelled no.

Every part of their marketing reflects their story in one way or another, appealing to the younger alternative market, and they do a huge amount of work with other companies targeting the same people.

The funny thing is that a lot of the anti-corporate crowd buying Innocent’s products don’t realise that they are actually owned by Coca Cola – this shows the power that their brand story has!
With this in mind, it’s important that you consider the story that you will be telling within your thought leadership content. Consistency is key, and it helps to drive everything forward as one if you have a clearly defined, over-arching message.

Step 3: Optimisation Of Their Online Presence

This is one of the most overlooked and important stages of campaigns like this.
If you’re going to be positioning someone as an expert in their field, the rest of their online presence needs to reflect this. The amount of work required will depend on the scale of the project, but we will usually do the following:
  • Full optimisation of LinkedIn account, including photo, copywriting across profile information, updating of job title, seeding of recommendations and endorsements and updating of experience.
  • Updating of Google+ account and setting up authorship across any existing content.
  • Updating of Twitter profile, including profile image (must be consistent with other platforms), bio information and full analysis of existing content that’s been published. This way, we can delete any posts that may not convey the right message.
  • Creation of a personal blog (we don’t always do this, but it’s a really great way to build authority around the individual that can turn into a valuable link building asset).

Step 4: Identification Of Top-Tier Publications

At the start of each campaign, we spend significant time analysing the content landscape within the client’s industry in order to highlight the top-tier placement locations that we’d love to secure. These should be niche-specific and don’t always need to just be online. Offline placements can help to build credibility around the brand and can often lead to further online opportunities — don’t think with a one-track mind around links here.

Alongside this, we’ll research into some of the key journalists covering topics within the niche and build profiles around them. This can include their social footprint, their contact information, who they write for and what types of content they tend to post. Using this information we can tailor content to align with them and dramatically increase placement rates.

This analysis will also look at coverage for the wider brand as well. If you want a more detailed analysis into how I identify top-tier targets and get content placed within them, check this post out.

Step 5: Develop A Content Roadmap

The development of the content roadmap is probably the most important stage of the campaign. This is where you need to identify content gaps within the niche and focus big pieces of content to surround them.
My latest post on Moz looks at how I use data scraping to analyse leading websites within the niche I’m working in to gather insights into the key components of successful content. Using this information, I’m able to get far greater return on investment.

My preference here is to develop a number of big ideas that can then have smaller pieces of content wrapped around them. For example, we could develop a new technical white paper and then create a number of articles off the back of it, published under the name of our expert to capitalise on the rush of content.

White papers are just one example, and probably a bad one. Just because your company operates within a technical niche, it doesn’t mean that your content has to conform to a certain format. Find an aspect of the story behind your brand that will allow you to open your content up to a wider audience but still remain consistent with the image you’re trying to achieve. This is a killer combination for links.

One of my favourite examples to show this in action is from, a site devoted to truck driving jobs across the US. They found an angle when they created their Truckpocalypse infographic that has returned over 3,000 shares across social media and just over 700 links – not bad. If you’ve not seen this before then check it out because it’s great.
Truckpocalypse Infographic
Another fantastic example is this infographic from that centers on drunk driving. This is great for the brand and has also delivered some great results from a links/social share point of view, not to mention all the relevant traffic firing through to the site.
Drink Driving Infographic
I’m not going to go into too much detail around the content creation process right now because that’s an article in itself, but one thing I would say here is to experiment with different formats, topics and approaches.

Here’s a great Excel template (.zip file) that you can download for documenting your content roadmap – I’m sure this will come in handy for a number of you (thanks to Pam Dyer for this one).
Another thing to remember with the content creation side of things, and this will really help when it comes to getting buy-in, is that a piece of content developed for online can actually be developed and used offline as a sales/marketing tool. A good example of this is with these interactive infographics from Animagraffs.

Animated Infographic

Step 6: Work On A Reputation Catalyst

A reputation catalyst is a term that I use for securing the placement of a piece of content that has the sole focus of boosting the credibility of the author. These reputation catalysts are essential for thought leadership campaigns.

There are a number of ways to go about securing a reputation catalyst, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are the usual routes that I explore:

Sponsored Post: A sponsored post is simply a paid-for piece of editorial. Any links within the post will be nofollow links, but that doesn’t matter. The core objective of having a piece placed under our expert’s name is so that we can use this as ammunition when contacting journalists in the future. This is what I was referring to when I was saying that you can’t approach these campaigns with a one-track mind focused on links.

Many top-tier publications will offer sponsored posts, but it will depend on the budget you have at your disposal as to which you can go with. Having a couple of placements can help out a lot at this stage.
The obvious advantage to this approach is that it can be done immediately, so you can crack on with the rest of the campaign.

Work With Top Authors: I wrote a post earlier this year that talked about identifying writers of top publications, building relationships with them and commissioning them to place content on top sites for you. This is a strategy that I’ve executed on a number of occasions with great success, and it can work well for acquiring a reputation catalyst.

The advantage here is that you’ll have built a relationship that you can utilise on an on-going basis, plus you’ll likely get some links out of it as well. The downside is that it takes a lot longer than something like a sponsored post.

Utilise Reactive PR Requests: Services like HARO and ResponseSource can be goldmines for PR opportunities. Journalists are always looking for input from experts so this can be a quick win for establishing a nice feature.

I talk about this process in a little more detail within my post surrounding link building in 2014 (about halfway through) so make sure you give it a read.

Step 7: Relationship Building

Now that the content production has begun, your expert’s online presence has been optimised and you’ve acquired an initial placement (reputation catalyst), it’s time to start building relationships that can help deliver links in the long term.

Within industries where social media is less widely adopted, relationship building can seem like it’s much more difficult. The reality is that there’s just less noise to compete against.

The main focus for me within campaigns like this is to develop relationships with three types of people: journalists (preferably freelance because they write for a number of publications, giving you more bang for your buck!), editors of niche-relevant publications and industry influencers. I’d strongly recommend using a PR database to help with this, especially when it comes to the more technical industries because it will save you a ton of time and money.

One thing to remember when you’re reaching out to journalists and editors is that you’ll often only have once chance to make an impression with them. Forget batch sending the same message to a database of contacts, as it’s not an effective strategy. The more refined and personalised you can be, the better. I’ve also found that it’s much more effective to create the content in advance and then pitch it to a journalist/editor rather than speculatively emailing to see if they’d like a guest post from you (…sigh).

You might find this guide on writing the perfect email pitch pretty useful when it comes to this.

Bringing It All Together

Thought leadership is a powerful way to deliver campaigns within industries that a lot of people will write-off as being boring or too technical. We’ve run SEO projects that have been delivered solely through this approach, but from my experience, this should be just one component of your overall approach.

The relationships that get built through developing really specific pieces of content and through establishing key members of an organisation as an expert within their field will help to produce organic mentions over time. These things don’t happen overnight, but if you’re looking for a link building strategy that focuses on building awareness for your brand, developing flagship content pieces that can also be used as sales tools, increasing the reputation of key members within your organisation, and driving the rest of your online and offline presence forward as one, then thought leadership may be for you.


  • Just because an industry is deemed as boring by a lot of people doesn’t mean that everyone feels this way. This is an opportunity more than anything.
  • Thought leadership is more than just guest blogging!
  • Don’t approach campaigns like this with a one-track mind focused on links.
  • Obtain a link catalyst to increase the effectiveness of your outreach campaigns going forward.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.