When you see that hyperlink on a page, do you follow it? Do you put links to it in your online material?
If you're like most, it depends heavily on what you expect to get in return for your time.
It may be hard to accept, but in most cases, customers don't care enough to click on a link that reads "read more about our company" or "visit our website" especially if they think they'll get the typical brochure site on the other end. They surf to solve problems, learn new things or be entertained - not wade through "blah-blah" text written by an advertising copywriter. But when there is a link with the appearance of relevance and quality, answering questions currently on their mind, you'll get the clicks, the links and the respect.
Why should you care about getting links?
Traffic and search ranking are affected by the link profile of your website. Google's indexing algorithm (the program that decides which pages are important) consider relevant, inbound links to your site as one of the most important indicators of how well you should appear in their search results pages. This can make a big difference in your traffic levels and public relations issues such as online reputation management. Yahoo and MSN have similar algorithms. Without these links, it's hard to rank at all and sometimes you may find unfavorable competition for those top results. Even if a search engine wasn't used, you'll need a link to bring visitors into your pages from other sites. In short, links are one major form of currency on the web that your company needs to succeed.
Examples of scenarios where you can "drop" links back to highly-relevant content on your own site.
- In your own blog posts
- In relevant, helpful responses to social media (Facebook, Twitter)
- In answers on sites such as LinkedIN and Yahoo! Answers.
- In guest posts on other blogs
- In comments on other blogs
- On forums and message boards
- In emails to prospects
But don't be a SPAMMER. If you drop links promiscuously back to your home page or products page, you'll quickly lose the respect of those you most need to influence. You must only link to great content which rewards the visitor's time with helpful information. Here are a couple of examples:
- In a discussion about solar energy, you can use a link like this "review our new comparison chart of panel efficiency from the top 10 manufacturers. "
- In a discussion about pet food diets, consider something like "Our team has assembled an unbiased run-down of top diet dog foods for small dogs."
- Or, a discussion about email policies, it would be good to have "Our CTO just did a great post about writing a company email use policy you might want to review."
By increasing the quality of the experience for the reader or website owner, you are giving yourself permission to offer a link to your own content. Some of the immediate benefits are:
- It obtains the attention of a reader.
- It gives you permission to link to your site content
- It can encourage other site owners to link to you (without feeling like they're sending people to SPAM)
- It gives the impression that you are organized and web savvy.
- It shows your company is thinking of the same issues as the customer.
- It boosts your search rank.
- It increases your traffic.
Growing a Link-Ready Library of Content
Most companies don't have a collection like this that is easy to access so they take the path of least resistance, linking to the company home page, if at all, losing opportunities for growth. So get to work, starting at the most common questions your customers ask and working out from there. It's your job to make the click to what you've created irresistible to the reader by providing relevant, timely and well-written content on a regular basis.
Here is a possible pattern you can follow:
- Choose a system to organize the core content (blog systems such as Wordpress work great.)
- Write linkworthy titles like these great linkbait headlines
- Write top notch, skimmable content that people in a hurry can consume.
- Make it irresistible and simple to share once read.
- Participate in conversations online and keep your eye open for opportunities to tap into your library when it adds value to the discussion.
- Look for posts out blogs and sites where your library could add value, and simply ask for a link.
As links come in to the content library you've created, Google will lift your entire site as a reward for offering value and being relevant!
You Have to Start Somewhere
At first this will feel overwhelming, but if you organize yourself and the online assets well, this accumulating asset will start to drive revenues as well as it drives visitors. Over time, you will have an arsenal of ready-to-use information just a click away, compatible with today's skeptical, goal-oriented web surfer. Your content will be relevant, and likely welcomed in the conversation, leaving your competition wondering how you manage it. With all of your employees aware of the collection, they can seek out opportunities to participate in conversations online where the content would be welcomed.
Enjoy the traffic!
(This is a guest post by Scott Clark of BuzzMaven Labs - A search marketing consultancy that helps clients succeed online.)
shelf photo by Dwonderwall used under A Creative Commons license.