Did you know that Google’s search engine algorithm is made up of over 200 ranking factors?
No, that’s not a typo.
You may be saying to yourself, “Crikey! With over 200 ranking factors in the game of SEO, how does one craft a strategic game plan? Where do I even begin?!”
We know it can be overwhelming, but not to worry because we’ve identified specific ranking factors to focus on to help you gain the advantage over your competition. Content and links are two of the most important factors to focus on because they serve as the strongest signals of how authoritative your site appears to search engines.
With the content on your website, you demonstrate to search engines that you’re an expert on a topic. Think: you’re the go-to guy or gal for a niche subject matter. External links, on the other hand, serve as endorsements that your website is credible.
As a new father, 23-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Phelps, endorses Huggies Little Swimmers. His credibility in the sport of swimming, combined with his dad status, lead us to believe that he would be the expert on what swim diapers perform best in the water. Search engines view your website’s ‘endorsements’ in the same light (minus the dad bod).
So now that we’ve identified two of the most important ranking factors to focus on, how do we go Michael Phelps on the game of SEO and link building? Four words: Win friends, influence people.
The art of relationship building
With over 88% of organizations reporting content marketing as part of their overall strategy, there’s a big piece of the pie to be had. While content and link building go hand-in-hand (you must first create meaningful content to link to), we’re going to focus on moving beyond keywords and content to explore the art of relationship building, why people link/share, and how it all comes together to boost your SEO.
Successfully building relationships and pitching your content to influencers provides many SEO benefits. Getting a ‘dofollow’ link from a high authority website sends a signal to search engines that your site is a credible resource on a particular topic. As a result, your internet street cred goes up, up, up in the eyes of the Google machine. Those links can provide an immediate traffic boost, better chance of ranking well for the targeted keyword(s), and improved reputation amongst influencers and linkerati.
So how do you ask influencers and journalists to link to your website without coming across as a spam bot? Check out our tips below for how to approach strategic (and respectful) outreach:
Identify relevant industry influencers.
- Who are the influencers in your industry niche?
- Who has an engaged audience? Think: active blog following, social shares.
- Does their audience view them as an expert in their field?
- Who has a high domain authority? This is a big one. Targeting websites and receiving ‘dofollow’ links with a high domain authority will give you the link juice you need to boost your own domain authority.
Ensure they’re the right fit for your content.
Once we’ve identified influencers, we need to determine which relationships are potentially valuable. Let’s run through some basics on how to tell if it’s a worthy cause:
- The page links to multiple competitors’ blog posts.
- The site is up-to-date.
- The site is not affiliated with any of your competitors.
- The page topic is relevant to your website.
- Adding your content will make the page more valuable for the site’s audience.
Do they meet the criteria? Great! Let’s move on.
Take an interest in their work.
- Respond to content they publish on their blog, engage with them on social media, and share what you’ve learned from their content.
- Review their past content and search for broken links. Finding ways to help them out and take work off their plate is a great way to move into their line of sight in a positive way.
- Reference specific details from their content shared on their blog or social media platforms (but let’s not be creepy about it, okay?).
Network and build relationships before you need something.
- Outreach is an evergreen art form.
- Build rapport long before your content is ready to publish.
- Influencers are much more likely to help out down the road if you’ve been actively engaged before asking for a favor.
Give them something to talk about.
- Research what their interests are and how you can bring value to their website/audience.
- What data and information do you have that they need?
- What type of content do they typically produce and share?
Give them an incentive (remember, this really isn’t about you).
- Give influencers a reason to link to your content.
- Does the information you’re sharing fill a content need/gap they have?
- Establish your credibility in the pitch. What about your background helps their audience feel as though they’re being referred to an expert?
- Clearly communicate the benefits to the influencer by linking to your content:
- Free, high-value content
- Increased reach and brand exposure from dual promotional efforts
- Significantly improving the usefulness of a piece of content they’re in the process of crafting.
- Make their content calendar more diverse.
Grant them respect.
- Influencers (journalists, bloggers, etc.) know when they’re being sold, so be genuine in your outreach efforts.
- View outreach as an opportunity to build new friendships; not take advantage of another’s status.
Why people link and share
To piggyback off of the outreach tips we’ve just shared, let’s chat about what motivates people to share content. Understanding the motivation behind why people link to and share content can help us sweeten the deal for influencers.
People link and share:
- To help themselves
- Because of aligned interests
- To substantiate their beliefs
- To feel helpful, funny, or smart
- To appear “in the know”
It’s important that we pair relationship building and outreach with the factor of human behavior (what drives people to link and share) in order to fully capitalize on the art of link building. Once we understand how to win friends and influence people and take human behavior into consideration, we can move beyond keywords to craft an effective strategy to build our network, successfully pitch our content, and nurture relationships for the end result of an SEO boost.
Matt Bentley is an entrepreneur, data scientist, and rock climber with 15 years experience building internet startup companies. He is the Founder of SEO and content marketing software CanIRank.com, and intelligent marketing assistant GrowthAI.com. Want to chat all things SEO with Matt? Find him here.