Many years ago, I remember how amazed I was with Wikipedia and the open encyclopedia concept, it was so easy to access information about anything. I would spend hours jumping from one page to another, going deeper into a particular subject. It would take a single click to open a new page full of content I actually wanted to read.
Those links were powerful. They were relevant – linking to a topic related to the one I was already reading about – and useful – they were making my experience richer and fulfilling my goals. They were a perfect match between what Wikipedia stands for (knowledge for everyone and by everyone) and what the user was looking for (if I’m reading about Henry VIII, I probably want to know more about Anne Boleyn too).
A link building project is obviously more complex than that, and not all the brands have something so powerful to offer, but any link building campaign should follow this simple rule:
What a brand can offer x What the audience is looking for
Because no link will be relevant if we don’t know who we’re talking to, at 90 we go through a few steps to find out what the strategy should be:
Step 1 – Know the brand you’re working with from inside out and the competition
This is a very important point, but not always properly considered. Knowing exactly what the brand stands for and what it can offer to its customers, opens the number of possibilities when creating content and adding meaningful links.
A lot of information can be gathered online (e.g., what people know about the brand and what’s already out there); any documents provided by the client are very valuable, and any conversation with the client will undoubtedly help. The goal is to be aware of all the possibilities and what’s genuinely different about the brand we’re working with.
Step 2 – Know your audience and where they hang
This is when we start digging into our target and their motivations. They can come across our brand in multiple situations, at different times, and on different devices. The single question we need to be clear on is: what problem do they have that we can solve?
There are many tools that help to identify who our target is and what questions they have.
Website and social media analytics provide a general view of who uses our services and interacts with our brand. It goes beyond demographic data, it shows what generates more buzz, where they spend more time or what pages have higher engagement rates.
Through the most searched keywords we can understand people’s intent; what ranks for those keywords tell us what Google think their intent is (which is probably right). Other tools like Google trends help to spot patterns and get a more holistic view.
There are also tools that shed some light into what resonates with the target, AnswerThePublic or Buzzsumo (a guide on how to use Buzzsumo here) tell us what people talk about, what they share and what they ask on Google.
This research gives us a clearer picture of who we’re approaching, what they want to know and what resonates with them. We can organise this information in several groups, depending on the data we have and the campaign goals. We can segment by demographics, motivations, online behaviour, etc, and we can tailor the message later in the process.
Step 3 – Anticipate what their goals are and when they’re more likely to interact with you
This is when we go beyond the data and extrapolate from there. Based on what we know so far, we can infer some goals. When browsing the web, people have different goals: know something, go somewhere or do something, and each of these can be broken into different intents. As an example, if someone wants to know something, are they looking for the how or the what? What content would be more suited for each and where is it more relevant to place it?
Engagement metrics are very useful at this stage, and spending some time on forums or reviews sites reading what people say can give us a lot to work with.
Step 4 – Improve their experience
Going back to the Wikipedia story, I guess what made it so memorable for me is that I would always end up learning more than I expected. Any link should aim to improve a user’s experience, that’s why it’s so important to understand what their goals are.
Maybe they want to learn more about a particular piece of news, maybe they have veins and want to be better informed, maybe they’re new to betting and are looking for some advice, or maybe they’re planning to buy a new TV. If a link is taking them to a place that helps solving the problem, I guess it’s safe to say their online journey was worthwhile and they found what they were looking for. Until, of course, a new question arises in the shape of a keyword, and everything starts over again.