the inbound-i blog: Inbound Marketing Information, Ideas & Intelligence

Breaking Inbound Marketing News: HubSpot3 Launches

Posted by Ellie Becker on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 @ 10:08 AM

 HubSpot Dashboard

Dear Readers of the inbound-i blog,

You are among the very first on the planet to get groundbreaking news about the present and future of marketing. Culminating a year of intense development, HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah have just rolled out HubSpot3 a powerful new version of its software that even more fully integrates and analyzes the many functions of successful Inbound Marketing.

HubSpot3 Just Announced at Inbound 2012

The announcement came minutes ago during their keynote presentation here at Inbound 2012, a gathering of HubSpot users, Inbound Marketing agency partners and those interested in learning more about Inbound Marketing and evolving their marketing for the way both B-to-C and B-to-B customers buy today. A number of new features – particularly those that provide Smart/Dynamic delivery of content, forms and calls to action -- fulfill the vision that Brian Halligan put forth at last year’s Inbound event: To enable marketing segmentation to the individual level.

HubSpot3 provides marketers unprecedented control and ease of implementation of all aspects of Inbound Marketing. If you had to cobble it all together yourself, you’d have to purchase at least eight separate products and then try to get them all to talk to each other effectively. And you still wouldn’t have as elegant and impressive a solution.

Any business owner or corporate marketer who has looked at HubSpot in the past must take another look now. Some of the new elements are available across all levels of the HubSpot product – Basic, Professional and Enterprise. Some features are available only at the Professional and/’or Enterprise levels. These decisions were based on providing features of greatest importance to each HubSpot persona group at realistic pricing levels for each customer type.

What's New in HubSpot3?

We’ll be blogging more about the specifics of the new HubSpot3 platform, but here are the highlights of what’s rebuilt or is brand new in HubSpot3 as provided by the HubSpot team:

HubSpot Logo

The following new or rebuilt elements in the release of HubSpot 3 join blogging software, CMS, SEO tools, Marketing Analytics and other tools (including the marketplace) to make up the complete HubSpot 3 Platform:

  • Contacts Database: Originally released to a small audience in June, Contacts is an ever-evolving information portal on a company’s audience (Prospects, Leads and Customers). Contacts is really the brain of the new platform with lead and customer profiles automatically adapting and updating based on changing preferences and interactions with the company.
  • Email: Also released to a small audience in June, the email system is closely integrated with the contacts database, workflows social media, dynamic content and a company’s CRM system. It enables greater personalization and deliverability than ever before.
  • Workflows: Workflows leverage the enormous amount of data in the Contacts database and a series of rules set by the marketer to create dynamically evolving segments and automate marketing actions. More than email automation, workflows enables marketers to trigger campaigns, change contact profile properties, score leads, send notifications, and sync to a CRM system based on when a lead has met a set of conditions.
  • Landing Pages: Landing pages have been rebuilt to be closely integrated with the Contacts database, CRM systems, email, dynamic components, and social media. Using the new landing pages, marketers can build, implement, and measure a full multichannel campaign in one place. A/B Testing is built in (at the enterprise level) and the new landing page templates have responsive design to optimize for different devices and browsers. Because of Smart Forms and Smart CTAs (See these points below), HubSpot's landing pages are also among the most adaptive on the market.
  • Smart Forms: Smart forms adapt and minimize over time. As a company gathers contact information about a given lead, the forms remove fields that have been filled in during previous submissions, making for a better user experience. For example, any of you who have filled out the same long form in HubSpot every time you want to download a piece of content will never have to do so again.
  • Smart CTAs (Calls to Action): Built off the Contacts database, HubSpot 3 enables you to show images and CTAs that adapt in real time to the interests of each visitor based on previous interactions with your website. This is AWESOME and cutting edge!
  • Smart Lists: Smart lists are continually evolving contact lists based on a set of criteria. Each time an individual meets the rules of a smart list, they are added. You can have an unlimited number  of Smart Lists that are segmented based on the value of a contact property, being a member of a static list, or having ever filled out a specific form.
  • Social Media: With a new integration directly into Contacts, HubSpot Social Media now enables you to view a lead's social activity and create dynamic segments based on your most engaged social media followers. In addition to that functionality, called "Social Contacts," HubSpot social media now has an in-app view of all your Twitter and Facebook interactions and enables you to respond, follow or other action.
  • Mobile App: Available for free in the apple store, HubSpot has added a mobile application to enable marketers to keep tabs on their lead generation and customer conversions on the go. The mobile app includes a view of Sources, Marketing Grader and Contacts.
  • Salesforce.com Integration: HubSpot 3 brings you an even stronger Salesforce.com connector than ever. (The software also integrates with other CRMs and software platforms via plug-ins and interfaces developed on the HubSpot API.)

The evolution of the HubSpot software was enabled by significant investment in the past couple of years by online marketing giants Sequoia Partners, Google and Salesforce.com. Some of the features – like the new email product -- are already available to new customers and are being rolled out to existing customers. Other features will be rolled out over time. A new pricing structure has also been rolled out – effective September 1. Contact us for more info and demos at info@erbeckercompany.com. 

If you're still not sure what Inbound Marketing is or how it can help your business, download our free Inbound Marketing fact sheet here.

 

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, HubSpot, Inbound 2012, HubSpot3

Inbound Advice: Don't Run Away From "Home"

Posted by Ellie Becker on Wed, Aug 01, 2012 @ 21:08 PM

Keep Home in Navigation

Somehow a trend has developed that threatens website user experience. Mess up a visitor’s ability to easily navigate your site and you can rest assured that it’s costing you business.

What’s the trend? “Home” is disappearing from navigation bars. I suspect that this is the result of a move to horizontal navigation – across the top of the Web page. Horizontal navigation is limited. So developers are trying to find space to accommodate more categories on the nav bar.

What they’ve decided to ditch is a navigation tab for “Home”. On many sites Home has been replaced by a link from the company logo. This is confusing to many visitors who are not mouse-ing around a page looking for what they can click on.

Most visitors are looking for the text, the words, the links that will take them where they want to go.

What's my inbound advice? Even though I regularly counsel clients not to be Home Page-centric – to recognize that if their site is properly optimized, visitors may enter the site from any page. But they also shouldn't run away from home.

The home page is still the spot on a website where there’s an overview. It’s where key messages are introduced and where look and feel and brand identity are the strongest. Home is still the gateway to the company and people want to see Home pages. Home is the hub of the site from where you can navigate everywhere (one hopes).

Don’t give up a Home tab in deference to design and space issues. Challenge your web developer to come up with something less restrictive than a main navigation across the top of the page.

I’m very resolute on this topic, having engaged numbers of web searchers on the topic. When asked how they would get to the home page on a site where Home is not in the navigation, most have given up trying to figure it out in exasperation.

Why set up your visitors for frustration? Why design a higher bounce rate into your site? Make it easy for visitors to get everywhere on your site – especially to your Home sweet Home.

While you're here, take advantage of a free opportunity to learn more about Inbound Marketing.

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Image is from the flickr photostream of Diana Parkhouse under Creative Commons license.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Online Marketing, Website Development, E.R. Becker Company, Web design, User Experience

Future of SEO: Three Areas of Impact

Posted by Ellie Becker on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 @ 12:06 PM

Future of SEO is NowBecause of changes to Google's approach to search, some are beginning to question the future role of SEO in inbound marketing. Google is beginning to link search results it delivers to the social media behavior and browsing history of the searcher. This is one result of Google's foray into social media with Google+.

In the future, which in a limited way is now, what comes up on page one of search results will be different for you than it is for me. This puts the notion of high search engine rankings into question. Why bother with SEO if we no longer care about page one? But we should care. It just requires a shift in how we get there. Here are the three key areas that will be important to successful SEO in the future.

1. Keyword Research - What continues to be critical about the activities involved in SEO is keyword research - regardless of how search engines decide to parcel out results. The reason? Key word research gives us true insight to our buyer personae - our key audiences.

It's critical to success that we understand the words our prospects use to search for products and services like ours. I can bet you that the words they use are a far cry from the words we use in our carefully constructed website copy.

2. Social Media Context -- Where we need to shift is to become much more aware of where our prospects are engaged in social media. In addition to knowing where they spend time and effort engaging online, we must also become more engaged ourselves. Our associations with key audiences, our interconnectedness with their communities will influence our being presented to them on page one query results.

3. Great Content -- I agree with some online marketing experts that the most important inbound marketing component will continue to be creating great content. Keyword research helps assure that the content will appeal to the intended audience and will include language that resonates with them. Social networks assure effective targeting and delivery of our messages.

But ultimately, it’s our level of creativity, professional knowledge and awareness of our audiences’ needs that will contribute to producing content that moves to the top of search results. Such content will not only attract search engines, but will move people to action by showcasing our capabilities to provide the products and services being sought.

 

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The image is from the flickr photostream of Aurelian S  under Creative Commons license.

Topics: E.R. Becker Company, SEO, Social Media, Google+, Keyword Research, Google+, Content

Online Lead Generation: Blogging Builds Business

Posted by Ellie Becker on Mon, Jun 11, 2012 @ 09:06 AM

Online Lead Generation Blogging Builds Business  When I say, “Blogging Builds Business,” I say it   with certainty. Why am I so sure? Because, I’ve personally built business through blogging. For online lead generation, blogging is an undeniably powerful and essential tool.

With consistency – at least one post per week -- I’ve seen my website traffic grow continuously. I share my blog on social media and almost always offer another piece of content with each post via a call to action button. And my business has grown.

In fact, I’ve become so busy implementing inbound marketing programs for clients, that I’ve further proved the value of blogging to build traffic and help convert traffic to leads. This time it’s a negative proof.

As my blogging consistency has waned, so has my traffic and so has my online lead generation – dramatically. I know this because I track my marketing progress through my HubSpot analytics.

So, this week I’m doing what I recommend to my clients: Sit down at your computer and take a bit of time to share what you know about your business. In today’s marketing environment, content publishing is the Holy Grail. We ignore it or abandon it at our own peril, and that of our businesses.

Fortunately my online community, those I respect and whose blogs have inspired me in the past, reminded me that I just have to rededicate myself to my blog and online marketing efforts. Ironically today, both Chris Brogan and Mark Schaefer had posts that got me to sit down first thing and share these thoughts with you. Please be sure to read them for some great advice.

I expect that with a few extra blog posts, my traffic will build pretty quickly. I’m also going to spend part of today creating a new piece of content to offer on a new landing page to help my blog visitors engage with my company. These efforts will also make my site more enticing to search engines as they continuously seek fresh information to provide to those looking for it online.

Even as someone who understands and believes in the value of inbound marketing – and the critical role of blogging, I’m no different than any small business owner trying to take the best care of clients, while continuing to market and build business. These activities are not mutually exclusive and both are critical to success. So I stand by the advice that I offer to you and to myself. Start blogging. Keep blogging.

How will you get your online lead generation on track?

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The image Keep Up and Blog On is from the flickr photostream of futureshape under Creative Commons license.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Lead Generation, HubSpot, Online Lead Generation

Inbound Marketing Tips: My Interview With HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan

Posted by Ellie Becker on Mon, May 28, 2012 @ 15:05 PM

Ellie Becker Interviews HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan

For an hour on Friday, I interviewed HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan when I guest-hosted the LinkedIn Lady Show on Internet-based RockStar Radio Network for my friend Carol McManus.

It was a rare opportunity for all of us to learn about the current state and future direction of Inbound Marketing from one of the acknowledged leaders of marketing thought and action today. 

Brian is a straight-talking, accessible guy - an open book as he puts it. So we had a lively and wide-ranging conversation. You can download the 05-25-12 podcast on iTunes. Here are a few highlights of Brian’s comments:

Definition of Inbound Marketing

After I complained that I haven’t been able to come up with a one-liner to define Inbound marketing, Brian empathized, saying he’s only been able to get it down to about four or five lines.

Brian's definition:

Inbound Marketing is the opposite of traditional outbound marketing (advertising, direct mail/phone, tradeshows, etc.), where you interrupt your way into your people's lives. Instead of interrupting, Inbound Marketing pulls prospects into and down through your sales funnel in a new and natural way based on how they search for information and make purchase decisions today.

Adapting to the Shift in Marketing

Brian compared the shift in marketing today as similar to the shift in transportation that came with the automobile. Whoever decided to keep on selling buggies, horses and whips wasn’t around too long after the public started buying cars.

He and I agree that it’s still pretty early in the Inbound game and a moment of opportunity for those who jump in now. But it’s a window of opportunity that won’t last too long, Brian Halligan predicts.

The Challenge of Inbound Marketing

The hardest part of Inbound Marketing, he believes, is pulling prospects into the top of the sales funnel and converting them to leads. That’s the part that takes creativity and persistence – developing great content and getting calls to action and landing pages just right. Once visitors convert to leads, nurturing them and pulling them through sales funnel can be more mechanical. He and his co-founder Dharmesh Shah have built into HubSpot the functionalities to automate the lead nurturing process and make it efficient.

LinkedIn Lady show with Carol McManus

Other Tidbits of Inbound Wisdom from Brian Halligan

  • Make the time and free the resources to create great content by stopping marketing efforts (like Google Adwords, Advertising, Tradeshows) that don’t drive as strong results.

  • The trip through the sales funnel is not linear. Leads can bounce up and down between different levels.

  • HubSpot was created not just to sell software, but to give customers the knowledge they need to transform their marketing.

An hour with Brian Halligan is an hour well spent for any marketer or business owner.  I hope you’ll take the opportunity to listen to the full interview.

And while you’re here, please download our free fact sheet that details 20 reasons you should consider transforming your marketing with HubSpot.

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Images from the LinkedIn Lady Show Webpage on May 25, 2012

Topics: Inbound Marketing, LinkedIn Lady Show, HubSpot, Inbound Marketing Tips, Brian Halligan

Why change your marketing? My 84-year-old mom buys shoes on Zappos. That’s why.

Posted by Ellie Becker on Tue, May 22, 2012 @ 22:05 PM

Massive Marketing Change

Don’t tell me that your audience skews too old – or young – or anything else to market to them online. It’s just not true. Today my 84-year-old mother bought shoes for a special occasion on Zappos. She did it all by herself after the bricks and mortar stores in a 20-mile radius of her home didn’t turn up anything suitable for her tiny size 5 feet.

I’ve seen too many toddlers having tantrums when their parents take back their iPhones. The little guys actually know how to use them, too. The parents are moving to mobile to research products and services, make buying decisions and complete some of their purchases. The kids are growing up downloading games and may never set foot in a retail establishment. Like my mom, they’ll buy it online and if they don’t like it or it doesn’t fit, they’ll send it back.

Making excuses for not changing your marketing to take advantage of the enormous shift in how we all shop and use technology makes you an ostrich. Sure some of the traditional ways to market still work ok for now. They don’t work as well as they once did and they’re not going to work any better over time as we continue our relentless move to the Web.

So consider this tough love. We’re in a global economy with competition you haven’t even thought about yet. We hate to change. Sorry. We have to change. The sooner we do it, the more successful we’ll be. There’s no time to waste. We still have a competitive advantage if we’re willing to change now. But it won’t last forever – or for very long.

Oh, did I tell you that my mother now reads the New York Times online? It’s something she said would never happen one short year ago. Now she feels great about not throwing out all that paper every week. And when I do guest stints on the LinkedIn Lady Show on Internet radio, mom streams it live.

Please don’t tell me that you don’t have time to write a blog and create other content, or to learn how to find and interact with your communities on social media. We’re evolving and you don’t have to do it all at once. But if you don’t have time to at least begin marketing in the ways that are successful today, then you don’t have time to be in business.

While you’re here, download our free ebook and learn how to implement successful campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Massive Change image is from the Flickr photostream of Maria Reyes-McDavis under Creative Commons license.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, the inbound-i blog, Online Marketing Strategy

How to Think Like an Inbound Marketing Consultant

Posted by Ellie Becker on Sun, May 13, 2012 @ 10:05 AM

Inbound Marketing Consultant Ellie BeckerWhen companies come to us for advice, "put up a Facebook business page" is not the first thing we tell them. In fact, we may not recommend a Facebook presence at all. As an inbound marketing consultant, I'd like to share with you what we do consider and why the inbound approach has so many benefits for our clients.

  1. What are your objectives for the business? What revenue growth do you want/need to achieve in what timeframe? What's the longterm value of a customer? How many new customers do you need to reach revenue goals? How many existing clients do you need to retain and what will keep them happy and loyal? It's surprising how many companies can't answer these questions. Strategic planning comes before marketing
  2. Who is your customer? How can we find them online (where they're already looking for products and services like yours) and keep them happy if we can't define them? We work with our clients to boil down their understanding of their customers into Buyer Personae. This helps us speak the right language and deliver the right information and messages in marketing.
  3. How much of your revenue growth do you hope to achieve from leads from online sources?
  4. Once we have the information from points 1. 2. and 3., we can determine how much traffic we have to drive to your website, what percentage of that traffic we have to convert to leads and how many leads have to convert to customers to reach your business goals.
  5. Now we can put together a plan to get you there. Here's where we start considering which tactics and tools are mission critical. Does your website need an update or a do-over to take advantage of today's online opportunities? How are we going to get you found by search engines and your important audiences? We determine what keywords they're using to find companies like yours and optimize your web site for those search terms. Since consistent blogging is critical to driving traffic, who will blog for you? We'll help you connect with your brand personae on the social media platforms where they gather. We'll create a plan to convert leads through calls to actions, landing page and content marketing and then nurture them with more content and email campaigns.
  6. We measure it all. This is the most important thing about inbound marketing. It can be measured! We'll know what's working best and what needs re-thinking. We can adjust on the fly to make the most of client and agency resources. Closed loop analytics let us measure business closed online against budgets and objectives to determine inbound marketing ROI.

An inbound marketing consultant has his or her eye on outcomes that contribute to business growth. If that's the number of 'likes' on Facebook, terrific. But that may not be true for your business. Inbound Marketing is powerful and it is the path to successful marketing in an age when people shop and buy online. How are you using - or could you use - the inbound process to take advantage of the web for your company.

 

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, SEO, Online Marketing Strategy, Inbound Marketing Consultant

How to Improve SEO: Blog Your Keywords

Posted by Ellie Becker on Sun, May 06, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

My last post was described as the final in a 'How to Improve SEO' series. Not quite so, as the title of this post will attest. I began writing these posts primarily because I'm working with so many clients lately to add optimization to their sites, fix sites with poorly selected search terms and to improve usability. There's so much misinformation or downright lack of information about SEO that I felt it was high time to address it in the blog. How to Improve SEO

There was another reason for the series tied to my own marketing. Although I do alot of SEO work and have been quite successful in getting my clients ranking on page one for important keywords, in my own search engine rankings, I was absolutely nowhere to be found for search terms related to SEO.

Every piece of content we add to our sites is an opportunity to optimize and rank for another keyword. I use my own marketing as lab and role model for what I teach my clients so I decided it would be a good experiment to go from 'off the radar screen' to high ranking for the term 'How to Improve SEO'.

My research showed that the term in "phrase match" gets 440 searches monthly in the U.S. Anyone looking to improve SEO is an excellent prospect for me and I don't need more than a handful of new clients to reach my revenue objectives - so it was a good choice for my business. (Business strategy and objectives is always the place to start in making marketing decisions.)

I began the series of blog posts optimized for 'How to Improve SEO' on March 12th. After publishing them, I publicized them with a link on social media - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (including about 15 LinkedIn Groups) and - most important - Google+. I believe that Google+ is a lynchpin in successful SEO strategies because when I publicize on G+ my posts are indexed by Google within 48 hours. I know this because I maintain a Google Alert on my website url. When I get an alert about a new post, it means that it's been indexed.

On the morning of May 3rd, I checked my ranking for 'How to Improve SEO' for the first time since starting the series and - I had position 64! This put me on about page 5 or 6. Later that morning, I received a Google Alert on the latest post published a couple of days before. When I checked my ranking again later that evening I found that I'd moved up to position 26!! About page 2 or 3.

By the way - I find my rankings right in my HubSpot software along with all other manner of measurement and analytics. The chart shown above from my HubSpot  Keywords tool shows you exactly when my ranking for ‘How to Improve SEO’ started to shoot up – a fast 5 weeks after the first post of the series.

The results of this experiment led me to share the story as a personal case study in this additional post while, at the same time, taking the opportunity to move to Page 1 by blogging once more on the search term. I'll let you know what happens. This inbound marketing stuff really works, dear readers. Why wouldn't you want to do something that's proven to work?

While you're here, learn 20 more reasons why you should use Inbound Marketing.

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Topics: HubSpot Tips, Inbound Marketing, Inbound Marketing Strategy, E.R. Becker Company, SEO, Google+

Improve SEO by Improving Website Usability

Posted by Ellie Becker on Sun, Apr 29, 2012 @ 19:04 PM

This is the last in the current SEO series on the inbound-i blog - about usability. And I want to leave you with one thought.

Please, please stop focusing on your home page.  If you really want to have an SEO strategy, then you have to look at every page, every blog post, every piece of content you post on your website as an opportunity to come up on page one of Google search results for a different search term.

As long as you’re stuck on creating the perfect home page, you’re delaying putting focus where it should be: attracting diverse visitors to your website via whichever access point is most relevant to them. For many or most prospects, it will not be your home page.SEO- Help visitors find results

The home page by definition is a hodge-podge. Yes. Go for some broader, harder to rank for search terms for your home page. You’d might as well. Most people who reach your home page already know you and have plugged your url into a search field. If they land there by chance or mistake, they won’t find what they’re looking for and will bounce off.

But to really generate leads – attracting those who don’t know you yet, but are searching for services/products like yours -- build content for specific offerings and optimize those content pages to attract more targeted search.

When someone hits your home page, they will likely see a diversity of messages and offerings. Try to make one visible block of content a validation that the visitor is in the right place to find info in your field. Let them know that generally they’re in the right place. And let search engines know, too, using meta data and other signals that we’ve discussed in earlier posts.

Across the board, make navigation consistent throughout your website so that visitors don’t have to relearn it on every page. We’re working on a site now where certain important information – how about the blog – is only accessible from the home page. We’re optimizing the site so that visitors who can benefit from info on the blog will enter from multiple places on the site. So we’re putting the blog in the main navigation bar.

In explaining why website navigation must be consistent throughout the site, my esteemed colleague Bernadette Nelson at Studio-B Visual Communication (www.studiob-ct.com) always tells clients, “What would happen if every time you got into your car, the controls were in a different spot?” The same holds true for how visitors navigate around your website. Don’t make them learn something new on every page, or they’ll go somewhere else.

Here’s the key takeaways on usability from SEOMoz, a highly authoritative voice on the subject:

The search engines are in a constant quest to improve their results by providing the "best" possible results. While "best" is subjective, the engines have a very good idea of the kinds of pages and sites that satisfy their searchers. Generally, these sites have several traits in common:

  • Easy to use, navigate, and understand
  • Provide direct, actionable information relevant to the query
  • Professionally designed and accessible to modern browsers
  • Deliver high quality, legitimate, credible content

 Help people buy and you’ll get found by search engines!!

And if you're hungry for more Inbound Marketing information, download this fact sheet.

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The Home Page Hodge Podge image is from the Flickr photostream of DanielaMeleo under Creative Commons license.

Topics: Inbound Marketing Strategy, E.R. Becker Company, SEO, SEOMoz

How to Improve SEO: Create a Link-Building Strategy

Posted by Ellie Becker on Sun, Apr 15, 2012 @ 13:04 PM

Over the last several posts we’ve been looking at search engine optimization. When most people – even so-called experts – think SEO, they think about on-page SEO, the keywords and search terms that are visible to visitors and/or search engines. A much-overlooked aspect of SEO is link building: that is, encouraging other websites to link to our content.Anchor text links improve SEO

Why is link building important? And how do we build links to our site? First, the ‘why’.

When someone types a query into a Google, Yahoo!, Bing or YouTube search field, the #1 objective is to return the most relevant and credible results. On-page SEO speaks to the relevance. If your copy and meta data contain the words the seeker is looking for, ostensibly your content is relevant to that search.

However, is the information you’re providing factual and based on expertise? Is it credible? That’s where links come in. when another site links back to your site, it conveys to search engines that the site finds your content of value.

Not all sites that link to yours are of equal value. The more traffic and authority a site has, the more valuable a backlink from them is to your search engine rankings. So work to get important sites with trusted domains to link to yours.

Now for the ‘How’.

In general, we – and other SEO specialists – do not recommend paying for links. In particular, don’t fall for pay-for-play schemes that promise high rankings in exchange for a paid backlink. A link from some of these sites can actually demote your site in rankings. Google doesn’t like scams and is expert at ferreting out bogus, low-quality sites and content. (Note: The link above is a backlink to seomoz.org. Also see the discussion on anchor text at the end of the post.)

There may be legitimate industry directories with far higher traffic than your site that you can list in for free or for a fee. But don’t rely on directory listings for link clout.

The best way to build link authority is to create great content and publicize it to your online communities through social media. If your content is topic-specific to their interests, they’ll link to it.

As in all web-based marketing, building relationships is the key concept in link building. Social media offers access to influential people – including bloggers - in your industry. Engage these influencers in conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, adding to the conversations they and their other followers are having.

As they get to know you and value your contributions, they’ll feel comfortable linking back to your site. Commenting on their blog posts can be an excellent way to become a known quantity. If it’s truly relevant and adds to the conversation to put a link to your content in a comment do so, but be judicious. Self-serving actions don’t help in social media. In addition, links in comments of most important blogs are set to have the ‘no follow’ attribute, which means they carry no value from an SEO viewpoint. 

Ideally, relationships with online influencers can lead to online opportunities like guest blogger gigs and offers to participate in webinars and other forums. These all add to your credibility.

Remember that links show search engines the relationships among pages of content. When you link to other blogs or to other pages within your own site, instead of creating a link from words like ‘click here’, use a keyword or search term as what is called the ‘anchor text’ for your link. The link earlier in this post is an anchor text link. Here’s an example of an anchor text link tied to one of the keywords this post is optimized for - 'improve seo': In case you missed the first post in this SEO series, learn why you should improve SEO for competitive advantage.

Next time we’ll talk about how usability figures into the SEO picture.

While you're here, grab some more content about successful marketing online.

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The image of anchor links is from the Flickr photostream of chefranden umder Creative Commons license.

Topics: SEO, Content Strategy

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