"The passive link building plan"
As social media has become increasingly pervasive, many site owners have jumped on the bandwagon and starting blogging their hearts out. Moreover, the numerous success stories of companies using blogs to attract links and drive long-tail traffic has made the prospect seem very lucrative, inviting businesses to start taking their blogs seriously. Blogs, being less commercial in nature and tone, are often seen as the natural home for linkbait or viral content. However many bloggers focus so heavily on the content creation that they forget about content promotion.
Unless you have an existing, engaged community that will lap up your content, a "passive link building plan" will not work for you. You could have developed an ideal content strategy of writing for a content-hungry audience with some fantastic material up your sleeve, but if your promotion strategy extends to "post it and they will come", well I'm afraid they simply won't.
Attract readers, not links
The underlying principle is that you won't get any links to your posts if no one sees them. So if you think your post is linkworthy (which presumably you do, or you wouldn't have written it in the first place, right?) you need to do whatever you can to get it in front of people's faces. Links are given out by people, not websites, so you need people to see your masterpiece if you want to get links from it. If you are writing content solely in order to get links, then your intent is completely wrong.
Actively promote your content
Whilst every different site owner should look to devise a specific promotion strategy that is unique to their goals, there is a number of key things that anyone can do, with any level of experience.
Make it easy for people to access
Your number 1 goal in the first instance should be to get readers, and once you have a reader you want them to subscribe.
- Make sure to include an RSS button in the main navigation
- Consider an additional 'subscribe to this blog' CTA
- Sign up to FeedBurner to allow people to subscribe via email, or through various feed-reader channels such as iGoogle and My Yahoo!
Optimise your feed through the FeedBurner settings area
- Make sure your blog is mobile friendly. The surge in smartphone usage means that mobile users will overtake desktop users in the next few years. Make sure any mobile users are not alienated by a poorer experience
Link to other influencers' blogs
Most blogging platforms track 'pingbacks' that tell website owners when someone has referenced their work, so linking to them could inspire them to read your stuff (and potentially publicise it for you in the future). It is probably the most basic form of egobait: you give them a link, you might make a friend. It's not the most powerful tactic, but a generous sharing strategy can also reflect positively on your 'brand.'
Connect with contributors
People that contribute to your blog are your most valuable assets. If they have taken the time out of their day to read your blog and then respond with a comment, use this opportunity to engage with them. You want them to feel like an appreciated member of your community, and welcome back at any time. If they provide an email address, email them to thank them for taking the time out to comment on your post and supporting your blog. From experience I know that this can be a great way to build relationships; in fact I made my very first SEO 'contact', James Carson, when he emailed me about a comment I'd written on his blog (follow him, he's smarter than he looks).
If someone tweets your post, reply and publicly thank them on Twitter. Then use that opportunity to follow them on Twitter and Google+. If they follow you back, even if they don't subscribe to your blog (yet), they will at least hear about your next post when you share it on the social platforms.
Similarly, if there are influencers in your niche that you wish to draw the attention of, read all of their stuff and whenever you can, try to add a comment. And I don't just mean valueless Bacn like 'thanks for sharing' - you want to really provide some additional insight that will offer genuine value to the other readers. Try a combo approach in order to make yourself more 'visible' - post a comment on their blog, tweet their posts, follow them on Twitter and then 'encircle' them on Google+. If you can attract their attention and they do end up following one of your social profiles, you might be able to use their influence to your advantage in the future and spread your net even wider.
Participate in a community
This seems the most obvious one, but probably the most time-consuming to get right. Socialising online should be like socialising offline, and therefore should be centered around conversation. You can worry about all sorts of 'engagement' metrics - likes, shares, tweets, +1s, etc... - but the purest and most powerful form of socialising is straightforward conversation. Participate in an online community by listening to others and commenting/responding to them to try and strike up conversation. Ask questions and share content to try and inspire further engagement. There is nothing wrong with posting links on social platforms back to your content, but it should only be done in moderation and where appropriate - nobody wants to feel like they are being spammed.
The best social network for you to participate in depends upon your type of business and what you hope to achieve. To decide which is best for you, it would help to answer the following questions:
- Where does the audience lie?
- Where do the influencers hang out?
- Is my content suitable for the platform?
For example, an artist's blog might benefit from Pintrest, a pharmacy's from Quora, and a dance school's from YouTube; but they probably wouldn't work the other way around. There is no rulebook for this sort of thing. Some websites have had incredible success by combining several platforms at once, and making use of multiplier sites like Triberr.
Submit guest posts
One of the best ways to show off your work is to publish it on someone else's blog. If your audience numbers are low, just go borrow someone else's! It can be a fantastic way to showcase your work and develop your profile in the community. Not only that, in exchange for your post they will give you a link back (that's what you wanted in the first place, right? WRONG! Go back to the beginning).
If you need further convincing of the benefits of guest blogging, or need help devising a strategy, James Agate pretty much covers the lot on his Seogadget guest post (just realised that this is a guest post, talking about guest posting, referring to someone else's guest post about guest posting. Hmmm).
...and accept guest posts from others
Accepting guest posts is something that is not immediately obvious as a link building method - surely that is giving links away, right? Well yeah, it is, but all it is in essence is relationship building with another like-minded blogger. You can get high quality content written for you, for free, with very little effort on your part. And the best thing about it is that they will often end up bringing their community along with them, increasing the exposure of your blog and introducing new audience members. As long as the content is decent, it is a bit of a no-brainer: someone else will write the content, and help promote it for you! Win-win (disclaimer to this is that it can be hard to attract guest bloggers with a fledgling site/blog, but a powerful technique nonetheless).
Leverage existing relationships
Whatever business you work in, you will have a variety of relationships with different professionals from all walks of life. Why not write some content that appeals to them and send them the blog link? As long as it is relevant, high-quality content you should not feel bad about asking someone to read it. And you can really try anyone - other business owners, 3rd party suppliers, internal sales staff, even your own friends and family! They all offer potential for increasing readership, more social shares, more views, and more linking opportunities.
Many people use their blog to present content they wouldn't dream of putting on their main site - perhaps a 'viral' video or a snazzy infographic - and often the blog is indeed the best place for this type of content. This is the sort of content that can potentially get you lots of links, but only if you put the effort it, which is where outreach comes in. Manual outreach takes the most effort, but can be the most rewarding, particularly when you can get 'multiplier sites' on board that spurn a host of social shares. There are some great resources out there in the community that explain how to do effective outreach, but as a general rule of thumb if you listen to everything that Justin Briggs and Mike King say, you won't go far wrong.
Don't Give Up
If you write good content, links will follow: if you promote them hard enough. If you don't believe me, just take a look at the links embedded in this post - practically every one exists because somebody wrote good content, and told enough people about it. Sure, I might subscribe to most of the blogs in my RSS feed now, but the initial promotion is what got me on board in the first place - and then the quality of the post attracted the link.
The only other bit of advice I can offer is to read Rand's 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic. And if you can't be bothered to read them all, just read the last one, which can be summarised by this graphic: