Monday, March 03, 2008

Bee's Do It, Even NonProfits Do It. Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Link Love


Beth Kanter of Beth's Blog recently published an interview she did with Jonathan Colman of The Nature Conservancy. Jonathan is their Associate Director of Digital Marketing and he shared some insight on how the Nature Conservancy (a non-profit) was using social media as part of their marketing mix.

A lot of the interview struck home and made me think about the parallels between traditional linking and social media promotion. While I agree the two entities are different animals and call for seperate strategies, the bottom line is the same for both... to increase traffic and link love.

With some people holding SEO to the fire for exploiting social media, I thought it might be interesting to look at those parallels based on comments made in the interview and see if there's any common ground. Let's start with this one:
...one of the most interesting parts of engaging in social media is how you can measure just about everything that you do. The real challenge, of course, is to determine the meaning behind those numbers.
There's been some chatter on how links generated through social media are somehow less relevant than those secured through traditional link building methods. In traditional link building you identify a link, assign value to it and then proceed to do what you can to get it. If you're successful in securing the link, it becomes a commodity because of where it came from and the importance you placed on securing it.

It's the opposite with social media. You put the content out there and if you're lucky you'll see big traffic and some quality inbound links. Generating links through the social networks can be a crapshoot, you get what you get. Unlike traditional linking, you can't pinpoint where those links will come from or control which sites to target.

So the question is, are the links generated through social media campaigns any less efficient?

The short answer is -it depends on your goal. In today's linking landscape it's important to secure links from high quality sites, and/or those in your niche for maximum ranking impact. Getting links from places like CNN and The Huffington Post are also great provided they aren't dynamic. But if you're looking to generate eyeballs and traffic, then general links in massive quantities are fine, it should be easy to determine their effectiveness.

Here's another comment Jonathan made:
… another principle strategy of ours: connecting with people where they are rather than making find us. ...Rather than force people to come to our site ... we’re happy to ind them where they’re already engaged and introduce them to the Conservancy in venues of their choice.
Advertising/participating on sites your customers frequent when they're not on your site, that's just smart marketing. It's why keeping them engaged through reviews, surveys and customer commenting on your site is so important. Use your site to pull the info you need to find out where they are. No matter what type of linking campaign you do, you need to know what your customers want, where they are and what sites to target. That's Marketing 101.

He then went on to comment on some specific tactics/sites the Nature Conservancyy was using:
I routinely bookmark and comment on environmental news, green blogs, and stories about sustainability and alternative energy technology. One of our foremost social media strategies is to try to link to and promote as many stories as possible outside of our own site.
When we talk about link popularity as a concept, we tend to overlook the importance of topical relevance for the more impactful issues like anchor text and quality links. It's a given that anchor text and inbound links are strong factors but it's equally important to establish community relevance by linking out to sites within your community. By finding and linking to sites hosting your demographic, you work the opportunity from both sides... you get targeted eyeballs and establish your site in a cited, topical network.

.... with Digg visitors, these folks just viewed the landing page and most of them immediately left without viewing any other pages. But that’s OK, because our popularity on Digg drove in 50+ links from blogs, including a few elite sources like The Huffington Post and Cisco.com, and also caused “spillover” popularity into other social news networks. The real value from this particular success on Digg wasn’t so much the initial spike in traffic, but the increased SEO positioning and second wave of visitors coming from blogs and other sites.

The article being referenced can be found here on Digg , some of the "spillover" sites he mentions are Mixx, Hugg, Care2, Reddit, Magnolia, and Netscape . While you may not get as many votes from any one of these "spillover" sites as you would Digg (provided the story was went hot), put them all together and their numbers are impressive.

You'll also get a wider circle of inbound links which is good for establishing a varied linking pattern and increasing visibility overall.

I turn to Twitter to publicize my social media campaigns, usually the ones on Digg. ... a handful of friends following these tweets ... actually click through and vote on the stories. Twitter, Pownce, even IM can be used to draw people into your campaigns...

I've noticed a change in the way people are using Twitter these days. When I started it was more conversational but now, people seem to be using it to annouce new blog posts, ask questions and ask for Diggs/Fetches/Sphinns. More than once I've picked up an URL or a new site that's been helpful; I recently added a link I saw on Twitter to my latest SEL column, I had finished the post and was ready to send in when the tweet happened. Being able to find and react to information that quickly is every marketing person's dream.

Cherry picking links is still a good idea, you target what you want and what you know you need. Social media is good for spreading the word while attracting links in the process. The links are less targeted but no less efficient or important to your overall inbound link graph. Successful link building is about blending both and loving the results.

1 comment:

Rich Pearson said...

This is spot-on, particularly for media companies whose content is republished every day. Indeed, it may not be that targeted, but it is effective.

To quote what you said at the SMX panel last week - make lemonade !