Friday, November 18, 2005

Win-Win Link Marketing

When you do shows like SES and only have 12 minutes or so to talk about linking strategies, it's hard to share tactics on incentive linking. Incentive linking typically involves a bit of planning and research and is always unique to the industry so it's less cookie cutter and not easily translated to short bursts of linking wisdom.

Anyway, since I can talk all I want here I thought I'd share an example of an incentive linking opportunity since they've worked so well for me over the years. I'm not naming names (I sign NDA's for everyone I work with) but have used the actual industries and demographics.
Here's the set-up:

My client was in the motor coach/travel business, they're a large established company that's been online for a while. They currently rank very well for certain key terms, but wanted to focus on some interior pages and lesser terms that would also reinforce a couple PPC campaigns they were running.

I worked with their marketing manager and SEO firm to identify the keyword phrases/pages to target and set out to develop an incentive strategy to attract a specific demographic. It's really important all the key players agree on what to target so it's a focused campaign. You only get one shot to secure a good link so the site has to be ready.

We talked about several demographics and settled on the over 55 crowd. We determined the who (seniors), the what ( kw anchors to use) and the where (pages to link to). From there I had to create the "how" or the "how will I attract the link" incentive.

I started by researching the senior market in general then senior publications, portals and associations to find senior sites repeatedly mentioned or those with high visibility in the search engines. I wasn't just looking for well ranked senior sites, I also needed high traffic sites with offline publications since the over 55 crowd (based on the research I did) tends to be less computer savvy, likes to and has the time to read hardback publications. Armed with all this info, I went link fishing.

Creating link offers can be a lot of fun provided your client buys into it before you start. Most offers include a discount/change to a price point which means a change to the shopping cart which means programming issues which could mean delays if they don't buy into it at the start. So be sure everyone is onboard and site changes have been made before you begin.
The bigger the giveaway, the better the incentive. The better the incentive the more links you get. Free shipping and merchandise is always a hit (I'm still amazed at what people will do for a free tee shirt) piggyback promotional offers, rebates, coupons etc. All good - all work. In my case, I was giving away per person discounts on motor coach tours if the site hosted an optimized image link plus three optimized anchor text links embedded in two paragraphs of text on various pages within their site. (Try to get both links and optimized content for max ranking and brand awareness benefit).

I worked with the motor coach site's marketing manager and their copywriter to create a promotional email that succinctly explained the promotion. I followed up with a phone call but the initial contact was via email so a paper trail could be started. The promotion was successful with all the sites (15) I contacted opting in somehow and adding the links.

So why didn't I just buy text link ads on all those sites instead of going the incentive route? Because it established a relationship that was beneficial and long term to everyone involved. Each of the sites I offered the incentive to saw it as a no-cost-to-them-long-term- benefit they could offer their users. Made them look good, was good for us and good for the consumer. It was win-win link marketing :)

It's more than submitting to Directories, swapping or buying a couple links.

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