Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On Being Link Different.

Last year a good friend of mine opened a store in town and asked me to help with the launch and advertising campaign.

Before the store opened, we spent a good deal of time drafting her marketing plan. Of course I immediately suggested a website as part of the marketing arsenal, but her comfort level wasn't there so I tabled the idea. She's no stranger to the WWW but like a lot of small business owners her first reaction was to focus on "street" advertising and promotions.

Sales were great the first couple weeks but after awhile, things leveled off especially after a similar store opened nearby. We analyzed her advertising and decided unless we substantially increased the budget and/or implemented discount promotions, sales would remain flat or tank.

So I brought up the website again, got a yes, launched it, promoted the URL offline, did the SEO and link building thing and watched her online sales climb.

If you're wondering why I'm sharing this and what it has to do with link building, the answers is -everything! My friend's situation reminded me that regardless of where and how you promote your business, if you don't look at all the marketing opportunities available to you, you're leaving money on the table.

Link building is marketing opportunity. It touches and affects your advertising, sales, promotions, publicity and branding efforts and when done well and with thought, can make the difference between success and mediocrity.
I know its popular to want to use the latest linking fad but the reality is today's fad is tomorrow's fade. Don't be left in the dark by only doing one type of link building or one type of online promotion. Different types of links reach different audiences, each unique but no less important.

There are tons of linking methods out there, some well known, others not so talked about. Here's a quick review on a handful of link tactics....

Reciprocal linking. This still works if you keep them to a minimum and within your niche. The power behind recips comes in the anchor text you provide. Be smart and point the best keyword phrases to beneficial pages on your site. Negotiate location on the host site by working to get your link on an internal page topically relevant to your site.

Another thing about recip linking.....a lot of people experience frustration with this technique because they're shot down or don't hear back from people after sending link requests. Don't give people the option to just say "yes" or "no" to the request. If you do, you make it easy for people to blow you off. Provide multiple link choices, encourage feedback and dangle incentives.....

Incentive linking. My favorite and what I do most often so no surprises that I'll gush link-poetic on this one. Look for sites with visitors that fit your customer profile and offer product incentives in exchange for link placement.

Ever notice the theme park coupons on your Big Mac bag or tray liner? Theme parks know the demographic frequenting fast food chains is similiar to theirs so they partner to distribute discount coupons. The restaurant offers a fun discount to it's customers and is featured in the theme parks TV and radio adverstising. The park gets the traffic and exposure to a large customer base. Win-win there for all.

You can do the same with links. Find a high traffic/authority site in a complimentary niche and offer an incentive (dollar off, free shipping etc) their members will find attractive in exchange for links. The success of this tactic lies in the offer so make it good and make it memorable.

You get the traffic and the link, the site gets to offer something unique to its customers. Best of all, you're not spending money up front; you control what the link says and where it points.

Press Releases. While most press releases offer short term back-links, they can establish long-term credibility if used properly. Issue releases in support of new initiatives as they promote your business and not because you've signed a new client or bought new office furniture. (Issue enough crappy releases and pretty soon your company name will be ignored by journalists and industry bloggers).

Treat a press release as a call to action and not just a way to report the news. Be sure to offer clean, short hyperlinks in the body of the copy and contact information for follow-up. It pays to use one of the subscription services if you're in a highly competitive area or a service like Eric's URL Wire if you're highly niched.

Once you've accumulated a handful of releases, create an online media center and add an RSS. Include a copy of your media kit, industry news articles, video clips, podcasts, stock market reports and headline news so you become THE spot for what's new in your area. After it's all done, issue a press release announcing its creation to influential journalists and bloggers in your niche with a product sample or free service offer.

I need to stop here but will talk about creating a link tsunami (link baiting), content generation tactics, the Directories and buying links tomorrow so stop back by!

Keywords: link, reciprocal link building, recipriocal links, incentive linking, media links, link tsunami, link baiting, content generation, link directories, buying links

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