No matter how many courses you’ve taken or tutorials you’ve watched on YouTube, nothing prepares you for your first link building campaign. As a new link builder, it can be stressful walking into an environment where everyone else is a seasoned veteran of the field. The reality is: newbies aren’t expected to know everything. But let’s face it…
It helps to have background knowledge.
Despite the experience I had before my content marketing role at Go Fish Digital, there were so many terms and tools I’d never heard of prior to this summer. I wasn’t familiar with the jargon. I also wasn’t familiar with the who, what, when, where, and why of the process.
If you’re hoping to work in a digital marketing field or in the link building world, it’s best to familiarize yourself with these aspects of link building so you can sound like a professional link builder on day one.
The What: Good Content
Contrary to what tutorials and coursework might allude to, there’s much more to digital marketing than social media posts and email campaigns. Link building has been around since the 90s, but most people still don’t know much about it – I sure didn’t when I first started learning about marketing.
The goal of link building, much like the goal of any form of marketing, is to raise awareness and engagement with a particular website. This is done by creating good, newsworthy content reporters will cover and credit back to your client.
Good content is often simple, straight-forward, and engaging. Audiences want something they can get information out of fast, rather than having to read a long article explaining a complicated story. The first campaign I pitched was “the most popular ice cream flavor in each state” using Google Trends search volume data. Despite how basic this concept is, the campaign got a lot of coverage on both the state and national levels.
The Who: Relevant Reporters
Reporters have one thing in common – they’re reporters. Outside of that, they’re just as unique as any other population subset. Reporters each have a beat or specific range of topics that they cover. Their beat could be anything from fashion and food to politics and local news.
When you’re ready to pitch your content to journalists, you’ll have much more success if you find people and outlets that would be interested in your topic. Just like you wouldn’t care about the score of a football game if you weren’t a sports fan, a political journalist doesn’t care about your new findings of the most popular ice cream flavor in each state. So, conduct research to find the journalists that will be most interested in your topic and go from there.
The How and When: Pitching
Pitching is a lot easier said than done.
During my time at Go Fish Digital, I’ve worked with multiple members of the promotion team who have each introduced me to their own personal styles of pitching. The beauty of pitching is that, while there are a few guidelines you should follow, it’s far from an exact science. There are best practices, like when you should be sending your pitches.
Hint: the best time to pitch is on Tuesday.
Reporters get countless pitches each day. Give them the information they need, no more and no less. Think of people who have covered similar topics in the past. For example, if you’re pitching an ice cream campaign I mentioned above, try reaching out to those who have written about ‘National Ice Cream Day’. Writers will appreciate the extra time you put in to make sure your pitches are something they’d be interested in.
Here’s a tip: always remember that reporters are humans too. Talk to them the way you would talk to anyone else. If you use formal language and overly fluffed copy, your email will likely end up getting ignored or deleted. It’s always best to write an email using your natural voice.
The Where: Backlinks
One of my favorite things about link building is the tangible results you get out of your hard work. There is nothing more satisfying than Googling a campaign you’ve worked on and finding coverage on popular websites.
Link builders look at news differently than the average reader. Some important things to note are the domain authority, whether a link is followed or nofollow, and if the article is syndicated. To someone who had never looked at Cosmopolitan as more than a place for weekly horoscopes, these metrics sounded like a foreign language to me.
Truthfully, this language is way less intimidating than it sounds. Domain authority is really just a way to measure a website’s legitimacy and strength, specifically from the perspective of search engines like Google or Bing. Follow versus nofollow indicates whether one website’s credibility does or does not transfer to the website linked. Syndication is the process of a singular article showing up on multiple websites. Sites such as Yahoo and MSN, for example, often re-publish content from external sites.
The Why: Drive Traffic
The coverage you earn is far from the only deliverable in link building. At the end of the day, a really strong link is irrelevant if no one ends up coming to your website. Building links can help drive traffic and engagement to your site, which is what we all want.
You’re probably very familiar with virality and might even keep up with all the latest trending topics. However, measuring how ‘viral’ something went is more complex than looking at solely the number of retweets and likes one tweet got.
While these values have meaning, it’s also important to look at how many people a link reached across multiple platforms. We can also determine how many people view and click the links rather than simply relying on the like count.
Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools for tracking people’s digital behavior. If you haven’t used it before, it can look a little complex, but try not to get overwhelmed. Start with the basics, like how to navigate it and see how much traffic a site has. Try to explore one new feature of Analytics every time you use it and you’ll be a pro in no time. You can even get Google Analytics certified, which will make your resume look even better!
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, successful link building is much easier said than done. In order to get results, it requires extreme thoughtfulness and attention to detail. However, things are not always in your control. Sometimes a campaign isn’t as successful as you hoped it would be, that’s the nature of this type of work.
The bottom line is that new positions and new skills are great learning experiences. You get something out of the workplace environment you can’t quite learn on your own. Have confidence in yourself and ask lots of questions for clarity. Your coworkers are beyond willing to help you every step of the way. Working as a new link builder is an exciting way to gain real world experience in the marketing industry – especially search marketing.