If you are new to search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing or come from a background of social media or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you may not be familiar with link building. However, it is link building that can help your business survive the coronavirus crisis.
Link building is the process of earning backlinks or inbound links from other websites pointing to yours. This strategy is also known as off-page SEO and is still one of the most important aspects of SEO. Think of link building as “word-of-mouth” marketing in this online referral system. If your web content is high-quality enough it will offer so much value that other sites trust it and are willing to mention your brand as a source of information.
This mention usually carries the added value of a link to the content — we will chat more about unlinked brand mentions later on.
In this article we will cover:
• The economic and marketing impact of COVID-19
• Strategies to keep your brand relevant online
• The importance of local links
Economic Impact of COVID-19
During these trying times, marketers are working hard to keep their clients’ businesses afloat. The economic impact of COVID-19 will continue to unravel in the next few months and niches such as travel and hospitality have taken a big hit in organic searches.
The full impact of the crisis can be seen in search intent, specifically in the airline, hotel and restaurant industries.
However, the current situation has also created (or accelerated) a new array of opportunities to explore in the economic and marketing arena.
• In the labor arena, we took a giant leap toward remote work. All kinds of businesses faced the reality of closing down their offices or commercial spaces, sending everyone home and developing a “work at home solution” to keep operations going. Would this have happened if it wasn’t for the coronavirus crisis? Maybe not. But the pandemic prompted this change and quite frankly, it may be here to stay.
• Businesses moved to occupy the online space in a very creative way. From restaurants to medical practices, more companies are offering their products or services online.
These new and unavoidable circumstances made traditional brick-and-mortar businesses pivot when faced with the reality of it all. Restaurants were particularly quick to respond, introducing home deliveries, takeout options and curbside pick ups to suffice the limited-service operations.
Locally owned and operated restaurant franchises went above and beyond to keep their brand relevant amidst the crisis.
“We put ourselves in the position of our guests, we understood that not everybody was able to sustain their current lifestyle, not everybody was able to consume our product on a daily basis; so we adapted to provide excellent service with our excellent food quality and timeliness […] we got really creative with our menu and put together “family packs” food for a family of four under $30 for curbside pick up and take out, we increased our phone numbers to take as many orders during peak hours. We used Tic Toc, Facebook and Instagram to keep the business going and ultimately keep all of our staff on board.” — Ernesto Ricco, Corporate Chef at El Toro Restaurants; Houston, TX. @eltorotexmex
Business owners and managers have quickly become aware of the importance of digital marketing. That’s a big win for agencies that have expressed to clients the importance of continuing with their digital marketing strategies or at least implementing a trimmed down version of each of their campaigns.
Not that businesses were not aware of it before, but the very reason for moving their operations to the online space is why they need to re-evaluate their marketing efforts as well. The stark reality is that many businesses cut back on their digital marketing expenses to keep operations going during the crisis. However, as signs of economic activity start to show and restrictions lessen, business owners can begin efforts to maximize their marketing impact and get back to daily operations.
During this time of shutdowns, Thrive Internet Marketing Agency provided the business audience with a set of digital marketing ideas during the COVID-19 crisis. We received great feedback from our readers and these guidelines will continue to be valuable throughout the recovery period.
Two Strategies to Keep Your Brand Relevant Online
We are all excited to stretch our legs and enjoy life outside our homes again. Your customers are ready, too! However, is your business ready to be found?
As organic searches go, we have found that although brand searches are not in full-swing yet, informational intent queries about businesses are up (say, what?). Consumers are interested in learning if their favorite businesses are open or reopening soon. Adjusting your content strategy to promote your business as the different phases of the pandemic unravel has been crucial. And, preparing for the reopening of the economy is no different.
A fantastic way to optimize your marketing expense today is by doing a bit of good, old-fashion link building. Refocusing on your backlink strategy will maintain your brand relevance online.
Remember that online “word-of-mouth” concept at the beginning of this article? Here’s where it comes into play. A strong link building strategy can support your efforts in re-engaging your customers by redirecting visitors to your landing page announcing you’re reopening. It can also help you track where your traffic is coming from and see what sites are good referrals for you.
Obtaining high-authority links that connect to your website from other sites is easier said than done. It can be a complicated and frustrating process for any kind of business, no matter what niche or industry you operate in.
SEO experts have mentioned time and again that content and links are two of the biggest SEO factors. Adding a proper, well-thought out backlink strategy to your PPC and social media strategies is a fantastic digital marketing investment. If your ad budget is on hold because of the coronavirus’ economic impact, then consider shifting your spending to link building. Organic searches may continue to be down in the wake of COVID-19. However, a proper backlink strategy will support your brand in the long run as your ranking receives a boost for your placements. But only if you choose to jump on this strategy today.
Now, how do you acquire these critical links that positively impact your website and brand image? How can content help with these connections?
1. Guest Blogging
Blogs are positioned to deliver top-quality, unique and optimized content that Google values. Because of the coronavirus, brands are particularly eager to receive valuable content for their readers. Shelter-in-place orders changed the way we use the internet. The audience is spending more time online, browsing and reading about different topics. It is in a brand’s best interest to post engaging, fresh content pieces regularly and by offering a guest post you are able to make that connection for your products or services.
• Establish a relationship with those bloggers emailing you now. Nurturing connections with bloggers or influencers helps with your overall backlink and demand generation strategy.
• Put together a master list of guest blogging sites to ensure you are contacting all possible outlets. Make sure to qualify the relevance and authority of the sites and prepare exciting storylines with attention-grabbing headlines and make sure your links count.
Marketing continues to be based on an inbound approach so consumers end up on your site of their own volition. A proper backlink strategy means traffic to your website and even conversions.
2. Link Reclamation and Unlinked Mentions
Now that we’ve covered guest blogging, what about unclaimed brand mentions? It is time to develop a different approach to link reclamation and unlinked mentions.
Don’t be shy to request a link on brand mentions. How does it work? If someone writes an article mentioning your product or service but doesn’t link it back to your site then you have a few options for engagement. You can thank them for the mention, request they add a link to one of your target pages or begin building a relationship with this website or the writer for future articles and mentions and — hopefully — backlinks.
In essence, you can pursue all three at the same time — securing the link placement in content that organically mentions your brand while also collaborating with a writer who is likely to write about your product again in the future.
• Develop a strong template for your outreach initiatives. When writing a template, don’t think of the open rate or the reach, rather write as if you were only writing to one recipient.
• Keep it short and sweet, always be respectful of people’s time and get to the point eloquently.
• Nurture the connection. For instance, if you are in the position to give your source a social media shoutout, do it. Bloggers and other content sources appreciate this so much. It helps them with their branding as well.
What About Local Links?
Naturally, these link building techniques are invaluable and approachable for almost every kind of business. However, when it comes to local brick-and-mortar stores, these business owners might want to consider an SEO strategy with more of a local focus.
What is a Local Link?
A local link builds relevance for a website towards its geographic location. This is excellent news for small-to-medium businesses and multi-location businesses that serve a population within a specific distance range. If your niche is any type of home service, a locally and privately operated franchise, a family-owned business or any commercial vendor to local companies, you need local links for ranking, visibility and ultimately lead generation.
Local SEO professionals focus on correcting a name, address and phone (NAP) information, building up a list of citations, creating hyper-local content and building links.
A local link is designed to link back to your website while also providing you an opportunity to connect with your target audience in your local sales region. Those that link back to your site might not have a big website, either. But, if you have a local-oriented business, getting a link back to an important local site could be more valuable than a mention in the Huffington Post. Why? Because a local link sends local relevance signals to Google.
In our experience, the local-to-local link ratio is more valuable than other metrics. Domain Authority (DA) from local websites may be low, but it is not only about the DA. We always advise our clients to diversify their placements while keeping branding and reputation (essential in local markets) at the core of their backlink strategy.
Engaging your local, online community is a fantastic way to build brand awareness and gain referral traffic to your website. Give your target audience every opportunity to find you when searching for terms ending in “near me.”
• Claim or audit your Google My Business (GMB) page. Optimize it to receive reviews and community questions. Make sure all your business information is correct. Always ask your patrons for a review. The audience location and their engagement with your GMB page lets Google know the area you are serving.
• Become a member of your local or regional Chamber of Commerce as part of your local citation building strategy. A Chamber of Commerce membership usually comes with the added value of business networking opportunities, newsletter inclusion, event sponsorship and member blog collaboration. A link in the directory section signals to Google that you are a real, local business.
• Try and do some guest blogging on other local sites. Hyper-localized bloggers and micro-influencers are a fantastic way to position your brand within the community. Start nurturing those local connections.
As a business owner, you’ve faced plenty of tough decisions in the past couple of months. Reactivating your digital marketing strategy may be a slow process but refining your approach is imperative in the months to come to maximise brand visibility and lead generation opportunities.
Have a sit-down with your SEO specialist to prioritize your business needs and plan ahead. Discuss the possibility of pursuing a risk-averse link building strategy to amplify your current content or to promote your grand reopening and welcome new visitors.
A comprehensive, off-page SEO strategy together with link building as a constant and long-term strategy amplifies your overall digital marketing efforts over time. Link building campaigns not only give you a boost in search rankings but also can drive traffic to your website.