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web marketing Archives - Genuinely

Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | One Comment

Mack recently had the honor of speaking at SearchLove Boston 2016 where she presented on Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough. What follows is a recap of her talk about how companies need to evolve their approach to marketing in order to survive in our ever-changing world.

Technology has changed our world

There’s no doubt that technological advances have made our world faster, smarter, and more connected. Where it took the phone companies 89 years to connect 150 million people, it took Facebook only 8 years to connect 8 billion.

technology-advancing

The problem is, even with all of the remarkable technology that we have, companies are failing to make authentic connections with their customers. Although our world, business, and consumer behavior has evolved, there is an approach to marketing that’s fundamentally broken and it’s not helping companies earn the relationships they need with their customers.

 

marketing-wrong

Competing on content and experience alone won’t do it anymore. Great brands and companies already have these things baked into their DNA.

stand-out

Being stellar at every touchpoint is the new status quo. And yet this, alone, is not enough for companies to weather the relentless evolution of technology, earn customers, and experience growth.

Earning customers and experiencing growth has to come from something bigger and deeper than content marketing or content strategy; it comes from building a company from purpose and earning the trust of your customers through authenticity.

Building an authentic brand is not a social cause thing. It’s not a non-profit thing. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing. It’s a people connecting with people thing. And it’s about building a company that people care about and want to do business with.

In order for your company to succeed, you have to continually strive to build a better one. And from that, comes your marketing.

Over the next 5 years, authenticity will win

Every day it seems that there’s some new marketing tactic to try: a new piece of technology that will magically help you earn customers faster. But technology will not earn customers. If your company wants to make it through the next 5 years of content saturation, noise, and technological advances, you must build an authentic, human brand.

cohn-wolfe-study

Here are the facts:

  • More than 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition.
  • That same Cohn & Wolfe study shows that the number one behavior that people expect of brands is open and honest communication about their products and services. The second behavior is that they don’t let their customers down, and the third behavior is that they act with integrity at all times.
  • A BBMG study shows that when people are trying to figure out who to buy from, 73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when they’re making purchasing decisions.
  • When people care about your company, they tell their friends. Word of mouth is responsible for more than 50% of all purchasing decisions.

In today’s face-paced, digital world, it’s not about how your company is packaged. It’s about who your company is.

not-about-packaging

about-who-you-are

How to evolve your marketing

How does your company evolve in this digital age so that you can experience sustainable growth?

Start from purpose

Building an authentic brand starts from purpose, and from purpose comes growth.

purpose-growth

Purpose is also what solves these common challenges in our world:

  • Businesses are challenged with unrelenting change. And because our world is changing so quickly, that has changed consumer behavior and how quickly businesses must react.
  • Consumers expect businesses to play a larger role in changing society. They know they have the upper hand. They know they have a choice. So the bar has been set a lot higher. Consumers want companies to do more than just make money.
  • Employees want more meaning in their work. And they want to work for better companies.

Purpose helps companies hurdle each of these problems and also helps them stay relevant in their customer’s lives. Even more, “purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees, and are better at innovation and transformational change.”

purpose-driven-company-benefits

Building an authentic brand comes from purpose and that purpose drives everything.

purpose-drives-everything

Purpose drives your products and services, the people you hire, your culture, your marketing. Most importantly, it gives focus that drives the whole business.

Once you have purpose and focus, you can develop a much more effective and powerful marketing strategy that will connect with the right customers. When you have a great product or offer great services, and you’ve done your diligence to learn about your customers and how they align with your purpose, those customers want to become part of your community and support your growth.

Positioning around your company’s purpose can be done through an exercise called the Big Ideal from Ogilvy & Mather.

the-big-ideal

Your Big Ideal is the soul of your company. It’s also your point of view on how the world should be. Identifying your company’s purpose comes from the combination of two things: your cultural tension—which is the problem in the world that you’re looking to address, and your brand’s best self—what your company actually does when you are at your best.

big-ideal

One of our clients, the Traveling Vineyard, addresses the cultural tension that people are looking for more meaning in their work and also in their lives.

cultural-tension

At their best self, Traveling Vineyard provides the resources and training necessary to build a successful career in direct sales.

best-self

Traveling Vineyard believes that the world would be a better place if people could change their lives with a fulfilling job. This is their Big Ideal.

world-is-better-place

Traveling Vineyard’s Big Ideal then drives their purpose. Traveling Vineyard exists as a company so that they can change lives by providing fulfilling work.

purpose

This purpose then powers Traveling Vineyard’s marketing strategy that is centered around the theme of living a richer, fuller life. Any content that is generated addresses the questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings that their customers have at every stage in their journey with Traveling Vineyard.

content-strategy-theme

Build an ecosystem

Once your company has clearly identified its purpose, that will drive everything. Essentially, your marketing strategy will be born out of this ecosystem:

marketing-ecosystem

  • Identifying and understanding the people who align with your purpose so that you can talk to them
  • Developing the strategy that will help you use the right channels to reach that audience
  • Creating the right content that will connect with that audience, taking care to solve their problems
  • Getting that personal and customized content in front of the right people with customized outreach
  • Assessing data (and intuition) to determine whether what you’re doing throughout this cycle is bringing growth.
  • Finally, showing your purpose through action: having that stellar experience; having that stellar content; following through at every touchpoint and simply being human

Ultimately, your marketing strategy is only powerful when it’s connected to the purpose of your business as a whole. Your marketing efforts then become an iterative cycle of getting to know the right people, understanding them, figuring out what they need, and helping them solve their challenges. This is a slow build of trust. You must work to be authentic and personal in order to earn a community and grow your business.

personalization

Why isn’t content strategy enough?

There are two reasons that content strategy isn’t enough to build a sustainable company and brand:

durable-brands

 1) Content strategy alone won’t build a durable brand
If you want to earn the right customers who will support you, tell their friends about you, and stand by you in good and bad, you’ve got to do the work to connect with people. Yes, you need to create 10x content and provide a stellar experience across channels, but growth goes deeper than that. It’s not about how your company is packaged; it’s about who your company is.

brands-transcend-technology

2) We need to build brands that transcend technology
Remember that technology can’t build relationships with your customers. That’s what humans are for. Building an authentic brand will help you weather technology, the saturation of mediocre content, competition, and Google. So no matter what the trend is, or how the algorithm is changing, you will have built a brand so durable that people will talk about you, they will hear about you, and they will come looking for you.

time-to-evolve

It’s time to evolve our approach for durability and growth

Just like building a business, a purpose-driven and authentic approach to marketing is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort and care. Perhaps it’s time to assess whether what you’re doing now in your marketing is really working. Maybe you’re feeling stuck. Maybe you’re not getting results from what you’ve been doing for many years. Maybe your audience growth has plateaued. And maybe all the tactics you try don’t seem to get traction.

It’s time to do things a little differently. It’s time to build from purpose and build authentic, human relationships with customers.

Using Web Marketing Tactics at Trade Shows: Introducing a new school behavior into an old school routine

By | Events, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Many companies invest in conferences and trade shows to network or become more knowledgeable about a product or the latest industry trend. They spend hard-earned dollars on the travel, hotel, and admission…sometimes on a booth spot or sponsorship.

But how many companies making this type of investment plan out things like:

  1. The goals they want to reach
  2. The best way to communicate with attendees during the conference
  3. Who they want to connect with
  4. How they’re going to do all of these things with the team they have

In other words – How many companies go into each trade show with a legit strategy?

By addressing these types of questions in advance, you can take your old school routine of just attending a conference and hoping for the best and dress it up by actually becoming a part of the conference.

Integrating new school behaviors like the web marketing tactics of email marketing, blogs, and social media allow you to become a more interactive and deliberate feature of the exhibition and makes the most of the trade show experience and opportunities.

RLE Technologies’ success with web marketing tactics at a trade show

I’d like to highlight one company who has basked in the joy of success to get this point across: a plan involving web marketing tactics for a trade show can equal some BIG wins. (Who doesn’t like a big win?)

RLE Technologies, a leader in providing water leak detection systems and Web-based monitoring solutions for facilities, is experiencing great success with a plan leading the way to each trade show they attend (which is six this year).

Jenny Peterson, Manager of Marketing and Communications, was nice enough to sit down with me and share the success achieved by their team, all facilitated through a strategy specifically crafted to reach RLE’s goals.

That strategy, based on what RLE hoped to accomplish and research into the show and its attendees, included the following:

1. Ideas for pre and post blogs, and e-mail marketing


2. Prompts for networking and social media (like how to spread the word about their giveaways during the trade show and how to tweet like a pro)


3. A bucket list of things to accomplish during the show

With this strategic plan in hand (literally, they printed out the strategy and brought it along with them), RLE experienced some great results and refreshing success by breaking out of their old school routine.

Here’s what Jenny had to say about what RLE did with their strategy, the challenges they faced and her team’s new school trade show experience:


June:

So, Jenny, I understand that the Sales team are the people who attend the tradeshows on behalf of RLE.

How did you get the team on board with a strategy focusing on outreach and the use of social media outlets?

Jenny:

There was a lot of excitement because we had such a nice strategy and people were fired up. The strategy had clear cut, concise direction.

The easiest way to get people on board is to give them very clear direction. Once you gave us advice about feeding our team members tweets, it was easy for them to do. It was such a different habit for [the sales team] to take on and to put that new behavior in an already established behavior was really hard.


June:

What was the most difficult part of getting the team on board?

Jenny:

Having them see the value in the social media arm.

You can’t really fix a dollar figure to it. I think its a constant challenge, you go once to a trade show and the excitement fades away. But you bring it back to the metrics and show them the new followers. With one tweet you can touch your new followers one more time and it gets people reenergized again. The metrics keep everyone on board as a whole.


June:

How successful was the trade show strategy?

Jenny:

I felt like it was really successful; successful enough where we repeat it for every trade show we go to.

The initial strategy was such a good starting point that all we have to do is tweak it.

There are so many reminders, like when you go back to your room send a customized Linked In invitation; don’t just send LinkedIn’s generic message.

The sales team appreciate having the strategy because it gives them direction. The hardest thing to do is to expect someone to be successful with a new behavior without telling them what to do, and this gives them a clear map. Hopefully as they repeat this behavior it become part of their routine. The more you do it, the easier it gets.


June:

What aspect does the sales team enjoy the most?

Jenny:

Everyone needs to have their own voice and we position our staff as the knowledgeable people in their field. Different members of the sales team have to do follow up blog posts and they are really engaged and they do a good job. It helps with their buy in because you want those posts coming from different people.


June:

Tell us about a successful experience through your strategy? 

Jenny:

We had the president of a trade show we attended comment on a follow up blog post we wrote about the event.

It was so positive and I was excited – to think we put something out there and it reached someone so influential…it showed we were doing something right and that our opinion mattered enough to him that he replied to it.


June:

So what was the biggest take away from that experience?

Jenny:

It showed the team that people are looking out there and maybe not everybody is, but that number isn’t going to get smaller. It’s only going to get bigger.

We are going to continue utilizing social media at trade shows and hopefully we’ll refine the strategy and it will incorporate some smarter things in there. For instance, I go onto Twitter and make sure RLE is following certain people who will be attending an upcoming conference. I reach out and make sure they know we’ll be there, too.


June:

What part of the strategy helps RLE reach their objectives? 

Jenny:

The e-news are the best way to build your following at trade shows. Also, the blog posts gain a lot of traffic to our site, we see the biggest lift in our analytics when they go out.


June:

Wow, that is great. Thanks for your time and insight Jenny and I look forward to hearing more about your wins! 


The Takeaway

With all of that being said, are you wondering how your company can be successful using web marketing tactics at the next trade show or conference you attend? No worries, here are some tips for ya:

1. Decide what the goals are for attending the trade show.
Once you decide what the goals are for the conference, make sure they are clearly communicated to the team who is representing the company at the trade show.

Example goals:

a. Brand recognition

b. Meet prospective clients

c. Reconnect specific relationships

 2. Create a strategy around the tools your company is currently using.
Once you communicate the goals, create a strategy and involve your team in how you will use certain tactics to reach the goals you put in place.

For instance, if you have a blog, write a pre-tradeshow post that prepares the online community for what you’re about to embark on. Share the blog on your social media outlets and let your community know you’ll be at the tradeshow, where they can find you, how they can connect, what giveaways you’ll have, etc. and then conduct outreach with key targets. (Key targets can be people or companies you want to connect with while there.)

Example blog post: You are attending a trade show that focuses on the beauty industry. Find out the top 7 companies you aspire to be like, connect with them, and call them out for something innovative they are doing within the industry. Do a spot light on them that they haven’t done on themselves. Then, do some outreach and let them know what you are working on and that you look forward to meeting them at the trade show.

3. Implement the strategy
Once you create the strategy, you’ll have to make the time during the trade show to actually implement. Designate one or two team members to handle specific tasks.

If your team isn’t tech savvy yet, you can have someone who isn’t busy at the conference answering tweets on behalf of the company while relaying the information to the team who is there.

(Having someone at home base to keep an eye on the social outlets may be helpful during a conference because it gets pretty busy once people begin connecting in real life.)

4. Make sure you follow up with those you meet
You are going to meet a lot of people so take those business cards and connect with people on Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, make sure you customize the email that gets sent to them and remind them who you are and what company you work for.

Hopefully, the integration of a new school behavior with your old school routine will help your company reach their goals while attending trade shows and conferences. RLE Technologies and Mack Web Solutions have experienced victories with plans like this in place, but feel free to share your ideas or your experiences with us. We’d love to hear about it.

 

Promoting Company Posts on Facebook: It’s Worth It

By | Social Media, Web Marketing | 2 Comments

If you’ve been using Facebook as part of your company’s marketing strategy for more than a year, you know that this particular social outlet is subject to frequent change. Whether it’s an addition or a subtraction, Zuck & Co. aren’t strangers to the idea of “new and improved”. As users of their product, we really shouldn’t be surprised anymore.

Now, I’m not telling you that you need to be happy about each Facebook change but, please put away your surprised face.

appalled by facebooks changes

While we don’t have a right to be surprised at the fact of change, a recent change to Facebook may have been a little shocking.

Sounds a little scandalous, right? Well, it’s because Facebook has been “free” since its inception in 2003 and this new change seems like a completely different model for Facebook.

What’s new?
What we’ve got now is the addition of a “promote your post” feature, a way to pay cold hard cash to get your content noticed by thossad facee who “like” your company’s page.

You read that right folks. All of those little thumbs you worked so hard for on Facebook have lost quite a bit of their value. Only a fraction of your fans see the statuses you post in their newsfeed organically.

So if no one comments or likes your post it may not be because they lack interest, but that they never even saw your post to begin with.

We noticed a drop in views
The proof is in the pudding, folks (mmm pudding). Mack Web has been working on building our own community for nearly a year now. We’ve been writing content on our blog  and in our industry in order to encourage this community growth. Throughout this time, we’ve had some pretty decent engagement through Facebook but towards the end of December, we noticed a significant drop in our Facebook statistics. This was all due to Facebook’s infamous EdgeRank. EdgeRank was put into place to help alleviate the noise and reduce spam, but it has also caused businesses to disappear from their fans’ newsfeeds.

Like many businesses, Mack Web experienced a significant drop in visibility after EdgeRank made an appearance:

Mack Web Solutions show rankings on Facebook fell due to EdgeRank

As you can see we went from reaching nearly 1,500 people organically, to just a mere 20-70 people, depending on the type of status we post. That was a drastic and, frankly, unpleasant change. We left Facebook alone for a few weeks to see if there would be any other significant effects and as you can tell from the image, it stayed about the same until we decided to bite the bullet and use the new feature to promote a post (more on that below).

How EdgeRank Works
According to a VentureBeat article on the topic Facebook announced four main criteria for how EdgeRank affects which posts you see:

Facebook EdgeRank criteria
So what should you do?
I know, it seems unfair. You’ve worked so hard to build your community on Facebook and your brand awareness and now it feels like it’s going to waste.

Well, don’t let it all be for nothing. With change this drastic, all you can do is shift your perspective to match. It’s not about random posts or being on Facebook ‘just because.’ If you are doing that, you’re wasting your time. Now you have to invest some money and become more strategic about the content you share.

When you pay to promote a post, it needs to be something your community is going to appreciate, enjoy, share, read, engage with. You have to be really thoughtful of what is truly needed within your community.

Ins and Outs of Promoting Posts on Facebook
Now, because I have the opportunity to assist in the management of a number of communities, I’ve learned there are some ins and outs to promoting a post:

  1. According to Facebook, pages with at least 100 likes can promote posts and the posts that are promotable have to be made after June 2012.
  2. You can share photos, offers, videos, questions, events and good ol’ status updates.
  3. Promoted posts are labeled Sponsored.
  4. You pay for a post by providing credit card information.
  5. You don’t have much control over a promoted post’s life span (but you can extend its visibility.)

What you’ll see when you go to promote a post:

Mack Web shows how to promote a Facebook Post

  1. Hit the promote button
  2. Go to the wheel and you’ll input your credit card information
  3. If you have the option, you can choose your budget for the promotion
  4. Then hit promote post

Two case studies
As part of our services we help our clients manage their online communities. We have great partnerships and our clients are quite amazing.

Because I’m the dedicated Social Media Strategist and Community Manager, it’s my duty to do what is best for our clients. I wanted to determine whether it was worth paying the money to promote posts, so I went ahead and did a little experiment.

Case Study #1: Warren Federal Credit Union
For this case study, I am focusing on one client in particular because recently they wrote a post that informed their community on the advantages of being a member at a community credit union versus being a customer at a bank. It was a brilliant post that wasn’t getting the attention it deserved so, with their permission, we spent a little money and promoted it.

Warren Federal Credit Union Promotes A Post

The situation pre-promotion
Prior to the promotion these were the stats:

175 people saw it.
5 people liked it.
It was pinned to the top of their page which means it had a prime spot for visibility.

The promotion
When you promote a post you can choose the audience so I chose to promote to people who already like their page and to their friends so that it gets the most reach available to them.

The maximum budget allotted was $10. Facebook estimates the post will reach 700-1300 people. I chose to run the promotion for 3 days.This is what it looks like to promote a Facebook Post

The results
As you can see from the image below our client was able to reached 1,525 people with this particular post while only spending a little more than half of their budget.

One of the most important metrics from this promotion is that they gained 11 new likes. (Win!)Warren's Facebook Post Promotion Statistics

Also, there is some good engagement (likes and shares and comments and such), which helps in terms of Facebook EdgeRank (the more a person engages with a company, the more likely that company is to show up in their newsfeed). The client was happy with the results and it will be in their best interest to continue promoting great content/give-aways/contests/new products.

Case Study #2: Mack Web Solutions
Recently, Mack wrote an industry blog post for SEOMoz. It was a good one that I thought our community would appreciate because it was all about building community with value, so I promoted it even though it didn’t lead people to our website. It lead our community to great content and that was reason enough.

Mack Web Solutions Promotes a Facebook Post

The situation: pre-promotion
This is what our stats looked like right when the promotion began:

25 people saw it.
3 people liked it.
It was pinned to the top of our page.
I chose to spend $5.00 over three days to promote this post.

The results
These results are very different from our client’s experience, but still pretty good. For $5 dollars, we had about a 5600% increase in visibility along with increased interaction with people within our community:

Mack Web Solutions Facebook Post Statistics

And the verdict on promoting a Facebook post is…
Facebook has clearly committed to this change and I don’t think they intend to “go back to the way it used to be.” Promoting a post is a new way of informing the community you’ve already built. You still need to earn the respect and intrigue of people  in order to increase your audience size on Facebook, but now you’ll need to pay to reach them.

Based on this little experiment and the results both Mack Web and our client experienced, I would highly recommend you promote a post chock-full of value or a post with some type of purpose behind it. Not one like this:

Don't make your Facebook status's like this
But one that will actually educate or provide your consumer with important information or get the word out on a contest or giveaway, etc.

See how well it does, and if you aren’t satisfied with the results then keep it organic next time. After all, who knows what the next change will be.

Try it for yourself. I’d love to hear about your experience with this new feature, so feel free to comment.

 

 

SEO 201 (Link building with a shocking lack of zoology)

By | Web Marketing | 2 Comments

As promised (well, sort of….vaguely referenced, more than actually promised), we’ve put together the Advanced Class on Basic SEO.

We know, we know. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. The world of SEO is wide and varied and rises from a deep foundation of technical computery know-how. The Advanced Class on Advanced SEO would plumb the depths of the technical computery know-how.

Which we’re not doing today.

Hence the Advanced-Basic dichotomy.

Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up, we can start talking a little bit about what happens after you optimize your website.

Advanced Basic SEO

After the beginning comes…the middle.

So in our last little chat, we pointed out that website optimization was the way to guarantee that the search engines know what you’re talking about.

The next step is to convince them that you know what you’re talking about.

Since there isn’t some mighty Search Engine Judiciary before whom you can go make your case, you have to convince them through action.

And, even more unfortunately, it’s not your action they want to see. The search engines’ trust in your knowledge directly correlates to the trust placed in you by…well, everyone else.

They measure this trust by the way people respond to your site: user behavior, social signals, and, above all else (for the time being, at least), links to the various pages.

So in order to start convincing the search engines that you are neither a raving lunatic nor a honey-tongued conman, you’ve got to start building some links.

Pride goeth before, y’know, crimson-eared embarrassment and red-cheeked frustration.

Okay, before we go any further, a small public service announcement: unlike first stage SEO, which can certainly be attempted by gifted amateurs, link building without professional help is…inadvisable.

Not because you’re not smart enough or nice enough or charming enough.

Gosh darn it, people like me

We firmly believe that you are all of that and more.

But building links is, quite honestly, time consuming and doing it well (intentionally, anyway) requires a deliberate strategy and tools that just aren’t particularly economical for internal marketing teams. SEO agencies, who have more than one client/account, get a lot of use out of those tools and they end up paying for themselves.

Unfortunately, this is usually not the case for the Lone Rangers out there. Even with trusty Silver and faithful Tonto.

And thus endeth the PSA.

You are still absolutely welcome to try it on your own or to learn as much as you can so that agency involvement can be at a minimum. We have a great deal of faith in human ingenuity and determination.

(And the music swells as we take a moment to reflect on Galileo and Eli Whitney and Marie Curie and Neil Armstrong and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and whoever invented duct tape).

Buffy brings us hope for humanity

(Because what inspires more faith in humanity than a tiny little girl battling evil with a rocket launcher?)

Foundations (of the metaphoric masonry, not cosmetic, kind)

Okay, moving right along.

Before you can really get started on improving or building your link profile, you kinda need to know what you’re working with.

If you have a brand, shiny new website, you got nada and it doesn’t matter. You get the lucky, lucky task of starting from the ground up with your completely non-existent authority and building the content and social engagement that you need. (So go ahead and skip down a bit to the tips on actually doing that stuff).

But, honestly, very few people are starting from scratch. If you’re trying to improve the placement of an existing website or a recently redesigned site, you need to know where you stand before you can start moving forward.

The tool that we typically use for this is one you need a (paid) subscription to get the most out of. SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer can give you a pretty good picture of all the links leading to just about any website. It tells you what sites and pages link to you, the vital metrics of those sites/pages, what page on your site the links lead to, and what text forms the link (also known as anchor text).

Alternatively, some people use Majestic SEO’s Site Explorer to gather the same information.

However you get it, this information allows you to get the low down on who already links to you. Is it a lot of bloggers? A lot of directories? A lot of local businesses or industry partners? Do they all link to your homepage or do they go deeper? Are they all using branded terms? Are they using keyword-rich anchor text? Are they coming from authoritative sites or are they junk?

Only once you know what you’ve already got, can you start to figure out what more you need.

The good news here is that you can get a 30-day free trial of all Moz Tools, including Open Site Explorer. So if you don’t have an agency to do it for you, you can test it out all on your own.

Illicit Identification

Well, okay. Only sorta. But who doesn’t love some good alliteration now and again? One of the best ways to identify the links that you may want is to take a look at what your competition (the ones that are actually doing better than you, not the ones that you’re grinding into the dust with a wink and a smirk) already has.

This can be done by running a back link profile on them with tools like Open Site Explorer or through the tools that take it one step farther and break down those link profiles into link types: blogs, directories, commerce sites, business sites, etc.

There are a lot of tools that do this (usually for a fee) including Citation Labs’ Link Prospector or Wordtracker’s Link Builder.

You can also just use that good old human ingenuity and your knowledge of your industry to figure out what links might be valuable. (Galileo and duct type, remember?)

Once you’ve identified what you don’t have and where you might find it, you gotta start figuring out how to get it.

Actual link buildage, part I: carefully hand-crafted works of art

There are two basic approaches to building links and they are, by no means, mutually exclusive.

The first of these is manual link building. This has rather gone out of fashion in favor of the second method (no, we’re not telling you what it is yet. Patience, as our nanny would have stressed, had we actually had a nanny, is a virtue. Don’t you want to be virtuous?), because it is time consuming and usually only results in a single link at a time.

It remains, however, an effective method of going after any specific, particularly high-profile links you may wish to attain (like .gov or .edu links). Manual link building involves identifying the website you want a link from, figuring out what it would take to get one, and then making it happen.

Sometimes this can be as simple as writing the right piece of content, sometimes it may involve completely overhauling your site to match up to the standards of your desired linker. And then, horror of horrors, you have to actually ask for the link.

Like we said, this isn’t the most efficient way to get links, but it still may allow you to net the really, really big ones.

Actual link buildage, part II: virtual word-of-mouth OR convincing everybody you’re smart OR working smarter, not harder

The second method of building links is a little thing we like to call content marketing.

(Uh, not that we made up the term or anything. ‘Cuz we can’t take credit for that.

Many other brilliant things, like…hitting up the local candy stories to replenish our snack cupboard, yes.

Our super pretty Pinterest boards, also yes.

Coining the term, “content marketing”…not so much).

Content marketing, oddly enough for something so seemingly self-explanatory, actually does not start with creating and marketing your content.

It starts with finding your online community. This is usually an amalgam of your partners, your peers, your thought leaders, and your customers. Who is online? Where? Are they bloggers? Forum participants? Are they on Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? How can you reach out to them? How can you build actual relationship with them?

Step Uno: The intro & a little judicious flattery
Building relationships begins by engaging on the outlets where they already are. Don’t be pushy or blatantly self-promotional. Just comment on their blogs or retweet their tweets with genuine responses:

“Really liked the post. I, too, think that it is a shame that there are so few monkey trainers in Fort Collins. But, hey, did you hear about that guy in Boulder…”

“Fort Coloradoans need to make one of these! RT: @REI Bikes Infographic: Cyclists: Are You With the Right Bike? http://www.rei.com/features/infographics/bike.html.”

Step Dos: Slyly demonstrate your knowledge (without being a know-it-all, show-off, smarty-pants of the Book 1 Hermione Granger kind)
Once you’ve start to engage and get some name recognition, once you’ve built some legitimacy with the blogger and his audience, you’re allowed to start referring to what you yourself have created in terms of content:

“I noticed that you were lamenting your lack of information on the basic nutritional needs of the naked mole rat. It just so happens that I have an entire recipe collection of naked mole rat favorites inspired by my little hairless buddy Hephaestus. I recommend starting with the Soil Supreme. nakedmoleratcuisine.com/soil-supreme.”

(Uhhh…not a real website. in case you were wondering. sorry, folks).

(And, okay…I guess we managed to work in a little zoology…)

There is an art to conducting blog comment conversations. It basically consists of behaving like a human being with, y’know, manners.

Step Tres: Start seeing the content gaps and filling them. Like Hans Brinker at the dike.
Once you get to know your community, you’ll start to get a feel for what information they crave. What do they constantly gripe about? How can you help? What do they not even know they’re missing?

Create the content that they need and don’t be afraid to let them know you’ve done it.

“Hey, last week you were pointing out that you didn’t know any women in the monkey training industry. I’ve put together a list of all the women I know and then asked them to list more. Feel free to take it and share it with all those discontented female monkey owners out there.”

Step Quatro: Rinse & repeat until they love you
The idea is that you become a source of such consistently entertaining and useful knowledge that eventually people start disseminating your content without you having to ask.

(And in case the well occasionally comes up dry – which it will – here’s some inspiration for creating content of all kinds).

While the dream is that they may do this without your prompting, the truth is, you may have to reach out at first.

If there’s someone that follows you on Twitter and has a large audience, get in touch with them. Find common ground through tweeting, blogging dialogue, emailing, phone calls, even meet-ups and conferences. Become someone who can be comfortable asking for re-posts, guest blogging, or re-tweets. Show them they can trust you, that you know your stuff. 

And demonstrate the behavior you want to follow. Share the good stuff you find. Like it, tweet it, reference it.

Eventually they’ll pick up on it and realize that you’re good, knowledgeable people. Then and only then will they start taking the burden off your shoulders. Reciprocity is a beautiful thing.

(The bonus, of course, is that you also get a friend and maybe even mentor out of the deal. Double win!)

Of course, there’s more to it than this

That’s the thing about this stuff..there’s always more. There’s all kinds of things you can do with social media, with local search, even with content marketing. Multimedia: videos, infographics, webinars, and podcasts. We haven’t really gone into the nitty gritty.

Part of that is because this post is already long enough, thank you very much.

Part of it is because…well…we do make our living on this stuff. We can’t tell you all of our secrets.

And part of it goes back to Eli & Marie & Buffy: you are capable of this kind creativity. You can think of ways to connect with your audience, you can think of content to whet their appetites. You know them better than we do. Our intent here is just to get you started. You can take it from here.

(And in case you’d like a little bonus, here’s a neat list of link building strategies. Take ‘em with a grain of salt, especially the directories as you want to be careful not to get accidentally caught up in any link-trading nonsense).

So, go. Run free. Invent the next duct tape.

We’ll be here. Just in case you need us.