Links are still the most potent search engine ranking signal so it’s no surprise that many big brands hire SEO companies to “build links” for them. Links however, are not something you are supposed to create artificially. Search engine expect them to occur organically. One of the best ways a well-established enterprise can generate meaningful links is by leveraging its biggest asset – the brand.
In this article I will highlight a few of my favourite brand-based link building tactics.
If you are a big brand then you’re guaranteed to have people using your logo to make their own site look better and more important. Part of your branding policy should be a recommendation that placement of logo online should include a link to your brand’s website. Each instance of your logo placed somewhere on the web is a link opportunity for your website.
The first step is to find them all.
For this task I used a Chrome extension http://goo.gl/6oDqQ which allowed me to find all instances of my logo online with a right-click lookup.
Here’s a screenshot from the results page showing logos being used on various domains:
Many of the above are valid link opportunities. For even more detailed results I can click on “Show more sizes”. Here’s an example of that same search for a very big brand – Fuji Xerox: http://goo.gl/6thD1
Once you identify all websites which display your logo but do not link you can organise them in order of priority (as there may be many). I suggest you consider the following:
- Quality of the page (PageRank, MozRank)
- Quality of domain (Domain Authority, Flow Metrics)
- Number of outbound links on that page
- Context of the page
Big brands are frequently referenced online in various contexts, but most of the time it’s a simple brand mention with no link back to the main website. This could be due to the fact that the author had no means to create a link, or simply chose not to.
The idea is to find the most significant mentions and evaluate them on the basis of link potential, placement likelihood and sometimes even freshness.
Google Alerts are a great way to discover any new brand mentions online and evaluate whether this is a sound link opportunity or not. To dig deeper you can always use Google search and adjust date range to look further in time. Remember to use brand variations, especially if you have two or more words in your company or product name.
When requesting links from webmasters your chances to score a link will be higher if you give them a valid reason for that link to exist. Start your email by thanking them for mentioning you and send them a link to a report, page or PDF relevant to the story or nicely ask them to link to the product they talked about.
Naturally, just like with logo placement strategy, evaluate your link opportunities by sorting them by quality. You’d much rather get a link from a government website than from an archived forum page.
Webmasters and web users will sometimes simply paste the URL to your website without hyperlinking it. It’s perfectly fine to reach out to them and ask for a live link, however if they are unable to do so or not replying to your email it’s time to move on. Keep a record of who you’ve already contacted so you don’t double up on it, especially if you have a team of people working on links.
Finding brand advocates
Kate Morris wrote a great article on how to link build through discovering brand advocates. Rather than recycling what Kate already said, I’ll leave you with a little tool I’ve developed for this very reason and point to this article which outlines a neat little tactic I developed for utilising Twitter follower base to earn links.
This is one of the least utilised, yet most potent link strategy for big brands. Often a company CEO or a spokesperson is nearly as significant as a brand.
Imagine using these people’s influence and charisma to gain links. Naturally you will never get them to do this type of work for you, but think creatively how you can leverage of their latest press conference, media release, conference keynote, TV interview or a fundraiser evening presentation.
Further to that executive team will likely have ties with other businesses, clubs and educational institutions. Ask yourself, where did this people study? Can we write a success story article and give it to their university Alumni body. They would surely publish it given the significance of the brand. It would make university look good.
Your suppliers are likely smaller and less known brands than you. Take a look at their website, most likely you will spot your logo either on their home page, portfolio page or in the testimonials. Is there a link included? No. Well that one should be easy to fix. Go step further and provide them with a statement and help them with a little case study. This will ensure you’re getting your own page and less outgoing links in comparison to other pages where your logo/link may appear.
Small Business Outreach
I really like this link building tactic, but it’s usually hard to implement and I’ll explain why. This one involves giving something back.
Imagine you’re a big travel website and you tell a small campervan provider you want to feature them on your website. They’ll jump at an opportunity to give you a story.
Once it’s published, you send them the URL and ask them to link to it from their website. It’s that easy. This is a great example of how you can give some of your brand power to a small business and earn a link in return.
Go one step further if you like and give them a “As featured on” badge to post on their site. This strategy also works for your resellers and authorised dealers.
Another related tactic is to mention a small business in your content (e.g. blog post) and ping them via social channels about it. The odds are they will be flattered and will share that article around. This could generate some nice organic links.
I’ve worked with a very large international firm who yearly donates $100,000 worth of equipment to schools and non-profit organisations. If you deserve anything from the institutions benefiting from your gifts us a thank you page with a link back to your corporate website. This could be a nice little story with the management team shaking hands with the recipients of the equipment.
Naturally this is not something you want to force, but the odds are they will not mind considering the nature of the relationship between them and your business.
It’s easy to get excited about this type of link building, however try not to jeopardise your brand’s reputation or cause any negative PR while doing this. Discuss your plans with the brand manager and marketing executives. If you have these people on board you might be pleasantly surprised as you spark up some additional ideas on their end. Drive it while it’s fresh though.
In my experience everyone gets very excited at first but soon enough enthusiasm fizzles out and you’re left with “go build some links for us” mentality. Avoid this at all costs, try to get good meaningful links rather than going around begging strangers for link deals, or even worse having a shady SEO company spamming the web on your behalf.
Let your competitors take all the dangerous shortcuts and focus on the long-term benefit to your brand.