Social media marketing plays an important part in digital engagement. As Google’s focus on high quality, shareable content continues (both the Panda and Penguin updates value social validation), social media marketing is becoming more a part of link building strategies for businesses of all sizes.
What is Link Building?
Link building refers to the processes through which we encourage other brands to display a link to our website on their own. Every link we receive can be thought of as a ‘vote’ for our website’s credibility and value. In simple terms, it’s the website with the most high quality ‘votes’ that stands the greatest chance of ranking highly for its key terms.
Back in the very early days of SEO, link building was an easy process whereby all you had to do was paste your URL into a few link directories, type them into a few blog comments and pay for services which spread your URL across the web. These were referred to as black hat techniques for link building (and some of these techniques are still used by poor quality SEO companies or people who don’t know better, so keep an eye out for them – they’re very bad and have a very negative impact on your rankings).
So how do we do link building today? Intelligent SEOs have known for years that it’s all about quality over quantity, and the Penguin update last year really hammered that point home, meaning that link building is a much more complex process based on relationships.
Today’s link building is centred firmly on links from reputable sources which are relevant to our sector or location and which are given free of charge because somebody values us as experts in our field.
The Value of Social Media in Link Building Strategies
Think of any networking event you’ve been to. We’ve all met that one person with the business cards, right? You know, that person who boldly walks up to you, hands you their business card and starts speaking at you about how fantastic they are and why their business is so brilliant. And it’s annoying. It’s annoying because you don’t know that person and they haven’t taken the time to get to know you either.
It’s exactly the same case online. You can’t expect to receive a link from somebody by asking for it straight away. As I said above, link building is about relationships and it is by forming and cultivating these relationships that we build up links back to our site.
Social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, blogging and so on, is the tool through which we get those relationships. It’s where we show our business’ personality. It’s our way of introducing ourselves and of getting involved in conversations by adding real value. It’s important to consider this relationship in all of your social media activity, be it business to business or business to consumer. Think about the conversation – listen as much or more than you speak, share things that are useful, respond to people.
How to Use Social Media for SEO Link Building
By this point, you know what link building is and you know that social media is the tool we use to support the relationships needed for link building. But that’s all a bit conceptual. So here are my top tips for link building with social media.
1. Set up a Twitter account and listen
The first and perhaps most important thing you can do for your link building efforts is to listen to what people are talking about. If you don’t have one already, sign up for a Twitter account and start watching what people are saying. Follow your competitors and your customers, look for people who are influential in your industry, keep up to date with what’s happening in your local area. What are they talking about?
2. Identify the people you want to connect with
Across all social media, you’ll find influencers – people or brands who have a strong following and who are well respected in what they do. Identify those people for your business – who might you want to start engaging with that could give you a valuable link back to your website? Remember what I said above about what constitutes a ‘good link’.
3. Post content that gets their attention and adds value
Thumper the rabbit in Disney’s ‘Bambi’ once said the very wise words, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”. And now I say to you, if you can’t say something worthwhile, think of something worthwhile to say. It might be that someone you’ve identified as an influencer has posed a question on a LinkedIn group; well if you know the answer, respond! Consider how you frame that response; it might be that you write out a reply then link back to your website to a page where you’ve explored the question in more detail, perhaps your blog, or it could even be that you create/have created an infographic or some kind of visual that aids the answer to the question or even that helps understanding of the question itself.
So what happens if you follow these steps? People start linking to you!
And that’s the value of social media for link building. It’s a conversation, a slowly developing relationship which, when managed well, can pay dividends in terms of SEO link building.