Social Signals Versus Link Building: Who Will Come Out on Top? [SMX Advanced Seattle 2012]

How can a small brand secure quality links? “Get wild; target egos; be controversial.” –Casie Gillete

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 101 has clearly established that securing authoritative links is a vital aspect of building a website’s relevancy. More recently, it is evident that the quality of these links and who they are from is more important than the quantity of links that are secured. Furthermore, as social signals are having a greater influence on search engine results, it is clear that social mentions and sharing must be integrated into link building efforts to gain authority for your website. The panelists of SMX Advanced Seattle 2012 help us break down this idea a bit further.

Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting brought up the concept of ‘Influencer Marketing’. While the existing social sharing cycle consists of creating content and having this content shared across social channels (referring back to the original content), Eric’s virtual circle adds another element. Take this cyclical strategy and add ‘influencers’, or authoritative social users that already have an audience. If the original content is shared by an influencer in the early stages of this process, this cycle is accelerated and multiplied. Philip Petrescu from Caphyon only furthered this with an extensive breakdown of the various levels of influence that links and authoritative social mentions have on ranking, proving that influential shares often have the most powerful impact in the early stages of ranking.

An interesting and highly entertaining case was made by Casie Gillette from Grasshopper concerning how a small business or brand can build authority. Her primary conclusion was that targeting the key influencers needs to be a key goal in your link building efforts, gunning for links that have significant authority and visibility (New York Times, Mashable, etc). Small businesses often think that the most actionable and realistic strategy behind their link building efforts is to acquire many low-authority citations. Contrary to this, she made a point that targeting and acquiring a handful of high quality links often results in a high volume of shares, references, and other citations. In short, “quality leads to quantity”. The question then arises, how can a small brand secure these links? It’s as simple as:
Get wild
Target egos
Be a little controversial (with taste)
The fastest way to get attention is produce unique and notable content, and bring it to the attention of influencers that have an audience. For instance, write a ‘who to follow’ blog post for a topic that is relevant to your brand, or quote someone. If you provide the bait, they will come (ideally).

Finally, Thomas Schmitz of Schmitz Marketing summed it up well. Simply, link building is still defined by the same simple equation:

Relevancy + Authority = Visibility

What has changed is how we define these terms. Authority must now account for the getting of, bypassing, and budgeting of authority driven tactics, and relevancy must recognize local, social, and personal influence all play a significant role in how relevant your site may be. Regardless of all of this clutter, this valuable SEO equation is still valid. In short, authoritative link building must be enhanced by social sharing, accelerated by creating exciting and unique content that will catch the attention (and public notice) of key industry influencers.

Contributed by Brittany Bingham

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