Category Archives: Social Media

The art of link building

Networking the traditional way

The art of networking is one that businesspeople have long been trying to master.  ‘Get business cards printed and get out there and talk to the right people’ are words that many of us will have heard.  We have also all been told ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’.  Whatever your opinions about networking if you want your business to get noticed online you can’t ignore its online equivalent – link building.

What is link building?

Put simply a link building strategy involves getting other websites to display links to your site.  These are called ‘external links’.  There is also a strategy for links within your own site which is called ‘internal link architecture’.  External links are about more than just allowing users to navigate the internet, they are important in building the AUTHORITY of your website and thus your rank in search engine listings.

All links were not created equal

Some businesses have unscrupulously tried to post as many links to their site as possible, all over the web, to increase their authority with search engines.  Search engines got clever and changed their algorithms to that links are ‘weighted’.  You might think of an external link as a vote for your site but some votes carry much more value than others.  A vote from a site which itself has a high level of authority carries much more weight.  Some links actually carry no weight at all.  This are called ‘no follow’ links (and are used in Tweets for example).

How do you find sites with authority?                      


One simple way is to check the Google PageRank of a site.  All sites have page rank of between 1 and 10 with 10 being sites with the highest authority.  Getting a link from one of those sites to yours would do your search rankings a power of good but you would need a lot more links from sites with a ranking of 1 to achieve the same effect.  Much like in the real world a recommendation from the President of the USA would be worth far more than a recommendation from your mate from the pub.

Link building tactics

You need a solid plan to implement a link building strategy.  Tactics fall into the following categories:

  • Manual link building – the DIY approach to link building where you post the links yourself.  You don’t need to make friends with the other site first.  You might post links on social networks for example but this tactic is of limited value.
  • Mixture of editorial and manual – editorial input refers to owners of other sites who may be encouraged to link to your site.  Much of your strategy may rest on building relationships and trust with other site editors.
  • Completely editorial – sites with very strong and valued content are able to generate links from other, trusted sites without being prompted.  Having great content is invaluable for a highly successful link building project.

Link building ideas

There are many possibilities but here are some of the most important ones:

Great content – it is worth repeating that this is the single most important factor not only for a link building project but for the success of your online business full stop.  You can generate all of the traffic in the world but if your site does not contain content that people want to actually read and use you won’t be successful.  Ideally you want people to SHARE your content.  Why not produce a free podcast about how your product(s) can help people?  Think viral!

Digital PR – Traditionally you may have sent a press release to tell the media about your great products.  Today you might contact web owner or blogger to review and post links to your site.  Some bloggers make a living reviewing products in this way.

Ask your customers – if you have happy customers many of them might we willing to help spread the word about your business.  Do they write blogs?  Do they ‘like’ you on Facebook?  Do they have their own websites?  Ask them to mention you and link you your site where appropriate.

Giveaways and competitions – it is a timeless truth that people like a good competition or giveaway.  Other sites with customers interested in your prize or competition may be happy to provide a link.

Use social media – the upsurge in the popularity of social media in recent years has massive implications.  In fact ‘likes’ are becoming the new ‘links’.  This is a topic for another post.

Sounds like hard work?

The days when companies could cheat their way to the top of search rankings are long gone.  Now you need the relevance provided by keywords (SEO) and the authority provided by link building.  If you are a small or start up business this might seem daunting.  Although you need more nuance and sophistication in your approach today, it can be done.

If you have a niche product there will be less competition for keywords which means that link building less important.  Your SEO will take you muchfurther.  Even if there is lots of competition, don’t forget the power of offline channels to generate online traffic.  Direct mail, door drops, off the page ads, radio and TV ads, even billboards can all drive traffic to your site cost effectively if your campaign is well targeted.  We marketers have never had so many options are our disposal, the trick is picking the right ones.

Who needs search engines?


Marketing on Facebook – An Introduction

If you use Facebook you will have noticed the winds of change blowing through the site over the past few months particularly new ‘timeline’ page layout. You now have the full width image across the top, a smaller profile shot to the bottom left of that and room for some top line information about yourself.  The timeline itself runs in reverse chronological order down the page.

If you are a business owner and want to create a page for your business, it works in the same way – in fact the layout is perhaps better suited to a business. The main headline shot is perfect for a relevant brand related image, the profile shot is for a company logo, the ‘about’ section allows for a short introduction to your business (see below for a little known grocer’s page).  The timeline allows you to make posts and interact with your audience.

Facebook gives businesses three ways to market themselves.  They can 1) create a page, 2) create an ad or sponsored story and if they are feeling adventurous they can 3) create a platform which transforms their website into a Facebook friendly social experience.  Most people are familiar with creating a page so I will focus number 2 for this introduction.

Say you own a small chain of upmarket wine stores in the Birmingham area called Theodore Wines (posh enough?) and want to use Facebook to promote your business.  What might your Facebook Marketing Plan look like?

Set objectives

These need to be clearly defined.  You might use Facebook to build brand awareness (e.g. by encouraging people to ‘like’ your page) or you might want to grow sales.  Theodore Wines decide on the following:

1)     Increase footfall in their stores by 10% over the next 3 months

2)     Quantify the source of the extra footfall (i.e. the Facebook campaign).

They already have a Facebook page with 650 ‘likes’ but need to extend awareness beyond their existing ‘fans’ to achieve their objectives.  They will drive prospects to a landing page on their website to drive the next action.


This is critical, especially considering the nature of the product and the campaign objectives.  The sensible approach would be to build a profile of existing in-store customers and work from there.  Facebook allows targeting of ads by location, education and work information, age, gender, age, gender, likes and interests and so on.  Theodore Wines will target Facebook users with the following profile:

  • Aged 40 – 60
  • Live in Birmingham, UK
  • List any of the following as interests – ‘Wine, cookery, fine dining, entertaining’.
  • University educated
  • Married

Once they have entered that information, Facebook would provide an estimated ‘reach’ which is an estimate of how many people would see the advert.  They may then change the targeting criteria to increase or decrease the potential size of the audience.  They may need to broaden these criteria to increase their reach.

Design an engaging advert

Accurate targeting is important but the campaign will not achieve its objectives without an engaging advert.  They decide the following:

Title – ‘Love wine? Discover Birmingham’s finest purveyors’

Body copy – ‘Visit one of Theodore Wine’s 6 Birmingham stores to enjoy a free wine tasting event.’

Image – a shot of a couple within the target age range enjoying a glass of wine

Remember, the objective is in-store footfall and Theodore Wine’s is a premium brand.  Rather than simply offering discounts they decide to encourage people to attend an in-store event to sample their wines.  Prospects clicking through will go to a specific campaign landing page and enter their name and email address.  Theodore Wines will then email them back with details of their nearest tasting event and customers will print the email or quote a unique code to gain entry to the event.

Managing the advertising budget

Theodore Wines have a budget of £3000 for the campaign.  Facebook provide two ways of paying for the campaign – CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per impression).  They decide on the former and set a daily maximum budget of £300.  They then need to select a bid-price for their click thoughs.  This is not an exact science because bid amounts will fluctuate depending on how many other businesses are targeting the same demographic.  Facebook suggests a bid amount of £1.20 per click but as the campaign progresses Theodore Wines discover that an average bid amount of £1.05 allows them to achieve the desired number of click throughs.

Theodore Wines soon learn that they need to monitor their click through volumes and bid amounts on a daily basis to ensure that their ad is being served and that they are generating a sufficient number of click throughs.  They soon realise that this requires a little more work than a traditional off the page advert but there is also more in-depth information on the performance of the campaign.

Learn and improve

Facebook provides some very useful information about the performance of the campaign.  Everyday a member of staff is responsible for reviewing the following:

  • Volume of impressions – the number of times the ad has been ‘served’ on a Facebook page.
  • Volume of click throughs – the number of prospects who have clicked through to the campaign landing page.
  • Prospect demographics – the number of click throughs against the various targeting criteria selected.

When prospects have clicked through they will then monitor:

  • Number of visits to the landing page
  • Number of prospects entering name and email address
  • Number of prospects visiting each of the wine tasting events.
  • Amount spent on wine at each event.
  • Overall increase in in-store footfall over 3 months.

As the campaign progresses they will use their learning to improve the targeting of the campaign as well as testing different versions of the advert.  They soon learn that continually using campaign performance information to improve the campaign is the key to success.


Ultimately, the final ROI will define whether the campaign was a success but without a clear marketing plan the campaign would be unlikely to achieve its objectives.  How many companies clearly plan their Facebook campaigns?  On the right is a list of the ads that were served on my page this morning.  Of the four you can see I would only consider clicking on the bottom one because it is targeted at me based on a specified interest.  Perhaps the Right Guard could have been targeted more effectively.  There must be hundreds of thousands of Stone Roses fans on Facebook but I have not listed them as a band I like.  I use deodorant but who doesn’t?  Take a look at the ads served on your page.  How many are obviously targeted at you?

Clearly, Facebook offers some exciting marketing possibilities but companies looking to use these need to remember the marketing truth that badly targeted adverts don’t work.  Some companies are running very successful Facebook campaigns so maybe internet advertising can work after all.  If it’s planned properly that is…

Internet advertising doesn’t work!

What?  Of course it works.  In fact online advertising spend increased from $26bn in 2010 to $31.7bn in 2011 (source IAB). That’s a 21.9% increase in one year.  Companies would not waste that kind of money if it wasn’t working right?  The dictionary definition of advertising is ‘the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., especially by paid announcements’. Companies still pay to do that online just as they do in offline media.

The first ever online banner ad

In the pre-internet days that definition would have worked pretty well.  Advertising was all about ‘pushing’ or announcing your message to your market and there were some pretty big media channels with a massive reach that enabled companies to do that with great success. So what’s changed?  It seems to me there are three main differences between online and offline advertising.  With online ads:

1)     You as a consumer find an advert rather than it finding you (about half of total online ad spend is on search marketing).

2)     There is greater potential for interaction between organisations and consumers and between consumers themselves.

3)     The organisation has much less control over the way it is perceived.

Point 1 needs a post of its own so I will focus on points 2 and 3 here. If you are old enough, you will remember how pre-internet advertising worked.  Brands were king.  Hugely successful TV ads for PG Tips (monkeys), Shake n Vac (crazy woman with vacuum), Milk Tray (‘the man’) created powerful brand images and shifted product by the bucket load.  But you still have those today I hear you say.  What about Compare the market (meerkat) and Go Compare (insane levitating opera singer)?

So on the surface advertising and brand building is still taking place in much the same way but looking deeper you find there has been a seismic shift.  Firstly, organisations used to talk AT customers.  They created a brand position and message and announced it to the world.  There was a monologue.  What we have now is a dialogue and much of that is not between the organisation and their customers but between consumers themselves.  Online forums, blogs, fan pages…people are talking about products in an open, honest and human way, whether organisations like it or not.

Who are you going to trust?  A multi-national corporation and their brand team or impartial peers and consumers who have already tried the product out and are telling everyone about it on the internet?  It is only in the past couple of years that many organisations seem to have realised that the way their brand is perceived in no longer in their hands.  That is why they are falling over themselves to get on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and more recently looking into people’s interests on Pininterest.  Their intention is to know what consumers are saying about them and to be able to influence that.  The first intention is honourable, the second requires a wholesale shift in the way organisations communicate with their customers.

On Facebook yesterday I noticed a link to the Stella Artois UK fan page.  I have not listed ‘beer’ as an interest on Facebook but I’m sure the marketers at Stella Artois know I fit a certain profile that makes me likely to enjoy an occasional pint of Stella, which I do.  Their page seems to be a good example of how to hit consumers with the brand and then build engagement, feedback and dialogue, even if that does consist of people asking for free beer.  Hey this is a beer fanpage.

The headline branding of the Stella Artois UK Facebook fan page

The internet has democratised advertising.  This is no doubt terrifying to many organisations, particularly those with claims to great customer service, amazing product reliability etc.  Now those claims have to be TRUE because if they aren’t your customers are going to tell everyone about it online.  This is great news.  For the first time customers can get real insights into products and services before they buy them and organisations have the opportunity to build an army of advocates who basically advertise their products for free.

In the coming years many organisations will live or die depending on how they adapt.  ‘Advertising’ online doesn’t work.  Focussing time and money on communicating, facilitating, listening and joining in with customers is the way forward in this brave new world.