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Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links – Whiteboard Friday

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Link building campaigns shouldn’t have a start-and-stop date — they should be ongoing, continuing to earn you links over time. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, please warmly welcome our guest host Paddy Moogan as he shares strategies to achieve sustainable link building, the kind that makes your content efforts lucrative far beyond your initial campaigns for them.

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. I’m not Rand. I’m Paddy Moogan. I’m the cofounder of Aira. We’re an agency in the UK, focusing on SEO, link building, and content marketing. You may have seen me write on the Moz Blog before, usually about link building. You may have read my link building book. If you have, thank you. Today, I’m going to talk about link building again. It’s a topic I love, and I want to share some ideas around what I’m calling “sustainable link building.”

Problems

Now, there are a few problems with link building that make it quite risky, and I want to talk about some problems first before giving you some potential solutions that help make your link building less risky. So a few problems first:

I. Content-driven link building is risky.

The problem with content-driven link building is that you’re producing some content and you don’t really know if it’s going to work or not. It’s quite risky, and you don’t actually know for sure that you’re going to get links.

II. A great content idea may not be a great content idea that gets links.

There’s a massive difference between a great idea for content and a great idea that will get links. Knowing that difference is really, really important. So we’re going to talk a little bit about how we can work that out.

III. It’s a big investment of time and budget.

Producing content, particularly visual content, doing design and development takes time. It can take freelancers. It can take designers and developers. So it’s a big investment of time and budget. If you’re going to put time and budget into a marketing campaign, you want to know it’s probably going to work and not be too risky.

IV. Think of link building as campaign-led: it starts & stops.

So you do a link building campaign, and then you stop and start a new one. I want to get away from that idea. I want to talk about the idea of treating link building as the ongoing activity and not treating it as a campaign that has a start date and a finish date and you forget about it and move on to the next one. So I’m going to talk a little bit about that as well.

Solutions

So those are some of the problems that we’ve got with content-driven link-building. I want to talk about some solutions of how to offset the risk of content-driven link building and how to increase the chances that you’re actually going to get links and your campaign isn’t going to fail and not work out for you.

I. Don’t tie content to specific dates or events

So the first one, now, when you coming up with content ideas, it’s really easy to tie content ideas into events or days of the year. If there are things going on in your client’s industry that are quite important, current festivals and things like that, it’s a great way of hooking a piece of content into an event. Now, the problem with that is if you produce a piece of content around a certain date and then that date passes and the content hasn’t worked, then you’re kind of stuck with a piece of content that is no longer relevant.

So an example here of what we’ve done at Aira, there’s a client where they launch a piece of content around the Internet of Things Day. It turns out there’s a day celebrating the Internet of Things, which is actually April 9th this year. Now, we produced a piece of content for them around the Internet of Things and its growth in the world and the impact it’s having on the world. But importantly, we didn’t tie it exactly to that date. So the piece itself didn’t mention the date, but we launched it around that time and that outreach talked about Internet of Things Day. So the outreach focused on the date and the event, but the content piece itself didn’t. What that meant was, after July 9th, we could still promote that piece of content because it was still relevant. It wasn’t tied in with that exact date.

So it means that we’re not gambling on a specific event or a specific date. If we get to July 9th and we’ve got no links, it obviously matters, but we can keep going. We can keep pushing that piece of content. So, by all means, produce content tied into dates and events, but try not to include that too much in the content piece itself and tie yourself to it.

II. Look for datasets which give you multiple angles for outreach

Number two, lots of content ideas can lead from data. So you can get a dataset and produce content ideas off the back of the data, but produce angles and stories using data. Now, that can be quite risky because you don’t always know if data is going to give you a story or an angle until you’ve gone into it. So something we try and do at Aira when trying to produce content around data is from actually different angles you can use from that data.

So, for example:

  • Locations. Can you pitch a piece of content into different locations throughout the US or the UK so you can go after the local newspapers, local magazines for different areas of the country using different data points?
  • Demographics. Can you target different demographics? Can you target females, males, young people, old people? Can you slice the data in different ways to approach different demographics, which will give you multiple ways of actually outreaching that content?
  • Years. Is it updated every year? So it’s 2018 at the moment. Is there a piece of data that will be updated in 2019? If there is and it’s like a recurring annual thing where the data is updated, you can redo the content next year. So you can launch a piece of content now. When the data gets updated next year, plug the new data into it and relaunch it. So you’re not having to rebuild a piece of a content every single time. You can use old content and then update the data afterwards.

III. Build up a bank of link-worthy content

Number three, now this is something which is working really, really well for us at the moment, something I wanted to share with you. This comes back to the idea of not treating link building as a start and stop campaign. You need to build up a bank of link-worthy content on your client websites or on your own websites. Try and build up content that’s link worthy and not just have content as a one-off piece of work. What you can do with that is outreach over and over and over again.

We tend to think of the content process as something like this. You come up with your ideas. You do the design, then you do the outreach, and then you stop. In reality, what you should be doing is actually going back to the start and redoing this over and over again for the same piece of content.

What you end up with is multiple pieces of content on your client’s website that are all getting links consistently. You’re not just focusing on one, then moving past it, and then working on the next one. You can have this nice big bank of content there getting links for you all the time, rather than forgetting about it and moving on to the next one.

IV. Learn what content formats work for you

Number four, again, this is something that’s worked really well for us recently. Because we’re an agency, we work with lots of different clients, different industries and produce lots and lots of content, what we’ve done recently is try to work out what content formats are working the best for us. Which formats get the best results for our clients? The way we did this was a very, very simple chart showing how easy something was versus how hard it was, and then wherever it was a fail in terms of the links and the coverage, or wherever it was a really big win in terms of links and coverage and traffic for the client.

Now, what you may find when you do this is certain content formats fit within this grid. So, for example, you may find that doing data viz is actually really, really hard, but it gets you lots and lots of links, whereas you might find that producing maps and visuals around that kind of data is actually really hard but isn’t very successful.

Identifying these content formats and knowing what works and doesn’t work can then feed into your future content campaign. So when you’re working for a client, you can confidently say, “Well, actually, we know that interactives aren’t too difficult for us to build because we’ve got a good dev team, and they really likely to get links because we’ve done loads of them before and actually seen lots of successes from them.” Whereas if you come up with an idea for a map that you know is actually really, really hard to do and actually might lead to a big fail, then that’s not going to be so good, but you can say to a client, “Look, from our experience, we can see maps don’t work very well. So let’s try and do something else.”

That’s it in terms of tips and solutions for trying to make your link building more sustainable. I’d love to hear your comments and your feedback below. So if you’ve got any questions, anything you’re not sure about, let me know. If you see it’s working for your clients or not working, I’d love to hear that as well. Thank you.

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9 Chances for Website Conversion Optimization You Don’t Want to Miss

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While your website is definitely no one-trick pony, when it comes to its role as an inbound marketing tool, its ability to drive conversions — both in terms of net new lead generation and reconversions — is definitely one of its bragging rights.

But surely there must be more you can do to boost your website’s conversion potential, even after you’ve got all the conversion basics down pat … right? Absolutely! Read on to learn about 9 different ways you can improve your website’s ability to convert.

9 Tips to Improve Your Website Conversions

1) Leverage Social Proof

Social proof stems from the concept that people will conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior. In other words, it’s the mentality that, if other people are doing it, and I trust those people, that’s validation that I should also be doing it. This third-party validation can be a very powerful motivator for your site visitors’ and prospects’ actions.

Consider the various ways you can add some social proof to your marketing assets to drive conversions. This very blog, for example, uses it on our blog subscription CTA at the top right-hand sidebar as well as on our blog subscriber landing page. It encourages visitors to think, “76K other people have already subscribed? I probably should, too!”

You could also experiment with other types of social proof such as testimonials on landing pages or on CTAs themselves. Check out what we did with our blog CTA for our ebook, “The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing,” for example. We added testimonial tweets to add credibility to our offer and emphasize that others thought it was worth the download — and worthy of a Twitter endorsement.

 

essential guide 3 tweets

2) Revitalize Your CTA Designs

Call-to-action designs have the tendency to get old and stale, especially when they’re used over and over again within various marketing assets. Think about it — if you saw the same CTA design every time you visited a particular website, it probably wouldn’t get you clicking, even if you’ve never converted on the offer it’s promoting. This is true for multiple offers, too. If you’re using the same design for various offers, it can also get stale pretty quickly. Why? Because the design no longer captures your visitors’ attention. As a visitor who has seen the same design repeatedly, your eyes just end up glossing over it. On HubSpot’s website, for example, we’ve noticed that the longer a CTA design appears on our site, the lower and lower its click-through rate becomes.

That’s why it’s important to regularly update the designs of your calls-to-action. Once you notice click-through rates dipping, spend some time updating the creative and copy of your CTA buttons, whether you do it yourself in PowerPoint or hire someone with design chops.

3) Feature New Offers

Updating CTA designs can definitely improve dropping click-through rates, but it won’t do much if the offer you’re touting is outdated itself. Just like designs, offers have the tendency to get stale, too — and for a number of reasons. I mean, if you’ve been promoting the same offer over and over again, or if the content of the offer is obviously outdated, even to a new visitor (e.g. “Free Ebook: 10 New SEO Tips for 2010″), it’s probably not going to have the best conversion rate. The solution? Time to create or feature some new offers!

Marketing offers aren’t effective forever, so put some time and effort into creating brand new ones or updating and repositioning evergreen offers that could benefit from some revitalization. Before you do, analyze the strength of your existing offers so you can put your content creation efforts into the types of offers that you already have historically performed well, whether it’s a particular offer type (i.e. ebooks vs. webinars) or certain subject matters.

4) Update CTAs on High-Trafficked Blog Posts & Web Pages 

Imagine this scenario: you’ve just created a brand-spanking new offer, as we suggested in tip #3, and you’re testing it out for the first time via a call-to-action on a new blog post. Over time, that blog article becomes a big hit, getting tons of traffic and inbound links, and thus ranking extremely well for one of your most desirable keywords. But the offer? Despite that fact that you based the creation of that new offer on the success of an existing offer on the same subject, it’s not really delivering the same awesome results, and well, it’s kind of a flop (hey — it happens to the best of us!).

But that fantastic blog post it’s on will still continue to get a ton of traffic, right? So keeping a CTA for a subpar offer on that post probably isn’t the smartest decision. No worries. All you have to do is swap out that CTA for a higher performing one. As a result, you’ll have much more success converting all those people coming to read that post into new and reconverted leads. Not a bad deal, huh? (Note: If you’re a HubSpot customer using our Call-to-Action tool, all you have to do is replace the underperforming CTA with a better performing one within the CTA group, and every post/page containing that old CTA will automatically be replaced with the new one. Easy!)


cta module

 

5) Reduce Friction

How friction-less is your website’s conversion process? Truth be told, there are quite a few distracting, annoying, and confusing obstacles that can prevent your website visitors from converting. And if you’re not aware of — and actively removing — these various hindrances from your website, you could be leaving precious conversion opportunities on the table.

To reduce friction and increase conversion rates, here are 8 things you should consider doing (all of which we elaborate on in this blog post):

  1. Shorten your lead-capture forms.
  2. Create targeted landing pages.
  3. Remove top/side/bottom navigation from landing pages.
  4. Get rid of calls-to-action on landing pages.
  5. Share landing page links in social media.
  6. Place landing page forms above the fold.
  7. Use actionable language in CTAs and on landing pages.
  8. Make it as easy and user-friendly as possible to convert.

6) A/B Test and Optimize Landing Pages and CTAs

Conducting regular A/B tests is a smart and data-driven way to improve the performance of your marketing, particularly when it comes to conversion rates. What’s more, there’s no shortage of variables you can test and optimize.

When it comes to CTAs, consider A/B testing such elements as design, button size, colors, copy, messaging, tone, imagery, and placement. When A/B testing landing pages, you can test many of the same variables you test within your CTAs, in addition to variables like page layout, length, number of form fields, etc. (Note: HubSpot’s Call-to-Action and Landing Pages tools make it very easy to A/B test CTA and landing page variations.)

If you conduct regular A/B tests, be sure to document your results so you can keep track of the insights you gather from them. Over time, you’ll be able to use these insights to develop best practices specific to your own business that can help you optimize your marketing efforts right off the bat!

7) Experiment With Secondary CTAs

I know what you’re thinking: “Wouldn’t including two different CTAs on the same web page confuse and distract visitors from the action your want them to take?” The answer is, it depends on the offers your CTAs are promoting. Yes, displaying two CTAs on one page can distract your visitors from completing your desired conversion. However, when the secondary CTA is not promoting a competing offer, it can actually save a conversion when your visitor isn’t interested in — or ready for — the main offer.

For example, if you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you’ll notice that we actually have two separate calls-to-action there. One is for our main offer — our ebook on mastering the design and copy of calls-to-action. The secondary CTA, which isn’t as prominent, promotes subscription to this blog. And having that subscription CTA there might actually capture a few of those people who weren’t interest in the ebook (maybe they’ve already mastered CTA design and copy), but did find our blog content valuable enough to want to subscribe to future updates. Blog subscribers may not be as valuable to us as new or reconverted leads, but hey, they’re still valuable.

Identify opportunities on your website where secondary CTAs for non-competing offers make sense, and monitor the results. If they seem to take away from conversion on your main offer, a secondary CTA may not make sense on that particular page. However, if you notice that they actually add more conversions when visitors typically would’ve left without converting on anything, including a secondary CTA is probably a smart decision.

8) Appropriately Align CTA Selection With Web Pages

When you’re selecting CTAs for your various web pages, there should always be a method to your madness rather than just slapping a CTA button on any page on your site, particularly if you have an arsenal of different marketing offers at your fingertips. But how do you determine which offer’s CTA goes on what pages of your website? We’ve created a detailed, step-by-step process for figuring this out, but here’s the jist of it …

First, you’ll need to map your various offers to each stage in your sales cycle, since your offers are likely more appropriate for different stages. For example, a free trial of your software would probably be a better fit for a lead who is closer to making a purchasing decision than say, a first-time visitor to your website, who would probably be better suited for a lower-commitment offer like a free, educational ebook.

mapping marketing offers resized 600

After you’ve mapped your offers to your sales cycle, you’ll need to do the same for the various web pages on your website. In other words, based on a combination of common sense and your marketing analytics, you’ll need to determine how each page on your website aligns with the stages you identified in step 1. For instance, if you know that your blog attracts a lot of new visitors, you would probably associate those pages of your website with site visitors in the awareness stage of the sales process, not the purchase stage.

Once you’ve mapped your offers and your website pages to the different stages in your sales cycle, you can start placing appropriate calls-to-action where they belong. Use your analytics to identify the top offers in each stage, and add them to pages you’ve mapped to that stage. Voila!

9) Optimize Pages You Expect to Receive High Traffic

From time to time, conversion optimization opportunities arise that are time-sensitive or events-driven. You just have to be quick to identify and leverage them! The idea is, if you expect a certain page or pages of your website to receive a surge of traffic around a certain time, you can proactively optimize those pages for increased conversions.

So if you decided to launch a new marketing campaign that may end up driving more traffic than usual to a particular page (e.g. perhaps you included a link to your ‘About’ page in the description of a new contest you’re launching in social media), it would behoove you to audit and optimize that page for conversion opportunities. You might realize that it’s not optimized at all, that the CTAs on that page are stale, or that there are other opportunities for improvement.

For example, at HubSpot, we expect that our INBOUND conference website will receive a surge of traffic next week during the conference, so it would make sense for us to swap out any CTAs for users to register for the conference, and place lead generation calls-to-action in their place since registration during the conference would be pointless.

What other tips would you recommend to increase a website’s conversions?

Image Credit: Katie@!




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