March 21, 2016
They seem so insignificant. Like a footnote or a parenthetical citation. Yet those mildly distracting, inconspicuous blue (and occasionally purple) hyperlinks are the most powerful elements in all of cyberspace.
Think about it. Without links, there would be no Internet. The Web as we know it would not be a Web at all. It would be a singe page, forever scrolling; a dark abyss of disorganized, uncategorized information. And yet as powerful as they are, they are nothing without context and relevance. To be truly effective, they must have meaning and purpose.
For businesses to take advantage of all that links have to offer, they must first understand both their power and the weakness.
Get to Know Your Links
Understanding how links work can help you build a better website and attract more visitors.
- Internal Links
You may not even realize it, but your website is loaded with internal links. The purpose of an internal link is to connect one page of your website to another page of your website. Every menu is made of internal links. These links help develop a useful sitemap that makes your website much easier for your viewers to navigate and improves your page rankings in Google Search.
- External Links
External or outbound links, connect your website to other sites. You create external links when you publish a blog post with links to pages of other websites. Including external links to relevant informational sites gives your website more credibility among viewers and to Google, improving your search rankings.
- Inbound Links
Put simply, an inbound link is a link that comes from another website and connects to yours. Inbound links are critical for search engine optimization, referral traffic, and reputation building. Google differentiates between good inbound links and poor inbound links using a number of variables, including anchor text (the words that are highlighted and hyperlinked), frequency of use (the number of times a single domain is linked), and the proximity of links in a block of text (putting them too close together can cause problems).
The Death of Link Building
Link building is the method of gaining more leads and improving search rankings through inbound links. Over the past few years, link building has been suffering a slow and painful death. As Google continually improves its search algorithms, old ways of generating traffic become obsolete. In the early days of the internet, less than ethical developers would build entirely new websites for the sole purpose of providing links to the desired site as a way to boost traffic. Google caught on and those developers, the black-hat sites they created and, in many cases, their unsuspecting, innocent, and unwitting clients, were all penalized severely.
Google’s policing of link building has forced it to become much more organic. Nowadays, link building is more like online public relations. Where SEO specialists would formerly work to develop partnerships with other websites on behalf of their clients to build links, they now pitch content to mainstream or industry sites with the hope of generating online publicity and links for their clients.
Turn Links into Leads
If used properly, every type of link can help you attract prospects and guide them where they need to go. How’s it done?
- Start by saying hello. It starts with the blog. If your company has a blog—and it should—it probably includes some element of “evergreen” content. Evergreen content is content that has staying power and offers important insight into a service or product your company provides. Including relevant, outbound links in your evergreen content can help raise awareness to your brand by sending friendly nods to leaders in your space.
- Watch your outbound become an inbound on the rebound. Get a nod back, and you’ve got a credible, valuable inbound link. Don’t underestimate the power of this virtual greeting. If the source is a popular, trusted industry leader with a loyal following, inbound links can result in a fountain of leads. In a way, it’s like fishing for compliments in the high seas of your industry.
- Roll out the red carpet of internal links. If you know you’re going to have guests who are primed for what you have to offer, make sure you give them good directions when they arrive. Well-placed calls to action, replete with the appropriate internal links, can guide your visitors to the areas of your site that are designed to provoke an action. Optimizing your page is critical if you’re hoping to turn links into sales.
Who Has the Time?
Not every business owner has the time or inclination necessary to blog regularly, optimize pages with internal links, or develop a strategy to reel in high-quality inbound links. After all, business owners have businesses to run. How can they execute this plan efficiently (and still get a few hours sleep at night)?
- Hire a Digital Marketing Firm
Digital marketing experts know how to use links to the client’s best possible advantage. In many cases, Internet marketing agencies typically have teams of online PR specialists and content marketers who first can identify link placement opportunities, and then develop the appropriate content. The key to turning links into leads in digital marketing is pitching the right topics to popular sites with broad industry appeal. It’s a proven tactic. A recent study shows that content marketing is used by 91 percent of B2B and by 86 percent of B2C marketers.
- Use Social Media
On average, 1.04 billion people use Facebook on a daily basis. Posting links to your site through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms can help you build brand awareness, offer intriguing updates, and showcase new content. You don’t even need a wink from an industry thought leader if you have suggestible followers or a properly maintained business page. Social media platforms are ideal for pushing ads or landing pages, but be careful not to over promote—nobody wants spammy links in their Twitter feed.
- Analyze the Metrics
If time is a prohibitive factor for you, look at how your site is performing and build your content and marketing plan around the inbound and internal links that are doing well. Knowing that visitors from a certain site are converting better than those coming from another site gives you an idea about the kind of visitor you appeal to. Develop content and internal links that take those high-value visitors through the goal conversion process in a smoother and more efficient manner. Analytics can help you save time and more accurately target likely prospects.
The links outside and inside your website are the calling cards that shape your marketing. They’re more than just a tool to move visitors from one place to another. Giving them the attention they deserve can mean the difference between a successful online marketing plan or losing leads to your competitors.
Mike Canarelli is the CEO and co-founder of Web Talent Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As the force behind Web Talent, Mike lays the foundation for his clients’ success by applying his experience, expertise, and passion for excellence to every account. His mission, and the mission of the agency, is to partner with clients to deliver exceptional results. Follow him on Twitter @MCanarelli.