Kicking off a Linkbuilding Campaign with Questions
NB This post is dispersed with a number of photos of calorie laden delectables. If you are on a special diet, you might like to disable images to avoid temptation.
As someone that’s involved with building and developing links to a client’s site, have you ever been handed a keyphrase, a landing page, and then told ‘go build links’? Joy!
The more masochistic amongst us might relish the challenge, but I’ve found I get things done much more quickly, and get a much better ROI for clients, if I get to have a good old chinwag with them first; ideally face to face and with a nice cuppa and small pastry selection.
Biscuit and pastry sharing will pave the way to a better understanding of your client’s needs and requirements, or your money back. Photo credit Jesus V.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share a little ‘checklist’ for some of the questions I like to ask.
I start by running through some very general stuff. This allows me to compile a ‘client fact sheet’, which will be an at a glance document that I can read to refresh and re-familiarise myself with the client’s products and services, which will be particularly useful if I‘m dipping in and out of the project on a monthly basis. I’ve also found this to be super helpful in an agency environment, as the same overview can be passed between different teams who have responsibility for that client.
- Client overview: Full name of business, number of years in business, industry type and other pertinent details
- Main contact names and contact details
- Some history and background, description of product(s) and / or service(s)
- What are your USPs? What makes you unique and / or different to your competitors?
- Who are your primary and secondary markets?
- Who are you audiences? I use this to create some very quick and dirty marketing personas
- Who do you consider to be your competitors – both offline and online?
- What social media presences do you have? How active are you in these places? Can the content we’ll be producing be socialised and amplified via these channels?
Of course, it’ll look better if you’ve started to answer these questions, and build out this document prior to your meeting. It shows that you’ve been familiarising yourself with the client and their marketplace, they can check your findings and add to the details to provide a nice fleshy document.
I’ll also ask at this point if it’s possible to get a client email address that I can send and receive from. In many cases I’ve had a much better success rate when making linking requests using a client address rather than a third party email. Like Paddy Moogan, I might use both my agency email address and a client email address when I start to develop relationships with potential linking sites, it works for me.
If I know I’ll be working on a Google Places listing for the client, I’ll make sure that we’ve confirmed a consistent address, phone number and contact details in order to make sure that I’m building a consistent citation footprint.
NB at this point, I’ll usually know the clients targeted keyphrases and the relevant landing pages on their site to which we’ll be looking at developing links, therefore I haven’t included questions pertaining to this below.
Ok, on with the questions, mmmm, pass the macaroons:
Macaroontastic. Photo credit hummingbirdappetite
- What are your linkable assets? This can include the aforementioned USPs, people, stories, special offers, giveaways and competitions amongst other things. This will also include suggesting that trips / product reviews for relevant and influential bloggers can be a great way to earn links.
- Who already links to you, and why? This also gives you a tremendous insight into linkable assets, and also existing relationships. I always like to quickly run through the client’s backlink analysis – highlighting different types of links that they already have gives them a meaningful peek into the processes involved with link development, and will often provide many ‘aha’ moments for the client and myself!
- What are your industry affiliations and associations, memberships and awards? This might include investors in people or green business awards. Once you’ve compiled a list of these, you can identify the underutilised (or not utilised at all) linking opportunities that exist on those websites, and niche content opportunities also become apparent.
- What are your strongest offline relationships? These could be with businesses, people, publications, almost anyone and nearly always there is a way to leverage this relationship from a linking perspective. Sometimes you can turn a sales or product oriented client into a ‘link oriented’ client; where they consider the link opportunities presented in their relationships and interactions, both offline and online. I’ll also introduce the ‘ole ‘testimonials for links’ tactic here, if they have an awesome relationship with one of their providers, why not offer a glowing review for the testimonials page on their website?
- Where are your jobs currently advertised? Once you know this, you can check to see if linking opportunities exist within job sites in their niche.
- Are there any CSR initiatives in place? Do you sponsor any local causes? Linking opportunities a go go.
- What do you already know about where your audience and potential audience ‘hang out’ online? What do you think are the ‘go to’ sites for your target market (including forums)?
- What are the governing bodies for your industry? Again, linking opportunities often exist on these websites, and additional affiliations can be sought and gained if the link opportunities are good.
- What are your industry magazines and / or websites online and offline, if known?
Some of these might cross over a little into the questions I’d have for their PR company, if they have one, but at this point I’m trying to build the most complete picture I can through the client’s unique viewpoint. Again, if you have endeavoured to do some research and answer some of these questions yourself before your meeting, you’ll go a long way towards demonstrating your interest in, and understanding of, the clients products, services and marketplace. You’ll both be happy, and there will be many more opportunities to break cake together.
Credit must go to Garrett French, Julie Joyce and Kelvin Newman, the writings of whom have definitely influenced the above, and the approach I like to take when starting work with a new client.