Building a loyal subscriber base takes energy, time, and consistency, but it can lead to a significant uptake in search rankings.
Getting links is one of the most difficult tasks in search engine optimization. It's a slow, tedious, never-ending process. Here's an approach to linking that can rapidly boost your rankings for selected landing pages -- if you have an e-mail newsletter or a group of people who read your blog regularly.
In a nutshell, the technique is this. E-mail your list about a new article, product, or service. Specifically ask them to bookmark the Web page using AddThis.com, a gadget that makes it easy for people to bookmark using their favorite social bookmarking service. If you provide valuable content to loyal readers, you'll get a number of social bookmarking links to your Web page -- using your own selected anchor keywords. These targeted links add up to higher page rank for your landing pages.
Let me break this down into its elements.
Develop a Following
The key to this strategy is to develop loyal e-mail newsletter or blog post readers. This has three parts:
1. Get subscriptions either to an e-mail newsletter or subscriptions to an RSS feed for your blog. To achieve this, you'll need to make getting subscriptions one of the highest priorities of your site. Display a subscription form on every page. Provide readers with a rationale as to why subscribing is in their best interest. Offer incentives to subscribe. Don't be shy. Get the subscription.
2. Offer great content. Once you've obtained a subscription, then offer great content to your readers on a regular basis. This is a lot of work, but your readers will appreciate it. So much of what is written online is just fluff -- and fluff doesn't produce loyalty. But if you offer solid content consistently, your followers will continue to read your newsletter or blog each time you post a new issue.
3. Write personably. One of the keys is to build a personal relationship with your readers. If you write with a dry, third-person, corporate-speak style, no one will care. Rather, write conversationally -- though not sloppily. Share something of yourself -- but without wasting your readers' time. Share personal anecdotes that help you make your point. I try to obtain my subscribers' first name, so every newsletter addresses them personally. If your readers get to know you - and you offer them great content -- they'll become personally loyal.
Ask for the Bookmark
The second prong of this strategy is to deliberately ask people to bookmark an article or landing page. I used to ask people to link to a Web page, with only limited success. Few people control a Web site or blog that enables them to link easily. But everyone can use social bookmarks -- and many or most social bookmarks constitute a link to your site. Google trolls social bookmarking pages to see what users find valuable. Those bookmarks act as votes for your site. Those links to your Web page add up.
I've taken this two steps further. When I ask my newsletter readers to bookmark a particular page:
1. I include the button in my e-mail newsletter, with the appropriate URL and title fields already filled in.
2. I also include a button at the top of the landing page -- and ask them again to bookmark the page. My readers have been asked twice. Since many have become loyal, they'll often do as I ask.
Of course, if a reader chooses the "favorites" option on his Web browser, I won't get a link. But most will select a bookmarking service, such as Google Bookmarks or Delicious. Incidentally, AddThis statistics will indicate the number of bookmarks for each bookmarking service.
Choose Your Keywords Wisely
Because you can control the title in the AddThis button, you also have control over the keywords associated with the resulting social bookmarking links. Construct these titles carefully, making sure to include the specific keywords that will draw the right people to this landing page in the future. With many linking strategies, you don't have much control over the anchor text of the link. But with AddThis, you do. Dig into the HTML of the AddThis button, and you'll see how it works.
These linking strategies aren't easy. Building a loyal subscriber base for your newsletter or blog takes energy, time, and consistency. But if you're willing to put in the hard work, you'll find a wonderful bonanza of higher rankings for your projects.
This was originally published December 2009 in SES Magazine.
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