Retail: gearing up for Cyber Monday (part 4 – editorial link building)

In the last few days, we’ve looked at how diligent planning, optimising your website and refining your paid search campaign will stand you in good stead to take maximum advantage of, what most analysts expect to be, the busiest Christmas yet for online sales.

In part 4, we look at how creating content and marketing this content to relevant blogs, forums and media can hep you gain links, but more importantly at this time of year, coverage, traffic and ultimately sales.

Day 4 – Editorial link building

In-bound links to your website, from other websites of relevance and quality, is a crucial factor in determining where your web pages rank on search engines – that’s a given. Arguably, it is too late in the day to garner links that will have any meaningful impact on search engine rankings before Christmas, as it normally takes a number of weeks, sometimes months, for newly acquired links to affect rankings in this way.

However, link building should not be approached with the sole intention of improving search engine rankings. Our view is that link building is about developing great content and marketing it in the places where your target audience frequent i.e. blogs and social networks. The links that are gained by taking this approach are of course valuable, but in the build up to Christmas in particular, awareness and online PR are equally as important.

So with this in mind, let’s look at how you can maximise online coverage for your brand in the build up to Christmas:

Focus on the right products

On the basis of the ‘hero’ products you have established during your planning, be sure to focus your editorial link building efforts around those. Consider if the products have an angle, for example, are they unusual or unique to you? What might prospective customers, bloggers and journalists find interesting about your brand and these products in particular?

Realistically, unless you have a phenomenally exclusive, exciting or innovative product you may not have a story to begin with. So consider this stage carefully before moving onto the next.

Focus on the right websites

Offline, the long lead print publications have ‘Christmas in July’ with big brands and high street retailers all vying for attention. For online publications however it’s not too late to gain coverage and therefore some juicy editorial from highly relevant websites.

First and foremost, establish a list of websites, blogs, forums and media sites relevant to your market and products. Run some searches on Google, taking advantage of the new filtering options on the left hand side. For example, using the blog search, you can quickly find those bloggers that appear to be most active in talking about and reviewing products like your own.

Really focus your efforts on the bloggers and online media that are particularly relevant to your business. Look at what they are writing about and featuring. Do you have a different angle, something that you believe the readership might find of interest?

Reaching out

Once you have a list of sites to target, you need to consider how you can reach out to them with something that they will find of interest, which in turn they will want to share with their readership (your potential customers!).

You might need to get creative at this stage, unless you have a phenomenal story or exclusive product. For example, can you host a festive evening in person with your products on display and invite key players along? Or, can you send bloggers a ‘Christmas box’ with previews of your seasonal products or services?

Think carefully about how to target bloggers and journalists directly to build those all important relationships in one of the busiest and most cut-throat editorial seasons of the year. Simply calling and asking to be featured is unlikely to be enough – popular bloggers and journalists are being contacted numerous times a day. Be sure that you have a strong enough angle before picking up the phone or sending that email.

Keep search rankings at the back of your mind

Although the principle objective of editorial link building, particularly at this time of year, is to gain coverage, do think strategically about what you are doing. If you are lucky enough to be given some exposure on a website and therefore a link, the longer term SEO benefits will be realised if you can influence the ‘anchor text’ and if the link will remain on site after Christmas is over.

To conclude

I appreciate this post is somewhat broad in its nature; there are many nuances that need to be considered at each of the stages above. But hopefully, at the very least, it has encouraged you to think about link building in a different way; it being a way of gaining coverage for your brand on highly relevant websites, which in turn delivers targeted traffic. This is quite the opposite of the more traditional perception of link building; that it is purely for the purposes of improving search engine rankings.

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