This blog post covers a summary of the guest lecture Mike King (@ipullrank) delivered at NYU, taking part in the Inbound Marketing Clinic, a research project within NYU’s M.S. in Integrated Marketing Program. 

Big thanks to Pedro Harrera (@PAH89) who cleaned up the transcript and turned Mike’s lecture into a blog post below. 

Link Building Done Right

mike king ipullranl

Recently Matt Cutts, the head of Google Spam Team, proclaimed The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO causing another major outcry from link builders worldwide who were slow to adjust their link building tactics to post-Panda and post-Penguin world. Google now looks at the inbound link to see if it is relevant to the site, influential (authoritative) among the subject matter, and what sites those inbound links are linked too (link neighborhood).

Formerly at iAcquire, now currently of Acronym Media, Heavy On 76ers and Light on Nets seasoned Digital Marketer, Mike King explains how link building is done right at NYU, giving future marketers the song sequence to play the “Link Builders Lullaby” on their Ocarina when they are in strategy meetings so they can relieve themselves from the worry of Google penalizing their campaign.

So press the C button, take out your Ocarina and learn the “Link Builders Lullaby” taught by Mike King!

Link Builders Lullaby

Key Takeaways        

Link Builders Lullaby – Link Building is ALL about building relationships with prospects, bloggers, influencers & etc or having news worthy material that can be shared on the news wire.

Building Relationships For More Effective Outreach – Personas are needed to pinpoint audiences that fall under the niche of the campaign thus, increasing the effectiveness of link building outreach campaign.

*A Four-Part Link Building Process – Mike King offers his way to create an effective Link Building Process that will have you thinking twice on the current process in place. Before this process, he gave everyone a 6 month plan to link build.

*Social Search To Build Links & Measure Efforts – The Rel=”Author” will become more prominent in 2014 since it will establish the influencers of certain subject matters, causing people to look their way for links due to their topic authority.

*How Can A Marketer Measure A Link Building Campaign? – Mike King explains that his method to measure a Link Building Campaign is to use the SoV (Share Of Voice) metric, which indicates the amount of opportunity there is available.).

*Mike King’s Methodology – Mike King gives readers insights on his Keyword Level Demographics, Dynamic Keyword Targeting and Keyword Arbitrage methodology on how to properly measure keyword opportunity and conversions that will help link building efforts.

Link Builders Lullaby by Mike King

Transcript of the NYU guest lecture below was paraphrased by Pedro Harrera, Sr. SEO Analyst at Lowe Profero. 

mike king NYU

I call Link Building social strategy because I think of it in terms of relationship building rather than getting links. I incorporate a social media process into it because a lot of the good ways to do link building at this point involves reaching out to people in social media channels. Link Building is really a cross-channel big picture initiative, and at its best is actually just content strategy.

Link building should always be a part of your integrated marketing strategy. So it shouldn’t just be on the SEO team…. it should also be on the PR team, it should also be on the social media team, and if they’re doing events of any kind they should be leveraging the teams to build context. This works much better than guest posts.

Holistic Link Building

If somebody says that you’re a great company, ask them to link to you and use a keyword, it’s as simple as that. This is a huge opportunity that gets missed by PR agencies because they don’t think about link building. If you’re working with a PR agency or PR person make sure that they are educated about the value their bring to your SEO efforts.

I see two ways to build links at scale: Make news and make friends.

Make New or Make Friends

For example, Kanye West likes to make news and he also has a few friends too. So it’s the same thing as anything else like if people hear about it they’ll likely link to it and if they’re your friends they’ll likely link to it.

Context is King

Link building’s golden rule? context is king.

If you reach out to me about linking to a Viagra ad or website, that doesn’t really apply to me (sic!). However, if you reach out to me and you say “Hey I got this awesome thing about the Legend of Zelda, why don’t you link to that?” I’m into the Legend of Zelda, and you could’ve found this out by just looking at my slideshare slides.

Finding context is simple since you can just look at somebody’s timeline and see what they’re talking about in response to your content. Don’t just tweet a link and ask  ‘link to me’. Talk to others on social media like you would with a real person to get their attention!

Building Relationships For More Effective Outreach

Building personas is vital to effectively acquire links. Most people do an e-mail outreach for link building but that’s the equivalent of cold calling for sales, so it isn’t the ideal approach. What we found on Buzzstream is that if you’ve tweeted somebody before you e-mailed them you are more likely to get a response. People have to get to know you and what your about before they would link to you, or even speak with you. So it’s all about building relationships through blogging and social media.

Relationship Building

Building relationships with the people that fall under the personas a marketer has created is the best way to increase the success of your link building efforts. FollowerWonk is probably my favorite social media tool because a lot of people put in their Twitter bios the things that they’re interested in and it helps with outreach, keyword research, and your link building plan.

You don’t have to be on a Twitter account the entire time, just find awesome content and schedule tweets to build out your persona with sites like Buffer & SocialOomph. Schedule it up over time like over a week, maybe five things at that so it doesn’t look like they are just a persona for link building.

IFTTT (If That, Then This) is a site where they group web applications together based on your liking, and if they regularly put out content, just add their RSS feeds and have it automatically tweeted when published. This will make you look like you’re active and visible in the conversation.

For more link building tools, check out our SEO Toolbox

Examples: If you have incentives, again don’t just give them away. Let’s say for example if I like LG TVs that won’t be 50 links, but if I had a contest where I’m giving away 50 TVs, we have to enter by writing a blog post that has this link, and it can get thousands of links for those same 50 TVs.

Link Building Persona

Tip from Mike King: Think of a campaign that you can do to facilitate any incentive that you have that will ultimately get you more links rather than just giving things away. Personas make it easy because we have what we call buyer personas and audience personas and you can call them target and influence if you want. Participate in subjects, conversations, add content to it, tweet content from blogs that you’ve read and then add relevant hash tags. Offer value.

Offer Value

A Four-Part Link Building Process

Link Building tip: Talk to people like people. It seems pretty obvious, but many  SEOs don’t do this. Like the more you’re actually interested in talking to people. Anything you do for your brand can build links. For example, if you have a party or put out a new product that can build links; this is Link Building without constant strategy.

Talk to People Like People

#1 First, we can put in different metrics into sites such as Ontolo and Citation Labs, and it populates a list where we would reach out to those that fit those metrics. If a client comes to me and they only want links from specific sites with nice subjects then we can plug that in these tools and we can only get sites back that fit those criteria and then we do outreach, tailored outreach. 

#2 Second, we have a whole content marketing aspect when we’re creating content. Blogging is a huge part of your content strategy and link building plan. It’s like a micro version of that whole SEO process where we start opportunity discovery trying to understand your audience using social listings and search listings to figure out what are the topics that people will be interested in.

 #3 Next, we assign those topics, and at the same time start that outreach phase to get buy-ins from people to figure out if this is something that people are going to be interested in, then we build that content, run it through QA. We run it through QA to make sure the site that we want to place it on meets the quality guideline and its valuable content.

#4 The 4th step is we do more outreach with infographics, or if it’s an article, then we’re just placing it so that’s the content launch and then we just measured to make sure it’s working. So we look at the social metrics as well to make sure that it was something that worked, that people liked and we get those second order effects of the shares and likes and stuff.

Social Media Startegies to Build Links & Measure Efforts

It is important to see the convergence of social media and search in SEO. I think what’s going to happen is there going to be using these two signals together and Google said that they’re going to start using Rel Author to figure out who people are connected to that content.

Social Search

For example, if I write something about search, Google will know all the things that I’ve done in the subject matter and they group me as an authoritative figure in search; so when I link to something about search it means more than when someone else with less SEO exposure links to something about search because Google considers me more an authority because of all the guest posting I have done on the subject. Go in-depth on the affect of Rel=Author tag in this blog post by SearchMetrics .

So Google is going to start applying that to more people, entities, and brands, and if you understand this then you’re ahead of the game. Use social media to find these influencers and reach out to build relationships. This is another reason why you want to think about social media for link building rather than just going after sites.

When you do link building with social media you don’t want to use your SEO profile. Because?  It’s kind of like being a pickup artist and then giving your girlfriend a book from the Mystery who is a pickup artist.

Link Building Persona

So create a profile that makes sense. So in this case we’re talking about say I’m building links for music. I am a rapper so I have a rap profile so I would use that profile.

All the data collected from FollowerWonk, I then can categorize them by persona and by link metrics so I can prioritize who I can reach out to, and since you know their likes, context will be easier.

Use Social Crawlytics to learn about what content performed best for a blogger you are prospecting. What it does is it crawls the whole site and pulls the social numbers for every page on the site to figure out what is the most popular piece of content on the site is using social sharing metrics. Then reach out to that blogger and talk to them about that piece of content because it makes sense because it’s already shared and a lot of people are probably already contacting them so it doesn’t seem as much like a cold call.

Social media converts with context.

How Can a Marketer Measure a Link Building Campaign?

I use a pretty standard metric called a share of voice. It comes from the traditional marketing and it essentially says of the available opportunities we have X% of those opportunities. We create that and we compute that as a function of the available search volume for a given keyword. So that’s basically how much traffic can we get from number one and how much traffic site is getting.

 Keyword Share of Voice

For example, let’s say the keyword is “ham sandwich” with a local search volume possibility of 33,000 with an 18.2% CTR based on Slingshot’s CTR study.  33,000 X18.2 is 6,006, so that’s a little over 6000 visits. So if your client is only getting 500 visits off of that keyword per month, then the only have an 8.3% share voice for that keyword. Learn more  on how to use SoV to measure results.

Now let’s take that keyword converts at 10% with a $50 transaction. That means right now that you’re getting $2,500 when you could be getting over $30,000 leaving over $27,000 on the table for this keyword based on share voice. So if we build links to it, this is what it’s going to be worth potentially.

Measuring optimization. We build KPIs based on the goals that the client has defined for us. We collect data, and analyze it. We test alternatives and then we implement them and we just keep it going over and over.

Mike King’s Keyword-Level Demographics Methodology

I developed a methodology called Keyword Level Demographics. It consists of advertisers acquiring the users data through persona-driven keyword research. If you marry that with keywords from search then you get keyword level demographics and psychographics, which are key in building an effective link building campaign.

Keyword Level Demographic

For example, if you click ‘sign in’ with Facebook, I can track your age, your Facebook ID, gender, location and then the keyword referrer. I can put in and now I can match all of that type of stuff with all of these other metrics.

If we track all of these different personas and we see that this guy is the one that is searching the most and he converts the most and we target our messaging to him rather than two guys that don’t; that way we’re able to make a key decision as to how we’re going to create content.

Keyword Dynamic Targeting

Then you can also do dynamic targeting, which is pretty awesome. For example, it’s a really broad messaging about 3-D TVs and we figure out Curious George who was like a hipster type guy, loves indie rock, wishes he had a beard and we show a guy right here holding a something that says guys with beards love LG Cinema 3-D TV. And he’s more likely to convert because this resonates with him.

Once we collected all of this data about these different keywords and this persona, we can do what’s called keyword arbitrage. Keyword Arbitrage is a risk-free profit after transaction cost. Essentially, we know where to put money and the first keywords to get them to buy something later.

Keyword Arbitrage

So for example let’s say the site is and they come on the keyword sneakers and we found that they convert at 5% and then ultimately 60% of those people come back and buy a windbreaker. So the keyword – sneakers – is actually worth both the sale of the sneakers and the sale of the windbreakers, and we can figure this out because we have so much data on these different people.

And these are the two equations that you use to figure that out. You want to spend more money on the ones with a higher keyword earnings yield and those are the ones with a higher keyword earnings ratio.

Here is another blog post featuring Mike King at NYU talking about Holistic SEO.

What are the link building strategies that have worked for you?

4 replies
  1. Hayden Bray
    Hayden Bray says:

    I agree with you about building relationships. As a smaller blogger, you’re not going to be dictating the content of big media outlets. But you can build and maintain relationships with other bloggers. You do this by offering something of value and being kind and linking to them. You catch peoples attention by doing this. Rather than focusing merely on begging for links though and trying to go big on social media (see for instance) I think I think the primary focus of a blogger should always be to focus on providing quality content and serving your visitors a slice of something positive. When they see great content, they’re much more likely to retweet you. The problem is that this all takes time and effort. Most bloggers want a quick fix and immediate success, when the reality is that it takes a long time period of sustained work and effort to reach this point. Most blogs die off at this point.


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