Tools and Tricks to Help with Your Link Building Campaign

SEO continues to be a driving force in the marketing world, and as it becomes more integrated in other marketing functions, new roles seem to be popping up everywhere–SEO Analyst, SEO Content Strategist, and SEO Outreach Coordinator are just a few of the new titles we’ve seen lately.

Let’s narrow in on the SEO Content Strategist and the SEO Outreach Coordinator positions. These positions aren’t too surprising to see considering the fact that content and backlinks continue to be on the list of top SEO ranking factors year after year after year.

To oversimplify things, using content to boost rankings is something we can control. It comes down to doing the keyword research, optimizing your content, and tweaking things to get to the position you want–easy peasy, right?

Obtaining links on the other hand, is not as easy to control. You can reach out to as many publishers as you want, but you can’t force them to link to your site–hence the need for someone who specializes in outreach. While one position may seem easier than the other, they’re actually both just as complex, and both necessary for each other’s success.

The Content Strategist must not only focus on creating content that can rank, but also creating content that is engaging and valuable enough to merit links–making it easier for the Outreach Coordinator to earn links. Now, the Outreach Coordinator has to get links back to the content created by the Content Strategist in order to give the site and blog content the boost it needs to rise in the rankings.

Now that we understand how these two positions work together to boost each other up, we’ll go into some specific tools and tricks to help with link building.

Create wow-worthy content

We simplified it in the beginning, but creating great content that is optimized for search engines, but also engaging for people is not an easy task. That being said, you can control the value of the content that you put out.

Use keyword research to figure out what people are searching for–what do they want to know? Take that research and create amazing content that will fill the questions and needs of potential customers.

Finally, make sure that your content is not only optimized for search engines, but also visually pleasing and engaging. Canva is a commonly used tool that marketers use to easily create visual engaging content that increases shares and engagements. Users love it because it’s easy to import your own images and use the templates to make great images for social media posts and ads. Outgrow is another tool that users love for creating quizzes, calculators, and polls that will increase engagement and gather leads.

Increase efficiency with outreach tools

Backlink outreach campaigns can be painful. You can send 1,000 emails and get no response. You could put hours into building relationships with publishers on Twitter, but have zero backlinks to show for it.

While there’s no way to promise backlinks, you can increase the number of pitches you put out with outreach tools. Increasing efficiency is a crucial element of a successful outreach campaign, and below are a couple of suggested tools to try out.

Infusionsoft is a popular tool for sales outreach, but can easily be used for link outreach too. Users love the ability to prioritize contacts based on responsiveness. Buzzsumo is another popular influencer outreach tool. Users like the ability to create lists of influencers in a specific category using the platform itself.

A/B test different outreach emails and content types

Different types of content may have different success rates for earning backlinks. A/B test the different types of content you’re producing to determine which types are best for using in outreach emails. You should also A/B test the language you use in outreach emails to increase your ROI.

Earning links will not be an easy task, but with the right SEO team members working together, you can be sure that your content development and link building efforts are supporting and raising each other up.

Kelsey Reaves is a content-focused Marketing Manager at TrustRadius, a trusted site for B2B software reviews. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on the latest trends in software and B2B news, she nurtures her passion for travel by exploring new cities and binge watching Anthony Bourdain

6 Tips to Start and Master Your College’s Blog in 2018

At Circa Interactive we’re fortunate to work with a few outstanding partners. Below, our friends over at Finalsite put together six useful tips for your college’s blog to become successful. Enjoy!

While you already know that your school needs a blog, the usual roadblocks–time and staffing–are probably standing in your way. Whatever you do, don’t allow these to become constraints. Blogging has the potential to grow your school’s brand, engage your community, and recruit right-fit students to your schools, so it’s definitely worth the effort. If you’re ready to dive in to starting your college’s blog in the new year, here are a few steps to guide your success.

1. Determine a Focus for Your College’s Blog

Many colleges and universities don’t blog at all, and those that do often limit themselves to ones written by the college president, department heads and admissions directors–a pretty narrow focus.  Since your blog will be a traffic-driver and will help to fill your recruitment funnel among other things, put the focus on where you shine: your culture. Showcasing what makes you unique, like the programs you specialize in, your awesome students, and incredible careers of graduates allows you to broaden your focus and bring in students, faculty, coaches, current parents, alumni and others to contribute content.

2. Gather a Group of Dedicated Writers

In order to make an impact with your blog, you need to be consistent about posting. And while it seems simple to assign the task to one person to keep the blog’s tone and voice the same, gathering more content contributors makes it easier to produce content on a consistent basis.

To choose this group, start by polling your community. Ask faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents to share their ideas on posts they’d like to write, or topics they think would be beneficial to prospective and current students and their families, or alumni. Current student bloggers are a great source of content (especially English majors!) as it’s a great resume booster for them to see their work published online, so they’ll love to blog frequently. And, prospective students love to hear firsthand from current students.

Vanguard University does a great job of sharing content from students in a variety of stages and programs to give real-life insight into the student experience (and it looks pretty cool, too!).

An example of how to use student contributors for your college's blog.

A Student’s Guest Post on Vanguard University’s Blog

And while you may want to have different blogs for special programs, like study abroad or athletics, these should be maintained in addition to your college’s main blog. Use a tool that lets you categorize your posts so that they can be dynamically published to all related categories, letting you maximize the impact of your content with less effort.

Remember-it only takes two blog posts per week to improve your website traffic!

3. Create a Content Calendar

Once your group of writers is formed, work with them to create a content calendar that works.

Determine which days you want blog posts to be published, which topics are timely, and which topics are evergreen (can be posted any time.) If you’re only going to blog twice a week, take into consideration that Monday mornings rank highest for visits and Thursdays rank highest for social shares, so focus on those days to get the most traction.

4. Determine an Editing Process

At Finalsite, we use the “press call” concept. Each day at the same time, the marketing team receives an email with all the content that’s scheduled for the next day, including blog posts, and shares their edits with our content marketing manager, who inputs them, and prepares content for publishing.  This system works for us, and now our team expects and prepares for press call each day. Your editing team might be made up of content contributors, marketing or admissions staffers, or others with a critical eye.  

5. Write Simply and with Intent

If your intent is to inform, blogs are meant to be easy-to-read, conversational pieces, but your content contributors might be self-conscious about writing. If your blog is simple and written with intent, it will always be well-received.

Here are few tips for making this happen:

  • Write in lists. It makes content easy to digest and gives readers key takeaways.
  • Write your blog post title first (you can always go back and fine-tune it later!) A title gives your post focus.
  • Write in chunks or sections. Blogs shouldn’t be written like an essay, but should be segmented by different thoughts or ideas.
  • Use a textual hierarchy to break up your post and make it easy to read.
  • Numbered posts are really effective: “The Top Five Reasons to Major in Business,” “Three Reasons Greek Life isn’t What Think it is?”
  • Always incorporate photos in your posts. We recommend one image near the top, and several images throughout the post.
  • End all blogs with a call-to-action.
  • Encourage content contributors to be themselves and use an authentic voice.

6. Share Your Post via Social Media and Subscriptions

“Is anyone out there?” It’s a common fear that you and your content contributors could spend hours on posts that no one sees. But when you follow a few simple steps, your blogs will be seen, appreciated, and shared.

First: Create a way for readers to subscribe to your posts via email. This way, they’ll get the blog posts delivered right to their inbox.

Second: Each time you post a blog on your website, share it on your social feeds. This is a pivotal piece for your inbound marketing strategy! You can also share older blog posts that are still relevant on social media, too! Be sure to always include a photo in your tweets and Facebook posts, as posts with images are more likely to get clicked.

Third: Add links to your blog in the online newsletters that you’re already sending. If you have a monthly newsletter that goes out, include this month’s best posts as a way to drive readership and subscriptions.

Fourth: Use blog posts as inbound marketing content. When sending communications to students in the admission funnel, consider which blog posts you have, and use them as your inbound content. For example, if a student wrote a post on their experience as a student athlete, it would be great to share that with all applicants interested in your athletic programs.

 

Pulling it All Together

Your blog won’t appear overnight, and neither will differences in website traffic — so don’t get discouraged. A blog takes weeks to really get up and running and months to really make a difference. However, with the right people and plans in place, it will quickly become a central piece of your inbound strategy and school culture.

For more tips and strategies for a high-converting website, download Finalsite’s eBook “The Ultimate Website Guide for Colleges and Universities.”

 Hadley RosenAfter more than a decade working in schools in roles in the classroom, communications and advancement, Hadley joined Finalsite in 2013 as Marketing and Communications Manager. She loves meeting Finalsite’s amazing family members around the world and learning about trends impacting schools. She’s a big fan of travel to places near and far with her growing family, cooking cuisines of all kinds, and working on her French fluency.

Why Guest Blogging is an Essential Part of the Online Higher Education Marketing Mix

Search engine optimization (SEO) and Internet marketing are rapidly growing as businesses continue to understand and strive for a profound online presence. Universities and colleges across the United States are developing their web presence in order to cater to those who wish to complete degrees online as opposed to on campus.

For these universities to efficiently market online, they must design their websites to fit the standards of leading search engines. Search engines, such as Google, have tremendous power in regards to the amount of traffic a webpage receives. This is due to the behavior of the public online, who almost exclusively type keywords in a search engine to find what they are looking for.

Because of the general reliance on search engines, Internet marketers must comply with a continually changing set of standards in order for a webpage to be easily visible in the search results. Search engines catch on to ‘black hat’ techniques and work to alter their set of standards, or algorithm, in order for search engine users to receive the most relevant and trustworthy search results.

Internet marketers work to design or tweak websites to represent the designated keywords their target audience types into a search engine. They also must build the strength of the targeted website in order for it to outrank competitors. One way to do so is through guest blogging.

 

What is Guest Blogging?

Guest blogging is simply the act of an individual creating and publishing a blog post on a website or blog that they do not own. People guest blog for a variety of reasons, one strong motivation being the one or more backlinks they generally receive from the posting.

While some guest bloggers just have a desire to write, reaping no tangible benefits, many guest bloggers generate articles/posts in order to increase traffic or build the strength of their personal websites. These guest bloggers are required to create original, high quality articles, which will benefit the readers of the blog they are writing for.

 

The Value of Guest Blogging for Link Building

Search engines consider a number of algorithmic factors when ranking websites. A strong factor in ranking is how ‘popular’ a website is, meaning how many other websites are linking to (talking about) the particular website.

Lets consider ‘website X.’ Websites cannot just claim that they are popular and should be ranked highly; they must prove this by having other websites link to theirs. One way to attain these desired links is through guest blogging, which search engines generally see as a genuine link (depending on the caliber of the website the link comes from).

The goal for the marketers of ‘website X’ is to have guest blogs published on relevant, high quality websites with backlinks pointed to ‘website X.’ By doing so, they demonstrate to search engines that they are being talked about (linked to) by other relevant, high-quality websites in their niche.  As a result, Google will increase the strength of ‘website X’’ and positively influence their SERP rankings, increase traffic, and increase lead flow.

 

Cracking Down on Guest Blogging

Search engines are well aware of Internet marketing trends, and as they have in the past, continue to crack down on unsavory marketing techniques. Some marketers are creating very low quality guest blogs or even copying previous content in order to link to a desired website in a large-scale, low cost way.

In order to combat this, search engines are penalizing duplicate content, as well as cracking down on low quality websites that are producing large numbers of poorly written guest posts. Search engines want the most credible and honest results for their users and continue to work to attain such results.

In regards to online degree programs, if Google cracks down on a specific degree program for questionable link building, the ranking of the website will be seriously tarnished. This could result in many lost leads, therefore losing the university a large sum of money.

Because of the importance of high quality guest blog websites, marketers need to be aware of and check a variety of factors before posting on a site. One tactic would be to simply check if the website ranks on Google, to make sure it hasn’t been penalized at some point. Another factor is the quality of previous postings and the amount of blatant marketing visible on the website.

 

Guest Blogging and Online Higher Education

As with all businesses looking to generate customers through online marketing, universities and colleges can attain a sharp increase in new leads through a strong online presence. For this to happen, they must rank highly in search engine results and design their websites to be information rich and user friendly. To increase rankings, these universities pushing online programs should strive to acquire backlinks through strong websites by offering well written and engaging guest posts.

Tips for Researching Guest Blog Targets

  • Use search engines to search for guest blogging opportunities in your niche
  • When using search engines you may want to take advantage of the advanced search features found here
  • Once a blog is located, review the site in detail and locate previous guest postings to analyze their quality
  • Only reach out to guest blogs that are relevant to your niche and already contain high quality guest blogs

 

Good luck with future guest blogging and link building endeavors!