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by BrianHanson

In parts one and two of our Anatomy of an Internet Marketing Campaign series, we discussed the overriding principle of local Internet marketing: creating content for two audiences, humans and search engine robots and on-site search engine optimization. In part three, we’ll discuss a few key off-site marketing strategies.

There are numerous off-site marketing strategies, most of which deal with increasing your search engine rankings and garnering traffic to your website. As a local Internet marketer, we spend a lot of time acquiring backlinks – that is, links from other websites to your website. Before we move into individual strategies, it’s important that you understand the role that links play for Internet marketing and search engine rankings.

Voting with Links

In a capitalist economy, we vote with our dollars. On the Internet, we vote with links. The number, quality and relevance of incoming links your website has plays a large role in which rank a search engine assigns your page or URL. The philosophy is this: search engines want to display the sites that humans will find the most useful and relevant higher than those with incomplete or unrelated information.When a reputable website decides to link another website, the search engine takes that as an endorsement. So, if many quality websites are linking to the same site, it must mean that particular website is also a quality, useful website.

It’s a bit like if you were sitting at a table with a group of ten friends and asking the group to recommend a good mechanic. Let’s say, two of them recommend Al’s Auto Clinic, four of them recommend Bob’s Downtown Service Garage and four of them recommended Clint’s Car Care. Al’s Auto Clinic would get the lowest ranking while Bob’s and Clint’s would rank higher. But let’s say that one of the friends who plugged Bob’s happened to be a fleet manager for a local shipping company who has work done on his vehicles numerous times each month while all the people who preferred Clint’s were just normal commuters with one or two cars. The endorsement from the fleet manager would be given more weight, and thus Bob’s would outrank Clint’s.

It gets more complicated than that, too. For example, if one of the guy’s who voted for Al’s was a known liar or clearly had a bias (for instance, if he was Al himself) then that would effect the weight of his endorsement as well. Unlike in a democratic government where each individual gets an equal vote, there is an immense amount of nuance when it comes to valuing votes and there are subtle variations in the ways that search engines count those votes. All of this will be covered in future posts.

Acquiring Links

Now that we’ve established the importance of links, it’s time to get down to how one gets links.

Directories

In the 20th century, we had the Yellow Pages in the phone book – now, we have web directories. These range from specialized, niche directories such as FindLaw.com, which only lists lawyers to more general directories such as DMOZ, the holy grail of free directories that list websites from every category. Directories can be paid, free, editorial or user reviewed and the benefits to your website vary from directory to directory. Choosing which directories to pursue listing in and how to craft your listing is a studied art and science.

Article Marketing

Content is king 0n the Web, and if your expert two cents are highly valuable, you can stand to get some high quality links. Vast article directories such as ezinearticles.com, buzzle.com and other sites that aggregate content from various niches offer you a chance to share your wisdom and plug your own website in the process.

Blog Marketing

Blogs are communities, news sources, water coolers, PR machines and more. The blogosphere is an ongoing conversation and bloggers have the potential to become mavens, authorities and downright celebrities. The best way to benefit from the blogging community is to add value to it – either by submitting guest blog posts, adding insightful comments or creating linkworthy content on your own blog.

Paid Link Campaigns

You can supplement your organic search marketing campaign with paid advertising, such as pay per click (PPC) campaigns and paid banners, text links and other endorsements. There are numerous opportunities where you can convert cash into links, traffic or mentions and your mileage will certainly vary depending on your site and the paid channel you choose.

Reciprocal Linking

In a world where everyone has the power to give links and everyone is desperate to get them, quid pro quo arrangements are inevitable – both formally and informally. Determining whether it’ll be beneficial or harmful for your Internet marketing offers to enter into a reciprocal linking relationship takes careful consideration.

Press Release Marketing

Both the old and new media still get their scoops from the PR wire, and as a business you can tap into the power of creating media buzz. Like directory management, there’s an art and science to crafting a press release and getting your hot news whispered into the right ears.

Forum Participation

The first online communities were bulletin boards and newsgroups, and they still exist today. Building trust within a forum, message board or other user-driven community can be a valuable part of marketing your own website. But walking the line between spammer and disinterested forum-goer takes finesse.

Local Business Reviews

Many search engines and other directory sites allow users to submit reviews and provide other information about your business. Having numerous favorable reviews and mitigating situations that may lead to negative reviews is key to your business’ online success.

Social Media Marketing

Social media, in a way, is the next evolution of blogging and is even more community oriented than blogs and forums. Volumes could be written on the topic of social media marketing for businesses – and we’ll be covering a significant portion of what might be found in said text book in later posts on this blog.

Producing Awesome Content

Getting links the old fashioned way is the highest hanging fruit on the tree – but it’s by far the juiciest. As a rule, bloggers, journalists, forum posters and social media mavens love to post high quality, provocative and useful content. If you can create high caliber content, then the traffic will come to you. It’s unequivocally ethical, immeasurably cost effective and incomparably valuable for your website. Going viral is equal parts luck, creativity and persistence. But it pays off big time.

These are just a few of the most effective and most practiced link building strategies. We’ll be going more in-depth into each of these in later posts. But next, we’ll be moving on to another important aspect of local Internet marketing: relationship building. We’ve already discussed the importance of optimizing content for readers on your website and the prudence of reaching out to readers and webmasters of other websites. The next step is to talk about how you can create lasting relationships with your past and current clients. Stay tuned!

BrianHanson
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