As a link builder, I usually work with either the business owner or the SEO expert for the company. There are different complexities with each.
Add on my relaying information that they give me to my team – who then interpret it for themselves – and there can be many different ideas about where to find the best linking partners.
If you truly understand your niche, you can find the most relevant sites to reach out to.
If you don’t, you’re going to waste lots of time pursuing links that aren’t as helpful as you’d like.
Let’s look at 10 key questions to consider when sussing out your niche.
1. What Is My Target Demographic?
Google Analytics (and other alternatives) has information about who’s coming to you already.
The more you learn about your demographic, the better prepared you are to approach them and get links.
Note: While your client probably has great ideas about the demographic, do your own research to make sure that it fits with what you’re being told.
Sometimes people (not all of them!) tend to be a bit clueless/naive about who’s really in their audience.
Of course you also have to understand that looking at the existing online audience doesn’t give the full picture as the site may not be optimized in the best way to appeal to their desired target audience.
2. What Social Media Communities Do My Target Audience Flock to Usually?
Here are a few key statistics, according to Pew Research:
- 69% of adults in the U.S. use Facebook.
- 28% use Pinterest.
- 37% use Instagram.
- 27% use LinkedIn.
- 22% use Twitter.
- 24% use Snapchat.
- 73% use YouTube.
- 20% use WhatsApp.
- 11% use Reddit.
Then there are stats that break things down further:
- 79% of adults aged 18-29 use Facebook while only 28% use LinkedIn. 67% use Instagram.
- 46% of adults 65 and older use Facebook but only 8% use Instagram.
Obviously, I can go on and on with this but you get the idea that it’s critical to find out where your audience spends social media time and market to them there.
3. What Language Does My Target Audience Speak?
I don’t mean English or Spanish or German, I mean what are the key terms?
Get a huge list of industry keywords and rank them in order of importance to you, as a marketer.
Rank them also according to search volume. Find the intersections.
4. What Are the Main Terms That My Client/Site Owner Wants to Rank For?
These aren’t always the same as the ones indicated by search volume research.
Some may match up (and those are the sweet spots) but you may find yourself arguing with a client that marketing the phrase “trendy plus-sized clothing” is a better idea than marketing “fashionable women’s sized clothes.”
Or vice versa.
5. What Are My Best Pieces of Content?
Best doesn’t necessarily mean most popular.
(You may have learned that in high school.)
Make a list of what you and the client both think are your best pages and grab some analytics data while you’re at it so that you do get the current popular pages.
Market these in your efforts to get more deep links.
6. What Do I Have to Offer My Audience?
In figuring this out, you can better determine other interests of your audience.
It isn’t enough to know that you have great products.
Do you have the lowest prices, fastest shipping, cheapest shipping costs, daily emailed deals on baby products, signed copies of Henry Rollins photos from his Black Flag days, etc?
7. Who Would Be the Least Likely Linking Partners?
Sites geared toward octogenarians aren’t your best bets for getting links to a site selling punk rock clothing.
I’d also avoid the usual sites that are obviously selling links, have huge amounts of sitewide links, haven’t been crawled in ages, and sport lovely spammy hidden text in their footers.
No one wants bad links.
One of the main issues my link builders always had when they started out was approaching sites that were incredibly unlikely to link to what they were promoting.
8. What Neighborhoods Should I Avoid?
I don’t just mean bad linking neighborhoods here, I mean sites that just kind of suck.
If you’re taking the trouble to approach people and ask for a link, why bother getting it on a site that no one in your demographic would trust?
Traffic and trust mean a lot to a marketing campaign, too.
Unless I’m just nuts, a site devoted to Joy Division isn’t going to throw too much traffic at your pet care site unless, of course, you’re selling seriously sweet little puppy shirts with Ian Curtis’s form emblazoned upon them (and if you are please email me immediately).
9. What Tactics Should I Avoid?
This is more than the old “black hat and white hat” debate which merges with the “ethical vs. unethical” debate as well as getting into “legal vs. illegal” tactics. It’s figuring out which approaches are the least likely to work in a link building campaign for your site.
My link builders approach linking for finance and apparel clients in completely different ways, because target link partners have shown some fairly massive distinctions in how they respond to certain tactics.
At the risk of making sweeping generalizations, the fashion bloggers we deal with don’t usually try to point out that our rates are 50% below market value.
There are certain niches that we just approach with a very “this is what we want, can you do it?” mentality, and there are others that we approach with a “let’s get into personal stuff and maybe talk for ages.”
10. What Are Your Industry Competitors Doing?
These can be brick-and-mortar competitors or online ones.
What are the sites that rank where you want to be ranking?
While there are certainly other avenues to go down, competitive analysis definitely the best way to give you an idea of where you currently stand in relation to everyone else.
If you’re representing a big brand, ask around to see which other brands are viewed as competitors.
Depending upon which group you ask, you may get totally unique results.
Once you have a better understanding of who you’re marketing to, your link building efforts will be clarified enough that you can hopefully quickly toss irrelevant sites to the site and save time.
Some of my team used to have a “cast a wide net” approach while others did more upfront research.
The ones who spent more time trying to determine whether a site truly was a good potential linking partner always came out ahead.