Leveraging Links: A Bigger Online Footprint
As you build your business and your brand, developing your online presence will help you to increase your visibility and create a bigger footprint. Every piece of content on your website, each social media post, online member profile, blog article, video or photo — in fact, any element online that has a web address — helps to grow your online footprint.
Of course, credibility is key. You can create a big ‘ole online footprint with a bunch of mediocre reviews and blog posts that don’t offer anything useful or informative. So as a new company, a new brand, a new offering or product — how, exactly, do you create an online footprint to attract the attention of search engines and potential customers?
There are (literally) hundreds of ways. Both on-page and off-page search engine optimization (SEO) strategies are required, and it takes a focused and ongoing commitment to inch your way up those search results pages.
Let’s drill down to a more manageable subject for today’s discussion:
Leveraging outbound links
One key factor in ranking for search engines is authoritative links. While inbound links are the primary objective, link building is a process. Think of an outbound link as an outstretched hand. Outbound links frequently lead to inbound links.
Links within your site are also important, as they provide the visitor and search engine more information on a particular topic, demonstrating authority and command of your subject.
Links should be logically placed within your site, and when possible, they should be contextual — that is, within the body copy. Generally, it’s not a good idea to place links in your website footer or to provide a list of links without context (in fact, doing so can be perceived negatively by search engines, actually hurting your search ranking).
At a loss for what sites to link to? Read on.
Five types of outbound links to include on your site
1. Industry organizations: You probably have affiliations with industry organizations, trade associations, user or interest groups in your niche. You may also have relevant certifications or credentials from these organizations. This involvement illustrates your training, know-how and commitment to staying abreast of trends in your areas of expertise. Include outbound links to these organizations on your website About page.
2. Online reviews: Search engines love customer reviews. Online review sites like Yelp and Google Places help increase your credibility and visibility. If applicable, seek out industry-specific rating organizations like Trip Advisor (for travel and restaurants), Angie’s List (for home services) or ZocDoc (for physicians). To encourage reviews, include a link from your website to the review site with instructional copy asking clients to review your business.
3. Suppliers, partners and affiliates: As your business grows, so will your network of marketing partners and related business, such as vendors, dealers, retailers or wholesalers. While certain relationships are best held close to the vest, oftentimes linking to partner sites can enhance your credibility. These links provide relevancy signals to search engines, reinforcing the validity of the content on your website.
4. Geographically-based organizations: Despite the appeal of the seemingly limitless world online, customers also need a sense of the “face behind the curtain” to create trust. Developing and demonstrating involvement with local organizations helps illustrate your connection to the community. Invest in relationships with local Chambers of Commerce, town government, schools and other local organizations, and link to their sites. If you have an online listing or profile on their site, ensure it is complete and accurate.
5. Thought leaders and experts: Hopefully, you’re considered the premier expert in your field. More likely, you haven’t quite gotten there yet. Securing links from industry experts can be difficult, but if you blog, creating an outbound link is a natural first step. A blog post referencing an article from an expert, which offers your insights and perspective (a very important element) creates an outbound link that serves as a positive credibility signal to the search engines.