Optimizing a site for search often revolves around your ability to gain links from high quality sources.
Protecting your brand on the web is often connected to your ability to quickly and transparently address issues that may soil your reputation.
Both of these important Internet marketing tactics, need to be cultivated through a healthy foundation of market contacts.
I discussed one way I address this during my in-house, enterprise work in my Site Rejuvenation post. A few comments were made about the time consuming nature of this concept. It is time consuming, but the point of the plan is to gain the high quality links in rich text that can make or break an SEO campaign. Market networking and Site Rejuvenation don’t take any more time than most spend purchasing links, and their effects have more upside.
How to Network in your Market
The most important part of networking within your market is choosing who to make connections with. You will obviously want to shy away from direct competitors if your at the enterprise level, but luckily for you direct competitors do not make up your total market.
If you are an eCommerce site owner look for:
1) Market bloggers
2) Market publishers with ezines
3) eCommerce webmasters that sell products within your market, but not in direct competition (i.e. if you sell Cadillacs and they sell Kias)
4) Forum moderators
5) Wiki editors that favor topics that deal with your market
6) Youtube contributors that have accounts with content related to your topic
If you are a publisher your choices are a little more open, since even direct competition can make a quality market connection.
As you make these connections be transparent. Let them know you are looking to build a network to further your marketing strength. It is likely they will looking to do the same. In the case of wiki editors and forum moderators, although it means you will not be able to spam their sites now, it does mean that you will be able to feed them information you are hoping they will spread onto their sites and make stick.
Transparency is key.
How to Utilize Connections for Link Building
There are many ways to utilize a strong network for link building:
1) Built in press release distribution network
2) Team up for linkbaiting, co-create and push topics and split links and traffic.
3) Use positive relationships to push linked content onto network publishers
4) Team up on micro-site strategies
5) Utilize relationships to mass market linkbait to network connections’ mailing lists
6) Offer links to your site within your connections’ existing content as an added resource for their readers
7) Three way linking with the two tier network created by you, your contacts, and their network connections
Obviously there are as many as your creativity allows, and these are the most obvious and basic.
How to Use the Network to Protect Your Rep
The best part of building a strong network of market contacts is that you have instant control over any issue that may arise in terms of your reputation on the Internet.
Lets say you own a blue widget (god that’s cliche) company that recently recalled a faulty product:
1) Contact your forum moderator contacts to let them know about the issue, being transparent, and how you are fixing it. The may become your PR on scathing message boards
2) Release a transparent piece of press to your contacts FIRST!
3) Contact your wiki editors to let them know about the issues, and how you are resolving it. This could lead to them editing negative items in the wiki with the positive outcome.
4) Contact market publishers to see if you can do a guest post apologizing to their readers, and adding incentive for remaining a loyal client.
Instead of trying to find a strategy to defuse the issue, one is already in place when you have a well developed network. It is as simple as getting the information out.
How to Retain Your Network
When I am talking about a network of connections I am not talking about a group of people you have in your email address book from in your market, or some guy you met once at a trade show. These are people you should be talking to on almost a daily basis, cultivating a real relationship. You should be offering as much to them as they offer to you, as is the reality with any relationship.
5) Comments on your connections blog
6) PMs on forums
7) Phone calls
to keep in contact with your connections. The more personal the better. Know their birthdays, know their families, become a real friend on-line and you will see the benefit of that relationship in terms of links, traffic, and crisis management.
How do you utilize market connections? How do you make connections that last?
Some other posts on this topic (some of these posts are older but still useful):
Search Engine Guide- There’s No Shortcut for Link Building: A Case for Relationship Building
Search Engine Watch – Link Building from the Heart: Giving to Get
TopRank Blog – Future of Online PR and Reputation Management