The first step for me to creating a successful linking campaign is to research the product or service, research the industry, research the audience and then research markets for promotion and exposure.
When I research new link leads I start my search with the industry itself. I open both a word document and a spreadsheet for notes. Iíve found some very interesting tidbits through industry research and suggest you donít cut yourself short on time with this. I look for a variety of things including associations, organizations, and industry newsletters along with industry portals. I figure out who the leaders of the industry are and from there I follow their lead, where are they finding exposure?
When researching the industry itself for links itís also beneficial to see if there is an industry standard. Often times youíll find a standard set of sites that everyone in the industry seems to be linking to and itís helps to figure out why. Is there a way you can offer something from your site that puts you in that category where everyone in the industry almost considers it a Ďmustí to link to you?
In researching an industry you really begin to get a feel for the players. Often times we find our competitors from researching specific keywords and that of course works but I found that coming first from the industry itself gives me a clear view of the players.
Look to the writers. Who is writing about the industry and what are they writing about? I consider the industry writers top contacts to make. Itís more effective to get a writer to mention your site if you first know something about the writer and what appeals to them and then make sure you have something unique, fresh and interesting to share with them to attract their interest. If you are an authority or expert on your subject then offer yourself as a reference for the topic.
Who are the top 20 news sites publishing articles or news bits in your industry? Donít limit yourself to the large sites because pure gems often come in small packages yet have a big punch. What are they publishing? Are they publishing news releases? Do they interview people and if so in what context? Look to the history and go back through their archives.
I also look to universities that train the industry. What are the professors teaching, especially the beyond the basics topics? What links do they include on their reference lists? Who are they reading, promoting and referencing? Are there patterns? Do you see any blanks in the information?
Of course I look to the industry mailing and discussion lists. What are people in the industry talking about? What are the policies for self-promotion? How big a list is it, when does it go out and how current and fresh is the information?
I look at all industry related and niche portals/vortal/hubs and directories. At the very least I look for those that accept submissions, of course advertising opportunities, and if they accept outside article submissions. I found thereís much to be learned from corporate hubs as well that relate to the industry.
Are there website reviewers within the industry or top site and award lists?
Depending on the industry it might help to seek out Dun & Bradstreet, FEDSTATS [fedstats.gov], census data [census.gov] and other resources for additional information on industry trends, business statistics, financial histories and records, profiles of corporate leaders and even industry forecasts. Many countries have their own online resources, Iím just pointing here to US related to give you an idea. I also look for industry studies where possible.
Of course I wouldnít leave out trade shows, trade organizations and associations for information. I also look to consumer groups that relate to the industry. I research briefly the laws surrounding the industry that may relate to promotion. This can be very important in health fields for instance where certain information is ok to promote to physicians while other is ok for patients and consumers. Along these lines then it might be important to understand the industry regulatory issues.
If it fits, researching for case studies can add great benefit to developing strategies and ideas for a linking campaign.
When Iím researching I take tons of notes, clear notes with references. When I look at my notes I think beyond the obvious and try to stretch the ideas in terms of the potential for Linking Outside the Box. [webmasterworld.com] To be good at this you have to have a great product or service with an edge that makes you stand out from the rest and then push the envelop with it.