A common challenge that even an experienced link builder will face is hitting the ‘wall of niche exhaustion’. Racking your brain for some inspiration and turning up nothing but bad ideas and dead ends. What’s the solution?
I’m going to talk you through how we uncover (to steal a Garrett French phrase) “the deepest veins of link opportunity” by credibly connecting topic areas to you or your client. This should give you an almost limitless pool of link opportunities to work with. I’m not saying my team and I don’t still hit that wall from time to time but we’ll always return to these exercises and nearly always come up with a new direction to head in.
Fundamentally we’re looking to answer this question… Will this link on this website make sense from a user’s perspective?
That’s the key to a defensible link strategy, should you ever need to justify it to a client or your boss. Also, should you ever come under the scrutiny of a Googler (as part of a manual review for example) you would hopefully be able to defend that link as being valid if the search engine didn’t exist – which is the real litmus test in Google’s eyes for the quality of a link.
For each of these activities you can either choose to plot on a spreadsheet or visually with a mindmap. I’m not a particularly visual person as a general rule of thumb but I love to use Mindmeister for doing this. Go figure.
Initially, don’t think in terms of themes; think people, think stakeholders, think customers.
If you are visually mapping all this then you can start by branching out from the middle with the core customer and stakeholder groups. These will be all the people that the business touches. Adopting this approach means that you will find yourself with various topic strands to explore rather than trying to think of the business or website as a whole.
For example, if you run a pest control company. You could tackle the problem singularly and say “we need links from pest control websites” or you could break it down and recognise that this pest control company has customers that are homeowners, facilities managers at big companies, owners of small local businesses. Then explore the niches (and prospect for sites) that these groups of people are likely to be interested in.
This one isn’t always a pool of opportunity but frequently we find local link building opportunities that competitors miss. Even the smallest towns and regions across the UK and the US, for example, have 1 or a number of online publications. These websites are surprisingly approachable and very often with stretched budgets are looking for contributions.
If you can tie a business topic into a local newsworthy event then you’ve got yourself a local interest piece that the editor is going to love you for.
In some instances you’ll score bonus points and get invited to write regularly for them as their “local expert” – this is a great opportunity and a huge credibility boost for you or your client in your target market. To be fair, this is common sense marketing and many local business owners have been doing this for years but usually only in print. Don’t overlook the potential of a local website.
Look out for local media sites that are part of a larger media group because they are likely to have the greatest reach (and offer juicy links), there’s also a chance that your content will be syndicated to the larger regional or national site = more links for you and some solid ones at that.
This is currently one of my favourite ways of circumnavigating “the wall”. Using Google Suggest (and Ubersuggest) you can quickly combine topics to give you a whole new niche to target.
For example, if you’ve been plugging away acquiring links for your client you might have come unstuck having hit up all the decent general finance websites pushing out general content on saving money but with the help of this exercise you can uncover a whole bank of new opportunities; think money saving for seniors, money saving for new parents, money saving for students, couples about to get married… the list goes on.
Granted, “money” is one of those topics that touches upon so many different areas but even if we take something much more niche like our example of “pest control” from earlier…even this turns up suggestions such as child friendly pest control, pet friendly pest control – right away that’s two new niches for you to explore from a link building perspective.
Don’t forget to take notes as the topic combos you’ll uncover will often be content creation gold-dust.
Look for related topics
OK so I stole this one from Ian Lurie’s MozCon presentation but you know what, it is something I find myself doing ever since I heard him talk about it and it’s been sitting under my nose for ages.
Facebook’s advertising platform allows for hyper-relevant targeting of groups of individuals and with a few clicks and entering some details about your target audience you can unearth all manner of topic ideas and veins of opportunity to explore further. You don’t even need to spend a penny on advertising with them.
You can plug in details about your customers, what you think their interests are and it will suggest all manner of other topics for you to consider.
As Ian emphasised to us all, the world is quite a random place and most areas of interest end up connecting to one another. For the purposes of this exercise, there probably comes a point where you’d want to cut off because it’s just too distant a connection but nevertheless I have found the suggestions that Facebook makes (based on its mountain of data) to be invaluable in helping unblock my mind.
Branch out from the best of the best
This exercise could equally be applied to your competitor’s links if they actually have any worth looking at.
Fire up your favourite link explorer, or your spreadsheet of links acquired recently and identify the really good ones. We’ve all got links that are better than others, there’s no shame in it as long as they all serve a purpose.
Armed with the creme de la creme of your link profile, head over to Google’s Display Planner tool (it’s free) and you’ll be able to better understand the audience and profile of these sites you have a link from.
Plug in the site and you’ll get a page full of data but for the purposes of uncovering new pockets of link opportunity, you’ll want to scroll to the “sites also visited” and “audience interests” sections…
The tool isn’t renowned for its accuracy but as a method for setting a new train of thought in motion, it really is second to none. You can see from the example above that all of a sudden we have a number of new topic areas to explore and a list of sites to either attempt to acquire a link from OR to plug into the Display Planner all over again – you could probably get lost for days if you really wanted to.
What about you? When you hit that wall, what’s your solution? Add your thoughts in the comments below.