Second Tier Link Building: How to Utilize it For Massive ROI

by on January 31, 2012 | posted in Marketing,Miscellaneous Strategies

An “advanced” link building tactic frequently discussed is the concept of second tier link building – that is, building links to pages that link to you. These concepts are generally used in spammier instances – such as “link wheels” or other less than favorable examples where links can easily be pushed at authoritative domains – with the hope that the benefit passed back to our site is superior to what will have been gained if the link had been pointed direct. Or, in the case of many websites, this “second tier” phantom link building is used as a coverup to leverage spammy tools for benefit without truly putting sites at risk.

All of these factors combine for an idea, that when put into practice, is mostly done with malicious intent. This does not always have to be the case – actually, the power of second tier link building to drive traffic, conversions and further links can be an extremely strong one.

In your Analytics, you undoubtedly (hopefully) have a strong list of referrers back to your site. Some sites drive more visits than others – from different pages, sources and events. However, for any legitimate business, there’s a good chance that a solid few referrers directly drive conversions – consistently – for your business. These “high profile” referring links are the ones we drool over – the holy grail. They pass SEO value, referring traffic, make us money – hopefully creating a circular chain that makes Bill Gates eventually jealous of our bank accounts.

It is standard practice to think of these sites – and the traffic they drive, in isolation – simply as things that are. We can position a link or make a webmaster request to hopefully improve clickthrough rate, but beyond that, we are at the whim of the webmaster linking to us, and we likely leave that domain to grow, stabilize, or drop in traffic all on its own. We may utilize a “second tier link” to push additional value into these sites, but beyond the pure authority and semantic connection they might imbue, they are relatively ignored on a more advanced level.

This, whether clear to us before or not, is a ridiculous failure. The potential for massive ROI gain with second tier link building is very possible – and likely – when we look a little deeper.

Blog Post Dominated Queries As Superior Conversion Mechanisms

Sometimes, outside blog posts are huge conversion generators for businesses – and in many cases, it would be preferred that these external blog posts rank for a top tier term over the website itself – because of the pure “trust signal” a review from a trusted domain imbues. In example, let us look to the query [social media management tools].

Here, Top Rank and Mashable are seemingly neck and neck for the top spot, where they each list a solid rundown of great tools to use for social management. What if you were a company that was listed on Mashable’s post, and not Top Rank? What if you were listed on both? Wouldn’t you prefer to have the page ranking 1st that doesn’t have you thusly compared to 21 other businesses? Yes, of course you would. Because that page would get more views, your business would get more clicks, and you would get more conversions. But if you had simply stood pat and totally ignored the ability to move the Mashable post to number one, you’d miss out on a wealth of beautiful traffic that can convert amazingly well.

And what’s more, you can also gain the SEO benefit that comes from pushing links to the domain that will undoubtedly dribble some link juice out to an external site – your business. In the perfect storm where these blog posts offer a single “social media management tool” review or any other related concept - the value is even greater.

These kinds of blog post dominated queries are the perfect storm – because they are frequently the easiest to move, and they lack the competitiveness and SEO sophistication of other terms. All they require is a little effort and some nice exact match anchors and wahla – you’ve got additional referrers that are estatic to be visiting your business. However, this is not to say that this can’t be done with other, more competitive terms. Sometimes it is not in our best interests to build out and rank a page or domain specifically for long tail term  (such as for the improved conversion an exterior site might allow) – or perhaps, sometimes it is simply easy for us to send an extra link or two to these pages in our link building efforts  – such as using the page as a secondary resource when broken link building  – see my example in this post.

If you are a content driven business, I guarantee that there are referring pages out there like this for your company that only need a slight “push” to improve traffic 30% or more – which means the potential for 30% more amazing, conversion-generating users viewing and clicking your link.

Identifying Referring Search Terms For External Sites

The easiest way to identify the top terms driving referring traffic to your site is directly asking the webmaster. You can establish a real rapport with them if you let them know that you plan on building links in the hope to help you both – which might just be an easy way to get you better link placement, citations on more pages, and more. Sometimes, the webmasters won’t be as sophisticated or responsive to your inquiries, so you may have to go about it yourself.

Hopefully, you know the basics of on-site SEO – look at the title tags, URL string, and then connect the dots back to the Google Adwords tool to find the highest volume terms with the strongest relevance to your business. Competitive research tools like Spyfu can also help reveal the top referring search terms for the domain, although they may not be helpful for determining the specific referrers for a page. If you want to get super, super creative (and borderline crazy genius), it’s even possible that you could utilize pushing up a top-tier third link in the search engines – such as an amazing CNN or Wikipedia link to that second tier page, identified with tools like Open Site Explorer – to increase referrers to the second tier page so you can get additional referrers back to your page through the second tier funnel.

And if you want to get really really really crazy creative – well – go get a life, cause this is all you really need to dominate with this tactic. SEO – and inbound marketing in general – really isn’t that hard.

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