Building Links with Big Brand Websites, Part 1

One of the most discussed, yet vague, topics in search optimization is link building. Nobody seems to agree on how to go about building links into a site, yet everyone agrees that your linking relationships are crucial to how your site ranks (or doesn't rank as the case may be).

Search engines themselves have become increasingly efficient in determining what are legitimate links vs. links inflated for the purpose of ranking. As a result, many tactics that may have worked back in the day are no longer valid.

What I find interesting is that other bloggers discuss link building almost exclusively in relation to new or smaller sites. What about when you're managing linking relationships with a large brand? How about a large brand that already has a page rank of 8 or higher with a few million links pointing to it?

While the general linking theories hold true for a site of any size or reputation, things change quite a bit on a tactical level. Let's be honest, I'm not going to go about driving links to a startup Sarrusophone enthusiast site the same way I would Wal-Mart's website.

In a situation where the very nature of the brand engenders lots of inbound links, we need to be more concerned with where those links are coming from, and how the brand stacks up with influencers and authoritative sites in their industry. In fact when discussing linking relationships with a site like Wal-Mart’s, I would submit that it's actually part of a larger conversation on audience engagement. But we'll factor out the larger component and focus on the tactical level of engaging the core audience through search (well the 20,000 foot view of it anyway).

With large popular sites, we become less concerned about how links build trust with an engine, and more concerned with building relationships with the right core audience so engines better understand who that core audience is (which should get interesting with the advent of the semantic web). There are some obvious advantages a ubiquitous brand has over a startup or lesser known brand (offline presence, sponsorships, etc). But beyond that, a large company with a lot of resources to mobilize has awesome opportunities to really achieve successes without doing a WHOLE lot of things different than they already are.

In tomorrow’s segment, I’ll discuss some of the things I have observed larger brands do (or not do, in some cases) that have a direct effect on their linking and relationships with their core audience.

Posted by: Dave McAnally, Product Specialist, Natural Search


Kowisk said...

Hey Dave-

I enjoyed the article, and although we've already discussed the finer points of linking relationships with regards to Sarrusophone clients, I did have a serious question.

You write that "With large popular sites, we become less concerned about how links build trust with an engine, and more concerned with building relationships with the right core audience..." WIth that in mind, what's your take on sites like My Starbucks Idea and other initiatives that attempt to foster a sense of community around a big brand and engender dialogue between the company and its consumers? It seems like a shrewd idea to me, but are there any potential pitfalls?

Dave McAnally said...

Funny I thought I responded to this but it didn't show up...weird.

Anyway, I think what you're talking about gets more into that "audience engagement" issue. If I understand the question, you're asking if Starbucks were to launch a brand new site, would they still need to treat it like their uber-ubiquitous main site. My answer to that would be yes and no. I certainly think their offline (specifically instore) promotions could totally tie into a microsite to engage users. But when you add all that up, we're still talking about identifying the right audience and engaging them. I'd place less emphasis on getting into directories and so forth, and more on generating buzz in the appropriate forums, social networks etc etc.

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