Back in March, Google confirmed what we have suspected for quite some; that links and content are the top two ranking signals. Whilst this came as no surprise to most SEOs, what this does highlight is the importance to devise both a content and a link building strategy, regardless of the industry within which you operate.
As such, one of the most commonly asked questions surrounding link building in particular is how links can be built (or should that be earned) in industries typically seen as boring. That is, those industries where it’s difficult to earn links simply by writing great content and outreaching it (often because there’s few blogs and publications covering the industry).
The bottom line is that if you want to rank at the top of Google, you need to earn links and what sets apart a great link building from an average link building is being able to do this regardless of the industry within which a business operates.
As such, here’s five ways to build links in boring industries.
‘Find A Supplier’ Pages
One of the most commonly overlooked approaches to link building (and an easy one at that) is to use your wider business connections. Businesses which retail products or offer services which involve the supply of goods will almost always be able to benefit from this approach.
Firstly, start by collating a list of all your suppliers, complete with their URL; be that manufacturers of products which you sell direct or those which you supply as part of a service. The number of targets on your list will differ significantly depending upon the industry which you work in, however most businesses will usually find they’re able to get at least a handful.
Once you’ve compiled this list, head to the suppliers website and take a moment to scout around for a page titled ‘Find A Supplier’ or similar. Whilst there won’t always be one present, you’re looking out for something a bit like this:
What you see here is a list of suppliers for Fruit Of The Loom, sorted by those in the UK.
If you ran a business which was an official supplier for their brand of clothing but weren’t listed (in many cases, you’ll need to ask to be added to their suppliers directory), you could simply drop an email to your contact at the company to request that you are added to the list.
Top Tip: When contacting one of your suppliers with a request to be added to their list of suppliers, always take the time to send over your information in the format which they use. You’ll find this by taking a look at other listings. This makes it as easy as possible for them to add your business and reduces the work on their part. By making it easier you increase your chances of having the link added.
Position Yourself As A Thought Leader
Regardless of the industry which you work in, whether it is manufacturing, finance or a whole host of others which most people generally wouldn’t find interesting, more often than not there will be at least a couple of relevant online publications and blogs.
As such, the way to use this to your advantage to earn links is to position yourself as a thought leader and offer expert contributions to these publications. In some ways, it’s akin to guest blogging, however in many ways, it’s so much more than that as the key to success here is to establish relationships which allow you to become a regular contributor.
The first step here is to find publications in your niche.
Whilst there’s a good chance you may know about some of the publications which exist, there’s almost always ones which you don’t know about, especially when you start to look globally rather than simply in your own territory.
To showcase an example here, we’ve chosen an industry which we work in on behalf of a client; rubber manufacturing.
Upon first working with the client, we set about to identify worldwide publications which cover the niche, using the following approach:
Begin by turning to Google and running a simple search of “[topic] + news” – in this instance, “rubber news.”
What this should return is a list of publications covering news topics within the vertical:
Excluding the news result here, we see rubbernews.com and prw.com, two very established global publications. Continuing down the first page of the SERP’s returns a number of others in addition to this.
You will see similar, niche results, almost regardless of the industry which you search for.
From there, it’s a case of visiting the sites to establish which cover not only news but editorial and features as well. If we look here at prw.com, we see the following:
The key to being accepted as a contributor here is to propose topics which are nothing short of great. Sub-par content won’t cut it here, neither will topics and content concepts which have been covered previously.
You really need to get your thinking hat on here and come up with a bank of topic ideas which you, as someone working within an industry, knows is of great interest to the publication’s target audience. As an expert, you are looking to offer value and knowledge, using their platform as an outlet.
Once you have a list of target publications and topics, take the time to email each, usually touching base with the editor.
Going back to the example of prw.com, their dedicated ‘Contact Editorial’ page offers the following:
In this instance, an email to Features Editor, Keren Sall, would be best recommended, making sure you highlight your experience within the industry and why your contributions would add value and insight to their publication.
Submit To Niche Industry Directories
Whilst ‘business directories’ were one of the main contributors to the first round of Penguin penalties, they were those which were created solely for the purpose of building links.
As a result of this, many now avoid business directories in fear of being penalised by Google, however the truth is that no website has ever been, or ever will be, penalised for being listed on a real directory which is of value.
If we look for a second at an example of a spammy directory which is like that used by thousands of SEOs pre-Penguin, we can clearly see that it’s non-niche specific and adds very little value to those browsing it:
In fact, the real giveaway here is the use of exact match anchor text on the URL of the top listing as well as an over-optimised, short description.
If we look instead at a niche directory in the same vertical as above (promotional products), yet which adds real value to users and is seen as an established industry resource, we see:
In comparison, what we see here is a niche-specific directory which sorts companies by the products which they offer and creates a valuable resource for those sourcing a supplier.
You will find such resources and business directories in just about every niche and vertical and the easiest way to source these opportunities is to run a simple Google search for “[topic] + directory.” If we use the above example again and search “promotional products directory” we see a number of great results:
There is no risk at all by submitting your business to such specific directories and, in many ways, they’re valuable, highly relevant links which are waiting to (easily) be claimed. Your competitors are likely already using these links so be sure to get on a level playing field quickly and easily.
Build A Resource Centre
No matter what your industry, there’s always questions which people are asking and want answering and there’s also no denying the fact that journalists and bloggers naturally link to in-depth resources to add value when covering a particular topic.
Whilst it’s by no means a quick and easy task, take the time to build up a resource centre and the links will (so long as it’s high enough quality and you put in the time to promote it) begin to roll in. So long as it’s evergreen content, there’s no reason why this won’t continue…so long as no one creates something better.
When it comes to putting together a resource centre, ask yourself the questions which your clients (and potential clients) and customers are asking and ensure you cover these topics…in depth. Take the time to go into as much detail as you think is needed to answer questions but always consider applying the skyscraper technique.
For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, one coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, it’s one which any link builder needs to know about and needs to be using on a regular basis. Whilst the link above will outline the full technique, in short it involves ensuring that the content which you produce is better than that which already ranks in top spots. Not always easy but a technique which is known to deliver fantastic results.
Moving back to the concept of developing a resource centre, the number of resources within this will differ from industry to industry but it’s something which you should dedicate time to building up.
To get an idea as to a great resource centre which is currently working wonders for a brand in the finance sector, the ‘Mortgage Guides’ and ‘Calculators’ from L&C perfectly showcase this:
All of the content within tackles the topic brilliantly and answers the questions which potential mortgage applicants may have. Of course, creating this sort of content is not only great for attracting links but it helps to drive leads further up the sales funnel and, ultimately, contributes towards stronger rankings alongside the rollout of RankBrain.
Design & Promote An Infographic
Who ever said infographics were dead? Despite becoming a little overused in recent years (not to mention the wealth of rubbish being produced), if you can design and promote an infographic which looks great and, most importantly, showcases useful information, you’ll attract high quality links.
As you’ve probably guessed, the success of this approach almost exclusively lies with having a great concept as even if you have a professional design and a great outreach strategy, if the foundations don’t stack up and people aren’t interested, you won’t see any traction.
When it comes to coming up with a concept, involve people from different departments within your company, not just those in marketing or sales. Even ahead of coming up with your own concept, however, this guide from NeoMam does a great job of outlining 9 types of infographic which get shared. Those which get shared are also usually those which get linked to.
Perhaps the most effective way to generate a large volume of potential ideas for your infographic is to use the ‘635 Brainwriting’ approach outlined by Tecmark. This, essentially, involves six people, five minutes and three answers. Take 10 minutes to read more about the approach and give it a try with your team.
Ultimately, however, you need to come up with a concept for your infographic which covers an emotive topic and which your audience can connect with.
When working in what may be dubbed as a ‘boring’ industry, try and think outside the box.
Working with CitybaseApartments.com, we wanted to branch out this approach and do something a little outside of the travel-space to widen the link profile and earn top tier approaches. Between ourselves and the client, a wealth of travel-related content is produced on a monthly basis and whilst this is great, we were keen to try something a little different to earn links whilst still staying relevant to their audience. As such, we launched an infographic titled ‘Mapping The Price Of A Pint’ which pitted different cities across the UK against each other on the cost of a pint of beer as well as comparing to the rest of Europe.
This piece earned some great coverage within a week:
Links were earned from sources including the Telegraph, London Evening Standard and Lifehacker. Essentially, top-tier links which really move the needle when it comes to rankings.
Whilst perhaps not in the most boring of industries, this shows how being creative and stepping outside the box a little can work well to earn links from new sources.
Returning to our previous topic of ‘rubber,’ we recently launched an infographic which looks at closing the workforce skills gap, a hot topic amongst manufacturing businesses and one which is already starting to pick up some great links in what is considered an industry which is difficult to build links in!
At the end of the day, a website’s link profile is only as good as it’s link building team but for a great link builder, a boring industry shouldn’t mean it’s impossible to earn links. Yes, it may be more difficult than your typical consumer industry, but it should simply be seen as a challenge; one which, when executed correctly, will result in links which turn into fantastic rankings!