Enterprise Link Acquisition for Top of the Funnel Marketing

Links are integral to the web, fundamental to SEO, and yet, even big companies are failing to secure the links they deserve. Simply being a large company with brand recognition isn’t enough to rank for everything. It helps, but despite a robust backlink profile, these companies still often have valuable assets that aren’t getting the links they need and deserve, and are subsequently languishing in obscurity.

In a 2014 study, BrightEdge found that 51 percent of all website traffic comes from organic search. Search is not a channel to ignore, and that means links cannot be ignored either. Link strategy should be part of your online marketing agenda.

My experience marketing on the Web is that links require intentional, strategic effort to secure, particularly if you want search visibility to a specific page on your site. This is where many companies are struggling: securing meaningful visibility for top of the funnel pages. The goal should be to build a strong site entrance that will build awareness and establish value for our client’s audience.

Enterprise Necessitates Strategy, Not Tactic

First, it’s important SEOs recognize the importance of strategy, versus a handful of tactics. When applied to enterprise SEO, strategy should comprise a combination of research, analysis, tactics, and implementation. You can’t execute a tactic or two, and expect success or trust from the client. Any link acquisition campaign will need to be customized to a variety of factors critical to the business, including:

  • Current marketing initiatives
  • Target audience
  • Brand affinity
  • Partnerships
  • Community engagement
  • Press coverage
  • Linkable assets
  • Site analysis
  • Determined goals
  • Unique selling point

Link campaigns for enterprise businesses are more involved, plain and simple. Here are some pain points SEOs need to address, both before and during a link campaign for enterprise brands:

  • Quality
  • Brand representation
  • Integration
  • Scalability

The Example: Williams-Sonoma

Let’s look at the example of Williams-Sonoma. Looking for linkable assets and opportunity, I started with the company’s blog, Taste.

The quality of the blog is fantastic and it’s clear Williams-Sonoma invested significant effort into creating useful, shareable content for their audience. And it’s paid dividends for SEO:

williams-sonoma-blog-backlinks

There are 3,289 referring domains; is there even anything worth improving? This immediately led me to the recipes page. Recipes are a perfect example of searchable content which focuses completely on audience value, and can build brand affinity and translate into customer loyalty.

This is classic top of the funnel marketing: Williams-Sonoma is not pushing its products or services, but rather, finding a relevant way to add value for its audience. Recipes have huge opportunity to bring real people to Williams-Sonoma’s site.

williams-sonoma-recipes-blog

The recipes are composed of strong visual content with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. They also represent a decent portion of Williams-Sonoma’s content strategy: about one in 10 posts is a recipe. So, let’s look at the links to the recipe page.

williams-sonoma-recipe-backlinks

Five referring domains. Checking the deeper categories such as breakfast and soups reveal a similar situation: virtually zero links. Poorly-linked content in competitive SERPs means Williams-Sonoma is not ranking on page one for head recipe terms such as:

  • Breakfast recipes
  • Soup recipes
  • Dessert recipes
  • Starter recipes

The individual recipe pages also have few, if any, links, although they rank decently well individually, in long tail searches specific to the recipes, based upon the authority of the domain. General analysis of William-Sonoma’s site also reveals issues beyond links. There are also a handful of technical SEO and UX issues, as well.

First, the URL: http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/cat/recipes. Having the recipes page live in the subfolder “cat” is less than ideal. There is no content on blog.williams-sonoma.com/cat. It’s not great to tell Google that cat – as in, an adult kitten – is relevant to this content.

Second, the recipe page, while visually pleasing, doesn’t present the best UX. There are 73 pages of various recipes, sorted chronologically. The only way to sort the recipes is by hovering over the recipes page and choosing one of the submenus:

williams-sonoma-recipe-categories

These category pages also present recipes chronologically, with multiple pages (as many as 23) per category, and no way to further sort.

Third, and worst of all, Williams-Sonoma has duplicated the recipes between its main site and blog, which is a subdomain. For example, check the pan-fried halibut recipe on the blog and on the main site. Both pages are using rel=canonical with themselves as the source. Every single recipe is duplicated between the blog and main site, and all have rel=canonical tags pointing to themselves.

Fourth, Williams-Sonoma hasn’t actually created subcategory pages – such as simple breakfasts – but rather, built in dynamic search functionality on click: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/search/results.html?activeTab=recipes&words=simple_breakfasts.

This is not good for indexation, and creates very sub-optimal results and experience for anyone coming to these category pages via search. For example, searching “breakfast recipes” in Google returns this page, which ranks 25th. For reference, here is the blog’s breakfast recipe page. A very suboptimal result.

However, the recipe page itself is good: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe. There are 72 referring domains, as well. There is opportunity here.

williams-sonoma-recipe-main-page-backlinks

Long story short, Williams-Sonoma has technical SEO issues with a dash of UX considerations to fix. Recipes offer a huge opportunity for top of the funnel marketing, but unfortunately, Williams-Sonoma is missing the mark in search.

I would suggest investing more into building well-designed recipe pages, cleaning up the rel=canonical issue, ensuring optimal internal linking, and creating a link strategy for this asset so it gets the search traffic it deserves.

Disclaimer: I did this analysis as a quick example; this is not meant to be an SEO audit or an example proposal. Based on what I did find, I’m sure there are issues I didn’t address. A real analysis/pitch would be much more comprehensive.

Now that I’ve covered an example of the top of the funnel marketing I’m discussing, I’d like to briefly mention vital elements of any link acquisition campaign for an enterprise business.

1. Campaign, Strategy, and Link Quality

Enterprise means structure. There is a chain of command, and everyone will have a supervisor. The most common phrase you will hear is, “I need to sell my boss.” Proposals, objectives, KPIs, and fiscal planning are vital. You do not want to make the mistake of going into a meeting or proposal with enterprise businesses to discuss “link juice.”

Explain your recommendations in a professional, clear manner, demonstrating business value first. Quality is key. Enterprise businesses have the budget to afford the best. Your proposal should be detailed, refined, clear, and concise. It should outline:

  • Strategy assessment
  • Campaign goals
  • Proposed tactics
  • Site/audience analysis
  • Potential obstacles
  • Expected results
  • Budget

There are no shortcuts in large brand link building, and quality across the board is key in service, communication, proposal, campaign, and most of all, link acquisition.

2. Brand Representation

Brand equity is a key concern for enterprise-level marketing. It’s vital that any SEO pursuing link acquisition accurately represents the brand, with minimal oversight.

Because link acquisition requires interacting with a wide variety of online communities relevant to the brand, the ability to represent oneself well is crucial, as is building trust within the company itself. You’ll need trust to independently represent the brand well, which means you must prove your ability to represent the company appropriately before the campaign even starts.

Any SEO pitching a link strategy will need to speak to brand representation, demonstrate a keen understanding of brand positioning, USP, and audience.

3. Integration

Any good link campaign starts with opportunity analysis. The Williams-Sonoma is hopefully a small example of this.

Simply being a recognizable brand in the space creates opportunity. Furthermore, there will be current marketing campaigns or previous campaigns that create favorable link opportunities. Leveraging opportunity in link acquisition can take a variety of forms, such as:

  • Broken link building
  • Mentions
  • Proprietary images
  • Competitor backlink analysis
  • Partnerships
  • Community involvement
  • Charity

Integrating with other departments, consulting on future initiatives, and building your link acquisition strategy around current opportunities is imperative.

4. Campaign Scaling

Campaign scaling does not mean automation. Quality, longevity, and brand integration remain key.

Enterprise businesses compete at high levels. Whether that means more competitive markets with other recognizable brands, or competing in more diverse markets, or both, the end result is the same: a fiercely competitive marketspace. Depending on goals, the pages you’re promoting and opportunities available, you’ll need to be ready to scale your efforts to meet demand.

The opportunity for growth with enterprise clients is tremendous if you prove campaign efficacy. You’ll need to establish trust within the company, drive results, and fight for budget. Then, you’ll need to be prepared to scale with budgetary increases.

This means scaling human effort. If you aren’t ready to grow and scale your campaign, you’ll never meet the needs of an enterprise-level business.

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