Ten years ago, there was no such thing as “social media.” But there was social friendly content (blog posts, video, infographics, etc.) and social networks (we called them forums) and guest posts. There were also plenty of influencers for virtually every niche in existence. Granted, there were a lot fewer of each of these things, and they didn’t get nearly the amount of mainstream press that they do now, but any marketer (particularly of the SEO variety) worth their salt was already leveraging these elements to build the links that ultimately provided the foundation of their SEO success.
Fast forward to 2012, and it’s clear to me that the only way sustainable way to build SEO-friendly links for an enterprise brand is via this thing of ours that we now call social media. Paid links definitely still work, but big brands that rely on them usually end up as NY Times article fodder. Cookie cutter techniques like directory submissions and article syndication likely have some value, but for competitive niches such as my new employer’s online shopping universe, these outdated approaches simply don’t have the juice to be a game changer.
But building links via social media is, for lack of a more sophisticated phrase, really freakin’ hard.
Why? Because it requires close coordination and alignment with a variety of parallel business divisions and stakeholders.
You have the usual suspects such as brand marketing and public relations. These are key because they can provide leverage and connections that get you in the door with top tier social influencers like celebrities and traditional publishers. Then there’s the social media and content marketing team (or teams depending on how your organization is configured). Trying to develop the content assets needed to facilitate social media-driven link building without having buy-in and support from those folks is an exercise in futility and frustration (all too often, I see SEO teams attempt to create link-building content assets in a vacuum, and 99% of the time those efforts fail before the content even has a chance to be created).
And for some verticals, there can also be legal or even tax-liability hurdles that need to be overcome before any significant link building efforts can begin.
This is no small task. It’s time-consuming and potentially painful, with plenty of need for education and mentoring along the way.
That said, the brave and patient souls that are willing to work through this myriad of communication, presentation, and approval end up reaping truly massive rewards. After all, Aaron Wall is right when he insinuates that it’s nearly impossible to outrank a big brand that’s got all of its ducks in a row.