If you run a website or write a blog then you probably know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is essential to help you gain traffic to your site. But did you know that influencer marketing is good for your SEO? Well targeted and constructed influencer marketing can build up high levels of engagement, and that can flow through to improved SEO for your site.
Summary: Quick Jump Menu
Why Worry About SEO?
Virtually every business that operates a website does it because they hope to convert in some way or other. Maybe they want to sell more of their product online. Perhaps they simply want more people to see their site, to encourage to buy some product in-store. They could possibly be trying to build up an online community and want more people to join their group. No matter the reason that a business chooses to have a website, the fact is they want as many interested people as possible to visit it.
The problem is that people won’t immediately flock to your site the moment you make it live. You won’t suddenly find yourself grabbing the Number 1 in Google. You need to do a combination of marketing your site and structuring it in such a way that you can compete with the millions of other websites attempting to rank on the front page of Google.
Search engine optimization consists of the process of correctly structuring your site, along with some of your website marketing activities, including building up quality links to your site.
SEO can, at times, be a cutthroat business. Your competitors will also be rapidly trying to win over Google’s favor. However, if you do it properly, following relatively straightforward processes, you have a good chance of outflanking the opposition. And influencer marketing can certainly help you with this process.
The key advantage of influencer marketing is that it has highly influential people directing potential customers to your site. Google recognizes this, and in turn, rewards you for being “more important” in its eyes.
Influencer Marketing is All About Building Relationships
If you operate a website it is important that you build up relationships with your niche’s influencers. This will usually be a slow, gradual process.
You might begin by simply commenting on their posts and mentioning them in your comments. You might then develop into asking them questions, and where relevant, providing suggestions to them and their readers.
If you provide valuable assistance it is likely that the influencer will eventually take notice of you. At this point, you may find that they begin to share your material via their social media accounts.
In this situation, they are sending people in your direction without any formal relationship being made. They simply recognize you for your valuable suggestions and tell their followers about your expertise.
Keep cultivating relationships with influencers over the long term. The search engines will come to recognize this and reward these connections.
To Pay or Not to Pay, That is the Question!
One advantage that a brand with a blog has compared to a brand with no real online presence is that the online firm has more options for building up influencer relationships. Anybody can pay an influencer to talk up their products, but if you are willing to put time and effort into building up online relationships you may be able to have influencers help you out for free.
To be of value to you, any influencer you work with needs to have an audience who are likely to have a genuine interest in your product. Google is not silly either, they will know if you are using a wrongly-targeted influencer, simply because you’ve gone for somebody who will work with you for a few dollars and who you haven’t developed a genuine relationship with.
Problems With Chasing Backlinks
There was a time when bloggers and website owners chased backlinks too vigorously. People believed that chasing backlinks was the most important part of SEO, and they would take them from anywhere. People would happily pay for backlinks on dodgy sites, that existed solely for the purpose of sharing links - on any topic imaginable.
It didn’t take Goole long to spot this process and adjust their algorithms to penalize such unethical behavior. Blogging superstar, Jon Morrow, covered this in 6 SEO Mistakes That’ll Make Google Hate You Forever. While his title might be slightly alarming - forever is, of course, a very long time - you certainly wouldn’t want to upset Google by trying these tactics. As he says, “With Google though, ignorance is no excuse. You break the rules, you pay the consequences. End of story.”
Jon’s list of SEO blunders are:
- Buying links - this is the biggest no-no. If you see an ad offering to sell you links, run like the wind! Influencer marketing can generate you far better links than any bought links would - with no worry about incurring Google's wrath.
- Joining the wrong link directories - directories are not bad in themselves, but too many of them have spammy low-value links. Google will not only penalize those spammy sites but also other sites that are listed in those directories – including yours if you are there.
- Article marketing - note that this is not the same thing as content marketing, guest blogging. or indeed sharing articles using your influencers. Article marketing is where you write an article and then “spin” multiple versions of that same article across many different websites, gaining links from every place that publishes one of your “spins”. These sites tend to take articles on virtually any topic. Guest blogging, using a custom written blog post on a genuine site is perfectly legitimate, however.
- Keyword stuffing - you should include some keywords in your posts and web pages, but you need to be careful you don’t overdo it. Using a keyword a few times in your article helps your readers understand the page better. It also signals to Google what you are writing about. If you use the terms too many times, though, your post reads unnaturally, annoying your human readers. Google is smart enough to realize you are trying to game the system and penalizes you accordingly.
- Unnatural anchor text - the term “anchor text” refers to the words that you read in a link, e.g. I used the title to Jon’s article - “6 SEO Mistakes That’ll Make Google Hate You Forever” in my link to his site above. In this case, it makes logical sense - it tells you what he has written about and if you are interested you can follow the link to read more of what he has written (after finishing reading this article first, of course). Your influencers should be savvy enough about writing on the internet to ensure that they use sensible anchor text when they link back to your site. Some people, though, use unnatural or unuseful phrases as anchor text and this affects how much credit that Google gives to the link. A link that simply says “Go Here” doesn’t help the user understand what the link is about.
- Broken links - Google wants its users to have a good user experience. This means that if a page has broken links that don't link to where they are supposed to, Google considers it to be of less value than if it linked correctly. Google, therefore, penalizes pages with bad links, even if there was no attempt to game the system. In this case, they penalize you for not keeping up-to-date with your website maintenance.
Backlinks Are Still Important
Backlinking is still a very important part of Google’s SEO algorithm. Google’s system is now clever enough to tell when a backlink is genuine or not. Only those backlinks that Google believes will provide value to the users are rewarded.
One key way that brands (with websites) can build up backlinks is to write guest posts on relevant, genuine blogs belonging to influencers in your niche.
When you guest post on an influencer's site, the influencer will usually let you include a small bio about yourself, including a link back to your own site. These guest posts can have a number of flow-on benefits.
- The influencer obviously has more readers than you do. If your article is interesting and helpful to them, not just a puff story promoting your business, a percentage of the influencer’s fan base are likely to follow the link in your bio to take a look at your site.
- The more traffic you gain from this source, the more favorably Google looks at the page that the influencer links to
- With your Google ranking improving, more people will see you in the search rankings and your organic search visitors will increase
As you can see, a simple guest posting process with an influencer can gradually improve your own rankings.
You might want to think carefully about exactly where you choose to direct your incoming links. Yoast (who produce the Yoast SEO plugin for the WordPress platform) makes a real point of educating their users about the importance of cornerstone content. The cornerstone content on your website is your most important content.
These are the four or five pages that best tell your visitors what your site is about. They are pages, as distinct from posts, because they don’t date, and remain current over time. They will usually be your most visited pages.
Therefore it makes sense that any guest post you write (or indeed any links that you try and obtain from influencers) should direct towards your cornerstone content.
One mistake that many websites make is that they link to their Home page. The problem is that the Home Page can be a “Jack of All Trades” page. It is far better to use specialist cornerstone content pages for your important content.
Cornerstone content is very important for your SEO. Over time, particularly if you only sell a relatively narrow range of products or services, you are going to have a lot of content on similar themes. There is a danger that your main SEO competitor is yourself. Continually reusing keyword terms is called keyword cannibalization. By having clear cornerstone content (which can often be about relatively high-level keyword terms) and then linking all of your posts about similar topics, which chase longer-tail keyword terms, you make your structure very clear to Google.
You can then tie things together by ensuring that when you guest post or use other material with influencers, the link you share comes back to the most suitable item of cornerstone content
For instance, suppose you operate a website about sci-fi and fantasy. You might have cornerstone content pages for each of Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. Over time you might create another 100 posts about various aspects of those four shows, but if each post links back to the relevant cornerstone content page you won’t have any problems. Perhaps you manage to gain a guest post on Sci-Fi Bloggers, and you arrange to write a Doctor Who-related article for them. In this situation, you should include a link in your bio to your Doctor Who cornerstone content page. Any of the followers of Sci Fi Bloggers who take an interest in your article and want to learn more would be taken directly to your Doctor Who cornerstone content page.
It can be difficult to continually come up with fresh, entertaining, usable content. Some brands have got around this problem by effectively crowdsourcing their content. This is particularly useful on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube - you don’t have to be a great writer to take a photo or record a video of an interesting event.
Red Bull, for instance, has been involved with many crowdsourced campaigns over the years. This includes inviting skaters and surfers around the world to post videos of their skills on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube, asking others to rate them.
As a result of years of crowdsourcing, Red Bull now has access to thousands of compelling stories, photographs, and videos. Millions of people have shared this content (including links to Red Bull) across the internet.
Google looks favorably at all of these shares and boosts their visibility.
Overall, influencer marketing can be an excellent way to improve your site’s overall SEO. Just don’t rush in trying to build relationships overnight. It takes time to build up relationships, just as it takes time to improve your Google rankings. SEO, guest blogging, and influencer marketing are all activities you need to be involved in for the long-term, where you can’t afford to become discouraged by a lack of instantly visible results.