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With the holiday season looming, assessing the scope for effective SEO link building projects is top of mind for most SEOs. Columnist Chris Liversidge discusses how you can maximize your backlink gain this winter.

The time has come to start planning your link building campaigns for the 2015 holiday season.

But before doing that, it’s important to define what success looks like. Here’s a checklist of potential goals you might set as a result of your link-building efforts:

  1. Grow domain diversity. The variety of domains linking to you is a more important part of your backlink profile than the sheer number of links, so finding new sources of links is critical to inbound campaigns that actually move the needle for SEO.
  2. Capture seasonal trend traffic (and, therefore, links).
  3. Build top-level keyphrase page performance (pages targeted to “christmas toys” and so on).
  4. Hit up social influencers with delightful seasonal content to build content visibility via social channels.

Any or all of the above can be reasonable strategic goals for a seasonal campaign, and they may lay across some firm KPIs — “improve rankings for seasonal keyphrase sets,” for example, or “capture 30 percent market share from a particular seasonal trend traffic.”

It’s important to set priorities, however, so that you don’t spread your efforts too thin. Additionally, determining your priorities will help identify which type of campaign will best meet your strategic goals.

For example, video content intended to ride the wave of a seasonal trend would more greatly benefit the second and fourth options above than the others. (Video content can drive traffic and gain extreme social success while failing miserably to capture links from new domains that matter.)

Once you’ve established your goals and priorities, it’s time to draw up some projects targeted to some underlying KPIs. Let’s establish good KPIs, measurement methodology and time scales first.

Growing Domain Diversity

Looking at domain diversity first, there are two areas for measurement: campaign landing page and general domain backlink diversity.

Measurement for both requires a benchmarking phase, followed by an appropriate period of time for measurement. Building links, particularly links that need to show up in third-party tools, takes time.

I also advocate using multiple tools for backlink measurement so that you can give context to your performance. I typically use Google’s Search Console as one tool, simply because qualification of the value of a link ultimately comes down to Google’s opinion, after all.

Other tools will, by necessity, be third-party, and your personal preference can take priority here. I prefer Ahrefs.com simply because I’ve found its domain depth to be greater than that of other suppliers. Also, I like its historic graphing tools. All options will give you the most important ability here, however: competitive benchmarking.

In SEO, it is important to remember that you don’t operate in a vacuum. So pick your three or four main competitors and make sure you benchmark yourself against them for:

  1. Total links and domain diversity for all pages on domain
  2. Total links and domain diversity for target seasonal hub page

Come February, you should expect all third-party tools to show a fairly accurate picture of movement for yourself and chosen competitors across those metrics. Another benefit of waiting this long is that any short term links (links from blog category listing pages or awful scraping sites) will be long gone.

Calculate a relative performance rate for improvement from benchmark to show alongside your absolute performance change to illustrate overall gain in context. You’ll be surprised how well competitor context goes down with the C-suite.

Capturing Seasonal Trend Traffic & Improving Keyphrase Rankings

Capturing seasonal traffic terms as an objective requires forecasting of trend volumes, so break out Google Trends and identify uptrending top-level generics and associated breakout terms.

Also, get creative. Take a look at your industry trends discussed in trade magazines, conferences and newsletters. Try to survey your target audience if you’re in B2C. What are people talking about or excited about? Think about upcoming fashion trends or movie releases that might play well. Test your ideas with focus groups or customers.

Build out a hit list of terms or groups of terms you are going to try to capture. Benchmark your ranking positions, and take a view on what ranking positions you’d want during the key buying period: traffic captured will be driven from this point, so overlap this strategic option with achieving improved rankings.

Match your keyphrase targets to your site landing pages. Use a tool like Screaming Frog for this if you don’t already have a good idea of the landing page keyphrase targets onsite currently. Run a scrape and pull out the keyphrases matched to <title> and <h1> content; these are your current landing pages for those terms.

Take a moment to ask yourself, “Are these good landing pages?” If not, schedule some content builds for new pages.

Now, take a look at the traffic driven to these pages for the same season last year using your Web analytics package. That’s your benchmark. By how much are you going to drive that traffic up? How much will be via improved rankings and how much by content projects? Set these goals out.

If you are going through this exercise for the first time and have plans for seasonal projects but not necessarily the in-house resources to execute your plans, think about quantifying the value that your performance will bring at this stage, too.

You could calculate the increased revenue generated by the traffic uplift and/or grab the value of capturing that same traffic via PPC or programmatic channels: are you giving the best ROI? If so, you have a strong business case for extra resources to help your inbound projects succeed.

Targeting Social Influencers

Finally, when thinking about targeting social influencers, I recommend using a tool like BuzzSumo to gather intelligence on who the mover and shakers are for particular search terms. Tie these terms into your seasonal keyphrase targets, and use Buzzsumo to find what content worked well in the past for those terms.

At this stage, I like to also pull the backlink information for that highly shared content to triangulate the content’s ability to garner links. If there is a strong crossover, then you have a social audience that is no just engaged but also has a high tendency to link — the perfect audience to prioritise for a successful inbound project.

Final Thoughts

So, get your embarrassing knitted jumpers on early this year, pop a Christmas bauble under your monitor and start humming Bing Crosby songs to get the creative juices flowing on your inbound campaigns and beat the competition to the (non-alcoholic) punch.

Source: Maximizing Links From Seasonal Inbound Campaigns