A link-building case study: Using brand mentions and competitive linking tactics

Today I want to showcase a successful link-building campaign we conducted for a new website and walk through the process in the event others may learn and benefit from what we did.

The situation

This campaign launched in March 2017 and was done over six months. The website was five months old and had roughly 15 core pages when the campaign began. The brand had historically relied on offline marketing and was new to digital marketing and SEO but wanted to grow organic traffic for the site as a whole.

Analysis showed that although the site was relatively small and underpromoted, it had a realistic ranking opportunity.

The campaign

Initially, the campaign was to run for a three-month trial period and include a blog launch, but complications came up, and the blog was unable to launch until several months after the campaign started.

This setback led to an adjustment in link-building strategy toward tactics that didn’t rely on fresh, link-worthy content.

Tactic one: Mention links

While the company was relatively new to digital marketing, it had a recognizable brand through its offline efforts. This provided the opportunity to pursue unlinked mentions.

Through these brand mentions, the company earned links to their home page, as well as to relevant, geo-specific pages when appropriate. We were also able to find other types of online publicity and mentions aside from brand-specific mentions. Additional links were secured through the following link-building tactics:

  • Employee quotes.
  • Newsworthy partnerships.
  • Interviews.
  • Business announcements (e.g., IPO filing, investments, promotions).
  • Charity events.

The company had a strong brand and also operated within a niche frequently talked about in the news. This created an ideal environment for unlinked mentions. Even lesser-known brands can effectively pursue mention links if they work in an industry with lots of news coverage.

How to get mention links

To help you understand and apply the “mention-link” tactic for your own campaigns, here’s a real-world example to demonstrate this tactic (Note: I have no affiliation with this company).

The company 3dRudder (no affiliation) has a foot controller used to enhance a virtual reality experience. I noticed they have an unlinked mention opportunity on TechRadar:

Despite being a lesser-known brand, the link opportunity is noteworthy since the brand exists in a newsworthy niche, and the link next to the mention points to an additional unlinked mention opportunity!

Mention links can offer a significant boost for a link-building campaign and should be part of a link strategy for recognizable brands or those within a newsworthy industry.

Tactic two: Competitive research

Competitor research should be explored at the beginning of any link-building campaign, since it helps create and inform a campaign strategy.

In my experience, understanding how and why the competition is succeeding is vital to beating them. The majority of link opportunities your competitors earn will be relevant to your site, so it stands to reason you should get the same links.

Since the client lacked linkable assets at the beginning of the campaign, we focused on competitor links that didn’t require content creation. This research uncovered a handful of relevant directories and resource pages which helped them round out their link profile in the early months of the campaign.

How to get links like your competitors’

Here’s how you can find and get some of the same links your competitors have. I am going to use 3dRudder in my example again, plus SprintR (Note: I have no affiliation with this company).

Using a tool like Majestic, I can quickly find sites linking to SprintR, such as TheVirtualReport:

TheVirtualReport appears to be relevant to 3dRudder:

Since SprintR has a directory listing there, it’s likely 3dRudder could secure a listing as well:

Competitive research at the onset of a link project is essential, as the analysis should uncover link opportunities and provide insight that can guide strategy throughout a campaign.

The results

Here’s the section you’ve been waiting for. What were the results of implementing a campaign of mention and competitive backlinking?

Well, in a nutshell, this campaign was very successful. The client saw steady growth in the keywords tracked and sustained gains in organic traffic.

The campaign achieved:

  • 64 links secured over six months.
  • 146% average increase in ranking position for 17 tracked head term keywords.
  • 43% growth in organic traffic overall.
  • 868% increase (+1,007) in organic traffic to geo-specific pages.

These results were even more impressive considering the website was new, with no established organic presence or backlinks.

Key takeaways

As you can see from the chart above, the client experienced overall success with growing traffic to location-specific pages.

Here is a traffic graph for one of these pages:

While the gains here are modest in terms of raw numbers, these were conversion-oriented pages where focused traffic was much more important than volume. A single conversion on these pages meant a high revenue return for the client.

This project reinforced a philosophy I have believed in for some time: It only takes a handful of links to drive rankings, especially if you’re focused and strategic about which pages you secure links to. This model has shown success in improving visibility and traffic time and time again. Of course, we’re dealing with a smaller, fresh domain here. But you can imagine how this success could be extrapolated for a larger site.

Another lesson learned from this project is that industry and niche can play a large role in the viability of mention link building.

Typically, mention links are most viable for larger, more recognizable brands. However, you can somewhat supplement brand authority with a newsworthy niche to find mention opportunities as a lesser-known company. For example, some industries that receive regular press coverage include:

  • Cybersecurity.
  • STEM education.
  • Hotels and lodging.
  • New payment platforms.
  • Eco-friendly or green living.
  • Fitness trackers and new diets.
  • Venture capital and crowdfunding-backed businesses.
  • Emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, virtual reality, IoT).

Of course, your brand needs to be involved in the industry. If you want coverage, you must do something worth covering. However, if you work in a niche that receives regular press, there is more potential for unlinked mentions.

This project reinforced the power of relevant links to drive organic results. Hopefully, you can apply some of these lessons to your own link campaign and improve your website’s performance in search.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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