Link Building Strategies: Big Brand Link Building

16 Jul

Tamar Weinberg pointed to an interesting topic over at the HighRankings forums about link building for big brands. Although the thread was opened over a year ago, the discussion lit up again and the subject remains interesting. A good reason to dedicate this episode of Link Building Strategies to link building for big brands.

So how do big brands build links? Well, in most cases they don’t, at least not actively. Just ‘being alive’ often is enough to attract several links a day from different places. A product launch, a CEO leaving the company, an angry customer, a study at a university or even a cool tv ad can result in fresh links. In other words, like Jill said, “they get links by virtue of their brand name”.

The link building challenge of big brands isn’t in obtaining new links, but in using the strength of these links optimally. Converting link juice isn’t very hard, but certainly worth the effort.

Make sure that your domain gets the links

It sounds pretty easy, but apparently it isn’t: put something online before you start an offline campaign. If you’re launching a new product and still have to set up a page for it when the first ads have been aired, you’re too late. Affiliates, domainers and other clever folks are fast as lightning, or at least faster than your designers. If they manage to beat you with their page or site, they will attract the links and traffic. And they’ll rank.

Another pretty hard thing to believe is that some companies still use agencies that send out press releases hosted on a third party domain. This means that every website that writes about your release will probably end up linking to your PR company. Great deal for them, but not for you. Make sure that your domain gets the juice, since you’re probably already paying them too much.

Tip number three is to set up profiles of your most important employees. In stead of linking to sources like Wikipedia, online media will link to your site more often when they’re writing about the company’s CEO, CFO or CFETWTF.

Make sure that the right page gets the links

Large companies attract links to their home page by the dozen, but you -and Google- want links to be as targeted as possible. This doesn’t mean that you have to get in touch with every single webmaster that links to your home page, but you certainly want the best links to be perfect. Contact the websites that send the most traffic, send visitors that click through to lots of different pages (do these visitors have to search for what they were looking for?), or just are extremely relevant to a specific page, and ask if they can alter the link target. After thanking them for the initial link, of course.

Get rid of the ‘click here’s

Good links can result in better rankings, but good descriptive links can result in awesome rankings. Anchor text helps, so make sure that the most relevant links and the ones coming from authority domains have the right anchor text, in stead of just your company name or ‘click here’.

Control the link juice

So, your pretty flash page managed to attract hundreds or thousands of links. Too bad that flash pages still suck for SEO and aren’t able to pass link strength to other pages on your site optimally. Make sure that the juice can flow around to pages that make you money, have the ability to rank, or -ideally- both.

Get those extra ‘special’ links

The ad agencies of big brands usually know how to get offline attention, their social media specialists will hopefully manage to reach bloggers and social networks, but both probably don’t know where they can find the ‘special’ spots. You know, those pages or sites that can give you that extra little boost. That’s where link building -or hiring a link builder- can mean the difference between just being a top brand and being a top brand with top rankings.

It pretty much like Brian said in the original forum thread; although big brands attract lots of links just because they exist, link building is needed to help sharpen their link profile to become more keyword targeted.

16 Responses to “Link Building Strategies: Big Brand Link Building”

  1. Mark Pilatowski July 17, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    This is an excellent breakdown on how to optimize links for big brands. We work with a lot of big brands and international publishers and they seem to focus too much on the effort of getting links when in reality they just need to optimize their ability to get them. They are able to get links naturally but they don’t necessarily use that to their advantage.

    One point that really stands out to me is the importance of having an online presence for offline campaigns. The problem with many big brands is that they have too many layers of review and approval that must be navigated before something gets done. The bureaucracy is too thick and while they are going through multiple channels to get a new page added to their site and they lag behind their affiliates and even their smaller competitors. Big brands either need to plan for the content long before the offline campaign launches or cut through the unnecessary bureaucracy to get things online much quicker. This can make a huge difference not only in building links but also in making their offline campaign much more effective.

  2. Wiep July 17, 2008 at 3:53 pm #

    “Big brands either need to plan for the content long before the offline campaign launches or cut through the unnecessary bureaucracy to get things online much quicker.”

    You hit the nail on the head, Mark. In fact, big brand bureaucracy is the reason why lots of small websites and affiliate sites still exist.

  3. Marios Alexandrou July 17, 2008 at 4:33 pm #

    The other angle to consider about link building for big brands is what you don’t want to bother with. For example, the so called link clean-up effort that you might consider for a small site isn’t likely to be worth the effort if you can generate a bunch of new links just as easily.

  4. code zero July 17, 2008 at 6:03 pm #

    Very interesting topic, because I myself am optimizing a hair care products brand, I’ve been looking at the links to
    They have never done any linkbuilding themselves, they just provided a usefull service and productcatalog site, and then got links the natural way. Thousands of product users who have their own (hairdressing salon ) website mention the brand with linkjuice on their site.

  5. Everett July 17, 2008 at 10:58 pm #

    – Send product samples to bloggers.
    – Find people, boggers, media sites that mention your site but neglect to link and ask them, politely, if you could “help facilitate the inclusion of a link in that article about us”.
    – Host a give-away, competition or sweepstakes
    – Sponsor events that have websites with links to sponsors. Hint, Google:
    yourkeyword inurl:sponsors

    Having a big brand ensures that your site will get a ton of links on its own. It becomes your job as an SEO then to make sure that you utilize those links properly. When merchandising decides to remove a product from the catalog/site that has hundreds of links pointing into it and neglect to tell you about it so you can do a redirect… Like the saying about taking more effort to get new customers than to keep old ones, imagine how much time it will take you to rebuild that many links. It all comes down to education. Education your fan-based (bloggers and customers who like to link to you or mention your brand) and others in your department so you can avoid costly mistakes and get peak-leverage from existing link opportunities.

  6. Rich Pearson July 17, 2008 at 11:44 pm #

    Another surefire link building tactic for large companies is to make sure that all re-used content – that is the articles, videos and images that they produce – provide a link-back.

    It’s a great way to turn your content into value – here’s a blog post that goes into more detail about large brands already doing this.

  7. Hugo July 18, 2008 at 2:13 am #

    All I’m going to say is that some very specific techniques were left out of this post and that some of the comments left on here aren’t 100% accurate.

    That said, thanks for the post, Wiep! It was definitely food for thought and might serve as food for a follow-up blog post…

  8. Wiep July 18, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    @Marios; Very true. That can save a lot of time.

    @Everett; Great tips, but most of those aren’t specifically for big brands. Educating your own departments, however can be very fruitful. Good one.

    @Rich; Especially providing a link back in the specs sheets of your products, which get listed on numerous (affiliate)websites, can work pretty good. That can generate lots of deeplinks and is a necessity in the battle against dupe content.

    @Hugo; Actually, this post wasn’t intended to list lots of specific techniques, but more as a “Hey, big brand! You don’t have to build lots of new links, but you have to optimize your current situation!” kind of post. But a follow up on this one is definitely on my list ;)

  9. Matt Ridout July 18, 2008 at 10:27 am #

    I can tell you big brands still use agencies to build links, especially in super competitive environments – trust me ;)

    Nice post, have stumbled :)

  10. Wiep July 18, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    @Matt, yeah, I know ;)

    And thanks for Stumbling.

  11. CFETWTF of Distilled July 18, 2008 at 12:13 pm #

    Nice post with some great points. One thing we’ve had success with is leveraging your communities/users to build links for you. If you’re a big brand then you almost certainly have users who are evangelical and a lot of traffic – make it easy for them to talk about you and links to you. Running competitions and quizzes and all of that stuff can get links in large volumes which it’s hard to get when building links manually.

  12. Rich Pearson July 18, 2008 at 6:29 pm #

    Thank Wiep – good point, although do affiliate links pass link juice?

    If you or your readers are interested, we’re opening up our service to 15-20 SEOs for link identification/building purposes – for more info, you can email me at rich(at)attributor(dot)com or visit

  13. Linda Bustos July 22, 2008 at 10:56 pm #

    Re: matt ridout’s comment, yes, some big brands use less-than-upright linking tactics. One top retailer comes to mind, doing a backlink check on it, I found a text link in a blog footer to the retailer right next to a link to a bestiality site. Seriously, text link ads gone wrong, that’s for sure!

  14. Wiep July 23, 2008 at 7:40 am #

    @Tom; Good points! Got a promotion btw? :P

    @Rich; Affiliate links can pass juice, but I always advise to keep link building and affiliate marketing separated.

    @Linda; Some companies don’t seem to get it that bad text link ads can cause serious brand damage…

  15. cybernaut SEO December 5, 2008 at 5:06 am #

    I got into the conversation a bit on the late side, but felt I had to chime in. Mostly because I have been spending allot of time recently contacting sites that link to my clients. Sometimes I feel that its just as hard to persuade someone to change there link or link text as it is to get a fresh new link. but I would definitely agree that for those high quality links its worth the effort, and can have a significant impact. Especially if you get them to give you a deep link on one of your high converting pages!

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