By now, the phrase “influencer marketing” is pretty familiar to most marketers. The basic concept is easy to grasp—you’ll be using the existing popularity and authority of social “influencers” to build a reputation and visibility for your own brand.
But influencer marketing isn’t a “hack” or a get-rich-quick scheme; like any other marketing strategy, it demands a nuanced approach to be successful, and is packed with far more variables than it appears to have on the surface.
As an SEO (search engine optimization) professional, I gravitate toward using influencer marketing as a tool to improve the effectiveness of my SEO campaigns. Recognizing that many search optimizers—especially new ones—may fail to see the potential here, and even more marketers misunderstand the true potential of influencer marketing, below I’ve listed five ways that building relationships with influencers can actually boost your SEO campaign.
1. Inbound links.Inbound links are necessary for any kind of SEO campaign. Links are what pass “authority” from one site to another, essentially making them points of validation that convince search engines your site is authoritative and trustworthy enough to earn higher rankings. It’s becoming more and more difficult to get inbound links, but one way to get them is to build a relationship with a known influencer; they’ll often link to your site if you give them good reason to. For example, if you have a relationship with an influencer and let them know about some recent original research you recently published, that influencer might comment on it and link to your research, which, presumably, is hosted on your website. You’ll gain a boost in authority from the link, but just as importantly, the presence of that link will result in click-through traffic from other readers as well as increase its visibility so that other authors can reference it (with a link) it in their work as well.
2. Content visibility.Depending on the nature of your relationship, you can also leverage your influencer’s audience to expand the visibility of your best content. Social influencers typically have tens of thousands to millions of followers, so getting an influencer to share one of your best pieces of content could instantly multiply its visibility. More readers alone won’t necessarily boost your rankings, but it’s a nice gateway to future points of value. For example, if your content circulates with an audience 10 times larger than what you could muster on your own, you’ll likely earn 10 times as many links overall—and that’s not even mentioning the reputation benefits your brand will earn.
3. Audience building.Networking with influencers is also a fast way to grow your social media audience (as well as recurring traffic to your site). Social media runs on a “tree falling in the forest” system; no matter how good your content is, people will only follow you and continue reading your material if they know it exists in the first place. Getting an influencer to share that material could introduce a new audience to you. Again, this alone won’t increase your search rankings, but over time, a larger audience means each of your published pieces will have instantaneously better value when you syndicate them.
4. Collaborative content.Don’t discount the potential for working together with influencers on mutual content projects, either. This probably won’t be an option to you in the early stages of your influencer relationships, but once you have an ongoing, mutually beneficial setup, this may become a natural element of your partnership. Working together, you might pool your resources to create and distribute an industry report, or you could conduct an interview series or create a podcast in which you exchange thoughts and opinions on a popular topic. Either way, you’ll both get the benefit of borrowing from each other’s authority, you’ll earn more visibility than you would alone, and you’ll both earn a host of new links pointing to your respective domains. This is a long-term partnership, so the payoffs have no upper limit here.
5. Publishing opportunities.Even though you’ll likely earn some links naturally with your content and influencer marketing campaigns, the best way to build links consistently over the long term is through highly valuable content on external, authoritative publisher sites. The problem is, these publisher sites have extremely high standards for content, and are selective about who they let write. Networking with influencers can, over time, open up doors that would otherwise be closed to you. For example, one of your influencers might be close with the editor for a national publisher, and could get you an introductory opportunity to make a guest post. Sometimes, a foot in the door is all it takes to start building a bigger online footprint.
Finding the Right InfluencerMuch of your success in influencer marketing will be finding the right influencer and starting your relationship on the right foot. The best influencers are ones who are active constantly, with big followings, and an interest in engaging with others.
When you reach out, make sure you remain conscious of the fact that they’re busy people with their own goals and priorities—make an offer before making a request. Then, prioritize achieving the goals I listed above, always making the relationship mutually beneficial, and doing what you can to preserve your dynamic.
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