Using Twitter for Link Building: The Death of the Cold Link Request

By Gary Magnone

By now, pretty much everyone in the online marketing world knows the benefits of using Twitter to engage and connect with others in your industry’s online community. But the popular social service is also proving itself to be a really useful and innovative tool for SEO by facilitating relationships between linkers and linkees, potentially inciting the death of the cold link request email altogether.

Of course, any blog post about Twitter and SEO wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Danny Sullivan’s article on Search Engine Land last week that created huge buzz in the SEO world. In it, he transcribed interviews with reps from both Google and Bing that confirmed thoughts that SEO’s have been speculating on for more than a year. In it, they both confirmed that they attempt to calculate the “social authority” or “author quality” of users on Twitter. They then attested that they use those profile quality signals to determine how much weight a tweeted link carries in universal search. Danny also mentioned that in the “firehose” of data that Google and Bing both receive from Twitter, the “nofollow” attribute is NOT attached to tweeted links, as it regularly is over the web. Even if you swore the search engines were doing this since 2008, seeing them confirm it was a pretty big deal.

Image: From of a Nov 9, 2010 Tweet from Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz: “Twitter pretty clearly influencing rankings- – 0 links so far, but 100s of tweets”.

So does this mean you should create a bunch of Twitter accounts and start tweeting out links like crazy, hoping to get ranked? No way. The news only reinforces the best practices that all social media experts have been preaching for years. Find relevant profiles to follow, engage with them, share relevant industry content, retweet their links, and share your own content in hopes of gaining relevant followers and retweets. For more details to help you design this type of strategy for SEO, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz put together his thoughts on Google’s & Bing’s answers in a nicely written blog post.

Another really great opportunity in using Twitter for SEO and link building is as a spin on the classic link outreach. For years, the bread and butter of an SEO’s link building campaign was finding relevant sites on Google, tracking down the email address of the webmaster, and shooting them an email asking for a link. Not only is this difficult and time consuming, but it also has a pretty low success rate. Sure, you can try warming up the linking prospect using blog commenting, but you still have to get the webmaster to recognize you as the commenter, and hope that your email doesn’t get caught in their spam filter. Even a few sites I have targeted recently deliberately avoid email contact in favor of their social media profiles.

Image: 97th Floor

Enter Twitter.

Ideally, for strategizing link outreach via Twitter, you’ll want to use the brand’s official account so that you’re only working to build up one Twitter profile. But if they don’t have the resources to maintain a proper Twitter account over time, or if the existing official account mandates a strict corporate tone, then try building up a Twitter account representing a (perhaps fictional) company employee. For example, @GHGPartnersLLC may not be ideal for building rapport within a community of legal bloggers, but @LegalLee, associate at GHG Partners, may be just the right man (or woman) for the job.

Once you’ve got the profile in place, then start building it up. If you’re not already using Twitter Search to find other people in the industry, what are you waiting for?!

Use the account similar to how you would in a typical social media campaign; follow the mavens in your industry, share their content, engage with them, and share your own content. In order to build awareness and generate click-throughs, make sure you are consistently posting high-quality content. By following this strategy, not only can you naturally gain links due to the increased exposure of your brand’s content, you’ll have a much better chance of success when you Direct Message a prospect asking for a link.

Of course there are tons more ways to use Twitter in promoting your content and getting links to your site. Let us know how you use Twitter for SEO in the comments below!