Posted by Kate Morris
There are a number of posts over the last few years that are described as "head smacking tips" or "so easy it should be illegal." My head smacking tip to start this week is simple: If you have users that register for anything on your site (newsletter, profiles, orders), ask them if they have a website (and for the URL).
Why? We all want more linking root domains that are editorial in nature. The GOOD links, from people that really want to talk about your business. I know many of you would love to have a list of sites that are strong and have heard of you already. The outreach is much easier that way! How better to do that than reach out to current customers that have websites?
My Example: (if I were Spotify that is)
Please note that the highlighted field is not in their current profile section. I added it. But how awesome would it be if it was there? Of Spotify's 10 million registered users, what if only 5% filled that out? That's 500,000 URLs of people that use your product! How many of you would love to have 500,000 possible new linking root domains? Depending on your company size and how many people you have registered on your site and how often you get new registrations, this could be lower (or higher!), naturally. The point is still the same, these are people that know your brand and are therefore easier to contact.
While you are at it, you might ask if they have Twitter handles. This can help you contact them and really interact with them, hopefully turning them into advocates. Think of the companies using Klout scores to engage with the influential. (I'm not one of those, and no I'm not jealous *kicks dirt*)
I do have some tips to help you get started in this process. We'll look at how to collect this information, including how to add it to your form and how to process the information once it is gathered. Then we will consider what to do with this information to impact not only links but also building advocates for your brand. Read that as long term growth and revenue, because that is what brand advocates do for you.
Tips for Adding "Website" to Your Form
- Don't make it mandatory to enter this information.
Not everyone owns 20 domains like most of us do (or 2,000, or 2 million). But if you ask, people might give that information to you. It might be in hopes for a link (which you might do) or just because they are filling out the information requested.
- Don't clutter your initial contact form with it.
CRO law #1 is keep your forms as short as possible. If you already just ask for name and email address, then stay with that. They can fill out the information later.
- Let them know there is more information to fill out.
Once you have them registered and confirmed, let them know where their profile is (maybe via email) and that they are welcome to fill in more information to help tailor their experience. Things like location, birthday, etc.
- Ask old members to visit and fill in the gaps.
Want to get this information from current members? Redesign that area (the profile) and let them know about it. The new design and questions (maybe with some *get birthday deals* calls to action) will spur them to visit and update. Or if they have already filled in information like address, email the people that haven't updated in a year and ask that they verify their information in the system. I can't tell you how many times I come across a profile with a really old address or email address.
Using the Information
Once you have that information, mine it. Spit out a report of your user's websites, the date they joined, number of conversions (maybe total amount spent on the site), anything that would help you assess them as customers. Oh, and contact information, that is important!
Run the list of domains through the SEOmoz OpenSiteExplorer API. Ben Estes, a brilliant colleague of mine, wrote a post on how to use the API to get great data. If you can quickly return data like domain authority, page authority, linking root domains, social shares, etc., then you can determine who your best possibilities are for customers turned online advocates.
Ben actually built something like this for Distilled's use, and here is the output we get from it (copied and pasted into Excel).
You are looking for sites that have some authority, but don't just look at domain authority. Sites on Blogspot or Wordpress are going to look really strong that way. Instead, I'd focus on linking root domains and page authority of the homepage. Also be sure to look into what social metrics they have going on (sorry we don't have that coming in from our tool, those metrics are new after all!). Take this random list of sites I generated (really, no really, random, plus my own) and look at the metrics. The highlighted ones are the good ones to start with. Your set will look different, just use your own judgement as to how to break them out in priority order. I'll give you a few more ideas on how to do that in a minute.
And BTW, these are all friend's sites from people I follow on Twitter. Please don't shoot me guys. And Ian, can I get a link man? (kidding, kidding!)
Identification and Outreach
Take all of that awesome information and add it to the information you downloaded on your customers including how often they buy and contact information. Are they really fans of yours and have a great site (remember, pay attention to linking root domains and homepage page authority)? Go for them first. They are the easy pickings.
Next, focus on those people that keep coming back but don't have as strong of sites, but keep those sites updated regularly. This requires checking out the sites you have listed for quality (think the Google Panda questions), but it's worth it. In my mind any quality site, no matter how strong it is right now, is a good site to get a link from. These people trust your brand and are the perfect people to tell the world about it. And who knows, they could have just started. How awesome would it be if you helped them get their site going? Remember, this is a world of relationships and communication: karma is real.
Now to the harder part. You might have some people that have strong sites but have only purchased from you once and have never been back since. These people will take more finesse in contacting, and should be treated much like any other outreach project. Be sure that you take the time to get to know them, build the relationship before you go out and ask for a blog post or tweet. Build the relationship (I just said that, I know, but it's important).
As for the "other" sites, keep an eye on them. In this Post-Panda world, you never know when someone is building an even more awesome site and continue to grow as a valued customer to you. This is not a one time deal, keep track of this info over time. The key here is that if you have customers and a great product or service, people will be willing to talk about you. Sometimes you just have to ask.