How Twitter can be a link building tool

Link buying is always a temptation for new online businesses. They want to build links fast so they can start to garner traffic from the search engines. Trying to manage a CEO’s thirst for traffic can often times be difficult for an in-house SEO expert or the SEO consulting firm. What are some alternatives you can provide to the link thirsty company? Well, for one…focus on social media for link building. This post will cover Twitter specifically and how it helps to gain inbound link equity for a website.

While I was Tribune’s SEO Director traveling the U.S. training literally thousands of journalists about SEO, social media, reputation management and an occasional training about paid search or Facebook ads; I often discussed Twitter as a tool to help build links to the Tribune network of sites. The savvy people in the group would mention that Twitter links were ‘nofollow’ links and would ask why we’d want to worry about Twitter if the search engines discredit ‘nofollow’ links anyway.

My response to them was the following:

1. Twitter has very influential people on their platform. If they are on Twitter. Most likely, they have an audience via a blog, newsletter, Twitter stream, Facebook page, radio show or even TV show. Getting your website’s content out to this group of people is just good marketing, period.

Why? Because if you are creating decent content, they will talk about that content and most likely link to that content in whatever medium they can. A link from their blog that is in the same content niche as your site will go a long way in gaining link popularity, link authority and link relevancy. A link to your site in a newsletter of theirs to their readership is similar.

You think Google doesn’t pay attention to what is being sent to Gmail customers? Then how are those ads so highly targeted within Gmail? They’ll track the clicks on those links too. All good for your SEO. Sure, that TV show may not have a way to ‘link’ to you. But once thousands of people are searching for your brand on Google or going directly to your website URL while logged into their Google account or on a computer with a Google Toolbar…Google knows and pays attention. Is it as good as a link from the front page of L.A. Times or CNN? No. But it works. It also helps to create a natural profile for your website. Something that’s becoming more and more important in today’s search engine algorithms.

2. Autofeeds of user tweets to blog homepages and website category pages are common—very common. There are all sorts of widgets and plugins out there that allow you to autopost tweets to a webpage, blog, or even build an entire miniature site from Tweets (ex. Paper.li).

Just because the links on Twitter.com may be ‘nofollow’, unless the webmaster of the site/blog purposely alters code to make the links appearing from their Twitter feed on their blog or website ‘nofollow’, it is most likely going to be followed links. That means you’d be getting PageRank passing ‘followed’ links from homepages of influencers in your content niche. That’s REALLY powerful for gaining authority from the website to the link you mentioned on Twitter that they retweeted or replied to that contained your site’s link.

How? Via the Twitter widget or plugin that automatically feeds their tweets, replies, and retweets to their site. Even if they put the Twitter widget on their category pages of their website…still powerful thanks to relevancy garnered by being on those category level pages.

3. Bots bots and more bots. Scrapers scrapers and more scrapers. The links on Twitter.com may be ‘nofollow’ but the links picked up by bots and scrapers aren’t. This probably won’t do too much for authority but it will do a world of help for popularity to your site because LOTS of people will be linking to your site. Most likely they won’t be sites that Google or the other search engines give a lot of credence to but it will be a high number of links to your site. Links are always good. All may not be treated equal but all links are good.

For the ultra-skeptical in the group I used to point to an experiment I did where @Alyssa_Milano forwarded a tweet of mine of an ‘Are you happy?’ flowchart. It received a wide potential audience of millions and resulted in about 500 links back to my website. Honestly though, it wasn’t the best example of Twitter for link building because not all people are as awesome as me and thus has Alyssa Milano following them (I’m kidding, sorta).

Luckily, thanks to 435 Digital having a great journalist, Tracy Samantha Schmidt, on our staff I have a new example to point to… Tracy’s interview with Jay Rosen. As of right now the post has received around 500 links and some of them from very high authority and very relevant webpages.

So…Twitter helps to build links to your website. Followed links. Go tell the CEO that wants to buy links that! Be sure to stop by the CFO’s desk and let them know the value of social media while you’re on the way.