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Broken Link Building: The Complete Guide

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Broken link building is one of the most popular link-building tactics around. It’s the fifth most widely used tactic according to Aira’s annual state of link building report, which crowdsources opinions from over 250 digital marketing professionals.

But it’s not entirely foolproof, and there’s some nuance to doing it well.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to get backlinks from broken link building.

But first, let’s cover the basics.

Broken link building is where you find a dead page with backlinks, create a similar page, then ask people linking to that page to link to you instead. The idea is that they’ll swap the link because they don’t want to send visitors to a broken resource.

It would be fair to say that SEOs are somewhat divided when it comes to this question.

In one video, Mark from Authority Hacker said:

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an almost pointless tactic, and you shouldn’t waste your time with it.

If you dig through the comments on that video, one stands out:

YouTube commenter blaming Ahrefs for making broken link building sound so easy

Let’s set the record straight:

Broken link building isn’t easy. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Is this because there’s something inherently wrong with the tactic?

No. It’s because link building is hard to execute well—whatever tactic you use. The better you understand the tactic, the more likely you are to have success.

Broken link building is a four-step process.

  1. Find broken pages with backlinks
  2. Vet the backlinks
  3. Create a replacement page
  4. Do outreach

1. Find broken pages with backlinks

It’s impossible to find highly-linked broken pages without SEO tools. Even if you find dead pages manually, you’ll need a backlink checker to see how many links they have. You can use Ahrefs’ free backlink checker for this, but life is much easier with full access to Ahrefs.

Keep this in mind as we go through the tactics below. You’ll need Ahrefs for ¾ of them.

Here are the tactics:

  1. Look for your competitors’ broken pages with backlinks
  2. Look for broken pages about a topic
  3. Look for broken links on competing websites
  4. Look for broken links on resource pages (doable without paid Ahrefs)

a) Look for your competitors’ broken pages with backlinks

Many of your competitors will have at least some dead pages because everyone moves, deletes, and reorganizes content over time. If they forget to redirect old URLs when doing this, their backlinks will point to broken pages.

Here’s how to find dead pages on your competitors’ websites:

  1. Go to Site Explorer
  2. Enter a competing domain
  3. Go to the Best by Links report
  4. Filter for “404 not found” pages
  5. Sort the report by Referring domains from highest to lowest

For example, there are 134 dead pages on Content Marketing Institute’s website, and some have backlinks from over 50 referring domains.

The Best by Links report in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerThe Best by Links report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Your job is to sift through these pages for topics that make sense to create content about.

For example, the first page about “what is content marketing” makes sense for us because we have an entire blog category about content marketing. It’s the kind of topic we want to build links to.

If you don’t find a relevant broken page on one competitor’s website, repeat the process for others.

TIP

If you’re unsure who your competitors are, enter your domain into Site Explorer and go to the Competing Domains report. This shows other websites ranking in Google for the same keywords as you.

Competing Domains report in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerCompeting Domains report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

b) Look for broken pages about a topic

Broken link building has traditionally always been about the method above. The disadvantage of this method is that you limit yourself to finding opportunities on a handful of sites.

The ideal solution to this problem would be searching the web for broken pages with backlinks about a particular topic. The only tool we’re aware of that allows you to do this is Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, a searchable database of billions of web pages.

Here’s how to use it to find broken pages about a topic:

  1. Enter a broad topic
  2. Switch the search mode to “In title”
  3. Hit search
  4. Filter for broken pages only
  5. Filter for pages with at least 20 referring domains

In the example below, there are 188 broken pages with at least 20 backlinks about content marketing:

Broken pages with 20+ referring domains in Ahrefs' Content ExplorerBroken pages with 20+ referring domains in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

To confirm a broken page, click the title to open it in a new tab.

Example of a broken pageExample of a broken page

TIP

Eyeball the “Page traffic” column to find pages that are more likely to have high-quality backlinks. If the page used to have traffic, its backlinks might have been helping it to rank.

Broken page that had organic traffic in the pastBroken page that had organic traffic in the past

If the page never had traffic, the backlinks might not be great.

Broken page that didn't have organic traffic in the pastBroken page that didn't have organic traffic in the past

c) Look for broken links on competing websites

Most websites frequently link to pages on other sites, and some of these will break over time. That means your competitors are likely to link to broken pages.

Here’s how to see broken pages your competitor is linking to:

  1. Go to Site Explorer
  2. Enter a competing domain
  3. Go to the Broken Links report

For example, robbierichards.com is linking to 32 dead pages:

Broken outgoing links in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerBroken outgoing links in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

To see which have the most referring domains, export the report, paste the broken URLs into Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool, and sort by total referring domains.

Using Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many links point to broken outgoing linksUsing Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many links point to broken outgoing links

Here are a few potential broken link building opportunities in the screenshot above:

  • Google’s discontinued mobile-friendly test tool: 2,654 RDs
  • SEJ’s guide to the Google Hummingbird algorithm: 462 RDs
  • Chatmeter’s list of local SEO stats: 276 RDs

d) Look for broken links on resource pages

Resource pages curate and link to resources on a particular topic. They’re a good source of broken pages with backlinks for two reasons:

  1. People rarely update them, so they often link to dead resources.
  2. They list helpful resources which often have links from many other sites.

To find resource pages in your industry, use one of these Google search operators:

  • KEYWORD intitle:resources inurl:links.html
  • KEYWORD intitle:links inurl: resources.html
  • KEYWORD inurl:resources intitle:resources

For example, here’s how we might search for resource pages about link building:

Searching for resource pages in GoogleSearching for resource pages in Google

Then you need to check for broken links on these pages, which you can do for free with Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar.

  1. Visit the page
  2. Click the toolbar icon
  3. Go to the “Links” tab
  4. Click “Check status”
  5. Filter for broken links only
Finding broken links on a page with Ahrefs' SEO ToolbarFinding broken links on a page with Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

To see the total backlinks to these pages, export the list of URLs and paste them into Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis Tool.

Using Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many backlinks point to broken pagesUsing Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool to see how many backlinks point to broken pages

2. Vet the link prospects

Many people jump straight to creating a “similar” replacement page after finding a dead page with backlinks. This is a mistake for two reasons:

  1. Your broken page may not have any good backlinks. In which case, there’s no point pursuing the opportunity or creating a replacement page.
  2. You need to understand why people linked to the dead page to create a replacement page. This is how you keep your content and outreach in sync, which leads to higher success rates.

You can figure out both things by vetting the page’s link prospects.

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

a) Check link quality

If a broken link-building opportunity is unlikely to lead to high-quality links, it’s pointless pursuing it. So the first step is a quick spot check to see whether the dead page has desirable backlinks.

Here’s how to see a page’s live backlinks:

  1. Go to Site Explorer
  2. Enter the dead page’s URL
  3. Go to the Backlinks report
  4. Set the grouping mode to “One link per domain”
  5. Set “Show history” to “Don’t show”
Using the Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer to check link qualityUsing the Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer to check link quality

Then you can eyeball the report to get a sense of backlink quality.

You can do this by reviewing each link manually, but that’s inefficient for a spot check. It’s quicker to filter the report for links with attributes that tend to align with quality.

Everyone’s criteria will differ slightly here, but these four filters are a helpful place to start:

  • Dofollow’ links only. This excludes most low-value links such as those from directories, forums, and blog comments.
  • Exclude subdomains. This excludes links from places like blogspot, which are often low-quality and spammy.
  • DR 5+. This excludes links from very low-authority websites.
  • Domain traffic: 20+. This excludes links from websites with little to no traffic.

For example, if we add these filters to the backlink report for the page above, the number of backlinks drops from 100 to 29:

Filtering for good backlinks in Ahrefs' Site ExplorerFiltering for good backlinks in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

That’s because the dead page has many desirable links, such as this one from celebanswers.com:

Example of a good backlinkExample of a good backlink

But it also has many low-quality and spammy links like this one:

Example of a bad backlinkExample of a bad backlink

It’s up to you to decide whether a broken page has enough desirable links to make creating a page and doing outreach worthwhile.

b) Check link reasons

Understanding why your broken page got links helps you add points that allow you to create compelling outreach angles. This is crucial for improving the link success rate for your campaign, so the next step is to eyeball the filtered report for link reasons.

Here are the two broad types of link reasons you’ll see:

  • General links are where people recommend the resource as a whole. You can’t see why they linked to that specific resource from the link’s context.
  • Deep links are where people recommend a resource for a specific reason. You can see what that reason is from the link’s context.

Here’s an example of a general link to a broken page about calculating your net worth:

Example of a 'general link' where the reason for linking isn't clearExample of a 'general link' where the reason for linking isn't clear

You can see that although they recommend the resource, it’s impossible to tell why from the link’s context. The anchor is “here’s an amazing post.”

There’s not much you can learn about creating a “better” page from these kinds of links.

You can learn more from deep links like this:

Example of a 'deep link' where the reason for linking is clearExample of a 'deep link' where the reason for linking is clear

This time it’s obvious why they recommended the resource: it explains how to grow your net worth.

We can confirm this by looking at how the page used to look in the Wayback Machine:

Checking how a dead page used to look in the Wayback MachineChecking how a dead page used to look in the Wayback Machine

Identifying deep links helps you create a compelling replacement page, so note them down alongside how many people link for the same reasons. Search the Backlinks report for relevant ‘footprints’ in the anchor or surrounding text to find this.

For example, we can search this page’s backlinks for words like “increase,” “grow,” or “improve” to see if this advice led to other links.

It looks like it did:

Looking for others linking for similar reasonsLooking for others linking for similar reasons

Here’s what our final notes might look like for this page:

Example link reasons for a broken pageExample link reasons for a broken page

3. Create a replacement page

Now you know why people linked to the dead page, it’s time to create a suitable replacement.

Let’s go through how to do that in three steps.

a) Create a rough outline

Although you don’t want to copy the dead page word for word, you do want to create something similar. This means crafting a piece that fulfills the same purpose and talks about similar things.

You can get a better sense of what the dead page discussed using the Wayback Machine.

For example, this page explains how to calculate your net worth in three steps, gives a few example calculations, and has tips on how to improve your net worth over time:

Looking at what the broken page is about via the Wayback MachineLooking at what the broken page is about via the Wayback Machine

If you were pursuing this broken link opportunity, you’d want to use a similar outline.

Here’s what that might look like:

  • H1: Net Worth Explained: How to Calculate and Improve It Over Time
    • H2: What is Net Worth?
    • H2: How to Calculate Your Net Worth
      • H3: Step 1. Do x
      • H3: Step 2. Do y
      • H3: Step 3. Do z
    • H2: Example Net Worth Calculations
      • H3: Example 1: x
      • H3: Example 2: y
      • H3: Example 3: z
    • H2: How to Track and Improve Your Net Worth
      • H3: Tip 1: Do x
      • H3: Tip 2: Do y
      • H3: Tip 3: Do z

b) Bake in linkable points

Remember the work you put into vetting link prospects for deep recommendations? Now’s the time to add them to your content so that your outreach angles make sense.

In this case, we covered most of these in the basic outline.

TIP

Make sure everything you include is accurate. For example, if a deep link references an out-of-date statistic, include a more recent statistic.

c) Find other ways to improve it

Most of the links to your dead page are likely to be general links. In other words, they’re people referencing the content for no clear reason.

You can’t do much to tailor your content for these people because you don’t know what they liked about the original piece. But you can make overall improvements.

For example, adding a template would probably improve our piece on calculating net worth.

Improving the content allows you to strengthen your value proposition to general linkers by adding a “why”:

  • Without improvement: you have a dead link > here’s a replacement
  • With improvement: you have a dead link > here’s a replacement > here’s why it’s a good replacement

Here are a few simple ways to improve content:

  • Simplify: Make it more accessible and easier to understand.
  • Visualize: Demonstrate concepts with graphics.
  • Templatize: Add a plug-and-play template.
  • Rectify: Fix issues with accuracy.

4. Do outreach

Outreach is where you pitch your replacement resource to those linking to the dead page.

This is usually done in one of two ways:

  • Shotgun outreach. You send the same email to everyone with no personalization.
  • Sniper outreach. You send unique, personalized emails to everyone.

Both of these approaches have their pros and cons.

Shotgun outreach is a pure numbers game. Conversion rates will be low, but you’ll get some links with enough prospects. It’s also risky. You can quickly burn bridges and get your domain blocked.

Sniper outreach converts better but takes more time and effort. You can easily spend a whole day sending a dozen emails.

Given the steps we’ve gone through so far, we recommend a hybrid approach.

Here’s how this works:

Instead of sending a unique or identical email to everyone, you segment prospects and create a personalized template for each group. This is why we spent some time identifying general and deep links. The way you target them should be different.

Pitching deep linkers

Each segment of deep linkers deserves a unique template.

For example, we have three segments for the net worth page:

  1. People referencing advice on growing your net worth
  2. People referencing the definition of net worth
  3. People referencing how to calculate net worth

Here’s a simple template for the first segment:

Hey [Name],

Just came across your post on [Topic] and saw that you recommended advice on growing net worth from [Dead page author].

Looks like that page no longer works.

Not sure if you’re still updating older posts, but if you are, my guide expands on that advice and gives a few extra tips.

Here’s where I found the link on your page:

[Screenshot]

No pressure. Just thought it might be useful 🙂

Josh

Here’s one for the second segment:

Hey [Name],

Just came across your post on [Topic] and saw that you recommended this process for calculating net worth from [Dead page author].

Looks like that page no longer works.

Not sure if you’re still updating older posts, but if you are, my guide has a similar process but includes more detail on how to estimate the value of your assets and debts (super important for an accurate calculation!).

Here’s where I found the link on your page:

[Screenshot]

No pressure. Just thought it might be useful 🙂

Josh

Both of these are pretty typical and could use a bit more creativity. But hopefully, you can see how creating personalized templates like this can potentially improve the results of your broken link-building campaign.

Pitching general linkers

As there’s no clear reason why these people linked to the dead page, you can only send them a generic pitch. This should follow the same formula as with deep linkers. The difference is that the value proposition will be a generic one.

You can use the improvements you made to the dead page for this.

Here’s an example template for our page:

Hey [Name],

Just came across your post on [Topic] and saw you recommended this guide to calculating net worth from [Dead page author].

Looks like that page no longer works.

Not sure if you’re still updating older posts, but if you are, my guide explains a similar process and includes a free template to make life easier.

Here’s where I found the link on your page:

[Screenshot]

A few other reasons why I think my guide is better (completely biased, of course):

  • More details on estimating the value of assets and debts
  • Extra tips for growing net worth
  • Flowchart to create a custom growth plan

No pressure. Just thought it might be useful 🙂

Josh

This template is the best we can do for general linkers because we don’t know why they linked to the original page.

Slutgiltiga tankar

Link building tactics are just streamlined ways of finding link prospects with a reason for contact. In broken link building, the reason is that they have a dead link on their site. In the skyscraper technique, the reason is that you have a “better” page. In other techniques, it’s something else.

No technique will work well without a strong value proposition. That’s why we recommend using custom outreach templates for different segments of prospects linking to the dead page.

Har du frågor? Pinga mig på Twitter.

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Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

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Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

According to a recent study by Bing, most websites have XML sitemaps, with the “lastmod” tag being the most critical component of these sitemaps.

The “lastmod” tag indicates the last time the webpages linked by the sitemap were modified and is used by search engines to determine how often to crawl a site and which pages to index.

However, the study also revealed that a significant number of “lastmod” values in XML sitemaps were set incorrectly, with the most prevalent issue being identical dates on all sitemaps.

Upon consulting with web admins, Microsoft discovered that the dates were set to the date of sitemap generation rather than content modification.

To address this issue, Bing is revamping its crawl scheduling stack to better utilize the information provided by the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps.

This will improve crawl efficiency by reducing unnecessary crawling of unchanged content and prioritizing recently updated content.

The improvements have already begun on a limited scale and are expected to roll out by June fully.

Additionally, Microsoft has updated sitemap.org for improved clarity by adding the following line:

“Note that the date must be set to the date the linked page was last modified, not when the sitemap is generated.”

How To Use The Lastmod Tag Correctly

To correctly set the “lastmod” tag in a sitemap, you should include it in the <url> tag for each page in the sitemap.

The date should be in W3C Datetime format, with the most commonly used formats being YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssTZD.

The date should reflect the last time the page was modified and should be updated regularly to ensure that search engines understand the relevance and frequency of updates.

Here’s an example code snippet:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>

   <url>

      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>

      <lastmod>2023-01-23</lastmod>      

   </url>

Google’s Advice: Use Lastmod Tag After Significant Changes Only

Google’s crawlers also utilize the “lastmod” tag, and the suggestions on using it by both major search engines are similar.

Google Search Advocate John Mueller recently discussed the lastmod tag in the January edition of Google’s office-hours Q&A sessions.

It’s worth noting that Google recommends only using the “lastmod” tag for substantial modifications, which was not mentioned in Microsoft’s blog post.

Changing the date in the lastmod tag after minor edits can be viewed as an attempt to manipulate search snippets.

In Summary

Microsoft’s recent study and efforts to improve the utilization of the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps will result in more efficient and effective webpage crawling.

Publishers are encouraged to regularly update their sitemaps and lastmod tags to ensure that their pages are correctly indexed and easily accessible by search engines.


Featured Image: mundissima/Shutterstock

Source: Microsoft



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Everything You Need To Know

Now more than ever, marketing and sales leaders are taking a critical look at where to allocate their resources and how to staff their teams.

Attribution modeling is one of the best tools for providing clear guidance on what’s working, and what isn’t.

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the approach to understanding how various marketing and sales touchpoints influence the prospects’ move from visitor, to lead, to customer.

By implementing attribution in your organization, you’ll have a better idea of:

  • Which channels are most influential during different phases of the sales cycle.
  • Which content formats are more or less impactful in your marketing or sales enablement efforts.
  • Which campaigns drove the most revenue and return on investment (ROI).
  • The most common sequence of online or offline events that prospects interact with before becoming a customer.

Why Is Attribution Important In Marketing?

Analyzing attribution data provides you with an understanding of which marketing, sales, and customer success efforts are contributing most effectively and efficiently toward revenue generation.

Attribution modeling helps you identify opportunities for growth and improvement, while also informing budget allocation decisions.

With accurate attribution models, marketers are able to make more informed decisions about their campaigns, which has allowed them to increase ROI and reduce wasted budgets on ineffective strategies.

What Are The Challenges Of Marketing Attribution?

Developing a perfect attribution model that guides all of your decisions is a pipedream for most marketers.

Here are five challenges that result in inconclusive data models or total project abandonment:

Cross-Channel Management

This is a common challenge for enterprise marketers who have web assets across multiple websites, channels, and teams.

Without proper analytics tagging and system settings configuration, your web activities may not be tracked accurately as a visitor goes from one campaign micro-site to the main domain.

Or, the prospect may not be tracked as they go from your website to get directions to then go to your physical storefront to transact.

Making Decisions Based On Small Sample Sizes

For smaller trafficked websites, marketers using attribution data may not have statistically significant data sets to draw accurate correlations for future campaigns.

This results in faulty assumptions and the inability to repeat prior success.

Lack Of Tracking Compliance

If your attribution models rely on offline activities, then you may require manual imports of data or proper logging of sales activities.

From my experience in overseeing hundreds of CRM implementations, there is always some level of non-compliance in logging activities (like calls, meetings, or emails). This leads to skewed attribution models.

Mo‘ models, mo’ problems: Each analytics platform has a set of five or more attribution models you can use to optimize your campaigns around.

Without a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each model, the person building the attribution reporting may not be structuring or configuring them to align with your organizational goals.

Data Privacy

Since GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy laws were enacted, analytics data continues to get murkier each year.

For organizations that rely on web visitors to opt-in to tracking, attribution modeling suffers due to the inability to pull in tracking for every touchpoint.

How Do You Measure Marketing Attribution?

Measuring attribution is all about giving credit where it is due. There are dozens of attribution tools out there to assign credit to the digital or offline touchpoint.

Attribution measurement starts with choosing the data model that aligns with your business goals.

Certain attribution models favor interactions earlier on in the customer journey whereas others give the most credit towards interactions closer to a transaction.

Here is a scenario of how to measure marketing attribution in a first-touch attribution model (we’ll get to the different models next):

A prospect comes to the website through a paid search ad and reads the blog.

Two days later, she comes back to the site and views a couple of product pages.

Three days later, she comes back through an organic listing from Google and then converts on the site by signing up for a discount coupon.

With a first-touch attribution model, the paid search ad will get 100% of the credit for that conversion.

As you can see, choosing the “right” model can be a contentious issue, as each model gives a percentage of credit to a specific interaction or placement along the path toward becoming a customer.

If your business relies on paid search, SEO, offline, and other channels, then likely one of the individuals working on one of those channels is going to look like the superhero, whereas the other marketers will look like they aren’t pulling their weight.

Ideally, when you are choosing an attribution tool, you’ll be able to build reports that allow you to compare various attribution models, so you have a better understanding of which channels and interactions are most influential during certain time periods leading up to conversion or purchase.

What Are Different Marketing Attribution Models?

Marketers can use various marketing attribution models to examine the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Each attribution tool has will have a handful of models you can optimize campaigns and build reports around. Here is a description of each model:

First-Click Attribution

This model gives credit to the first channel that the customer interacted with.

This model is popular to use when optimizing for brand awareness and top-of-funnel conversions/engagement.

Last-Click Attribution

This model gives all of the credit to the last channel that the customer interacts with.

This model is useful when looking to understand which channels/interactions were most influential immediately before converting/purchasing.

Last-click attribution is the default attribution model for Google Analytics.

Multi-Touch/Channel Attribution

This model gives credit to all of the channels or touchpoints that the customer interacted with throughout their journey.

This model is used when you are looking to give weight evenly or to specific interactions.

There are variations of the multi-touch model including time-decay, linear, U-shaped, W-shaped, and J-shaped.

Customized

This model allows you to manually set the weight for individual channels or placements within the customer journey.

This model is best for organizations that have experience in using attribution modeling, and have clear goals for what touchpoints are most impactful in the buyers’ journey.

Marketing Attribution Tools

There are several different tools available to help marketers measure and analyze marketing attribution. Some attribution tools are features within marketing automation platforms or CRM systems like Active Campaign or HubSpot.

Others are stand-alone attribution tools that rely on API or integrations to pull in and analyze data, like Triple Whale eller Dreamdata.

As you are evaluating tools, consider how much offline or sales data needs to be included within your attribution models.

For systems like HubSpot, you can include sales activities (like phone calls and 1:1 sales emails) and offline list import data (from tradeshows).

Other tools, like Google Analytics, are not natively built to pull in that kind of data and would require advanced development work to include these activities as part of your model.

(Full disclosure: I work with HubSpot’s highest-rated partner agency, SmartBug Media.)

Additionally, if you need to be able to see the very specific touchpoints (like a specific email sent or an ad clicked), then you need a full-funnel attribution system that shows this level of granularity.

Attribution modeling is a powerful tool that marketers can use to measure the success of their campaigns, optimize online/offline channels, and improve customer interactions.

It is important, though, to understand attribution’s limitations, the pros and cons of each model, and the challenges with extracting conclusive data before investing large budgets towards attribution technology.

Fler resurser: 


Featured Image: Yuriy K/Shutterstock



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Lead Generation: How To Get Started

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Lead Generation: How To Get Started

Today’s consumers have an almost limitless amount of information at their fingertips. Podcasts, videos, blog posts, and social media – are just a few of the sources that can drive them toward one brand over another.

If it’s your job to attract these potential customers, you know the struggles of generating high-quality leads.

In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at lead generation, discussing the different types of leads you could attract and providing some strategies and examples for lead gen that you can put to use right away.

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is a marketing process of capturing potential consumers who show interest in your product or service.

The goal is to connect with people early in the buying process, earn their trust and build a relationship so that, when they’re ready to make a purchase, they buy from you.

But lead generation also serves secondary objectives, including building brand awareness, collecting customer data, and fostering brand loyalty.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that not everyone who visits your store or website is a lead.

That’s why successful lead gen goes after specific targets, using a variety of platforms and strategies including:

  • Landing pages – Using a tracking pixel, landing pages collect information about visitors you can later use to target them for sales.
  • Email – Email is a great lead generation tool because the recipients will have opted in, which means they’re already familiar with your brand.
  • Social media – With unmatched opportunities for engagement, your social media accounts are a great way to encourage your targets to take action.
  • Blogs – A great way to establish authority and provide value, blogs are also a great place to promote specific offers.
  • Live events – When it comes to qualifying leads, live events are a great way to meet your target audience and quickly identify the ones more likely to make a purchase.
  • Coupons and other promotions – Offering a discount or free item is a great way to encourage targets to provide their contact information.

What will ultimately work best for you will depend on your niche and your audience.

As you experiment with different lead generation strategies, you may find one more successful than the others. This means you should probably make that channel your priority, whereas others may not be of any use at all.

But we’ll get to all that later.

First, let’s talk about leads.

The Different Types Of Leads

Sales is the engine that drives any business. Without sales, there’s no revenue. Without revenue, there’s no business. So, it’s kind of important.

But it’s a massive field. The approach a medical monitoring sensor salesperson takes is going to be very different from a used car salesman.

But both of them – and every other sales professional for that matter – have one thing in common: they need to spend most of their time pursuing the people who are most likely to buy.

In general, leads fall into seven categories:

  • Hot Leads – These leads are ready to convert. They are qualified and interested in your offering, and are the most likely to convert to a sale. For example, this might be the purchasing director who has had several conversations with you and received a product demo. They have purchasing authority and a timeline.
  • Cold Leads – These are potential customers who may be unfamiliar with your brand or offering. As of yet, they have shown no interest in what you’re selling. Generally speaking, these are the hardest leads to convert to sales.
  • Warm Leads – A middle ground between the two previous types of leads, these are people who are familiar with who you are and what you offer. They’re the type who watch your videos or read your blogs, but haven’t contacted you directly. Your goal is to warm them up into hot leads.
  • Information Qualified Leads (IQLs) – This is the kind of lead who has already shown some interest in your company and has followed a call to action. Maybe they signed up for your email newsletter or filled out a lead generation form. They are often looking for more information and will react positively to a nurturing campaign.
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) – MQLs are one step further down the pipeline from IQLs. They are actively searching for a solution that fits their needs, and are trying to discover if yours is the right fit. These are the types of leads who will download your whitepapers, watch your videos, and attend your corporate seminars.
  • Sales Ready Leads (SRLs) – Sometimes called “accepted leads,” these are the bottom-of-the-funnel leads who are almost ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. It’s important to understand their budgets, purchasing authority, needs, and timeframe.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) – These leads are ready to buy and should be in communication with your sales team. They are considered very hot, however, you should be aware that they are likely still considering some of your competitors.

The Lead Generation Process

As you have probably gathered by this point, lead generation is a multiple-step process.

Yours will vary, depending on whether you’re focusing on inbound or outbound generation – but both should follow a similar pathway.

Step 1: Do Your Research

Before you start trying to collect leads, you need to gather as much information as possible about your target audience. You want to know not just who they are, but where they live, what’s important to them, and most importantly, what their pain points are, particularly those that are the most pressing.

It’s often a good idea to create customer personas, in which you define the demographics, budget, and needs of typical customers. You may want to consider social habits, professional experience, and even psychological traits.

Once you know who you’re going after, it’s time to identify where they are. Are they active on Facebook, or more likely to respond to an email? Again, this will vary depending on your specific circumstances.

This is also the stage where you should check out the competition. What are they doing? What differentiates your offering from theirs? And most importantly, why is it better?

Step 2: Create Great Content

By now, you should know what needs your offering fills for your potential customers. Use this information to create content that solves it.

Your choice of medium will affect your content format. For example, videos work great on social media, but you can’t embed them in an email.

Likewise, if you’re going after your target audience on Twitter, your lengthy blogs are going to need to be linked to, or at the very least truncated.

Never forget your focus is on adding value. Each piece of content you create should serve a specific purpose, whether that’s educating your audience about your offering, building brand awareness or promoting a sale.

Step 3: Develop A Lead Generation Database

You can have the hottest leads on the planet, but they won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t handle them the right way.

You should create and use a lead database where you can record, study, filter, and segment your potential customers.

Ideally, you’ll want to get an automated CRM system to dramatically reduce the labor involved with this.

Most of these will allow you to tag leads based on the type and how hot they are. This allows your sales team to work through their lists in a more efficient manner, dedicating the most attention to those with the biggest chance of converting.

Step 4: Qualify And Score Leads

Not all leads are going to be in the same place in the sales funnel. Some will be ready to buy today, while others may just be getting an idea of what’s out there.

You need to adjust your approach based on this.

Most companies use a lead scoring system of 1-100, which indicates approximately where the lead is in the customer journey. They are assigned points based on their actions, with more serious actions resulting in more points.

For example, following your Facebook page could be worth 10 points, filling out a “Request a demo” form might be worth 20, and opening and reading an email could be 5. If a lead does all three of these, their lead score would be 35.

These numbers will give you a general idea of where they are from the following stages:

  • New leads, who have just made initial contact.
  • Working leads, with whom you have had contact and initiated a conversation.
  • Nurturing leads, who are not interested in buying right now, but might in the future.
  • Unqualified leads, who are not interested in your offering. These are sometimes called “dead leads.”
  • Qualified leads, or those who want to do business with you.

Obviously, you should focus more time and energy on the leads that have a higher probability of converting.

Lead Generation Strategies And Examples

The ways you can generate leads are practically endless, but in this section, we’ll discuss some of the more common strategies you can employ, plus give you examples of them at work.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the practice of creating engaging and informative content that provides value for leads and customers, thereby generating interest in a business.

This can span both traditional and digital marketing, and is an important part of any successful marketing strategy. It can include things like newsletters, podcasts, videos, and social media.

You can use content marketing for any stage of the sales funnel, from growing brand awareness with timely blogs, creating demand or demonstrating thought leadership with white papers, driving organic traffic via SEO, building trust, and earning customer loyalty.

To make the most of yours, offer many opt-in opportunities and make them more enticing by adding discounts, guides, or something of value in exchange.

Email Marketing

Email remains a popular choice for lead generation for a good reason: it works.

A study by Mailchimp found 22.71% of marketing emails were opened, with some industries seeing even higher rates.

Whether you’re sending out a monthly newsletter or a cold outreach email to a potential prospect, email remains one of your best bets for generating new leads.

One of the more cost-effective means of generating leads, email marketing also allows you to segment your targets with customized content that promotes maximum engagement.

Another reason email marketing is a favorite for so many organizations is that it provides incredible opportunities for tracking. A quality CRM will give you a lot of useful data, including open rate, engagement time, and subscriber retention, allowing you to fine-tune your campaigns.

Social Media Marketing

Almost everyone is on social media these days, which makes it the ideal place to hunt down leads.

Social media platforms not only allow you to directly interact with your followers, but they also let you create advertising targeted at highly specific audiences.

Interaction is simplified thanks to multiple user-friendly CTAs like Instagram Stories’ skip option and truncated URLs on Twitter.

Screenshot from Facebook, January 2023

Social media is also a great place to run contests or share gated content.

You can use paid ads like the one above to target new leads,  share content that will generate them organically, or ideally, a mix of both.

Coupons, Discounts, And Free Trials

If you’re like many people, you may be reluctant to provide your email address to businesses in case they start spamming your inbox.

As a business, however, this can be a problem.

The way to overcome this trepidation is to offer people something of value in return for their contact information.

A risk-free trial or discount code is a powerful tool for overcoming sales barriers. And once a target has tried your offering, you can retarget them with additional offers to encourage a sale.

Give them a free gift, offer a coupon, or allow them to take your product for a test drive, and you’ll find many more people willing to give you their info.

Free pizza couponScreenshot from author, January 2023

Online Ads

Display advertisements are videos and images that pop up as you’re browsing websites, apps, and social media.

They, along with paid search and PPC, are a great way to reach your intended customers where they are.

Display ads are particularly useful for targeting leads across the buyers’ journey, as well as promoting awareness and sales, promotions, or new products.

google search ads result for chairsScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Remarketing ads are a great way to reengage leads who have stopped short of a purchase, while non-intrusive native ads are perfect for extending your content marketing efforts.

Referral Marketing

A great way to find new leads is to let your existing customers find them for you. Encourage them to write reviews or recommend friends in return for a discount or something else of value.

AAA insurance referral adImage from AAA Insurance, January 2023

This is an excellent way to fill your funnel of leads – and make more sales. Referrals and online reviews give you an authenticity and trust level that no in-house marketing campaign can ever duplicate.

Did you know that when shopping online, more than 99.9% of people read reviews? Or that 94% of consumers acknowledged positive reviews made them more likely to support a business? And that’s not even including the power of personal recommendations from friends and family.

Referral marketing is a great tool for lead generation because it presents your brand in a positive light to more people.

Best Practices For Lead Generation

To ensure you’re getting the most out of your lead generation efforts, keep these tips in mind:

Use Your Data

You likely have a lot of information about leads and the types of strategies that work for them already at your fingertips.

Gather yours by looking at previous pieces that have worked well, whether it’s blogs that get a lot of reads, emails that have a high open-rate, or display ads that bring in a lot of traffic.

Look for general themes or things you did differently on high-performers. This will give you insight into the kind of things that resonate with your audience.

Be Consistent With Messaging

Make sure it’s very obvious to any web visitor or email recipient what action they should take next. Offer them a reason to click your links and keep your messaging clear and consistent.

You should maintain the same tone of voice across channels as you move prospects through the sales funnel. Remember, you’re not just interested in capturing data – you’re trying to create a customer.

A/B Testing

Every marketer knows the importance of testing different versions of collateral. This is because, no matter how well something is performing, it could always do better.

You should experiment with different headlines, images, body copy, etc.

Just remember to only test one aspect at once, lest you miss which change made a difference.

And again, don’t forget the opt-ins.

Use The Power Of CRM Technology

To ensure your sales and marketing teams are operating as efficiently as possible, but a lead generation platform to work for you.

The right tool can help you gather information about your targets, monitor their behavior on your website and identify what’s driving them to you.

Armed with this data, you can then optimize your pages and campaigns to better target your audience.

Create Enticing Offers At Every Stage

People at different stages of the purchasing journey want different things.

Someone who is just curious about seeing what’s out there isn’t likely to respond to a free demo offer, but someone who is further along the funnel might.

Make sure you’re offering something for every buying stage and that you have clear CTAs throughout your materials.

Integrate Social Media

Social media is the ideal platform for initiating conversations and interactions with leads at all stages.

While many marketers typically think of it as primarily for top-of-funnel targeting, by strategically using proven offers and other things of value, you can also go after those leads who are closer to making a purchase.

Clean Up Your Landing Pages

Users want information presented to them in a clean, easy-to-understand manner. No one is trying to read “War and Peace” to find a new vending machine supplier.

Put your important information at the top, and make it clear where visitors can input their information to contact you or get content.

Use Your Partners

Co-marketing is a great way to generate new leads because it allows you to piggyback on the efforts of partner companies.

Create mutually beneficial offers and you’ll spend the word about your brand to a larger audience, which will attract new leads.

Bring Your Sales Team In

Marketers prime the pump, but sales drives the action. Make sure to loop your sales team into the lead generation process early and often.

They will likely have personal insight into what works best to move targets along the purchasing path.

This will also ensure you remain on the same page as far as what terms mean.

Remarket, Remarket, Remarket

Almost no one makes a purchase on first contact, particularly in B2B sales. That makes remarketing an important arrow for your quiver.

It helps turn bouncers into leads and abandoners into customers – and it amplifies all your other marketing activities.

Make Lead Generation A Priority

No one ever said it was easy to find, score, and qualify leads, but it’s an important part of ensuring the growth and financial health of your business.

Nurturing customers and potential customers is hard work. But without it, you’ll struggle to make new sales.

This piece only covered lead generation from a high level, but hopefully, it has equipped you with some strategies you can employ to attract new leads and nurture existing ones.

If you only take a single thing away from this make it this: Put most of your efforts into higher-quality leads, because they’re the ones who are most likely to make a purchase.

And remember – lead generation is an ongoing process. You’re not going to see results overnight, but if you put in the work, you’ll start to generate the results you want.

Happy hunting.

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Featured Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock



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