You, as a business owner, should always be looking for new opportunities to expand your online network and continue to drive new business in your direction. The key to that drive and that network is link building and finding creative ways to create links is the purpose of this post. Where we’re going to focus today, is on an often overlooked area, schools. You may not think that a link building idea regarding schools would be that novel of a concept, but it’s actually something that very few think about. After all, do you have a link on a school website?
When it comes to creating that link with a school you need to do one very important thing: create relationships. This isn’t just a one-sided adventure where you’re going to put in a link and be done with it. You need to help people see that you are a benefit to them and that you actually have something of value to offer. That valuable offer is two-fold. First, it’s the discount that you’re going to offer them, maybe 20-25% off your products or a service. Second, it’s the relationship that you’re going to create and the time you’re going to take to focus on them. But how do you even get in the door?
If you’ve been working on link building for long you already know that every link that you get is a little notch on your belt. It’s a way to push your website a little bit higher on the SEO food chain, but it’s a slow trudge when you’re working only with blogs or low-level websites. Of course, you’re grateful for everything you can get and every page is definitely going to help, but if you’re looking to really jump up a couple levels a school is actually a great way to go as far as a link building idea.
The truth is, when it comes to links, a .com website is one of the lowest level ones that you can find for building SEO. Each link you get on a website that ends with .com is going to help you, but not a whole lot. What you really want are links on websites that are ranked higher themselves and that have professional designations. A .org, .edu, or .gov link is really going to help you improve your rankings because each of those links counts for more than a simple .com.
Getting into a .org or .gov designation can be difficult, and it’s definitely going to depend on the type of business that you’re involved in, but getting onto a .edu website is a little bit simpler because you have access to a range of different schools in your area. It’s best if you focus on your area (unless your service is one that can be provided easily through the internet or it’s a product that’s simple to purchase online). Even still, you may want to start with local universities and community colleges before you start to branch out too far.
But just what should you be doing when it comes to branching into those schools? How are you going to get a link on their website? What you’re going to do is not get your name on the homepage or the strictly academic pages. Instead, you’re going to find your way onto one of the school pages by slipping in through a little bit of a backdoor, the people who go there.
The very first place you want to look when you’re trying to branch into schools is the staff or faculty. These are the teachers, the administrators and the other professionals that work throughout the school and they could be your biggest asset. All you need to do is reach out to the HR manager or the benefits manager (which may take a little digging so you find the right person) and then work on creating a relationship.
Outline who you are and what you can do for them right away. Remember, these are busy people and they will likely decide very quickly whether you are worth their time or not. Explain what you’re really offering and how it’s going to benefit them instead of focusing on only what you want in return. Remember, the key is to build a relationship and let them know that you’re here for them, not just yourself.
If you can offer B2B opportunities or services you’re going to already be off to a great start or if you’re a local restaurant (everyone has to eat, right). By explaining the things your business is capable of in general and then going into what special benefit is being offered in exchange for a link on their page you’re going to really draw them in. If you get accepted and you get that link it’s going to be a huge win for you when it comes to SEO.
An educational link is a big milestone because it’s rated much higher than general websites. Other links that you may have on blogs or .com pages aren’t going to give you as much clout as that .edu page will. But your job isn’t over, because you’re not just making a business deal, this link building idea is about you creating a relationship. Make sure you check in once in a while. Follow up with how they’re doing. Maybe even bring in some snacks and physically go to the location. Don’t stop working on the relationship just because you got what you wanted.
After all, as easy as it is for them to put your link on their page, it’s twice as easy for them to remove it when someone goes ‘what was this business again? Why do we even have this here?’ You definitely don’t want them to forget who you are or just why they have you listed on their website. You want them constantly thinking about you so they keep your link and so they continue to frequent your business at the same time.
The next place to go is the students. This is going to be a larger body of people than the staff and faculty, which means you may get even more business from it if you’re successful. Your first step for this aspect is going to be determining the student government or student association president and then contacting them with your proposal. They will likely have unilateral control over what goes on their specific pages (within reason) and therefore can make the decision to add your link or not.
Once again, you need to start by explaining who you are and what you actually have to offer. Then you want to explain the specific benefits that you’re willing to offer them. For example, if you are a restaurant you may want to start by explaining the type of food you offer and where you’re located. Then, you’ll want to talk about the 20% off that you’re willing to give students that come to your restaurant.
Restaurants are notoriously great options when it comes to getting students interested because students seem like they’re always hungry, right? By offering discounts as the highlight of your link building idea they’re more likely to check you out during their breaks. But just about any type of business can get business this way. It’s not just about the restaurants.
Some universities already have a student deals page or website that’s located under the university header, which means it’s a special page just for companies like you that still has the .edu designation. Some universities prefer to give their students a discount card either alongside this page or instead of one, which they can show at certain businesses and get a discount. Getting your name on that card and offering the discount as well means that more students are going to know about you and they’re more likely to come check out what you have to offer. Of course, you still want to make sure you’re listed online somewhere.
Remember, you’re still creating a relationship. You need to continue to work with these organizations and the students that are there to make sure that they continue to frequent your business. By checking in once in a while and maybe even offering additional specials occasionally you can continue to increase your business. They’ll keep talking about you to other students and even to friends and family who aren’t students if they find that they like your business (and especially if you offer referral bonuses).
The final area that you can target when it comes to schools is the alumni association. This group is actually the largest of all (think about all the people that graduate from a university in a single year and multiply that by 50, 80 or even 100 years that school has been around). Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately for you) these are the people who are most often overlooked when it comes to getting discounts. Maybe businesses offer university discounts but rarely do those discounts apply to alumni of the school as well.
What’s important for you is that these are people who definitely want to be appreciated. They’re people who aren’t being appreciated and they are people who have their own website or page on the university website. That means they too have that elusive .edu designation that can get you so much further when it comes to SEO ranking and how they fit in your link building idea. This is a group of people that you most definitely want to reach out to, which means finding the president of the alumni association or the webmaster in charge of the page.
With this group, you want to look for an alumni discount program that might be similar to the student discount program. If they have a card or a system similar to it then you definitely want to get involved. You want to be on that card so they know to visit you. If they don’t have one, it’s actually even better for you, because you get to be the person who pitches that awesome alumni discount program. Who doesn’t like getting discounts, after all? When you pitch the program you get to talk about the great discounts you’re going to offer and since you may be the first one ever to offer that kind of discount to them, you’re going to get a great deal of business before anyone else even gets in on the idea.
Talk to whoever is in charge and explain to them the same things as before, who you are, what you do and what specific benefits you’re looking to offer them. You want to let them know why you’re special and why they should put you on their website. Again, it’s all about building that strong relationship and making sure they know that you appreciate them. That discount you’re offering may be the first one they’ve ever been offered and that makes it even more important to continue cultivating that relationship.
When you’re looking for a strong link building idea you want to make sure that you consider all of your options. While going to a local school may seem like a strange idea, it’s actually a great way to continue to network yourself both on and offline. Think about it, as more and more students, faculty and alumni are given a discount card with your name on it, more and more of them are going to come to your business. They’re also going to talk about your business, which means offline networking.
The link that you’re putting on their website or webpage, however, and the increased SEO ranking that you get from a high-level link, mean that you’re also getting more attention from other people. Each strong link that you get is going to increase your ranking and that will help your online networking continue to expand. Just remember that putting in some effort and building (as well as maintaining) a strong relationship is an instrumental part of the process.
Never stop looking for new opportunities to network yourself and your business to an ever-widening circle of potential customers.