SEO

3 Ways You Can Turn Your Search Box Into a Link Building Machine

In a previous post on using other web sites search data to understand industry trends and your competitors trends, I touched on how many web sites are putting their search box data out there for all to see.

This time I am going to talk about how to turn that search data into a link magnet. I will use ESPN.com and shopping.com (no longer active) as examples, but before I do I would say that this strategy works a heck of a lot better on large sites that get a lot of searches done, like publishers, than for a smaller site like our little SEO Blog

Ok now with that out of the way, lets look at how espn.com uses their top search data vs. shopping .com.

First Espn.com’s “Top Searches” page has over 1000 links (many are from their own site, I know) but shopping.com’s “Top Searches” page has 3 links, see captures below from Yahoo! Site Explorer of both sites

Espn Links

shopping.com links

How can this be? How can two web sites both share search data on hot topics and one can get 1000+ links while the other gets 3? Lets break it all down:

ESPN.com Smart Move #1 – Add Value
In the image above the first thing you’ll notice is that this is much more than a list, ESPN takes time to add value to the trending topics, this probably requires someone to also babysit trending topics just to make sure everything that shows up is family friendly. Shopping.com just throws up top searches with no rhyme, reason or value added. In my opinion adding value to your top searches list (whether you do it monthly, quarterly, or annually) is what makes this link strategy a link magnet and not just a web page with hot topics.

ESPN.com Smart Move #1.5 – Add Value = Reporter interest
So let’s say you are a reporter and you want to see what’s getting hot to help you write your next story, this is a great place to go to possibly get a spark, and maybe a link back to that initial spark.

Would a reporter ever go to the shopping.com site? Maybe, but its going to be pulling teeth to get any value from this page in its current state.

Yet they are saying, hey if you are press and want to contact us, call us! How about you create some value on this page first?

Brent Csutoras recently mentioned at IM Spring Break how promotion on Ballhype led to a story that ended up on Yahoo sports, reporters read this stuff for ideas, but I’ll get to social promotion opps later.

ESPN.com Smart Move #2 – Archiving
Another way to turn that search bar into linking gold is to archive the hottest topics for each month / year. Looking at Yahoo! Site explorer I found that the 2007 archive has 10 deep links pointing to it, not KILLER, but why not archive your trending topics from previous months / years? It might take a day or two of someone’s time to write it up and aggregate it all, but heck you get a chance to get links, why not take the 1 or 2 days? Making this just part of what you do is critical, then you know that every month you aggregate top searches, then every year you take them all and publish an all out year-end post. This is critical to do, just make it part of the process and eventually you’ll see how it becomes a self feeding linkbuilding machine.

Missed opportunities by both #3 – Social Promotion
I dug really hard to see if there was any real social promotion about these and didn’t see anything for either. Take a look for the comments section on this page on ESPN.com: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=4029957

3 missed opportunities here on ESPN.com’s part to help this get more buzz and links

1 – The comments link is TINY and close to a banner (which people tend to not look at)
2 – When you find that tiny link if you want to leave a comment it goes to a new page and a new subdomain altogether
3 – Social promotion buttons, where are the buttons for Digg, Yahoo Buzz (www.yahoo.com/buzz), Delicious, Stumbleupon and the all important Ballhype (http://www.ballhype.com)?

Without much effort Espn.com is already doing something great with how they are using search, some small tweaks to a formula that is already working could make this go even further.

So your homework is simple, can you identify large publisher sites you work on that could use this strategy?