Our “Agency Hacks 2” webinar is coming Thursday, July 23. Learn how to put some of the tips from this article into practice, and add on to your link builder tool belt with more organization and enterprise-level execution tips.
Link building is a content creation effort that requires promotion to the right people. There are a lot of moving parts- topics, audience, missions, tools, personas, prospects, overloaded inboxes and it all needs to go through the client or management. As a link builder, you can either let the bedlam manage you, or crack down on the chaos with a production calendar.
A production calendar is a map of content and outreach workflow. We use them with every client to determine who’s responsible for what by when (and we’ve even included a sample at the end of this post.)
This is how the sausage is made, folks. If you do it right, at the end, you’ve got quite a few tasty links.
Part 1: Why You Need a Link Building Production Calendar
#1 A Production Calendar Enables Timeliness & Seasonal Relevance
Coordinating around seasonal events such as awareness weeks & months, national holidays in various countries you reach out to, even preparing for seasonal conditions, such as blizzards or wildfires, can help add to the relevancy of your content and creates outreach justification.
When your outreach is relevant and timely, and you know that there are seasonal impacts on the linker valued audience you’re writing for, you’re showing more concern and understanding for that audience. Relationship building is almost as much about good timing as it is about good content.
TIP: Create a generic seasonal calendar as a company resource for multiple clients or campaigns. It’s a bit of research, but it will quickly become a valuable company resource. At Citation Labs, we have our own internal calendar of holidays and awareness weeks, but my Operations Manager threatened mutiny if I shared it :).
#2 A Production Calendar Means Pure Execution & Getting It Done
Being organized means that no branch has excuses for not getting their part done. If your team executes at volume (at the enterprise level) a production calendar will especially impact the number of conversions. With so many moving pieces, it’s easy for an entire operation to get held up with one little glitch, and good production calendar plans for workflow snags to maximize the number of outreach emails… and links from your campaign.
#3 A Production Calendar Lets You Experiment
Big picture thinking allows you to come up with ideas you may not have seen otherwise.
You’re better able to plan to try a little bit of this, a little bit of that and measure what works, instead of feeling like you’re hopping around. Categorize different projects:
- slow grind
- grand slam event
- authority approach
and build in different approaches as you go.
Part 2: What Needs To Be Organized In A Link Building Production Calendar
This is how we build 50 links/month for some of our clients.
Questions to Ask
Any calendar is going to start with someone spending a couple weeks fleshing everything out. Here are some questions that will get the right planning conversations started. If this is a purely internal project, than the same questions apply, though (hopefully!) coordination will be a bit easier.
1. What does success look like for this project? What end goal we working toward, and how will we be measured along the way?
2. Has this style of link-building campaign been tried before? What worked then? What didn’t work?
3. Are there stopping points during the campaign where change-of direction is possible (if necessary)? Where is the “point of no return” for each assignment?
4. Who needs to approve things, which items do they need to approve? How long will this approval process typically take? Are there key decision makers who have planned time out of office during this campaign? If so, who are their replacement contacts?
Tip: Build in extra time for feedback if possible. We can’t control how quickly clients or decision-makers return emails, or how many changes may be requested along the way.
In other words: plan for…
5. How long does it take the content team to go from spec to published piece? Or is there existing linkable content?
6. Are we doing outreach in another region, and if so, are there holidays or seasonal limitations we should be aware of? (It’s summer here in the US, but it’s not bathing suit season in Sydney!)
Your calendar also needs to be a reflection of your campaign goals. As I mentioned in the last section, if you’re focused on experimenting until you hit the right stride with your outreach approach, your calendar may be more focused on saving time for trial and error. If you (or your client) is more focused on pure results, your calendar may be more streamlined to produce, produce, produce as efficiently as possible. This is why a new calendar is essential for each campaign; goals determine structure. This is campaign-thinking.
Part 3: Production Calendar Example – 3 Months to a 50 Links/Month Process
Goal of this document is to define project steps and contacts for each part. Depending on your internal processes, your team may have to go through more or less approvals after each step.
This example is for a link building campaign based on reaching out with quality content to linker valued audiences. Other campaign types (ie- blogger outreach, PR, etc) will be different. Some of the fundamental processes: prospecting + contact finding + outreach, are consistent across all campaign types, but the rest can vary.
This process is based on our 5-part link-building team model (which we’ll be writing about in full in later posts).
- Link Strategist
- Outreach Prospecting & Qualifying Team
- Content Creator(s)
- Template Creator
- Outreach Team
- Identify topic “verticals of linkability” based on branding conversations and company mission, with previously successful content in mind.
Weeks 1 & 2: Content Creator & Link Strategist brainstorm 10+ titles based on topics & audiences research.
- Send 10+ titles to client for approval.
Weeks 3 & 4: Prospect & Qualifying Team uses Link Strategist’s report to begin link opportunity prospecting.
>> Pending Titles Approval by Client
- Build out topical prospecting queries.
- Determine related authority sites for co-citation prospecting.
- Merge SERP prospects & co-citation prospects into lists of link prospects. Outreach can require 100-250 prospects per link earned.
Weeks 3 & 4: Once topics and opportunities have been identified, Content Creator starts writing.
- Spec out content. delivering title + one paragraph “gist” + several supporting URLs for research + citation purposes.
- Content is written, then requires review by Link Strategist.
- Content is shipped, ready for review & publication by client.
Weeks 5-7: Qualification Team & Outreach Team begin qualification & contact finding based on prospects (from weeks 3 & 4).
- Based on link opportunities gathered in weeks 3 & 4, qualify and find contacts for lists of potential partners
Week 5-7: Based on content & directed toward found contacts, Template Creator begins template development & sends to client/management for approval.
- Draft vertical-specific template options
- Note: Link Strategist will be on vacation this week. Person XYZ will replace her during this time.
Weeks 8-12: Outreach Team contacts list of prospects chosen during weeks 5-7, with template from week 8.
>> Pending Prospect List Approval by Client
>> Pending Template(s) Approval by Client
- Mission-based outreach, specific toward target audiences.
Weeks 8-12: Outreach Team responds to contact emails, with input from Link Strategist when necessary.
- Inboxes are manually monitored for feedback.
- Team determines new content ideas based on potential-linker feedback, as presented.
… and beyond!
Evaluate directions forward – new content topics, adjust direction and course as required.
Now Go Out, and Production Calendar Create!
We get emails from tool users and potential clients all the time with questions around how to structure their link building campaigns. Content tips and tricks are great, but if you don’t know how to organize a campaign, your team is going to lose steam. Hopefully this post has provided structural ideas for a smoothly-run link building production.
Stay tuned for our upcoming webinar, on Thursday, July 23, where we’ll discuss more examples of production calendar development and hold a Q&A where you can get tips, hacks and tools for starting your own.