We all know that ranking well in the search engine requires links.
Today, I wanted to share some ideas for building links for businesses in the food and drink industry and how you can raise awareness of your brand online.
1. Use Local SEO
Any local business hoping to make an impact online should be serious about local SEO. Whether you are a micro-brewery or a restaurant – chances are you have a brick and mortar establishment therefore it makes sense to consider a localised SEO project.
It is people in your local area who are most likely to become your brand ambassadors and talk about you online – leading to citations and links. But that only works if they know you exist!
Start by setting up a local Google listing, put in all of the relevant info, link it to your website and then make sure you include location signals on your website (such as your full address, areas you cover, a local phone number etc…)
2. Keep a Blog
Keeping a blog is a great way to earn links by improving your brand credibility. This is especially true for small food and drink businesses as you can use a blog as a platform to tell your story.
Things to talk about could be, for example, where you source your ingredients, how you develop your processes, and even your company’s heritage.
Food and drink covers a wide range of subjects so you will never be short of content ideas. Think outside the box and look at industry news, how to recipes, world cuisine, food festivals, unusual recipes such as things you can make with coffee or other flavoursome ingredients. Be inventive.
3. Use Video Content
Video and other forms of rich media is a great way to reach more people for a lot of reasons.
First of all, video is much more expensive, difficult and time consuming to create than text content, so most people don't bother – which means that if you put in the effort, you can reap the rewards in the form of traffic, followers or sales, providing your video is engaging!
Video also works great for food and drinks – you can create videos of your chefs at work in the kitchen, or showing your manufacturing processes and give your customers an insight as to how products are being created.
This again has the potential to boost your credibility and makes people believe in your brand, as well as gaining social shares which can lead to more links, traffic and customers.
4. Use Social Media
Successful food and drinks companies often live and die on their brand strength, and for any company with a story to tell and a personality to share, social media is a powerful tool.
As a minimum you should share all of your blog posts on social media, but you should also talk about other things going on in your niche and in your area.
The idea is to get people talking about you and to you, because people who are engaged are more likely to link to you and tell their friends about you (which is effectively the offline version of link building right?)
If you are a restaurant owner, you could encourage your customers to leave a comment on Facebook to say how much they enjoyed their meal, or post a picture of their meal to Instagram or Pinterest – ideally before they eat it! You may want to offer a free drink or dessert for the gesture.
5. Write For Foodie Websites
Writing for other websites (guest posting) can be done well or badly. It is certainly a link building strategy that has been abused, leading certain people to proclaim that "guest posting is dead". But the reality is that it is still a great way to build links.
But rather than just writing for anyone, try to get positions writing for high profile and popular food magazine websites and foodie blogs.
Generally the best opportunities are from the websites which don't generally accept guest writers, or certainly not unsolicited ones – to find these sorts of opportunities you need to work on your social media profile and try to build relationships with the right people.
Writing for high quality publications can be a good source of links, but the real benefits go far beyond that. They build trust and authority with your audience.
Choose specialist subjects, such as wine, seasonal recipes and secret ingredients to give recipes a burst of flavour and you have more chance of getting published.
Contributing content to industry magazines also enables you to make contacts in the food and drink industry. This can present opportunities of its own. For example, you could hold a food event and give the magazine exclusive rights like Rioja did with Imbibe last year.
6. Go To Food & Drinks Events
This is a no brainer for a food and drinks company anyway, but if you are having a stand at a festival or an event of any sort, make sure your customers know, shout about it and use it as a press opportunity.
As a minimum you should be able to get the event organisers to mention you on their website, and if you promote the event on your own blog they are more likely to want to talk about you and what you are doing – it's mutually beneficial!
Even better, if you can get local press involved you might well get mentioned in newspapers and magazines. Offline mentions can always lead to online mentions (and links).
7. Build Relationships with Online Influencers
Perhaps the best types of links you can get are mentions from online influencers (such as journalists, bloggers, foodies, etc…) – the types of mentions that just happen, sometimes with you even knowing.
But to get those sorts of links you need a strong brand personality and you need to ensure that the right people know about you and love what you do. Never underestimate the power an influencer can have on their audience or the local public in general.
If you know a celebrity from your area, or even an influential businessman, politician or sportsman, why not invite them for a free meal and ask them to comment on their social media networks.
Influencers that you don't know can be harder to get the attention of, but you can try various strategies – Perhaps you could invite them to review your restaurant or products.
Any link you gain from such reviews are likely to be nofollow, but they are more valuable for the potential traffic and the relationship you can build.
You should also try hard to interact with influencers via social media and even via their websites. Don't try to promote yourself, just try to have a conversation – build online relationships as you would build a friendship in the real world!
8. Sponsor a Local Event
Sponsoring local events is a great way to raise brand awareness and place your product in front of a local audience. Specialised food festivals are an obvious choice, but there might also be a lot of competition.
So why not offer to provide the catering for non-food related events in your area instead? The company organising the event will no doubt be willing to link to your website and also mention you to event goers.
Be Big On Ethics
Ethics is becoming an increasingly big issue in the food industry and the public have shown that they want more ethical food and drink outlets.
Unethical practices by fast food chains, the horse meat scandal and mass-produced food is beginning to turn consumers off chains in favour of local products and independent brands.
If you do things ethically you should shout about it! Talk about why you do things as you do and how your products are more ethical than those at the Joe Everyburger joint down the road.
There are plenty of places online where consumers can talk about food ethics and plenty of online publications which assesses the ethics and sustainability of various brands. So if you think that your brand is up to scratch, why not invite such websites to assess your business' ethics?
If you are as ethical as you think you can gain some very authoritative links as well as a huge boost to your brand image.
By researching and applying these link building strategies to your business’s SEO, you can really stand a good chance at boosting brand recognition and improving income and sales for your company.
Remember, with food and drink based businesses it is always best to concentrate your initial efforts and budget locally to begin with and don’t forget about the importance of local SEO!