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The Evolution of Influencer Marketing

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Influencer marketing has evolved, but many digital marketers have not.

While that’s bad for them, it’s good for marketers who know how to leverage influencer marketing as a digital powerhouse.

We’re going to walk you through the evolution of influencer marketing, from its link building roots to its omnipresent present. When we’re done, you’ll have the foundation and guidance you need in order to create a refreshing campaign and achieve stellar results.

Let’s get started!


A photo of a smart monkey studying influencer marketing

“Let’s begin at the beginning.”

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing refers to any type of marketing in which the marketer reaches out to a popular or well-known figure who has influence over potential buyers.

This includes asking for product reviews and referrals, asking them to share promotions or content, or asking them to become a brand advocate.

Why Do Influencer Marketing?

According to Neilson, 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, including reviews and recommendations, above all other forms of advertising.

By reaching out to influencers, you’re engaging a potential partner who can publicise and endorse your product, content, or service to a relevant audience – but in a medium your audience knows and trusts.

Influencer marketing can be useful both for B2C and B2B organisations. It is only successful, however, when executed properly. Relying on best practices from five years ago won’t get you very far today.

The Evolution of Influencer Marketing

2000’s: Link Building

Influencer marketing was originally all about link building.

Influencer marketing used to be much simpler.

Five to ten years ago, the primary function of influencer marketing was link building.

Marketers would reach out to bloggers and ask them to review their products. Although receiving a positive review was a perk, the end goal was getting a link back to the company’s site.

Accumulating these valuable inbound links was a quick and easy way to increase a site’s search engine rankings. This began to evolve, however, with the rise of sponsored content.

For a history of the earlier days of link building, check out this infographic.

2010’s: Sponsored Content

But then came the rise of sponsored content...

“What if I actually paid bloggers for the hard work they do?”

As their audiences grew, many influencers began accepting payment to promote brands. The cost of compensating a social media star for a promotional tweet, for example, is negligible compared to the referral traffic and revenue it can generate.

Sponsored posts also give brands and agencies more say over their user-generated content: type of content, length, how to promote it, how many links to include, etc.

They are also a great way to generate inbound links, increase brand awareness, and track referral revenue and ROI.

And then began the rise of the nofollow link . . .

2016: Google & Nofollow Links

Influencer Marketing in 2017

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot to learn.

On 11th March, 2016, Google released a best practice guide for bloggers who specialise in reviewing products for brands. In the guide, Google advised bloggers to use nofollow tags on links in all posts commissioned by brands.

Nofollow links don’t contribute to PageRank. In other words, there’s no SEO value behind them – at least not on the same level as untagged links.

A month later, the search giant began sending manual penalty notices to bloggers who weren’t using nofollow tags on branded links.

Over the months, marketers saw a stark decrease in the number of follow links as a result of blogger outreach.

Some marketers began to view influencer marketing as a thing of the past. And here’s where the opportunity lies.

2017 and Beyond: Tips and Tactics for Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing Trends

Search trends for “influencer marketing” have continued to rise, even after Google’s promotion of nofollow tags. Marketers are interested, but there’s no new consensus on which direction influencer marketing should take.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, remember why influencer marketing has thrived for so long: buyers trust earned media, or user-generated content, above all other forms of advertising.

Determine your end goal, and then try out the relevant tactic from the list below:

  • If you want to generate an abundance of inbound follow links, recruit influencers to create content for your brand’s blog. Not only will the influencers share the content with their audiences, but there is no better way to generate inbound links than by publishing engaging, shareable content.
  • If want to generate quantifiable referral traffic and revenue, compensate influencers with large followings in exchange for creating sponsored content. Sure, they’ll probably use nofollow links, but your brand will be placed before millions of relevant users. Use influencer marketing software or pixel tracking to measure your campaign’s success.
  • If you simply don’t have the time or money to try something new, don’t worry. Sending products to influencers in exchange for a review, giveaway, or gift guide post is still totally allowed. Just be aware that under this approach, your primary goal should be brand awareness and influencer advocacy, not link equity.

No matter what approach you take, remember to determine your goals before choosing your method, treat your influencers with respect, and always give them the credit they deserve. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

The Evolution of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has evolved. Brands must evolve, as well, or risk becoming a missing link.

If you’d like to know more about influencer marketing, contact DAC today for more information!

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