Actionable Link Building Insights From The Pros
Quite a few algorithm updates ago, link builders were able to get links from various sources, with little to no effort and contact with actual people. Instant approval directory submissions, bookmark websites, inane comments on the blog posts of people who are actually taking the time to create some content, valueless forum posts, and the list goes on.
Even in the Dark Ages of SEO, these tactics usually failed to produce long term results, and the only thing they are now able to do for your rankings is smash them against the hard concrete floor of Google results, and drive them through, to the uncharted regions of the zone of Google’s cold indifference.
To make a long introduction short:
If you are thinking about doing anything but the lowest form of SEO, you’re going to have to be ready to actually talk to people, build relationships and genuinely nurture them.
Basically, it’s no different than trying to hook up with a girl you like in a club (bear with me)!
The process is moderately the same: carefully planning ‘the attack’, commencing outreach, ensuring she’s captivated with your opening/subject line at least enough to finally agree to take a look at your content and decide if she’s interested.
Why Link Earning?
Unfortunately, a lot of SEO experts still believe that spending too much time on communication with prospects and website owners is simply a waste of resources. After all, the first link that you build on someone’s website will provide you with the best value, especially if that link has a rel=”dofollow”. (Btw, here is a great chrome add-on which can give you an instant insight if the link is no follow or do follow.)
Hopefully, this article will illustrate that it’s actually a different kind of following that you should be after.
So when you build your X amount of links over a Y period of time, the first thing that you start thinking about is ROI, and how you can improve the results of your link building campaign. Naturally, with this setup in mind, you start thinking about increasing the X and driving the Y as low as you can.
The next logical step is to invest in your CRM platform, your Link Building tools (for instance our great link prospecting tool, Dibz), optimize your outreach templates, etc. By automating the process of link building as much as possible, you are able to maximize the number of links that you can make. And this is where a lot of people get sidetracked.
Instead of using these tools to expedite some of the more tedious or time-consuming processes, you begin turning into a link building machine yourself. And instead of using all of that free time to invest in the quality of the links that you are building, you become entirely focused on just one metric – the number of backlinks that you are getting.
Obviously, one of the major factors that you keep neglecting in the process are the actual website owners. Before you know it, prospects turn to numbers, and you know that the more numbers you process through that funnel, the more links you stand to gain.
My advice to you is to snap out of it, and start using these tools as a way to reach more people, instead of as a means of taking them out of the equation completely.
Never Try To Outsmart Them
The first rule of maintaining a meaningful relationship – never try to fool your girl. Those who have made this mistake know they shouldn’t do it twice. You never know who is watching; girls have their friends (although I’d rather call them traitorous spies) on every corner and in every club. Dare to sell the same ‘content’ to others, she will find out and you will feel her wrath.
Newsflash: in the world of SEO, Google’s your significant other! And once you get on its bad side, you’ll know the anger of a woman scorned.
First, you’re issued an automatic, or if you are within slapping range, a manual penalty, then you are completely shut out and ignored, without ever being clearly given a reason, which forces you to list all your past sins and disavow your connections with them, thereby giving her all the info she’s ever wanted. Sure, since Penguin is now real-time, she might be a bit faster to forgive, but you still have to go through the same song and dance.
The bottom line is, recovering from a penalty is always more expensive, time-consuming and difficult than implementing a proper strategy from the start. If you ever needed a reason to turn away from low quality, mass produced links, there it is.
It’s Quality, Not Quantity
While some time ago having more links pointing to your website meant higher authority, one quality link today has more power than a truckload of spammy ones. People who only kind of understand this idea immediately jump to the conclusion that link building is dead, when it’s all actually just about changing the rules of the game.
The reoccurring problem is that internet marketers are constantly focusing on tactics they know will work at the particular moment, but if you’re looking for a game plan that ensures long-term result, look at what has Google targeted in the past:
- Links that you can control, where you control the anchor text – guest blogging networks, widget links, signature profile links, and the pattern is quite likely to occur in the future
- Links that scale, like author bio boxes
Still with me? If you wish to find out what exactly a high quality link is and how me and my team go about getting them, stay tuned and follow the simple metaphor.
You need to think about the people you are looking to connect with, i.e. those who are likely to be interested in your content. Targeting people randomly gets a much lower response rate and you are at risk of getting a bad reputation or simply wasting your breath barking up the wrong tree.
Finding those people and learning how to approach them will be essential for your marketing efforts. While we will mention tools and strategies that you can use to make this kind of contact, in the end it will all come down to your ability to turn an acquaintanceship into a relationship.
Stalker Mode: ON
In order to find out more about the personas you are targeting, utilize the transparency social media provides. Yes, you might feel like a stalker at times, but for example, a Facebook page can be a good place to start informing yourself about the other person. You will gain insight into what they are sharing, their likes and dislikes, and find out whether they are sharing external resources, since that’s what you’ll ultimately ask them to do. Twitter is also a tool that you can use to find influencers.
Jot down some basic info about their interests and use it well once you decide to make contact. This will help you avoid approaching them with a generic email many will choose to ignore. Just be careful not the cross the line, make sure you say enough to show them you care about them, but not too much that they think you’re trying too hard – that might seem like you have some secret intentions (like, oh I don’t know, a link).
While Facebook can be great for getting to know more about a person, Twitter makes a great platform for making that initial contact, and allows you to learn more about the market and people you are targeting.
Tools like Hastagify.me and Followerwonk allow you to meet entire communities, learn about trends you are most interested in, and be presented with lists of influencers you might want to get to know.
Mastering The First Impression
No girl worth her salt will fall for a cheesy pick-up line. On the other hand, history has shown that they do tend to fall for the funny guys. So if you’re targeting a high-quality blog, it’s highly likely they are getting loads of emails on a daily basis. As you might have guessed – they don’t open each and every one. To avoid being easily disregarded, you need a catchy subject line.
There is no one universal line that will get you every girl’s heart, and you should always accommodate it to suit the particular blog you are looking to contact, but here are some basic tips:
- It should be short and to the point
- Mention the name of the blog/website you are sending an email to
- Avoid using terms like ‘link exchange’ or ‘link request’
That being said, it should also be noted that the more flowers you send out, the better your chances of actually finding that partner you are after are. That’s why, if you have a lot of similar mails to send, you could really benefit from setting up a versatile mail client like Mozilla’s Thunderbird, which allows you to use templates with variables – in the address, subject line or mail content. This way you can try your shtick with a wider audience and at least get an idea of the big picture.
Bloggers Are Humans
The higher the quality of the blog, the higher the responsibility of the person behind it and the less time they have to spend on reading emails.
Just like the one you are talking to in a club, the person behind the blog too is human. Although being overconfident can sometimes be off-putting, you do have to be confident enough to sell the idea and ensure the other person believes in it as much as you do.
Make it detailed enough to show you have researched their blog, show why they should care about what you have to offer and what you want them to do, but also short enough for them to read it ‘till the end without getting bored. Always ensure you include their name in the email and how much you admire the work they are doing (you can always find more info on their ‘about me’ or ‘contact’ page and on the blog itself, and personalization simply sells).
Send A Clear Message
Have you ever approached a girl and all you wanted was to just say ‘hi’, but she instantly replied with “I have a boyfriend”? Ok, to be honest, you never want to ‘just say hi’, but my point is that a lack of clarity in your message can result in a serious miscommunication. For this reason, it is of essence that you show the blogger what your intentions are. Of course, while you do want to get your point across without the possibility of a misunderstanding, you still might want to avoid terminology such as ‘SEO’ or ‘link building’.
Here we go again with the personalization. Just like you offer your name and some basic things about yourself when you meet someone for the first time in a bar or wherever, you should do the same in the email to the blogger in question. To stop them from immediately hitting the delete button, include:
- Your name and profession
- Use a proper email signature and a genuine email address (has to contain your full name, job title, URL of your website, phone number and social media accounts)
No better way to prove you’re a real person. One question that often arises, though, is whether you should use your personal email address (such as @live.com, @yahoo.com, @gmail.com) or an email of the company you are working for. There are strong arguments on both sides of the debate, but what I can tell you from my experience is that it really depends on the niche you are working in and the blog you are targeting.
For example, if you’re about to contact a travel blogger about writing a post regarding your last year’s Euro trip, it is wiser to send the email from a personal address. On the other hand, if you’re contacting a content marketing agency, then you might want to present yourself more formally with the address of the company you are working for. (Here are a few templates that you can use in your outreach.)
Where Are You Headed?
To implement any of the above listed steps, first you’ve got to find a website worth targeting. To mention stereotypes again – if you’re looking for a girl that shares your love of underground rock’ n’ roll, you’ll avoid clubs where you can find them twerking to Justin Bieber (as appealing as that sight might be).
The situation is quite the same in link building – you’re not going to target countless blogs and websites about plumbing if you conduct business in, let’s say, finance.
But if you’ve ever found yourself in a clubbing area, you know more than well that the entire process of rating, evaluating and finally sorting clubs according to the type of audience they are catering to, is, to put it mildly, tediously long. It can take up all of your energy, and once you finally get to the right one, all of your inspiration is already gone.
That’s why Dibz was developed. Since I too have had my fair share of troubles, I decided to come up with a system that will cut the entire research process to a minimum. With just a few clicks, you are now able to take your time to properly put on a tie for work and have a list of high quality prospects wait for you when you get to the office. Notice how I said high quality prospects – that’s not only because you are going to have a complete list of relevant niche websites, but also because Dibz spares you the trouble of checking the spammy websites Google disapproves of.
Don’t Give Up Just Yet
You might not get an instant response. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean someone has read your email and decided to disregard it. The other person might have been busy or simply forgot to answer if they read your email in a hurry, so it’s always smart to send a follow-up. A follow-up (a stands for one). Spamming them just to get a response will cost you time and reputation, most certainly preventing you from building any kind of relationship with that person.
With this single follow-up mail, you again show that you are a genuine person trying to reach out to a fellow blogger. Just keep it simple and to the point. Don’t over-elaborate (since there is really not much to elaborate on) – they already have all of your data, so simply remind them in a sentence or two about your previous email (politely, of course).
No? That’s OK, Too
Oh well, you’ve tried everything, and there’s still no positive answer to your request. Don’t just turn around and leave – always reply, no matter how discouraged you might feel at that moment. A reply might get you some valuable feedback, whether about your approach or the content you have offered, but you will certainly make use of it in the future. It’s a cliché, but we do learn best from our mistakes. Simply tell yourself that it’s over and have a suiting breakup email prepared.
It might happen that a person has rejected you for that specific piece you sent them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t send them another one again in the future. You might even get an idea for a second piece of content, not for that particular blog, but a different one, and have more success.
On the other hand, should you get a positive response, and your article ends up being published, remember that the story does not end once you build a link. That is why you should make sure to track the after-effect the link has on sales, leads and/or conversions of your brand or website. This means your link building strategy should be aimed at those who will want to engage with the brand or the website, as it will result in higher conversion rates.
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