While a credible, established link profile is an important element of a company’s SEO success and credibility, it has become increasingly difficult for digital marketers to get those links in the first place. Search engines analyze the number and popularity of the pages linking to a specific website, and use that to determine ranking.
This is where link building comes in, the process of securing links to your website from other (preferably credible and high quality) websites. One of the primary ways marketers do this is by reaching out to publishers – these can be bloggers, influencers, editors – on behalf of their client and offering relevant content in exchange for a link to their client’s site. Beware, however, as this process has been scrutinized by Google in recent years and many publishers are rejecting link building outreach requests due to overwhelming exposure to spam.
Naturally, Google favors organic links from relevant websites best. In this case, relevance would be defined by websites for shoulder industries or that focus on topics related to your client’s product/service. Relevance is important for the believability and credibility of your article, as it should seem reasonable that a link to your client’s website could be found on the publisher’s.
When considering relevance, you will want to acknowledge a site’s domain authority also. Coined by Moz, domain authority is a metric of 0-100 that predicts how well a website will rank in the search results based on the quality of linking root domains and number of total links on the site. The higher the domain authority, the better the chances of your link on that site boosting your own ranking.
As a forward-thinking marketer, you’ll need to take the above knowledge and revamp your link building campaign so it stands out from the competition. Get publishers to realize you’re speaking to them personally (and are not just some spambot from the dark crevices of the internet).
Strategies for Successful Link Building
Reaching out to publishers is usually done via email or phone. However, you’ll want to avoid using a generic sounding email template or phone call script. Before reaching out to publishers about the fascinating product/service you represent, view your email or talking points objectively and take the following tactics into account.
#1) Personalize. Sure, make sure to use some of your tried and true phrases, but appeal to specific things you admire about that publication. Point to a specific article of theirs that caught your attention, discuss certain accolades of the publication that you admire, or impacts it has on you personally. Keep it conversational, too. Excessive formality and emails starting with “Dear sir or madam” are typically immediately ignored. Similarly, you’ll want to find out the name of who you’re reaching out to (if you can) and address your email to that person.
#2) Be open to various types of content. If a publisher is kind enough to let you write a guest post, you’ll need to concede to their site’s writing style. See what kind of content they’re looking for and don’t be afraid to experiment and be open to a variety of content, whether it be how-to’s, lists, or infographics. Try your hand at all kinds of different content, and see what publishers are looking for.
#3) Locate their broken links as an opener. Start your outreach as a hero. Look for broken links on websites and inform publishers of these links. Then, offer to replace the broken link with your own link. This doesn’t have to be a labor intensive process, either. There are plenty of free tools you can use that will check a website for broken links, such as the Dead Link Checker and Dr. Link Check. Publishers will be ever thankful, as broken links harm their rankings too.
#4) Show off your accolades. Whether it’s your accolades as a writer or the accolades of the client you’re representing, show your publisher why the links you can offer are credible, reliable, and high value. Boast about previous publications your client/product has been featured on. High quality publishers seek high quality contributors.
#5) Forge relationships. When you have successfully been offered a link, let that publisher know what a pleasure it has been working with them and that you’d like to use them again. This way you can begin building up a rolodex of publishers you can come back to time and time again.
Link Building Tactics to Avoid
Due to the time and effort that goes into link building, many marketers seek shortcuts. This is not the way to go. Not only is Google privy to most of these methods and doing everything in its power to discredit them, but you’re at the mercy of very low-caliber publishers. Here are some things to look out for.
#1) Link farms. These can be two things: sites, directories, and forums built strictly for link distribution or a network of sites you built that link to each other. This is considered a form of spam, and Google is fiercely cracking down on link farming. They are issuing manual penalties for sites that engage in link farming, and these can take a long time (and a tedious redemption process, in which you practically beg Google for forgiveness) to remove.
#2) Linking on irrelevant sites. It’s tempting to accept a link from an eager publisher whose site has nothing to do with the product/service you’re linking to, but don’t do it. It should seem plausible that your client would contribute to the website in question, and authoritative publishers typically will not even accept irrelevant pieces. Since the authority of a site is a fair predictor of its performance in the search engine results, you’ll want to ditch the over-eager publisher that will link to anything and has a low domain authority.
#3) Buying links. This goes against Google’s Quality Guidelines and is discouraged by Moz. This is high risk, costly, and there are plenty more legitimate, cost-effective ways to linkbuild.
#4) Private Link Networks or Exchanges. In more recent years, we’ve seen a ton of private networks of publishers who are looking for guest post opportunities. They have build up a website and Domain Authority (DA) and now they are looking to monetize those efforts. The immediate effect of guest posting here may not be bad if the site’s admin has not accepted many guest posts previously. The risk is in if that admin begins to only accept guest posts from questionable sources, and Google catches on. You would be spotted holding a link from a spammy site and could get penalized for it.
The hardest part about link building is the time it takes to see the fruits of your labor. Remain patient, as link-building is not only a trial and error experience, but many publishers will schedule your link to go live months after you’ve pitched it. Different strategies work for different companies, products, and industries, so take a look at the kinds of links your competitors are getting too.
According to Search Engine Land, it takes on average 8 hours to secure one link, so it’s also important not to get discouraged. Link building burnout is very real though, and for this reason, changing up your strategy will be your saving grace. Not only does it enhance your chances of being more appealing to publishers, but it’ll keep the process interesting for you as the link builder. Much like your daily routine, sometimes all your link building approach needs is a little spicing up.