100+ Tips for Link Building for Brand New Website in 2019
This blog explains 100+ New Backlinks tips for gaining best quality of backlinks in 2019. And also explains how to build backlinks for a brand new website or blog.
1. Guest Posting.
Guest Posting is one of the best way in all the Backlink SEO techniques. You write and pitch content to publishers. This content includes links to your website.
Resources Required: you will need writers, sources for great (or at least publishable) ideas and lots of prospects.
Productive Research Phrases: Experiment with using your big-head to mid-tail SEO keywords as well as category keywords that broadly define your market. For larger, better-known sites expect to spend more time on content and look for more referral traffic and brand impact.
2.Links Pages. The tactic here is typically “begging” for or “requesting” links to your content.
Resources Required: Fantastic, noncommercial informative content and a stellar outreach person who also happens to be great at sales.
Productive Research Phrases: Experiment with using your big-head to mid-tail SEO keywords as well as category keywords that broadly define your market.
Notes: Legitimate links pages rarely occur at a scale and you’ll find better success if you look for the pages first, see what actually earns links, and make sure what you’re pitching really fits there. Broken link building is another great “foot in the door” for links-page link building.
3. Content Promoters
Pitch great content to publishers who write roundups and actively solicit news tips.
Resources Required: You need great writers capable of creating content that’s “with it” and worth mentioning on industry news sites. Think infographics, ultimate guides, and real news stories.
Productive Research Phrases: Experiment with using your big-head to mid-tail SEO keywords as well as category keywords that broadly define your market.
Notes: Think of this approach as content publicity—it’s best suited for industries with a large number of blog and news publishers.
Find publishers to review your products or services.
Resources Required: You’ll need products or service bandwidth to give away.
Productive Research Phrases: Try product categories as well as competitors’ brand names (that have been extensively reviewed).
Notes: For the link prospector, reviews have been the single best source of new sales—not to mention links.
Find publishers to give away your products or services in a contest.
Resources Required: You’ll need products or service bandwidth to give away.
Productive Research Phrases: Try product/service categories as well as competitors’ brand names (that you know have used the contest tactic).
Notes: Typically giveaways and contests require some compensation for the publisher.
Sponsor charities and other organizations that run on donations.
Resources Required: Money, goods, or services. But usually money.
Productive Research Phrases: Here you want to stay far away from your SEO or even category terms. Instead try condition terms such as “homelessness,” or what-it-is terms like “animal shelter.”
Alternatively, you can use geo-terms like the state or city or even neighborhood you’d like to concentrate on.
Notes: You may have to negotiate and educate a bit for the link—not all sites are used to the idea of providing them.
Join the conversation on blog posts and articles that discuss relevant topics.
Resources Required: Someone with enough knowledge to add value to a discussion and not just drop links.
Productive Research Phrases: Experiment with using your big-head to mid-tail SEO keywords as well as category keywords that broadly define your market.
Notes: This tactic is as much for the links as it is for a nice shot of relevant traffic to resources on your site.
8. Expert Interviews
Find experts to interview on your site—or the writers that interview them.
Resources Required: You will need someone with enough expertise to get writers interested in interviewing them. Or you’ll need some great questions to ask other experts in your industry (with the hope of getting links from them as well as their followers).
Productive Research Phrases: Use category keywords that broadly define your market at first, and then move on to commonly interviewed experts.
Notes: Assemble several experts and conduct a group expert interview.
9. Directories. Find sites that attempt to catalog all of the websites on the internet— or their niche.
Resources Required: You need someone to submit to the directories and a bit of money as well. Some niche directories can get quite expensive.
Productive Research Phrases: Use category keywords that broadly define your market as well as any niche keywords that may relate.
Notes: Directories are considered by most to be foundational link building.
10. Forums. Invest time and educate a pre-existing community of passionate users.
Resources Required: Someone who can educate without selling.
Productive Research Phrases: Use category keywords that broadly define your market.
Notes: This tactic is ideally more of a long-term investment in a community than a quick-links tactic. It will take time to earn trust. So make sure that the community or communities you’re targeting are large enough to get you a return on your time.
11. Topical Blogs
Outreach and engage with bloggers from your industry.
Resources Required: This will depend on how you plan to engage, whether via content promotion, guest posting, contests, or news story pitches.
Productive Research Phrases: Use category keywords that broadly define your market.
Notes: This is the best way to find sites for guest posting that don’t necessarily call them guest posts.
12. Professional Organizations
Joining industry trade organizations can help build links and credibility.
Resources Required: Money, sometimes service hours.
Productive Research Phrases: Use trade phrases that define the practitioners in your industry.
Notes: Like directories, professional organizations fall into a “foundational” category. You will likely burn through those available fairly quickly, but they’re worth checking for.
13. Research Content
Search for your market’s how-to content so you can find out what informational needs you can meet.
Resources Required: Research time and a content writer.
Productive Research Phrases: Use category keywords that broadly define your market.
Notes: When you create content based on existing resources, be sure to send an email to the site you’re linking to and let them know.
14. Custom. For any tactics not mentioned above, select “custom.”
Resources Required: This will vary based on your creativity and understanding of prospecting.
Notes: The Custom Report Type enables prospecting in non-English languages. You will have to create your own prospecting phrases in your language first though!
CREATE OFFERS THAT WORK AT SCALE
Ask experts to take a survey? Unlimited—you make one survey and then conduct outreach. Remember—you must make certain that your offer genuinely appeals to the prospect list you’ve built, and that you’ll get links in the process.
Here are some examples of offers on that scale:
Free content (guest posting, infographics, widgets)
Free products/services (for reviews and contests)
Participation in the expert survey (they answer questions, you publish answers, they link/share)
Timely analysis and/or access to expertise (pitching a hot, topical interview with your expert)
Philanthropy and fundraising participation (ask to spread the word, ask to pitch in too)
Help fix broken, rotted, and now-parked links
WRITE POWERFUL PITCH TEMPLATES
An effective offer, tailored to your target prospects, is 99 percent of a great pitch. That said, there are some key ingredients that your pitch should contain:
Make your offer’s benefits crystal clear.
Make sure the pitch highlights benefits to the publisher and their audience.
Flaunt your brand.
Flaunt relevant success metrics.
Promote the page that contains your link. (I like offering to pay for traffic from StumbleUpon for guest posts.) A light dusting of your personality (this evolves for me over time, but can give the more relational-type prospects something to respond to).
EDUCATE YOURSELF ON CAN-SPAM
Here are some of the basic tenets of Can-Spam.
1. Don’t use false or misleading header information.
2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
3. Tell recipients where you’re located.
4. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you.
5. Honor opt-out requests promptly.
6. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.
Since so much of link building is email marketing you’ll definitely want to learn more than just the basics and how they apply to your exact situation. It’s easily found by searching for can-spam compliance in Google.
Finding Highly Productive Research Phrases
The Link Prospector takes your research phrases and combines them with tactic-specific footprints. This is what we use to find prospects for you. Your research phrases determine how useful and relevant your prospects will be.
What’s tricky about research phrases is what works for one tactic may not work for another.
Productive research phrases for donation opportunities may not be productive for guest-posting opportunities. That said, there are only three-set rules for selecting your research phrases: Try, but don’t rely on, solely on your SEO keywords; test research phrases in Google before adding to the prospector; and experiment!
Try But Don’t Rely on SEO Keywords
Many SEOs start prospecting with their target keywords. Those are the terms they want to rank for, so why not use them for prospecting?
We used to tell people to never use their SEO keywords but soon realized that there are cases where they can yield good results. So now we simply say—test them, but don’t rely on them solely for every report type.
If you read through the tactical report overview, you’ll notice that the most recommended research phrases are category keywords that define a vertical. If you’re selling defibrillators, use “heart health” as a starting point for research, for example. Alternatively, the big-head phrases in your vertical can prove productive.
Test Research Phrases in Google
It’s easy to test research phrases in Google—and it’s a great way to find other potentially productive research phrases, too. To test a research phrase, simply type it into Google and then add the tactic or report type you’re prospecting for.
So, if you’re pursuing guest posting, type Test [keyword] guest post into Google. If you see four to five “maybes” in the top ten results, then you’ve got a winner. If you see none, then dump it.
And do watch those SERPs closely as you test—that’s where you’ll notice new potential research phrases. The beauty here is in how simple it is to test. And what you’ll find when you test your research phrases first (before adding them to a query) is that you spend less time qualifying your prospects. More of them will be useful.
When you do find a productive word, you can try this query to shake up new phrases: ~[keyword]–[keyword]. This is essentially asking Google to return phrases to you that are synonyms to your productive phrase, but not your productive phrase. The tilde and the minus sign are both advanced operators.
Last, if you find productive two-to-three word phrases, you might want to add them to the Link Prospector both with and without quotes as this will help to float up new potential domains.
There’s no substitution for testing, experimenting, and just plain “seeing what happens.” Every time we make a rule we find that it can be overturned in certain cases or for certain report types.
Though it takes longer and will cost you a bit more in terms of credits, we suggest you try out as many variations as possible, and never stop questioning what you know.
This does admittedly make training tricky. That said, when we ask contractors to prospect before training and then ask them to explain what they’re looking for and the research phrase decisions they made along the way, we are surprised by what we learn.
Research phrases are a tricky and slippery subject. Keep testing and experimenting and you’ll find your results get more and more productive!
Setting the Advanced Targeting Parameters for Useful Prospects
Once you’ve selected your report type and found some productive research phrases, it’s time to “dial in” your prospects with the Link Prospector’s Advanced Targeting Parameters. Setting the parameters can help reduce your time spent qualifying your results by “weeding out” or narrowing the nonprospects before you even download your results.
The report types are primarily organized by “tactic,” that is, the manner by which you intend to engage with publishers to earn mentions or links. The Custom Report enables you to pass queries in bulk directly to the search engine.
By selecting the region, you specify which top-level domain (TLD) of the search engine from which you’d like to source your prospects. If you’d like prospects geared toward a UK market, select “United Kingdom.”
If you’d like German-oriented prospects, select “Germany.” Please note: If you’re looking for non-English prospects you should not use the preset reports. You must use the Custom Report type and design your own prospecting queries. Please contact us; we’re happy to assist in this process.
Search Scope enables you to pull prospects from either web results or blog results. We rarely recommend using both, unless you’re specifically looking for blogs and want to be as thorough as possible.
Depth refers to the number of results that you will attempt to return from the search engines. Depth does not refer to the number of pages of results!
You can look for 1 through 1,000 results for you, but we recommend for most prospecting jobs that you set your depth to 10 or 20. This is because there are rarely productive prospects past the 20 result.
“Date Range” enables you to limit your prospects based on the time frame within which they were indexed. This is especially useful for guest posting—set the Date Range to “past year” so you can find the sites that have published a guest post within the last year.
Commenting ops benefit from freshness—select “past 30 days” to find pages that are more recent and therefore more likely to have an open conversation.
“SafeSearch” enables you to pre-remove results that are potentially shocking or offensive. Some people prefer not to scan through results to ensure they are “safe for work” enough to pass along to clients, and SafeSearch helps with this.
Send Email Notification
Once your report is complete, you can designate who receives a notification via email. You can also set it so that no one receives an email. If you’d like to permanently set this, you can do so in the “Profile” section.
“Exclude Domains” enables you to remove a list of domains at the global and/or campaign level—you have to set them up before they can be excluded, though! Click the “Exclusions” tab to manage them and note the syntax of exclusions: *.domain.com excludes the domain along with any subdomain that could occur.
Your research phrases are the most powerful way to direct the tool’s results. We recommend using category, or big-head, phrases here rather than your targeted SEO keywords.
Exporting and Qualifying Your Link Prospects
Congratulations, link prospector—you’re moving right along! By now you’ve selected your tactic, identified some productive prospecting phrases, and dialed in your parameters.
Our hope is that you remembered to hit the big blue “Submit” button at the bottom of the Find Prospects page. If so, you will have prospects in about 10 to 20 minutes (though it could be more if you’ve adjusted your parameters significantly).
When your prospects are ready you’ll receive an email notification. You can click through directly from the email to view your report.
Alternatively, log in to your account, hover your cursor over the Prospects tab, and click “View Prospects.” You may have to designate the campaign for which you’d like to view prospects.
Export Domains vs. Export Paths
On the Prospects page, you have two download options—“Domains” or “Paths.” Paths are the long URLs we found, the entire URL of the opportunity. Domains are just that— the domain where we found the page that looks like an opportunity. Deciding which one to download depends on what tactic you’re pursuing.
If you’re hunting for guest-posting opportunities, you don’t necessarily need to see the actual page where a guest post exists, but rather the homepage of the site itself. Therefore you should download the domains.
If you’re looking for links pages, then simply knowing the domain where the links page exists is not enough—you need to know the location of the links page itself. In this case, you should download the paths.
Qualify by Existing Metrics
We provide PageRank data for domains as well as our own home-brewed “LTS” (Link Target Score) score. They are very different numbers and enable you to make educated guesses about very different types of prospects. The LTS score is calculated on a per-report basis.
The score is a measurement of the relevance of a given domain to the prospecting queries that the tool ran on your behalf. If your research phrases were productive, then this score can help you set a lower threshold of “by-eye checking.”
That said, the threshold will be different for every report, so there’s really no absolute number we can advise for you to make decisions on. PageRank, too, can help make sweeping decisions, and its benefit over LTS is that it is relatively absolute, so you can compare prospects from one report to another.
All that said, we rarely make final outreach decisions (yes, we will outreach to this prospect or no, we will not) based on either one of these metrics (or anyone metric).
Search the Paths Download Spreadsheet
The “Paths” download includes titles and meta snippets for each of the prospective URLs. So in addition to qualifying by PageRank or LTS, you can simply search your path’s CSV file for the appearance of words you believe will imply a quality prospect.
This is especially effective for isolating links pages that have the word “link” in either the title or meta descriptions (but not the URL).
They’re not that scary when you use a tool, we promise! Over in the Citation Labs’ “Scraper Suite,” we have a handful of free, registration-required tools including our “URL Filter”
After you register and log in, navigate to the Tools menu, click Free Utilities, and then URL Filter. Paste in a large batch of URLs—the more the merrier— and remember the following syntax:
[keyword] or [keyword1|keyword2|keyword3]. Now you add your keywords to the Any, All, or None fields on the right side of the screen.
“Match Any” means the tool will show results that have any of these keywords (keyword1|keyword2|keyword3) in the URL. “Match All” means the URLs must contain all of these keywords (keyword1|keyword2|keyword3). “Match None” means that these keywords (keyword1|keyword2|keyword3, etc.) must not appear in the URLs.
If you’re in a huge hurry you can just use links|resources.
Using regular expressions with this tool means you’ll only be looking at the URLs, so any pages that don’t use title tags or real words in the URL will be filtered out.
Qualify URLs “By Eye” in the Spreadsheet
After you’ve been prospecting and link building for years, you’ll get to trust your ability to go through a list of URLs quickly by eye. Some people can burn through a few hundred in ten minutes or so.
It’s taxing, but it’s important primarily because there are so many prospects that are easy to miss if you rely on metrics or regular expressions.
We suggest you create a column named “Maybe” in your report. Scan the list of URLs and place a one in that column if you look at the URL and can’t see a quick and easy reason to say no.
Then sort by that column. Note: It’s by going through spreadsheets by hand that you’ll become knowledgeable about what keywords to use for regular expressions. And you may just come up with some new, productive research phrases while you’re at it.
Visit the Page
It’s not necessary to do this for every prospect; that said, never send a batch of prospects over to the contact-gathering phase without visiting some of them, just to get a feel for what you’re working with and to ensure that there’s going to be offered/prospect alignment. Visiting some pages—spot checking, if you will—provides you with potential signs that you need to adjust course.
Using Paid Search to Support Link-Building
Paid search can be used in a variety of ways to support link building. Here are some ideas to help you identify keywords and possible link partners using paid advertising.
Paid Search as Part of Keyword Research
Pay-per-click advertising has long been a favorite way for search marketers to acquire real performance data on keywords. While keyword tools can provide lists of relevant keywords, the best way to really know which keywords perform best for your site is to test their performance in a paid search campaign.
This requires a fair amount of effort to ensure that this is a legitimate test, in that in addition to coming up with the keywords, you would also need to develop effective ad copy and landing pages to support the test.
Paid search combined with conversion tracking gives the search marketer information on exactly which terms work best for the site. If you know certain terms are popular and, more importantly, convert well, you would want to target them both in your paid and organic optimization as well as your link-building efforts.
With Google now encrypting search for logged-on users, the information provided by a site’s analytics data on organic queries will be limited. Webmasters looking at their analytics will no longer receive referring data on keywords used to bring users who were signed in to Google when they clicked on a search results page.
While Google claims that the number of users signed in is very small, many sites are reporting that their analytics are displaying “not provided” where their main keywords used to show.
Since Google is encouraging users to log in, the trend to search while logged in will continue to increase, further limiting the availability of organic keyword data over time. Going forward, the best referring keyword data and keyword performance data will be from paid search.
Paid Search as a Way to Find Linking Partners
The best link partners are sites that are related to your site. Specifically, the best link partner sites are sites that are complementary to your industry but not a direct competitor.
One way to identify complementary sites is to do keyword searches on terms related to your main terms and look for sites that show up in the search results that aren’t competitors. For example, if you sold shoe accessories, you might want to be aware of sites selling women’s shoes.
If you search on a term related to your main term, scan over the sites showing up in the paid listings. Often you see the big brands showing up in the organic top results and the top paid results, but if you look down below the fold, you often find sites that are off your radar. These could be sites that are viable companies related to your business but are not competitors.
A quick review of these sites would tell you if they sell related complementary products but are not competing in your space. If they are not competitors, these sites could be potential business and link partners.
Serious businesses are more likely to be found by analyzing the paid search advertisers since they have the resources to be paying to bring clients to their sites. As such, these will make better potential linking partners.
Look for Ads on Content Sites as a Way to Discover Link Partners
Here’s another tip to help you find potential link partners. In this case, you aren’t actually spending money on paid search, but rather looking for content sites that use Google AdSense or another paid search advertising network.
AdSense is Google’s program for publishers where Google allows sites to put some code on pages of their site, which Google then uses to place relevant ads on the page. Publishers are paid by Google for the click-throughs the ads receive.
Many content publishers’ sites rank well for terms related to your business keywords. If you review the search results pages for content sites related to your business, you might find sites that are financed by AdSense ads. Webmasters of these sites have monetized their site and may be more open to developing a business relationship with your site.
Business deals can take a variety of shapes. If you have an affiliate program, they may want to become an affiliate. They may allow you to sponsor a section of their site or they may even agree to place your ad on their site.
Don’t worry that the ad may be a no-follow link. It may be that this site turns out to be a great traffic site or a great converting site for you. If that is the case, the link is valuable to you whether it is a follow or not.
Other business relationship options might be offering a guest blogging post, an interview, or have them review one of your products. Again, don’t get wrapped around the no-follow issue.
Links are part of a business relationship. Some of the best links you’ll ever get from a business perspective will be no-follow links from a related site.
Link Insight is one of several search and advertising intelligence tools created by Rich Stokes’s team at AdGooroo.com. Rich is a visionary and fellow author, having penned The Ultimate Guide to Pay-Per-Click Advertising for Entrepreneur Press. You will benefit from both Rich’s blog and Link Insight.
The mission of Link Insight is to find inbound links both to your site as well as up to nine of your competitors. At any given time, this process results in a set of tens or hundreds of thousands of potential backlinks—far too large a list for the average team outreach. Link Insight takes it a step further:
It analyzes every page and gives each backlink four grades: TrustSignal, SocialSignal, GeoSignal, or SpamSignal. These four simple signals tell you how effective or risky each potential link is before you spend precious time pursuing them.
Link Insight designers have evaluated hundreds of thousands of links over the years and helped establish some of the biggest brands on the web. The result? A small set of high-potential links that can help build both your website’s traffic as well as its trust and authority.
And in the process, you’ll avoid wasting time and money with such bad ideas as link exchanges, sponsored links, forum and comment spam, and other techniques used by companies engaging in black-hat SEO.
MAJESTIC SEO SITE EXPLORER
Majestic SEO is one of the handfuls of tools that have attempted to record all the links on the internet. There have been others crazy enough to attempt this to be sure—Ahrefs. com, Moz, and of course, Google itself.
But Majestic SEO has gradually become our go-to backlink graph, beating the others out for its fresh-enough results and extensive history. So here’s how we use it.
Competitive Backlink Analysis
Majestic SEO provides a quick glimpse into competitors’ unique inbound linking domains. Just paste in their root domain (the URL with no http:// or www. at the beginning).
This provides you with a quick and dirty idea of the amount of work you’ll have to do in order to compete. Be sure to look at their top pages, too, by clicking the “Top Pages” tab. This shows which pages have the most valuable links.
Furthermore, it’s possible to cherry-pick links that your competitors have earned and approached the sites on your own. Note that using competitor link analysis for prospecting is not particularly scalable. It could be a great one-to-five-hour project for an in-house SEO, though!
Bulk Backlink Checker
When you’ve found a batch of dead pages or sites, submit them all to the bulk link checker and set it to return results based on linking domains. Presto! You’ve got a list of dead sites or pages ordered by the number of inbound linking domains.
Find Links to Dead Pages
We haven’t taken the time to master their reports, so I’m stuck with the top 5,000 backlinks. And this will include all the backlinks from a single domain. Typically in batches of 5,000, there are between 1,000 and 2,500 unique domains. Of those, usually between 500 and 1,000 are still actually live with links on them.
Find Links Pages for Dead Site Discovery
Start with a .gov site in your conceptual neighborhood (fda.gov for a health site) and then download links just to its homepage.
Then look in the URL strings for the words “links” or “resources.” This will help you find hundreds of topical links pages that will undoubtedly contain some dead sites or pages.
New Link Reporting
In the broken-link building, in particular, it isn’t always easy to find the results of your handiwork—primarily because the page you request a link on isn’t where you always end up.
Since Majestic SEO is updated so frequently, you’ll often find new links on pages you didn’t target, but from domains you did. If you are working on projects that require you acquire times links per month, this is vital. Note: ahrefs.com (paid version) can be used for this purpose as well—their index gets updated daily.
[Note: You can free download the complete Office 365 and Office 2019 com setup Guide.]
We still use the heck out of a keyword combiner tool, for combining prospecting phrases rather than SEO keywords. There’s one built into the link prospector but the one in our Chrome toolbar is Keyword Combination Tool
Be warned though, some keyword combiners don’t allow for quotation marks or other advanced operators. And the one linked to here is defaulted to doing a double combo.
This wonderful tool scrapes Google’s suggestions, giving link prospectors instant access to the “problem space” around a given phrase. This is useful particularly in the early stages of a campaign.
Test it out with something like: “how do I” to get an idea of what it does. Then narrow in on your space. For example, try “link building for,” which leads Ubersuggest to help you discover what people are actively searching for.
What Is a Directory?
In short, a directory is a collection of websites categorized by subject and/or geographic location. Human reviewers determine what source will be added and also maintain the directory and its structure. You’re probably very familiar with the following four directories; all have been online for a very long time and have strong editorial guidelines:
The World Wide Web Virtual Library or VLIB (1991)
The Yahoo! Directory (1994)
Best of the Web (1994)
Each employs human reviewers to look at the sites submitted and determine which category they should be placed in. This process of being scrutinized to determine acceptance is known as editorial review and is why these and other directories are respected algorithmically by the search engines.
It is difficult to get a site listed with the MOZ and VLIB; follow their submission guidelines and take care to add your site to the right category. Even if you’re unsuccessful in getting in, you can use the sites and resources listed in these directories and mine them for link partners.
Is This a Good Directory?
If you come across a directory and want to add your site, ask yourself these questions before handing over your submission fee:
Does the directory have minimal/no AdSense on category pages? Adsense ads detract from your listing; I shy away from a directory that hosts ads on my category page.
Does the directory support sitewide links? Directories created to support manipulative linking go against the search engine TOS; I’d stay away from them.
Does the directory have full contact information available and/or an “About Us” page? Look for a directory owned by a reputable company, one that will answer your questions and be available if you need help.
Is your category page in the Google and Bing index and are the pages of your category cached frequently? If the page your link/site will be added to is not in the search index, you’ll see no benefit.
Directory Submission Tactics as a Business Model
If you owned a business on Main Street and wanted to promote it to the community, it’s doubtful you’d use just one advertising method to get your message across.
You’d probably begin with the basic, less expensive options such as buying ads in the Yellow Pages, your local newspaper, and Valpak mailers. Eventually, you’d move up and by radio, TV, and sponsorship opportunities, which will help make you a dominant presence in your community.
This scattershot approach to building a credible reputation can be done online as well. I advocate using directory links in the first wave of linking as a way to jump-start your linking program. Granted, they’re not algorithmic giants, but directory links will pass link popularity and add to your overall backlink profile.
Five of My Top Link-Building Tips
The following are specific tactics, all designed to generate high-quality inbound links that can potentially send traffic, increase search engine value, and are an entirely editorial/white hat.
1. Build a “Top X Blogs/Sites/People” in Your Industry
Curating a list of great sites and/or people always gets attention from audiences seeking to learn more about the field.
It also frequently earns tremendous links because that listed share their position/notoriety both via temporal media like Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ as well as in their bios or About pages (which often make their way to third-party sites as well).
The bigger and more respectable your brand grows, the more links and attention these lists can attract.
2. Create Content That Adds Value to Prominent Conversations
The web world is filled with content taking sides on virtually every issue in almost any topical arena. Participating in these “conversations” by adding an intelligent voice with valuable research, a well-thought-out opinion, and quality writing will often earn you a place in the debate, which yields links and social shares.
Over time, if you stick to participating honestly and appropriately, you’ll earn a following of your own and a place in the online media world around your topic.
Just be careful not to get too caustic or emotional—the internet’s discussions can get rough and not everyone plays nicely (which is another reason measured responses and clear heads can earn links from positive participation).
3. Collect and Publish Unique Information in a Link-Friendly Format
Aggregated information is tough to come by, but often incredibly valuable and link-worthy. The problem is that someone needs to do the legwork to assemble the aggregated material—that’s where you come in.
Whether it’s the opinions of major bloggers in a field, the statistics from visit data, the various perspectives on how an event occurred or polling data from a hard-to-find set of companies/ professionals/individuals, your marketing acumen plus some sweat equity can bring in the numbers.
Once you have, building a link-worthy collection of graphs, charts, presentations, video, or even bullet points in a well-executed article can have terrific returns in links and social shares.
You can earn additional value by leveraging those who contribute their data/responses to help spread the word— and most will, given the nudge, both while providing their information (often in a web survey) and after in a personal email.
4. Offer an Embeddable Tool/Widget with Unique Functionality
Flickr, Vimeo, and Slideshare are all among the most linked-to sites on the web thanks to their popular embeddable widgets. Twitter, LinkedIn, Etsy, and Facebook all do likewise, employing snippets of code that can be placed on any web page and display information or provide functionality that a site owner couldn’t on their own.
5. Use Research Data in Commercial Content
The web offers a wealth of research from academic, corporate, and government sources, but these are frequently buried in hard-to-navigate sites inside tough-to-follow documents.
By exposing research content in a more marketable, user-friendly way (think graphics, illustrations, videos, even simple, easy-to-read blog posts), you can add tremendous value to your niche’s understanding of a topic and earn great links in return.
One of my favorite tactics here is to contact those responsible for the research, let them know of your plans to use it and invite them to help share the work. Many universities and research sites are thrilled to see others using their data and will happily link to it once live.
Your Search Result
The implementation of this author highlight to the search snippet can be done in several ways, most of which are cumbersome, but one is relatively easy. Add a <link> tag in the <head> section of the pages you want so-called author highlights for and link those to your Google+ page. That’s as simple as this, using myself as an example:
If you’re lucky enough to be using WordPress, this is very easily done [using Joost’s WordPress SEO plugin] as all you have to do is add your Google+ profile link on your WordPress profile page and it’ll add it to all your posts and pages automatically.
There are two other things you need to check: Make sure the name you use on your site is 100 percent identical to what you use on Google+ and make sure your +1’s on Google+ are public.
More on Snippet Optimization
While you’re working on that “snippet,” there’s more you can do to increase the clicks you’ll get from those rankings. Good link building will get you prime real estate in the search results. Once you’ve got it, it’s up to you to make the most of that real estate.
A “regular” search result snippet already has several sections you can influence:
The title has a big influence on search rankings, so you’ll want to make sure your primary keyword is in there. At the same time, you also want to make sure that title, which is the first thing people will read from you, entices them to click. The next bit they’ll read is usually the description just below.
The URL should, if possible, also contain your primary keyword, as it will give you another bit of bold in the search results, making your result stand out more. The goal of snippet optimization is simple:
Get more relevant clicks by optimizing those three variables. Just improving relevant traffic is important: You don’t want to drag people in with false promises. Doing that would increase your bounce rate, which, in the long run, only damages your site.
Are search engines giving a fair representation of what’s actually available on the web? Not really. If pages were judged on the quality and the relevance for ranking, then there would be less search engine bias toward pages that are simply popular by “linkage voting.”
The history behind social network concepts and graph theory applied to rank algorithms is something that can help you understand a lot more about their complexities and why some of your best SEO endeavors may, already, not be working.
First of all, the experiment suggested that by 2017, around 80 percent of all web searches online were being handled by Google.
They also suggested that while Google takes into account more than 200 factors in its ranking algorithm, the core of it is based on PageRank. This is a “static” link popularity metric to represent importance or authority for ranking purposes.
Now it’s important to understand that there is a distinction between the importance or quality of a page to that of the relevance of a page following a user query.
The scientists suggest that the relevance is a quantity that relies heavily on the particular search issued by the user. But the importance or quality of a document could actually be computed at crawl time and could be seen as intrinsic to the document itself.
And the reason they are looking at this intrinsic quality is based on the desire to find a new paradigm for ranking web pages that is not so heavily based on link popularity, the problem is that Google repeatedly returns “currently popular” pages at the top of the results and ignores newer pages that are not so densely connected. Therefore it is inherently biased against “unknown” pages.
How Reciprocal Links Can Be Viable
A reciprocal link is when two sites agree to give links to each other: I’ll link to your site if you link to my site. But it’s not quite that simple. People have tried to game the search engines with reciprocal links schemes, so the search engines have to look deeper to determine the intent of the reciprocity.
The rules of reciprocity cannot be perfectly defined. In other words, if you state that going beyond 30 percent reciprocity with your links is bad, I will tell you that’s insane, besides being incorrect. Having a high reciprocity percentage (RP) is thought to be a red flag that the engines can use to devalue your links.
The math is simple. If 100 percent of any site’s inbound links are reciprocal, then those links can’t really be trusted as an indicator of quality, because it could simply be a case of “you link to me and I’ll link to you” (this can and does happen, but it isn’t a quality-specific occurrence.
Great sites do it, as do terrible ones. A great site that reciprocates links with other great sites does not harm itself in any way).
What Makes a Website Link-Worthy?
So what is the motivation for one website owner to link to another website?
The fundamental principle of the web is to allow any document to link to and to be linked from any other document.
It’s interesting that nearly every commercially related web development since its founding has been in some way related to the link (that is, an attempt to find new ways for one site to be linked to another).
Banner ads are, at their core, just a link from one site to another. So are text ads, whether on websites or in newsletters or in an email message.
And Like buttons, badges, icons, etc., are all just another form of a link. A pay-per-click (PPC) listing or a Tweeted URL or a list of search results are nothing more than links.
Your Yahoo! directory listing, BBB member page listing, even that cool widget you created—no matter how you spin it—are all links. Anything to be clicked on that shuttles people from one place to another while online constitutes a link.
The development of all forms and fashion of linking types has never improved on the original, and no amount of cleverness will ever change one universal truth: The less useful your content, the less likely you are to ever receive a link to it.
The less useful your content, have to pay for. And those links you pay for are not likely to help your rankings, and might even hurt them.
Has Added Link-worthy Content
This would then be an excellent example of how a store site can add rich, relevant content, value, interest, and community to its website, as well as sell merchandise.
Just about any writer who writes about magic and/or reviews, websites would write about this site, and any magic fan with a website and a curated list of handpicked links would be likely to link to it.
I know from experience it’s difficult to find high-trust online venues and curator/ site reviewers willing to link to sales sites.
The more a site offers deep information on a certain subject in the form of databases, community, guides, forums, reviews, etc., the more likely editors or curators will feature it in their own content.
Whether it’s a business or consumer site, the content-richer the better, especially if the site’s mission is sales. A site designed to sell a product is far different from a true reference site with hundreds and hundreds of pages of free information on a particular subject.
The best analogy I can think of to explain a sales-focused website is a public library. A library is, first and foremost, about content, although it does sell things. You can buy copies of blogs, order maps, buy online database search time, or rent study offices or PCs. Some libraries even have video-rental services and snack shops or restaurants.
Money definitely changes hands at a library. But nobody would confuse this commerce with a library’s true mission: being content curators and helping patrons find that content.
In like manner, a website also needs to be a library of information on whatever its focus might be. Add great content to your product site.
Because useful content gets linked. Products don’t. the More Likely You Are to Attract Links to It
Link-Building Campaign Design
Quite often, link builders working outside of your organization will design campaigns based on their personal or agency strengths, tools, and processes. When the campaign ends, the links stop.
For example, in our work with clients, which typically involves expert engagement (often bloggers or other publishing experts in a space), much of the value we create is in the relationships established, not to mention the expert content we create.
When we stop engaging the experts, the relationships cool back off and the link momentum slows down. This is because our clients have typically not developed the infrastructure and processes to keep developing these relationships (this blog is for them).
For link-building agencies specializing in link buys or rentals, the decline in momentum can be even more drastic.
Designing an effective, sustainable link-building campaign (or series of campaigns) requires a delicate balance and a precise understanding of an organization’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as carefully described and easy-to-measure goals.
This blog will help you to more effectively design and measure your next link-building campaign. At the very least, it will get you thinking a bit more broadly about link building!
SIX FACTORS THAT IMPACT CAMPAIGN DESIGN
There are six broad factors we’ve discovered that impact a link-building campaign’s scope. Ideally, a link builder in the campaign design phase has a suitable amount of time to think about and consider all these factors.
In doing so, he will probably discover a few more factors unique to his organization’s situation. This is great—the more factors you can take into consideration and design for, the more unique and effective your campaign will be.
Factor 1: What’s Working Well for You Already?
We like to start client discussions with a question about what’s working well already. And not just in link building!
For example, on a recent prospect call, we asked how they currently generated their leads. It turned out they had an email list of 10,000 subscribers that they’d built up a great relationship with over the course of the past 10 to 15 years!
They estimated that at least 10 percent of their list comprised active web content publishers, which made this list the perfect place to begin designing a campaign.
On the more link-oriented side, we ran through some questions with a prospect recently to discover their linkable assets. They didn’t have the time or resources to create content, which is our organization’s linkable asset strength.
When we asked what had been working, they mentioned that they had products that they could give away for nonprofits and bloggers to use as prizes in raffles and other types of contests.
This understanding then informed the link opportunities we discovered for them in that we were able to systematically discover massive numbers of pre-qualified prospects.
We encourage organizations to think about what’s working well already and to keep that in mind throughout all the discussion in this blog. Supporting and growing from what works can be far easier and more economical than trying to create something entirely new that does not stem from currently existing strengths.
Factor 2: Your Business and Marketing Goals
Specific business and marketing goals are often missing in link-building campaign design, especially when a campaign is designed in a vacuum without input from other departments.
Because link building has the capacity to impact goals far beyond your SERP (search engine results page) rankings, we highly recommend that link builders understand and support the company’s specific business and marketing goals in the campaign design phase.
Not only will this ensure the link builders have a continued role in the organization, but by solving the problem of “how can link building support x,” they will uncover a solution that may be unique in the market.
Factor 3: Your Linkable Assets
What about your organization is linkable? This includes people, your organization’s brand, your organization’s story, your free tools or widgets, your unique and helpful
Text, It Becomes Potentially More “Linkable” content, your available resources, and more. Further, consider that your industry’s definition of “linkable” can and will differ from those of other industries. If all your competitors have free web tools, then this is no longer a strong differentiator and may not incite interest and links.
Factor 4: Link Opportunities in Your Space
The link opportunities that exist from market to market can be quite different. For example, if you’re targeting a consumer market, it could be that work-at-home-dad bloggers are a key segment for you. If you sell specialty bulldozer parts, then engaging the daddy bloggers might not make as much sense.
Your market—in particular, the publishers catering to your market that you want to earn links from—determines the scope and type of opportunities available to you.
Factor 5: Departments Requiring Input Plus Your Influence Within the Organization
We’ve found sometimes that, when operating as a link-building agency, we’re working with the search engine optimization (SEO) department within an organization. Our methods typically involve content creation and industry expert engagement.
This sometimes means we have to get sign-off from departments like PR, content strategy, social media, marketing, even the CEO before the campaign can really get rolling.
We typically try to identify the department that our contact is most embedded within, the department in which they have the most influence.
And then we work to keep the campaign within their authority so that we can have the fastest impact. The more departments requiring input, the more work the link builder will have to do in mediating cross-departmental concerns.
However, for sustainable, ongoing link-building campaigns (and often these may NOT be called link-building campaigns internally), you will need to work the political scene within your organization and be constantly on the lookout for ways to “link-enhance” what others are already doing.
Factor 6: Your Available Resources
At the end of the day, your link-building campaign will come down to the amount of time and money you can put into it. Knowing how much time you can spend yourself, and how much work you can ask for or require of others, can help you to define the entire scope of the project.
Often—and rightfully so—your available resources hinge on your abilities as a link builder, as well as your abilities in effectively communicating probable and actual returns on investment.
Toward Effective Link-Building Campaign Metrics
While “get more links” may be what your boss or your clients or even your SEO recommends, how and why you get these links pointed at your pages will impact the long-term viability of your links as well as the value they pass along to your site.
Before designing your campaign, we believe it’s important to have a general sense of what you can effect with your work as a link builder.
Traditionally, link builders have sought search engine impact and measured their success based on increases in the SERPs. Increasingly though, link builders have begun looking for metrics beyond SERP influence. This blog looks at goals and areas of influence in both categories.
LINK BUILDING AS SEARCH ENGINE IMPACT
Search engine algorithms use links to make decisions about your site as a whole, and its pages in particular. The classic way of describing a link’s value—as search engines perceive it—is that it is a “vote” for the page it’s pointing to.
The link out suggests that this other page is relevant and worth investigating, just as the citations in an academic journal point you toward original sources of thought, concept, or data that support the discussion.
Increase Perceived Trust/Authority of Your Site
You will see an increase in organic traffic after receiving links from sites that have already earned trust and proven their authority to search engines. These kinds of links help across the board for terms you’re targeting, and benefit sites best if the sites are already well optimized and without major issues.
You’ll have little to no ability to guide the keyword impact of these kinds of links (unless you’re buying the links, or you’ve developed clever campaigns).
Adjust Perceived Relevance of Your Site
Links can and do send signals to search engines regarding what your site is about, what industries and markets it serves, and the keyword clusters it’s most related to.
If you’re expanding your market focus, or if you’re just getting started, links that help connect you to “market spaces” will help you immensely.
You can think about relevance in terms of your geographical location as well, and links and other types of citations can help indicate to search engines that you can and should appear in the SERPs targeting specific geo-locations.
Direct SERP Keyword Impact Through Anchor Text Manipulation
The classic role of link builders has been, through buying or placing links with specific keywords in the anchor text, to directly impact their site’s rankings for those keywords.
This is still effective and often described as the most effective way to secure rankings. It’s probable that search engines will evolve past anchor text as a key factor in SERP rankings, however.
What to Measure for Link Building for Search Engine Impact
If affecting search results is your core focus for link building, here are a number of things you can work on influencing:
Search rankings for converting key terms
Percentage of increase in converting search traffic
Percentage of increase in search traffic from geographic regions
Increase in the number of pages on the domain that yield traffic
Percentage increase in non-branded search traffic
Percentage fluctuation in engagement metrics such as time on site, time on pages, and bounce rate
Number plus location of links from sites/people deemed authoritative
Number plus location of links from sites/people deemed relevant
LINK BUILDING AS MARKET ENGAGEMENT
In addition to impacting search results, links can and do powerfully impact how the market perceives your business. The benefits beyond search are often obscured in SEO-oriented link-building discussions, and often these areas of impact are beyond a typical SEO department’s authority within an organization.
If you’re an SEO seeking to drive more links in your organization, it will make sense to learn more about this kind of thinking and be ready and able to discuss it with the appropriate people internally.
Build Company and Personal Brand
When your link-building efforts include expert engagement as well as content placement, you have an impact on how your market perceives you and your brand. This is especially true if you’ve done your research and know which publications in your market exert the most influence on your business prospects.
Earning mentions—on a monthly basis—in the top publications in your market keeps your brand relevant. If you’ve designed your campaign carefully, or if you’ve worked closely with PR and communicated your SEO needs effectively, you can often get great keywords in your anchor text.
SERP impact is just a side benefit here though; it’s more about your perceived importance and value in the market!
Personal Brand on the Web
We’ve found that the links we’ve earned as a byproduct of building our brand (with interviews and placed how-to content) also generate business leads. In fact, long before we saw search traffic, we saw relevant referral traffic that turned into sales.
From an SEO perspective, the links we’ve earned in this manner are all highly relevant, and many of them are from high-authority sites in the SEO/SEM space. From a bottom-line perspective, these links have been the lifeblood of our growing company.
Engage the Expert Community and Guide Conversation
We advocate expert interviews and surveys as a cornerstone of content designed to attract links. If you engage your industry’s experts carefully and intelligently, you’ll see that you can begin guiding market conversations.
Guiding conversations doesn’t mean being manipulative; it means pushing the conversation forward in a way that benefits the market, as well as your organization.
The benefit of expert engagement is that the experts are likely to link to content created through that engagement, as well as be more open to your requests to link to or mention your content in the future.
What to Measure in Link Building for Market Impact
Here are some suggestions for data points you can measure when demonstrating link building’s impact beyond the SERPs. We hope that these help you to formulate your own metrics and that they help you to powerfully demonstrate the value of links to other departments in your organization.
Percentage increase in targeted referral traffic
Percentage increase in referral traffic conversions
Percentage increase in engagement metrics such as time on site, time on pages, and a decrease in bounce rate
Percentage increase in branded search term traffic
Percentage increase of mentions in target media over competitors
Number of blog posts and articles about or citing your organization
Number of customers indicating that media provoked their inquiry
Number of third-party mentions and community pass-along
Number of positive responses in conversation thread exchanges
Number of key influencers known to actively suggest your products or services to those who trust them
Number of positive, goal-focused emails exchanged
The number of newsletter/RSS subscriptions increase
Linkable assets are the experts, pages, widgets, tools, discounts, relationships and any other people or pages related to your organization that incentivize others to share a link with their site visitors.
When analyzing competitor backlinks for link prospects, it’s often difficult to determine the next steps because your competitors have different linkable assets from yours.
When you understand what’s linkable about your organization, as well as what types of assets earn links in your market, you will have a much easier time identifying your link opportunity types. Knowing these types makes you more effective at prospecting for these opportunities.
LINKABLE ASSET ANALYSIS
Linkable asset analysis is the process of systematically analyzing your site and your competitors’ sites, as well as noncompeting publishers’ sites in your keyword space, to identify what typically earns links and what could earn links but doesn’t already. If yours is an especially large site or organization, this process can and should take some time.
COMMON LINKABLE ASSET CATEGORIES
These linkable asset categories will help get you thinking about what your organization’s linkable assets could be.
Thinking broadly and creatively at the beginning of a link-building campaign or project engagement can open you up to a stronger, more effective campaign design. After all, you could be sitting on a link magnet and not even realize it!
Free Apps and Tools on Your Site
Do you provide any free applications or web-based tools to your site visitors? If so, it’s likely that these have already attracted links naturally. If you haven’t promoted these tools yet for the purpose of link building, then these assets could help you to develop even more links.
Be careful though when designing and building a tool or app—they can be expensive (sometimes two to three times what you expect, or what you’re quoted), can seem to take forever to develop, and could still flop.
That said, nothing demonstrates your expertise as a custom tool you’ve crafted to make your customers’ lives easier. One such tool is BuzzStream.
Products/Services to Give Away for Donations/Contests/Review
If you have products or services you can give away, you can earn links through donation thank-you pages, through contests, and via product/service reviews from experts in your market.
Oftentimes this asset is one of the easiest paths to developing links. However, it’s fairly easy for your competitors to emulate. Further, these approaches to link building can create enormous and unexpected logistical nightmares, such as shipping and packaging, or even getting the winner’s contact information from the site conducting the giveaway.
Widgets, Tools, Images, Data for Publishers (Offsite)
Have you created widgets, tools, images, or data that publishers of other websites are free to add to their websites? Infographics, embeddable tools, research data, and other types of information created for the express purpose of giving it away is a classic and powerful method for earning links.
If you have any of these assets and you haven’t aggressively and extensively promoted them, then you’re leaving valuable links and relationships on the table.
Thought Leaders and Subject Matter Experts
Are there thought leaders and subject matter experts in your organization? Do they have time to write or in some other way share their expertise with the market?
These linkable assets could generate links in the form of interviews, guest posts, and quote contributions to industry news publications. If you have a PR or Social Media department, link builders should help them to identify link opportunities that these assets enable.
Do you have business partners, vendors, customers, and technology licensees? Each of these represents a potential link in the form of testimonials, published client lists, and “powered-by” buttons. Gather a list of your vendors and partners and look for ways to acquire (and give) links to all of them.
Think interviews, think link requests for their vendors and partners pages, and think updated “powered-by” badges.
Job Listings, Events, and Coupons
If your organization consistently publishes job openings, puts on events, or launches new products, then you’ve got quite a few link opportunities open to you.
Colleges and industry vertical sites are sometimes willing to link to pages that feature new job openings. Many cities have event calendars that will publish details about your event and post links on their site for sign-up and more information.
If you consistently offer coupons to your customers, then you’ll find massive numbers of coupon-listing sites, many of which link back. It’s likely (though we haven’t confirmed this) that there are niche and geo-targeted coupon sites. Niche and geo sites are confirmed to often exist for jobs and events.
Consistent Publishing via Blog, Video, Podcast, PDFs, Twitter, Etc.
Do you or does your organization publish content consistently? These linkable assets open you up to numerous link opportunity types from around your industry; everything from blog directories, to niche social news sites, to blog lists, to PDF submissions, and to distribution sites. In some industries the fact that your CEO blogs are link-worthy and notable in itself.
Money is almost always a linkable asset, in that if you have the money, you can offer it to another site in exchange for a link. However, the link opportunities that you can purchase are often easy for competitors to duplicate.
Further, some search engines aggressively penalize (in the form of lowered search rankings) purchased links that aren’t labeled or coded as advertisements, making them a potentially risky investment that could end up costing far more in damages than they bring in search traffic. Some sites, such as directories, require a budget as well.
IDENTIFYING COMPETITOR AND OTHER MARKET-DETERMINED LINKABLE ASSETS
It’s also valuable to conduct linkable asset analysis on your competitors’ sites and organizations, as well as on the sites of your industry’s major news and information publishers.
You can do this by running through the linkable asset category types above and determining which ones your competitors have. Here are several more ways to identify the linkable assets in your market.
How Do You Figure Out What Gets Links?
If you know your primary competitors, as well as the top publishers in your market, then you can use a variety of free and fee-based tools to identify the pages on their sites that have attracted the most links.
These pages will help you get an idea of what your industry thinks of as “linkable.” Paste the URLs of your competitors and top publishers into:
LinkInsight from AdGooroo
Competitor Research Tools & SEO Backlink Checker
Marketing Search Engine and SEO Backlink Checker
Open Site Explorer
Each of these will help you identify the most-linked pages on sites that compete with you in the SERPs. These most-linked pages can help you to find the linkable asset in your space that could be the most beneficial to your campaign—or the asset that’s been done to death!
What Gets Tweeted?
When you know your competitors and top publishers in your market, you can begin looking for what content gets mentioned frequently on Twitter. While we have not done studies to determine the correlation (if any) between links and tweets, it does stand that a tweet or other social mention is a citation that confers value.
By extension, we can reasonably assume that what market values enough to tweet, it values enough to link to (so long as there are expert publishers who publish outside of Twitter).
We use http:// Twitter Search. Search for your competition here and get an idea of what content of theirs gets published consistently on Twitter.
A PROCESS FOR EVALUATING YOUR EXISTING LINKABLE ASSETS
Your current linkable assets either exist on a page of your website—your blog, for example—or are located on someone else’s website, such as an interview with your CEO that appears on an industry trade site.
Inventory Your Onsite Assets
One of the best ways to identify your existing linkable assets is with a thorough, section-by-section review of your site. This should include not only a by-hand visit to the major sections and important pages of your site, but a review of your site using Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, and Competitor Research Tools & SEO Backlink Checker.
You need to identify what has attracted links already so that you can earn more links for your site, as well as what is linkable but hasn’t earned links yet so that you can introduce it to the corresponding link opportunities in your market.
Inventory Your Offsite Assets
Identifying offsite assets can be a bit trickier, often because you don’t think of them as potentially linkable. Offsite assets include:
Thought leaders within your organization
Your PR department
The web development team
Running through our list of link asset categories above could also spark some ideas, and competitor backlink analysis can also suggest some offsite assets in your organization that you haven’t yet tapped into.
Furthermore, your offsite assets typically will require some work on the part of others within your organization, which will require you to build a case for their involvement.
Links generated through engaging these wonderful people in your organization will often be of higher quality. The value of identifying your linkable assets prior to a link-building campaign is that you can assess what types of sites and opportunities these assets open up for you.
For example, if your organization puts on teaching or training events around the country, then the events themselves are linkable assets. Knowing your linkable assets makes it much easier to identify the link opportunity types.
Link Opportunity Types
Link opportunity types are the kinds of websites and specific pages of websites that are likely homes for links to your assets. Link opportunity types can include sites that accept guest posts and comments—that is, sites that actively seek and publish content from others.
One of the oldest and most frequently mentioned link opportunity types is a directory, which is typically in the business of linking to websites.
The value of brainstorming your link opportunity types ahead of time is that you’ll be able to build out more accurate and descriptive link-building queries, as well as qualify link prospects more quickly once you have them. Further, certain link opportunity types will need to be handled differently and by different people in your organization.
Your CEO won’t necessarily be the person to submit sites to niche directories, nor will your marketing intern be the right person to be interviewed by a prominent blogger. Knowing your link opportunity types will help you when designing your overall link-building campaign process.
Brainstorm Opportunity Types for Each Asset on Your List
Brainstorming opportunity types does take a bit of practice and experience, but as the link builder (and the SEO?) you’re the best person suited for this job because you’re the most familiar with the kinds of linking sites in your keyword space.
Let’s walk through opportunity-type brainstorming for your CEO who has agreed to help out with link building in every way possible. He’s been incredibly accommodating, and agreed to write two articles for placement and one article for the company blog as well as to participate in any interviews you can dig up for him.
Further, he agreed to comment once a week on three notable articles at high-profile sites.
Your linkable asset in this scenario is a “thought leader.” Your opportunity types include:
Guest post and other content placement opportunities
Blogs in your space that write roundups
Industry news sites (assuming his company blog post is suitably noteworthy)
Sites that have written interviews with other industry leaders
Industry blogs that allow comments
Knowing and listing the opportunities you’re looking for will help you when it comes time to develop your link-prospecting queries.
Here’s another quick brainstorm, this time for a company that sells a specialized grooming brush for dogs with curly hair. In this organization, the CEO is distanced from the website of the business, as he’s always been a direct-mail believer. It’s just the SEO doing link building, and with relatively little support.
Our intrepid SEO has one highly linkable asset readily at his disposal—free doggie brushes he can send out. He’s also got a video camera and a dog with curly hair so he can make some basic how-to videos.
This SEO’s assets include the product itself, of which he has 50 he can send out. He also has five how-to videos for grooming dogs with curly hair. The opportunities he’s looking for include:
Pet-related charities that have thank-you pages for in-kind donors
Doggy info and community bloggers who review products
Dog info sites that feature videos
Any bloggers who might be interested in using one of the doggy brushes as a prize in a contest
Primarily he’s looking for nonprofits in the pet space and dog bloggers—it will be quite easy now to create link-prospecting queries. If he could squeeze in more time every week it might make sense to participate in a few forums relating to dog grooming, as well.
COMMON LINK OPPORTUNITY TYPES
Now that we’ve gone over a couple of sample brainstorms for going from linkable assets to link opportunities we’ll look at some of the more common link opportunity types we’ve encountered in our work.
Content Placement Opportunities
Content placement opportunities include guest posts on industry blogs, op-ed pieces on industry news sites, how-tos placed in your industry’s association newsletter, even RSS syndication (republishing your blog, basically) on select sites with targeted, relevant traffic.
Content placement opportunities require content, which requires writers—ideally great writers who get your industry and know your subject well.
Company Profile Listings
Company profile listings occur typically on aggregation sites that publish job listings, company stock information, PDFs, coupons, events (including sales-oriented webinars), free web tools (including spreadsheets), free downloadable software, and more (we’re constantly discovering new aggregation sites, and different industries have different aggregated content types).
Some sites charge for publishing your information, and some don’t. Some sites follow links to your site and some add the no-follow tag. Some sites link to you from every page on their site that mentions you, and some only link to you from your actual profile page.
If you consistently have job openings, events, new PDFs, etc., then you should definitely investigate this opportunity type.
Open Conversation Opportunities
Open conversation opportunities include things like:
Question and answer sites
Industry social networking sites
These are places where you can register, sometimes even create a profile, and then begin interacting with the community in ways that add value. If you have already created tools and information of value on your site, you can and should then proceed to direct folks that way via links.
Please don’t join just to link-drop though—only join the conversation on sites where you can genuinely become “a regular.” The asset required here is subject matter expertise and time.
Editorial mentions are links that occur in the body of an article. We’re referring here to links that are earned either through merit or persistence, rather than earned through monetary payment.
These can occur in reviews at industry news sites, direct content citations from other how-to writers, discussions of your company’s news or blog statements, and even in the content you place.
These types of links will all be hard-earned through relationships you develop with the industry expert publishers in your market space.
Similar to company profile listings, directory listings are common opportunities across industries. Debra Mastaler, a link-building industry authority on web directories and publisher of the blog LinkSpiel, says, “Ideally you’re sourcing niche directories with high-touch editorial curation.
The harder—even more expensive—it is to get listed, the better (usually). The beauty of directories is that typically they’re relatively easy to acquire—just add your company’s information. That low barrier of entry is also the problem with
How to Conduct a Link Opportunity Analysis for Your Keyword Space
Knowing what link opportunities exist for a given market as defined by its keyword space can go a long way toward helping you design a link-building campaign. However, if you don’t have the available resources to create new assets, then it may not do you much good to know about these opportunities.
On the other hand, if you can clearly demonstrate link opportunities are available, this could open up new resources for you in your organization. This blog provides some thinking and process suggestions for link builders trying to understand or “inventory” all the link opportunities for their market.
KNOW YOUR MARKET-DEFINING KEYWORDS
Market-defining keywords are the keywords you’ll be using throughout your link prospecting and market research. They are the “big head” keywords in your industry that would bring lots of traffic but few sales. Here are a few simple guidelines for determining your Market-Defining Keywords.
Seven Characteristics of Market-Defining Keywords
1. Probably not converting keywords
2. Words the market or participants use to describe itself/themselves
3. Single or two-word phrases that are very crowded and competitive in the SERPs (not many ads targeting them)
4. Keywords you would not typically target with a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign
5. A root extracted from your PPC/SEO keywords
6. Common names for the practitioners within your industry (what are the experts actually called?)
7. Words commonly used in the names of publications within your market
Because this process requires actual queries in your search engine of choice, it’s vital that you’ve identified your most productive, least “noisy” keywords that will help you really measure and gauge your market space.
DESIGN QUERIES FOR EACH OPPORTUNITY TYPE
Once you know your Market-Defining Keywords, it’s time to create queries and search them in your favorite search engine. Look for Blogs, News Sites, and Trade Publications.
The existence of blogs, news sites, and trade publications (such as Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land) are all indicators of a healthy “expert publication” status within your market space.
If these kinds of sites exist, especially in large numbers, your campaign design can and should include expert engagement and content creation and promotion, to name a couple.
Check for these kinds of publishers with queries such as:
Market-Defining Keywords blogs
Market-Defining Keywords “blog list”
“top Market-Defining Keywords blogs”
“Market-Defining Keywords news”
Market-Defining Keywords “Trade Publication”
Market-Defining Keywords conference or convention (you will have to track back to the trade organization putting on the convention).
How many results in the top ten are relevant? Are you finding lists of bloggers? If not, make sure your Market-Defining Keywordss are broad enough! If so, then make note of “expert engagement” and content creation/promotion as a solid direction for your link-building efforts.
Look for Niche Directories
Niche directories are almost always worth submitting to. Consider them a “covering your bases” link-building effort. Some keyword spaces have niche directories and some don’t.
Find niche directories with queries such as:
“Market-Defining Keywords Directory”
“Market-Defining Keywords Websites”
Market-Defining Keywords “suggest * URL”
Look for Interviews with Subject Matter Experts
The presence of interviews signifies that there’s an “expert class” within your keyword space. If there are a number of interviews then you should do two things. The first is to get thought-leaders in your organization interviewed.
Second, you should conduct a group interview of all the experts who have received interviews. Gather the experts’ contact information, come up
Here We Are Looking for Interviews with Expert Dog Trainers.
with between five and ten great questions and send them out. When they have responded, aggregate their answers into one article and let them know when it’s published.
Check on the presence of interviews with queries such as:
Market-Defining Keywords intitle: interview
Market-Defining Keywords intitle: “q&a with”
Market-Defining Keywords intitle: “tips from” OR “advice from” OR “chat with”
Look for Niche Forums, Social Networking Sites, and Q/A Sites
What is the online community like in your keyword space? Remember, not everyone has caught up with Web 2.0, and there are hundreds of thousands of people perfectly happy with forums as their platform for web interactions. Find them! This will help you to determine whether it’s worthwhile to put resources into online conversations.
Find niche forums and social networks with queries such as:
Market-Defining Keywords community
intitle: Market-Defining Keywords forum
Market-Defining Keywords inurl:blogs
Market-Defining Keywords answers
Look for Professional Associations
Professional associations indicate a high level of business organization within an industry. This means some great opportunities for link development.
First off, you should consider joining as a means of connecting formally with your industry. Second, many associations have online newsletters and publications to which you can submit content.
Find professional associations with queries such as:
Market-Defining Keywords association
Market-Defining Keywords associated
Market-Defining Keywords intitle: “of America” (or another locale)
Look for Company Profile Listing Opportunities
Company profile listings often earned through submitting specific content types to aggregation sites are a fairly simple and easy way to build links. There are usually paid and unpaid opportunities.
Find company profile listing opportunities with queries like:
Market-Defining Keywords add job
Market-Defining Keywords submit software
Market-Defining Keywords submit pdf
Market-Defining Keywords add coupon
Market-Defining Keywords submit contest
Market-Defining Keywords events
Market-Defining Keywords free tools
Look for Resource Curators
Resource curation has until recently been the task of librarians. These days it’s far more likely that industry expert participants and publishers will build out lists of resources either on a one-time basis with continual updates (that is what we mean by “curation”), or on a weekly/monthly basis in the form of roundups.
We’ve seen some resource aggregation in the form of exhaustive how-tos that link out to the best industry tools and information as well, so be on the lookout!
Detect resource curators with queries such as:
Market-Defining Keywords roundup
“Useful Market-Defining Keywords links” library
Market-Defining Keywords resources list
Look for Content Placement Opportunities
Guest content placement has been the work of the PR department for years. Times are changing, and it’s up to link builders to help lead the company toward content placements that will improve rankings, sales, and brand recognition.
Check your keyword space for content placement opportunities with queries such as:
Market-Defining Keywords “guest post”
Market-Defining Keywords “guest article”
Market-Defining Keywords “write for us”
ANALYZING YOUR RESULTS AND SIMPLE RECALIBRATIONS
When you’re querying your keyword space to get a sense of the overall link opportunities that exist, one simple though the imprecise way to compare the relative opportunity size is the number of relevant opportunities in the top ten results. In order for this to work, of course, you’ll have to do the same number of queries for each opportunity type.
The problem with this method is in the queries themselves—though we use the queries mentioned above, many spaces have different words and variations for their different opportunity types.
Which brings us to recalibrations. Try creating your own substitutions for an opportunity type mentioned above. If our queries sound off to you, then they probably are—you know your keyword space best.
Also, if you’re not getting back many relevant results, your Market-Defining Keywords could be too narrow—try broadening them. For example, if you used “camping tents,” go to “camping” and you should see more relevant opportunities appear.
Link prospecting is the process of discovering potential sites for engagement designed to acquire links to your site. Link prospecting takes many forms and can be as simple as a quick search engine query or as involved as downloading hundreds of thousands of competitor backlinks.
Each method of prospecting has its pluses and minuses, as well as best practices and free/paid tools to speed up the process.
COMMON LINK-PROSPECTING METHODS
Finding link prospects is one of the core problems of link building. And usually, the problem isn’t in finding enough prospects. You can easily find hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of prospects by cracking open Marketing Search Engine and SEO Backlink Checker and exporting competitor backlinks.
The problem typically lies in finding link prospects that represent opportunity types that are lined up with your linkable assets. Not all the prospecting methods below answer this core link-building pain, but they are the more common methods used by link builders these days.
Link Prospecting Queries
Link-prospecting queries remain one of the most versatile and powerful “tools” for link builders. A link-prospecting query (also called a “link-building query”) is a combination of keywords and advanced search operators that help you to discover sites that are likely to link to a page on your site.
Link-prospecting queries are highly flexible ways to discover link prospects at large scale, and a fantastic way to quickly determine the quantity and quality of link opportunities in a given keyword space.
Link-prospecting queries work because link prospects often have a common “footprint” in the content of the page or even in the URL itself. Discovering these link opportunity footprints and paring them down to only a word or two is the essence of link-prospect query design.
The chief advantage of link-prospecting queries is your ability to align your queries to discover only the link opportunities that relate to a linkable asset.
This ability is your first line of prequalification and enables you to design narrowly targeted campaigns that focus on a single asset. Thoroughly discovering all the link prospects that relate to a linkable asset is only possible with queries.
The disadvantage of queries is their ease of creation, which can encourage a cursory and unsystematic approach to querying. This unsystematic approach almost always leaves link prospects “on the table” as you move on to a different asset. Thorough link-prospect querying is fairly simple, however.
A further disadvantage is link-opportunity discovery. If your site lacks a linkable asset, or you’re simply unaware of a given opportunity type, you will be unable to create the appropriate queries for discovering these opportunities.
In the past we’ve written lists of link-building queries you can use for prospecting.
The problem: There are always more queries you could possibly use.
Furthermore, you’re probably only able to use a small fraction of the queries we recommend due to your linkable assets or the type of link opportunities that you’re targeting with your campaign.
Ultimately, we don’t know your market the way you do. Knowing how to construct queries will help you hunt far more effectively in your target market than a list of queries.
Seven Types of Keywords for Link-Prospecting Queries
Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
The same certainly holds true for link-prospecting queries, which is why we’ve found it really helps to think about the types of words you can use. Finding just the right words will help you to prequalify your prospects, which vastly speeds up your qualification phase.
For this exercise, we’ll pretend we build and sell high-performance kayaks online and from a brick-and-mortar location. Our linkable assets are an extensive guide to the best kayaking spots in the world, our blog with kayaking tips and events, and our in-house kayaking “subject matter experts,” both as builders and kayakers.
1. Market-Defining Keywords
What words does your target audience use to describe your industry?
2. Customer-Defining Keywords (CDKWs)
Customer-defining keywords help you discover prospects that are geared more toward your target audience. Knowing what your customers call themselves and how they refer to fellow group members will help you discover some great prospects.
3. Product/Category Keywords (PCKWs)
Product or category keywords are the high and mid-level terms that describe what you sell. They’re useful because they can help you to uncover prospects that could otherwise go undiscovered.
4. Industry Thought Leaders (ITLs)
Industry thought leaders—or, in our kayak case, subject matter experts—help you uncover public relations and interview opportunities in your space.
If you’re looking for a market’s experts, also search in Amazon, or search “Market-Defining Keywords blog” because they often write blogs. You should also check YouTube for any relevant videos.
Once you know some of your industry’s thought leaders, you can look for people who will respond to interviews (so you can interview them and add the content to your site) as well as people who conduct interviews so you can pitch your in-house experts!
5. Competing Company Names (CCNs)
Competing company names are wonderful little footprints to track—they can show you a great deal about how your industry’s reporters and bloggers treat companies similar to yours. For our kayak company, the list would include other direct competitors.
CCNs are useful in ways similar to the names of industry thought leaders. Our kayak company can see who has covered their competitors in the news, as well as which industry forums happen to discuss their competitors extensively.
Furthermore, checking for reviews can show you what you’re up against, plus reveal some potential link opportunities.
[CCN] “guest article or post”
6. Geo Keywords (GKWs)
Geo keywords help you discover link prospects that may impact your local search rankings. Our kayak shop obviously wants to rank well locally, and in addition, by discovering and participating with local media, they will drive highly relevant referral traffic that could result in sales.
Geo keywords can include things like:
Here are some ways to use geo keywords in link-prospecting queries. Our kayaking shop has monthly workshops for builders, as well as weekly one-hour training classes.
We can query for sites related to the broadcast area for events like these. Both of these events are offsite assets that are ideal for geographic keyword link opportunities offered by the sites returned by the following queries:
[GKW] kayak blog
7. Related Vertical Keywords (RVKWs)
Related or adjacent verticals are industries in your “ecosystem” that could potentially aid your prospecting and outreach efforts. These could be your suppliers’ and customers’ industries, perhaps.
It would be great if Google could understand (or wanted to understand) that when I search on Customer Relationship Management intitle:“guest post” I need 500 sites likely to publish CRM-related guest posts for a client this month. Instead, I’ll get between three and ten decent prospects and start thinking of a new query.
As a link prospector, I find this to be the core problem of using Google for prospect sourcing—the relevance of my prospects diminishes significantly after the top 10 to 20 results. And going beyond the top 20 results increases time spent qualifying without justifiable returns.
With conversion rates being what they are these days (I’m pleased by 10 to 15 percent conversion for guest posting and 3 percent for broken-link building) you can start to back into why these low numbers of usable prospects is a big problem for large-scale campaigns that have high levels of monthly link commitments.
Approaching a “fix” for this problem (besides just “more queries,” which is, of course, basically the answer) requires thinking through why Google returns so few usable prospects in the top 20 for a single query.
My belief is that Google intends to deliver a few “best” answers rather than to provide page after page of great possibilities.
They provide a mass-use tool for the average searcher who wants to search and go, rather than a specialized research tool for someone who wants hundreds or even thousands of possible answers.
Think of the fix like this: Systematically and thoroughly alter your queries and force or “restrict” Google to provide new and still-relevant results in the top 20s that you would otherwise have never seen. Compare the command “CRM guest post” to CRM intitle: “guest post.”
There is some domain overlap, but overall we have a large number of new domains that you should consider for placing content. There are three keys to force usable 20-result “segments” out of Google’s insanely huge index:
1. Research phrases
2. Advanced operators
3. Tactic-specific footprints
ANATOMY OF A PRODUCTIVE LINK-PROSPECTING QUERY
Let’s dig into each one of these and look at ways to build thorough-as-possible prospecting-query lists. Note: In our query above, CRM intitle: “guest post,” “CRM” is the research phase, “intitle:” is the advanced operator, and “guest post” is your tactic-specific footprint.
1. Research Phrase List Building
The research phrase is what directs Google in the general vicinity of your topic. It pays to spend time brainstorming and developing large lists of research phrases (though tildes can help with this immensely by “thinking” of synonyms for you).
So continuing our CRM example above, you should definitely include “customer relationship management” both with and without quotes. NOTE: I always create query batches with and without quotes as they often help float new prospects. I also tried ~crm and –crm, which returned some “call centers.”
Now, when I looked at the results for our CRM guest-posting query I saw that many of them were about social CRM, and a few were on small-business blogs. These also suggest avenues for prospecting so long as we can tailor content to fit the specific vertical.
2. Tactic-Specific Footprint Lists
“Footprints” are any word or phrase that commonly occurs on the kind of page that represents a prospect to you. I call them tactic-specific footprints because ideally, you keep them organized by tactic so you can reuse them in the future, and continue to add to them as you find new ones.
You can build your footprint lists by closely examining “definite yes prospects” and looking for patterns. For example, in guest posting, it’s common to include the phrase “about the author.”
Competitor Backlink Prospecting
There is a simple beauty to lists of competitor backlinks. You know that each of the URLs listed has qualified itself by doing the one thing you want to be done for you: link out. This act alone prequalifies competitor backlink lists to some degree.
If you merge lists of competitor backlinks and find the co-occurring URLs and hostnames, you’re moving still closer to a qualified prospect list.
Besides identifying individual prospects, analyzing competitor backlinks can reveal new link opportunity types that you may have forgotten, overlooked, or not even known about.
Always be on the lookout for new link opportunity types, and, if you have the assets or the resources to create the assets, be prepared to develop queries for finding more of them.
One other great way to use competitor backlinks is by looking at links to individual pages, rather than to the site as a whole. This is most useful when seeking outreach targets for a similar linkable asset that you’ve created.
A key difficulty with competitor backlink lists—even those with quality metrics as supplied by backlink data vendors—is an inability to quickly line up the prospects with your existing assets.
You know nothing about the linking URLs and have very little way to assess why they linked in the first place. Figuring this out for every prospect would take months to do “manually.”
TOOLS FOR PULLING COMPETITOR BACKLINKS
There are a number of free and commercially available tools for pulling competitor backlinks. Here are the ones we use and recommend:
Link Insight from AdGooroo
Open Site Explorer
Competitor Research Tools & SEO Backlink Checker
Automating Your Link Prospecting with RSS Aggregation
Once you’ve developed link-building query clusters for your ever-green linkable assets (assets that don’t expire like contests or specific job openings do), it’s time to set up and aggregate alerts so that you can set yourself up with a steady supply of link prospects.
First, you need to select your source for the feed. Here are several potential sources:
Google Blog Search
Sign up if you haven’t already, and begin reading about how to set up feeds with each of the tools. Then add each of your link-building queries to the tool so that it will send you corresponding pages.
You have to send your prospects someplace, and ideally, it’s not to your email inbox. There are a number of ways to aggregate your feeds for easy qualification. Two are Google Reader and Yahoo Pipes.
By automating your prospecting using one of these online programs, you can step away for a few days, work through your other prospects, and then come back and see what has collected while you qualified and reached out to your link prospects.
List-Scrape Prospecting for Link Builders
Never fear, link prospector, there remain deep wells of link prospect opportunity, even if you’ve queried every last prospect from Google and snatched every last link from your competitors’ back-link profile.
If you can make the right offer and have a ready team for outreach, then list-scrape prospecting could add a steady stream of powerful links to your portfolio.
We have the great fortune to live in an age in which webmasters aggregate and publish large lists of outbound links. It’s as simple as searching Google for lists of XYZ kinds of sites, hand-picking pages with a high volume of outbound links, and “scraping” them with the same type of crawling and scraping software that Google uses to download the internet.