100+ Best Link Building Tips for 2019
Link building plays the main role in improving website or blog ranking in Google indexing. This blog explains 100+ New Link Building Hacks and tips that used in 2019 for boost Google Ranking.
Keyword Occurrences in URLs
If you’ve copied and pasted your list of link prospects into a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel, one way to determine relevance is to simply search for your market-defining keywords—and potentially keywords associated with the link-opportunity type— in the URLs themselves.
For example, if you’ve been looking for link lists on .edu sites, then the word “link” or “list” appearing in the URL is a pretty good identifier. If you want the blogs, then “blog” would be a fantastic place to start searching for your spreadsheet. Any URLs that contain the keywords should be set aside for a manual review later.
Authority of Host Name or URL
Page rank (PR) remains the simplest, quickest, most scrapable metric for freely assessing the authority of a URL and its hostname. We don’t practice or preach chasing high page rank links, but we do firmly assert that you can make broad generalizations about a link prospect data set based on PR.
If you’ve sourced your link prospects either from link-building queries or competitor backlink data, then sorting your list in descending order of hostname PR can help you immediately spot the strongest, most authoritative sites for potential outreach.
There are other authority measurements available from other link-prospecting tools that can be used to sort in much the same way.
Inbound Link Count to Host Name, Inbound Link Count to URL
Like page rank, the number of links a website has can be easily manipulated, and should never be a sole decision point for whether to establish a relationship with a website. And, like page rank, if your link prospects have been prequalified with queries or backlink co-occurrence, then inbound link count becomes a more useful number.
In addition to helping you make decisions about which sites to approach for engagement, inbound link counts to nonhost name URLs can help you identify content to which your market responds well.
Distribution Metrics: Twitter Mentions, Facebook Likes, Reddit Mentions, Stumbles, Etc.
The SEO blog SEO for Firefox Toolbar also enables you to quickly pull data points such as the number of times a domain has appeared in Twitter, Facebook, on Reddit, and on StumbleUpon.
These metrics are strong signals that the owners of a website are active social media participants and that they may have developed a following. These sites should certainly be set aside for further consideration, especially for content placement, interviews, and news-related engagement.
THE TOOL FOR FASTER METRICS-BASED QUALIFICATION
There’s really only one tool that we’ve found and recommended consistently for its ease of operation and intelligent design: the SEO blog SEO for Firefox Toolbar.
You have to sign up to get access, but it’s highly customizable and enables you to download to the spreadsheet, aggregate, and then sort your link query prospects directly from the SERPs.
Many of the competitor backlink prospecting tools have their own metrics, but none of them (to our knowledge) approach the range of metrics pulled in by the SEO for Firefox Toolbar.
MAKING “BY-HAND” PROSPECT QUALIFICATIONS
At a certain point, it becomes necessary to visit prospect sites by hand. We believe you should do as much work as possible to minimize the number of sites you visit by hand, as this is (one of) the most time-consuming and tedious parts of link building.
It’s also the point where you’re likely to have the most inspiration for your campaign, so be sure to schedule ample time and be ready to capture the ideas you have.
Sometimes the presence of a link opportunity keyword in the URL can indicate possible relevance to a linkable asset. And sometimes you have to visit the page and look the website over to make sure the owner/curator is likely to be receptive to publishing a mention of your asset.
Reach and Influence Assessment
There are a number of ways to assess a site’s influence and reach. To our knowledge, few of these are readily capturable in an automated, per-URL fashion.
The number of blogs and/or newsletter subscribers can tell you a great deal about how long the website has been around, as well as how far your linkable asset is likely to travel, should it get mentioned.
The Twitter followers of the site’s publisher is another decent metric, but if you’re pursuing guest-post opportunities then the number of times the domain has appeared in Twitter is an even better metric of the reach of a website. Further, you should check to see if the website has badges for voting its pages upon niche social news sites.
If so, search that social news website to see how often your prospect has appeared and to get an idea of how often their content has gone “hot.” Go for reach and influence whenever possible!
At-a-Glance website Quality
Are the design and layout pleasing, or at least not distracting? Are you bombarded with ads and AdSense links that force you to scroll in order to find the content on the page?
Are there obvious misspellings and atrocious grammar? Again these could all be strong signs that this prospect should be discarded (no matter what the metrics tell you).
TOOLS FOR FASTER BY-HAND QUALIFICATION
There’s only one tool that we’re aware of that considerably speeds up the process of by-hand qualification. It’s a free and very simple tool that we developed—the URL Reviewer Tool. Here is the step-by-step process for using the tool to speed up the final by-hand qualification of your link prospects:
1. Turn off images in your browser. You’ll move faster if you have multiple tabs (or windows) open and your computer will work faster if it doesn’t have to handle all those images. You can usually do this by opening your browser’s settings/ options.
2. Use a “URL Reviewer” tool, which opens a list of URLs in new tabs. Search for “open sites in multiple tabs.”
3. Only add 10 URLs at a time at first to test the strain on your computer. If it handles 10 well, try 20, then 30. You’re testing for bottlenecks here, which can occur in your RAM, your router, your internet connection, etc. You want to find the optimal speed so you can get at as many prospects as possible at a time.
4. Use Chrome, which manages RAM allocations more efficiently than FireFox, Opera, or Safari. Some link builders are wary of using Google-based products in link building, especially if they are researching link buys. If you share this concern then don’t use Chrome.
5. Save yourself a mouse click and use Ctrl-W or Command-W to close tabs.
6. Only make a mark for confirmed, definite prospects in your spreadsheet. Once you’ve finished going through your list you can sort by that column and mark all the others as “Not Prospects.” Your nonprospects are at least as valuable as your prospects—they will help you qualify prospects even more quickly in the future.
Using these methods, focused link builders can hand-qualify up to 250 URLs an hour. Garrett, who suffers at times from ADD and inspiration-induced reveries, can often plow through 100 or so. Your times will vary.
55 LINK-OPPORTUNITY QUALIFIERS
This list of 55 qualifiers should help to get your brain turning regarding metrics and methods for qualifying your link prospects.
24 Automated Qualifiers
1. Keywords appear in target URL
2. Keywords appear in target URL title tag
3. Keywords appear in H1 tags
4. Keyword occurrences in the body text
5. Keyword occurrences in Meta keywords and description
6. Number of outbound links on target URL
7. Number of inbound links to target URL
8. Number of inbound links to the domain
9. Followed/NoFollowed outbound links
10. Competitor URLs
11. Excessive AdSense placements
12. PageRank of URL
13. PageRank of domain
14. Domain age
15. Page type (social network, blog, answers page, forum, links page, etc.)
16. Number of comments in comment threads
17. Inbound links from news sites, .edus or .govs
18. Inbound links from blogs and other sites within your prospect set
19. Forum signature inbound links
20. Inbound links from niche/industry news sites
21. Inbound links from industry groups and organizations
22. Social media inbound links (Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious, etc.)
23. Social media/industry group badge outbound links
24. Page type (blog, review page, links page, etc.)
31 By-Hand Qualifiers
1. Is there genuine relevance between the page and the page you’re building links to?
2. Is it a previously unidentified competitor?
3. Is the text the human generated?
4. Are there excessive, obtrusive ads?
5. What motivated the current links on the target URL?
6. Recent posts, recent website updates, updated copyright date?
7. At first, pass, does the text look correct in grammar and spelling?
8. What is the design and image quality?
9. How thorough and well-tended does the resources/links page seem?
10. Is there more than one link page?
11. When was the last update?
12. Is the website owner/moderator easily accessible by email or phone?
13. Is there a comments box?
14. What is the quality of comments and conversation there now?
15. Does it contain discussion related to your product or service?
16. Is there an established community evident in comments or an adjunct forum?
17. Is there Q/A forms on the website?
18. Does it have strong content?
19. Does the website have editors?
20. Are there links out to other known influencers?
21. Does the website contain written reviews?
22. An email newsletter or other signs of reach and distribution
23. “In The News” section with quotes by major newspapers and industry publications
24. Person’s name is the URL
25. Industry analyst/consultant website
26. Niche industry news coverage website
27. Robust commenting community with a great deal of response from the author
28. Writing about recent industry news and developments
29. Obviously attends conferences
30. Multiple media formats
31. You’ve seen this URL on multiple blogrolls
What Is Link Trust?
On the web, where engines index URLs by the billions (the good, the bad and the ugly), signals of trust, merit, and intent of source will be crucial to any search result, including a personalized search result.
Signals of trust, merit, and intent of source can be determined in a couple of ways with an algorithm that looks at onsite or offsite signals, or without an algorithm at all, using offline factors (rarely discussed, by the way).
So links, citations, inclusions, and connections, along with confidence, intent, credibility, and veracity aren’t going anywhere, because what other signals are there?
Seriously, if you had a billion dollars and wanted to start a search engine, what signals is your big fancy algorithm going to measure in order to produce useful results?
What’s likely true is the sources of all signals are getting more and more algorithmic scrutiny, and end users play a larger role in this process in many ways. The links you depend on for both traffic and rank better be bulletproof, and not a house of cards waiting to crumble.
If your link-building tactics and targets have not been wisely chosen, the day will come (or already has) when you will not be happy. The value of certain types of links cannot be underestimated.
It would be unfair to point fingers at any one company in particular, because to some extent we have all helped perpetuate the link-building myths that Google innocently fueled when it first gave us PageRank.
At the same time, I find it hard to believe anyone who earns their living by building links is really surprised by what has happened over the years and continues to happen here in 2018. For example, the devaluing of directory links.
Are you really shocked that Google no longer thinks a link from link-o-Matic, link-to-my-loo and LinksForNoGoodReason.com are of any value?
How about deep links inserted inside articles and then syndicated to hundreds of other sites? It’s junk. The only thing you should be shocked about is how long it’s taken the search engines to devalue this spammy link-building approach.
It’s the same with reciprocal link networks. Or blog link networks. In fact, any linking tactic not driven by merit but rather by deception cannot be trusted.
Many link-building services confuse a steady stream of new clients to be an indicator that they are effective link builders. They are wrong.
Google’s focus on trusted sources is your worst nightmare. At the heart of the trusted link model is the word trust. But the mistake being made is missing the true origin of that trust. It is never the page itself that is trustworthy.
Neither is it the domain nor is it the IP block or the number of co-hosted websites present or some other silly metric. Trust originates with the steward of the content. The page editor.
The author. The curator. Trust originates from people and manifests itself on the web as links. The engine that figured that out first was Google, and others followed.
My favorite saying is as accurate today as it was in the 1990s: The engines already know how to count links. What they don’t know, and what they will get better at, is knowing which of the links they have counted actually matter.
SPOTTING SIGNS OF TRUST
What signs does one look for when seeking a good link target website? There is a generic answer and a specific answer.
Generic answer: A good link target will be different for every website you are seeking links for.
Why? Many reasons. First, always look for the intent of the target website. In the example above, the intent of a university music web guide is pretty evident. That website isn’t there to sell links, barter links, swap links, trade links, triangulate links, or any other silly link scheme.
The intent has nothing to do with any search engine. That website exists as a resource to help people. A link from that website and others like it sends incredibly powerful signals of trust to the search engines.
Preciprocation, from Relationships to Links, and Developing Your Content Promotion Network.
There is a tendency among SEOs to have a “drop-and-dash” mentality when it comes to links. This is why there are so many comment and forum spamming bots, long lists of sites where you can snag social media profile links, and a huge market for paid links.
Good reciprocation and relationship-building targets include reporters, bloggers, industry experts who publish consistently, even respected and prolific forum posters. From the link prospects you qualify, look for active sites and individuals mentioned frequently in social media, as well as those that have established authority.
If there’s a “secret” to our biggest successes in link building (outside of dramatically reducing prospecting and qualification time), this blog contains it.
THE PRECIPROCATION CONCEPT
The “preciprocation” concept is simple: Promote the best content of others (especially including your link prospects) before they ask for it via links from your website and placed content, votes, newsletter mentions, tweets, or whatever platform or medium you have at your disposal. Link out lavishly to deserving content, even from competitors, if appropriate.
Use followed links. Expect nothing in return, though certainly do occasional outreach to let folks know that you appreciated and cited their work.
Preciprocation provides several advantages:
By continually watching for and promoting great industry content, you will know what you should be aspiring to in your content creation.
Your audience will come to trust you as an expert curator of industry content. Though the content isn’t yours, your “brand” will still pass along a bit as the referrer.
You keep tabs on what your competitors are doing in the content marketing and social media arena.
The experts creating the content you promote will, in some cases, reciprocate by promoting your content to their network.
Some experts may be relied upon to link to you with anchor text best suited to your SEO goals.
The experts and other publishers you promote will be more open to interviews, surveys, and other highly linkable content collaborations.
The disadvantages of preciprocation are:
Not every market contains a layer of active, expert publishers (such as bloggers), who are the link prospects most likely to respond to this method.
It’s a lot of work, requiring dedicated daily work of about an hour or so.
It takes a long time to get “rolling” to the point where you’re genuinely impacting your chances of increasing links.
If you’re pushy or expectant in your requests for the promotion of your content, you will come off as rude, even if you’ve been reciprocating for weeks or months.
BUILDING RECIPROCATED RELATIONSHIPS INTO LINKS
Once you have begun warming up your link targets through preciprocation, you can start to formulate ideas for turning these contacts into links. We recommend that you do this primarily through content that, again, promotes your link targets while adding new information and new value to your industry’s thought space.
Here are some core concepts that illustrate how to develop your reciprocated relationships into content and links:
Good Ol’ Content Promotion: If you already have expert-grade content on your website and it hasn’t gotten much industry attention, a simple mention to a few of your
reciprocated contacts could result in links. Because the relationships are already warmed up, they’re more likely to spend a minute considering your request!
Top 100 (Blog Posts, Twitter Users, PDFs, Podcasts, etc.) of 20XX: If you create content on your website that highlights the experts in your space that you’ve reciprocated, they are likely to help you promote it. Sometimes this will be through tweets, and sometimes through links.
Expert Publisher Group Interview: Ask great questions of a large group of industry experts (including those competitors with whom you’ve developed rapport and respect) and you’re sure to create content that gets others thinking and sharing. Plus the experts themselves will benefit by promoting the content.
The “Writing Assignment”: Create an interesting and engaging writing project and ask your reciprocated experts to publish their assignment on their site—be sure to link to their assignment from the assignment announcement page, which is on your website.
Which in Turn Helps Her website Attract Links and Publicity
Promoting Your Customers: This old PR technique works well for link building. Source, share and promote their stories and expertise, and you’ll earn links from them and their networks.
Solicit Expert Content: Some experts will want to use your blog as a place to reach a new audience with content (and earn a new link or two). Consider opening up your platform to the content placement from others and they are likely to help promote it for you. In the link-building campaign templates, you’ll find these concepts developed in actionable detail.
DEVELOP YOUR CONTENT PROMOTION NETWORK
The more reach you develop for your organization—the more RSS/newsletter subscribers, the more followers and friends, the more votes you can wrangle on niche social news sites, the more forums you contribute to, the stronger the forum you create on your site—the farther your content will go and the more links it will earn.
From a tactical perspective, this will require you to be an active publisher in multiple mediums, and it requires dedicated daily effort from at least one employee with a strong “curatorial” eye.
You will find, as your distribution network grows, that you will earn links and mentions from the people paying attention to you. Furthermore, you will find it much easier to establish relationships with other major players in your space who have created similar networks.
As you discover and promote rising stars in your market space you will earn the appreciation of future giants. Developing your link distribution network is a long-term project and something that you do gradually as you discover and qualify new link prospects, “preciprocate” them, publish new content, and conduct outreach for it.
Here are some of the pillars of a content distribution network:
Twitter/Facebook: Probably the simplest channel to set up and get running for the purposes of promoting your industry experts’ best content.
Company Blog: Fairly simple to set up, the real challenge comes in developing a sustainable and effective content strategy.
Email Newsletter: While not a direct link-building tool, an email newsletter filled with great content gives you more reach and impact for your content. Plus it becomes a way to preciprocate—and to say thank you—to your link prospects.
Forum/Community Platform: Participate (answer and ask questions) in the important ones in your industry, but also consider launching your own as a means to develop links and embed yourself more powerfully in your market.
Niche Social News Sites: Discover the niche social news sites most relevant to your target audience, and if there isn’t one, consider creating one and adding it to your website. As a forum, this project is not to be undertaken lightly or without resources to promote and build it.
While your content distribution network will earn you links organically, it’s important to remember that each independent channel you develop is its own linkable asset. There will be new link opportunity types you can acquire links from as you launch new channels.
Analyzing Market Pains to Create Highly Linkable Content
Be helpful, promote your link prospects, but don’t always be the platform for others to tap dance on. You have to demonstrate your expertise—you have to add your own unique value and voice to the conversation.
This blog will help you identify exactly what kinds of content you should be creating in order to not only attract links from your prospects but to also be sure to get some real-life conversions with your content.
We highly recommend you experiment with the medium that works best for you and your organization’s strength. If you have developers, your content can and should look like free web tools that relate to your market. If you have graphic designers (and access to unique data and talented data interpreters), then perhaps it’s infographics.
How to Content
Fresh and up-to-date how-to content has and will have eternal appeal in a market. That’s what makes it the standby for the linkable content creator. How-to content guides readers through a process for achieving a specific goal that’s relevant or related to the target market.
It’s through this type of content that link builders (or your content strategists and PR folk) work to establish your company’s experts as thought leaders and people of influence. This content travels in all sorts of media wrappers, from PDFs to podcasts, to videos, to tweets.
Forums, Videos, and Tool Guides—all Valuable Content
Effective how-to content solves a market’s pains. If you’re already familiar with your market, you probably know the core pains. You will still be surprised at pains you weren’t aware of if you conduct a “pain-point survey.”
If you’re new to a market space then this survey will be invaluable. Note that this survey only looks at pains that content creators have addressed!
A How-To Survey for Market Pain-Point Analysis
You will need to refer back to your market-defining keywords (or MDKWs).
Your MDKWs help you guide your queries toward the information that will be most useful to you. Start by combining MDKWs with the types of words listed below.
Your market is likely to have different words to describe helpful content, and it could make sense for you to search in Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, or other social sites where content related to your market is shared.
Here are some sample queries:
[MDKW] how to
[MDKW] definitive guide
[MDKW] what you need to know
Also, play with these (but only concentrate on titles!):
Begin with some by-hand queries and check the top ten for one or two MDKWs (market-defining keywords). If you find queries with lots of unique, decent looking content, set these queries aside for a larger batched query.
Conducting How-To Oriented Pain-Point Analysis
Now you have, laid out for you in plain numbers, the most commonly occurring phrases in the SERPs for the how-to content in your market. This is your starting point for creating a pain-point framework.
This pain-point analysis should be fairly stable—core pains in a market rarely change. That’s part of what unifies the market. Here’s how to lay things out and start getting a sense for the most important types of information in your space.
1. Make a list of the distinct phrases that stand out.
2. Think about each phrase you extract as if it were going to be an entire section of your website or a category on your blog.
3. Be as thorough as possible, and lay your preconceptions aside as much as possible.
4. Once you’ve assessed the main phrases that define the pains in your market, you can run each pain phrase in place of the [MDKW] queries above to flesh out each category.
You can use your pain-point analysis in a number of ways. Here are some thoughts:
Identify what information is missing or poorly presented in your market.
Create a content calendar for your writers.
Identify interview questions, or general interview directions, for experts.
Create a content website or website section architecture.
Aggregate the best and most-linked pieces of how-to content for each pain point.
Develop free, web-based tools or downloads targeting specific pains and create content describing how and when to use them.
IDENTIFYING LINKABLE CONTENT IN YOUR MARKET
The process outlined in the how-to discussion above provides a broad and informational look at what causes your market pain, and therefore what your market cares about.
It’s reasonable to assume that if you solve these pains with content, your website will attract links over time. There’s more than one way to analyze content in a market, though.
This section looks at how to identify and analyze the most linkable content in your market. This will help give you a sense of what factors matter to the linkers in your space (assuming your space has a community of organic linkers).
Further, this analysis will help you to weed out which market pains matter the most, and which pains are created by content farms to respond to emerging keyword demand (these could be useful too, but aren’t likely to have links).
PROCESS AND TOOLS FOR IDENTIFYING LINKABLE CONTENT
At its core, this process revolves around analyzing inbound links to individual pages and not the website as a whole.
Why? This leads you directly to important and valued pieces of content (they were cited by others), and it gives you a list of ready prospects when you create better content. Like the how-to analysis above, there are not yet any tools that execute this process on a systematized basis, so you will have to do it by hand.
This is a fairly lengthy process, but well worth the time invested.
Identify the Top Publishers in Your Market
Add in a few of the how-to queries above and you can use these queries to assess the strongest content and publishing players in your market. Start with queries like these:
[MDFK] trade publication
[MDKW] how to
And then . . .
1. Make sure SEO for Firefox is fully engaged—you will be extracting URLs from the SERPs of your favorite search engine.
2. Make sure your search engine of choice is returning 20 results at a time.
3. Run your first query and then extract the results (be sure to save it in a meaningful, easy-to-remember way).
4. Repeat until you’ve run through all of your queries.
5. Paste ONLY the URLs into the Hostname and URL Occurrence Counter
6. Check, by hand, the top occurring hostnames and URLs—these are most likely to be your industry’s top publishers.
Analyze the Top Publishers’ Most-Linked Pages
Now that you have a rough idea of your top publishers, you can begin to analyze their most-linked pages. You can and should use this process to analyze your top competitors to see which of their pages have attracted the most links—not only will you discover their linkbait and linkable content, but you’ll uncover pages with paid links pointing to them as well.
1. Take your list of top publishers and run them, one by one, through Competitor Research Tools & SEO Backlink Checker, Link Insight, Open website Explorer, or Marketing Search Engine and SEO Backlink Checker.
2. Examine the top 50 or so results for each website.
3. Explore URLs that appear to be informational, or contain something other than sales content.
4. Record URLs of note, along with their link count and title of the content in a spreadsheet.
5. Repeat for each publisher, and then sort your spreadsheet by the inbound link count column. Now you can see the URLs in your market’s top publishers that have attracted, earned, or begged for the most links in your market. Here are some of the things you can start to identify now:
Pain addressed (how does it line up with your pain map?)
Target audience (knowledge level of the target audience, reading level, etc.)
What is the content type? (article, pdf, video, podcast, infographic, etc.)
How is the content structured?
There’s an added bonus to this sort of analysis, too—if you pull the backlinks to these top URLs, using Competitor Research Tools & SEO Backlink Checker or Open website Explorer, you have some fairly well-qualified targets for outreach as you begin to create content of your own.
In a perfect world—which you as a link builder should be striving for, obviously— linkable, shareable content also generates conversions of some fashion or other.
Whether newsletter subscribers, blog downloads, ad clicks, or even sales, your linkable content should be moving folks along a funnel.
The great part is, though, if your linkable content can convert, you know you’re generating relevant content. There are some link-builders who specialize in irrelevant linkbait. It attracts links and impacts SERPs, but chances are good that this impact won’t last forever.
If every link you earn brings in targeted traffic to content that leads folks along a funnel toward increased value interactions with your brand, then you’re way ahead of the game. SERP impact is your gravy.
The good news is that all your how-to pain point and linkable content research has prepared you with a massive list of topics and potential titles. Your job now is discovering how to work your company’s brand and buy cycle into the topics.
Here are some types of conversions you can drive with content:
Free Tool Usage
Increased Time on website
ENGAGING YOUR INTERNAL THOUGHT LEADERS AND SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS
Unless you, the link builder, are your organization’s subject matter expert, you’re going to have to work with the folks in your organization who are. Content that enables an audience to gain access to these subject matter experts is more likely to result in links.
Primarily, you will be engaging them with interviews, though if you have a strong team, willing experts, and the blessings of the management, you could have them write—or assist them in writing—the pain-based linkable content you’ve identified.
Furthermore, your organization’s subject matter experts may have already developed their own online platforms. There could be folks in your organization who have relevant followings already that you could ask to become more involved in your linkable content creation.
If your CEO’s already on Twitter, by all means, ask him to tweet about your latest guides to accomplishing more with less!
TIP-BASED CONTENT—HOW TO RESEARCH, SCALE, AND PROMOTE
Tips are the smallest documentable unit of “how to” do something. Their presence—or absence—within a target market’s SERPs provide phenomenal opportunities for link strategists and other content marketers.
Here’s a proposed definition of “tips” for marketers, and ideas and direction for link strategists and other content marketers on how to utilize tip-based content to meet marketing goals.
Importance of Tips to Marketers
You know what a tip is, but they’ve become so mundane, you may not have examined them at close range. Tips are tiny concept vessels for preserving and passing along distinct units of practical advice from subject matter experts.
From the information seeker’s perspective, tips provide a perceived shortcut to subject matter mastery and provide a solution to their painful inability.
By providing a tip that enables someone to complete a task, the marketer builds trust and creates further promotion opportunity—from links to shares to downloads, to sign-ups. When researching a space, “tips” can include other units of knowledge such as “steps,” “checklists,” “worksheets,” “guidelines,” and more.
Four Tips on Understanding the Significance of Tips within a Vertical
Tips tell marketers a great deal about a given vertical, its publishers, its audiences, and their pains. As you hone your tip-research skills, here are four things you can look for.
1. The presence of tips in your vertical demonstrates that there is task-based information demand. Even if your content isn’t tip-based, the presence of tips indicates that your market needs information on how to execute relevant tasks. Gathering and organizing tips will help you understand the range of information demand as well as the various tasks that are problematic for your audience.
2. The absence of tips indicates subject matter mastery may require understanding principles rather than following tips. From a content perspective, this will require from you and your writers more effort to create successful content.
Assuming you’re an agency specializing in the tip-based content creation, you may be doing the principle-to-tip distillation based on conjecture or—better still—interviews with subject matter experts.
3. The absence of tips indicates a content opportunity. Even if subject matter expertise in a vertical requires the understanding of principles, or even an advanced college degree, years in the field, passing a bar exam, etc.,
the absence of tips means that a smart content marketer can begin the work of distilling general principles into distinct, task-oriented directives. You will have difficulty in sourcing your tips, but being “first to market” with tips can create significant value for a company.
4. Identify any tip gaps as they overlap with business objectives. Markets with tips are likely to still have “tip gaps.” Being able to identify these gaps—especially as they overlap with your content marketing objectives—requires a systematic inventory and categorization of existing tips.
Three Tips for Research and Categorization
Digging into a vertical’s tips provides a rich well of direction and source material for your own tip-based content.
1. Inventory tips by combining your subject matter phrases with tip-discovery stems. Your subject matter phrases are typically non-pay-per-click, big-head keywords that describe your target market, its various practitioners, and/or core concerns that can serve as a root for your tip queries in Google. Tip-discovery query stems are words like:
2. Verticals typically have unique names for types of “tips.” “Recipes” are common collections of tips in the cooking vertical; “drills” are ideas for exercises that sports coaches can implement at practice; and “lesson plans” are a sort of education recipe for teachers to follow in class. It’s vital that you identify any standard, codified groupings of information in your vertical!
3. Create a tip inventory, for your vertical’s body of tip-based knowledge. If you’re working in a vertical for the long term, or at least for a 6- or 12-month content-oriented engagement, it makes sense to build your own tip inventory for cataloging and categorizing all the tips and their sources in your vertical.
Then, when it comes time to create content, you can parcel out your tips based on the requirements of the given piece. When you’ve thoroughly collected tips from a vertical, you can more easily discover appropriate categories and groupings for them. These categorizations themselves can become a value-add to a given body of knowledge.
[Note: You can free download the complete Office 365 and Office 2019 com setup Guide.]
Five Tips for Scalable and Unique Tip-Based Content
Simply rewriting tips doesn’t help differentiate your content—or add anything new to your vertical. Here are some ways to use existing tips as a starting point rather than an end goal.
1. “Unpack” and/or “debunk” tip clichés in your vertical. As you build your vertical’s tip inventory spreadsheet, track the number of times a tip is mentioned or suggested.
The most frequently mentioned tips can potentially be split into even smaller tips, or at least written about with more depth, deliberation, and care. It may also be possible or useful to debunk, disprove, or in some way debate the most frequently promoted tips in a vertical.
2. Many subject matter experts haven’t reduced tips and advice to their smallest form. Your vertical’s most prominent and important subject matter experts—your niche celebrities—have probably come up with some amazing, if not fully articulated, tips. It’s also probable that they haven’t broken these tips down to their smallest possible form.
3. Tips and tip categories can serve as a basis for group interviews. Knowing the most regularly published tips can be a great place to start an interview with your niche expert celebrities.
Ask them to debunk the common tips, or to provide their unique spin on that particular tip. You can also ask, “What tips besides these most common tips would you recommend?”
4. Tips can serve as a basis for infographics or other “utility enhancers.” Providing new wrappers for old or standard tips can give your content new life in a vertical. Can making tips printable in some way improve their utility? Can you turn your tip inventory into a simple fact-finding or diagnosis application?
5. If forum-based tip sharing happens frequently in your vertical, this is a huge opportunity for tip sourcing. While forums and other social media sites can provide the most useful, actionable tips, they are often poorly organized, incompletely explained, and have no “architecture” to them.
Four Tips for Promoting Tip-Based Content
Tip-based content can earn links, shares, and other citations with no promotion. Tip-based content can also perform poorly even with extensive promotion. Here are some tips on promotion:
1. Cite and notify your tip sources. You are rewriting, rearticulating, and reorganizing their tips to the point that they are no longer recognizable to their originators.
However, citing your sources provides an anchor of trust and reliability to your content, and provides you with a promotion opportunity as well when you write to the esteemed subject matter expert to let them know that you referenced them in your humble work.
2. Target roundup writers. If your vertical has roundup writers, then these are some of the first folks you should target for the mention, share, or link requests.
3. Distribute it yourself. Tweet it, share it, put it on your homepage, link to it from guest posts, including the URL in relevant comments, and add it to your monthly email newsletter.
4. Make sure your content targets a conversion. Tip-based content conversions can include things like signups, downloads, installs, follows, friends, shares, links, and even sales if you have blogs or other content for sale.
Link acquisition is the process of conducting outreach designed to induce people or sites to publish links to your content (and, in our methodology, without paying them). Link acquisition is sometimes referred to as “link begging,” but this is a misnomer.
Ineffective link acquisition, you always—always—illustrate the value of your linkable asset within the context of the needs of the publisher’s target audience. Our most effective link acquisition emails typically don’t even use the word “link” in them.
DESIGNING THE PITCH: BEFORE SENDING YOUR LINK ACQUISITION EMAILS
The first and most important stage of link acquisition is in your pitch design. Effective pitch design also relies upon a thorough linkable asset inventory (so you know what you’re pitching) and effective link prospecting and qualification (so you know who you’re pitching to, and why).
Relevance First: Aligning Your Assets with the Link Opportunity Types
You have a list of prospects, but do you know which of your linkable assets lines up with their interests, with their audience, with their editorial agendas?
For scalable and effective link-building campaigns, we recommend that you organize the campaign with assets at the core. The more relevant your asset is to the prospect, the higher your conversion rates will be.
WARMER RELATIONS: SENDING “PRECIPROCATION” SIGNALS IN EVERY EMAIL
There’s a reason this blog goes from link prospect qualification to building relationships, and not directly to link acquisition. Preciprocation is one of the strongest indicators you can give someone that you’re invested in moving your industry forward with enthusiasm and optimism.
Furthermore, it shows that you’re listening to them, which is one of the most powerful ways to open up the hearts and minds of your industry’s publishers. We recommend that you (and challenge you to) build reciprocation, in some way, into every email you send.
For example, if you haven’t contacted someone yet, you could send preciprocation signals like this:
I really enjoyed your piece on X. In fact, I mentioned it in our email newsletter, to my Twitter followers, and added it to this massive roundup of our industry’s top resources (URL).
Check it out and if you think it’s worthy, please mention it to your readers! Also, I’d like to interview you for an upcoming article—are you open to answering some questions for my readers?
If this is your second or third contact you can tone down on the reciprocation some, but always remember to indicate your future willingness to help out. If you know your expert is writing a blog, for example, your letter might be more along the lines of:
Hey [Contact Name]!
Just writing to let you know that we dropped another little bomb on the X industry ;) It’s really picking up steam on Twitter and causing a lot of discussions. Check it out and let me know what you think! [insert your URL] Also, let me know when you’re done with that blog so I can tell my readers about it!
DEMONSTRATING CONCERN FOR THEIR AUDIENCE’S NEEDS
When promoting your own content to publishers, one of the strongest ways to signal that you’re worth listening to is by demonstrating concern for their readers. If the publisher is a good and worthy steward of your industry’s community—and he will be because you’ve prospected and qualified well—then the readers will be his primary concern.
Of course, these folks are going to be few and far between. However, they are the most valuable and influential links and relationships you’ll find in your space because they will have developed trust from their readers. And you can be sure they will have developed trust in the search engines as well.
Another way to demonstrate concern for the reader is by expressing how your readers and website visitors have responded to your content (whether by links, mentions in Twitter, actual written responses you’ve received, etc.).
This shows you’ve been listening. Finally, by using language like “If you think your readers could learn from it,” or “Because your readers responded so well to X,” you demonstrate that you, too, care about readers.
It’s always best to err on the side of concern for readers. If the publisher is publishing a blog or industry news website, you could try saying “visitors” instead of “readers.”
SUGGESTING “MENTIONS” OR “SHARING” INSTEAD OF REQUESTING LINKS
The word “link” has gotten some bad connotations of late. You have to remember that publishers not only get bombarded with link-exchange spam but there’s Google pushing the “No Follow” tag and threatening to end a website’s supply of organic traffic if that website does any “unnatural linking.”
And think about it—the word “link” itself is abstract, too technical, and doesn’t convey the actual value that your content will bring to other publishers’ readers. No one wants to link.
They want to share valuable content. They want to be the conduit for someone’s life-changing (or business-process-changing) epiphany. They want to earn still more trust and adulation from their readers. Asking for a “link” just mucks up their thinking about this goal, and makes them suspicious of your true motives.
Therefore we recommend—in most situations involving content promotion—you stay away from the word “link.” Use words like “share,” “mention,” “let your readers/ followers know,” etc. This language also leaves them open to sharing your URLs in the ways they see fit.
HOW MUCH CUSTOMIZATION IS ENOUGH FOR YOUR OUTREACH?
In the early stages of reciprocation, there’s no level of customization that is too much, especially for the most influential publishers and prospects in your space. Your first few contacts with your link prospects should, ideally, be as customized as possible.
Ideals are one thing, and the reality of contacting 250 publishers, or even 2,500, is a circumstance that calls for some time spent adjusting your ideas. At a certain point, you’re going to have to resort to using some templates. A decent rule of thumb is that the more reciprocation you build into your outreach email, the less customization you have to do.
To illustrate, we found that when we asked people to participate in interviews they were more likely to mention our content to their readers, especially when the content on our website we asked them to mention highlights them in some way.
Further, the more you’ve already mentioned and promoted a prospect or even someone who already links to you, the more you’ve already earned their trust, the more likely you can dash off a quick template request for an action on their part that benefits you. As in all relationships, this should be done sparingly.
Customize your engagements as much as possible, and in cases where you have to resort to templates, make sure you’re building in some strong reasons for them to listen to your pitch and respond by mentioning to you.
SENDING YOUR EMAILS
Clicking “Send” on a link-request email is an exciting and terrifying moment. It’s worth listening to your gut instincts the moment before you send an email because it may lead you toward a stronger pitch.
Either double-check their name, their site’s name, or something along those lines or think of a way to bolster your pitch (i.e.: You remember a post they did that relates and go hunt it down to demonstrate that you have done your homework). We highly recommend you cultivate and listen to this little voice.
Send Three, Wait 30 Minutes, then Reread Your Email
In the case of automated outreach, we recommend sending only a few, waiting a standard amount of time, and then going back to the emails to double-check them. You may even get some early feedback that helps you to tighten up your engagement. Of course, you’ve already spent hours on the template.
It’s tight, reads well, and you feel like it’s going to incite some solid mentions and links. But you misspelled a name that spell check couldn’t catch and in your hustle to get the email done you missed it.
Or maybe some of your interview questions aren’t as clear as you thought, and you end up with five people asking for clarification and 500 people putting the interview off until never. These are examples of conversion killers.
Pay special attention to the subject line, especially after sending off your first burst of 5 to 10 percent of your emails. Does it entice people to open by expressing the benefit to them or their readers? Does it have a misspelling? DOH!
While we’ve never gotten openly flamed, we have deserved it a time or two. Here are the mistakes we no longer make in content-based outreach for acquisition:
Wrong website name
Subject lines that don’t entice
Misspellings in subject lines
Poorly worded or confusing interview questions
Too many interview questions
Contacting sites that sell links with content-oriented outreach
Cold outreach without reciprocation
Not aligning link prospects with linkable assets
Requesting homepage links from expert publishers
Using the word “link”
HANDLING OUTREACH RESPONSES: IGNORES, ACCEPTS, DECLINES, AND COUNTERS
Once you’ve sent all your emails, it’s time for the links, responses, and tweets to come rolling in . . . right? Well . . . we certainly hope so, but we never count on it, and we hope you don’t either.
This section will help you to prepare for what could happen after those emails go out. We hold that broadly speaking, there are four possible ways for someone to respond to your email. They can:
Accept it and take action to mention your website
Send an actual email declining your request, or
Counter your request.
In this section, we’ll explore some tips for each possibility.
Ignores: If at First, You Don’t Succeed
You can try one more time—maybe your email got swept away under the deluge of daily emails this person gets. Try them again. But only one more time. Maybe two. Here are some tips:
Always send a custom second email. Always. If you don’t have the time to make your second request custom, then you shouldn’t be sending it. Don’t just resend your original request!
Do include the original email text, though! Just make sure it’s underneath the custom note you send.
Mention any “big names” who have responded to your request so far. This helps demonstrate value.
Maybe they’re just busy, not ignoring you. Give them a few days to get back before sending something again.
Consider looking for a different contact at that organization.
If you STILL don’t get anything back, take their name out of your contact rotation. From now on, the only time you should ever contact this person again is if they write to you first.
Accepts: WooHoo! Now What?
Congrats! You got the link, you got the tweet, you got the Facebook update, you got the cover story of Time magazine! Now what? There are a number of things you should be prepared to do.
Say thank you. Emails are nice. Tweets are nice. Future links from you are nicest. Keep that fire going!
Ask if they need content (assuming you have writers).
Ask if you can interview their expert.
Depending on click-throughs and traffic value, ask what other kinds of content would they be interested in sharing.
Ask if they’re interested in interviewing you (assuming you have a thought leader in your organization).
Offer to make any personal introductions that you perceive could be useful to them.
Follow/friend them if you’re not already.
Declines: Wait, What? Why Not?
It happens. Sometimes people write you back to thank you for thinking of them but say they’re not interested in sharing what you sent to them. The bare fact that they actually responded—even though it was in the negative—is a very positive and powerful thing. Here are some things you should do when you receive declines.
Say thank you. And mean it.
Put on your “objective scientist” pants and ask them, in as few words as possible, while expressing your boundless delight in their decision to respond, why they have declined your request.
Learn what they would be willing to share in the future.
Confirm their willingness to hear from you again (“When/if I create x, may I ping you again?”).
Counters: Some People May Negotiate
In spaces in which publishers are highly aware of the value of a link, you’re likely to encounter some counters to your emails, especially if you’re going the request route and haven’t adequately reciprocated your space. They may add a few hoops for you in order to earn your link. It’s probably worth it unless those hoops are money.
Then you need to double-check your agenda and decide whether or not you want to be an organization that pays for links. But if those hoops are, say, a special discount for the site’s readers, then let them know that you’ll talk to the appropriate folks to decide whether or not you can move forward and offer a discount in exchange for a link.
ACQUISITION TRACKING: KEEPING TABS ON YOUR EFFORTS
Depending on your specific goals for outreach, there are many things you can and should track. We created an outreach spreadsheet (linked from this blog, in the tools section) that contains the following tabs. This is a good starting point for your brainstorm regarding what you will track:
Targeted Hostname/Link Page
Date of 1st Contact
Date of Follow-up
Link Placed? Y/N
URL of Placed Link
Date Link Placed
Anchor Text Used
Email Subject Line
Growing the Relationship
SUBMISSION ACQUISITION: COVERING YOUR BASES
While this blog focuses on links that are earned via great content and relationship building, you’ve probably already brainstormed some link opportunity types that will require more one-touch, submission type of actions in order to earn them. These are likely to be opportunities like event aggregators, niche directories, PDF submission sites, etc.
There’s rarely a reason not to go for these opportunities. Just remember that they have a very low barrier to entry, meaning that just about any website can get them without having to earn all that trust we talk about building and leveraging in this blog.
Submission acquisition is a grind, but you should do it anyway. Here is a preparedness checklist that will make it go faster for you:
List of your qualified link prospects
An email address for the person who is responsible for the link to your website
Spreadsheet for recording logins/passwords per website
Ideal anchor text and variations for each URL
Description snippet prepared and variations thereof
The physical address of the company
Credit card billing information (when applicable)
The more info you can gather ahead of time the faster this kind of work can be. Grit your teeth, grind it out, and get it done. And always err on the side of relevance to your target keywords, especially relevant to your target audience.
LINK RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT TOOLS
There are several specialty tools designed to facilitate the growth of link relationships. We can’t currently make a recommendation between them, but the most popular ones at publication are:
What a Link Request
Might Look Like
A link request sent via email should include several elements. Collectively, these elements serve two key purposes. First, they let the person you are contacting know that without a doubt you took the time to actually look through his or her website, and second, make it as easy as possible for that person to make a decision whether or not to give your website a link.
12 ELEMENTS OF IRRESISTIBLE SUBMISSION REQUESTS
Email inboxes are busy and you need a way to make your email stand out from all the hundreds of others. Here are 12 elements your link requests should contain, followed by the logic behind them.
Although these may seem obvious once you read the logic behind them, the overwhelming majority of link requests we receive do not contain them, so adopting these practices will set you apart from the competition for your target’s attention. While in certain cases there are also other elements.
1. A subject line that follows any stated directions given on the website you want to link to yours. On many sites with collections of links to other sites (for example, some of the http://About.com guides), the editor in charge of link evaluation/selection often states that when asking for a link, you should follow specific directions.
One of these directions is typically a special subject line, such as, “Request for editorial consideration.”
If you have not taken the time to look at their website carefully, or even if you have, and you do not follow their stated link request directions, don’t be surprised if you never hear from them and don’t get the link. If the website gives exact instructions for submissions, then you have a bigger challenge.
Do not put the words “link request” in the subject line, simply because there are probably about 100 million emails with that exact subject line or something similar hitting inboxes and getting deleted every day.
2. The website owner’s name. It seems simple, but take the time to look through the website where you want the link, and find the website owner’s name. Address this person by name immediately in your email.
To begin an email with “Dear Webmaster” or “Site Owner” is to be deleted immediately. Can’t find a name on the website? Look for a phone number. Call them. Yes, actually use the phone.
If you have a website with a personal URL in your name, and someone sends you a “Dear Webmaster” link, it will be immediately obvious to you that the sender has not been to your website even though their email indicates otherwise.
If this person really had been to your website, your name would have been the first thing he or she would have seen. People might overlook the mistake but you’ll increase your chances of getting your foot in the door if you take the time to address the website owner.
3. Your name. Again, it’s just common courtesy. The person requesting a link is a human being and so are you. A first line like, “Hello, Mr. Ward, my name is Bill Thompson,” tells Mr. Ward that Bill looked at his website and respects basic human conversational etiquette. It also shows Mr. Ward that you didn’t send that same email to 4,000 other people unless by some bizarre coincidence their names were all Mr. Ward.
4. The URL of their website. Using wording such as, “I see that on your website you have the following content at the below URL” allows you to use a template approach but also shows the website owner you know their name, website and a specific URL. You obviously are not lying to them or spamming them.
Don’t show fake sincerity or imply friendship when in fact you’ve never met. Be professional, courteous, and to the point. People really get turned off by email from strangers who act like their buddies.
5. Your site’s name and the URL you are hoping they will link to. For example, “I am contacting you about my website, called [SiteName], which is located at [URL].”
6. The exact URL on their website where you think the link is a fit. “With regard to your page located at http://www.[page URL].” This is especially helpful for those people who maintain large sites with hundreds or thousands of pages. Help them to help you.
7. A short paragraph that describes your website. Do not oversell your website or give them 76 reasons why they should link to it. If they link to it, it won’t be your email that convinced them. It will be because they looked at your website and determined whether or not it’s link-worthy to them based on their criteria.
8. The exact URL from your website you want them to link to. “Since I have a splash page that has some Flash elements, you may prefer to use this URL for linking: http://www. http://SiteName.com/noflash.html.”
9. A valid email address and respond to any requests made to that address. “If you would like to contact me about this, please feel free to reach me at my personal email address below.” (List your email address.)
10. Your phone number. “Or, if you prefer, you can also call me at this phone number . . .” And, if you are seeking a link from a website where a return link is required (I don’t, but many do), also include:
11. Confirmation that you have added a link to their website.
12. The URL on your website where they can see the link to their website. What your email doesn’t say is just as important. Any webmaster, editor, curator, or website manager who receives the email outlined in
Subject: website submission
Dear [Site Owner Name],
I am contacting you regarding your [full title of the website, not URL] website at [URL].
I’m working with [URL] to announce and link a new section on their website called [title of the website you want the link for].
Per the link request instructions on your website, I would like to request a link to our homepage in your Links to [website descriptor] Websites section located at [URL].
Please feel free to let me know if the above provides you with the information you need to review and consider our website for linking. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was sent by someone who took the time to actually look at the website. How else could they call it by name?
It was sent by someone who took the time to find out who runs the website.
It was sent by someone who reviewed the website for appropriateness. How else would they have known the website had a “links” area related to their own content?
It was sent by someone who followed the website editor’s link request instructions.
It was sent by someone who couldn’t have sent that same email to 25,000 people.
It was sent by someone who respected the website owner’s time by making it easy for him or her to know just what URL they wanted to be linked.
It was sent by someone who looked at more than just the prospect domain’s homepage.
It was sent by someone who was not afraid to put a phone number in the email; spammers don’t do that.
This particular letter was designed for a link builder working on behalf of a website owner; if you were the website owner yourself you would delete the sentence beginning “I’m working with” and edit the rest of the letter accordingly.
The bottom line is that by recognizing the individuals on the receiving end of your link requests, you immediately move out of the spam realm in their minds. When most folks receive link letters, they look for telltale signs that they were not singled out individually. If they spot an obvious bulk link seeker, they usually delete it immediately.
This means you cannot automate this process and it means you have to create and send each link request one at a time. As you should. Sometimes each website takes an entire three clicks and two minutes. Big deal. This is a lifelong link you’re seeking.
Link-Building Campaign Templates
It’s always helpful to have some examples of link-building campaigns when designing your own. These are some general templates we’ve found useful in our work. If you’re ready to get started right away, you may have skipped directly to this section.
That’s fine—just note that the underlying concepts are more important in campaign design than the templates, but the templates are great for seeing where the concepts can take you.
THE ULTIMATE RESOURCE AGGREGATION PIECE
In the ultimate resource aggregation piece, you’re creating a massive list, or roundup, of an informational resource that your market finds useful. Ideally, you’re also recontextualizing it in some way that adds more value than if a reader found one of the individual pieces alone.
This can be in the form of a process walkthrough or some other framework that your market will find useful. Remember, you’re ideally selecting your resources for this piece from among the link targets in your keyword space.
Resource Aggregation Examples
Here are some additional examples of resource aggregations you can check out on the web. Note that each one has its own framework or context for the resources that introduces them and makes them more accessible.
There are a number of resource types you can and should consider aggregating. These include, but are not limited to the following:
How-tos and guides
Top (your industry) Twitter users
Free tools/paid tools
All the “Top #” lists for a topic (top 10, top 100, etc.)
People, Work Hours, and Cash Required
This one is all about applying your talent and work hours. What’s nice about the resource aggregation piece is that it’s fairly fast if you’re already an expert in space, and it’s a fantastic “crash course” to the top thinkers and publishers if you’re new.
Ideally, these are not pieces you dash off, but rather spend time looking for new and more useful ways to organize the information. What will make your collection of links more useful than others?
Can you somehow come up with a score for each link or a rating? Do you have personal information you can add to each resource mention? Can you present the links within the framework of a process, or within some other framework recognizable in your industry?
This can take someone who’s an old hand in a space about a day to research, categorize, find new patterns, and publish. Someone who’s new to space could/should spend two or more days, ideally.
Link Prospect Sources
Ideally, the resources you link to in the first place are your link prospects. It is probable that the expert publishers in your space will take interest in a new configuration of previously existing resources. Here’s where your title and pitch come into play! Further prospects include sites and pages linking to the same resources you linked to.
Tips and Helpful Hints
Resource-list inclusion makes a wonderful introduction to experts in your market and is a great way to start off a campaign if you’re completely new to a keyword space.
To up your chances of getting links from this kind of piece, include resources from writers who consistently create roundups of the space. If they’re writing about the space consistently anyway, they’re more likely to link to you.
We’ve created badges for bloggers in our resource lists before, but found that these badges ended up making the linked-to pages on our clients’ sites look spammy. We suspect this is because they were website wides.
Numbers—as in the number of resources—can be an effective way to communicate the size and enormity of your resource list. There are some SEOs who believe that numbers and lists are losing their effectiveness. We suspect that this could be true in some spaces, and especially if the resources are not organized in a new, interesting, and more useful way.
Subject line: You’re in [Title of Resource Roundup]! Yay! ;)
Just a quick note to let you know that we included you in [Title of Resource Roundup]
Build your website easily
We linked to theirsite.com
Will you help us spread the word about your inclusion in the roundup?
What really sets our roundup apart is that it [customize your message].
Also, if you’re a member of [http://NicheSocialNewsSite.com], will you consider voting for this post?
THE GROUP INTERVIEW/SURVEY OF EXPERTS AND OTHER MARKET PARTICIPANTS
We’ve found that interviewing the expert publishers in a space—that is, the frequent writers, contributors and active participants within a given industry, hobby, or other “thought space”—is an excellent way to build links, create great content, as well as to connect you more powerfully with your market. We’ve engaged expert/hobbyist forums in this way as well, to fantastic result.
Examples of Group Interviews and Expert Surveys
Here are some examples of group interviews and expert surveys. Note that there superficially appears to be a relationship between the quality of the graphics and overall presentation and links. Any time you can create pleasing presentations for your data, your link traction will improve.
Search Engine Ranking Factors
Interview: 12 Top Online Entrepreneurs Share How Hard They Work
21 Link Builders Share Advanced Link-Building Queries
30 Link Builders Discuss Backlink Analysis For Campaign Design—Part 1
Toolcrib.com-Your Link to the \"Original\" and FREE catalog’s Ultimate Guide to the Top Ten Most Dangerous Woodworking Power Tools
QUESTION DESIGN: WARNING
On a number of occasions, we’ve asked way too many questions of our experts. In one instance we sought to publish a single article, asked 10 questions of 30 experts and got back 30,000 words (enough for 30+ articles).
We’ve never asked too few questions. In fact, here’s a great example of a group interview article with only one question: “(44 Experts Discuss) Social Media Strategy Before Tactics.”
However, if you ask your questions in a way that forces your experts to explicitly quantify their answers (with numbers, for example) you can create this kind of a result: Link Value Factors. Wow!
What a beauty! In this piece, the survey creator wasn’t overly concerned with too much input—because the answers got quantified and graphed it helped the reliability of data to have more input! Also, when possible, focus on hot, potentially even controversial, topics. This will help you to get some interest from others in your space.
People, Work Hours, and Cash Required
When it comes to group surveys, the bigger, the better, usually. Ideally, you’re gathering enough input, though, and wisdom that you can create multiple pieces.
It’s tough to put numbers on this, but something like “(44 Experts Discuss) Social Media Strategy Before Tactics” could probably take around a day to aggregate and publish. Something like “Interview: 12 Top Online Entrepreneurs Share How Hard They Work” probably didn’t take forever, either.
Link Prospect Sources
In this case, your best prospects are the participants themselves. In markets where we’ve gone in cold, we’ve found about a 20-percent rate of links and mentions from participants. In every case, we’ve found that the number of links is at least double the number of participants.
Ask people if they will participate in your group interview/expert survey as you’re asking them to mention or link to something else. Also, as in the resource roundup described above, make sure to include roundup publishers in your group of experts.
1. What’s your “[Subject Matter] story?” In other words, how and why did you get started in [Subject Matter]?
2. What [Subject Matter] skills were the hardest for you to learn and why?
3. Have you ever taken [Subject Matter] too far or failed spectacularly in some way? How so?
4. What resources (blogs, websites) would you recommend to someone who’s new to the [Subject Matter] arena?
5. What question did I leave off/what message would you really like to get out there?
6. Who else should I interview?
YOUR OWN HIGH-QUALITY, Lead-generating, BRAND-BUILDING CONTENT
Ideally, by the time you get around to pushing your own content on others for link consideration you have amply warmed up your link prospects by promoting them, helping them spread their message, and demonstrating that you both care about the audience and the industry as a whole. By engaging your link prospects in this manner, you have sown the seeds of trust.
They are now more likely to consider mentioning work you have done—work that does not directly promote them in some way. Especially if it’s great content.
Examples of High-Quality, Lead-Generating, Brand-Building Content
Ideally, your content pushes your industry’s thought forward, delivers relevant traffic, confers a bit of reputation on your brand by association (from where you earn mention and links.
If you publish it offsite, from the publisher’s brand), and even generates business leads. That’s quite a tall order, right? Isn’t this supposed to be a blog about link building?
Well, we believe that this sort of content is the highest form of link building, in that it satisfies so many different objectives simultaneously. It’s what we strive for in our own marketing, and it’s what we urge our clients, prospects, and the market as a whole to work toward.
No, it’s not easy, and it takes a lot of attempts before you start really getting it right. Here are some examples of content that does it all right:
Link Building with Content: How to Attract Links and Leads
101 Ways to Build Link Popularity
How to Research, Create, and Distribute Highly Linkable Content
The Link Prospector
People, Work Hours, and Cash Required
Creating this kind of content—whether it’s a tool, article, video, or whatever—requires significant investments of time. There’s no easy way around this one! At some point, you have to put your position or your organization’s position out there in a format that’s going to help you achieve multiple business goals simultaneously.
Notes and Tips
To make your content more linkable and reputable, you may have to go to the experts in your organization and lean on them to share their time and expertise (the same way you initially went to the expert publishers in your space).
For our own marketing, we’ve found that free tools and process-oriented spreadsheets are highly linkable, and demonstrate our capacity for deriving value from link-prospect data. Remember that you have to give to your industry in order to receive the links and leads!
It’s vital to not always be the platform and the connector. Though this does serve to build links, you also have to be an originator. This is what builds the leads. Prospects want to see your original thought, not just that you can recognize and cultivate great thought in others!
Dear [Contact Name],
I’m writing today to introduce: 53 Broken Link Building Resources.
This URL collection walks motivated readers through the methods and processes of large-scale, research-intensive broken-link building.
We include a number of your writings and resources there. In addition, we promote [your tools] as good data-gathering alter-natives for link builders without crawler/scraper technology. My request to you is that you check out our new guide and mention it if you find it noteworthy.
Thank you for your consideration!
EXPERT ENGAGEMENT: THE “WRITING ASSIGNMENT”
In creating a writing assignment or prompt for your expert publishers, you first come up with an intriguing concept or question—perhaps one left over from your interview questions.
Then you answer this question yourself on your website and implore your visitors to do the same. The goal is to make it something that others would genuinely have the urge to write about in their next blogging session.
Then you promote the heck out of your question. Furthermore, as part of the promotion, make sure that contributors know you’ll be linking to their answers.
Some Examples of Expert Engagement Writing Assignments
Here are a few samples of expert engagement writing assignments we’ve found “in the wild.”
A letter to myself
Create Your Own “Bloggers to Watch” List and Tell Us About It Here
Toolcrib.com-Your Link to the \"Original\" and FREE catalog’s Guide to Your 31 Most Influential Woodworkers
People, Work Hours, and Cash Required
This method is fairly simple to execute, though it will require maintenance as you correspond with experts and add their contributions to your website. Also, it’s not likely to work as well if you’re entering a space “cold.” This method will be much more effective when done after building relationships in your space with the expert publishers and other contributors.
Notes and Tips
There are a number of ways you can spin this approach to link building. If you’ve done a massive survey, you could give away your data and ask others for their interpretations.
You could also combine this effort with your group interview and simply ask people to answer your questions on their website. Then your job as the editor/curator will be to collect and aggregate the most interesting and important data as you see it.
We’ve only done this technique once, after a group expert interview piece we created for a client got mentioned in TIME Homepage. We took the “distributed group interview” approach and asked a large number of experts to weigh in.
We also told them that we’d be sending their answers to our contact at TIME Homepage, which we did. We did not ask them to link to the original, though many of them did.
FREE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: CONTESTS, DONATIONS, AND GIVEAWAYS
This is about the closest we get to buying links in this blog. And, yeah, it’s pretty close. It happens on calls with clients and prospects, especially those seeking our link prospect data and not our agency services; they have no time or desire to contribute great content
Subject line: Share Your Hard-Earned [Subject Matter] Lessons with TIME Homepage!
I’m a new [Subject Matter] blogger, so when I emailed interview questions to famous [Subject Matter] bloggers like [expert], [expert], and [expert] I got pretty nervous. After all, I only started blogging a few months ago. Why would these pros answer my questions?
Well, I’m glad I faced my fears and emailed them because they did answer my interview questions, and after I published their answers ([link to client website where the story appeared]), TIME Homepage picked up the story!
I know there are more than just their lessons out there. And I know that you must have some of them!
Here’s how to add your wisdom to the group interview, and get a shot at a mention in TIME Homepage!
1. Answer the questions below and post them on your blog
2. Tweet @[client] and email [your address] to let us know they’re up
3. Add a link to your answers in the comment section of our group interview in order to share it with visitors from TIME Homepage!
4. I will email the TIME Homepage on April 15, send a complete list of who else responded, and ask them to check out our group interview again!
We had [##] responses to our original interview. To get Time’s attention again, I’d really like to add at least 100 more! Here are your interview questions:
1. What’s your “[Subject Matter] story?” In other words, how and why did you become a [Subject Matter] expert?
2. What, if anything, tempts you to do [Subject Matter] poorly, and how do you resist?
3. What [Subject Matter] habits were the hardest for you to adopt and why?
4. Have you ever taken [Subject Matter] too far? How so?
5. What resources (blogs, blogs, websites) would you recommend to someone who’s new to [Subject Matter]?
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to writing to Time Homepage with your contribution!
to their space in exchange for links. Furthermore, there’s often an SEO-driven mentality to acquire links with some sort of immediate and direct value exchange. To protect the innocent, we’re not going to point out sites accepting donations in exchange for links. Instead, we’ll focus on the more fun contests we’ve seen that leverage giveaway!
Broken Link-Building Campaigns
Broken link building is one of only a handful of highly-scalable AND white hat link building tactics. With this tactic, you check your target website’s outbound links to see if they’re still up. If your target website links to a competitor’s information page that’s dead you then email the target website and suggest they link to you instead.
As Russ Jones, CTO of Virante describes broken link building: “the success of the campaign is directly proportional to how much good you do for the web.”
The process described in this blog is not elegant, but it does help you cover a lot of ground—you can find and analyze thousands of resources and root out the dead pages and sites quite quickly.
It is possible to build more than 40 links a month with this method while selling BLB prospecting as a service to others. As we have said before, link rot is your friend. Here are the process and the tools that we use and recommend.
SEARCH FOR 10 TO 100S OF LINKS PAGES
You guessed it—use your link prospector for this, and prospecting phrases that categorically represent the topic area you’re promoting and plug those right into the tool. If you don’t use the link prospector, you could try the prospecting queries mentioned here, and tildes, lots of tildes!
What you’re looking for are curated links pages where your content could fit—with light scrutiny—whether you found a broken link or not.
This, of course, presupposes you’re promoting good quality, long-form content for which there are hundreds of “curators.” If you search, and each of the top 10 pages is good prospects, then you’re in a good space for this effort.
SEOs used to go through hundreds of pages and pick only those we thought had the highest relevance. Now we rarely spend much time “qualifying” links pages. We rely on our tools and common sense and just pass a big ol’ batch of links pages right on over to—the next step.
Scrape OUTBOUND LINKS FROM THE PAGES
Next, using an outbound link scraper (one of the four tools in our scraper suite), scrape the outbound links from the batch of links pages you’ve found.
Recently, from a batch of 427 links pages, we extracted 12,635 resource URLs. Where each of the links and resources pages perfectly relevant to the subject matter? They were close enough. We needed to cover lots of ground!
CHECK THE STATUS OF EACH OUTBOUND LINK
Once extracting outbound links from the resource pages, it’s time to check status. And, yup, we’ve got a tool for that in the scraper suite—the URL Status Checker. This tool checks and reports on the status of each URL, just as the name suggests. The tool does split large sets up into batches of 1,000.
This means the 12,000-plus-URL project will be in 12 separate comma-separated value documents (CSVs). Yes, that’s a pain, but that’s the row you’ve chosen to hoe here so put your back into it. Merge the CSVs from this tool and sort them to isolate the dead and nonresponding pages from your set. This obviously can take some time.
Recheck, because the tool’s not 100 percent accurate, and it’s heartbreaking further on in the process to think a website with 30,000 unique linking domains is dead when really it’s just responding slowly. So recheck everything that the tool reports dead. Some people, whom we’ll refrain from naming, check three times when feeling especially obsessive.
Gather unresponsive Pages
We use Majestic SEO’s bulk backlink checker for learning which dead URLs have the most linking domains, though they limit you to checking only 300 rows at a time. Simply copy and paste in 300 of your dead URLs, sort by the number of inbound linking domains, and you’ll have a good idea of where to start your deeper investigations.
Review DEAD PAGES BY HAND
Here’s where the intuition starts, and the slow combing through URLs. And yes, this is where automation falls apart, at least at our current levels of coding and expertise.
So, first things first, sort that list by a number of inbound links to the page. This will give you a sense of the opportunities with the most links. You’ll need to add some columns to your spreadsheet, so here are my thoughts on columns that will help your reviewing.
How is it “dead”? For many .gov sites, for example, the non-www doesn’t redirect to the www subdomain. And yet they sometimes have hundreds of linking domains pointed to the non-www.
Other times the website is a parked domain now. Still other times it’s just plain gone. All of this information is important for further on when you’re writing your outreach emails.
Topic. What is this dead page about, according to Digital Library of Free & Borrowable blogs, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine? Does the website or page actually have anything to do with the website I’m promoting? I use Majestic SEO at this point also to check out anchor text as that gives a good clue if Archive.org doesn’t have info.
How big is the opportunity? Is the whole website dead? Just one section? Just one page? All this needs to be recorded so you can figure out how to best pull backlinks for the opportunity.
What are you promoting? Is this a one-to-one replacement opportunity? (These are the best, whether you write it as you find it dead or already have something written.) Is it a fix suggestion and similar-resource link request?
Be sure to save any and all dead sites you find with 100 or more links—even if you can’t use them now. You can always come back later or possibly come up with an angle down the road.
PULL AND QUALIFY DEAD BACKLINKS
With our metrics tool, you can also pull backlinks for the dead links you’d like to pursue. Ah, but we wish we could tell you it was as easy as taking all the links and heading over to the contact finder (one of the tools in our scraper suite). Nope—you’ve got to scrub this data or you’ll end up wasting your time.
First and foremost, do not get excited about apparently large lists of opportunities. It’s quite common to start with 16,000 unique linking domains and boil those down to 50 actual opportunities for outreach. So don’t tell clients how many ops you have for them until you’ve done your distilling—you will end up profoundly overselling what you have.
You can use Citation Labs’ metrics suite for Linkscape data if you like and input each URL you’d like backlinks for. You then designate how many backlinks you want us to pull and pay us per backlink (one backlink—one row in a spreadsheet). I like to use Majestic SEO for this, too as they seem quite a bit fresher and more comprehensive.
That said, Majestic SEO’s comprehensiveness comes with a great deal more “scrubbing” required. Whether you use Linkscape data sourced through our metrics suite or Majestic SEO, you can use our scraper suite tools for boiling them down further.
URL Filter Tool. I use this to isolate the links and resource pages as these are often the best opportunities for what I promote. Input your backlinks into the input field and then add this string: resources?|links?|faqs|(web([^/]*)?) sites?|references? to the “Match Any” box. This will extract URLs that are most likely to be links pages.
One URL per Domain. Once you have your probable links and resource pages, you should double-check that you have one per domain. Rarely is it “good form” to send two separate emails to a webmaster requesting links on two separate pages with broken links.
Backlink Checker. Especially when using Majestic SEO’s data, double-check that the pages still exist and that the links you’re suggesting be changed are still actually on the pages.
You can do this with the backlink checker that’s a part of the scraper suite. Just copy in the domain of the dead page and paste in your list of suspects. The tool will show you on which pages the link still lives on.
WOW. That’s right. Your list of prospects is now significantly diminished. You should be pretty happy when you still have between 50 and 80 real linking prospects to a now-dead resource. We have found upwards into the 1200s in the past. But even so, we’re not ready to outreach; we still have to…
Full Contact Info
Yes, the scraper suite does have a contact finder, but it won’t solve all your problems. In fact, you may find it only around 25 to 30 percent accurate for contact info on links and resource pages (much better than nothing, for sure).
It’s great for blog contact finding, but the old, custom-CMS kinds of sites where links pages are commonly published don’t always have standard ways of displaying contact info.
There can even be tens or even hundreds of email addresses discovered with the tool for a given domain. This is why we have contractors whose sole job is to process the contact finder reports.
They have to select the best email address or contact page and, when the tool doesn’t find anything, go onsite to look for contact information. Last, they deliver a spreadsheet with two columns: URL where the dead link appears and contact information.
Much has been written about the broken-link building. Let’s keep things short and sweet. Tell your contact where the broken link is and provide code for fixing it. Mention only one dead link on the page. If you’re affiliated, say as much, though often assert that the person had some hand in writing the content.
As for conversions, be pleased with a 5-percent conversion rate but expect/plan/ prospect for a 2-percent conversion. I got 15-percent conversion once on a small-run, exact one-to-one replacement campaign in which the dead website had gotten parked. My outreach email told webmasters they were linking to a spam website.
This is quite rare, but do note that the closer you can get to a one-to-one replacement, the better your results will be. Content recreation as a service is an interesting proposition but goes beyond the scope of this blog on link building.
LINK Equity SALVAGE CAMPAIGNS
Link equity salvage is the process of finding and redirecting your site’s dead pages, folders, and subdomains that still have links—sort of the reverse of the previous section on the broken-link building.
These are the old and misdirected, unredirected, or simply deleted sections of your website that webmaster tools don’t know about since the URLs got axed more than 35 days ago.
We’re talking about pages that even website crawlers aren’t finding, presumably because they don’t have any links from the visible pages of your website. And remember, link salvagers, you’re not only recovering lost link equity here but blocking competitive off-site link salvage experts from capitalizing on your squandered links.
You don’t necessarily need to rush off hunting for onsite link salvage opportunities though—especially if your site’s only a couple of years old and never had a redesign. If you can say yes to one or more of these criteria then definitely keep reading:
Your website is more than five years old
Your content naturally earns editorial links
You’ve had one or more migrations from one content management system to another
You’ve had several major website redesigns over the years
You know of at least one mismanaged website redesign
You have a 10,000-page website
You aren’t seeking targeted keyword ranking increases
I’ve broken the link equity salvage process into four parts: compiling, status checking, link checking a comprehensive-as-possible list of your site’s URLs, and then redirecting them. The majority of the tools here are for compiling that critical master list of URLs.
Majestic SEO’s Historic Index
Some folks complain of Majestic SEO’s large quantity of dead links and pages. Don’t be one of them.
Look for quick wins thus. Place your root domain (no www) into Majestic SEO’s website Explorer.
Click the Historic Index Radial. Then click Explore.
Download your Top Links (shows highest-value links and the pages on your website they point to) and Top Pages CSVs.
From both of these reports extract your site’s URLs.
Dedupe. Boom. Presto. Pow! You now have a big list of the most important pages on your website, according to Majestic SEO.
You could also run a full-site report with Majestic SEO and get all your site’s URLs that Majestic shows have an AC rank of 1 or higher. This costs more resources but provides a more thorough list.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth
Xenu is a relentless beast of URL discovery, and it even status checks the URLs for you. It won’t find every last URL, at least it hasn’t in our tests, and it obviously can’t find your legacy pages that still have links from offsite like Majestic SEO does.
It finds only what’s linked to onsite (as far as I understand how it works). Read “Checking Links with Xenu” for more information.
Xenu’s Orphan Checker
We haven’t used this on a client’s website yet, only salivated at the opportunity to try it out and run a comparison to what can be found via Majestic SEO. Give Xenu’s Orphan Checker FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access and it looks for pages on your server that are not linked to by any other pages on your own website.
Our guess is that the Orphan Checker isn’t going to show you anything that’s been flat-out deleted from your server, as can sometimes happen, so it’s not a replacement for Majestic SEO. If you’re on an obsessive hunt for link equity, it’s worth a check.
Check Links Pages, Old Directories, and Press Releases
If your website has been getting editorial links and publishing press releases for years, you could have links to now-dead pages from pages that Majestic SEO may not have discovered. First, you need to prospect for links pages and old press releases, and then check those pages for your domain with a bulk link checker.
Use Google Queries to Find Legacy Subdomains
Not every salvage requires a dead page—it could be a long-forgotten initiative prompted by an executive long gone from your organization.
These subdomain-discovery queries, taught to me by Entrepreneur - Start, run and grow your business.’s SEO Jack Ngyuen, can help you find possibly abandoned subdomains.
Some of these queries work for some sites but not others. It depends on the size and/ or configuration of the website.
URL Status Checkers
Once you’ve compiled your insanely large list of URLs, it’s time to check, recheck, and recheck their status codes. Yup, we advise at least three checks of a URL list, no matter what tool you’re using.
One-off URL status checkers abound. You’re going to need something with a bit more capacity. We know and love the bulk URL status checker built into our scraper suite.
Whatever tool you choose, it needs to work in bulk—large bulk. If it’s on your desktop it could be tying up a machine for a few days. And remember—check your lists of failed URLs a couple more times. You’ll always shake out more false positives.
Bulk Link Count Checkers
With your dead URLs in hand, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff. This requires a bulk link checker—ideally one into which you can paste (potentially) thousands of dead URLs. We know of two. There are probably more, but these are the best known at the moment:
Majestic has a nifty “Bulk Backlink Checker” built in (with limits based on subscription level). If you’ve got 6,000 dead URLs to check, you could run it 20 times. Also, you can use our bulk backlink checker that accepts as many URLs as you can copy and paste in—it utilizes the Linkscape data set.
Once you get your data back from either tool, you can sort by a number of referring domains and at last start the process of mapping and 301-redirecting your equity where it belongs.