What are links?
Before we answer the question ‘what is link building?’, we have to understand why we have links on the internet and how they work.
Links connect one web page to another web page or another website
Links are what make the Internet possible. The reason that the Internet is also called the ‘web’ is due to links. The inks connect websites to form a network, like a spider’s web.
There are two different kinds of links:
- Internal links – these are the links within your website. These links help to create the structure of your site and also help the internet “spiders” crawl your site to discover your content
- External links – these are the links between sites. These are the links that take you from Google to your individual sites. Or the links that can take you from an Instagram post to your site.
External links can be both inbound and outbound. Outbound links are the links that lead from your website to another website. Inbound links are links that lead from another website to your web, or backlinks.
Links can be either Do Follow and No Follow also. If it’s a ‘Do follow’ link, the search engine spiders will follow the link. This is the good link juice we want. If it’s a ‘No follow’ link, they won’t. The internet is all about telling things what to do.
Three Types of Backlinks
Link building can be divided into three categories:
- Editorial backlinks
- Manual outreach links
- Self-created links
These are links that you didn’t even ask for. Editorial backlinks are where someone links to your web page in the body of an article.
Google values editorial links more than any other kind.
Because they are in context.
If someone links to your content within an article, it means that your content is relevant to the page that gave you the link. And that tells Google that you probably ‘earned’ the link because your content was relevant to the content on the web page that is linking to you.
Manual outreach links
These are links that you obtain by approaching another website and asking them if they would consider linking to your page.
Here’s how it works.
You find an article that (a) ranks high on Google and (b) is on a topic that’s related to the topic of your article. Let’s call it the ‘target article’.
Next, we approach the website and persuade them that your article would be a great resource to link to within the target article.
If the publisher of the target article thinks that your article would benefit their readers, they’ll add your link to the target article. Typically, the link appears in a ‘Further Reading’ section within the target article.
These are not quite as valuable as editorial links, because the link to your article is not embedded in the text of the article. But Google still values this link because it’s in context – your link is relevant to what the target article is talking about.
These are links that you create yourself by posting comments on forums or on blog posts, by guest posting, or by submitting your website to directories.
Remember Google’s rationale for using backlinks as a ranking factor? Backlinks are a vote of confidence in your site.
But if the backlinks were created by you, then obviously they’re of much less value in Google’s eyes.
And that’s why backlinks from forums, blog comments, and guest posts carry less weight with Google than the other two kinds of backlinks mentioned above.
When you engage in link building, you actively try to get links back to your site, usually involving some kind of strategy. When engaging in this strategy, use your website assets to generate those links. Your assets can be anything from content to news to products to services.
How to structure a link building campaign
In this article, we’ll highlight the areas applicable to creating a successful link-building campaign.
1. Setting goals
Like any other form of digital marketing, setting goals is essential. Also, the goals of your link-building campaign should be tied to your overall company goals.
It’s also really important to set realistic goals that define what you are trying to achieve. For example, setting a goal such as ‘get 20 backlinks’ is too broad. Goals need to tie into real organizational goals and ultimately have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Creating a backlink campaign creates traffic, and traffic can turn into sales. Therefore it’s more realistic to set sales goals for your backlink campaign because ultimately the result wanted is to increase the sales of your product or service.
Also, link building campaigns do not bring overnight results. Be sure to set realistic expectations. Most link building campaigns do not see the full results until approximately 12 months.
2. Discover your assets
The key to any link building campaign is to define your assets, or what you’re going to use to attract and earn links. In marketing language, we call this the ‘hook’, or what you’re going to use to lure new readers to your site.
The assets that you have will vary, depending on the kind of business that you have. Many site owners will also have blogs as an extension of their site, to attract new customers by publishing content relevant to their product or service.
An asset is an item of interest on your site that you can use to interest others and that can be used in link building. Examples of assets include content or information, data, products, services, people.
Link buying is a black hat strategy that some site owners use to gain visitors to their site. With the new Penguin Google update, search engines are now cracking down and sometimes penalizing sites for utilizing link buying strategies. Remember that buying links is against Google’s guidelines, and if a website is caught engaging in this practice, it can mean a loss of traffic. Be careful.
3. What kinds of links are you are looking for
When thinking about your strategy, one of the things you need to think about is the kinds of links that you’re looking for. Here are some to consider:
a. Links to home page
b. Links to product or services pages
c. Links to company pages, such as about
d. Links to blog articles (like success stories!)
Start with a detailed analysis of your current website as well as how well you rank on a keyword compared to your competition. Check out Open Site Explorer if you are looking for a tool.
4. Consider your target audience.
Who are you trying to attract? If there is anything to sit down and think about – it’s your target audience. Who are the people who are your best customers?
Before you build any kind of link-building campaign, it’s important to think about the kind of audience that will care about what you’re saying. Without an audience, there’s no use for a megaphone. Also, who will care enough about what you’re saying to link to you?
It’s easy to get someone to look at your content. We do this on Facebook and other social media platforms all of the time. But how do you get people to link to you?
5. Getting links or making people care enough about you to link
What’s the hook. Why should they care about your content? Does your home page contain some mind-altering information that they should care about? Likely not. So you’ll have to think about your hook – or what will help to draw the reader into your content so much that they want to refer you to someone else from their site.
Some hooks to consider are
– Giving information or a solution
– a funny story
– a controversial point of view
– showing data
Visit your own social media account and look at what people are sharing. On your social media accounts, you’ve subscribed to different groups. What are they posting about? Did you pass that information along to your friends? Why did you do that? Did you feel the post contained useful information? Funny information? Look at your Twitter feed. What did you share on your Twitter feed? What did someone else share with you?
The hook is probably the most important part of the story and should be developed at the beginning of the process. It indicates the angle that you’ll take to get your article published.
6. Targeting websites for your content
This is probably the hardest part of the process – and that’s finding sites to publish your content. In this section, we’ll outline techniques for finding link targets.
Let’s say you own an automotive shot and you’re trying to get exposure for a new line of vintage parts. You’ve written an article about division and you’re looking for a place to post your article so that it will backlink to you
One of the first things that you could do is to google “local food bloggers” in your area. Bloggers are always looking for content and you may find some who will post your article.
Once you find the list, some use a tool called Scraper to find all of the email addresses on the site.
At Outreach Frog, we are very particular about the sites we post articles on so we don’t use Scraper. We manually reach out to each site by individually looking up email addresses and directly contacting site owners. We do this because we find it results in a better quality site on which to post articles.
Another great source for bloggers is Twitter. Followerwonk https://followerwonk.com/ is a Moz tool that allows you to search for Twitter bios. In the case of our example, we can search for ‘automotive blogger’ and understandably we’ll find quite a few. From these search results, we can also find websites that are interested in the exact same thing that I am and could be willing to post your article.
Alternatively, another method of finding sites is to perform a simple Google search.
7. Research your list
If you want to have a high response with outreach, you’ll need to spend time making sure that the sites that you’ve found are as relevant as possible.
Spend time learning about your target bloggers. Visit their website, read through the content.
Also, try to determine whether or not they have accepted guest blog posts in the past or whether they post only their own content.
This is crucial because you’ll need this information later than contacting them.
As you go through each site, keep notes on your spreadsheet.
8. Find the website contact details
Once you’ve looked through the website and you’ve evaluated it for its potential, try to find the contact information for the website owner. Look in the header and the footer. Look for a ‘contact us’ page. Try the ‘about’ page.
Toutapp is a small Google Chrome Plus that will actively try to find an email address on a page for you. When it finds one, it will be highlighted in your Chrome toolbar
Once that’s all complete you can also organize your link targets for outreach, such as by page rank and domain authority or by number of Twitter followers.
9. Sorting your list
The next step in the process is to understand domain metrics for all of your link targets so that you can understand their value.
Essentially there are two main metrics to focus on:
– Page Rank
– Domain Authority
In order to collect the data that we need, we’ll use a tool that will allow us to gather the information in bulk.
You can get the PageRank for your targets using Excel and the SEO Tools for Excel plug-in
You can get the domain authority plug into your spreadsheet by using the LINKS API PLUG in by SEO gadget.
Once you have the metrics, simply sort by highest to lowest. If you feel that you don’t have time for them all, drop the lowest ranking blogs (below DA 30) and focus on the ones with the highest traffic.
Now is the time to get to work and start telling people about the great content or campaign that you’ve got going on.
Begin contacting the highest level targets on your list. If you are able to snag a few of these top blog posts, you can use these as leverage to attract some of the smaller blogs (think of the “as appeared on” kind of advertising). The smaller sites might be more agreeable to place your content if they see that larger sites have posted it.
Approaching Site Owners
When you’re approaching site owners, remember that you’re approaching a real person and not some machine. The more that you can add relevant information about the site into your email and personalize it, the better. Remember site owners receive hundreds of these kinds of emails every day. If you do something to make your email stand out from the rest, the better.
What do you say
It can seem awkward and uncomfortable to send a message to someone that you don’t know. Keep in mind that the message needs to be detailed enough to give someone a reason to care, yet short enough to get your message across
Here are some good points to keep in mind when crafting a message:
- What is the objective of the letter
- What action you’d like them to take (call to action)
- That you’re a real person and you’re not just some email spammer
What you’re writing and why should they care?
In the beginning of the letter, you’ll want to state your purpose or objective.
- Is it newsworthy?
- Is it funny?
- Is it controversial?
- Does it provide information?
- Does it contain compelling data?
- Is it ego-bait
What is it about your content that the reader will want to know? Is there anything unique about your content that will make someone want to care about it?
Does the blog interest you? What about the blog interests you? Tell the blog owner this information and why you feel it would be mutually beneficial for the site owner to post your content
Let’s go back to our example of the automotive parts store. You’ve just started handling parts for vintage cars and you’d like to get some traction from this story. The blog owner writes about classic cars. Check out the blog owner’s most recent stories. Is one of those compelling for you? Can you make your story tie into a current story on the site?
If so, you’ve got something to talk about and a reason to contact the site owner
The call to action of your letter
When writing the letter, it’s important to include a call to action.
What do you want the site owner to do? Here are some common calls to action:
- Post your article on their blog or website
- Tweet or share your content on their social media accounts
- Embed your content as if it was an infographic
- Quoting a portion of your article and linking back to it
Show that you’re a real person and not just some spammer
Taking the time to personalize your message to the site owner is the only way to ensure that your email can be seen above others. It’s time- consuming, but well worth the effort.
Use their name at the beginning of the email. Tell them specifically what you like about their site or blog. Craft a subject line that they will notice, showing that you’ve researched their site. Mention something about their work.
Do everything that you can to catch their attention, especially finding out the name of the site owner. Look on the about page. Look up the author name on the blog posts. Check their social media accounts.
People are impressed when you genuinely take the time to research them. It also signals that you’ve done your homework and you’ll do a good job!
Catch attention with a good subject line
This has got to be one of the most important things you can do. Blog owners receive hundreds of requests per day and you have to rise to the top of the list. How do you do it?
With a good subject line of course.
If the subject line is not good, your email will end up unread, in the trash and the effort will be worth nothing. So take the time to think through again what the reader will care about.
- Good subject lines are short and sweet
- They mention something about the reader or the readers website
They use good english and grammar. They don’t overuse capital letters
- They avoid spammy things like ‘link request’
- They are personal
Mention something specific about their site or their work
As we mentioned before, blog owners receive hundreds of spam emails with typically the same kind of subject line – link request – or something similar.
So how can you stand out from the crowd?
Look for something on the site that you find interesting or compelling. Check out their most recent blog posts. Is there something positive about the post that you’d like to share?
What about the site owner’s Twitter account. Look at their recent tweets or retweets. Do you agree with something they’ve said? Can you add to it?
Check out their bios on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Be sure to make note of their first name. This can be used in the email. By checking out the bios, do you have anything in common that you can mention?
I read your recent blog posts on ‘are new cars ruining old car shows’ and I couldn’t agree more! Classic cars are classics for a reason. I’ve recently run into an article on ‘Running classic car clubs’ that I thought you’d be interested in so I’ve linked it here. I would be interested in discussing this more with you. Thank you for your article – I enjoyed it alot.
This took no time to write. All I did was to look up one of the most recent articles on my intended target site and because I’m a fan of the category, it was easy for me to pick out a post that I’d be interested in discussing.
Your email signature
Your email signature should have ALL of your relevant contact information. Links should work (make sure you test them).
The greatest letdown is to get excited to connect with someone, only to have incorrect or non-working information.
Include the following:
- Full name
- URL of the website you represent
- Phone number
- Social media accounts
Your email address
If you are a site owner and you’re doing your own outreach, use your own email address.
If you are an SEO and you’re doing this for multiple sites, there is some discussion around using company email addresses to solicit sites. This argument tends to stem from the fact that SEOs can have a bad reputation – if the blogger sees that you are from an SEO company it can be a turn-off.
Ultimately, use what works best for you.
Outreach Pitfalls to Avoid
- Using mass emailing software. In our opinion, doing quality outreach, is a mistake. If the person you are contacting has opted in to receive emails from you then this is a great option. We suggest reaching out to site owners individually because, over the long run, you’ll get better results.
- Not customizing your template. If you fail to customize your template, the response rate will definitely decrease and you could potentially miss out on a lot of traffic simply because of impatience. Take the time to customize your template. You’ll connect with more site owners.
How long does it take for link building to influence site rankings?
Chances are that if you’ve been involved with SEO, you’ve seen recommendations for link building as a tactic. If you’ve investigated link building, you’ve probably wondered how long it takes for link building to influence your site ratings.
The short answer: 12 months.
This is a search engine rule, and the data shows it works irrespective of low-quality, high-quality, or any other factor.
The good news is backlinks start working right away. However more at around 8% of their value
to ramp up to their peak at 12 months.
Because our links are high quality, we often reach traffic levels at month two or month three that a low-quality link will never get to. So a higher quality link does get results faster because
even though they are not at their peak in terms of delivering value – even after a few months they will be passing significant power.
We know that SEO does not operate in a vacuum – the actions of your competitors affect your SERPS. If all your competitors were to cease their link-building efforts – any backlinks you build are going to be that much more ‘noticeable in terms of position improvements.
The key is beating your competitors in terms of backlinks because these are seen by Google as referral sources. They carry a great deal of weight in the land of Google. While most companies focus on the number of backlinks, they are at a disadvantage compared to sites investing time and money into QUALITY backlinks