Link building is a powerful way to build brand awareness. Sure, it’s great when you post an article or an infographic to your website and it goes viral, but how often does that actually happen?
You can’t just hang out waiting for your content to be shared or to start ranking. You must act or you will be left behind.
What is outreach link building, and why do I need to do it?
In the online world of marketing and brand development, it is all about relationship building. How can you help other websites, and how can other websites help you? Link building is a helpful tool to drive traffic to the content generated by your brand.
By getting relevant outside sources to include your links on their sites, you are gaining valuable exposure while building brand recognition.
In addition to being a direct means of content promotion, link building continues to be one of the top SEO ranking factors. Done correctly, links built to your site can drive referral traffic that turns into customers all while increasing your visibility for key search terms.
3 Primary Link Building Methods
When it comes time to build links, there are several methods that could be used but only a few that are safe and effective now and in the foreseeable future. The three primary methods being used by reputable link builders today are content promotion, guest posting and editorial (brand mentions) link placements.
1. Existing Content Promotion
Content promotion as it sounds is simply the act of telling other people about your site’s content that could be of interest to them or their readers. Content promotion can be done in several ways, but here the main three:
Broken Link Building – find websites linking to sites or pages that are no longer online and ask them to link to your newer, better version of the old information.
Resource Page Link Building – find resource pages, curated lists, local guides and ask them to link to your content.
Newly Posted Blog Outreach – find newly published blog posts that mention a topic you have detailed content covering. Reach out to the writer and suggest your content as a source to mention in the new post.
Even though not every site you reach out to will link back to your content, a consistent promotion strategy will allow you to build up links, social shares, and referral traffic to your content. Just think, if you publish four posts per month and each post only gets five links, you will have built 240 links over 12 months.
2. Guest Posts
Guest posting is certainly not a new strategy but it remains an effective one when used properly. Over time you can gain better rankings from guest posting but that is not the main reason you should be posting.
Whenever you find quality sites that have a large audience that is in line with your target audience, a good guest post is like free advertising. Not only are you reaching an audience that may have taken years to build instantly, you are doing so while being positioned as a credible source on the topic.
So long as you steer clear of low quality sites, guest posting remains a safe and effective means of link building.
3. Securing Brand Mentions
There are a few ways to go about this but one strategy that is hard to beat is HARO link building.
To get started, simply sign up as a source on HARO (Help a Reporter Out). HARO serves as a site that helps both journalists and the sites or brands that are hoping to gain exposure through what the journalists write. Once you are signed up, you will receive emails with details about the sources a journalist is looking for.
Whenever you see a question or source needed relevant to your site, simply respond according to the guidelines and you could end up with a link on major sites. As with the first two methods, this can help with rankings and in driving referral traffic to your site.
How can I be more effective with my outreach link building?
Outreach link building can be a tough and time intensive endeavor. Even with great content to promote, sites are going to turn you down. While not every site will be interested in what you have to offer, here are some tips for finding sites and getting them to say yes to your pitch.
It All Starts with Prospecting
Just like a sales professional, a good link builder must be able to find sites that are likely to be interested in what they are promoting. Even when you do find sites that seem to be good prospects, you are not going to have a 100 percent close (link placement) rate, so you need to keep your pipeline full through daily prospecting. Here are a few methods you can use to pull in good prospects.
● Conduct a Competitor Link Analysis
Link Intersect by Ahrefs allows you to type in the URLs of your competitors to see which sites are linking out to two or more of them. If you find a site that links out to all three of your competitors, the likelihood that you can secure a link on that site is higher. Repeat this for your top competitors for each keyword you plan to target and you can create a pretty large prospect list in no time.
● Use Advanced Search Operators for Quick Resource Page Prospecting
There are lots of websites that have their own resource pages, strictly devoted to listing links of outside Web sources. You can use advanced search operators (like “Keyword” + “helpful resources” or “Keyword” + “useful links”) to find relevant websites that have resource pages included within their sites.
Search operators can also be used to find guest post opportunities. If you are not familiar, check out this list of 1,000 search operators for link building to get started. All the prospects in the world won’t get you very far if your content stinks though, so take the time to create useful information if you want to “close” the deal.
● Ensure Your Content is Valuable
Whatever form of content you choose to use in your outreach link building efforts, you need to be sure that it proves beneficial to and provides quality information for the public. None of your outreach will end up paying off if all the websites you reach out to are unable to see value in what you send to them. Their focus is on providing their audiences with what they really need and want from them, and content that does not meet those standards is not going to make the cut.
If for example you are trying to promote a sales page, a page that is filled with typos, or that overall consists of uninformative content, quality sites are not going to link back to you.
Before you pitch your content, stop and ask yourself if the content you plan to promote teaches the reader, is written to the skill level of the target audience, and does not rehash common knowledge such as “you should blog.” You should also avoid pitching content that is overly promotional.
(For inspiration, here are examples of link building that provide useful information in an interesting way and do so in a way that does not directly promote the brand behind it.)
Develop Your Outreach Message
In outreach link building, the production of quality content that people will want to use and share is only half the battle. Just as important to the success of your link building efforts is the actual outreach itself. You must learn how to craft an effective email message. Not every email will appeal to every person, but you can increase your likelihood of success by taking the following steps.
● Personalize your emails
Avoid sending out generic mass emails! It is obvious when you receive a message that was sent exactly as is to numerous email inboxes other than your own.
Taking the time to add details like name of a site’s owner, spelling the individual’s name correctly and mentioning something specific about their site or social media posts can go a long way.
Demonstrate to them that you have read their site and know what they are all about. Let them know that you respect them and think they are doing a great job, and certainly let them know how your link or guest post would fit well into all of that.
Once you master sending out personalized emails, then you can look for ways to scale your outreach while maintaining the personalized feeling. Tools like Pitchbox making the process of scaling a lot easier.
● Let sites know how you can help them
Obviously, outreach link building is done in hopes of having other websites add your link and thereby drive more traffic to your site, but there needs to be a benefit for the host site as well.
Establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other sites will not only increase the likelihood of getting a link placed, but it could also lead to increased promotion, partnerships or even referrals to other sites the owner has relationships with.
The best way to give value to a site owner is to find out what they need. If you are guest posting, ask what topics they think might be a good fit for their audience. When writing, use basic SEO copywriting rules to improve the likelihood of the post ranking and bringing recurring traffic to their site and your post. If the site uses a variety of content types, don’t be afraid to create instructional videos, graphics, slide decks, or other content items that you and the site owner could promote jointly.
Track How Your Message is Received
The best pitch in the world won’t get you very far if the other party doesn’t see it. Use an email marketing tool like Mailshake to gather metrics on your emails’ open rates, click traffic, and how many responses they receive. This will help you determine which outreach templates are working, which subject lines get the most opens and even when to schedule follow up emails. Once you have data about your outreach email performance, use it to continually split test and improve your methods.
Link building is certainly not what it was 10 or 15 years ago. Link wheels, social bookmarking, directories and a long list of other “quick” tactics are now doing more harm than good. As you plan your marketing strategies for the coming year or even for the 4th quarter of 2017, outreach link building should be on your list.
Content marketing and promotion have been around for over 100 years and they are likely to be around for 100 more. Taking the time to create useful, thought provoking content and implement a tactical plan for getting it in front of the right audience is one strategy that Google can’t update away or replace with paid ads.
This article was originally written for and appeared upon Website Magazine .