Link building is one of the most critical – yet misunderstood – aspects of building a high traffic authority site or blog.
There are two key issues which rear their heads time and again…
I’m here to tell you today that building whitehat links that get serious results isn’t just possible – its easy when you know how.
That’s why I’ve spent several weeks putting together this 26,000 word guide.
It’s a beast!
In this section we’re going to discuss the “Google safe” links that I build every day for clients and my own sites.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- My 17 proven white hat link building techniques
- 90+ advanced search operators for sourcing hundred of link building opportunities
- 16 custom email templates to use in your link building campaign
- How to think like Google and build links that look as natural as possible
- Red flags to avoid when assessing potential link sources
I’ve worked hard to make this guide as practical and applicable as possible. We’ll discuss the specific steps of each and every link building technique discussed, and I’ll even provide you with email templates that you can modify for your own use.
No matter what your level of knowledge right now, by the end of this guide you’ll know everything necessary to build powerful, high quality links in order to dominate the search engine results.
On the Philosophy of Link Building
Link building isn’t just a set of techniques that can be applied to your website. It’s more than that.
Building high quality, white hat links is a whole philosophy. A way of thinking and acting.
Before we dive into all the different ways of building links, therefore, I think it’s important that we discuss the theories behind link building, and the right frame of mind to adopt when building links.
In doing so, you’ll have a better understanding of why I recommend the techniques that I do. You’ll also be well-versed in what is and what is not a good quality link.
Consider it the difference between giving a man a fish, or teaching him how to fish for himself.
Why Links Matter
The first obvious question to ask ourselves is why links actually matter.
Effective link building has two distinct benefits…
Firstly, links to your website from other targeted sites in your industry can drive extra visitors to your site.
Someone is on a website all about pet care, looking for tips to potty train their new puppy. They come across a mention of your dog training website, and click the link to come and visit you. And you just got another visitor.
Secondly, links can be seen as a “vote” for your website in the eyes of the search engines.
The more votes your website receives, and the better the sites that are voting for you, the higher you will rank. Despite what some of the gurus trying to sell you on overpriced courses will tell you, it’s near-impossible to rank for competitive, commercial keywords without at least a few backlinks.
This means that building links benefits you twice; both direct visitors from people clicking your link, and indirect visitors as a result of better search engine listings.
Every website that the search engines know about has a measure of “authority” or “trust”.
The higher this score, the more likely it is that any given page will rank.
This metric, which we’ll call “authority” here, is a direct result of the links that point to a certain page – or the site as a whole.
The way to grow your authority is by attracting links from other website which themselves have a high level of authority.
When you accomplish that, some of their authority rubs off on your site, and your rankings improve.
The other thing about authority that you need to understand is that it works both on a page level, and on a site level. Here’s what I mean…
Have you ever noticed that certain sites appear in the search results again and again? It seems that no matter what keyword phrase you search for, they’re there.
Then you take a look at the backlinks pointing to one of those pages and find it has zero links, yet its outranking other pages that benefit from dozens. What gives?
The answer is the difference between “page authority” and “domain authority”.
As your website attracts links, your overall site authority will grow. This increases the chances of any page ranking well, irrespective of whether it has any links pointing to it. Of course, if you can also drive some direct links to that page then all the better.
This has a big impact on authority site builders and bloggers.
Firstly, it means that it’s going to take time to build up this authority. You’re unlikely to start ranking for everything you target in the first few weeks of launching your site. In truth, it might be six months or more before you really start to feel the benefits.
The second impact here is that once your authority does start to grow, things can take off pretty rapidly. This is especially so if you’re doing accurate keyword research, and targeting those phrases with only modest competition.
Thirdly, the links you build to one page of your site can actually impact the rankings of other pages on your site.
If you’ve worked hard to build links to a new article of yours, and you’re stuck at position #5 then don’t lose hope.
As you carry on building links to other pages of your site, your overall site authority will grow, and with it you should see your rankings gently easing up over time.
The Importance of Patience in SEO
Let’s get one thing straight: SEO takes time and patience. Too many people get impatient, and either spend their whole lives tweaking and fiddling, or run out of patience and do something stupid.
Don’t be that person.
Right now many people are finding that websites can take 6+ months before they really start ranking for anything worthwhile. There have also been studies that suggest it may take 12+ weeks before a link you built has its full impact.
Link building is therefore not something that’s likely to benefit you this week or even this month.
But over time, it’ll grow and grow.
All the work you do now will pay dividends in the future – but until then you need to be patient.
Just follow the steps outlined in this section of the course, and then move on to something else. The worst thing you can do is to be too over-reactive.
Instead, keep yourself busy by producing lots more high quality content, and keep those links coming in one by one. When Google finally wakes up and takes notice of your site you’ll have dozens of “fishing hooks” ready to draw in new visitors.
Black Hat vs White Hat Link Building
There’s no way to avoid it: building backlinks can be a boring, frustrating, time-intensive process.
It can take months to start ranking for even smaller terms, while gaining full “authority status” can take some years.
Unsurprisingly, over the years quite a few people have tried to cut corners…
They build backlinks at scale. They automate the process. They post links wherever they can. They often use link-building techniques that are against Google’s terms of service, and therefore could result in penalties or even an outright ban.
These people are referred to as “black hat” link builders.
They’re willing to take chances with their sites in order to grow them as rapidly as possible. And in truth, their methods frequently work – very well indeed.
Unsurprisingly, there are downsides to this link building philosophy, however…
Firstly, you need to feel comfortable in the knowledge that your traffic could disappear at any time. It’s happened to many people before, including me early in my link building career.
There’s more. This potential loss of traffic isn’t just an annoyance; if you’re earning revenue from your site (which you should be) then you’ll also risk losing this if you ever suffer a penalty.
If you’re relying on your websites for all of your income (you’re a digital nomad, for example) then your dream of living free and travelling the world can come crashing down pretty darn quickly if you’re unlucky.
Finally, be aware that the more competitive terms often can’t be ranked for using questionable backlinks. Google is becoming ever-smarter, and is focusing ever-more on the quality of links as much as the quantity.
To rank for the biggest and baddest keyword phrases in your niche you’ll probably be needing a different set of tools.
Fortunately, it’s these tools that we’ll be talking about in this article.
So what is this alternative way of building links? As you might have guessed, it’s known as “white hat link building”.
White hat link building avoids many of the “tricks” and the lower quality links, and instead focuses far more on quality. On links that help you to to rank for more competitive terms.
In short – on links that get results.
These same links are also much safer in the eyes of Google, meaning a safer long-term prospect for your website. The only downside is you’re going to need to put some effort in.
Great links are great specifically because they’re difficult to build.
They’re also, I’m pleased to say, well worth the effort.
No-follow vs Do-follow
Links to your website can take one of two different forms.
First are “do-follow”. These are the traditional, standard links that tells the search engines they can crawl the link to your site. This is good because crawled links make for improved rankings.
On the other hand, and rather less commonly experienced, are “no-follow” links. These are links where the site owner is telling Google not to follow or crawl the link. Traditionally, such links had no impact on your rankings, and consequently weren’t worth bothering with from an SEO perspective.
Today, however, the difference between no-follow and do-follow links is a little more murky.
Firstly, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that no-follow links may help to improve your rankings.
Secondly, and just as importantly, if all the links to your website are do-follow then it becomes a little more obvious to the search engines that maybe you’re trying to “game the system”.
It simply doesn’t look natural.
So what should you do?
In my opinion the answer is to focus the majority of your time on do-follow links (because we know that they help to grow rankings) but not to be too scared of no-follows.
If they crop up in your link building campaign then feel free to build them, but give them a lower priority.
Free Vs Paid Links
Link building can be a risky business, make no mistake. Building low quality links can put you at risk of a penalty, but so can paying for links, which is specifically against Google’s terms of service.
The obvious solution here is simply to avoid paying for any links.
Except, there’s a problem.
When you’ve done enough link building, you’ll find that paid link opportunities arise time and again. In some niches that I’ve worked in, its near-on impossible to build links without paying for them.
Every directory and every blogger is sat there with their hand out – you pay up or you miss out.
As a result, you fail to build all sorts of potential links. Many of these are very powerful indeed, and can significantly improve your rankings, but with the inherent risks involved in such a tactic.
So what should you do?
This is a decision only you can make.
If you want to be as squeaky clean as possible then avoid any paid links altogether. On the other hand, if you want to get those most powerful links then maybe you’ll decide to put your hand in your pocket.
Only you can decide if the balance between cost, risk and benefit stack up for your personality.
Just be aware that sooner or later you’ll probably have to make this difficult decision.
And if you do end up buying links, try to keep these to a minimum to keep your risk low.
How to Assess a Backlink Opportunity
It’s critical to realize that not all links are created equal.
Some links can have a far more beneficial impact on your rankings than others, and some are more risky than others.
Ideally we want to source those kinds of links that achieve three things:
The more obvious it is that you’ve been manually building links to your site, the more risk you’re at.
Google clearly states that you shouldn’t try to manipulate their results by manually building links, yet repeated studies have also shown that it’s virtually impossible to rank for meaningful terms without at least a handful of links pointing to your site.
As a result, we need to be certain not to overdo it, or look too “obvious”.
Strong Ranking Benefit
As some links have far more impact on your site than others, it makes sense to try and focus on those “big wins”.
Better links mean higher rankings, which in turn means more traffic and higher revenue numbers.
As some links are rather more likely to land you in Google’s bad books we want to try and avoid them.
In order to assess these factors, however, you need to know the difference between “good” links and “bad” ones.
I put these elements in speech marks simply because what category a link falls into is largely dictated by the policies of the search engines; they’re just one company’s opinion.
Furthermore, links can easily move from one category to another. What was OK yesterday, might not be recommended tomorrow.
Remember: SEO is a rapidly-moving industry and things very rarely stay the same for long.
What is a “Good” Link?
Here are some of the major factors that impact whether a link is right for you or not…
Anchor text is the name given to the words that make up the links to your website. For example if I linked to Amazon.com with the words “buy on Amazon” then this is my anchor text.
Anchor text has long had an impact on search engine rankings.
Back when I first started SEO, if you wanted to rank for a particular keyword phrase you’d try to have as many of your backlinks using this exact anchor text.
More links that perfectly matched your target keyword helped you to rank higher.
These days there’s still an impact, but it’s rather more nuanced.
These days, too many links using the same keyword-rich anchor text and you’re going to suffer.
You might even receive a penalty.
At the same time, such a technique can still help you to outrank far bigger and more established websites.
The key is “moderation”.
Here’s what we’re trying to achieve; we want your backlink profile to look as natural as possible, as though other websites had spontaneously decided to link to you. On occasion, there’s a decent chance you might just land the odd keyword-rich link, but the vast majority won’t be.
Here’s an example of what a “natural” backlink profile looks like for a company like Walmart…
Note how the majority of the anchor text that points to them is either branded (i.e. Walmart, Walmart.com etc.) or very generic (i.e. “here”, “website” etc.).
That’s what we want to focus on; branded or generic anchor text. Then, every once in a while we might throw in a keyword-rich link.
When we’re using keyword-rich anchors, we can actually imagine two different “groups”. These are exact-match, and partial-match.
Taking Netflix as an example, and assuming they want to rank for “streaming TV”, an exact match link uses this exact text.
A partial match, however, may use versions or variations of this phrase. Examples might include “Streaming TV company Netflix”, “Stream directly from Netflix” or “Watch on streamed TV”.
This looks far more natural, and is therefore considerably safer.
The key points here are:
- Focus your attention on branded or generic backlinks
- Use keyword-rich backlinks only in the tiny minority of occasions
- Consider the use of partial rather than exact match anchor text
Here’s a question for you – why would a dog training blog link to a casino website?
The answer, of course, is that they wouldn’t.
While this is an exaggerated example, more natural links come from websites that have a natural affinity to yours.
That dog training blog would quite naturally link to other dog sites, perhaps even more general pet sites. It’s entirely reasonable that they might link to a dog collar on a pet ecommerce site for example.
They also might mention a boarding kennel that they trust and know, or maintain a list of dog trainers with independent reviews from their readers.
But not to a blackjack page.
When you’re link building, therefore, try to pay particular attention to targets operating within your niche. Links from such sites not only look more natural to the search engines, but are also more likely to attract clicks from people that are genuinely interested in your authority site topic.
Minimal Outbound Links
You already know that each web page has a measure of authority, and that when a page links to another one, some of the authority “rubs off” or is inherited.
However it also follows that this authority is “shared” between the various links on this page.
In other words, the more links on a page, the less of a positive impact it will have on each link out. In general, this means that targeting pages that have fewer links will be more beneficial to you.
High Authority Metrics
It goes without saying that sites with a higher Domain Authority will generally impact your rankings more than sites with lower levels of authority.
Good Quality Site
Possibly the easiest way to assess a potential link building opportunity is simply by taking a good look around.
Does the site look nice? Is the owner treating it with care? Is the content high quality?
The more impressed you are with a website, the better a target it will probably make for your link building campaign.
How easy is it to get a link on the site that you’re considering?
The harder this process is, the more beneficial the link will likely be.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re considering submitting your website to a directory. It’s free to submit, and every site submitted is automatically approved on the spot. This means any website can get listed – including our friendly casino site from earlier.
Such sites are frequently filled with links to low quality sites, as they’re the only available option for them. What’s more, Google isn’t stupid. If any site can get a link there, then it probably won’t be worth much to your link building efforts.
In contrast, a site that requires effort to get a link from is worth far more. Ideally, you’ll want a situation where a real live human looks at your website and decides whether or not they’re willing to link to you.
Luckily, if you’re following our authority site model then you’re producing high quality content, and getting such links should therefore be that much easier for you.
What is a “Bad” Link?
Link building may have changed considerably over the years, but in many cases the standard SEO advice has not.
The result is that there are thousands of blog posts and forum threads out there extolling link building techniques that are at best ineffective, and at worst downright dangerous.
It goes without saying that these aren’t the kind of links you want to be building.
Before we look specifically at what links you should be building – and exactly how to do it – it makes sense firstly to provide a few techniques to avoid. Make a mental note of these and steer clear if you want to build a long-term profitable authority site.
In the early days of SEO it was both normal and devilishly effective to exchange links with other websites.
You link to me, and I’ll link to you, and we’ll both get higher rankings as a result.
Obviously it didn’t take Google too long to figure this trick out, and to start outlawing it. These days, a high volume of link exchanges isn’t going to do you much good, and it could land you in deep water.
If you stumble across a website that demands you link to them before requesting a link from them then I would dismiss them.
Web 2.0 sites are classed as those where you can set up your own free blog or website. Examples include Google’s own Blogger, Tumblr and Weebly.
Some link builders use these Web 2.0 sites to build a network of “satellite sites” – with each one of these then linking back to their main site.
They’re basically building links from sites they created themselves.
There are a number of problems with this concept though. Firstly, just because you’re publishing content on a powerful domain doesn’t necessarily mean the page that you put your link on will actually have much weight in the eyes of the search engines.
Secondly, because these links are so weak, many link builders resort to building these Web 2.0 sites on mammoth scales. They pump out dozens, even hundreds, of these sites, all offering very poor quality. Frequently the content is weak at best, and may even be written by automated tools, making it virtually unreadable.
Even then, for best results, you’ll want to boost the authority of your little Web 2.0 sites, by building links to them.
This means yet more work, for a handful of low quality links.
While there is some evidence to suggest that Web 2.0 links may give a modest boost in rankings, doing it right takes a lot of time and effort, that could be spent more effectively elsewhere.
Article directories allow almost anyone to write and publish an article. In essence they’re a more cut-down version of Web 2.0 sites.
In the past, writing an article that links back to your website, then publishing it at a site like Ezine Articles could have a serious impact on your search engine rankings.
As with so many other techniques, this “trick” was soon being pushed to it’s limit. Automated tools were turning a single article into hundreds of near-identical versions, then submitting these to thousands of article directories.
In a few hours you could build hundreds of these links.
Once again, Google soon caught on.
These days most article directories have seen their traffic levels fall precipitously, as Google has begun to penalize the low-quality content they offer.
At the same time, links from such sites are now worth a lot less than ever before.
Low Quality Directories
Directories are websites that list hundreds – even thousands – of websites in neatly organized categories.
In the past, there were hundreds of these directories, and submitting your website to as many as possible was one of the easiest routes to rapid rankings.
Once again, tools quickly developed that allowed you to submit your site to dozens of these directories each hour. You just filled in a few details and hit the “start” button while the tool went to work.
These days such directories do very little good for your website, and may even do it harm.
Be aware that right now there are a handful of directories that are high quality and seem to have a positive impact on rankings.
There are also a number of niche-specific directories which we’ll get to later on, but most “general interest” directories aren’t worth the effort.
So-called “link pyramids” aim to bring together a range of the topics already discussed into one single build-building exercise.
A single article may be written, for example, before a spinning tool turns it into dozens of different versions. The topic and theme are the same; only some of the words are changed to try and make all these versions look unique.
They’re then submitted to dozens of article directories.
From here, dozens more are used to build Web 2.0 sites, each of which link back to your article submissions and so on. The goal is to build links that stack on top of links, slowly growing the authority of those pages which link to your website.
While this method worked well in the recent past, these days the impacts are minimal while the risks are high. All you’re really doing is using lots of poor quality links together in the hope of getting over their weakness.
Private Blog Networks (PBNs)
Some of the most powerful links that you can build are known as “contextual links”. They are so-called because they are placed within the context of an article, rather than as an afterthought.
This means that getting yourself linked to from within someone else’s content is one of the most effective link building strategies around.
Of course, once website owners realized this it was only a matter of time until they started to find a way round this. Instead of going to all the hassle of trying to get genuine mentions they realized it was much easier to just write their own articles that linked back to their main site.
They’d buy an expired domain name (that already had links pointing to it thanks to the previous owner) and then launch a new blog on it.
In amongst those posts would be links back to their own site.
Very rarely is one of these private blogs enough to get top rankings, so PBN-users are forced to build a whole range of them over time – hence creating their own “network”.
While some people are still getting good results with PBNs, in truth the vast majority are not.
Building a PBN the right way is expensive and time consuming.
You need to find the right premium domains, create loads of unique content, figure out how to subtly include your links in the content and more. Done right, each one can become a business in it’s own right.
So you have two options. Either invest so much time doing things “right” that you don’t have the resources to actually build your authority site, or cut corners to save time and money, but risk getting discovered by Google.
Either way, in the current situation building PBN links probably just isn’t the best use of your time and money.
Mindset of an Effective White Hat Link Building
Hopefully you’re starting to see that the “old school” (read: black hat) link building techniques tend to have a number of elements in common…
- They tend to be “easy” ways to get links. And not just one link, but hundreds.
- There’s little or no quality control; you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a link each time you implement them.
- They’re also infinitely scalable, allowing you to build potentially thousands of links in a short space of time.
Each of these aspects should be a “red flag” to modern link builders.
These days the most effective link building take time, effort and commitment. You’ll need to do your research, you’ll need to send out emails and actually communicate with real people.
While there are tools that can speed up the process for you, these most certainly aren’t “automated” links in any way.
They also, typically, go through a degree of “editorial control”. This means that better sites find it easier to build these high quality links. If your site itself offers little or no value, then the people you’re contacting for links are unlikely to add your site – if they even bother responding to your email at all.
The key mindset therefore is not one of easy wins and quick results.
The effective mindset for modern link building is quality in everything you do.
In committing to put the time and effort necessary into not only creating a high quality site, but also in your link building endeavours too.
White Hat Link Building Techniques for Authority Sites, Bloggers & Affiliate Marketers
By now you know what “good” links and “bad” links are. You understand the importance of maintaining a natural-looking backlink profile, by varying your anchor text and considering both do-follow and no-follow links. In other words – you understand the theory.
Now it’s time to move onto the main topic of this section: practical, actionable link building strategies for authority sites, blogs and content marketers.
For each technique you’ll learn the specific steps to follow, and you’ll even receive sample emails that you can tailor for your unique style.
In this way, I hope to produce one of the most actionable link building guides for bloggers, authority site owners and content marketers today; a guide that you can start using today to build more high quality links to your website.
Lets get going…
A few years ago I was proudly using a certain WordPress plugin on one of my authority sites.
Frustratingly, that plugin got discontinued some months later, forcing me to look for an alternative solution. The search for the best alternative took some considerable time, researching then testing each solution in turn. Eventually I found an answer that I was happy with.
After such a long search I decided to help others by making my research and findings public, in the hope that other authority site owners would save time when it came to replacing their own version of the plugin.
Here’s the thing though; I discovered there were loads of blog posts dedicated to the benefits of the now-defunct plugin. Each of those articles had, in essence, been rendered null and void.
Anyone reading them would be sent to a non-existent page, and as I had found myself, locating a comparable tool was far from easy.
So what did I do? I simply emailed each of the bloggers I found covering the plugin to alert them to the fact that the plugin no longer existed. I then laid out my own frustration, my search for a suitable alternative, and mentioned my article.
I suggested that they might like to update their article with a link to mine, as a service to their visitors. Quite a few of them did just that. Within weeks I’m ranking strongly for a host of relevant terms.
Of course, this is just one example, but to goes to illustrate the concept of article outreach.
In essence we can think of article outreach as the process of finding people who would be interested in our epic article and then letting them know about it.
Done well, such a process can result in not just social shares but also backlinks to your article.
The Link Building Process
Article outreach can be incredibly effective, and is a highly scalable white hat link building technique. That said, finding the right targets and approaching them in the correct way can take time to master.
With the intention of speeding up your learning curve let’s look at a step-by-step link building process that you can follow in your own outreach campaigns…
Find Suitable Targets
The first, and arguably most complex part of the puzzle is to find blogs that may be interested in your content.
Here there are so many potential mistakes that bloggers and SEO “experts” make, so before we look at how to find potential link targets let’s consider some of the things to avoid:
Giant / Faceless Targets
I have found time and again that the best results come from outreaching articles to individual bloggers. These are people with their face and their name on their website.
Don’t try reaching out to Coke or to Virgin as the chances of your message hitting the right person are virtually nil.
Worse, even if your message does reach the right target, the rules and regulations and hoops they’d have to jump through to share your content means it almost invariably won’t see the light of day.
Far better is to target smaller, individual bloggers who have complete control over their site and social media profiles. While their domain authority and follower count may not be as great, you’ll find that your odds of success go way up.
Inward-Focused Content Creators
Some bloggers, site owners and online businesses focus only on what they’re doing. Unless they produced an article they’re unlikely to link to it in one of their blog posts, and they’re equally unlikely to share it on social media.
The types of outreach targets that we want to be approaching are actively engaged with the wider world of their niche, and regularly share or link to other content if it is worthy of attention.
Targeting is another hurdle over which many bloggers and authority site builders stumble.
Let’s imagine that you write an article about your 50 favorite keto diet recipes: who is your target?
Many bloggers would assume that anyone in the health and fitness niche is a potential target.
Others would try to narrow this to just weight loss bloggers.
My experience suggests these targets aren’t narrow enough.
At it’s broadest I would consider websites and articles on the keto diet. However, I’m likely to have even more success targeting pages that are specifically about keto-friendly recipes.
While I appreciate that the potential “link universe” here is considerably smaller, your response rate is likely to be much better.
Of course, this makes perfect sense when you consider this link building technique from your target’s perspective. Someone with a general weight loss site might be interested in your keto recipes – but the odds aren’t great.
However a dedicated keto blogger is far more likely to be interested in your epic recipe roundup. And if they have a page specifically linking to a range of comparable keto recipe articles then you’ve just struck gold: who could possibly be more targeted?
This is all well and good, but how do we find the kinds of people who would genuinely enjoy our article, and those who are most likely to help seed it to their audiences?
Fortunately there are a number of effective strategies we can employ here…
Who Already Ranks?
We’ll assume for a minute that you haven’t just written an article at random; you’ve carefully selected a keyword phrase that you’d like to rank for. A great place to start the article outreach process is therefore to type this phrase into Google and see who already ranks.
Make a note of the top 50 or so pages here. Also, don’t stop there but consider searching Google for other closely related phrases to expand our list. Here we might search for “keto recipes” but also “best keto recipes” and “eating keto”. You get the idea.
The end result is a list of articles that all rank for the types of phrases that we would like our article to rank for.
With our list of competing articles gathered things can now start to get exciting. Open up your backlink analysis tool of choice such as SEMRush, SEO Profiler or Majestic and pop in each article one after the other.
What we’re looking for are the links that point to each of these articles. Assuming you’ve chosen a low-competition keyword phrase for your article you may well find that competing articles have very few links. Some may even have none.
With the long list of competing articles you’ve gathered, however, you should succeed in finding a host of links in total.
Let’s stop for a moment to consider what we’ve just done.
We’ve gathered a list of existing web pages that already link to an article just like yours.
If you’ve followed my advice, however, your article is considerably better than most of what is out there. Doesn’t it therefore follow that at least some of the sites you’ve found linking to competitors might be willing to also to link to you?
Even better, some might even be willing to swap the link from a competing article to yours – both boosting your SEO while reducing that of a competing article.
As with the other white hat link building methods outlined here, keep detailed records while carrying out this analysis. Personally I rely on Google Sheets to track each potential outreach target, keeping a note of what article they link to, their contact details and so on.
Related Article Publishers
One final stage of sourcing outreach prospects is locating publishers of closely-aligned topics.
Let me try to explain this with an example…
Just for a moment imagine that you’ve tested dozens of low energy LED light bulbs to compare them for their light output, energy use and speed of illumination. In the end you’ve produced a genuinely beneficial guide for choosing the best low energy light bulbs currently online.
Sit back for a moment and ask yourself what types of articles might naturally link to such a blog post.
Where would a link to your content be natural and helpful for readers?
One example here might be “going green” articles that discuss using low-energy light bulbs. Another example might be “saving money” articles discussing how to save electricity at home, and mentioning LED lighting in passing.
If a reader of one of these articles would like to learn more about the use of low energy lights, and how much they can save money or the environment then our article might be truly beneficial and useful to them.
We can therefore greatly expand our outreach prospects in this manner; simply by taking an honest view of where our article might be truly beneficial to readers if mentioned. We then want to go out and find such targets.
To do so we’re back to good old Google. Sadly it isn’t possible to give you some handy search operators, as I try to do throughout this article, due to each situation being different. We can, however, look at a few examples that might surface some potential targets for our LED lights article. Here the following search operators might be of use:
Hopefully you get the point: we’re searching in the first instance for web pages that include both the words “saving money” and “led lights”. Of course, this is just a tiny fraction of the potential operators we could come up with just a few minutes of thought.
Indeed, we could even consider bolting on additional operators to the end in order to ensure that we find blog posts as opposed to static pages. For example we could add phrases like “leave a comment” and “leave a reply” to find blog posts. Thus, our first search operator to find money saving blog posts that mention led lights could become:
Try it out with your content and see just how many options open themselves up to you.
Audit Your Outreach Targets
Unless your article is about something very, very niche indeed you should by this point find yourself over-run with potential outreach opportunities.
The really nice thing is that assuming you’ve followed effective keyword research as discussed elsewhere in this guide then you’ll be targeting less competitive keyword phrases.
In such circumstances just a small handful of links can make a significant difference to your rankings – and hence your traffic. This means that you don’t need a fantastic response rate from your outreach to make a very obvious difference to your website’s results.
That said, I personally like to audit my prospect list before beginning the outreach process.
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, I must admit that sending outreach emails is far from exciting. Frankly, it’s downright boring – but it gets the results that we need. Therefore I like to double-check all of my prospects a day or two later with fresh eyes.
Here I will satisfy myself that each target is a good option – that I genuinely do feel that my article is closely targeted to their site and will be of interest to both the publisher and their audience.
I’ll also make certain that I have all the necessary information for my outreach – blogger name, contact details, article in which my link would fit and so on.
The second reason to audit my outreach prospects is – quite frankly – that I try to remain as ethical as possible in my marketing. This is, after all, what building an authority site is all about.
The last thing I want to do is to annoy people. I’m not a spammer. My goal is not to send hundreds of random emails, but instead to only send emails to those people whom I genuinely feel will be interested in my content.
The audit therefore saves you sending emails to prospects that won’t be interested in your message, saves you time, improves your response rate and reduces the chances of annoying any of your targets. With this list confirmed, it’s then time to begin the outreach itself.
Once your prospect list has been confirmed it is then time to start sending out all those carefully-targeted emails.
Here are some sample emails you can use:
Then all you need to do is field those replies, and wait for all those juicy new backlinks to start showing up 🙂
Competitor Backlink Analysis
If we’re honest, trawling for backlinks is far from easy.
One tactic we can use to lighten the load, however, is targeting link building opportunities that have already proved successful for other websites.
After all, they’ve already done a lot of the hard work for us by finding the link opportunities and proving that a link can be secured. We can then swoop in, hand-pick only the best links that competing websites are benefitting from and attempt to replicate these ourselves.
Sounds good? Let’s get going…
The Link Building Process
To carry out effective competitor backlink analysis we’re going to need a tool that crawls the web, collecting a database of the links between different sites. There are plenty of such tools, though my favourites are SEMRush, SEO Profiler and Majestic.
We can then simply query the database to find out who links to competing sites.
Find Your Competitors
The first part of carrying out a competitor backlink analysis involves sourcing those sites whose backlink profiles we want to inspect.
Hopefully if you’re operating in a niche in which you are knowledgeable it will be quite easy to draw up a list of the top blogs in your niche. Otherwise there are a whole host of techniques that can be used, including toplists, AllTop or even carrying out searches in Google for relatively broad search terms.
Within a very short space of time you should be able to gather a list of dozens – if not hundreds – of established sites in your vertical. These can then become the targets of our analysis.
Gather Your Competitor’s Backlinks
With your favorite backlink analysis tool open (SEMRush, SEO Profiler and Majestic are all great options that I use continually) simply enter each of the domains found, one by one. Then rank the links by authority and scroll through all the links pointing to that site.
I like to open up each of the most authoritative links pointing to each site in turn, having a good look at whether this is a link I would like pointing to my site, and whether replicating such a link might be possible.
Easy links to replicate are of course the various white hat link building methods we have discussed within this article – such as niche-specific directories and guest posts. On the other hand, a company getting featured in a press article is near-impossible to replicate so I pass on these.
I also keep my “spam radar” turned up to full.
We don’t want to replicate all your the links of your competitors – just the very best ones.
Don’t be afraid to pass on a link opportunity if the site in question looks pretty spammy – even if it seems like an easy link to land.
Gather these opportunities into a spreadsheet so it’s easy to track your progress while working on establishing the links you find.
Finally, with your link list complete it’s just a matter of taking action to get as many of these links live as possible.
A link roundup is when a blogger gathers together a variety of links into one article.
Most often these are time-sensitive links, such as notable articles from across the Internet that the blogger in question has read over the previous week or month.
These are most often niche-specific, in that a fitness blogger may post the top health and diet articles published in the last week.
In a smaller minority of cases these are not date-specific but are instead subject-specific. An example of such a roundup might be a marketing blog publishing the “Top 100 Most Useful Link Building Articles Ever”.
You get the idea – they’re a manually-curated collection of useful articles bound by niche and generally by date.
Each article normally receives a title, a brief description and a link to the article in question.
The benefit of building links through link roundups is that these bloggers and content producers are actively publishing links to other websites.
If you’ve produced something truly notable then they may well be open to including you, as it makes their life easier in finding the contents of their next roundup.
The Link Building Process
The process of building links using link roundups is therefore reasonably simple. It entails finding the publishers of such roundups, then approaching them with your awesome piece of content.
It goes without saying that it must be awesome. We’re not talking about submitting a scrappy 700 word article to a roundup – no, save this technique for your skyscraper content.
Here are the specific steps to follow:
Find the Link Roundups
The best way to find link roundups in your niche is to use Google search operators. Take a broad keyword phrase (such as “fitness” or “finance”) and then bolt on modifiers to find link roundups.
Examples for time-sensitive link roundups include:
For niche-specific roundups try looking out for:
There are, of course, a wealth of other search operators you could use when you start to think laterally about the situation.
The above queries should reveal the majority of the link roundups being published in your vertical.
However, there is a clever way to expand your list even further…
Once you’ve found some link roundup posts, look back at past editions for the last few months.
Grab a list of the articles that have been featured, and then pop these into your favorite backlink analysis tool. Whether that’s SEMRush, SEOProfiler, Majestic or Moz you’ll be able to see what other links point to these previously-featured articles.
Using this technique it is often possible to find a range of other roundups which don’t conform to the traditional link roundup style – so weren’t unearthed with our search operators.
Analyze The Results
Once you’ve gathered together the list of roundup posts the next step is to assess each one in turn. Here are there a number of factors to consider…
Is the Link Roundup Current?
Many moons ago I published a few link roundups on this site.
The effort that publishing such posts required in comparison to the results that they produced soon resulted in me stopping. Even my most recent roundup posts are well over two years old.
All the same, pretty much every week I get at least a few emails from bloggers who haven’t done their research, and ask to be included in the “next” edition.
So do your research when you’ve found potential opportunities, and be sure that the sites in question are actually still publishing their link roundups.
Is Your Content Good Enough?
A second issue I experience with submissions to my link roundup posts is simply that 99% of the content sent to me is average at best.
It’s short. It lacks originality. It’s dull, or badly written, or full of grammatical or formatting issues.
Quite simply it’s not notable enough to include even if I was still publishing roundup posts on my site.
If you’re going to use this white hat link building technique then your content has to be amazing – don’t underestimate the importance of this element before you start reaching out.
Is the Roundup Relevant?
Just because a blogger is publishing link roundups doesn’t necessarily mean your article will be accepted. Spend some time reading through recent editions to see what types of content the blogger in content likes to share. Ask yourself honestly if your content will really fit in here.
One example might be a health blogger publishing the very latest in scientific discoveries from scientists around the world relating to effective weight loss. Your article on “99 Ways to Lose More Weight This Week” probably isn’t going to be accepted, as it’s not a scientific discovery published in a reputable journal.
So be realistic about what the publisher is sharing.
Sending them off-topic articles is essentially spam; you’ll only annoy the blogger and reduce your chances of ever being featured in the future. Only send content that you truly believe will impress them and fit perfectly into their link roundup.
How Do You Submit?
If the link roundups you have found pass the previous three rules then things are looking very hopeful.
Now is the time to gather the details of each blogger, looking for the best way to submit your content in the future.
For example, does the blogger positively encourage submissions by linking to a form in their post? Alternatively can you find a contact form or email address on their site – if not then submitting your awesome piece of content might be challenging.
I like to create a separate spreadsheet when building white hat links through roundup posts, gathering all the relevant information such as the name of the roundup, the blogger’s name and their contact information. This makes submissions far simpler and quicker once the initial research has been completed.
Bonus Tip: Do You Have a Relationship With the Blogger in Question?
Whilst some bloggers will accept article submissions from unknown sources – assuming the content is good enough – it’s often much more effective to submit content when you have some kind of relationship with the blogger in question.
You’re no longer a random spammer – instead you’re a member of their community. This can have a significant impact on your results.
A smart move can therefore be to foster a relationship for some time in advance of your submission, and in doing so greatly improving your chances of success.
Lastly, once your list of roundup posts has been gathered and carefully analyzed it’s time to submit your content to each of the bloggers in turn.
Here is a sample email for time-sensitive round-up post submissions:
Here’s a sample email for topic-specific roundup posts:
Then sit back and wait for the responses. With luck, and a little name recognition with your target bloggers, you should find yourself landing some easy, high quality white hat links in no time.
Note: Due to the fact that link roundups are niche-specific your success with this technique can vary significantly from one niche to another.
In some niches like marketing and finance link roundups are quite well established. In others, however, you may struggle to find any suitable link roundups.
Therefore while this is still a useful white hat link building technique, don’t become too despondent if you can’t find any opportunities in your vertical.
An expert roundup is an article in which a range of “experts” give their best tips on a particular subject.
Examples of expert roundups might be “50+ Personal Finance Bloggers Give Their Tips to Beat Debt” or “99 Successful Affiliates Discuss Their Top Link Building Strategies”.
Dozens of other bloggers and online business owners then contribute to the roundup, receiving a link back to their website in exchange for their time.
There are two ways in which expert roundups can be used to build white hat links; either as the publisher or a contributor. Let’s look at both options in turn…
How to Build White Hat Links By Publishing Expert Roundups
You might think that the only way to build white hat links from expert roundups is to be a contributor. However, publishers frequently also benefit from this type of content.
Producing such an article takes considerable effort; finding your experts, reaching out and encouraging them to contribute and then sticking all the responses together into an appealing article.
So why do it?
There are two main reasons. The first of these is that the final piece of content can be packed full of value for readers. Expert roundups can be a great way to produce memorable, valuable hero content with minimal writing.
The second reason, however, is that the contributors featured may be willing to share the post on social media, or even link to it. Of course, if your article goes viral on social media then this can lead to natural backlinks from other content producers and website owners who discover your article and appreciate the value that it offers.
The Link Building Process
The process of building white hat links with link roundups is as follows:
Decide on Your Roundup Topic
First and foremost you’ll have to decide on the overall theme of your roundup post. In some markets – like internet marketing – link roundups have been done to death. In these markets coming up with something new takes considerable effort.
In other verticals expert roundups are far less common; consequently coming up with an idea can be far easier.
If in doubt use keyword research to find a phrase that you’d like to rank for and use this phrase as the basis for your roundup.
Want to rank for “link building tools”? If so, why not ask a whole load of SEO experts, affiliate marketers and niche site builders what their favorite link building tool is, and why? Surely, this could be a fascinating article to hear directly from the pros exactly what they’re using to get results?
Find Your Experts
Once you’ve decided on the theme of your roundup the next step is to gather a long list of experts who will hopefully be willing to contribute. Here there are two concepts which can assist you…
The first option is to simply look at the authorities in your niche. Hopefully you’ll already know the who the top bloggers in your niche are, but if not they shouldn’t be difficult to track down.
One way to find experts in your niche is simply to use our friend Google. Try typing in phrases related to your general expert roundup theme, then see which blogs appear in the top 30 results or so.
Perhaps in the case of this example we’d try searching for “link building techniques” or “seo tools”. With enough Google searches you should quite rapidly be able to gather a list of relevant bloggers in your vertical.
AllTop is a website which aims to surface the best blogs on the planet. Each site featured has been carefully reviewed before inclusion, so it can be a great source of good quality blogs.
Simply carry out some searches for broad phrases related to your niche (i.e. “internet marketing”) and note those sites which come up.
In almost every niche you’ll find that a few articles have been published detailing the “top bloggers” in that vertical. There are lists of “100 Garden Bloggers You Should Follow” and “50 Best Weight Loss Blogs for 2017” and so on. Each of these lists trusted blogs.
Even better, the fact that these blogs have received links from these “top list” articles means they probably already have a decent amount of authority.
Each of these lists is therefore a rich source of potential experts for your roundup. Finding them is normally pretty simple with a few Google search operators, like the following:
Try a few different broad keyword phrases and you should quickly find a range of top blogger lists from which to garner potential experts.
Previous Expert Roundups
Who could possibly more qualified to take part in your expert roundup than people who have taken part in other expert roundups in the past? After all, by taking part they’ve shown that they understand how an expert roundup works, and that they’re willing to contribute.
Finding these published roundups is simple enough, using the following search operators:
You’ve got your list of targets. Next we need to send your outreach emails, encouraging participation in your roundup. Here’s a sample email you can use for this purpose:
Collate the Results & Publish
Some of the experts you contact may reply within hours. Others can take days. Some may even take weeks to respond, so it’s critical to stay organised as your responses come in.
Keep a note of which experts you’re still waiting on, and consider sending a polite “follow up” email a week or two later just to confirm if they received your email, and to boost the responses to your question(s).
Some bloggers may ask for more details on your project, or ask when you need a response by. Try to field these questions as promptly and professionally as possible to keep the project moving along at speed.
As the results come in, the next step is to turn these into a high-value piece of content.
In most cases you’ll want to create some introductory text to discuss the topic of the expert roundup. You’ll then include the responses of your various experts.
In some cases it may also be appropriate to write a conclusion, summarizing the overall results. Going back to our concept of the top link building tools discussed earlier, perhaps we would want to conclude with a discussion on which tools proved most popular with your experts. Maybe a table of the “top 10” recommendations would be useful for your readers, for example.
When you’re happy that your expert roundup really does offer significant value it’s time to publish!
Reach Out to Contributors
Once your article is live it’s then time to go back to each of your contributors.
Send them a personal email thanking for their contribution. Provide the URL of the published post so they can take a look for themselves, and then encourage them to share the article if they like it.
You’ll be surprised how many people may well share your roundup – and how much extra traffic it can send. If you’re lucky you’ll also land a few links too.
Here’s a sample email:
How to Build White Hat Links by Contributing to Expert Roundups
It is easy to understand how contributors to expert roundups benefit.
They produce a short snippet of text and then receive a link back to their website.
Of course, while the concept of building links by contributing to expert roundups is relatively simple, the process of getting included is rather more difficult.
In reality these roundups tend to favor the more established blogger. You will often find that as your authority grows you will be approached to take part in such roundups on a regular basis, without needing to go looking for them.
This of course makes perfect sense: as your traffic, site authority and social media following grows, so it becomes ever more beneficial to include you in expert roundups. A link or share from such a blogger is worth a lot more than from a tiny blogger.
In this way the rich really do get richer.
Each roundup inclusion grows your authority more, which increases the odds of more invitations and so on… What’s more, every new roundup that you’re included within increases the chances of other bloggers finding your feature, and so trying to enlist your help in producing their expert roundup.
All you need to do is to ensure that you have a contact form or email address that makes it easy for other bloggers to approach you and request your assistance.
But what happens when you’re a relatively new blogger or authority site owner: how do you get the ball rolling?
Here are some ideas to get included in roundup posts from the outset:
Create Your Own Expert Roundup
As discussed earlier, one of the most effective ways to find contributors for an expert roundup is to look at the people who have already been included in others.
The more roundups they feature in, the more likely they are to get involved with your own expert roundup.
One way to “kick-start” your own inclusion in expert roundups is therefore to create your own – and include yourself somewhere in the list – perhaps at the end.
Make sure you name your article something which will attract other bloggers carrying out expert roundups – such as “Pet Blogger Expert Roundup: The Best Toys for Puppies”.
Such an article title should rank well in Google for relevant phrases, so before long you should find yourself getting targeted for inclusion in future expert roundups by other bloggers.
MyBlogU is a service designed with one purpose in mind; to help connect the writers and contributors of expert roundups. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
If you’re looking to create an expert roundup you can add details of your own roundup, encourages responses from other members.
On the flipside, if you have a healthy amount of knowledge on a particular topic then MyBlogU makes it super-simple to find dozens of bloggers looking for contributions – in exchange for a juicy link back to your site.
It is therefore a smart idea to sign up for an account and to regularly keep an eye on the opportunities arising. Responding to each roundup request only takes a few minutes, and can quickly help you build white hat backlinks to your site with ease.
Contact Roundup Publishers
The final method to get included in roundups is a little cheeky; quite simply reach out to the sites that have published them and tell them you’d love to contribute to future features.
Explain that you’re looking for ways to grow your own site, and would love to be involved if and when they produce another roundup post.
Earlier in this guide we mentioned that a great way to find established bloggers was to look for lists of “top bloggers” in a particular niche.
In truth, such articles have some elements in common with expert roundups.
After all, they link out to individual bloggers, and each featured blogger could be sent an outreach email, encouraging them to share the article in which they feature.
Of course a toplist doesn’t just need to comprise of the best blogs in a particular vertical. They can also be spun in different directions. For example, you could write an article on the top tools to achieve a specific goal, the best apps and so on. Consequently, toplists are really limited only by your imagination.
The Link Building Process
The process of building links with toplists is reasonably simple; and in many ways comparable to expert roundups without needing to solicit responses from those featured.
Choose Your Topic
The process starts with the topic of your toplist. Here you can either go with your gut instinct, or even better use keyword research to find a topic for which you can rank.
As an example, try looking for keyword phrases starting with “top” or “best”. Examples might include “Best Apps for Designing T-Shirts” or “Top Smallholding Blogs”.
Gather Your Featured Resources
Once you’ve selected a suitable topic for your toplist the next step is therefore to gather the resources that you will feature. Take your time here – we want to produce an article that is truly valuable, so spend time on forums, on Reddit, on the App Store – whatever it takes.
Carefully select your resources so that they genuinely offer exceptional value when combined into one stand-out article. With your list of resources finally complete we can then go ahead and produce your toplist article.
While gathering your list remember to gather contact details (contact forms, email addresses, Twitter handles etc.) to make your later outreach simpler.
Produce & Publish Your Article
Here you need to put some serious effort in.
Don’t just list each resource with a sentence or two; instead try to make the description of each resource truly unique, beneficial and interesting. Ideally also try to point out the features that you particularly like and that make it notable.
If you’re producing a list of top blogs in a particular niche, for example, you could include a photograph of each blogger featured, introduce each blogger in turn, discuss why you like their site so much, and perhaps even link to a few particular blog posts on their site that stood out to you.
As a final note in this section, note that longer toplists tend to be more effective in my opinion.
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, a list of 100+ top blogs looks a lot more impressive to visitors than a list of 20 sites. The article therefore offers far more value to your readers.
Secondly, and just as importantly, when you reach out to the sites/companies/tools/bloggers featured only a fraction of them will respond to you – and in reality even fewer will share or link to your post.
As modern link building is largely a numbers game, the more entities that you feature, the greater the odds of hitting a home-run when it comes to your outreach.
Reach Out to the Featured Resources
Once your article is completed and published, it’s now time to reach out to the resources you opted to feature. Let them know they’ve been included, encourage them to take a look and – ideally – to share it with their followers.
Here’s a sample email to modify for your own unique purposes:
As you can see, the email is designed to tempt the people you email to at least check out the article.
After all, everyone wants to know what other people are saying about them.
By encouraging feedback you’re also opening up a communication channel that you’re a friend and not an enemy.
Hopefully if your feature of them is positive enough there’s a fair chance that they’ll be willing to share your article or even to link to it.
Multiply that by a whole host of other people featured and you can see that such an article has the potential to send your site a whole load of traffic – and in a perfect world even some links.
For some reason, many bloggers loathe to link out from their own content to other sites.
The theory seems to be that the blogger has worked so hard to draw traffic to their own site, and the last thing they want to do is go and lose that visitor elsewhere.
At the same time, we authority site builders and content marketers need to appreciate that there is a wealth of top quality content out there published by other sites.
Many of these articles and tools would make a genuinely useful additional resource for our readers.
If only we dare to link out.
The reality is that linking out to articles or tools on other sites doesn’t necessarily have to mean losing traffic ourselves. Indeed, it is supremely easy to add a “target_blank” to any outbound links, ensuring that they open in a new browser.
In such a way we don’t lose a visitor; our site is still open in a different browser window.
Once our valued visitor has finished reading the article we linked to they can simply close that browser window and return to us once more.
As authority site builders and content marketers our goal should be to produce the best possible visitor experience.
This is why I have openly and liberally linked to other websites throughout this guide.
Every time I find a truly monumental piece of content it gets saved into my Chrome favorites. I have then carefully gone through my list of 200+ top-rated marketing articles and proudly selected the very best to include in my content here.
My hope is that you, dear reader, enjoy the visitor experience, while those other bloggers working hard to produce fantastic marketing-related content also receive a small benefit. Everyone’s a winner.
Everyone – that is – except the for poor blogger linking out, right?
Well, not so fast.
You see, we bloggers appreciate the value of a link. We know that someone else linking to one of our articles is special. It’s a vote of confidence; one that should drive more readers to us, and to help improve our search engine traffic.
As a result, many bloggers will thank you for your efforts – perhaps with social shares or even links to your own content.
Linking to other bloggers is also a great way to increase your visibility. In WordPress, when we link from one article to another we leave what is known as a “trackback”. These trackbacks, like comments, show at the bottom of an article if approved by the blogger we link to.
Now, not all bloggers will link back to you. Many of them won’t even acknowledge your link. But in time some will.
Others will leave a comment on your site to thank for the share. Some may even contact you in person through your contact form. In doing so you’re building a powerful network of other bloggers in your vertical whereupon you can both work together to grow your visibility.
A link out can quite realistically result in inclusion in an expert roundup, or the acceptance of a guest post, at a later date.
Never underestimate the power of “networking” in this simple manner; you’ll be astonished at just how many opportunities come your way when you become well-known to other bloggers and affiliate marketers in your niche.
So while I don’t suggest you linking out just in the hope of backlinks, think of it as a way to improve the user experience on your site – with the very real potential of landing more visitors yourself in response.
The Link Building Process
Linking out is arguably the simplest source of content promotion which can be spun in a variety of ways. Here’s a simple process you can follow…
Find the Sources
First and foremost of course you’re going to need the sources that you link out to.
There are a number of ways to achieve this. At it’s simplest you can simply use Google to search for relevant articles that expand on the topics that you cover. Surely that article you wrote about “The 50 Best Cities for Expats” is just crying out for links to expat travel guides for each country or links to expat bloggers living in those particular areas?
Another alternative – which I prefer – is to use a feed reader to subscribe to the top blogs in your niche. Feedly is my tool of choice and makes it easy to keep track of new blog posts from the sites that you follow.
What’s cool about Feedly is if you upgrade from the free to the premium version (which still costs virtually nothing each month) then you can actually carry out keyword searches just within the blogs you subscribe to.
In this manner, once you select all the blogs in your niche that you’d like to network with, you can quickly carry out a keyword search in Feedly when writing an article to see if there are any relevant articles worth mentioning within your post.
The third and final method – which I have used for this site – is simply to become a voracious reader, and to bookmark notable articles as you stumble across them.
Over time you’ll build up a huge library of exceptional content, all carefully checked and curated by yourself. This library – which I maintain in each niche I operate in – forms possibly the best source of high quality content around.
Add the Links
The next step is to pepper your content – where appropriate – with links to related content on other sites.
As a reminder, the goal here is simply to reward other bloggers with additional traffic while offering an exceptional experience to your visitors.
Don’t link out to any old thing simply because it was all you could find – these articles you link to need to be epic and add to your visitors experience.
As a reminder, when you then publish your article WordPress will send out trackbacks to those articles you mention, which will hopefully help you to pop up the radars of the sites you’ve linked to.
If you’d like to be certain that the sites you’ve linked to take note of your gesture you can even go so far as to email them. Something simple and congratulatory tends to work well, such as the following sample:
Unlinked Mentions / Link Reclamation
As your business or website becomes more established you may find that other people mention you in passing without linking to your site.
Consider, as a greatly exaggerated example, how many articles there are mentioning Walmart, and what proportion of them actually link to the Walmart website. Just a fraction, I would suspect.
Link reclamation is in essence the process of finding these mentions and politely encouraging the site in question to turn it into a live link to your website. As you might expect, this particular link building technique tends to work best for established businesses who receive a fair amount of press.
In contrast, for newer bloggers and authority site owners this may be one technique to skip for now.
The Link Building Process
Building links through reclamation and unlinked mentions is quite simple.
Locate the Mentions
The first step in the process of building white hat links with link reclamation is to find those mentions of your business, product or website. For this, we can rely on good old Google once again.
Simply generate a list of branded words and phrases that will ideally only describe your site. Then we put quotation marks around each, to ensure Google only finds webpages with these specific words on them.
We can also add a negative search operator afterwards to remove any instances of your own website from the search results.
As an example, let’s assume we’re Problogger, one of the best-known sites for bloggers run by Darren Rowse.
Two example search operators that Darren could use would therefore be:
Source Contact Information
Once you’ve gathered a list of your unlinked mentions you then need to gather the contact details of each site you’re planning to contact. On smaller blogs this is typically quite simple, as you’ll generally find a contact form and/or email address.
Rather more challenging can be mentions on much bigger sites – such as when you find a mention on a mainstream media site.
Such sites typically have dozens of writers and journalists churning out content, and getting in contact with the right person can be challenging. In such times, take your time to source multiple potential contacts.
Sure, it can take time to source these contact details. Sometimes you’ll need to go on the hunt, seeing if you can find a personal site of the author in question, or if you can track them down on social media.
All this can be a frustrating business. On the other hand, landing just a few such links can be very effective indeed.
I used this technique recently for a client and managed to secure some super-powerful links from mentions they had received in sites like Forbes and Business Insider. In this way, the thirty minutes I spent tracking down the contact details of each writer was actually a worthy investment.
The final step in this link building concept is to reach out to each site in turn, politely asking them to consider turning the mention of your site/product into a live link. Here’s a sample email script that you can modify for your own uses:
One of the issues with most white hat link building strategies is that they tend not to be very scalable. As you have seen in the techniques discussed so far most link building strategies can take considerable time and effort to implement.
Press mentions, however, are quite a different thing.
Every day dozens of journalists from around the world are seeking sources of information for their assignments. They need first-hand opinions to include in their articles – and you can become their go to source when you know what you’re doing.
In exchange for sharing a few comments on a particular topic you’ll be included in their article, generally with a live link to your website.
The investment of time is therefore minimal, while the potential upside is considerable.
Indeed, you can almost view this as being a contributor to an expert roundup but with the potential to be included on a much higher-quality site.
Also – don’t be intimidated into assuming that journalists are only looking for political pundits or stock market experts. In contrast, journalists are looking for all sorts of experiences. Here are just a few examples of sources that journalists have sought in the last few days:
As you can see, there are opportunities for press mentions irrespective of your niche. All you need is to be a reputable individual with a trustworthy website and a decent level of experience in a particular vertical.
The Link Building Process
Building visibility and links through press mentions is easier than you might expect. You don’t need to go searching around for journalists requiring sources; they’ll actually come to you.
Indeed, there are a host of websites designed specifically to act as “dating sites” between writers and sources. I’ve tested the vast majority of them over the last few years and found Help a Reporter Out (HARO for short) to be the most reliable. Here’s how to start building white hat press links using HARO…
First and foremost, click on over to Help a Reporter Out and sign up for their free service.
Within the site you’ll need to specify the topics you’d like to receive opportunities on, and how often you’d like to receive emails.
Personally, I opt for the once-a-day email option so that my inbox doesn’t get continually bombarded throughout the day.
Check Your Emails Daily
Once you’ve signed up you’ll start to receive daily emails of journalists looking for sources.
Your job is simply to jump on those emails as soon as they arrive in your inbox. Scan them for any journalist requests on which you are an authority. If your authority site or blog is in a very small niche these may only come along infrequently, but in larger niches there can be almost daily opportunities.
The key is simply to make checking your HARO emails a daily activity so you don’t miss a golden opportunity when it presents itself.
Personally I have email setup on my phone so that even if I’m out when an email comes through (as often happens thanks to being based in the UK) I’ll still receive the email instantly.
So, you found a perfect opportunity. What next?
Journalists are busy people. They’re under pressure to get their stories completed as soon as possible. Taking your time to reply will therefore most often result in you missing a potential press mention.
As soon as that opportunity drops into your inbox, therefore, take action and draft a comment that will help the journalist out.
Remember that this must come from the email address to which your HARO emails are sent, or it will be refused by the HARO system.
Therefore, if you’re like me and run websites on a number of different topics it is best to use a “general” email address, so it won’t look odd when you email a journalist from your dolls house website to respond about the best zombie movies ever made 😉
You shouldn’t expect every response you send to be published; in truth only a fraction will. However, taking into account the small amount of time that it takes to check your email each day, then fire off a few paragraphs for any relevant stories your investment is minimal.
When you land your first few press mentions you’ll appreciate just what an efficient link building technique this really is.
Guest posting is the act of writing articles that are published on other websites. In exchange for your carefully-written content you receive an author bio file at the end in which you can mention and link to your website.
In a small minority of cases you may even be able to add links to your website from within the articles, though this is generally the exception rather than the rule.
Guest posting is, in my opinion, simultaneously the most frustrating and the most powerful link building technique of all.
Let’s address the frustration element, before we discuss why I still think it’s a method well worthwhile.
There are probably more moving parts in a successful guest posting campaign than in any other link building strategy.
You need to find the blogs that are willing to accept articles. This takes time and effort – not to mention a thick skin in response to the various declined emails you’ll likely receive.
You then need to carefully write a top-quality article that meets all of the site owner’s requirements. In some cases the guest post guidelines can be very precise in terms of content, layout, word count, language, formatting and more. In such cases producing a suitable article can take considerable time and effort.
Next you send off the article for approval. While some site owners may respond within hours, others can take weeks to respond to your carefully written article.
In truth, some will never respond, which is pretty frustrating when you’ve spent hours carefully crafting an article that meets all their requirements.
Here some to-and-fro may be required, as they request changes until the article is on point.
Then you need to wait for the article to be published. While some site owners will publish your guest post within days in other cases you may have to wait weeks or even months until there is a gap in the publishing schedule.
My record so far is for an article to take nine months between acceptance and publication!
Even on publication your work isn’t necessarily done. Some sites will forget to include your bio file, or in the case of a guest post I did on Problogger some years ago they’ll link to someone else’s website! Your job is therefore to double-check each article when it goes live to ensure it is correct in every respect.
This means that a successful guest posting campaign is a constant juggling act. You need to stay on top of who you’ve emailed, articles under production, content awaiting publication and so on. The bigger the scale you try this on, the harder the management becomes.
So why go through all this pain when there are so many other link building strategies out there?
Here there are a number of answers.
Firstly, getting your articles on truly relevant websites has the very real potential to send genuine, pre-qualified visitors to your site. After all, if the blogs on which you guest post have a genuine readership, and like what you have to say in your article, isn’t it logical that at least a proportion of them will click over to your website?
A second benefit of guest posting is that it can often be the only way to gain visibility on higher quality websites. Many such sites won’t respond to traditional article outreach, and won’t have a resource page that you can target – but they will accept a very well-written article.
Thirdly, and arguably most beneficial of all, is the measure of control you have over the links that you build. Guest posting can, for example, be a great way to build deep links – those links that point to individual articles on your own website.
Additionally, you may have the opportunity to include keywords in the link back to your site – which can help to grow your rankings for the keyword phrases you have carefully selected.
While some bloggers and authority site owners therefore rely almost solely on guest posting to build links to their website I personally like to see guest posting as just one of many tools available to me.
There’s nothing wrong with a little guest posting, but it’s only part of a broader mixture of link building strategies I apply to sites under my control.
The Link Building Process
I’ve done enough guest posting over the years to have slowly refined and improved my process.
I’ve tested ways to find guest posting opportunities, to reduce the number of times you write an article for a site only to never hear back and so on.
Below I’d like to show you how I now do guest posting in the most efficient manner possible…
Finding Guest Post Opportunities
The biggest challenge for new bloggers and content marketers can be finding the sites that are willing to accept guest posts in the first place.
In the past this led to a profusion of services aimed to help guest posters and site owners to connect with one another. Sadly, such services soon became over-used by aggressive SEO managers and affiliates, and soon received Google’s attention who offered up penalties left, right and center.
Today, finding guest posting opportunities is a far more manual and challenging process.
One could argue that the time and effort required to find guest blogging opportunities these days is actually a good thing; it raises the bar and reduces the number of spammers aggressively trying to build hundreds of articles with the technique. The downside, of course, is that you’re going to have to invest some time to get things going.
Here are the four most effective methods to locate guest posting opportunities:
Arguably the most powerful way to find guest posting opportunities is to locate those websites that are actively publishing guest posts from other website owners.
After all, if a website has a page encouraging guest posts, and is regularly publishing guest articles from other bloggers, you can feel reasonably confident that they’ll consider an article that you submit.
The key is therefore to use the major search engines to find just such opportunities.
While the sky’s the limit here, the following examples can all be worth their weight in gold for turning up websites accepting guest posts:
Using search operators like these you’ll typically uncover two different types of pages.
On some websites you’ll stumble across their “guest posting” page which gives details of how to submit content to them. In other cases you’ll find actual guest posts appearing. Both are good signs that the sites uncovered may be willing to accept your content.
Before we get to that, however, the individual guest posts you just found can come in very handy for expanding your list of opportunities…
Reverse-Engineer Successful Guest Bloggers
You’re not the first person to consider guest posting to grow their site traffic. Indeed, other bloggers and affiliate marketers in your niche can turn out to be excellent guides when it comes to finding guest posting opportunities.
All we need are some existing guest posts to get us started, just as you found in the previous step. Now we just need to identify the other sites on which they have guest posted. There are a number of ways to accomplish this:
Reverse Engineer Their Backlinks
Simply look for the website that they’re linking to in their guest post, pop this into just such a tool and look at where else they’re getting links from.
Only very rarely will a link builder write only one single guest post; more often they’ll be featured on a number of sites over time. This technique therefore helps to broaden your list of sites that have accepted guest posts from them.
Carry Out a Google Image Search
While link analysis tools can be worth their weight in gold to the serious link builder it’s worth mentioning that no link building tool is perfect.
There will always be links that they haven’t discovered and pages that they haven’t spidered.
Only very rarely will a tool like SEMRush therefore have 100% of the links pointing to a site.
If we want to squeeze every last opportunity possible out of a fellow guest blogger we can therefore take our research a step further.
One such option is to take their profile picture and to search for it in Google Images.
Quite often you’ll find that a guest blogger uses the same profile picture time and again, recycling it on each of their guest post bios. This, therefore, may well surface further places where a competitor has guest posted in the past.
Do a Google Search on Their Author Bio
One final option for expanding your list of sites on which competitors have guest posted it to search Google for snippets of their author bio. While some guest posters vary their author bio file from one article to another, a surprising amount use roughly the same bio on every article that they submit.
So grab a portion of their bio – I typically use the part including their name and some five or so other words. Stick quotation marks around the sentence and pop it into Google.
While the response rate here is likely to be less successful than when using a backlink tool you’ll still be surprised sometimes when you discover that the blogger in question has used the same profile across dozens of sites on which their guest posts appear.
The Shotgun Approach
So far we have covered some quite surgical ways in which to find guest posting opportunities – by targeting those sites that have definitely accepted guest posts from other bloggers in the past.
Such techniques will usually yield the best results and the greatest number of opportunities for the time invested.
There is, however, another option. Rather than the precision of the previous methods, the shotgun approach simply refers to contacting every decent quality site in your niche in the outside chance that they might be willing to accept an article.
If you’re a blogger or individual authority site builder – as opposed to a commercial company – then blogger communities can be an excellent way to uncover guest posting opportunities.
All over the Internet you’ll find niche-specific groups of bloggers gathering to share information, ask questions and help each other to grow their sites. There are group for anything from pet bloggers to travel bloggers and pretty much everything else inbetween.
I strongly recommend that you join such groups when you’re building your site. Sometimes other bloggers will post on these groups to say that they’re looking for guest bloggers. Alternatively, of course, you can even leave a post yourself, asking if any other site owners would be willing to take a guest post from you.
Not only are such blogger communities a quick and efficient way to locate guest blogging opportunities but they’re also a great way to network with fellow bloggers, where all sorts of opportunities can arise.
The best way to find such groups is to search either Google or Facebook for search operators like:
If there’s a blogger group for your particular niche then it should be pretty easy to find in the top few results.
Audit Your Initial List
By now you should have gathered a long list of potential guest posting opportunities ripe for further exploration. However before we start writing all those articles there are a few additional steps that I recommend.
Firstly, I like to visit each guest posting opportunity in turn and look at them with fresh eyes.
If we want to avoid getting into deep water when it comes to Google (who don’t always look favourably at guest posting) then it pays to do some additional research before selecting our final list of blogs to approach…
Overall Site Quality
First and foremost I like to have a good poke around each prospective target. Ask yourself if this is a nice, professional-looking site. Is is interesting and well-written.
Imagine that you’re a professional SEO carrying out guest posting on behalf of your clients: is this a site that you’d be happy to show to your clients? If not, then this may be a site to scrub from the list.
It’s not just hard-working bloggers and authority site owners that carry out guest posting. There are also all sorts of “questionable” websites carrying out similar marketing campaigns. I like therefore to look at some recent guest posts to see where they are linking out to.
I believe that it is a good idea to avoid guest posting on sites that link out to gambling sites, online pharmacies, firearms websites and other verticals that might be considered questionable.
I just don’t want to associate my site with these niches, and potentially increase my risk of a penalty further down the line.
If you’ve read the whole of our SEO guide then you’ll know that building links from sites with a high degree of authority can be particularly beneficial for your own rankings. If this is the case then it makes sense to consider the backlink profile of the sites you’re considering.
There are two elements that I like to consider here.
Firstly, at a very basic level what is their authority level?
Make a note of their Domain Authority or Trust Flow here. While I won’t necessarily dispose of a site that has a low authority score – so long as the site looks great – if I’m on the fence then a low authority score may be the deciding factor.
What’s more, this can be a useful yardstick later on for prioritizing your outreach. If you’re trying to decide between a DA40 site with a reasonable level of flexibility on the articles they accept, versus a DA5 site that is very particular then your time may better spent on the former rather than the latter.
The other element to consider besides a general authority score is where your target sites are getting their links from. It’s easy to be impressed by a site with a healthy authority score, only to discover behind the scenes that most of their links are spammy.
One common example that I see is when a blogger has bought a previously-registered domain name either knowingly or unknowingly.
The authority score of that child care blog you just found looks great – till you realize that the former owner of the domain used it to sell prescription drugs, and that the site has such a great authority because there are thousands of “viagra” links pointing to it from questionable sources.
Not really appropriate, so I pass.
Recency of Guest Posts
In the past, guest posting was all the rage. Then, some years back Google decided that guest posting was bad and a lot of bloggers stopped accepting them. Today, of course, used in moderation guest posting can definitely be beneficial for your website.
The ever-changing world of guest posting, combined of course with individual bloggers themselves changing how they run their sites, mean that sites that have accepted guest posts in the past may not still do so.
It can therefore be nice to take a look at some of the more recent guest posts.
When were they published? Just as importantly, is the blogger in question only accepting posts from their blogger friends – or from a wider variety of publishers – assuming the content is up to scratch?
The Internet is awash with disowned websites: sites started in a fit of passion only to be cast aside later on for one reason or another. As you might expect, when a site hasn’t been updated in years it’s pretty unlikely that the owner is open to guest post requests. They may have even stopped checking their emails entirely.
One final check I like to carry out is therefore to look at how recently the site in question was updated.
Have there been posts published in the last few weeks? If so, that’s great news. If the last post was 6+ months ago then I start to worry, and at over a year the site is probably not worth pursuing.
Assuming a website passes all of these checks I then add it to my prospecting spreadsheet, noting all the critical data. This includes the name and contact information of the blogger, their site metrics and the URL of any guest posting guidelines found on their site.
I also like to make a note of a few recent guest posts published, so I can better “get my eye in” on exactly what they’re looking for in a guest post. After all, if these guest posts were approved then the closer we can mimic them the more successful our article is likely to be.
The Initial Ask
You’ve gathered a list of prospective blogs on which to guest post. Each site has been carefully checked by you to ensure they meet our exacting standards. The next step is to get in contact with each blogger on our list.
I like to do this even for blogs that have a dedicated guest posting page that lays out exactly how to post on their blog. There are three reasons to drop each blog a line before you start working on a guest post for them…
Firstly, doing so ensures that you don’t waste hours of your life writing and sending an article to a blogger that doesn’t respond: trust me – it happens more often than you’d think.
Secondly, it helps to “break the ice” with the bloggers you’d like to work with. Rather than contacting them out of the blue with an article, you’re just “touching base” with them, so that your article – when you send it – comes from a recognised individual.
Thirdly, and finally, it gives you an opportunity to better understand each blogger’s requirements for accepting guest posts. As an example, they may have policies regarding word count, image use, outbound links and more.
Depending on the blog in question they may even charge to publish a guest post – and it’s better to know in advance. Whether you agree to pay the publication fee (which is against Google’s terms of service) or not, it’s still better to be fully-informed before you start the hard work of producing suitable content.
Here’s a sample email that you can modify for your situation:
As you can see, this email is short and sweet. It allows the target bloggers to look at your own site and to decide whether you’re a good fit or not. It also elicits any guidelines you should follow.
Depending on the response that I get, I may sometimes follow up with a second email suggesting topics that I could write about – and asking the blogger which they would prefer. Alternatively (and more often) I simply launch into the content creation phase.
Writing your guest post is arguably the most time-intensive part of guest posting. It can make or break your campaign, as if the bloggers you approached don’t like your content it probably isn’t going to get published.
Therefore it is critical to do a sterling job here.
The goal is to produce a fantastic piece of content that meets all their requirements – and that you’d be happy to have on your own blog.
The intention here is to only write a guest post once you’ve selected – and heard back from – your target sites. Each post is then carefully written to meet the audience and style of that site. In my experience this tends to be far more effective than just writing an article and then going looking for someone to publish it.
Here I like to leaf through the recent posts on the target site.
Get an idea of what they’re writing about. Look at articles that have done particularly well for them. Try to get inside the mind of the blogger and their audience so you can tailor your content to them. Brainstorm a handful of ideas that seem to work.
Then, using previously-published guest posts and any guest posting guidelines that you’ve found, start to construct your article.
Remember: your goal is really to produce a fantastic piece of content; we want to impress others with our content so this certainly isn’t the time for “filler content”.
Also remember to write a short author bio for the end, and to decide how you’ll link to your website in this area. Perhaps you just want to link to your homepage, or alternatively maybe you want to link to a specific article on your site that you want to boost.
When I’m writing a guest post I like to put it aside for a day or two after completion, before coming back to double-check. I carefully edit the article for flow, punctuation and grammar. I also compare it in detail with any guidelines sent over by the blogger to ensure I am meeting every single element without fail.
In this way I maximize the odds of my post getting accepted. At the same time, it also illustrates just how time-intensive the process of guest posting can really be.
Send Off Your Article
Once you’re happy that everything is ready, it’s time to send the article off and cross your fingers!
I like to keep careful records here, making a note of exactly which blogs my articles have been submitted to, and the date of contact. As you may have to wait some days – or even weeks – for a response it can be handy to look back at a reminder of when the post was sent off.
I have found that when you’re waiting for a guest post to be published just a few days wait can feel like a month – so it saves me “following up” too soon and annoying the blogger in question.
The final step in the process is simply to monitor the progress of your submissions.
After all the time and effort that have gone into finding your guest posting opportunities, reaching out and writing the content, the last thing you want is for your carefully-written articles to never see the light of day.
If necessary, follow up politely after a week or two to ask if there is any progress at all, and if anything needs to be changed.
As and when they do go live you’ll also want to satisfy yourself that your link is present and works properly. It’s not unheard of for bloggers to strip out links or format them wrongly, leading to your link not working – so be sure to click on your link and make sure everything is working as it should be.
Many websites maintain a page that comprises of interesting links for visitors.
Just imagine a website about getting started on the popular “caveman diet”. Such a list of links – typically known as a “resources page” may include links to other notable websites, lists of recipes, suppliers of “caveman friendly” foods, tools to calculate your macros and so on.
The thing is that if you’ve created a truly useful tool or piece of content yourself then it could genuinely be a useful addition to related resource pages.
Not only does the website with the resources page get to add yet another useful link to their article, but of course you too can benefit from increased clicks and higher rankings.
As with most of the other white hat link building techniques discussed here, of course, it therefore all starts with an incredible piece of content.
From here the process is largely similar to a number of other methods; locate resource pages that are closely related to your content and reach out to the site owners to let them know about your article.
The Link Building Process
I’m a huge fan of resource page link building because unlike some methods – such as guest posting – it’s very time efficient. One can very quickly mine a list of suitable resource pages and fire off a load of emails.
Often within hours you can be landing your first links – assuming your content really is remarkable.
Finding Resource Pages
Finding resource pages is relatively easy with a range of search operators. Simply add some relevant keywords to the following examples:
While I have found that the number of resource pages varies significantly between niches, they tend to work particularly well in “passion” niches.
Weight loss, pets, mountain biking and suchlike.
They tend to be far less successful in business-to-business verticals, though this method is so simple that I would argue it’s worth at least investigating irrespective of the niche that your have chosen for your website.
Analyze The Results
Just because you found a load of different resource pages don’t assume that every single one is an appropriate target for your link building campaign.
You’ll need to go through the lists that you generate and visit each one in turn to try and decide if your website is a suitable match for them.
Here are some important considerations…
First and foremost you need to satisfy yourself that the article or website you want to outreach is very closely aligned with the resource pages found.
Using our example of a “caveman diet” article, we’ll have far more success with resource pages focused on the caveman diet than we will with far more general weight loss and diet resource pages. Even worse would be general health/fitness pages.
So be honest with yourself and dispense with those that aren’t highly targeted.
Worst case scenario, make a note of any resource pages you’ve decided not to use as they may provide ideas for subsequent content and link building: ask yourself what types of resources these pages seem to like linking to – then go and create such an article – before reaching out to these other resource pages.
Resource pages have a nasty habit of being created, then largely ignored. Over time, the sites that they link to expire, or change their URL structure.
This can result in many broken links.
This, in turn, can result in a worse visitor experience. For this reason I personally I tend to ignore resource pages that have lots of broken links.
In comparison to mentions within articles – such as from content outreach – I have found resource pages to give my sites rather less of a “boost” in the search engines.
As a result, I like to prioritize those resource pages that offer a reasonable level of authority when I’m operating in more competitive niches.
Frequency of Updates
While not all resource pages display the date on which they were last updated, quite a few do.
If I see a message that “this page was last updated on Oct 1st 2006” then I will generally skip over it. The odds of that person updating their resource page after so much time to include your link is very unlikely indeed.
Available Contact Information
Lastly, it can be all too easy to get excited about a great resources page that would be an ideal target, only to find that there is no obvious way to contact the site owner!
So, before you add a resources page to your final list it can be smart idea to just double-check whether they provide a contact form or email address through which you can get in touch.
Lastly, it’s just a matter of doing to donkey-work, contacting each site in turn with a polite email, asking whether they might be willing to add a link to your site.
Here is a sample email:
Rather akin to a resources page, numerous websites publish “lists” of websites, products or other resources. A good example might be a travel website publishing a list of “hotels in San Diego” or a fellow blogger publishing a “list of other smallholding bloggers”.
Assuming you can find lists that are relevant to the subject of your site then these too can be a useful source of white hat links. All you need to do is to uncover such lists and then enquire how you might also be included.
The Link Building Process
When sourcing lists the key is to consider your own unique vertical. What broad keywords might someone use to describe your website – or even you as the blogger.
Finding Lists for Link Building
Certainly consider your niche, but also think about where you’re located, the subjects that you cover and the benefits offered by your website.
Here are some search operators to start your mind running:
Consider all the various aspects of your website and why someone might include it in their list.
Also, when it comes to location try to think at both a macro and a micro level.
You’re not just a British blogger, you’re also a West Sussex blogger. You’re also a Brighton blogger. Narrow down the location step by step to reveal ever more opportunities to build links from an ever-expanding collection of list posts.
Then it’s just a matter of reaching out to each of the sites in question to see whether they might consider including your site too.
Of course, the outreach email is likely to vary significantly depending on your niche, location and the lists that you’ve found. However the following sample email might prove a useful starting point for your own outreach efforts:
Niche -Specific Directories
Directories are possibly the most overused link building technique ever utilized by SEO experts.
At the same time, we know that directory link building is generally a pretty bad idea these days.
Most directories tend to be pretty spammy and such links can lead to Google penalties for the unfortunate.
But not all directories are necessarily bad.
Indeed, there are a host of good quality directories where your site might logically fit. The key is to only select niche-relevant and super-premium style directories. Those where your site naturally fits, and that would likely be worthwhile even if it didn’t have any SEO benefit.
Consider, as an example, if the topic of your website was travel in the Canadian Rockies. If we could find a directory of useful Canadian travel websites on a reputable and trustworthy travel website then this might be a perfect natural match for our website.
Used in moderation, and utilizing only the highest-quality directories in your niche, such links can still be beneficial for growing your site authority. Here’s how to do it…
The Link Building Process
The specific manner of building links with niche-specific directories may vary from one site to another. In some cases you’ll need to email the site in question requesting inclusion in their directory. In others you’ll submit your site for consideration via a form. The magic really comes from sourcing those directories in the first place.
Sourcing Niche-Specific Directories
Fortunately, as always in this guide, I’ve got you covered. The following search operators will help you find just such sites:
Auditing Your Site List
Most verticals will only have a tiny handful of truly authoritative and trustworthy directories.
If you’re stumbling across dozens or even hundreds of options then you may need to up your quality control standards.
Due to the risks inherent in directory link building it is therefore critical that you only approach the highest quality sites of all.
Here are some positive signs to look out for when deciding on whether a niche-specific directory is worth your time…
There are tens of thousands of directories out there.
Sadly, the vast majority of them have next to no authority This means that a link from such a site is unlikely to produce much of a positive impact on your rankings.
Higher authority directories are different; such directories can help to boost your rankings and traffic. Of particular importance are those directories that act as a subsection of a recognised, trusted and pre-existing website.
An example might an established yoga website that has decided to add a directory listing other yoga websites by category. Such a niche-specific directory may well be quite a valuable resource for link building campaign.
No Reciprocal Linking
When it comes to directories with high levels of authority, a surprising number have achieved this through one simple action: requiring the sites they accept to link back to them.
The process of linking to one website in exchange for it linking back to know is known as “reciprocal linking”.
Back in the early days of SEO, when I got started, this was a tremendously effective technique, to the point that software was developed to help you find other websites and automatically exchange links with them at scale.
Unsurprisingly, Google soon took a dim view of this, and the benefits of reciprocal linking unwound. These days, if anything, excessive reciprocal linking should be seen as a bad thing; it might even get you a penalty if you’re unlikely because such linking arrangements are so obviously “unnatural”.
In the case of directories, many will allow a free submission in exchange for a reciprocal link, or will accept paid submissions without a link back.
Be careful of such deals, as while these directories may at face value seem to have a large and impressive backlink network, with high levels of authority, it is likely that Google is already aware of their “tricks” and that a link back from such a site is going to be less than beneficial for your SEO.
When directory link building was at its zenith there were thousands of “general” website directories all trying to mimic the good-old Yahoo directory.
They accepted sites on almost any subject, attempting to break down the submitted sites into thousands of nested categories.
These days, such a directory screams “spam” – because why would any site legitimately simultaneously link to casino websites on one page and Christianity websites on another?
The only answers, of course, are to create manipulative links and/or to earn money from unsuspecting website owners.
To make link building as easy as possible traditional (read: dodgy) website directories will typically only request your URL, website title a description. Your site will then be listed alongside dozens of other loosely-related websites.
Better directories, which really want to benefit users as well as provide the search engines with something actually worth indexing often request far more information from their users. In exchange their listing pages offer far more value.
Earlier on in this guide we talked about keeping your backlink profile looking as natural as possible. As a reminder, keyword-rich anchor text can quickly look artificial – and obviously manipulated.
At the same time including relevant keyword phrases in the links to your website can – in moderation – help to build your rankings for the phrases used.
An obvious sign of a low quality directory is one where keyword-rich title text is allowed.
So take a quick look through the links to sites included in a directory; are they using the genuine business name or a keyword-stuffed alternative?
If you see a listing for www.JoesLawnCare.com is the published link to their site “Joe’s Lawn Care” or “Lawn Care Services in Orlando”? The second style of keyword-stuffed links should be a further red flag to avoid a directory.
Many directories have been set up simply to accept pretty much any site – after all these directories don’t want to decline websites and then have to give them their listing fee back again. Pretty much anything submitted therefore gets accepted.
Of importance to Google, however, is a measure of editorial control.
The stricter these standards, the better.
What this means is that a real human being goes and checks out every site submitted, and decides whether the sites in question really are up to standard. Only those meeting the required standard are included.
Built for Users Not SEO Companies
Possibly the most over-riding factor is whether a directory seems to have been set up to benefit link builders or users more. Does the directory – like Yelp – provide a genuinely useful and engaging experience for visitors or would a genuine user be very unlikely to use such a site?
If the site offers real value to visitors then this should be seen as a good sign that the directory you have found could be beneficial for your campaign.
Submit Your Site
Once you’re confident that the niche-specific directories located during your search meet all of the relevant criteria the only other step is to get submitting your site, being careful to meet all the rules that such directories tend to set out.
Interviews can make great pieces of content.
They’re interesting to read or listen to, they’re relatively easy for the site in question to produce, and of course the person getting interviewed increases their visibility – and often lands a live link to their site too.
Little wonder then that bloggers and podcasters regularly interview each other.
Once you become established, you too can approach this tactic as a way to build high quality links to your site.
The Link Building Process
The process of building links is reasonably simple; just find the sites that are publishing interviews at present, then reach out to offer your services as an interviewee.
How to Find Interview Link Building Opportunities
In many cases finding people to interview is the hardest part of such a content type, so people approaching the content producer offering their services are often snapped up as interviewees.
There are two ways to find sites that are interviewing other bloggers.
Firstly of course being active in your niche will often surface opportunities as they arise. You’ll notice that a blog you subscribe to has suddenly started to publish interviews, or that an interview is shared on social media.
This is one of the many benefits of being truly engaged with your vertical, as you’re perfectly-poised to make the most of opportunities that competitors of yours might not notice.
Alternatively, as you might expect, we can use good old Google to help us source interview opportunities. Here are some sample search operators for use in your campaign:
Audit Your Interviewers
Once you’ve found these opportunities you’ll want to inspect each one closely. Make a fair assessment of whether the sites in question might be interested in interviewing you.
Also note the form of interviews – are these text-based interviews or podcast interviews? If the latter, does the interviewer provide a live link to their interviewees website?
If you’re able to answer “yes” then such an opportunity might just be worth pursuing further.
Here’s a sample email you can use for your initial outreach to interviewers:
Note: Some interviewers are willing to interview almost anyone, whilst others are looking for a “big hook” that will draw in readers/listeners.
Therefore consider what makes you and your site notable before approaching them. What’s your unique story or achievement that you can talk about in the interview?
Try including this in your outreach email for an even better response.
“As Seen In” Link Building
The concept of “As Seen In” link building is reasonably simple: numerous companies on the Internet maintain a list of websites and press articles in which they feature positively.
This serves as “social proof” for anyone considering doing business with them – you can click over from the “as seen in” page to dozens of independent, third-party reviews written by other bloggers. What could be better?
Of course, if you’re willing to write about these companies yourself then they might just add you to their “as seen in” page too – meaning a juicy link back for all your hard work.
The Link Building Process
Building links by creating content that features products isn’t always easy, and the impact of such a strategy can vary significantly by vertical.
In some markets, it is very unusual for a website to link out to reviews of their products, except perhaps if they’re on top-tier publications like the Wall Street Journal or the BBC.
In others, however, companies happily link out to even smaller blogs and publishers if the review that you write is positive enough.
The key is therefore to identify those companies which are actively linking out to mentions and reviews, then target these products.
Locating Companies That Link Out
Here a range of search operators will be beneficial:
Auditing Link Building Opportunities
Once you find a list of sites in your niche that have an “as seen in” page assess each one in turn to see what types of content and mentions they’re featuring on their page.
Produce Relevant Content & Outreach
Once you’ve got your eye in all you need to do is to create the content specifically to address that desire, then reach out to the company in question. Give them the link to your review and invite them to add it to their “as seen in” page.
An infographic is an image designed to display information in a graphical, easily-understood and eye-catching manner.
Thousands of companies have made such infographics in the past, which they then outreach to content-heavy websites, inviting them to publish their infographic on their blog, in exchange for a link back to the publisher’s site.
I’ll be honest from the outset here; I’m not a fan of infographic link building.
Over the last few years I’ve seen hundreds of SEO agencies overdo the concept, pretty much killing the impact of this strategy.
As a blogger at heart, I’m also part of a number of blogger groups, so I know from first-hand experience how sick bloggers are of receiving outreach emails about yet another “must see” infographic.
Most bloggers just straight-out delete such emails because they’ve been deluged for years by agencies.
It really doesn’t matter how great your infographic is; these days the response rates are pretty darn poor.
Oh sure, there are some people who claim that the secret is offering to write a unique guest post for each publisher, before including the infographic in the article. But under such circumstances why not just write the article itself, and dispense with the cost and time taken to produce the infographic?
As I think you can see, of all the link building techniques included here, it is infographic marketing that in my experience tends to be the least effective.
All the same, I have yielded some links from it, so I have decided to include it here in case you’re struggling to build links using the other strategies discussed above.
The Link Building Process
Successful infographic link building campaigns all starts with a winning idea. You’ll need to create an infographic that not only looks great but is also based around a topic that is of great interest to others.
The best infographics have a unique appeal to them; they reveal fascinating information in an easily-digestible manner.
Uniqueness is important, in my opinion, as is surfacing otherwise unknown data.
A poor idea for an infographic would be something too boring or commercial; examples might include “10 Ways to Choose a Damp Proofing Company” or “How to Identify a Genuine Dog Grooming Center”.
You get the idea; online business owners are all too quick to try and create infographics that they think directly serves their business need.
Instead, an infographic should ideally reveal and explain unique or interesting data that gets your target market engrossed.
So put your thinking cap on. What sources of data are available to you? How can this data be turned into an interesting, thought-provoking “story” in the form of an infographic?
At the same time, look for inspiration on ideas by using Pinterest or Google Images and searching for existing infographics.
A simple search for [your niche] + infographic should bring back a host of options.
Which ones work well? Which fall flat? Why? What design elements do you like?
Use these to help guide your first infographic campaign.
Let’s assume that after considerable thought and research you’ve chosen a winning idea for your infographic; you’re certain that it’s something that nobody in your niche has seen before and will appeal to a wide audience.
The next step is of course to turn your ideas into an infographic.
Here a warning is required. There are lots of apps and tools available that promise to help you design your own infographic from scratch “with no design experience”. Don’t believe them.
In the ever more competitive world of infographics something you knocked up in Microsoft Paint is unlikely to cut it.
You need a design that jumps out and immediately screams “read me!”.
The better your design, the more sites will be willing to publish it.
This means that unless you’re a highly experienced graphic designer you’ll probably need to outsource the design.
Even if you are an experienced designer you may still want to hire outside help, as creating a successful infographic is a very specialist project. I have seen numerous designers over the years produce less-than-stellar results despite years of working in digital and print media design.
So where do you hire an infographic designer?
Here there are plenty of options, depending on your budget. Personally I’ve tried an assortment of freelance designers from sites like Upwork, with widely varying results. So unpredictable are the end product that I have since experimented with alternatives.
Of these, I have personally found that 99 Designs tends to produce much higher quality and more predictable end results. It is now my infographic design service of choice.
Of course, if you have the budget there are even specialist graphic design agencies out there willing to design a professional infographic. Some will even come up with the idea and do the research on your behalf too, though you will of course pay for the convenience.
Using 99 Designs I expect to pay around $500 for a decent infographic; this is a link building strategy therefore that requires some serious upfront investment; especially if you’re a solo website owner rather than an established company with a decent marketing budget.
As a side-note, when hiring freelance designers it is critical to put together an extensive brief. The more detailed this is, the easier your designer will find it to create an image you’ll be happy with. Many such briefs of mine are several sides long, discussing the data to be presented, color schemes, designs I like (or dislike) and why. The audience I am trying to engage. And so on.
Don’t scrimp on the briefing stage or you may pay for it later on with a less-than-perfect design. Instead, try to offer as much guidance and direction to your freelancer as possible, to help give them the information they need to make your project a success.
Link Opportunity Sourcing
So, after some weeks of research and work you’ve finally got an infographic that you’re proud of. You’re certain that other websites will happily publish it. The question is: how do you find targets to approach?
Here there are a number of options.
I have personally had the greatest results by targeting websites that already actively publish infographics.
These sites understand the benefits of infographics and they’re familiar with receiving new infographics to consider. The response rates from targeting such websites therefore tends to be considerably higher than other methods.
For this reason, it can be smart to see what other infographics have done well, and who published them, before you even get to the design stage of your infographic.
I now only commission a new infographic when I have a list of potential targets ready to outreach; rather than realizing after the fact that nobody in my niche actually publishes infographics!
As an alternative, you can of course simply target content-heavy sites such as other blogs who have covered a similar topic in the past. For example, imagine that your infographic is entitled “25 Surprising But Scientifically-Proven Ways to Sleep Better”. In such a situation then targeting sleep-related blogs might be useful.
Alternatively you could look for more general blogs who have recently written about improving your sleep. We could encourage them to publish our infographic as a follow-up, or even to include it in their previous article as an added resource for readers.
Of the two techniques, while both can work with enough effort, targeting previous infographic publishers tends to be far more effective. The challenge is identifying such websites. The second technique of targeting more general sites can work, and finding such sites is far simpler with a few basic search operators.
As a result, let’s take a few minutes discussing methods you can use to find the best targets for your infographic; sites in your niche that have previously published other infographics…
Google Search Operators
Let’s start with the easiest way to find websites in your niche that are actively publishing infographics from other publishers: good old Google.
Possibly the easiest option here is is to simply search for some broad keyword phrases related to your niche and bolt the word “infographic” onto the end.
So we might have “dog infographic” or “sleep infographic”. This will normally yield at least a handful of options if infographics are being used as a marketing technique in your vertical.
Make a note not just of the webs pages where these infographics appear but also the specific URL of the infographic file itself.
Being a visual search engine, Pinterest can be a great way to find existing infographics. Carry out a similar range of broad searches as you did in Google, so start clicking through to the results that come up.
This will take you to a whole load more of pages with infographics on. Many of these will be the original infographic creator, rather than a third-party website happily syndicating it, but that’s fine.
Once again, make a note not just of the webs pages where these infographics appear but also the specific URL of the infographic file itself.
Once you’ve gathered a long list of websites using both Google and Pinterest we can now greatly expand this list to find where else these infographics appear…
When it comes to infographic link building Google Images can be one of your best friends. Firstly, of course, Google Images can be used just like Pinterest to source a load more web pages with niche-relevant infographics on them. However, there’s a second technique here which is far more exciting…
Grab that list of infographic URLs you’ve been gathering and enter them one-by-one into the Google Images search box.
What this does is surfaces a variety of web pages which feature each of the infographics.
Ignore Pinterest listings and instead look for actual websites. Add these to your list of opportunities.
Backlink Analysis Tools
It is traditional to publish your infographic on your own site before beginning outreach. In this way your target websites can easily see how attractive your infographic is before committing to publishing it.
When it comes to getting your infographic syndicated on other sites there are two schools of thought as to where you should link to. Some link builders like to link to their main site homepage, while others prefer to link specifically to the page on their site where the infographic was originally published.
That means that the page on the infographic creators site that houses their image may have links pointing to it from other sites that have published the graphic.
As a final method to expand your link building opportunities, try placing each of the URLs you have found into your favorite backlink analysis tool to see if any other sites link to the originating page.
Audit Your Link Prospects
Once you’ve gathered a list of websites that have published other infographics its time to audit your list.
Confirm that the infographic they have published wasn’t created by themselves; we’re looking for sites willing to publish infographics from third-party sources.
Also, take a quick look around at the quality of the sites you have found. Ideally we want our infographic published on high quality niche-specific content sites. Better to have our dog infographic published on a competing dog blog than it is to get it published on a site that publishes any old infographics, irrespective of niche.
Gather contact information and you’re ready to outreach.
Here’s a sample email you can modify for your purposes:
Image Link Building
One of the core concepts of white hat link building is offering value in exchange for a link back.
Perhaps our whole site is so valuable that other site owners willingly mention us on their resource page.
Maybe one of our articles is to useful that it is mentioned in a related content piece on another site.
Or perhaps we offer an interesting and well-written guest post to a relevant site.
One other way to offer up such levels of value is in offering images to other sites.
After all, we all need images to spice up our articles; what could be better than making images available free of charge for other sites to use as they see fit – in exchange for a link back as credit?
The nice thing about image link building is that it is one of the more scalable link building practices.
Once you’re setup you can let your images free on the Internet, and watch as various websites over time start to use them. While some outreach is often needed to ensure the credit link to your site is correct, unlike most other authority site link building techniques outlined here there’s little need for speculative outreach.
The emails you send will only be to websites already using your images, who have simply omitted the link to your site: every email you send is another potential link.
This makes image link building arguably one of the most efficient white hat link building techniques of all for bloggers, affiliate marketers and authority site owners.
A second thing I really like about image link building is that by default your link will be included within a valuable article, as this is exactly where images get used.
No more having the link to your site displayed on some page hidden deep in a site’s hierarchy; instead your link sits front and center in a piece of niche-relevant content. This therefore makes such links quite valuable to your campaign.
The Link Building Process
So how do we build high quality links with images? The first thing you’re going to need are a load of niche-relevant images. For this reason, some niches tend to be more appropriate for image link building.
Gathering Images for Link Building
If your authority site is all about Southeast Asian travel then there will be opportunities aplenty to distribute beautiful photos of Thai beaches, street food, well-known tourist sites like Angkor Wat and more. These are images that thousands of other sites may want to use sooner or later.
In other niches image link building may require a little more lateral thinking. If your authority website was about tooth whitening products then maybe you’d try to gather relevant dental-related images such as pictures of dental equipment, the inside of a dentist’s office and so on.
For a website about antivirus software the image options are even more limited.
You get the idea. The goal here is to gather images that are:
Niche-Relevant – You might think that using your Thai holiday photos might be fair game as a way to build links to your dental website, but I believe it is better to keep things “on topic”. So put some thought into the topic of your website and what types of photographs could be relevant to that niche.
Beautiful – It goes without saying that more attractive images or more likely to be used than ugly or blurry pictures. While you don’t need to be a professional photographer, try to think of the types of images that other sites might like to use.
Owned By You – Lastly, it isn’t enough to just buy photographs from royalty-free websites: these images need to have been taken by you (or your client) and be fully owned by you.
If, as suggested, you’re building a website around a topic that you are passionate about then consider going back through photos you’ve taken in the past to see if any are relevant to this technique.
If not, try to keep your smartphone on you at all times, and snap away regularly to build your “portfolio”.
Make Your Images Available
Once you have gathered the images that you’ll make freely available to other bloggers, you’ll need to ensure that they are easy to find and to use.
Possibly the easiest solution here is to upload them to Flickr, and make them available under the Creative Commons license.
In this way, anyone looking for free images to use on their website will easily be able to find and use your images.
For best results consider the following tips:
Optimize Your Images
The more people who find your images rather than any others, the more likely it is that your images will be used. And more images used means more potential links for you. It therefore makes sense to optimize your images as much as possible to increase their visibility.
Here there are some simple concepts to consider…
Image File Name
Include some relevant keywords in the filename of your image. For example, don’t upload that Thai beach photograph with a filename of 13434231.jpg but instead change it to something more useful. Calling it (for example) thai-beach-sunset.jpg increases the chances of your image ranking in Flickr.
The same goes for the image title when you upload it. Once again, try to mirror the keyword phrase used in your filename.
Don’t forget about your image description, which can include a longer block of keyword-rich text to help your image appear for a wider range of search terms.
Add an Attribution Link
When using Creative Commons images from Flickr users are required to include an attribution link to the image owner. In truth, most people using images from Flickr will simply link to your Flickr profile; however to get the best results possible from this technique we want them to link to your own website.
To help with this also include a brief snippet of text in your image description that requests those who use your image to link to your site rather than your Flickr profile page.
Most still won’t do this – but this is where our outreach comes in later.
It will take time for your images to start getting found by other website owners.
Depending on the niche of your website, how many images you have uploaded to Flickr and how well you optimized your images it is likely to take some weeks or even months before a healthy number of your images are used by other sites. The key here is therefore patience.
As a result, image link building can be seen as a “two stage” process.
Get all your images prepared and uploaded, then come back later to do your outreach. In the meantime you can carry out another type of link building or get back to producing content for your site. Some months later it’s time for the second stage…
Find Image Users
If we’re going to ensure that you generate as many links as possible using this strategy then we need to identify as many websites as possible that have chosen to use your images. We then want to check that each has linked appropriately to your website with an attribution link (which very few will have done).
Finally we contact each site using your images but not linking to your site, asking them to correct the link.
Firstly, of course, we need to find those sites using your images. For small-scale campaigns you can use Google Images to find your images on other websites. For larger-scale campaigns like Tin Eye can be very useful for quickly identifying your images on other domains.
So work through the images you uploaded to Flickr, checking whether they link to your website, and creating a spreadsheet of those not linking correctly. With this list in hand it’s time to start reaching out…
To secure as many links as possible from our images it’s now time to email any sites not properly attributing our links to our website. Here’s a sample email that you can use for your purposes:
Which Pages Should You Build Links To?
Hopefully in this section of the course you’ve started to see just how many link building techniques there really are in existence.
If you’re new to SEO then your mind may now be overwhelmed by all the opportunities.
Heck, if you’re not careful as an individual blogger or authority site builder then you could potentially spend so much time building links that you don’t actually have any time available to produce the content that is so critical.
Equally, some bloggers are so overwhelmed at all the possible link building avenues out there that they spend their whole life just writing content, always putting off link building for “tomorrow”.
As discussed previously in this guide, however, link building should be seen as a vital part of the authority site building process.
The trick is finding the right compromise.
For most of us it would be unrealistic to build links in this manner to every one of the hundreds of articles we have planned for our site – so what is a solopreneur to do?
In my opinion there are two solutions to this issue of content vs links. The first option is to factor some of the types of content that are rich for link building into your content calendar. Try the odd expert roundup or toplist, for example. Try to include outbound links in your standard content where relevant.
Just as importantly, however, at least a proportion of your articles should be “pillar articles”. It’s here that you can devote time to link building.
Perhaps you could write five “normal” articles in a row for your site, followed by one epic hero article, complete with a white hat link building campaign for it.
Once this is complete you simply move along to your next batch of standard articles.
Over time, your outreach will start to reap results. Those links and shares will start to propel your hero articles up the rankings – and to increase your traffic in response.
At the same time, your ever-growing site authority will help those standard articles to rank ever better too.
What About My Other Pages?
So, if we agree to focus your link building efforts either on your hero articles or more generally on the homepage of your site, what do we do with all those “standard” articles we’ll be publishing?
Do they just get ignored?
I would suggest that you implement a rather simpler form of content promotion for this articles, as opposed to ignoring them entirely.
Every article you publish should have some kind of promotion if it is to produce the maximum results possible. While you may not want to invest days of your life into trying to build links to these smaller articles, that’s not to say they should receive no promotion at all.
A simple content promotion campaign may simply involve the following steps upon publishing any article on your site:
- Create two unique feature images – one horizontal for Facebook and Twitter and one vertical for Pinterest.
- Share your latest article on you social media profiles.
- Queue up resharing at later a later date.
- Link to your new article from at least one other on your site.
- Send it out to your email newsletter subscribers.
- Post it to your push notification service.
When guest posting to build links to your hero articles, also feel free to include a second link to a relevant “standard” article on your site if it fits naturally.
The above is of course just a suggestion, and will vary by what you find works for your vertical.
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