When I started my full-time job at an SEO agency, my perception about “good” backlink building changed pretty quickly. Up to that point, I had only known things like article marketing, web 2.0’s, commenting, social bookmarking, and all the other forms of “spam building.”
A few years ago, they worked to a certain degree for low competition niches, but in today’s SEO landscape they do more harm than good – no matter the competition.
When I started building backlinks for high profile, big revenue clients, link building was done in a very different way. It was done through outreach.
And when I saw how effective the method was, I started applying it to my own blogs. Today, it’s one of the main ways I build backlinks to my authority sites.
Although there are many different forms and variations to outreach link building, I’m going to show you the simplest way that you can start doing today.
First, let’s go through what a GOOD link is…
In it’s simplest description, a good link is:
- On a REAL website.
- Difficult to get.
A backlink profile with backlinks that consistently meet these standards of quality is worth a lot of money. It’s sustainable, it’s difficult for competitors to replicate, and it’s POWERFUL.
Think of the link building that you are currently doing, or have done before to your blogs. Do the links you build fit that description?
It’s kind of disappointing to see that most link building methods discussed amongst new internet marketers are still:
- Built on weak, irrelevant web properties.
- As easy to get as ordering a link package.
- Extremely scalable, and can be automated with software.
These types of links, even if they might boost your rankings for a while, are short-term ranking links. They’re weak, they’re easily replicated by competitors, and because they’re scalable they have patterns that Google’s spam algorithms are able to detect and penalize.
The value of knowing how to outreach for links
Knowing how to outreach for links is an extremely valuable skill in the SEO industry. It is one of the main ways how link building is done at the top SEO agencies around the world.
If you ever apply for a job at a reputable SEO agency, knowing how to outreach effectively will stand you out from the crowd of applicants who only talk about commenting, software, link packages, and private blog networks when asked about building links.
Believe me, I’ve been on the other side of the table. While I wasn’t the one doing the decision making, I was able to participate during the interviews when we needed to hire a new SEO strategist… and everyone had no clue when it came to link building.
Of course, when doing outreach at an agency there are a lot of steps involved. Everything from using multiple different paid tools to finding link prospects, gathering the data into spreadsheets, and reaching out to them in an organized fashion.
But it’s not totally necessary to get that intense with the method for just link building to our blogs. I’m going to show you the basic way of the method, which is just asking and receiving.
How to ask and receive successfully
The most basic form of outreach is simply to ask for a backlink. You’re basically just emailing other webmasters and asking them to link to you — offering nothing in return (i.e. a guest post).
There are some subtle steps that make a world of difference in your success rate.
Here’s the (wrong) way that most people think of outreach.
Let’s pretend that I’m in the SEO niche.
My name is Chris and I run the website over at www.madeupwebsite.com. I am contacting you today to ask you for a link to my website.
I have some great tips on SEO and social media marketing, and I think it would be the perfect fit for your readers.
Would you please take a look at my website and link to it?
Please link to www.madeupwebsite.com using the anchor text, “best made up website”.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Would you reply to something like that? Would you make an effort to even check out their site and then link to it?
Neither would I.
I’m surprised that a lot of big blogs are still recommending emails like this for outreaching, when they’re SO INEFFECTIVE.
As a result, the general consensus on outreach is pretty negative. Most internet marketers think outreach is about spamming emails to webmasters… and it would be if you sent out emails like that.
It’s also not effective at all. You’ll get such a low response rate, it’s not even worth doing outreach if you do it like that.
Instead, here’s the right way to do it.
For your outreaching to be successful, you have to build at least a small form of connection to the webmaster you’re contacting.
Get personal, and never ask for anything in the first email.
Just read your article about the top 20 ways you can use Twitter to get links naturally. Great stuff, I had no idea Twitter was such a powerful tool for link building.
BTW, what do you think about Facebook? I’ve tried some similar things with Facebook and saw some good results, but not as great as I would like. Would love to get your thoughts on it.
Anyways, just wanted to reach out and say hello. Keep up the great work!
I didn’t ask him to link to my site. I didn’t even tell him I have a website.
All I did was praise his work, and use a question to encourage a reply. Not many people ignore emails that say good things about their work and ask for their expert opinion on a related topic.
When they respond, I usually like to go in for the ask.
Here’s what that email would look like.
Great points. Thanks a lot for the suggestions (responding to his answer to my question in the first email). I’ll be sure to try them out.
I actually just stumbled upon your site a few days, but now I’m a major fan and just spent the last few hours binge reading everything on your site, haha.
I also write about backlinking and social media strategies on my own blog, and recently wrote up an ultimate guide to Facebook marketing, www.madeupwebsite.com/facebook-strategies.
I spent a lot of time on it and I would love if you could check it out and give your thoughts on it? If you decided to share it with your own audience, that would be even more amazing 🙂 I really want to get this out there and help as many people as possible to see what Facebook can do for their businesses.
Anyways, thanks, John!
I appreciate the help and feedback.
The second email is when I usually go in for the ask. But notice how I don’t ask for a link at all. I ask for a share.
We’re in a world today where “sharing” is a common word and action. It’s part of our daily lives. And sharing is connected with “interesting” and “helpful.”
Asking for a share gets a lot higher success rate than asking for a link.
People know why you want a link these days. More people are aware of SEO, and you don’t want negative connotations on why you’re asking for a link from their site.
Instead, I ask for a share in a very non-aggressive way. All I do is ask him to take a look at it, and that if he decided to share it I would be thrilled. But notice my wording.
Every sentence is written with a purpose.
I also note that I want a share to HELP people. I make it clear that I want to reach as many people as possible in hopes that it will be of help to them. I’m not just looking for free traffic off their audience or a free link on their site.
Benefits of sharing
When you ask for a share, 60% of the time, they’ll also link to it on their blog. Sometimes you get both, sometimes you get only a share, and sometimes you get only a link.
Let them decide how they want to share it… “Hey can you share this on your Twitter account, and if not your Facebook page?… Of course, a link on your site would be the best :)” –> That just sounds weird.
If you only get a share and no link, it’s still a fantastic result. You get a sudden surge of traffic from the exact audience that you want reading your stuff. Also, it puts you on their radar so if they decided to link to a post in the future, it’s more likely to be yours.
Just taking a small extra step to create some personalization to your outreach strategy, you can vastly improve the rate at which you are able to acquire links through the method.
Does it take more time than methods like building web 2.0 properties and commenting? For sure. But is it worth the time and effort to go through the process for a single link or share? Absolutely.
The backlinks you get through outreach are going to be ones that actually make an impact in your rankings. It’s going to help establish your site’s authority. Best of all, they’re going to be long-term, powerful links that can’t be easily replicated by your competitors.
Although the method here is really basic, it’s still an effective strategy that works. If you take the time to network with others, you’ll find that outreach link building is fun, effective, and definitely worth the effort.
Read this next:
The Ultimate Guide To White Hat SEO Link Building – A 10,000 field guide to getting powerful white hat back links