Before digging into the granular details, let’s set the table a bit more.
There are ultimately two primary approaches to link building:
1. Link Attraction
As the name suggests, this model is all about creating quality content, publishing it to your website, and optimizing it so that it’s visible and shareable. The hope is that people discover your content – either via Google, social media, or other direct referrals – and that they, in turn, link to your content as well.
Link attraction is a reactive form of link building. It has its place, but it largely removes you from the process. If you (a) have little time/money to dedicate to link building, (b) are not in a hurry for results, and (c) believe in the quality of your content to stand on its own merit, this strategy works. If not, you’ll need a more hands-on approach.
2. Link Outreach
If link attraction is a reactionary approach, the link outreach method is about being proactive. The objective is to go out and “sell” your content, for lack of a better term. You do everything within your power to find people who are able to link back to your content and you persuade them to do so.
Link outreach takes a lot of time and can be frustrating at times. However, it’s like pouring gasoline on a few sparks – it causes embers to swell into powerful flames. And if you want to be successful with link building and SEO, you need flames.
4 Link Building Outreach Tactics You Can Use
Link building outreach – also known as manual link building – is a pretty broad category.
You understand the importance of doing it, but where do you start?
Here are the precise tactics and strategies that we’ve seen work wonders for clients, businesses, bloggers, successful SEOs, and industry-leading digital marketers:
1. Email Outreach
Email is a powerful asset for link building outreach – but it has to be used wisely.
Anyone who has the ability to link back to your website has an email account. In other words, you have a direct line to them. It’s all about how you use it.
There’s an art to email outreach and you have to spend time perfecting this skillset.
Cold emails without a strategic approach rarely, if ever, work.
You have to learn how to write good emails so that they’re (a) opened and (b) engaged with. (If an email doesn’t get opened and engaged with, it’s heading straight for the dreaded trash folder.)
When writing an outreach email, think about it from the perspective of the recipient. When they see an email come through their inbox, their brain intuitively performs a three-step evaluation process:
Who is emailing me? // Is this spam?
What does this person want from me?
How long is this going to take?
The average professional receives 120 new emails per day. They only respond to 25 percent of them. One would have to assume that the response rate for cold emails is far lower – perhaps in the 5 to 10 percent range.
To get a response, you have to get a passing grade on all three of these filters.
Brevity. People are overtaxed. Their time is precious and email is a huge time-suck. The best way to get engagement is to be brief. Your opening needs to be simple and extremely straightforward.
Blunt. Don’t beat around the bush or use a massive opening to slowly build up to your ask. Be blunt. This doesn’t mean be rude – it means be direct.
Basic. Keep it simple, silly. Stop with the images, bullet points, bold, italicizes, links, and graphics. As soon as someone sees all of this, their eyes glaze over and they immediately scan for what’s most important. Do them a favor and only include what’s important. They’ll read it all.
That’s sort of the template – or style guide – for writing outreach emails that get opened and engaged with. But how do you actually write powerful emails?
Here are some things to consider:
Personalize. Generic emails look like spam – even if you personally write each one. Use the person’s name and show that you’ve done your homework. This might look like dropping the name of a mutual connection or congratulating the person on a recent accomplishment.
Convey value. What’s in it for them? This is about you – show them that there’s value in it for them and you’ll have their undivided attention.
Be persuasive. Stop tip-toeing around and asking if by any chance, do you think, maybe, you would happen to have time to check out my blog post – just checking! How lame and weak is that? Use strong language: Hey. Check out this blog post today and get back with me by EOD. I have two ideas for how you can use it on your site.
This is just a very basic primer on how to handle email outreach. There’s so much more to learn. Do your research and commit to becoming a student of email communication. This is a transferrable skill that will serve you well throughout your life.
2. Guest Posting
Let’s talk guest posting (also known as guest blogging).
This strategy involves actually writing copy for an existing website or blog in order to generate backlinks and visibility.
Guest posting is a science – and it’s constantly evolving.
The best practices and tactics change every few months and the key is to stay on the cutting edge with your outreach tactics so that you’re getting noticed. But the underlying principles always hold true.
Here are some basic steps you’ll need to take to start using guest posting in your link building strategy:
Create a list. Start by compiling a spreadsheet of potential guest blogging partners. You can generate via personal experience (blogs that you know about and like) or by running Google searches for strings like [topic] + “become a contributor or [topic] + “guest post by.”
Generate content ideas. Once you’ve developed a list of potential guest blogging partners, do some research. Find out what kind of content their blog publishes, who their audience is, and the kind of headlines and topics they’ve accepted from guest authors in the past. Use this to come up with some compelling ideas that they’re likely to fall in love with.
Reach out. Now it’s time to reach out. Feel free to use some of the same tactics discussed in the previous section of this post. One key note, however: Go ahead and write the post before reaching out. You’re much more likely to have your pitch accepted if it’s already been produced.
Follow up. You won’t always get a response. Be tenacious (yet friendly) in your follow up. Set a reminder in your calendar and stay at it. Persistence gets posts.
Obviously, this is a 60,000-foot view of guest posting outreach. In order to be successful, you’ll have to zoom in and get very granular with each of these steps. But if you’re willing to put in the work, it can generate some pretty powerful and high-authority backlinks for your content.
3. LinkedIn Outreach
Email tends to be generic and spammy. People know this and have very little problem deleting emails without responding.
If you want to increase your open rates and get better responses, consider using LinkedIn. It’s seen as more personal. (And you’re less likely to have people delete your message without replying.)
Tips for LinkedIn outreach:
Ease in. Don’t immediately pitch someone after connecting. Show interest in them and build a relationship over many weeks and months. This is why it’s smart to always be building your LinkedIn network. Even if guest blogging is something you don’t plan to do for six months, you can start nurturing opportunities today.
Conversational. LinkedIn messaging is a lot different than email. It’s much more of an SMS format – which is obvious in the design and aesthetic. Keep it short, personal, and direct. Long paragraphs and lecture-style rambling won’t work.
Give, give, give. You have to give on LinkedIn way more than you take. This is why it’s important to build your network in advance. Offer value 10-times over before you ask for a request in return. (Offering value could look like sharing a post, commenting, or helping out.)
LinkedIn is wonderful because it’s targeted. People log on to the site because they’re focused. It’s a professional networking platform, which means, unlike Facebook or Instagram, people are willing to talk business. Use this to your advantage!
4. Pitching Journalists
This is the fourth and final tactic we’re going to discuss in this blog post. And it’s one that often gets overlooked.
Pitching journalists sounds like an outdated and archaic method – but don’t let that fool you. It’s actually one of the more powerful tools you have in your link building outreach arsenal.
Journalists are valuable for a number of reasons, but they’re especially helpful because of the exposure they promise.
If a well-known journalist – someone with thousands of followers/readers – is talking about you, a lot of people will hear about it. That’s why this method is about equal parts link building and PR.
The key to getting a journalist to write about you (or use your content as a resource) is to add value to them. Remember that they’re in the business of creating content, too. If you can give them a story that will resonate with their readers, you’ll have no trouble getting some links.
Be specific. Journalists and editors receive hundreds of pitches per week! Your email subject line has to spell out exactly what you’re offering.
Be relevant. Don’t email a sports journalist with an idea about healthcare or technology (or vice versa). Do your research and make sure you’re pitching ideas that fit.
Be available. A journalist is almost always going to want to interview you. If he senses that it’s going to take a lot of back and forth to get an interview scheduled, he’ll move on. Include a direct link to your calendar and tell him to book you.
The great thing about working with journalists is that you can quickly build up a network of people who can be tapped at any time.
Because once a journalist works with you and figures out you’re for real, they’ll be happy to partner on future projects. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
Partner With a Link Building Expert
Okay, here’s what you’re probably thinking:
“Those techniques sound awesome…
…but that sounds like a full-time job!
I’d love to implement two or three of these…
…but I have a dozen other responsibilities on my to-do list!”
You’re not the only one!
This is a common sentiment – and one that prevents most well-intentioned people from pursuing link building outreach.
But the good news is that you don’t have to actually do link building outreach in a manual capacity.
By partnering with a link building expert – or a reputable white hat link building service – you can automate link outreach.
This provides you with the best of both worlds: massive link building growth potential and minimal time commitment.
What are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves and get started today. (Better yet, hire someone else to roll up their sleeves.)
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.