As a leading link building agency, we usually come across clients with all sorts of link building requirements, from all around the world. Despite their diverse requirements, one thing always stands out – most clients don’t even know what a link audit is, let alone why it’s SO important!
There are many reasons for this. Some of them don’t know how Google treats and rates their links, while some – bouncing off dubious SEOs – have already paid the price for owning links that do more bad to their SEO than good.
If you’re a link building agency or a business looking to view a no-nonsense picture of your website’s link profile, link audit is the only starting point you should consider.
Why can’t we just build links to commercial pages?
This is a question we’ve been getting a lot recently, so instead of explaining one by one, we decided to develop this guide to explain in-detail the limiting elements around trying to build links to commercial pages directly. Although this isn’t impossible it does impact the volume and velocity of specific link building campaigns.
Tiered link building is essentially where you build links pointing to your site directly that act as a “tier 1”. Then in the same way you generate links to these tier 1 links themselves, these act as “tier 2”. You can build multiple layers or tiers.
The ultimate goal is to power up or strengthen your tier 1 links pointing to the site you are looking to rank.
Webmasters are seeing dozens of requests every week and it’s only increasing. They’re also starting to realise that they can earn a lot of money for a “sponsored” post or link insertions.
As a result, building out an in-depth, potentially profitable link building plan is pretty tough. In this post, we’re going to outline how we go about constructing a link building strategy and a 10,000-foot view of a successful campaign.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve received an increasing amount of questions around how we define website quality and determine the quality of a link.
The problem with this is actually the question itself.
These subjects of domain authority, link value and everything else associated with a site’s quality are very misunderstood. It’s the classic case of “a lot of people knowing a little bit”, which leads to some insanely dangerous misconceptions around what is actually going on behind the scenes and what links are really going to move your organic rankings needle.
In this post, we’ll be outlining what an authoritative website actually is, how you can determine the quality of a backlink, why metrics are very dangerous as well as our personal link valuing process checklist. If you have any questions or want to know how this process can help your organic ranking, do get in touch.
Not all links are made equal. There are dozens of different types of backlinks, all of which impact your site in multiple different ways. Some more positive than others.
In this post we’ll be breaking down the top types of backlinks for higher rankings as well as a start to end look at what links we build for clients and how we approach link building in general for great results. Any questions, feel free to get in touch.
Before we get started let’s clear up one obvious point: You need both.
For the greatest ROI from search engine optimisation rankings POV you need: great technical SEO, smooth on-page optimisation, great content, good site architecture, awesome UX and powerful, relevant backlinks.
If we were to look into the data and try to understand what’s more valuable or relevant to your certain business scenario out of on-page optimisation or link building – What would we get?
In this post I’ll try to build out a (slightly) unbiased argument for both. To start;
Why Are Backlinks So Important?
In short, they are the determining factor for the majority of competitive industries and keywords. Technical SEO and on-page optimisation can be improved to a certain point, but unless your website has “votes” of confidence from other powerful, relevant sites (links) then it’s never going to rank.
If you look at the SERPs for any high level keyword, let’s take “home insurance” for example as I love hyper competitive niches because they teach us so much about real SERP rankings and mistakes at this level cost millions not a few thousand.
If you have a look at this SERP the top 3 ranking results are almost identical from an title and URL optimisation point of view. URL’s are identical, titles are very similar with the primary keyword, CRO element and a branded part.
As well as this they also have very similar meta descriptions and similar schema with review mark-up in place. In short, they are pretty much identical.
Comparing Site Speed
Having a look into these 3 sites from a site speed optimisation doesn’t give us much to distinguish between them either – With Admiral being the slowest (interestingly they are the lowest ranked too). Screenshots from Pingdom.
As a result if the top ranking sites for these ultra high competition keywords are so similar, what has to be the determining factor? – Obviously it’s going to be links.
Interestingly in Ahref’s analysis of 2M keywords in 2016 they found very little correlation between on-page optimisation factors and organic search rankings. The SEO community didn’t actually take this all that well, but data doesn’t lie.
In our example of home insurance above we can see this is very similar, with an almost exactly aligned to overall DR (domain rating of the entire website itself), individual links to that page, individual referring domains to that page as well.
The number of keywords each page ranks for is always an interesting column too. This is in regards to Google’s hummingbird update a few years ago. This is why you see one or two URL’s dominate a SERP rather than multiple single keyword target pages. This is one of the reasons we advocate content domination pieces in our link building strategies rather than targeting hundreds of pages for your link building efforts.
The above screenshots are all from Google.co.uk search results for this keyword.
If we take a look at the search results from Google.com and hence the US version (for the same term) it shows a very similar scenario, in fact one that is almost identical.
So, in short if you’re going after a hyper competitive niche then links are and will always be (for the foreseeable future) the number 1 determining ranking factor (which is why it’s the only service we offer).
Less Competitive SERPs
Although the data is quite one sided when it comes to competitive niches and the on-page optimisation vs off page or link building argument. There’s one saving grace and that’s the less competitive serps (esp the local search results).
Moving into 2019 Google is starting to use DIFFERENT algorithms for each type of search. For example a massive national/international commercial search such as home insurance, online supplements etc is going to have a very different algorithm to the local search results.
For example, the below screenshot is for the keyword: plumber in London a very specific locationally service business keyword. As you can see the competition is a lot less but also doesn’t align as clearly as the larger national competition search terms.
This is due to their being other locationally ranking factors that are *generally* more granular in detail, I won’t get into local SEO in detail, although we have a good guide on local link building for anyone who is interested.
As a result – You want to always reverse engineer your competition before building out your search engine optimisation and link building strategies. If you are focusing on analysing national search terms for your local level marketing, this is a huge mistake that should be avoided.
I believe it depends on your budget and competition whether link building is the best investment for you or if you should invest into technical SEO and on-page optimisation instead. If you have the budget to target larger keywords and the cash flow to wait for the large ROI’s in the future, then link building is 100% the way to go for your particular business.
If you are just getting started and the website structure, site content and more needs some work then I’d say your best (both time and capital) investment is better off going into technical SEO and on-page optimisation.
Local SEO is a completely different process to ranking sites for national or international SERPs.
Locational relevance is more important than authority. If you want to see proof, just search “restaurant + City name” or “coffee shop + city name” in Google and check the results, mine are below but of course that will change for everyone.
As you can see, although these 3 coffee shops are great, they are all smaller chains or independents, with only 6 locations across the UK or, this is in fact their only store.
But, what does this tell us about local SEO & Local link building in general?
Locational relevance is super important! (Potentially more so than authority….)
The reasoning behind why Google would make this the case is quite obvious if you sit down and think about it (which I do because I’m that interesting.)
Therefore, if authority were a higher weighted ranking factor for local results, all we’d see in the local search results is Mcdonalds, Starbucks, Costa etc. But we don’t. So as a result locational relevance and locational trust, plays a larger impact on overall trust and authority. Which is good, otherwise we’d live in a world of monopolies.
Searching the above example in my current location, I’m actually closer to both a Starbucks and a Mcdonalds than two of these results featured above. Which is positive as confirms this locational relevancy and trust theory.
Another element Google probably strongly knows is that massive brands have their own search volume, meaning if they were to weight branded search, UX signals and authority signals more highly, we’d only see 3 different Starbucks inside a search result…. That’s not only not all that relevant but it’s also not a great user experience for the searcher themselves.
Local Link Building – How To Merge Local SEO & Link Acquisition For Incredible Results
Link building itself comes down to 5-6 baseline strategies which others can spiral off from depending on the niche, competition, site itself etc.
For local link building these are refined to 2-3 strategies of which we’re going to outline our 2 most popular and effective we use in house to build great links on the local level in relatively quick time.
Local Content Curation & Digital PR
Of all the strategies across all types of link building (local, ecommerce, saas, national etc) – This single strategy is one that’s underused the most across the board. The reason for this is mainly due to the fact many small business owners (local business owners) do not have the knowledge or time to implement digital PR or content marketing campaigns, and hence don’t bother.
Because digital PR and content marketing campaigns drive the bottom line. The reason why these strategies are so important on the local level is that they are not implemented by your competitors, meaning you’ll have an instant edge in all your marketing. Being featured in local press will also massively increase overall exposure of the brand, as well as overall trust of said brand.
The problem with digital PR on the local level (for the majority of businesses) is simply your business is not interesting enough to generate mentions in press. Sorry but it’s true! Unless you’re in a very specific niche it’s unlikely you’ll “naturally” generate any press coverage. But you can leverage the strategies mentioned later in this post to help (donations, sponsorship etc) but for the most part, it simply isn’t possible to get mentions unless you do something press-worthy. This is why the content curation digital PR process that we’ve built is one of the most efficient ways to generate massively powerful editorial links on a predictable, repeatable basis. The strategy is outlined below.
Stage 1: Building Out The Local Content Asset
The one example I’m using in this stage is unique to our city (Cardiff, UK) but the principles can be taken out and applied worldwide. In this specific scenario, this company didn’t implement stage 2-3 at all and hence left a lot of potential exposure, links and sales on the table. I actually purchased this exact product for a present and built out a strategy for another client that worked just as well in a slightly different niche and by implementing the stage 2 and 3 as well, we saw dozens of powerful links and some great ranking movements.
The example in question can be seen here. In short it’s a simply graphic/map style display that has been creatively built out to display the top pubs/bars in Cardiff in a London Underground style map layout. The post is copyrighted but if you want to purchase the poster itself, hit the link above.
Looks cool, but what has this got to do with local link building or marketing in general?
These content assets are some of the most potentially valuable pieces of marketing material a business can own.
Above is a great example of one that (if built by a Cardiff business, or even a pub on the list) would result in a massive amount of press (and hence revenue) and also a massive amount of links (hence increased organic rankings, hence increased revenue).
Best of all, these marketing strategies are totally natural and non-obtrusive. Much better than offering discounts, buying print advertising, billboards or banner ads.
Building this content isn’t the easiest part as you have to understand PR, content marketing and content curation processes. But, saying this, a good place to start, is to determine what has worked for other companies in other cities. AKA reverse engineer what’s already working. Or look into what larger brands are doing in the same niche.
I could write another 3,000 words on the content curation process but I don’t want this to get out of hand, instead here’s a mini checklist of ideas and tips to help you build a piece that will give you the best ROI:
Simple & Clean.
Mainstream appeal (not too technical.)
Related to your city.
Once you have your piece ready/being designed, it’s time to build the prospecting lists.
Stage 2: Building Out The Media & Non-Media Prospects List
The media list is going to be the journalists, editors and influencers who have access to local media outlets that you’d like to get featured in. These can be relatively small (depending on your city) but the goal should be to build a list of 30+ journalists/contacts that if they liked your piece (which by researching what they like we can confirm they would) would feature it in a post on an editorial or authority site.
Finding these media lists is the tough part, unless you have £500/month to spend on databases like Muckrack or Gorkana.
Assuming you don’t have access to these, simply taking advantage of Twitter’s search features is the best way to go. Looking for specific editors/journalists or contributors to specific publications. You can also do this by looking through the specific authors/contributors page of the specific publication you want to get featured on. But building up these lists are essential to the whole process working well.
The great thing about local content curation campaigns is that it doesn’t have to just be about generating local press. Instead you can actually contact the businesses (in the above example this would be the pubs featured on the list) and ask them if they’d like to mention your piece of content (social or a link) – The response rates are great because the piece is so interesting, creative and unique! The best part is, if you’ve featured dozens of pubs/bars on the list, that’s dozens of relevant link opportunities!
Other link opportunities can include:
Other local businesses in sub-niches (In our example; restaurants etc).
Stage 3 – Outreach & Link Acquisition
Stage 3 involves the actual outreach for the link. In this stage the pitch is very important. This is something that you should constantly tweak and should vary from niche to niche.
Building rapport first and pre-outreach does work incredibly well. So for example (generally only for the media prospects) – Implement a pre-outreach around 1-2 weeks before the piece goes live, and ask them if it’s something they’d be interested in. If you get a positive response you know you have a good percentage chance of generating press with this piece in the future.
The outreach itself should be short, to the point and talk about what the person on the other end is going to get out of it.
Remember, nobody cares about you!
Instead if you talk about how this will go city-viral and generate massive amounts of coverage for that specific publication that features it and/or the journalist, they’ll bite your hand off to take it.
For the non-media outreach, you want to implement slightly different strategies, usually a more person focused approach but with the ultimate goal of generating the link placement. An example script is below.
It might make a great addition to your blog and get you some good exposure too, would be happy to write a little bio/introduction to go along with this if you like?
Do not underestimate how insanely powerful this technique works on the local level. In many cases it works better than the national/international version because you have 1000 times less competition.
Finally for this technique remember to integrate an unlinked mentions campaign – This is where your brand/specific piece of content was featured but was not linked. Again, you can do this by leveraging advanced search operators inside of Google.
Leverage this and let me know how the results go, or get in touch if you’d like us to build this strategy out for you.
Sponsorship, Charities & Scholarships Link Building Technique
Truth be told these are actually 3 separate strategies, but as I mentioned above there’s 2 core strategies we’ll be focusing on today and this is the second.
This strategy itself leverages the “I have no time but some cash flow.” Unless you are very very early days you should be able to leverage one of the time or money currencies that you have as a business. The first is very much weighted to investing a lot of time upfront, this one will still need some time but when you get creative and use the hacks we talk about below to streamline the campaign, it makes this a lot less time-intensive.
Here’s the three strategies in detail.
Sponsorship link building, as it sounds, involves going out and finding sponsorship opportunities relevant to your city. This is actually alot easier than you think and if you’re already involved in a sponsorship type relationship, or have the potential to be, then I’d recommend leveraging these first, to get a win-win-win out of it. If you don’t have any of these connections available to you, then I recommend building out the below strategy.
Part one involves finding relevant prospects, to do this we just need to use an advanced search operator inside of Google. We’re only going to be using two simple ones today and these are: inurl:sponsorship “City name” and intitle:sponsorship “city name”. I’d also actually recommend tweaking the term “sponsorship” to “sponsor” and “donate” and other variations which you can see as you go along. Below is what it should look like inside Google.
The reason why we use the advanced operators intitle: or inurl: is because if we were to just search “sponsorship” “city name”, the results are far too vast.
Once we have our SERPs open for our city, we’ll have a list of potential prospects to outreach to. The next stage is the time consuming one and one I’d recommend you outsource to a team member if possible.
This involves building an excel of all the potential sponsorship opportunities. There’s a 4-stage checklist (explained in detail in the next part of the post) we use to help us gauge the quality of the opportunities. We use Ahrefs site explorer for this amongst other things, but this checklist is explained later.
Although it’s important to prospect sites and only keep ones that have some authority and quality, you should also be aware that when it comes local link building you should have your cut-off metrics a lot lower than if it were a national or international site. The reason? Hyper local links are super-underrated. Meaning they are worth a lot more to you and hence should be kept on prospecting lists.
A Quick Note About Hyper Local Links
A hyper local link is one that’s extremely relevant to your specific city (or even a suburb in that city) but doesn’t carry a lot of authority. If you look at Domain Ratings or Domain Authority it would likely be extremely low and if you only looked at these metrics, you’d miss hundreds of great links from them being not “powerful” enough. Massive mistake on the local level, because as we know from the very start of this post = Locational relevancy & trust ranks sites.
Once we’ve developed a list of potential sites that pass the local site quality checklist (process explained in detail below) – It’s time to move onto the outreach stage.
For sponsorship sites this is actually pretty easy as most of the time you’ll actually be doing this other sites/business/club/team a favour by helping them out by purchasing something AKA sponsoring. But we want to get the most bang-for-out-buck when it comes to advertising and also avoid the obvious paid-linking elements, although this are 99% misconceptions anyway.
You should also have a budget in mind too, as some of these sites are large organisations where sponsoring will set you back £10,000+/year. You’ll of course get some great incentives and these will likely be tax write-offs but there are also great opportunities for good links around £100/year too.
To see some price lists you’ll likely have to call/email someone. This usually means the pricing is going to be on the more expensive side, just something to bear in mind. One of the top examples had this call to action to receive pricing or more information about sponsoring the event. The obvious thought process here is; if you have someone solely dedicated to gaining sponsorship, you better believe they are going to be expensive.
If you’re into a specific sport, event type or music – Feel free to sponsor these as you will likely receive a lot of perks and you can benefit both on the front and back end from your sponsorship then too.
Pro tip – Sponsor Junior Teams For Discounts
For those on tight local link building budgets, the answer is junior teams/events. As you might expect there’s a lot less support for junior teams than full professional leagues. But these sites are usually extremely hyper-local. Meaning a few links from these will increase your locationally relevancy and locationally trust massively.
For these utilise the advanced search operators as mentioned before but then add very specific types “junior football” “junior music clubs” etc. Below are two examples we found in less than 30 seconds.
From here, simply reach out to these people, get a quote and make your decision. Next up on our local link building strategies is Charities.
Charity Link Building
As mentioned with the sponsorship elements, charities work in much the same way. On the national level, donations to be featured on the site are usually too high, but on the local level you can donate to these charities and receive a lot of positive press exposure (which could potentially generate even more links) and also you’ll receive a direct link from the charity itself in most cases for only a corporate donation.
The charity link building strategy itself is almost identical to the sponsorship strategy above, as most charities are looking for donations but you just have to ensure it’s corporate donations with the incentive of being mentioned on their site. Note: Some people might think this is unethical, I’m just mentioning the strategies that work. What I’d personally recommend is prospect a list of 10+ charities with donations in your budget range and research which is closest to your heart or you’d like to donate to the most. Then move forward with those ones.
For this I’d recommend simple operators “charity” “city name” and also looking on your local charity directories. If you have a specific affinity to a particular type of charity you can also use the search feature of these sites to narrow down your search.
Once the search is complete you’ll have a list of real charities you can help, in our example above this returned 2,500+ results (not sure if that’s correct) but either way we have a huge list of charities and link prospects we can now donate to and get a link in return for helping. In my opinion it’s the highest type of marketing synergy.
As you might imagine when reaching out to charities you need to have a little softer approach, at the end of the day if you don’t get the link, going back and saying “Hey you didn’t link to us after we donated” is a little bit of a d*ck move. Instead just increase your donation size in the future, but pre-position this with “Hey, we’ve loved to get featured on your site with a link back to our company domain, do you have a donation package for this?”
Scholarships link building
Something that SEO’s and link builders worldwide almost ruined for real businesses because they tried to do this cheaply and unethically.
If you are considering a scholarship link building campaign (which you should) then please have a real scholarship you are offering, not a fake one with the only goal to generate links….
Offering a £1,000+ a year or every 6 months is a tiny amount to pay if you can generate some powerful links from local educational institutions. And the added benefit is you genuinely help people in the process. Similar to the above charity based linking strategies this is a win-win-win for all involved.
These educational links are generally seen as being some of the most powerful links businesses can generate, so spending a little more time on this strategy wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Stage one of this strategy would involve building a page on your website where you are advertising the scholarship. This would contain all the information about the scholarship itself. You can see an example of 1st Formations page here.
If you look at the quality of sites linking to this 1st formations page, you can see how effective these strategy can be:
Dozens of .ac.uk links with DR’s of 75+.
These are incredibly powerful sites that you can link from, if you can get links from your educational facilities near you (locally) this effectiveness is tripled.
You can find Universities, colleges and schools that link out to external scholarship pages by either:
Searching yourself with advanced search operators. site:.ac.uk for example. Or;
Reverse engineering competitors (such as the above example.)
This technique is incredibly effective for generating links that are in the top 0.01% of all links you can get to your site. As a result your site’s trust (and hence rankings) will increase massively.
Remember you can tweak any niche to angle to a scholarship approach, not business or technical skills but also any business. Even if you own a small business in a very generic niche, you can create an angle around supporting students looking to advance this industry, or that the scholarship is only available for one niche/course type. Creating the angle is the easy part, but please ensure you actually follow through with the scholarship (and ask for a recording from whoever you did). This massively increases trust and hence will result in more links in the future.
Get On The Phone
This is a strategy 99% of digital marketers won’t implement, mainly because they are all introverts. But, getting someone on the phone and asking about what you are specifically looking for – Whatever local link building strategy that might be, is one of the most efficient ways to actually build links. Tonality and confidence come across over the phone, whereas this can be lost in an email, especially if there are technical elements involved.
Local Site Quality Checklist
When it comes to link building strategies of any sort, the key is to understand what you are looking for from the site. How authoritative, how relevant and essentially how valuable a link from this site would be.
To do this we need to determine the quality of these sites in a quick manner. In-house we do this through a quick checklist and common sense having probably reviewed over a million sites internally.
The checklist is below, feel free to use this yourself and add/tweak where you feel needed
Is the site still live & active? – Was there a post within the last 2 months.
Is the site designed well? – For local sites “well” can be reduced to “just OK” usually.
Does the site have any authority? – Brand new sites or very low quality ones are just not useful.
Does the site have locational relevancy? – Does it rank for local keywords?
The 30 Second Site-Check Process
Once you’ve learnt each part of the checklist you’ll be able to run through each new site in less than 30 seconds, but for this example I wanted to expand on each point:
Site Live, Active & Designed Well?
Very simply to check, simply go to the site and have a look around for 10 seconds. Is the site updated regularly? Does it look like it was built this millennium or in the 90s?
To gauge authority simply go to Ahrefs and put the site into site explorer. You should see some sort of data here, if this is blank or a referring domains of less than 10 I’d remove the site and move straight on. Although do remember the hyper-locational point mentioned earlier in the post.
If the site doesn’t have much authority but you think it might still be a good prospect, the best way to confirm whether they should be kept or removed from your prospecting list is whether the site has good locationally relevancy. A good test for this is to take a look at the blog post titles of the last 10-15 posts and determine if they talk about your city/location. If they do not and are more geared to general topics, then it’s probably not worth approaching. If they do and contain external links to businesses in your specific location then they’d be a good link prospect.
In an example of a Cardiff based food and travel blogger Hungrycityhippy (screenshot below)- you can see multiple mentions of the city “Cardiff” throughout the content. This shows that the blogger/site is locationally relevant.
Local link building is an incredibly high ROI marketing activity that all locationally relevant businesses should be integrating into their strategies. Aside from the obvious benefit of getting featured in local press, local businesses and generating buzz around your products or services, local link building also in one of the largest local SEO ranking factors in 2018 and will continue to be in the future. If you have any questions about local SEO or would like to request a local link building proposal, please feel free to get in touch.
The higher you rank in Google, the more money your business will generate.
Powerful Links rank websites.
We generate these links for clients worldwide.
Below outlines exactly how we do this.
Stage 1 – Content Curation, Strategy & Campaign Building
It all starts with something of value.
We call this content, but realistically it can be anything from your brand itself, a founder, a tragic event or a funny video. For the purposes of this process we’ll refer to any of these as “content”.
Content is something that’s hosted on a client’s website that we work with your initial content team or directors to build that adds value to a visitor. When a visitor feels as though they’ve received value, two things happen.
They are more likely to buy.
They are more likely to link and/or share.
Both are incredibly important KPI’s.
Working closely with a brand-new client we decide a piece of content to achieve both. Content remember isn’t some 500-word thrown together blog post; content is something that is interesting, noteworthy, linkable and shareable, that if seen in a printed magazine or newspaper, would force-the-read, not because it’s so controversial but because it’s simply too interesting, useful or targeted to you as an individual for you to just scroll or flick on from.
This is obviously essential as the more interesting, unique and link-bait worthy this piece of content is, the more press media placements it will generate, as well as the easier it will be to generate links from other strategies.
Your content should force-the-read. – Tom Buckland.
Part 1.1: Content Audit, Topic Creation & Leveraging Data
Part 1.1 of the content curation technique involves building the overarching strategy for the campaign.
What single piece of content will we be using to leverage our outreach and force-the-read, ensuring potential link prospects and customers take note.
This is one of the most important stages in the entire campaign. Getting this part correct results in potentially dozens more links and mentions later down the line, which can result in tens, if not hundreds of thousands in additional revenue.
Part 1.1 of our process involves analysing the current content on a client’s site.
When we do this, we’re looking for one of three things;
Link worthy content that already exists.
Content or pages that are generating links naturally already.
Interesting/close enough data/content that can be tweaked instead of entirely rebuilt from scratch.
During the content audit & on-boarding process, we work very closely with the client’s internal content or marketing team to determine the perfect content piece.
Taking a piece of content from “good” to “incredible and link worthy” is a lot quicker and easier than building a new campaign from scratch. As a result during the content audit we always look for pieces that are already good that can be built into authority pieces that are link and news worthy.
Two elements that work incredibly well are:
Leveraging data driven content pieces (interesting infographics, educational videos etc)
Reverse engineering a technique or piece of content that worked well in a different vertical/niche and replicating the campaign.
All these elements from; competition analysis, reverse engineering what already works in an industry, cross-vertical aligning (taking something that works in one industry and moving it into another), content exploring and more allow us to build a content topic that we know before even starting will result in links from press, authority media and multiple dozens of site owners worldwide.
Once this is selected, we move onto part 1.2.
Don’t reinvent the wheel just realign it – Anthony D’Angelo.
Part 1.2: Content Selection & Design Plan
Selecting the specific content medium to be used and integrating this into a design & development plan. Part 1.2 runs alongside stage 2 entirely as content development can take between 14-30 days depending on the size and scope of the project, although in many cases the content development phase does take less than 10 days.
Once the content is being produced we move onto stage 2 & the prospecting, initial outreach & rapport building strategies.
Stage 2 – Influencer, Journalist & Link Opportunity Scouting
Stage 2 involves finding the specific people & sites that would be the perfect fit for our piece of content. This may be the site itself but what generally works better is finding specific writers, influencers, journalists and bloggers who are respected in an industry.
These influencers tend to have a larger, more dedicated following and will result in a higher amount of referral traffic in the long run too, and of course a high proportion of great links.
For example, if you were in the soccer industry, you may want to get in touch with a sports writer/journalist that has developed a following for a specific team:
Here is his Twitter profile:
As you can see, he has gathered quite the following, who will get all the latest news about this particular club. If we were looking for high quality links in this niche, he would be great to contact.
These principles are applied to all business sectors and niches.
During stage 2 we also build out paid advertising campaigns as part of the link building strategy itself. Without getting into too much depth as the full blog post is linked above, this simply involves getting the initial word out on Facebook, Instagram & other paid advertising channels for three core reasons.
It naturally gets picked up and linked to.
Gains social traction; shares, likes, comments etc.
Click through traffic from social is an up and coming ranking factor and hence will help long term rankings.
Brand awareness & sales through from those click-throughs.
Social proof we can use in our pitches to both media and non-media lists to increase conversions (below).
Stage 2.1 – Developing The Non-Media List
Stage 2.1 involves prospecting the non-media list. What this means is the potential sources, influencers and bloggers that are not on larger news-based sites, but instead own their own web properties. This may be specific bloggers in an industry, specific articles that are highly aligned to our content piece or even just websites that are smaller in size and authority but are extremely relevant to what we are building.
Stage 2.2 – Developing the Media List
A very resource intensive part to the campaign, the media list development stage involves determining the best journalists and mainstream influencers to reach out to and more importantly why and how to do so.
Our outreach works because we spend an incredible amount of time personalising our outreach strategies to each individual journalist and not simply sending generic emails to thousands of unrefined prospects. We want to build relationships and rapport with these contacts, building longer term relationships which we can leverage into the future for existing and new clients. This adds value to both the journalist and to the client.
The best way to establish rapport with people and to win them over to your side is to be truly interested in them, to listen with the intention of really learning about them. When the person feels that you are really interested in getting to know them and their feelings, they will open up to you and share their true feelings with you much more quickly – Jack Canfield.
During stage 2.1 and 2.2, in a lot of cases we’ll have an initial outreach to the journalist simply adding value and not requesting anything. This might be sending a sincere email or tweet about their specific content and how we found it valuable/linked to it (this is actually a very specific sub strategy we use).
It may also simply be sending another post online we think they might find useful based on their previous posts.
The entire goal of stage 2 is to prospect and build rapport with relevant contacts which we can get in touch with at a later date, once our specific content has been completed from stage 1.
This is a very different way of working than more time-sensitive link building campaigns, which is why we run other link building strategies alongside our core digital PR campaign (stage 3.1).
Stage 3: Link Outreach & Press Placements
Part 3.1: Outreach & Link acquisition of non-media based backlinks
Part 3.1 involves leveraging our content piece and previous relationships with non-media-based contacts to generate powerful, relevant links outside of press.
These links are incredibly powerful and move the organic rankings needle very quickly when implemented correctly. We have outlined these strategies in multiple posts on our blog. If you’re looking for any more information about those specifically, feel free to get in touch.
Reaching out in the correct way to your media list contacts. Something that businesses, link builders and even PR professionals across the world get wrong all the time.
The key here is to simplyaddvalue.
Journalists, editors and site owners care about one thing above all else, and that’s pageviews & CPM. The more views and money you can drive to these sites, the more responsive they’ll be to your pitches now and especially in the future (making the process replicable).
Leveraging this, we can reach out to journalists in such a personalised, value-added way that we chat to multiple on the phone, meet in person (always buying the lunch it seems) and just building these relationships to the point where our team are now friends with these influencers, this of course allows us to utilise the age old adage, creating a win-win-win relationship for agency-client-journalist relationship.
People do business with those they know, like & trust – Bob Burg
Part 3.3: Ongoing outreach, rapport building & Campaign Tweaking
During the outreach stages themselves, specific issues or element can change and vary. Occasionally campaigns are tweaked mid-outreach to change the overall pitch dynamic. This is done to improve conversions of email pitches when something seems off during the process or conversions are lower than expected.
These are continually tweaked during the entire campaign to deliver the best ROI for the campaign’s investment.
Part 3.4: Virality Attempts
In select cases we’ll run a 3.4 stage to the campaign.
This occurs when content is gaining specific traction and attention in specific mediums that virality is very close. If this is the case, you’ll see referral traffic and link figures start to increase exponentially from a couple of dozen links for the average campaign, all the way up to hundreds in some cases as content becomes viral.
This is always the overarching goal of a campaign but given the nature content needs to be in very select circumstance, many businesses do not want to add a controversial or potentially brand damaging element to result in an exponential increase in links. This is something that will be covered in the onboarding process.
Stage 4: Campaign Review, Analysis & Re-Sign Up
Stage 4 involves analysing the entire campaign. What major links were achieved, what went well, what went not so well and analysing the overall success of the campaign. We’re 100% transparent with how we work and do not defend poor performance. In some cases, campaigns flop but in 92% of cases since the start of 2018 we’ve helped our clients generate at least 30 links within a three-month campaign period, 20% of which have come directly from editorial media.
Investment & Contracts
One full campaign structure from stage 1 to 4 takes 12 weeks. As a result, all campaigns are built on a 3-month contract with investments starting at £3,000/month. All content, design, development, outreach, project management & link acquiring costs are included in this fee.
Request A Campaign
We’ve helped brands worldwide rank for some of the most competitive niches and would love to help you 10X your business through smart digital PR and link building. Click the button below to start the process. We look forward to working with you.
When reads increase based on the number of clicks generated, earnings increase… So clickbait is here to stay!
But what about link bait? What is it? And should we be using it?
What Is Link Bait?
Link bait or link baiting itself isn’t overly negative, although it has negative associations. Link baiting simply involves creating a piece of content with a highly clickable or “linkable” element. This usually contains a controversial comment, piece of data, conclusion or any other curated content piece that if mentioned on another site, would need to link back for reference. Image source.
Link Bait Examples
A Quick Case Study
An example of a link bait piece (despite probably not meaning to be) was Ahref’s million site analysis. As Ahrefs has this big data already it was relatively easy for them to build this data out into a content piece that can generate links and mentions for the business.
In essence the article talks about how on-page is over valued by the SEO community and there’s a lower correlation to on-page and keywords on a page by page basis and the rankings of those pages. You can read the full study here.
Although creating data pieces does attract links very well, link-baiting is taking this a step further. Ahref’s example is a very tame version of this and it’s something everyone should be implementing into their marketing strategy. As we all know, good PR generates great links, so if you can build something that is link worthy and add a click-bait element, you have… link bait.
As you can see this one post by Ahrefs generated 700+ links and almost 350 links from unique referring domains. That’s a pretty successful link building campaign. And although there were a lot of SEO’s who didn’t like the study, they would still link to the piece as reference. Hence why link-baiting pieces don’t always have to be positive.
One of the reasons it worked so well was unlike an infographic or a content piece, this was actually interactive. Meaning users had to come to the site to use it. This meant all sources that referenced this had to link otherwise it sounds very bizarre, mentioning something but just saying it’s here (which a lot of editors and journalists do). This led to a lower number of unlinked mentions and some awesome links as well.
30,000 backlinks and over 1,600 referring domains later, this was a link bait and content marketing piece of epic proportion. Getting links from multiple news sites, charities and ironically SEO and link building blogs that would mention the post as a how-to-do-it-right type reference…. Which is of course what we did here.
Link Bait Case Study 3 – Controversial Pieces
Building a controversial angle in your link building (especially in some niches *politics*) can result in an insane number of powerful links. This is due to 2 obvious psychological factors when someone is considered an “underdog”.
The first is they want to be seen as being everywhere, so they’ll syndicate your content and opinions usually regardless of their validity. Secondly, because the controversial piece is usually focusing on a positive of the underdog or a negative of the favourite, the piece has the potential to go viral being supported by the (more active) fans or supporters of the other side.
And if you can add some kind of data into this, then the story has the potential to go viral and generate hundreds of links very quickly. The example that springs to mind for this type was the US presidential race & Donald Trump.
Without getting into details as I’m sure the importance of content in political races is pretty clear nowadays, this quote below by scripted shows how valuable this free press was for him.
Regardless what you think about the individual candidates and companies involved in these strategies, it’s clear they work incredibly well for generating links, mentions and exposure for their brand.
How We Can Leverage Link Bait For Powerful Backlinks & Digital PR Placements
At Ghost Marketing we use a simple three stage process to implement these campaigns.
Content Campaign Creation – Decisions on how & what content to use in the campaign.
Rapport Building & Prospecting – Who, once the content is complete, would be most relevant to distribute and link it.
Outreach & Connection – Simply taking stage 1 and handing it to the people we’ve spoken to in stage 2… Simple… In theory.
We’re going to break down each point below.
Stage 1 – Content Campaign Creation & Development
Everything starts with having something of value.
95% of the time this is going to be a content piece designed by either our agency or the client we’re working with. But in other cases we may be able to leverage an influencer inside the company to use as the value element. For example a company founder that can leverage their knowledge and authority to implement a podcast or expert round-up style strategy. But for 95% of companies this is not the case, so we have to stick with content curation.
There are multiple types of content that work incredibly well for this process, but some work better than others. Below is a small list of types of content that tend to work best for link baiting campaigns.
Data & graphics
Polls (Which then become graphics)
Interactive content (maps, graphs etc)
There are dozens of types of content that work for this method but the ones that aren’t extremely resource heavy to build are: articles, data, infographics and polls/quizzes.
As we’re targeting very large broad link prospects here (high authority sites) we’ll have to keep the content relatively concise and easy for the semi-educated user to understand. The reason why Ahrefs case study mentioned above didn’t generate more links from press is simply because it’s not something that the average non-SEO person would find interesting, although us link building nerds loved it.
Stage 2 – Rapport Building & Prospecting Journalists
This stage isn’t actually necessary if the content is good enough to go straight to stage 3, but in most cases we’ll want to build a relationship with influencers in their market before saying “can you link to our stuff.” To increase conversions.
We also want to add as much value as possible upfront. If we can help journalists and busy editors upfront stating errors or helping them in some way. When we come with an offer that actually helps them sell more AND allows us to leverage the reciprocation rule, it’s a win-win, and we get those sweet links too.
This involves leveraging multiple PR based tools but instead of using them as journalists or business owners do, we simply want to build the relationship upfront. It’s as easy as that.
In terms of who to prospect for your specific piece of content, you can again find different softwares that can help but honestly there’s 3 techniques that will give you more than enough high level prospects.
Reverse engineer your competition.
Use Google & Twitter with search operators to find important journalists in your niche/area.
Ask your network
Stage 3 – Outreach & Link Acquisition
Stage 3 involves the promotion of the piece of link bait content.
This (if you’ve done stage 2 well) should be relatively straight forward. You simply approach influencers and journalists in your niche that would find your content interesting and act if they’d like to mention it or write about it.
Alongside this I’d also recommend writing multiple guest posts manually to improve your chances of the content naturally getting picked up by press and journalists. But of course the best content ever made has no chance without manual promotion.
There’s a number of other techniques you can leverage if you have a budget. One would be a press release for the piece of content, others include leverage twitter and other social networks and contacted the most relevant potential influencers for your content.
There are also multiple more important elements to ensuring the campaign is successful, one of these is timing and news-worthiness. Timing isn’t essential for all industries, but if you are looking to generate links around a specific event or some type of time focused occurrence then this must be made extremely newsworthy and specific to that one event.
How To Determine Campaign Success
The obvious metric to look at initially once a content marketing or digital PR campaigns is complete is to look at the number of live links created and the quality of those links. The more high quality links, the better. But there’s also a number of other extremely important KPI’s to measure.
Referral Traffic – Are these links driving actual clicks (and potentially sign-ups if this is in the correct vertical for your business’s offering).
Social Proof Elements – Once you generated links from extremely high powered authority sources, you can leverage the “as seen in” feature that many new start-ups and softwares utilise to increase credibility of the business and also increase trust of the overall user.
Journalist & Influencer Connections – The number of new journalist and influencer connections that were developed. This is advantageous to both our agency and the client. These can be called on again in the future if a new content promotion campaign is developed and can also can leverage for other clients in other niches too.
Link baiting is an incredibly effective way to increase the number of links you’ll generate on both your normal outreach and digital PR marketing campaigns. Remember the keys mentioned above and think long term with these strategies. Just because campaign 1 may have only generated 1 or 2 links, that doesn’t mean the next one won’t generate dozens if not hundreds and double your organic traffic overnight.
If you have any questions about link bait or would like to get in touch about running a digital PR campaign, feel free to get in touch.