Even prior to the day Matt Cutts announced the “end of guest blogging”, the process of link building has always been a long and tedious one. Backlinks have been a huge part of the Google algorithm for many years, and while their importance in SEO may decrease eventually, they still have many, many years left in them. However, as Google continues to get better at targeting webmasters who use methods to manipulate links to their advantage, such as buying links, marketers are being driven to develop and implement more creative strategies in order to earn links from high-quality websites.


Image Source: memegenerator.net

In my own experience, two of the most effective methods that I’ve used to earn quality links are through email outreach and social outreach — but let me be clear as to what I mean by “outreach”:

The Battle of Quantity, Quality, and Relevancy

Many business owners will use the approach of mass-spamming websites in hopes of attaining even the slightest chance of getting a link. This is not only an ineffective strategy (at its best), it’s not really a safe one either. Whether your strategy involves using personas to find link opportunities or, even more frightening, your own name, you’re inviting yourself to a battle of quantity, quality, and relevancy.

When you omit the factor of quality control in your outreach, you run much more than the risk of contacting irrelevant sites. While there is a chance that you might get a lot of webmasters who are interested in hosting your content, how many of these sites will really be worth your time and resources?

How are you going to guarantee yourself that you get that link?

Competitor Research & Targeted Outreach

Link “earning”, done correctly, is hard work. The majority of webmasters today are well aware of a lot of the SEO practices being used, which makes it that much more difficult to establish relationships with them in the first place. For these reasons, the mass-email approach just doesn’t seem like a viable option anymore. It’s all about targeted outreach.

When was the last time you took a look at your top competitors? Chances are they’re performing well online for a reason, and with a little ethical research, you can work to develop an effective link earning strategy to get those same results.

One of the most helpful tools I am constantly finding myself use for competitor research is SEMrush. Based on my initial keyword research, I use SEMrush to analyze the referring domains of a site’s competitor to determine which sites I need to include in my targeted outreach list. For this example, I used Business2Community.com. As you can see, the site has nearly 8,000 referring domains:

semrush example business2community

For this example, I used the free version, which did not allow me to sort by domain authority (highest to lowest). If you do end up registering for SEMrush, I suggest that you do sort by domain authority in order to see the best results for your competitor research.

From here, you can take the most authoritative sites and add them to your targeted outreach list. Using the example above, if I were a competitor of Business2Community.com, I would want to be acquiring the same links. Depending on the type of site, whether it be a forum or blog, it’s also important to note how and where the competitor’s link appears. If you have a budget, it may be worthwhile to note banner ad opportunities as well during your research.

Bulk Up Your Inventory

Whether your goal is to attain 10 links each month or 100, you need to make sure that your outreach strategy is scalable. Because creating and submitting quality content already requires time and resources, it can be difficult to also find time to personalize each message. One of the most efficient ways to tackle this obstacle is to already have an inventory of content on hand.

Sharing one-of-a-kind infographics is a great way to get a foot in the door with a link opportunity. While many sites are sticklers for exclusivity, I find that many are willing to accept content like this, along with a link, when there is engaging text accompanying it.

On the other hand, there are some sites that will only accept completely original content. While this is not always the best-case scenario, the ball is still in your court at this point in your outreach, and you should take the opportunity to immediately suggest some new ideas. Doing so will not only keep that door open for you, but it will also help you further establish a relationship with that site.

Involve Them in Your Content

One of the trickiest things about link building is being able to fit your link in naturally without giving a site the impression that you’re just there to get a link. In addition to ensuring that the content you’re linking to is high-quality, it never hurts to include a backlink to the site you are trying to get a link on as well.


Image Source: quickmeme.com

The online world is a give-and-take community, and if a site is willing to share your content, then you better make sure that you are making it worth their time. Some sites may even ask for a reciprocal link right from the start.

In the case of an infographic, and depending on the authority of the site, it may even be a good idea to consider co-branding the image.

Creativity is Key

While link building can certainly be a tiresome process, it’s also one that requires a lot of creativity, and it all starts with your outreach. Webmasters get tens of thousands requests each day, and it’s more important than ever to be able to stand out. Start small and focus on where your competitor are first. The more relevant you are with your link building research, the more successful your overall campaign will be.