How to generate links that drive traffic, not just ranking

Many people see link building as a way to drive rankings. But, when done correctly, it can (and should) also drive traffic.

Driving traffic has a lot of benefits beyond the obvious potential increase in leads and sales. More website traffic can provide valuable analytics data about what users are looking for and what confuses them. It can also help grow engagement and potentially referral links on social media as others begin to share our content.

In this column, I’ll explain how to identify sources of links that drive actual traffic and how to evaluate your progress so that you can focus your efforts where they will have the greatest impact.

Identifying link partners

In order to find good sources for traffic-driving links, there are a few ways you can go: competitor research, rankings and influencers.

First, find the publications driving traffic to your competitors by using tools like SimilarWeb to find their top referral sources. Not only do these tools tell you who is linking to your competitors, but some can also show how much traffic your competitors are getting from those links.

Any site driving traffic/referrals to your competitors should be investigated and evaluated as a potential linking partner. Check each one for quality, verifying that they aren’t content scraper sites and are actually valuable resources for your target audience. If they pass the test, then consider approaching them for a link.

Of course, you shouldn’t just pursue links from sites that are driving traffic to your competitors. Review the top-ranking websites in Google for the terms you want to rank for and see if any of them can serve as good linking partners. For example, many industries have vertical-specific directories that provide both free and sponsored listings.

As always, do your research when approaching sites like this. Do the directories seem spammy, designed only to generate links for SEO purposes? Or are they legitimate sites that consumers actually use, like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Avvo? (Note that links from legitimate sites will often be nofollowed, but they are still valuable because they drive real traffic.)

If you want to do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to content, try approaching major and niche industry outlets that you can contribute content to. In addition to the above sites you found during your research, use a tool like BuzzSumo to find social influencers and reach out to them on their social channels or via email to see if they accept guest posts. These posts need to be highly relevant to the website’s audience, and be careful to follow any editorial guidelines and respect their rules for submitted content.

In addition to smaller industry publications, you can also find guest posting opportunities on major sites like Inc.com through their guest posting forms. The byline link or the author page can be a great source of traffic and referrals. Often, I’ve gotten leads from these links just because the prospect was impressed with seeing the byline in major outlets. However, you must be diligent and careful here: Submit your best work, as inclusion is often competitive, and editors can therefore be extremely choosy.

Other great outlet options to consider are community forums, like industry-specific subreddits or sites like Inbound.org if you are in marketing. Just remember to be a good community member — never spam other users with your own content, and be sure to participate regularly by answering questions and commenting thoughtfully on others’ content.

One last angle to try is to find industry influencers and sponsor or partner with them. Many influencers are willing to enter into partnerships with brands, where they will review or work with a company on content and social media posts to get the brand’s name out to their audience. Cost usually varies with audience size and the scope of the campaign.

Since the aim here is to drive traffic and branding, you shouldn’t run into any issues regarding Google’s linking guidelines. However, it’s important to ensure that all financial relationships are disclosed according to FTC guidelines and that you aren’t attempting to hide or sneak links into any content that you are sending to these outlets for publication.

Evaluating success

Once you’ve approached your chosen link partners and successfully obtained links, it’s time to review your work. After each month, check Google Analytics for referral traffic to see which new sites you’ve worked with are actually bringing you traffic. After three to six months, you’ll have a clear picture of which sites are worth your time and which aren’t. For instance, if Inc.com is bringing you more traffic than three industry sites combined, it might be better to pare down your industry sites to be able to submit more content to Inc.com.

Additionally, you can also see if there is an increase in overall brand search for your name using Google trends or Google Keyword Planner. Often, branding campaigns can result in more direct traffic, as well as organic traffic due to an increase in branded searches. By carefully tracking increases in direct and branded organic referrals, you can see the impact your branding campaigns are having. This can help you see the long-term benefits of your link-building efforts in growing your website traffic.

While tracking the data, be sure to also track your success building relationships with the influencers and websites you’ve singled out as potential link-building partners. This can show your progress to management and help you hone your pitch and messaging style.

Final thoughts

Link building, no matter the goal, is hard work if you want it to be done ethically and with enduring value. Building a healthy link portfolio can help you generate traffic from a wide variety of referral sources, while also increasing your overall online presence and making sure you own more of your branded search terms. Be sure to cast a wide net by working with many different sites and platforms.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Links: To speed or not to speed

When we first started as an agency, our link builders were evenly split into two camps: One would send out a flurry of emails to all sorts of sites and deal with them if they responded. The other would spend a significant amount of time doing due diligence prior to outreach so that anyone who did respond had already been vetted.

I always thought it was a good idea to let each new link builder find his own way, so I didn’t usually express a strong opinion about this divide. I could see the points of view of both sides, too. Why bother doing a lot of work up front if the webmaster wasn’t even going to respond? Why disappoint webmasters who did respond when you couldn’t work with them?

On the whole, I have grown to favor the prior due diligence approach as opposed to casting a wide net. I’m firmly of the opinion that some link-building tasks absolutely do not benefit from being sped up.

However, I do think other areas of link building can be made faster and more efficient. It’s not always a bad tradeoff to invest a little bit less manual effort in one area to free up more time and energy for higher-priority tasks.

Today, I discuss several major link-building tasks in terms of whether they can (and should) be “sped up” — through automation, outsourcing or just spending less time on them.

Content creation

Useful, relevant content is what drives most link-building efforts, so content creation is a task that often falls to link builders (especially when pursuing guest posting opportunities). Creating content is very labor-intensive, though, so it’s understandable that link builders might look for ways to spend less time on it.

Can you speed it up? Yes. However, you can end up with some real garbage if you try to take shortcuts to create good content. I once experimented with outsourcing some content, and let me tell you, I got what I paid for (very little)! It was the most generic nonsense ever, and I had to correct a ton of typos and grammatical errors.

I’m not saying don’t outsource here; I’m saying don’t think that fantastic content usually happens quickly.

Should you speed it up? No! See above. I think that anyone can create decent content (for the most part), but not everyone can create great content that stands on its own. If you’re going to outsource, understand that great content usually doesn’t come fast or cheap.

Discovery of potential linking partners

Identifying websites from which you want to pursue links is an activity that involves a fair amount of research. There are programs that can automate parts of this process, however.

Can you speed it up? Yes. Discovery software can generate a massive list of potential linking partners much more quickly than if you were to do this task manually.

Should you speed it up? I’m 50/50 on this, actually. I was strongly against automating discovery in the past, but after using a tool that spat out a list of potential partner sites based on my criteria, I definitely understand its usefulness and efficiency. Sometimes, programs like these find something you didn’t see in your research. Just make sure you manually review your list of link prospects before reaching out.

Contact info gathering

Finding a potential linking partner is great, but not if you can’t figure out how to contact them. Link builders often need to spend time scouring a site to figure out who exactly to reach out to.

Can you speed it up? Definitely. With the way we review sites, it’s not usually a big deal to obtain contact info. However, if I had a big list of sites that I had vetted, it would be great to get the contact info quickly.

Should you speed it up? Yes, if you have a tool that does it. Just be aware that you may end up getting old email addresses or ones that aren’t the ones you want (like the IT director instead of the marketing director).

Due diligence

Performing due diligence work on a potential link partner requires time and effort. You need to make sure the website is relevant, authoritative, legitimate, free from penalties and adheres to whatever guidelines your client may have about linking partners.

Can you speed it up? Absolutely not. No no no no no. I verify that my link team has checked all the guidelines for each client, as well as our in-house guidelines, before we build the link. They’re good, but I catch a lot that they’ve missed. They do the same with me.

Due diligence for us is more than just metrics checking. We have clients who say, “No mommy blogs!” or will only accept links from sites hosted in certain countries, so it’s difficult to automate this well.

Should you speed it up? No. If you want great links, I would never speed up in this area. If you just want some crappy links for whatever reason, go for it.

Outreach

Reaching out to potential linking partners involves crafting emails (or private messages on social media platforms), which can often be quite time-consuming.

Can you speed it up? Yes — but I believe you should do so only if you have vetted the sites beforehand. You can speed it up no matter what, of course, but then you’re going to get replies from sites that aren’t the right fit if you haven’t done some upfront analysis.

Should you speed it up? I’m split on this one. As mentioned above, I think you can speed up outreach if you have vetted the sites beforehand. However, I prefer a more personalized approach, and that can’t really be sped up. I’d rather spend more time writing an email that gets opened and encourages a response.

Recently, a webmaster responded to me and said that while she couldn’t give me a link, I’d written the best email she’d seen in a long time, and she wished me luck. I uttered a small curse, but it really made me feel good about doing so much work on the initial outreach.

Social broadcasting

Promoting your content through social media channels can often lead to traffic — and links. This is a task that can be automated, at least to some extent.

Can you speed it up? Of course. You can use different tools to broadcast whenever you want to broadcast. If you need to reach people in different time zones, it’s probably easier to make that more automated. If you’re just doing social broadcasting for a small site with one new article, though, I’d do that manually.

Should you speed it up? As long as you don’t overdo it and bombard people with your content, I think it’s fine. My main concern is that if you do use automation for this, you run the very serious risk of inadvertently tweeting something inappropriate. I’ve seen many brands get crucified on social when there’s a mass shooting or earthquake, and they’re blasting you with info on how you need to buy those shoes right now or they’ll be gone.

The bottom line

People want new techniques or ways to make link building more efficient. Sometimes that just isn’t doable. Building good links is one of the most labor-intensive processes in SEO, and that’s one reason why it’s so frequently outsourced.

However, if you take shortcuts when you shouldn’t, you’ll probably end up spending extra time either removing those links or disavowing them — so I’d rather slow down and really intensively and manually evaluate a site before trying to get a link there.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Private blog networks: A great way to get your site penalized

You may have heard about private blog networks (PBNs) before, but you may not be sure what they are or why they are used. A PBN is a network of websites used to build links (and therefore pass authority) to a single website for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings. This scheme is similar to a link wheel or link pyramid, as it involves several different websites all linking to one another or to one central website.

While these types of schemes were used commonly years ago, PBNs are now considered a pure black hat tactic and should be avoided at all costs, as they can lead to a loss in rankings, or even a manual penalty. PBNs usually provide little to no long-term value to the websites they are linking to.

Google has long been fighting PBNs, and businesses caught up in this shady tactic have been made an example of over the years. One such case was the J.C. Penney link scheme that was exposed back in 2011 by The New York Times. As Google gets smarter and develops better technology to combat link spam techniques, it has become harder and harder for black hat SEOs to pull off a PBN successfully.

How to identify private blog networks

The key to identifying a PBN is the cross-site “footprint” where much of the technical data on the sites are the same. Old PBN networks were on the same IP, shared servers, had the same WHOIS information, or even used the same content across sites.

Today, PBNs are much more sophisticated and may be harder for users to spot because the sites span different industries, topics and layouts. When determining if a site is part of a PBN — and therefore one that you should avoid like the plague — consider the following:

Hosting. Are they all on the same IP? You can use SpyOnWeb.com or similar tools to identify what sites are hosted with any other site.Site design. Do the sites all use a similar design, navigation, color scheme?Similar themes. WordPress themes sometimes have the theme name in the code. Check the source code in your browser.Site ownership. Check WHOIS database for the contact information for the owner of the sites. Having hidden WHOIS data is a red flag. If all of the site owners are the same, it’s obvious the blogs are connected.Duplicate content. Copy a paragraph into Google search to see if the content exists on other sites.Backlink profile. Check the backlink profile in Ahrefs or Majestic (these are the largest databases of links) to see how much interlinking is occurring between sites.Images and videos. Since videos and images are difficult and expensive to recreate, these are likely going to be duplicated on other sites. Use Google image search or video search to find similar pieces.

A dead giveaway for many PBNs is having a similar backlink profile. If multiple sites have the same link profile, or if they all link to one website multiple times (especially where it seems like overkill or it isn’t relevant), then the site is likely part of a PBN — or, at the very least, is selling links. Google’s Penguin algorithm, which now runs in real time as part of the core ranking algorithm, can detect these kinds of schemes and devalue your website rankings as a result. In some cases, you could even wind up with a manual penalty.

However, simply owning several different websites doesn’t mean you are a private blog network. For example, media companies that own several sites and link to them in all website footers wouldn’t likely have to worry about being flagged as a PBN unless the websites weren’t related, there were dozens of links in the footers, or they were linking to similar internal pages repeatedly.

In addition, PBNs are generally groups of sites all owned by one company or individual, but separate individuals who are working together to link to one another could also be considered a PBN if there is a pattern of repeatedly linking to the same sites or pages across several different groups of websites.

How can you protect your site from PBNs?

No reputable SEO consultant will recommend private blog networks for link building or increasing website traffic. Unfortunately, your site may be involved in a PBN without your even knowing it, especially if you are outsourcing your link building activities to a third party. Buying links on sites like Fiverr or through other services may put your site in grave danger. And if anyone tries to convince you to participate in a link exchange (i.e., trade links with them), run.

Strong oversight of link-building activities is key. Educate yourself on which practices Google considers to be link schemes, and ensure that anyone responsible for building links to your site is strictly adhering to these guidelines; any reputable link builder should agree to be transparent about the links they are pursuing for you.

This will require some effort on your part, but remember: Just because you aren’t aware of what goes on behind the curtain doesn’t mean you won’t be held responsible for the consequences.

Best practices will ultimately win the day

You might feel frustrated by competitors who appear to be using spammy link-building techniques like PBNs. You could report them through a webspam complaint, of course. But even if you don’t, remember that their black hat tactics will eventually catch up to them.

While your competitor is relying on a PBN to get links, your company can build out more robust link-building campaigns based on best practices that have more staying power and aren’t frowned upon by search engines. Then, when your competitor gets busted and is demoted, deindexed or otherwise penalized, your site will have the advantage.

As a whole, private blog networks are a dangerous and unacceptable link-building strategy. A link should only be given when it truly provides value to the user — anything to the contrary may result in less visibility within search engine result pages, or even a manual penalty.

Save yourself and your company the headache of lost money, resources and time, and focus on better link-building tactics that will get you results without the strife.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Why real human users are the key to the best links for you

Let me begin by stating that I do not put an enormous emphasis on SEO when I’m training a link builder. Generally speaking, my team of link builders knows the basics of SEO, but they’ve been taught that they can’t rely on metrics alone in order to judge whether a link is going to be good or bad for our clients. My background is in general and technical SEO, but I realized early on that for the work we usually do at my agency, most of what I knew didn’t really apply — at least, not in a very significant way.

Of course, if you’re doing high-level analysis of any sort, you do need to have a great deal of SEO knowledge. The reason I don’t train anyone to do this (on an advanced level) is that I don’t want them to ever lose their ability to think like humans. Though they must run all link-building activities by me for approval, I still trust my link builders to do good work on their own — and they don’t disappoint.

Approaching link building as a human, not a bot

When you approach link building as a human being — not putting the sole emphasis on “Will Google like this?” — you are able to see websites as users see them. Unless they’re SEOs, users aren’t going to be bogged down with thinking about Domain Authority or whether the robots.txt file is properly set up.

Take Google-indexed pages, for example. I think it’s a terrible signal if a page is not indexed in Google. However, I can also make the case that if this imaginary page is the most popular page on a site that ranks well, and it gets a lot of traffic, a link there is probably still going to be good for traffic to your site.

Maybe that particular page got dropped from the index because it’s a big fat list with tons of links, even though it’s still a good page. A human user would click on a link there, but the search engines don’t like it. Would you rather have a link from that non-indexed but popular page, or would you rather have a link from a page that is indexed but has a fraction of the traffic?

Clients fighting back

We do a lot of talking about how getting links that will actually get clicked on is a good idea, but we’re still getting pushback from clients who focus solely on numbers. This link is on a page with a low Moz Page Authority. This one looks great everywhere, but the Majestic Trust Flow is low.

I love tools like Moz and Majestic. They are incredibly useful, and there is no way I would be able to conduct any link analysis without them. I just don’t think that any single metric can paint a full picture of whether or not a link is going to be useful to your site.

Just recently, I’ve come across a lot of pages with very high Page Authority (PA) and great Domain Authority (DA) that are not indexed in Google. I’ve come across some great pages via social channels that Moz hasn’t even picked up yet, so they have no DA or PA. I’ve seen pages ranking well that have a Moz Spam Score of 4 out of 17.

Many link builders would reject these pages as potential linking partners for those exact reasons. What would you do? What human user is going to know or care about the Moz Spam Score?

Is someone going to click?

When SEOs think, “Is someone going to click on this link?,” oftentimes they are simply not thinking as a human user. They are still thinking about other factors and other signals.

Are there competitor links in the post? Some users love to see an alternative.Are there too many links? Who defines “too many?”Are there some misspellings? Does one image seem broken although the others are fine? We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. Why can’t we let the webmasters make a few mistakes?

Again, for the issues listed above: Do you think a human user really cares?

The granularity of what we can dig into is mind-blowing at times.

The importance of referrals, not rankings

As a personal example, I have gotten clients from interviews that I’ve done on fairly new websites that, at the time, had very low DA (or, even farther back, a Google PageRank of 1). I’ve written articles or been mentioned on sites with amazingly good authority and metrics and not received any requests for information. I’m sure they’ve helped me rank, but in my case, a great deal of my business comes from referring URLs — not search engines.

I rank well for certain keywords and get business that way, but the main driver of clients for me is a referral, whether it’s from an article I write, a fellow SEO or a social mention.

In my own writing, if I give a link, it’s because it’s useful and relevant. When I build links, I strive to obtain links that are useful and relevant. If a link is useful and relevant, you’d imagine that it would be clicked on and good for traffic, correct?

Just do a few Google searches and examine the metrics of the top-ranked pages. You’ll find many with very poor metrics. They rank well, though! Since most people outside of SEO do view the search results as being a true representation of which pages are best, you should be better able to get some traffic from one of those pages than from one buried on page 11, even if it does have a DA of 50.

Social is still huge

Then we have the issue of social platforms, which are critical to online success for many businesses these days. You don’t have to rank well in search to do well on Facebook, for example. If your article is on a site with low metrics, and it gets retweeted on Twitter by 1,000 people, you should be happy. In terms of local search, Facebook is a massive player that might eventually compete with Google.

I’m definitely not saying to ignore all metrics, to pretend SEO isn’t important, and/or to just slap a link anywhere you like because surely someone will find it and click it. I’m simply pointing out that when you analyze things to death, you leave a lot of potentially wonderful opportunities on the table.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

How to increase B2B traffic by 192% in five months

SEO is a long-term strategy.

It takes time to build authority and reputation, and spammy tricks that work for a short time are eventually devalued by the search engines.

However, we’ve found a strategy that’s delivered results relatively quickly and proven particularly effective in the B2B space.

Some of our best projects have seen near double traffic growth:

Not surprisingly, this traffic growth corresponds with our efforts to secure links. Here is a look at the trends for referring domains to the site above (via Ahrefs):

Of course, seeing a case study where links helped grow traffic isn’t earth-shattering. But I want to share the strategies we used to achieve these results so you can experiment with them on your own site.

Our strategy included:

analyzing competitive content.expanding topics to build linkable assets.building targeted pages and resources.identifying opportunities for hyper-relevant, linkable content.

These were the four cornerstones of our process.

To better demonstrate these strategies, I’ll reference a hypothetical example throughout the post. Since our project was in the B2B space, I’m choosing a B2B brand for my example: Absorb LMS, a learning management system for employee training (not a client).

Without further ado, let’s dive into the process we used to grow traffic in the B2B sector by 192 percent in roughly five months.

Analyzing competitor content and pages

We started by examining what was working for our client’s competitors.

There are a wide variety of excellent tools available for competitive analysis — for our project, we used Ahrefs to analyze competitors’ top pages. By analyzing competitors’ top content, we could identify keyword gaps on our client’s site, as well as low-difficulty opportunities.

For our client, we focused on larger (respective to their niche) search volumes first and worked our way down from there, but there is no set search volume that’s appropriate for every strategy. Instead, consider your niche and the potential value of capturing leads from a given search result. If one lead is potentially worth thousands of dollars, you don’t need much volume to justify the value of ranking for that term.

For Absorb, competitor content analysis would involve scrutinizing competitors such as:

TalentLMSLitmosBridgeDoceboGrowth EngineeringDokeos LMSAdministrate

For example, looking at Bridge in Ahrefs, I can see some of their top pages define various eLearning terms:

It appears TalentLMS has similar pages that are performing well, and they are also securing traffic from e-learning subtopics like [authoring tool], [constant learning] and [microlearning].

From just a quick glance at these competitors in Ahrefs, I learned that Absorb could pursue some opportunities creating pages that define prominent e-learning terms or target tangentially related topics.

Since Absorb doesn’t currently have any pages like this in their top 15 pages in Ahrefs, this strategy should be a real consideration.

If Absorb were really a client, I would analyze all their competitors to uncover trends and find as many opportunities and gaps as possible. But for this post, I’m going to move on to the next part of our strategy: building linkable assets.

Expanding topics to create linkable assets

The next step is creating highly linkable assets.

Many B2B brands work within narrow, specific niches; this was the case for our client. It’s certainly possible to secure links within these small online neighborhoods, but you can quickly exhaust all available worthwhile opportunities.

We discovered that broadening our topics gave us the opportunity to promote them to a much larger outreach market. To better understand this topic expansion, let’s consider Absorb LMS.

Absorb’s primary audience and buyers exist within the e-learning niche. However, this is a relatively small outreach market, which can mean limited exposure and links when it comes to content promotion. By expanding, I could target broader topics like:

learning styles and the psychology of learning.employee benefits and retention.business management.career advancement

These topics have larger audiences, which means bigger outreach markets and more visibility, yet they’re still relevant to Absorb’s service and their audience.

A quick comparison of search volumes for the head terms of [learning management system] and [business management] in SEMrush demonstrates the difference in audience sizes:

[learning management system] — 6,600[business management] — 18,100

Broader content topics will have broader appeal and provide more opportunities to secure exposure and links, while still being relevant and providing the opportunity to reach your target audience.

Building targeted pages and resources

We also built strategic pages to target the most important and relevant terms for our client.

While we wanted our linkable assets to have broad appeal, we wanted these pages to answer a very specific question or issue pertinent to the client’s business, and answer it better than any other page on the web.

To create best-in-class pages, we followed content strategy best practices such as:

providing in-depth, long-form coverage of the topic.adding rich media and interactivity via sunk cost differentiators.maintaining a strong and consistent focus on keywords and key phrases.optimizing on-page factors — e.g., URLs, title tags, H1s, page speed, image optimization.

Although these resources had limited outreach markets, they also had lower competition. Because the quality of the content was high, the pages were optimized, and the competition was low, these pages could perform well in search with little promotion.

While the traffic from these pages was small in volume, it was highly qualified traffic. These pages also built credibility and overall brand awareness as our client began to show up consistently for hyper-relevant queries. It’s even possible to passively acquire links to these pages if they are the leading resource in the space.

Ideation for these pages came from a combination of the insights from competitive content analysis and keyword research.

Using my Absorb example, I could revisit competitor top pages to find direction for new page creation. For instance, TalentLMS has a page that ranks number one for [e learning technology]:

The search volume is relatively small (150), but this is a relevant term for Absorb, and ranking here would be beneficial. Furthermore, after looking at TalentLMS’s page, I’m confident Absorb could easily build something better for searchers.

The TalentLMS page is essentially one large block of text:

This is an opportunity for Absorb to create something that is best-in-class and builds authority and visibility in their niche.

Identifying when volume intersects with relevance

The combination of linkable assets with broad appeal and strategic, targeted pages built a strong SEO foundation for our client. However, the major successes came when we could identify opportunities where large search volumes corresponded with hyper-relevant topics.

These situations are less prevalent but can be extremely rewarding if you can find them. Capitalizing on these opportunities means you get the best of both worlds: increased link opportunities and the chance to rank for key terms for your business.

Regarding Absorb LMS, I would again turn to their competitors. For example, Bridge has a page that ranks on page one for the term [scorm] which has a search volume of 5,500:

Again, it appears there is an opportunity for Absorb to build something that could outperform Bridge’s page, which is just a few large chunks of text:

If Absorb built a page focused on SCORM, they could secure both links and highly relevant traffic.

Strategy recap

We achieved phenomenal results for our client with this strategy. Of course, your results will vary depending on a variety of factors (website, competition, goals) but the concepts outlined here could help you grow traffic on your own site, particularly if you operate within a very niche category in the B2B space.

To recap, our strategy involved:

analyzing competitive content: Analyze top-performing pages on competitor sites to identify potential content opportunities.expanding topic groups: Broaden topics when creating linkable assets to extend the reach of those assets and target larger outreach markets.building strategic pages and resources: Create best-in-class pages that target hyper-relevant terms and traffic.identifying opportunities for hyper-relevant, linkable content: Find situations where substantial search volume intersects with highly relevant topics to secure large numbers of links and capture qualified traffic.

Hopefully, you can apply some of these strategies to your own pursuit for better search performance.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

10 ways to generate links with online influencers

You may be thinking that no one wants to share your content, but the opposite is actually true: Because they post so often, online influencers are always looking for interesting content to share. All you have to do it research, create and position the right content opportunities to influencers so they will want to start working with you.

If you’re not sure what angle your organization should take to work with online influencers, consider the following angles: unique content sharing, product promotion, sponsorships and relationship building.

You’ll also want to be sure you are familiar with the FTC Guidelines surrounding influencer disclosures, as well as Google’s guidelines on the issues.

Produce unique content

Producing fresh content that is engaging and interesting to your target audience is what entices industry influencers to share. In addition to “how-to” posts, consider creating studies and long-form content and developing discussions that push industry issues. Because content is so competitive, it’s crucial to take an angle that is different from everyone else’s, whether that is a point of view or a niche topic.

Recent research by Sumo found that only 20 percent of all content is even read, on average — so it’s key to bring your A-game in order to have people actually read it. Here are some ways you can bring in more readers:

1. Publish unique research

Stone Temple Consulting does a good job of this in the search marketing industry. They frequently release unique studies using research that their own team gathered. As a result, they are known as thought leaders in the SEO community, frequently keynoting and authoring books about search.

If something is trending or new in your industry, consider creating a study around it. Poll your email list or readers for survey responses, or run data tests to figure out how new technology works best. Not only does this provide unique value to the readers, you’ll often get more inbound links, because it’s exclusive findings that aren’t found anywhere else.

2. Go niche and in-depth

Anyone can write a blog post about a broad topic, like “How to Start a Blog,” but it takes a unique approach — like “How to Start a Blog in One Hour For Less Than $100” or “How to Start a Product Review Blog in The Pet Industry” — to make it stand out. If you want to be found for common industry terms, figure out how you can “niche down” your content. Go beyond the basics and create multiple pieces of content that can cover different angles in depth.

3. Create controversy

Every industry has controversial or touchy topics. Without being too gauche, consider what you can write about that will let you be the “devil’s advocate” and provide a unique perspective that no one has tackled before. HubSpot recommends writing from an angle that will resonate with your audience and to ensure that you can back up your points with data.

Similarly, if there’s a topic that is dividing industry experts, cover it from an angle that fits for your company. Marketo recommends finding a piece of content that you don’t exactly agree with and write a rebuttal. Having a piece of content as inspiration makes it easier to write and can draw more audience interest.

Offer free products

When done right, offering free products can help to spread your products by word of mouth. Product recommendations have a lot of trust value for online users. According to research by BrightLocal, 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Here are some ways you can give away your products to influencers.

4. Provide samples for review

Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find industry influencers in your target market, and reach out to them to see if they’d like to try out the product in exchange for a review. To make your campaigns get more influencers for less cost, try going after the mid-size influencers who aren’t at the top level, with 100,000 followers or more. Instead, target users with 100 to 10,000 followers. They will be more willing to work with you, since they likely aren’t approached as often as the upper-level influencers. In addition, make sure the influencers follow proper FTC guidelines for disclosure.

5. Free products only for the influencer’s audience

In addition to a review, you can also offer to give away products to the audience of the influencers. Once they share their review, they can host a giveaway on the blog post that allows users to enter to win more free products. Here’s an example from the healthy living blog “Peanut Butter Fingers,” which teams up with Chicco to do a car seat review and informational safety post. At the end of the post, they did a sponsored giveaway:

Often, the influencer is responsible for running the content and choosing the winners, and the company will send out the products once the content is over.

6. Run contests to win free products

Another free product option you can do is product giveaways. This harnesses networks of all sizes, as you can give users more entries into the giveaway if they share it to their networks. Make sure you are following all giveaway regulations and policies for applicable social media platforms, and you have a list of giveaway rules on your website. If you want users to share using multiple platforms, use a service like WooBox or Rafflecopter.

Sponsorship

In addition to free posts, you can also spend some of your budget sponsoring or running ads on influencers’ websites. This varies by website, but some influencers offer sidebars, ads, email newsletter mentions or sponsored blog posts. If they don’t have the ideal sponsorship available on their website, it doesn’t hurt to propose an alternative arrangement. Most influencers are open to offers, provided it’s not intrusive and offers value to their audience.

7. Sponsor a post for them to publish

Some websites will take sponsored posts that are written by the sponsor or by a dedicated staff member. Usually, costs are higher if the influencer has to write the content himself or herself. A sponsored post might be something like a walk-through of a product or a new feature. It is paid content, but it showcases value to the audience by covering a topic or service they are interested in. Search Engine Land offers this, calling it “Sponsored Content.

8. Sponsor their blog in general

Many influencers also accept ongoing sponsorships for their website. What this covers varies, but it could include a sidebar ad, mentions on specific pages or blurbs on other online mediums, like social media or email. Creating this type of relationship not only gets you more exposure, it also gives you an in with the influencer to start a conversation around other ways they can share your content.

Build actual relationships

Starting a conversation is key toward long-term influencer outreach success. By building relationships with influencers, you can work together to come up with new and fun ways to share your content and promote your products or services. Besides reaching out online directly, you can also seek to get to know them and support their goals. A collaborative approach will lead to a better relationship.

9. Support their goal by mentioning them in other articles you write

A relationship isn’t one-way. A partnership is one where you are also supportive of the influencer and what they are trying to build with their own website and online platform. When applicable, mention influencers in industry roundups, in quotes or as examples in the content you’re writing. Recommending them to your audience on social media by tagging them can also get their attention and show that you are supportive of their brand as well.

10. Meet up with them at an event

Besides striking up a supportive relationship online, try meeting influencers in person to get the conversation going. Attend industry networking events, conferences or trade shows and look for influencers that could help you promote your content and products. Oftentimes, non-corporate speakers at conferences have their own companies and websites, and blogging conferences (like BlogHer) are full of influencers who are open to partnerships with brands.

By building relationships with influencers in different ways, like product giveaways and reviews, sponsorships, and unique content, you can get your offerings in front of more audiences. This leads to better website traffic and sales. While it may take some experimentation to figure out the best influencers to work with, influencer outreach can be an effective part of any link-building — and more importantly, traffic-generating — campaign.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The ever-increasing importance of usability and trust in link building

Just the other day, I was showing a cool site that I’d just found to a (very intelligent and internet-savvy) friend, and he quickly became confused due to the ad placements on the site. The ads were shown on the top of the page below a nav bar, and they looked like categories for the site. So he clicked on them.

Then there was the search bar. Blacked out completely, you couldn’t see what you were typing into it, and it gave no error messages when you just hit enter. The 404 page had a broken image on it. One of the social buttons went to the wrong account.

And then I found the dreaded page with the lovely Lorem Ipsum dummy text still on it.

Bottom line: I didn’t really love the site so much anymore. It ranked well (that’s how I found it), but I didn’t trust it.

Ask yourself: Would you click on this link?

When I’m building links, I always ask myself if I’d want that link to my site if I were the client myself. I do get a bit irritated when clients complain about really nitpicky stuff, but if I were the client and my link-building company got a link on this site, I’d be super-irritated.

It’s not enough to rank well. I mean, it’s fantastic when you do rank well, of course, but everyone knows a top ranking is no guarantee that you’ll gain a new sale or a new email subscriber or whatever else you view as a positive conversion. With so much spam making its way into the top SERPs, users are finding out that they really can’t trust the rankings the way they used to.

So, while it’s really nice that you get a link on a site that ranks well and has some good metrics, if you depend on that link for converting traffic, the linking site’s usability can’t be ignored any more than yours can. Why have a link on a site that someone doesn’t trust?

I approve every single link that we build in my agency, and the main reason I’m turning down sites these days is for something related to usability. They have the metrics and look good on the screen, but something’s off. The page doesn’t load correctly until you try it three times, or it takes 30 seconds. The site is so covered up with ads you can’t tell what’s an ad and what’s the actual content. There are a gazillion pages that throw 404s.

Add all of this to the usual things we look for, and you’ll see that finding a great linking partner just gets harder and harder.

What should you check?

Generally speaking, I encourage our team to do an initial quick check on a few things to see if a site is even worth digging into. We do look at metrics like Domain and Page Authority (at our clients’ requests) and we check things like the country that is sending the most traffic to the site. If we don’t see any big red flags (like 90 percent of the traffic is from Hungary and it’s a US blog), then we dig deeper.

Is the content any good? My goodness, you would be amazed at all the crappy content on the web, and on highly ranking sites. I don’t mean that it’s just not my thing. I mean that it’s written with incorrect grammar and rampant typos, and there’s no real structure to it. I recently refused to order some clothes that my daughter wanted from a site where it looked like they had gotten a 4-year-old to write their “About Us” page. They didn’t list a phone number. The descriptions of some of the items we looked at seemed to be whatever happened to come with their terrible system. I don’t want to buy an item where there’s no image but there is a line reading “insert photo of tan shirt here.”

Oh, and I love to check for a Viagra or Cialis hack. Yes, those are still all over the place! Do a “cheap online order viagra” search in Google and you’ll see.

We can’t forget mobile, either, and that’s only getting more important. You know when you’re on a smartphone and you go to a site that looks like a tiny version of its regular self? Why lose the chance for a mobile conversion by placing a link on a page that won’t even be seen by users on a smartphone? By the way, I like Mobi to check this in a variety of formats, but there are various tools available.

Stop forgetting users with visual difficulties

Years ago I had a blind user show me how he navigated the web. Something I wrote then is something that I STILL see today, and it drives me nuts:

If [they] are reading a webpage that has links on it that aren’t coded to look like links which are easily recognizable as gateways to another page or site, they obviously aren’t going to find them and click. Of course, neither am I — most likely, neither are you, even if your vision is 20/20.

Sometimes webmasters (and maybe the people requesting the links) are so intent on staying “safe” that they make links blend in as if they weren’t links. It’s awful. We sometimes get links for clients and have to request that the links LOOK LIKE LINKS. How stupid is that? Why in the world would you not want your link to be clicked on? If I see a site doing this, I’m just left wondering what else they’re doing and what other bad things I have not yet found.

Always always always LOOK AT THE SITE!

It’s very clear: poor usability breaks trust. The problem is that discovering it can take time, and isn’t attached to an easy metric, other than maybe page speed. Again, we’re left with that pesky requirement to actually look at the website upon which we’re seeking links! We have to spend time going through it! And so we should.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

3 ways to improve link equity distribution and capture missed opportunities

There’s a lot of talk about link building in the SEO community, and the process can be time-consuming and tedious. As the web demands higher and higher standards for the quality of content, link building is more difficult than ever.

However, few SEOs are discussing how to better utilize what they already have. There seems to be an obsession with constantly building more and more links without first understanding how that equity is currently interacting with the website. Yes, more links may help your website rank better, but your efforts may be in vain if you’re only recouping a small portion of the equity. Much of that work dedicated to link-building efforts would then be wasted.

For many websites, there is a big opportunity to improve upon the link equity that has already been established. The best part about all of this is that these issues can be addressed internally, as opposed to link building which typically requires third-party involvement. Here are some of my favorite ways to reclaim lost link value.

1. Redirect old URL paths

On client websites, I often see discontinued product pages that haven’t been redirected or entire iterations of old websites where almost all of the URLs are returning 404 errors. Leaving these pages broken leaves too much unused link equity on the table.

Finding old URL paths and 301 redirecting them can lead to huge wins in search engine visibility. In one fell swoop, you can reactivate the value of hundreds or even thousands of links that are pointing toward your domain.

So the question becomes, how can you surface these old URLs?

There are a few different methods I use, depending on the resources I have at hand. Occasionally, I’ve had clients who just went through a migration that moved their old website to a staging site. If this is the case, you should be able to configure Screaming Frog to crawl the staging environment (you may need to ignore robots.txt and crawl nofollow links). After the crawl is complete, simply export the data to a spreadsheet and use Find/Replace to swap out the staging domain with the root domain, and you should have a comprehensive list of old URL paths.

However, what if you don’t have access to any resources that list old URLs? For these situations, I use a combination of Ahrefs, Google Analytics and Google Search Console (credit to Dan Shure’s article on redirect chains, which helped me refine this process).

First, using Ahrefs, I’ll enter my domain, and then click the “Best Pages By Links” report.

From there, I export the entire report into an Excel file. It’s important that you export all of the URLs Ahrefs gives you, not just the ones it identifies as 404 errors. Ahrefs will only provide the initial status code the URL returns, which can be misleading. Often, I’ll see situations where Ahrefs identifies the status code as a 301, but the URL actually redirects to a 404.

Once I have my Excel file, I run the URLs through Screaming Frog using “List Mode” and export the 404 errors it finds into a master Excel document.

Next, I go to Google Analytics and navigate to the “Landing Pages” report. I’ll typically set the date ranges for as far back as the account tracks, but this varies for each situation. I’ll export all of the data it gives me to a spreadsheet and then add the domain name in front of the relative URL path using Excel’s CONCATENATE function.

I once again run this list through Screaming Frog and add the 404 errors it finds to the master document.

Finally, I log in to Google Search Console, open up the “Crawl Errors” report, and navigate to the “Not Found” tab. I export these URLs and confirm that they do, in fact, return 404 status codes by using Screaming Frog. I add these 404 pages to the master document.

Now there’s one master spreadsheet that contains all of the potential broken URLs in one place. De-dupe this list and run Screaming Frog in “List Mode” and export the URLs that return 404 status codes.

To help prioritize which URLs to redirect first, I connect Screaming Frog to the Ahrefs API, which will allow the crawler to gather the link metrics associated with each page. I sort that list by number of linking root domains and assign priority to the redirections that way.

After I have the final list of 404 errors, it’s simply a matter of identifying the destination pages on the client website each URL should redirect to. To scale this effort, I often use a combination of MergeWords and the OpenList Chrome extension.

2. Analyze the .htaccess file

When evaluating how your website distributes link equity, it’s important to understand how your global redirects are working as well. This is where the .htaccess file comes into play. In this file, you can see the syntax that instructs your website how to handle redirect rules.

When using a tool like Ahrefs, if I’m seeing common redirect patterns, this is a good sign that these rules are defined in the .htaccess file.

Often, I’ll see that the .htaccess file is causing 302 redirects that should be 301, pushing unnecessary redirects (causing redirect chains), or missing redirect rules that should be there. For instance, a common mistake I see are files that 302 redirect HTTP URLs to HTTPS instead of 301.

Each situation is entirely different, but here are some of the .htaccess rules I commonly look for:

“HTTP” to “HTTPS” rulesNon-WWW to WWW rulesURL capitalization rulesTrailing slash rules

There are many opportunities to better control the directives of the .htaccess file. If you’re noticing similar patterns of improperly configured redirects, it may be worth pulling this file and talking to your developers about how these issues can be fixed.

3. Fix internal 301 redirects

Now that you’ve accumulated as much link equity as possible from external sources, it’s time to ensure that your website is passing it efficiently internally. If your website has a bunch of internal 301 redirects, there’s a chance that your deeper pages may not be receiving as much link equity as they possibly could be. While Google claims there is no link equity lost in 3xx redirects, why leave this up to chance? I would rather be 100 percent sure that internal links are passing their full value throughout the website.

To identify these, I run Screaming Frog in “Spider Mode” on the domain being analyzed. Screaming Frog will crawl the website and gather instances of 301 redirects in the “Redirection (3xx)” report. If you want to determine the order of importance, sort this report by “Inlinks.” You will now see the pages that are internally 301 redirecting the most.

Often, these are instances of internal redirects in key areas such as the primary/secondary navigation, footer or sidebar links. This is great because with one change, you can eliminate a large quantity of these internal 301 redirects. While you’ll want to fix as many as possible, I recommend you start there.

Final thoughts

One thing I’ve learned during my time as an SEO is that webmasters are fantastic at diluting equity. Changes such as website migrations and previous URL redirects all have a large impact on link equity.

While in an ideal world link equity would be kept in mind during these implementations, that is often not the case. The above steps should serve as a good starting point to getting some of yours back.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Fake news! How to recognize bad advice in link building and SEO

I like to joke that whenever Moz publishes an article about links, half my clients immediately email me about it. But that’s really not too far from the truth! People with big audiences have a lot of power.

But people can make mistakes — even people with strong expertise in a subject — so you do need to be careful trusting information without backup sources. In my opinion, the best thing about Moz is that in the comments, people will call you out, ask questions and offer alternative points of view.

People will also call you out on social media, but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t always happen with smaller sites that have smaller audiences. If an individual is writing on his or her own blog and just getting started, especially if that blog doesn’t allow comments, the writer can say lots of untrue things and no one will even notice — other than maybe your poor client.

When the data isn’t what it should be

People do make proclamations based on faulty data. I recently was involved with a study that turned out to be based on a lot of incorrect information for various reasons.

When I pointed this out to the person conducting the study, he never spoke to me or interacted with me again. Did he let anyone know what I’d said? No. It would have changed his conclusions. He didn’t want to admit that he’d been wrong or overlooked something.

This cannot be an isolated experience.

Many sites publish studies, so let’s say a client forwards you a study that draws its conclusions from a very small sample. Do you really want to trust your marketing to a test that only looked at three sites?

If I have built exactly three links for two clients in the same industry (let’s say gaming), and both of those sites improved five spots in rankings for their most important keyword, I could theoretically say that all gaming clients needed only three links to see an improvement in their rankings. But the fact is, such a small sample is unlikely to produce statistically significant results.

There are a lot of spammy scammers out there, unfortunately. Recently, I was appalled to see an agency sharing case studies with a potential client that were supposedly demonstrating the agency’s work, but guess what? It was all a lie. They hadn’t done the work they were showing. Another agency had.

The thing is, a lot of us know who does the SEO or links for a company. It’s pretty easy to find this stuff out, but unsuspecting clients can easily fall for it. I doubt most people are expecting to be given examples that were done by another company.

How to handle the constant flow of information

What are we to do when we’re constantly fed information? Sites are spewing out content all the time. People are using clickbaity headlines. Some of these articles get tweeted based on the headlines alone, and those ideas contained in the headlines might not be true at all. But by the time someone figures that out, the damage is done.

Maybe you’re writing a sarcastic article and the headline is a joke. Someone comes along, sees it, and tells his 10 clients that it’s been proven that Google always ranks paginated content highly, so these 10 clients start to redo their URL structures.

That’s far-fetched, of course, but probably not as much as you think. According to The Washington Post in a 2016 article, six out of 10 people will share a link without actually reading the article. (I’ve even done it when someone has asked me to share something they wrote and I haven’t had the time to go through it!)

You should be very worried when someone has all the answers. If you work with someone who can’t say “I don’t know” once in awhile, you are possibly dealing with a future problem.

I was once told to never admit to not knowing something, and I thought it was the worst advice I’d ever heard. Even as an expert, there is so much that I don’t know regarding this industry. If a client needs to consult about duplicate content issues across five countries and languages, I’m not the one for that. I’ll refer them to someone else rather than take the cash and risk messing something up because it is just not my area of expertise.

You know what it means when someone has all the answers? They’re lying.

What to do about it

Basically it’s the same as with any news: You can’t just read one source. If you’re doing things one way, and you read that it’s wrong, don’t just immediately switch gears without doing more research.

Don’t let someone dictate what you do, or how you do it, if you think they’re wrong. I usually have a client or two who will (at first) try to have me pursue a ton of exact-match anchor text links really, really fast so they can rank really, really fast — and I tell them no, it’s not a good idea. I’m not generally pushy, but I’ve learned that not speaking up when I think something is a bad idea IS a bad idea.

Realize that no two clients are the same. No two campaigns are the same. What you think might work for one, based on what worked for another, may not be what actually works. No matter what you’re reading, run your own tests.

Basically, think for yourself. If you see a tweet about something, track down more info on it. Find out what the pros and cons are. There’s usually at least one con to just about anything in marketing. Even respected sites can publish incorrect or unconfirmed information.

Fake or incorrect information really is everywhere

We’ve always had fake news, satire and wrong information being spread widely, but it does seem to have reached a peak lately. There is truly an overload of content coming at us nonstop in almost every aspect of our lives.

SEO can be particularly dangerous, as we don’t have widely accepted industry standards for competence, so basically anyone can call himself an SEO and get a client.

If they write well, they might fool someone into publishing something that is not accurate… and then it can get retweeted and so on and so on. Even some of our major industry sites have been called out for certain problematic articles they’ve published.

Thinking critically just doesn’t seem to be too important to a lot of people these days. We’re choosing sides and not considering middle ground, believing what one person says because we like him but immediately distrusting someone else because we don’t like her.

With SEO, we’re dealing with science, surely, but there’s too much art to it for us to think too discretely. We all have confirmation bias, even if we’re not aware of it. I have certain people that I trust completely, so if they publish something, I’ll believe it. However, I’ve known these people and their work for over a decade. If you’re new to all of this, how can you know who to trust?

Remember this, if nothing else: Question everything, test everything.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

5 steps to creating a more efficient link-building campaign

Link building plays a critical role in SEO today, but despite its importance, many people still approach this component haphazardly. They enthusiastically jump in with both feet, but without a structured process, they fail to achieve the results they could.

In the past, I’ve taken both approaches: I’ve run some link-building campaigns with little to no structure, and I’ve run others with enough structure to make German engineers weep with joy.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that the latter results in a more efficient campaign every single time. Meanwhile, that efficiency leads to better results for your clients and higher profit margins for you. So today, I’m going to share five steps you can use to make your link-building campaigns more efficient.

Start with a plan

I once had a client who, despite having the best of intentions, reminded me of a squirrel who had just guzzled a double espresso. Each time we would develop a detailed marketing plan working toward his goals, he would tell us how much he loved everything, sign off on it, and then within a few weeks, decide that he wanted to focus on some new shiny goal. As you might imagine, this absolutely killed his progress.

Fortunately, he recently stepped down, and the new CEO bases his marketing programs on a plan rather than a whim.

Planning is not a luxury. It’s a necessity that keeps you on track, improves performance and helps you reach your goals more quickly and efficiently because it reduces wasted time and energy.

Think of it in the context of travel. How efficient do you think you would be if you just hopped in your car and started driving with no route in mind, no GPS or map, and only a destination with no plan on how to get there? It’s pretty safe to assume that it would not be an efficient trip, and that’s if you even made it to your destination at all!

You need to develop a detailed link-building plan to maximize your results. It’s not just a numbers game, so by determining exactly what you want to accomplish and outlining the steps necessary to do so, you’ll achieve far greater results, and you’ll do so more quickly.

Focus on a tighter niche

Most SEO professionals today understand the importance of relevance in their link-building campaigns, and I would take this approach a step further. Rather than going after any and every link that is relevant to your content, you should further refine your strategy to go after links from a smaller niche within that pool of relevant websites. That may sound limiting, but hear me out.

Let’s say you’re building links for an architectural firm. Obviously, links from home builders, commercial contractors and engineers would all be relevant, but they would each link to an architectural firm for their own particular reasons — so the content you would need to create to earn those links would be different in each case. Having to create all of these distinct types of content is relatively inefficient.

On the other hand, if you create some amazing content that appeals to home builders, and then systematically conduct outreach targeting that type of site, your workflow will be both more efficient and more productive. You’ll also likely develop contacts who know each other, which come into play later.

Speaking of workflow…

Follow a process

Jumping from activity to activity is a recipe for disaster because it reduces efficiency and makes it more difficult to measure and reproduce results. That’s why an assembly line is so much more efficient than one person building something from start to finish.

When my team builds links, we follow a well-documented process that starts with thorough planning. We will first identify a strategic goal, and then determine what topics we need to rank for to achieve that goal.

From there, we start planning our topics for the next four to 12 months, including core pages as well as blog posts. Next, we identify the ideal websites we want to earn links from and compile their information. Finally, we conduct outreach, build relationships and follow up until we’ve earned those links for our client.

Following a documented process not only helps us produce better results for our clients more quickly, it also helps us to scale our agency more effectively because we can bring new employees on board and get them productive faster.

Document your campaigns

Documenting the work you put into your link-building campaigns makes it easier for teams to effectively work together because everyone has real-time access to tasks and their statuses, any necessary files and a log of all communications, both internal and external. Even if you work alone, this is still a valuable step because it helps you to consistently reproduce results.

We use a project management system called Teamwork and a customer relationship management (CRM) system called Hubspot to do this, and when integrated with Gmail, we can log literally every single email we send without any extra effort. We also use Boomerang for Gmail to automatically remind our team to follow up if we don’t receive a reply within a specified time frame. (Of course, there are many project management and CRM tools available, and you should invest some time evaluating which work best for your needs, situation and workflow. What is best for my team might not be best for you.)

One of the most powerful features of using a CRM to document your link-building efforts is that you can assign contacts to specific campaigns and even apply tags so that you can categorize, track and report on your efforts.

This means that if I need a list of people with whom we have an existing relationship (because they have linked to our clients before), I can quickly and easily pull a list and connect. We’re far more likely to earn a link from one of these people than we would with a cold email to a stranger, so this can be a huge productivity booster.

These tools aren’t solely effective for existing relationships, though. The vast majority of your initial cold emails will be ignored or declined, but a CRM allows you to set reminders to follow up with link prospects. That way, over time, you can develop and nurture a relationship that makes it easier to eventually earn links from them in the future.

There is both art and science to doing this well, which is covered in a piece on Marketing Land called How to get your content amplified by influencers.

And once you’ve built those relationships…

Leverage your contacts

We’ve already talked about how you can use your CRM to repeatedly go back to the well for new links from existing contacts, but there’s another opportunity that few people take advantage of, and that is to leverage those contacts to earn introductions to new contacts.

We start by first running a crawler, like Screaming Frog, on their website to identify outbound links, and then sort the resulting data to identify potential link opportunities. From there, it’s a simple matter of asking your contact for an introduction via email. You might try something like this:

Hey Alex, I wanted to ask a quick favor. I noticed you have a link to xyz.com — do you know someone over there? If so, could you introduce me to them? Since we cover similar topics, I think we would be good contacts for each other.

It’s important to point out that this approach will only be effective if you’ve previously been in dialogue with a contact. Ideally, someone who already owes you a favor. This is another situation where the tactics outlined in the “how to get your content amplified by influencers” article come into play, because you’ll achieve far better results if you build a relationship with someone and do them a favor first — before you need something from them.

After an introduction has been made, you can pitch the content you want them to link to. After nurturing the relationship, you can also use this same approach to meet that new person’s contacts.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.