Tag Archive | "Link"

Supercharge Your Link Building Outreach! 5 Tips for Success – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Shannon-McGuirk

Spending a ton of effort on outreach and waking up to an empty inbox is a demoralizing (and unfortunately common) experience. And when it comes to your outreach, getting those emails opened is half the battle. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome recent MozCon 2019 alum Shannon McGuirk to share five of her best tips to make your outreach efficient and effective — the perfect follow-up to her talk about building a digital PR newsroom.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Shannon McGuirk. I’m the Head of PR and Content at a UK-based digital marketing agency called Aira. So at this year’s MozCon, I spoke about how to supercharge your link building with a digital PR newsroom and spoke about the three different types of media and journalist writing that we should be tapping into.

But I only had half an hour to be able to share my insights and thoughts. As a next step from that presentation, I need to equip you guys with everything in order to be able to go out and actually speak to these journalists. So for my Whiteboard Friday today, I’m going to be sharing my five tips for success for supercharging your outreach, specifically evolved around email outreach alone.

In the U.K. and in the U.S. as well, we’re seeing, as our industry grows and develops, journalists don’t want to be called anymore, and instead the best way to get in touch with them is via email or on social media. So let’s dive straight in. 

1. Subject lines A/B tests

So tip one then. I want to share some insights with you that I did for subject lines and specifically around some A/B testing.

Back in the early part of the summer, around April time, we started working on a tool called BuzzStream. Now that allowed us to be able to send different kinds of tests and emails out with a variety of different subject lines in order for us to understand how many open rates we were getting and to try and encourage journalists, through the use of our language and emojis, to open up those all-important pitch emails so that we could follow up and make sure that we’re bringing those links home.

Journalist’s name in subject line

So we ran two different types of A/B tests. The first one here you can see was with the journalist’s name in the subject line and the journalist’s name without. It turns out then that actually, when we were running this data, we were seeing far more opens if we had the journalist’s name in the subject line. It was getting their attention. It was getting that cut-through that we needed when they’re getting hundreds of emails per day and to see their name in a little nib meant that we were increasing open rates. So that was our first learning from test number one. 

“Data” vs “story tip”

Now test number two, we had a bit of a gut feel and a little bit of an instinct to feel that there were certain types of words and language that we were using that were either getting us more open rates or not. For this one specifically, it was around the use of the word “data.” So we compared the use of the word “data” with story tip, and again including the journalist’s name and not, to try and see how many journalists were opening up our emails.

At Aira, we have around a 33% open rate with any campaigns that we launch, and again this is tracked through BuzzStream. But when we started to do these A/B tests, combine story tip, full name, and then follow with “data,” we increased that to 52%. So that jump up, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get 52% more links off the back of your outreach, but it means that you are getting more people opening up their email, considering your data, considering your campaigns, which is half of the problem, when we all know as outreachers, content marketers, digital PRs how difficult it can be for someone to even just open that initial approach.

So now, off the back of those A/B tests, make sure that whenever you’re writing those emails out you have story tip for Tom and then followed by data and whatever research you’ve got in that campaign. 

2. Headline language

For tip two then, keeping on the theme of language, I did a piece of research for another conference that I was speaking at earlier in the summer called SearchLeeds and another one called outREACH.

I analyzed 35,000 articles across 6 different top 10 news sites in the U.K. The language that came out of that, around the headlines specifically, was so interesting. So I split these 35,000 articles down into relevant sectors, took the likes of travel, automotive, business, what have you, and then I was able to create around 30 word clouds according to different articles that had been produced within these different industries at different titles.

I was able to start to see common words that were used in headlines, and that got my mind ticking a bit. I was starting to think, well, actually as a team, at Aira, we should be starting to pitch and use language within our pitches that journalists are already using, because they straightaway resonate with the story that we’ve got. So here’s a quick snapshot of the kind of word clouds that the analysis revealed.

You can kind of see some core words shining through. So we’ve got research, best, stats, experts, that kind of thing. Now the top five words that were most commonly used across all sectors within the headlines were: best, worst, data, new, and revealed. Now “data” is really interesting, because if we go back to our A/B testing, we know that that’s a strong word and that that will get you more opens with your subject lines.

But it also reaffirms that that A/B test is right and that we definitely should be using “data.” So combine story tip for that journalist’s name, Tom or what have you, with data and then start to use some of the language here, out of these top five, and again you’re going to increase your open rates, which is half of the problem with what we’re doing with outreach.

3. Use color

So tip three then. Now this was quite an experimental approach that we took, and a huge recommendation of mine, when you’re doing your email outreach, is actually to start to use color within that all-important pitch email itself. So we’ve moved from subject lines into looking at the body of the email. We use color and bolding back at Aira.

So we use color straightaway when we’re writing the email. So we’ll start with something like, “Dear Tom, I have a story that you might be interested in.” Straight under that, so we’re already using again the language that they’ll be using, story, going back to our A/B test. But then straight under that, we will bold, capitalize, and put in a really bright color — reds, greens, blues — nice, strong primary colors there the headline that we think Tom might write off the back of our outreach.

So here’s an example. “New data reveals that 21% of drivers have driven with no insurance.” Not the most exciting headline in the world. But if Tom here is an automotive editor or a digital online automotive writer, straightaway he knows what I’m talking to him about. Again, he can start to see how this data can be used to craft stories for his own audience.

Again, as I said, this is quite experimental. We’re in the early phases of it at Aira, but we know it’s working, and it’s something that I learnt, again, at outREACH conference too. Straight under this use of color with headline, you should pull out your key stats. Now only keep those bullet points to three to five. Journalists are busy.

They’re on deadlines. Don’t be having huge, bulk paragraphs or long-winded sentences. Tell them the headline, follow it up with the key stats. Be clean, be punchy, and get to the point really quickly. Below this, obviously sign off and include any press material, Google Drive links, press packs that you’ve got under that. Again, we’re seeing this work really, really well.

We’re still in the early stages, and I hope to share some insights, some kind of data and metrics as to the success results of it. But we’ve been able to secure links from the likes of the Mail Online, the Telegraph back in the U.K., and also last week just FoxBusiness using this exact approach. 

4. Use emojis

So tip four then, and again this is a really playful technique and something that we only learnt with experimentation.

Start to use emojis within your pitches as well. Now this can be used within the subject line. Again, you’re looking to try and get the journalist to get that piece of attention straightaway and look at your headline. Or start to use them within the body of the email too, because they break up that text and it makes your email stand out far more than if you have someone that’s pitching in a business piece of data and you’ve just got huge stacks and research pieces.

Actually throw in some emojis that are relating to the business world, a laptop or whatever it may be, something that proves your point around the campaign. Again, it’s more engaging for a journalist to read that. It means that they’ll probably remember your email over the other 200 that they’re getting that day. So really nice, simplistic tip then for me.

If you’re pitching something in the automotive world, put a car or traffic lights on the end. If you’re doing something in the travel sphere, sun, beaches, something that just gets that journalist’s eye. It means that your email is going to be opened above anyone else’s. 

5. Use Twitter

Finally then, so I know I’ve kept this around email outreach for the last couple of points.

But one thing that we’re seeing work really well with the implementation of this digital PR newsroom is starting to approach and speak to journalists on Twitter. Twitter we know is a new source for journalists. Trending topics will obviously be picked up in the press and covered on a daily if not hourly basis. As soon as something breaks on Twitter, we’ll see journalists, writers, bloggers turn that trending feature into an article that’s really resonant and relevant for their audience.

So in the run-up to your campaign, way before the launch, we’re talking like three or four weeks here, reach out to the journalists on Twitter. Start to engage with them. Like some articles. Start to let them know that you’re in and engaging with them on their social media platform. Don’t push it too hard.

You don’t want to go overboard with this. But a little bit of engagement here and there means that when your email comes into their inbox, it’s not a new name, and you’re already starting to build the foundations of that relationship. Secondary to this then, feel free and start to experiment with DM’ing journalists as well. We know that they’re getting two, three, or four hundred emails per day. If you take to Twitter and send them a quick overview of your up-and-coming campaign via a Twitter DM, it’s likely that they’ll read that on the journey home or potentially when they’re walking from meeting to meeting.

Again, it puts you one step ahead of your competitors. Recently we’ve got some of our best pieces of coverage through warming the press up and specific journalists through Twitter, because when your campaign launches, you’re not going out with it cold. Instead the journalist knows that it’s coming in. They may even have the editorial space to cover that feature for you too. It’s something that we’ve seen really work, and again I can’t stress enough that you really have to find that balance.

You don’t want to be plaguing journalists. You don’t want to be a pain and starting to like every single tweet they do. But if it is relevant and you find an opportunity to engage and speak to them about your campaign the weeks in advance, it opens up that door. Again, you may be able to secure an exclusive out of it, which means that you get that first huge hit. So there are my five tips for link building in 2019, and it will help you supercharge things.

Now if you have any comments for me, any questions, please pop them in the thread below or reach out to me on Twitter. As I’ve just said, feel free to send me a DM. I’m always around and would love to help you guys a little bit more if you do have any questions for me. Thanks, Moz fans.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Did you miss Shannon’s groundbreaking talk at MozCon 2019, How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom? Download the deck here and don’t miss out on next year’s conference — super early bird discounts are available now!

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New research shows strong link between Google My Business photo quantity and search performance

Here’s what analyzing 580,853 images across 15,191 Google My Business listings taught us about how GMB images could be impacting user behavior.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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How to Set up a Well-Integrated Effective Link Building Campaign

Posted by AnnSmarty

Link building remains one of the most effective digital marketing tactics, and not just for higher rankings (even though links do still remain the major organic ranking factor). Links drive referral clicks, and generate leads, making your site less dependent on search and advertising traffic.

But how do you build links these days, now that most self-serving link acquisition tactics are frowned upon by Google and can result in lost search visibility?

Here’s what we know for sure:

  • Link building cannot be scaled
  • Link building is not easy or fast.

A new approach to link building integrates all kinds of marketing assets and processes including content marketing, relationship building, and influencer outreach.

This article outlines exactly how to create an effective link building campaign.

Link Acquisition Campaign Goals:

For your campaign, you want to achieve the following:

  • You want that asset to bring in links
  • You want that asset to rank (because high-ranking content keeps bringing links organically as most writers/bloggers search Google to find sources to reference)

So there’s a little bit of a vicious circle here: You cannot rank without links but links also help to rank.

Link building vicious circle

If you really want your link acquisition campaign to work, you need to aim for both: Your content asset should be linkable as well as rank on top of Google for related keywords.

What Non-Spammy Non-Scaled Link Building Methods Do We Know?

  • Researching and creating linkable content (i.e. Content that attracts backlinks)
  • Vanity baiting (ego-baiting): Featuring influencer(s) in your content for them to link back to the published content as well as attract more links (by name association)
  • Relationship building (i.e. Connecting to publishers and journalists on social media for better brand familiarity and hence higher response rate)
  • Broken link building (i.e. Reaching out to website owners linking to broken pages and offering to link to your live page instead)

If we really want to achieve both links and rankings, we need to combine all of those link acquisition methods within one campaign:

Combine

Before we get into steps and tools, let’s illustrate the above with an example:

Sample Link Building Campaign

We had an ecommerce client manufacturing and selling LED lamps and our research included “light” as the core topic. We came up with the following content angles:

    • Light Therapy
    • Light and (Kids’) Creativity
    • Light and Productivity

While we were doing our content research, we came across multiple articles across a lot of top publications referencing an interview (dating back to 2015) with a professor from NY Lighting Research Center talking about the impact of blue light on Alzheimer’s patients.

The interview had long been deleted but the links were all still there.

With that in mind, we took the following steps:

  • We contacted the professor to get an updated quote on the topic. The professor shared her new interior room designs for Alzheimer’s patients which happened to perfectly align with our client’s main ecommerce focus, i.e. “interior lightning.”
  • We did some additional research (including keyword research) to identify what we want the asset to rank for to be able to get discovered by more bloggers and journalists.
  • At the same time, even before we started working on the actual content, we tracked down all those journalists and bloggers who had written about the deleted interview. We also identified more key influencers who were covering the topic (sticking to our specific angle, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). We put together a Twitter list and started interacting with them to familiarize them with our team before we reach out.

This way, by the time we started to work on the actual content asset, we knew:

  • The specific linkable asset topic
  • The expert(s) we were able to include in our content
  • The bloggers and journalists we were going to reach out to as soon as it went live
Campaign

By the time we started our actual outreach, we had two strong advantages:

1. We could reference our professor in the outreach email:

Ego-bait

2. We could reference other influencers who interacted with us on Twitter (or even already linked to us). Additionally, we could use our newly-built social media connections to follow up and find more people to reach out to:

Outreach campaign

Note: None of these tactics should be step 1: They are all launched together to inform, direct and empower one another.

Tools for every part of the process

Now that we have agreed there are no “steps” here (because all of those tactics should be connected), here is the tool you can use to launch a well-integrated highly-effective link building campaign:

1. Content asset creation

Like most content creation campaigns, this one starts with brainstorming. It is a specific type of brainstorming, though, one that starts with “linkable” angles, i.e. you want to keep your planned “linking” leads in mind. Generally, the following content angles usually bring in links quite easily:

  • “Safety of XX”
  • “History of XX” (especially if you plan to reach out to educators)
  • Recent research (especially if you plan to reach out to journalists)
  • Industry survey (and stats). This usually goes well with niche bloggers.

Image source and more details: digitaleagles.com.au

But there can be more, depending on what it is you are doing. For example, if you own (or market for) a local business, those angles should be localized.

The format of your linkable asset is another thing to think about. There are many options here:

Formats

Note: There’s no need to stick to one format. You can (and probably should) experiment with several of those by using content re-purposing.

2. TextOptimizer for Brainstorming

Text Optimizer is a great tool to help you find more angles to narrow your research down. It uses semantic analysis to extract related concepts and entities from Google search result snippets, helping you to find more specific angles to cover.

Once you know your specific topic ideas, put them in TextOptimizer, one by one, to find related angles and questions to focus on:

Text Optimizer research

More tools for content research: Research and optimize for niche questions

3. Determining your outreach targets

This is a multi-step, continuous process that never really stops. One of the easiest and quickest way to start is to run the “Top pages” tool inside Serpstat that determines web pages that show up in Google for the variety of queries around your core term:

Serpstat top pages

Note: Export the whole list of top-ranking pages for your core query and determine outreach tactics for each one.

4. Twitter Bio search for more outreach targets

Social media marketing won’t probably bring in organic links on its own but social media (especially Twitter) is an awesome outreach tool to utilize in combination with traditional email outreach.

Twitter bio search is one of the most effective ways to generate link-building leads. Twiangulate is a great Twitter bio search that helps you:

  • Find Twitter users by a certain keyword mentioned in their bio (or the combination of keywords)
  • Find Twitter users by location (this is a great way to find local journalists and bloggers)
  • Find common connections of two Twitter accounts (this is a very useful feature for ego-bait content outreach which allows you to find who is connected to your included experts)
  • Find Twitter followers by a keyword (among friends of a certain account). This one can be used to find active Twitter users that work at the publication you are targeting for links:
Twiangulate

5. Broken link building

Ahrefs has one of the coolest link building features out there allowing you to see (and export) all pages linking to broken pages within any domain. To access the report, run your identified leaders in the target niche and click through to “Backlink Profile -> Broken” report:

Arefs broken report

All you need to do now is to export the report into an Excel spreadsheet, identify most linked-to content on the website, and decide if you can build content to replace the deleted page and claim all those links.

CognitiveSEO is another (newer) tool that shows the most linked-to broken pages on any website:

CognitiveSEO

6. Social media outreach

Since your link building outreach is going to include the social media component, you need to figure out how your link building and social media teams are going to collaborate on that.

ContentCal is a solid collaborative tool that can be used to include your link building team into your social media marketing. Encourage your link building outreach team to use ContentCal’s “Pinboard” feature that will allow them to add social media updates for the social media manager to approve and schedule them to go out from your company’s official Twitter account:

ContentCal

Note: ContentCal allows your link building team to contribute to your brand social media channels without sacrificing on the overall quality: There’s always a moderator making sure everything looks good before updates go live.

7. Email outreach

We have tried multiple tools and ended up building our own in-house solution, but there’s no link building tutorial possible without at least one outreach tool included. So I’ll go ahead and recommend Pitchbox (Disclaimer: This is the only tool here I haven’t tried yet but I’ve heard very good people recommend it, so I have full trust in its awesome-ness):

Pitchbox

Pitchbox stores your contacts and email templates as well as manages the follow-ups and reports]

8. Monitor your campaign performance

If you are managing a multi-format link building campaign that includes more content types beyond text (e.g. a downloadable whitepaper, an embeddable infographic, a video, etc.), you may want to keep a close eye on what content formats your link building leads engage more with.

Finteza is the free analytics software focusing on monitoring and reporting on specific on-page events.

Finteza

While you are actively emailing to your identified link building leads, keep an eye on how they interact with your linkable assets. This is a great experience to learn from for your upcoming campaigns.

Finteza also offers a free WordPress plug-in that makes adding on-page events to monitor easier:

Finteza plugin

9. Personalize your content asset based on the referral

Since your link acquisition campaign includes both email and social media outreach, it is smart to customize your content asset based on the referral source to make sure your link building leads will see exactly what they came for above the fold.

Alter is an easy tool for personalizing your content based on your settings. You will need to add their script to the page to serve a slightly different page copy based on the source.

The first step is to create your audience inside Alter:

Depending on your outreach tactics, you can combine as many criteria as you want

You can create your personalization using Alter’s built-in editor:

Alter personalization

10. Monitor incoming links

Finally, set up link monitoring using Brand Mentions. This tool will promptly alert you of any new linked and unlinked web mentions and allow you to better monitor the effectiveness of the campaign as well as quickly interact with your promoters.

Brand Mentions allows you to authenticate your Google Analytics account. This way you’ll be alerted by new referral traffic immediately — remember: Traffic sending links are the best types of links!

Brand Mentions google analytics

Launching a well-rounded link building campaign: Takeaways

  • An effective link building campaign includes most of effective and legit link acquisition tactics, including linkable content creation, ego-baiting, broken link building and (social media) relationship management.
  • None of the above tactics are step one in the campaign: They all need to be connected — informing and directing one another.
  • A key to successful link building campaign is collaboration (between teams, as well as with niche influencers and experts).
  • One of the major goals behind your linkable content asset is that it needs to rank in top five for a popular query. Once you achieve that, you can stop the proactive outreach process, as links will start coming in naturally: All bloggers and journalists use Google to find sources to reference.
  • An effective link acquisition campaign includes more than one content format. Give your media contacts more reasons to link to you by visualizing results, building embeddable content, and downloadable assets to take home.

With so many ideas, parts and tools, it may also be tough to get organized. In most cases, your campaign manager will be able to put everything together using shared (Google) Spreadsheets (that also easily integrate into online calendars). There are of course many more tools to check out.

Finally, there are many more tools I’ve used at some point or another. There’s no way I could list all of them in one article. I did my best to include newer tools (those that are not already well-covered and well-known) because I believe they bring something innovative to the table allowing you to take a new approach or experiment with new tactics.

If you are using any other link building tools in your process, please list them in the comments below — I am always on the hunt for more tools!

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Moz Blog

Posted in Latest NewsComments Off

How to Set up a Well-Integrated Effective Link Building Campaign

Posted by AnnSmarty

Link building remains one of the most effective digital marketing tactics, and not just for higher rankings (even though links do still remain the major organic ranking factor). Links drive referral clicks, and generate leads, making your site less dependent on search and advertising traffic.

But how do you build links these days, now that most self-serving link acquisition tactics are frowned upon by Google and can result in lost search visibility?

Here’s what we know for sure:

  • Link building cannot be scaled
  • Link building is not easy or fast.

A new approach to link building integrates all kinds of marketing assets and processes including content marketing, relationship building, and influencer outreach.

This article outlines exactly how to create an effective link building campaign.

Link Acquisition Campaign Goals:

For your campaign, you want to achieve the following:

  • You want that asset to bring in links
  • You want that asset to rank (because high-ranking content keeps bringing links organically as most writers/bloggers search Google to find sources to reference)

So there’s a little bit of a vicious circle here: You cannot rank without links but links also help to rank.

Link building vicious circle

If you really want your link acquisition campaign to work, you need to aim for both: Your content asset should be linkable as well as rank on top of Google for related keywords.

What Non-Spammy Non-Scaled Link Building Methods Do We Know?

  • Researching and creating linkable content (i.e. Content that attracts backlinks)
  • Vanity baiting (ego-baiting): Featuring influencer(s) in your content for them to link back to the published content as well as attract more links (by name association)
  • Relationship building (i.e. Connecting to publishers and journalists on social media for better brand familiarity and hence higher response rate)
  • Broken link building (i.e. Reaching out to website owners linking to broken pages and offering to link to your live page instead)

If we really want to achieve both links and rankings, we need to combine all of those link acquisition methods within one campaign:

Combine

Before we get into steps and tools, let’s illustrate the above with an example:

Sample Link Building Campaign

We had an ecommerce client manufacturing and selling LED lamps and our research included “light” as the core topic. We came up with the following content angles:

    • Light Therapy
    • Light and (Kids’) Creativity
    • Light and Productivity

While we were doing our content research, we came across multiple articles across a lot of top publications referencing an interview (dating back to 2015) with a professor from NY Lighting Research Center talking about the impact of blue light on Alzheimer’s patients.

The interview had long been deleted but the links were all still there.

With that in mind, we took the following steps:

  • We contacted the professor to get an updated quote on the topic. The professor shared her new interior room designs for Alzheimer’s patients which happened to perfectly align with our client’s main ecommerce focus, i.e. “interior lightning.”
  • We did some additional research (including keyword research) to identify what we want the asset to rank for to be able to get discovered by more bloggers and journalists.
  • At the same time, even before we started working on the actual content, we tracked down all those journalists and bloggers who had written about the deleted interview. We also identified more key influencers who were covering the topic (sticking to our specific angle, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). We put together a Twitter list and started interacting with them to familiarize them with our team before we reach out.

This way, by the time we started to work on the actual content asset, we knew:

  • The specific linkable asset topic
  • The expert(s) we were able to include in our content
  • The bloggers and journalists we were going to reach out to as soon as it went live
Campaign

By the time we started our actual outreach, we had two strong advantages:

1. We could reference our professor in the outreach email:

Ego-bait

2. We could reference other influencers who interacted with us on Twitter (or even already linked to us). Additionally, we could use our newly-built social media connections to follow up and find more people to reach out to:

Outreach campaign

Note: None of these tactics should be step 1: They are all launched together to inform, direct and empower one another.

Tools for every part of the process

Now that we have agreed there are no “steps” here (because all of those tactics should be connected), here is the tool you can use to launch a well-integrated highly-effective link building campaign:

1. Content asset creation

Like most content creation campaigns, this one starts with brainstorming. It is a specific type of brainstorming, though, one that starts with “linkable” angles, i.e. you want to keep your planned “linking” leads in mind. Generally, the following content angles usually bring in links quite easily:

  • “Safety of XX”
  • “History of XX” (especially if you plan to reach out to educators)
  • Recent research (especially if you plan to reach out to journalists)
  • Industry survey (and stats). This usually goes well with niche bloggers.

Image source and more details: digitaleagles.com.au

But there can be more, depending on what it is you are doing. For example, if you own (or market for) a local business, those angles should be localized.

The format of your linkable asset is another thing to think about. There are many options here:

Formats

Note: There’s no need to stick to one format. You can (and probably should) experiment with several of those by using content re-purposing.

2. TextOptimizer for Brainstorming

Text Optimizer is a great tool to help you find more angles to narrow your research down. It uses semantic analysis to extract related concepts and entities from Google search result snippets, helping you to find more specific angles to cover.

Once you know your specific topic ideas, put them in TextOptimizer, one by one, to find related angles and questions to focus on:

Text Optimizer research

More tools for content research: Research and optimize for niche questions

3. Determining your outreach targets

This is a multi-step, continuous process that never really stops. One of the easiest and quickest way to start is to run the “Top pages” tool inside Serpstat that determines web pages that show up in Google for the variety of queries around your core term:

Serpstat top pages

Note: Export the whole list of top-ranking pages for your core query and determine outreach tactics for each one.

4. Twitter Bio search for more outreach targets

Social media marketing won’t probably bring in organic links on its own but social media (especially Twitter) is an awesome outreach tool to utilize in combination with traditional email outreach.

Twitter bio search is one of the most effective ways to generate link-building leads. Twiangulate is a great Twitter bio search that helps you:

  • Find Twitter users by a certain keyword mentioned in their bio (or the combination of keywords)
  • Find Twitter users by location (this is a great way to find local journalists and bloggers)
  • Find common connections of two Twitter accounts (this is a very useful feature for ego-bait content outreach which allows you to find who is connected to your included experts)
  • Find Twitter followers by a keyword (among friends of a certain account). This one can be used to find active Twitter users that work at the publication you are targeting for links:
Twiangulate

5. Broken link building

Ahrefs has one of the coolest link building features out there allowing you to see (and export) all pages linking to broken pages within any domain. To access the report, run your identified leaders in the target niche and click through to “Backlink Profile -> Broken” report:

Arefs broken report

All you need to do now is to export the report into an Excel spreadsheet, identify most linked-to content on the website, and decide if you can build content to replace the deleted page and claim all those links.

CognitiveSEO is another (newer) tool that shows the most linked-to broken pages on any website:

CognitiveSEO

6. Social media outreach

Since your link building outreach is going to include the social media component, you need to figure out how your link building and social media teams are going to collaborate on that.

ContentCal is a solid collaborative tool that can be used to include your link building team into your social media marketing. Encourage your link building outreach team to use ContentCal’s “Pinboard” feature that will allow them to add social media updates for the social media manager to approve and schedule them to go out from your company’s official Twitter account:

ContentCal

Note: ContentCal allows your link building team to contribute to your brand social media channels without sacrificing on the overall quality: There’s always a moderator making sure everything looks good before updates go live.

7. Email outreach

We have tried multiple tools and ended up building our own in-house solution, but there’s no link building tutorial possible without at least one outreach tool included. So I’ll go ahead and recommend Pitchbox (Disclaimer: This is the only tool here I haven’t tried yet but I’ve heard very good people recommend it, so I have full trust in its awesome-ness):

Pitchbox

Pitchbox stores your contacts and email templates as well as manages the follow-ups and reports]

8. Monitor your campaign performance

If you are managing a multi-format link building campaign that includes more content types beyond text (e.g. a downloadable whitepaper, an embeddable infographic, a video, etc.), you may want to keep a close eye on what content formats your link building leads engage more with.

Finteza is the free analytics software focusing on monitoring and reporting on specific on-page events.

Finteza

While you are actively emailing to your identified link building leads, keep an eye on how they interact with your linkable assets. This is a great experience to learn from for your upcoming campaigns.

Finteza also offers a free WordPress plug-in that makes adding on-page events to monitor easier:

Finteza plugin

9. Personalize your content asset based on the referral

Since your link acquisition campaign includes both email and social media outreach, it is smart to customize your content asset based on the referral source to make sure your link building leads will see exactly what they came for above the fold.

Alter is an easy tool for personalizing your content based on your settings. You will need to add their script to the page to serve a slightly different page copy based on the source.

The first step is to create your audience inside Alter:

Depending on your outreach tactics, you can combine as many criteria as you want

You can create your personalization using Alter’s built-in editor:

Alter personalization

10. Monitor incoming links

Finally, set up link monitoring using Brand Mentions. This tool will promptly alert you of any new linked and unlinked web mentions and allow you to better monitor the effectiveness of the campaign as well as quickly interact with your promoters.

Brand Mentions allows you to authenticate your Google Analytics account. This way you’ll be alerted by new referral traffic immediately — remember: Traffic sending links are the best types of links!

Brand Mentions google analytics

Launching a well-rounded link building campaign: Takeaways

  • An effective link building campaign includes most of effective and legit link acquisition tactics, including linkable content creation, ego-baiting, broken link building and (social media) relationship management.
  • None of the above tactics are step one in the campaign: They all need to be connected — informing and directing one another.
  • A key to successful link building campaign is collaboration (between teams, as well as with niche influencers and experts).
  • One of the major goals behind your linkable content asset is that it needs to rank in top five for a popular query. Once you achieve that, you can stop the proactive outreach process, as links will start coming in naturally: All bloggers and journalists use Google to find sources to reference.
  • An effective link acquisition campaign includes more than one content format. Give your media contacts more reasons to link to you by visualizing results, building embeddable content, and downloadable assets to take home.

With so many ideas, parts and tools, it may also be tough to get organized. In most cases, your campaign manager will be able to put everything together using shared (Google) Spreadsheets (that also easily integrate into online calendars). There are of course many more tools to check out.

Finally, there are many more tools I’ve used at some point or another. There’s no way I could list all of them in one article. I did my best to include newer tools (those that are not already well-covered and well-known) because I believe they bring something innovative to the table allowing you to take a new approach or experiment with new tactics.

If you are using any other link building tools in your process, please list them in the comments below — I am always on the hunt for more tools!

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Link Building in 2019: Get by With a Little Help From Your Friends

Posted by kelseyreaves

Editor’s note: This post first appeared in December of 2015, but because SEO (and Google) changes so quickly, we figured it was time for a refresh! 


The link building world is in a constant state of evolution. New tools are continually introduced to the market, with SEOs ready to discover what works best.

In 2015, I wrote an article for Moz about how our team switched over to a new email automation tool that drastically improved our overall outreach system — we increased our email reply rates by 187 percent in just one month. Which meant that our number of attainable backlinks also drastically increased.

 I wanted to see what’s changed since I last wrote this post. Because in 2019, you need a lot more than new tools to excel in link building.

But first…

Looking back, it was pretty ingenious: Our link building program had automated almost every step in the outreach process. We were emailing hundreds of people a week, guest posting on numerous websites, and raking in 20–30 links per week. If anyone has been in the game long enough, you’ll know that’s an insane amount of links.

With its success at my first company, I took the concept and applied it to several freelance link building projects I was working on. It proved to work for those sites, too. Later on, I built out a similar system for the second startup I worked for. And again, it proved to be just as successful. Every link building project I took on, my thinking was: How can I scale this thing to get me 10x the number of links? How can I email 5x the number of people? How can I automate this as much as possible so I can create a link building machine that’s completely hands off?

Well…at least for a period of time.

While I had the best of intentions, this thinking is what ultimately got me in trouble and lead to the inevitable: I was hit with a manual action for participating in link schemes.

I remember opening up Search Console and reading that message. At that moment, I felt like a kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar. My stomach was in knots. I had heard of people getting manual actions before but didn’t think it was something that would happen to me.

In hindsight, this was probably one of the most important moments of my SEO/growth career. It sobered me up and pushed me into thinking about outreach in a whole different light, and taught me the most important lesson to date: building links isn’t about using automation to create processes that scale. It’s about building relationships — and value — that scales.

What outreach looked like in 2015

I’m not surprised I got away with what I was doing for so long. From 2015 to 2017, it seemed like everyone and their Mom was guest posting. During that time, this is what I noticed:

1. It was a numbers game

Most of the SEOs I talked to from 2015 to 2017 were using a similar strategy. It was all about finding tools that could help scale your guest posting program and contact as many people as possible. Most companies had some arbitrary link quota for their outreach teams to hit every month, mine included.

2. It promoted somewhat decent content that was templatized

In our outreach program, we were pitching the same three to four topics over and over again and while the content we wrote was always original, there was nothing novel about the articles we were putting out there. They were cute, engaging — but none of it was on the cutting edge or had a solid opinion. It’s what our friend John Collins from Intercom calls Happy Meal content:

“It looks good from a distance, but you’re left feeling hungry not long after you consume it.”

3. It idolized automation and processes

At the time, most outreach programs were about leveraging tools to automate processes and scale every step of the way. We were using several tools to scrape websites and hired virtual assistants off of Upwork to find email addresses of just about anyone associated with a company, whether they were actually the ideal person to contact or not.

This process had worked in 2015. But in 2019, there’s no way it could.

What outreach looks like in 2019

Since joining the team at OG Marketing this last fall, I’ve vastly altered the way I approach outreach and link building. Our strategy now focuses on three main concepts.

1. Helping editors cite good sources

The link building relationships I’ve built this year are almost entirely centered around editors and content managers of notable sites who only want to link to high-quality, relevant content.

And luckily for us, we work with some of the best content creators in the B2B SaaS-verse. We don’t have to go out and beg for links to mediocre (at best) content: We’re building authority to pages that truly deserve it. More importantly, we’re actually fulfilling a need by providing great sources of information for other quality content.

2. Understanding backlinks are only one piece to the puzzle

Link building is only one lever and shouldn’t be your whole SEO strategy. Depending on the site you’re working on, building links may be a good use of your time — or not at all.

In our strategy, we account for the fact that sometimes links aren’t always necessary. They will definitely help, but it’s possible to excel without them.

For example, Hotjar recently published an article on 5 ways to use scroll maps. Looking at the backlink profile for the top three results for “scroll map,” CrazyEgg has more referring domains than Hotjar, but is currently in position three. Omniconvert has zero backlinks and still ranks above CrazyEgg in position two. With only three referring domains, Hotjar has earned the 1st position and a coveted featured snippet.

2015 me would’ve had a knee jerk reaction to kick off an outreach campaign as soon as we hit publish on the new article. But considering the fact that you may not even need a ton of links to rank well, you can actually spend your time more efficiently elsewhere.

3. Creating quality content that earns links naturally

There’s definitely a tipping point when it comes to generating backlinks naturally. When your article appears on page one for the query you’re targeting, your chances of having that article cited by other publications with zero effort on your part just naturally goes up.

Why? Because people looking to add credible citations to their article will turn to Google to find that content.

This prompts our team to always ensure that each piece of content we create for our clients satisfies searcher intent. To do this, we start off by researching if the intent behind the keyword we want to rank for has purchase, consideration or informational intent.

For example, the keyword “best video conferencing camera” has consideration-based intent. We can determine this by looking at the SERPs. In the screenshot below, you can see Google understands users are trying to compare different types of cameras.

By seeing this, we know that our best bet for creating content that will rank well is by writing a listicle-style post comparing the best video cameras on the market. If we had instead created an informational article targeting the same keyword about why you should invest in a video conferencing camera without a list of product comparisons, the article probably wouldn’t perform well in search.

Therefore, if we start off on the right foot by creating the right type of content from the very beginning, we make it easier for ourselves down the road. In other words, we won’t have to build a million links just to get a piece of content to rank that wasn’t the right format, to begin with.

What we’ve found with our outreach strategy

Centering our strategy around creating the right content and then determining whether or not that content needs links, has helped us prioritize what articles actually need to be a part of an outreach campaign.

Once this is determined, we then call on our friends — or our content partners — to help us drive link equity quickly, efficiently, and in a way, that enhances the source content and makes sense for end users (readers).

A few months into building out our homie program, there are several things we noticed.

1. Response rates increased

Probably because it’s not as templatized and, generally, I care more deeply about the email I’m sending and the person I’m reaching out to. On average, I get about a 65–70 percent response rate.

2. Opt-in rates increased

Once I get a response, build the relationship, then ask if they want to become a content partner (“friend”), we typically see a 75 percent opt-in rate.

3. You get the same amount of links, using half the amount of work, in half the amount of time

I’m gonna repeat that: we generate the same, if not more, backlinks month over month with less effort, time and manpower than with the process I built out in 2015.

And the more partners we add, the more links we acquire, with less effort. Visually, it looks like this:

I (somewhat) paid attention during economics class in college, and I remember a chart with this trajectory being a really good thing. So, I think we’re on to something…

How our outreach process works (and how you can create your own)

Our current link building program still leverages some of the tools mentioned in my post from 2015, but we’ve simplified the process. Essentially, it works like this:

1. Identify your friends

Do you have friends or acquaintances that work at sites which touch on topics in your space? Start there!

I got connected to the CEO of Proof, who connected me with their Content Director, Ben. We saw that there was synergy between our content and each needed sources about what the other wrote about. He was able to connect me with other writers and content managers in the space, and now we’re all best of friends.

2. Find new friends

Typically we look for similar sites in the B2B SaaS space that we want to partner with and are relevant to our client sites. Then, we use several tools like Clearbit, Hunter.io, and Viola Norbert to identify the person we want to reach out to (usually SEO Managers, Marketing Directors or Content Managers) and find their email.

This step has been crucial in our process. In the past, we left this to the virtual assistants. But since bringing this in house, we’ve been able to better identify the right person to reach out to, which has increased response rates.

3. Reach out in an authentic way

In our outreach message, we cut to the chase. If you’ve identified the right person in the previous step, then they should know exactly what you’re trying to do and why it’s important. If the person you outreached to doesn’t get the big picture and you have to explain yourself, then you’re talking to the wrong person. Plain and simple.

Compared to 2015, our lists are much smaller (we’re definitely not using the spray and pray method) and we determine on a case by case basis what the best method for outreach is. Whether that be email, Linkedin, or at times, Instagram.

Here’s an example of a simple, straightforward message I send out:

4. Share content priorities

Once someone expresses interest, I’ll find a place on their website using a site search where they can reference one of our client’s content priorities for the month. In return, I’ll ask them what content they’re trying to get more eyes on and see if it aligns with our other client sites or the other partners we work with.

If I think their content is the perfect source for another article, I’ll cite it. If not, I’ll share it with another partner to see if it could be a good resource for them.

5. See if they want to be a “friend”

Once we have that first link nailed down, I’ll explain how we can work together by using each other’s awesome content to enhance new blog articles or article contributions on other sites.

If they’re down to be content friends, I’ll share their priorities for the month with our other partners who will then share it with their wider network of websites and influencers who are contributing articles to reputable sites and are in need of content resources to cite. From there, the writers can quickly scan a list of URLs and cite articles when it makes sense to help beef up new content or improve existing content with further resources. It’s a win-win.

If the site is interested in being friends, I’ll send over a spreadsheet where we can track placements and our priorities for the month.

Here’s the link to a partner template you can download.

Unlike the guest posting programs I was doing over the last few years, with this process, we’re not leaving a digital footprint for Google to follow.

In other words, we don’t have our author bios mentioning our website plastered all over the internet, essential saying “Hey, Google! We guest posted here and inserted these links with rich anchor text to try and help our page rank. Oh, and we did the same thing here, and here, and here.”

With this process, we’re just offering a list of resources to well-known writers and other websites creating badass content. Ultimately, it’s their choice if they want to link to it or not. I’ll definitely make suggestions but in the end, it’s their call.

6. Grow the friend list

Now, if I’m looking to drive link equity to a certain page, I don’t have to build a new list, queue up a campaign, and kick off a whole automation sequence to an ungodly amount of people like I did in the past.

I just hit up one of our partners on our friend’s list and voila! — quality citation in 0.45 seconds.

And on a personal note, waking up to emails in my inbox of new citations added with zero effort on my part feels like the Link Gods have blessed me time and time again.

Results

With our friend network, the numbers speak for themselves. This last month, we were able to generate 74 links. In 2015, I was hitting similar monthly numbers, but link building was my full-time job.

Now, link building is something I do on the side (I’d estimate a few hours every week), giving me time to manage my client accounts and focus on everything else I need to do — like drive forward technical SEO improvements, conduct keyword research, optimize older pages, and use SEO as an overall means to drive a company’s entire marketing strategy forward.

Building out a friend network has also opened up the door to many other opportunities for our clients that I had never dreamed of when I viewed my link building relationships as one and done. With the help of our friends, we’ve had our clients featured on podcasts (shout out to Proof’s Scale or Die podcast!), round-ups, case studies, video content, and many, many more.

Final thoughts

As an instant-gratification junkie, it pains me to share the honest truth about building a friend network: it’s going to take time.

But think of the tradeoffs — everything I mentioned above and that in a way, you’re acting as a sort of matchmaker between high-quality content and sites who are open to referencing it.

I also believe that this type of outreach campaign makes us better marketers. Spamming people gets old. And if we can work together to find a way to promote each other’s high-quality content, then I’m all for it. Because in the end, it’s about making a better user experience for readers and promoting content that deserves to be promoted.

How has your link building program evolved over the years? Have you been able to create a network of friends for your space? Leave a comment below!

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The Easiest PR-Focused Link Building Tip in the Book – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Focused on new link acquisition for your clients or company? Link building is always a slog, but Rand has a PR-focused tip that makes it much easier to find people and publications that’ll cover and amplify you. Check it out in this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday!

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Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are talking about the easiest link building tip in the book. It is PR-focused, meaning press and public relations focused, and I’ll dive right in.

If you are trying to get some new links for your new client, for your website, or for your company, start with this process. 

Step 1: Identify some of your site’s or your business’ unique attributes

  • The type of company that you are. Are you a startup or a scale-up? Are you mid-stage? Are you a small business? Are you a family-owned business?
  • What’s the background of your founders? Do they come from a special place, something that is unique? Almost certainly the answer is yes. But in what kinds of ways?
  • What type of financing do you have? 
  • What is your customer focus, your customer target? 
  • What is your purpose, values, culture? 
  • Geography. Sector or market. 
  • Other attributes, like accessibility. Maybe you do a great job of serving differently-abled folks. Maybe you are a very sustainable business, a super green business. Maybe you have a very high bar of ethics. Or your facilities are absolutely outstanding and super Instagram-worthy.

Step 2: Find 5–10 others that share these attributes

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Whatever it is, some combination of these, you’re going to take and you’re going to find other people who share those attributes, other businesses, some other businesses that share some of those attributes or some combination of them. For example, I’ve taken a type of business, a startup, and a geography — startups in San Diego. Or a type of financing, angel-financed, but a type of business that is unusually angel-financed, a physical, retail location business. That’s fairly atypical. B corps, a benefit corp that is in the healthcare space. Again, somewhat atypical, somewhat unique. A black-owned business that’s in tech. Tragically, also unusual.

Step 3: Find publications and people that have covered/amplified others like you

Now Step 3, I’m going to find publications and people that have covered or amplified other people like you, some combination of other people like you. So we’ll start with my first example here — startups in San Diego. If I am a startup in San Diego, I will plug in several other startups in San Diego.

So I did a search “startups in San Diego” in Google. I found Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper, two startups that are in San Diego, and I find a bunch of coverage opportunities by searching for the combination of the two of them. Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper leads me to ProgrammableWeb has a page that lists both of them because they both have APIs. San Diego Startup Week lists both of them because they were both panelists or speakers there. Snip2Code has a machine learning directory because they both had some interesting uses for machine learning that they applied. Tampa Bay Times covered both of them because of a data content piece. These are your link opportunities, your press, PR coverage opportunities.

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You can repeat this again and again with combinations like this. The best part is you are using just your brain and Google search. Super, super simple. Of course, you could take this and you could apply this, you could plug in the websites for Cloudbeds and Hire A Helper to Moz’s Link Explorer, and you could get a bunch of other link opportunities. You could plug those two in and you could plug in your own website, and then you could say, “Show me sites that link to these two, but not to me,” through the Link Intersect function.

Find new link opportunities!

So there are ways to advance this with tools, but this is some of the simplest, best ways to launch to get coverage, to get people to know you and like you and start to have heard of your brand, and to get those links that Google is going to need to rank your website higher.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this. Look forward to some of your tips and advice around easy, PR-focused link building tips. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Leverage Offline Events for Link Building

Posted by allen.yesilevich

Link building is all about creating strong, reputable relationships online — but what if you took offline strategies and applied it to building your brand online? No matter the size of your company, hosting, speaking at, or attending an event is a valuable tool for bulking up your backlinks while giving your brand industry exposure.

Every stage of the event process, from promotion and beyond, provides valuable opportunities for acquiring backlinks. The trick is to apply the correct strategy. Whether you’re sharing your event on an event listing site, reaching out to influencers to spread the word, or publishing event-specific content, leveraging your face-to-face marketing efforts to gain more backlinks will help your business — no matter its size — become more visible.

Prior to the Event

Before you set out on your link-building journey, you need to establish what pages and domains you want others to share. For an event, a dedicated landing page on your website that lists key details and invites people to register is the best place to drive potential attendees. It’s also easy to share for promotion.

Event sites

Once you have your pages and domains set up, you can take that page to event listing sites, which offer easy link opportunities. The location of your event will determine where you choose to post. For instance, if you’re hosting a small event, region-specific event sites will earn you links that increase your visibility in local search results. 

If you’re hosting a larger event with a national or global draw, Eventful or Meetup are two sites that will link out directly to your event page. As an added bonus, some larger sites will get scraped by other sources, meaning you could potentially get multiple links from one post.

Connect with influencers

Connecting with bloggers in your industry and asking them to share your event details with their followers is another way to gain links. 

Before you reach out, do some research to see what types of bloggers and influencers are best suited for this; you want to make sure the backlinks you receive are valuable, from credible sites that will help you build authority and enhance your organic search visibility. While it may be more difficult to obtain links from the experts in your industry who have higher domain authorities, they’ll be the most beneficial for brand building.

Once you establish your list of target industry bloggers, reach out and explain why your event is relevant to their audience and why sharing or posting about it would add value to their content. 

A big mistake people often make is expecting content without contributing anything in return. Would you show up to a potluck without a dish and eat all of the food? Consider offering an incentive, like an opportunity for cross-site promotion so that the partnership isn’t just transactional, but mutually beneficial. Not only will this help you acquire a new link, but it will also help you get more exposure to people in your target market that you may not have been able to reach previously.

During the Event

Whether your company is hosting an event or someone from your team is speaking at one, there are many opportunities to support your site’s link building efforts. Attendees can have a positive effect on your organization’s backlink profile. As the old saying goes, if you didn’t post about it, were you even there? Professionals and brands alike love sharing thought leadership insights and event recaps in the form of blogs and social posts. When they do, there’s a good chance they’ll be sharing a link to your company’s site.

Write about it

Even if you’re only attending an event, there are link building opportunities to take advantage of. Post daily blogs highlighting the key takeaways from that day’s sessions or share your take on a memorable keynote. Event-specific content has a good chance of making its way to and being shared by the speakers, event host, other attendees, and your team back at the office.

“Consider offering an incentive, like an opportunity for cross-site promotion so that the partnership isn’t just transactional, but mutually beneficial.”

To increase your chances of getting your content out in front of the right people, share it in a quick email or LinkedIn message to a presenter or marketing lead from the company hosting the event. Of course, you should always share your post on your own and your company’s social media channels and tag the relevant players. The hope is that, by being included and getting free publicity, these high-quality sources will feel inclined to share your content

Network, network, network

While posting about events can help you get links, you should also focus on building long-term relationships with other leaders in your industry. There is no better time to do this than when at an event. In fact, 81 percent of event-goers say they attend events for networking opportunities. If you’re networking, you can set yourself up well to establish future linking partnerships with sites in similar or complementing industries.

After the Event

You can still acquire backlinks from your offline event after you’ve headed back to work. Some of the best link building opportunities have yet to come.

Follow up with email

If you spoke at an event, you can nurture the people who attended your session through email and send them relevant information. Setting up a landing page on your site with downloadable slides from your presentation can easily be shared and linked. If they haven’t done so already, see if your contacts are willing to share their event experience on their blog and social pages. This will give you crowdsourced content with valuable backlinks.

Track your efforts

It’s important to track your backlinks using social listening tools after the event. If you feel the linking sites could offer synergies, either for content or business purposes, reach out to discuss mutually-beneficial partnerships.

Remember, all the hard work you put in now will pay off in the future, too. Consistently acquiring backlinks has a snowball effect and will increase both your ranking positioning and attendee turnout for future events.

Wrapping up

One of the best link-building strategies you can leverage is your real-life relationships. What are some ways you’ve transformed an in-life connection into a valuable, digital backlink? 

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Can "Big Content" Link Building Campaigns Really Work?

Posted by willcritchlow

There’s a lot of material out there, on this site and others, about the importance of link-building. Normally, its effectiveness is either taken for granted or viewed as implied by ranking factor studies — the latter of which doesn’t necessarily show that correlated factors actually drive performance. The real picture is one in which links clearly remain important, but where their role is nuanced.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to dig a little deeper into an individual link-building campaign that takes place over a relatively short period of time. I wanted to see what results (besides just link-based metrics) could be attributed to it.

In this post, I will try to pin down the effects that came from the campaign and show that yes, getting a bunch of links from the success of some highly visible “big content’ can drive improved rankings

The reason you don’t see more posts like this one is noisy data — so much goes on with a website’s performance that it can be difficult to draw a hard and fast connection between a campaign and its results for a business’s bottom line. This is especially true for link-building, for three reasons:

  • Websites are naturally accruing links anyway — both the target of the campaign and their competitors
  • To some extent, we anticipate a domain-wide effect, which will as such be proportionately small and hard to pin down vs. noise from the algorithm and competitor activity
  • Links do not have such a step-change impact as technical fixes or creation of new landing pages

However, at Distilled we recently had an opportunity with a particularly strong piece on a niche site to analyze a situation where the impact of our work ought to be more clearly visible among the broader noise. Take a look at these graphs, which show the linking-root domain acquisition of a client of ours over the last two years, as measured by Majestic and Ahrefs respectively:

See what I mean about noise? And I’m saying this is an unusually clear cut case. We actually built nine creative pieces, with link acquisition as one of the goals, for this client, over a two-year period. We’ve talked before about the campaign as a whole, here. There’s one that stands out in both graphs, though which is the one that launched in March 2018.

This gives us a rare, valuable opportunity to see which other metrics, which might have more direct business value, had noticeable changes around that time.

What might we expect to happen?

The theory is simple: Links remain part of Google’s algorithm, and so more links to a site mean better rankings. However, the reality is more complex — in our experience, creative pieces as link-building assets tend to result in two types of links:

  • Links to the creative piece, which in turn links, typically, to the site’s homepage
  • Links directly to the homepage of the client site — e.g. “Research by client (client.com) indicates that…”

The interesting thing here is that for many sites, the homepage is not a core landing page. I’ve written before about how it’s almost impossible to have a good mental model for internal link equity flow, which makes the actual impact of the piece on core pages almost certainly not zero, but otherwise hard to predict. On the same subject, I’d also recommend this video by Dixon Jones at Majestic.

In a similar vein, we also know that the complexities of PageRank are themselves only a part of the unknowable complexities of Google’s ranking algorithm, meaning we can’t guarantee that adding links always moves the needle. I recently recorded this Whiteboard Friday where I mention some recent research by my colleague Tom Capper, which shows how unpredictable these effects can be.

The particular client example I’ve been referring to in this post had two things going for it which, again, brought unusual clarity to these effects:

  1. The homepage was, in fact, a core ranking URL
  2. It was struggling to make its way onto page 1 for many reasonable target terms

Both of these ought to make it an ideal candidate for clearcut benefits from high-quality link building. (This isn’t to say link-building cannot work if these criteria are not met — just that the results will be harder to analyze!)

1st order results

Precisely because of the difficulty in analysis mentioned above, we find clients normally prefer to assess the performance of link-building campaigns in terms of 1st order benefits — by which I mean the performance of the actual creative piece, rather than their commercial landing pages.

The particular piece that stands out in those link acquisition graphs above earned the following 1st order benefits (and I’ve included graphs from our internal tracking platform so you can get a feel for the pace of acquisition):

228 LRDs peak (204 “fresh” index shown below), of which ~145 within a month of launch:

2,140 Facebook shares at the peak, of which ~1,750 within a month of launch:

82,584 landings in Google Analytics, of which ~67,000 within a month of launch:

I mentioned above that not all links tend to be directed at the piece itself, with journalists instead often referencing the homepage. 145 (domain-unique) links were directed at this piece by mid-April, but you’ll notice that March beat an average month by ~200 LRDs, and April also outperformed by ~100. By my back-of-the-envelope maths, you might want to claim as many as 300 LRDs driven to the whole domain by this piece, but your opinion may differ!

Showing the ways it worked

Right, I did say I’d link this at least to rankings, didn’t I?

Remember: This was part of a campaign of 9 pieces, and it launched mid-March, with most 1st order metrics, or leading indicators, coming through within a month (and no major technical changes around this time). There is some signal in among the noise here. Check out this graph, showing the number of keywords ranked for, according to Ahrefs:

Notice that change in gradient after the launch? (And, for the cynics among you, the piece itself only ranks for 20 keywords itself according to this same data source — that wasn’t a primary goal with this content).

Here are the rankings for the client’s (fairly ambitious!) target keywords:

I’d particularly draw your attention to the movement from the “11–20” to “4–10” group, which is consistent with the research by my colleague Tom Capper that I mentioned above. (Sidenote: it was nice to see the client’s Domain Authority increase relative to their competitive set in the recent update. The improvements to DA, aimed at making it better at predicting ranking ability, appear to have worked in this sample-size-one case!).

You can see this pattern more clearly in this graph, which we presented to the client when the campaign concluded late last year:

This effect is surprisingly clear-cut, but it might well be that to continue moving up the SERP, from positions 4–10 to positions 1–3, a very different type of work is needed — perhaps one emphasizing brand, or intent matching.

How can I do this for my site/client?

Here are some useful resources to help when starting on your creative campaigns:

Mark – How to make sticky content

Hannah – What is content strategy

Leonie – How to make award winning creative content – Part 1

Leonie – How to make award winning creative content – Part 2

Conclusion: Big content for links can work

As I mentioned above, it’s surprisingly unusual to see such a clear and obvious case of link-building work moving rankings in a lasting way. This has certain similarities with other such cases we’ve seen in recent years, though:

  • The site started fairly small (if nothing else, this makes the signal bigger relative to the noise)
  • It had target terms that were on the cusp of first-page rankings
  • Some search competitors had far stronger domains

The reports that “links are dead” have, apparently, been greatly exaggerated — instead, it’s just that the picture has gotten more complex.

Obviously Distilled clients are only a finite sample, however, so I’d love to hear your experiences of successful link-building, and, crucially, the kind of situations in which they moved rankings, in the comments below!

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The One-Hour Guide to SEO: Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The final episode in our six-part One-Hour Guide to SEO series deals with a topic that’s a perennial favorite among SEOs: link building. Today, learn why links are important to both SEO and to Google, how Google likely measures the value of links, and a few key ways to begin earning your own.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. We are back with our final part in the One-Hour Guide to SEO, and this week talking about why links matter to search engines, how you can earn links, and things to consider when doing link building.

Why are links important to SEO?

So we’ve discussed sort of how search engines rank pages based on the value they provide to users. We’ve talked about how they consider keyword use and relevant topics and content on the page. But search engines also have this tool of being able to look at all of the links across the web and how they link to other pages, how they point between pages.



So it turns out that Google had this insight early on that what other people say about you is more important, at least to them, than what you say about yourself. So you may say, “I am the best resource on the web for learning about web marketing.” But it turns out Google is not going to believe you unless many other sources, that they also trust, say the same thing. Google’s big innovation, back in 1997 and 1998, when Sergey Brin and Larry Page came out with their search engine, Google, was PageRank, this idea that by looking at all the links that point to all the pages on the internet and then sort of doing this recursive process of seeing which are the most important and most linked to pages, they could give each page on the web a weight, an amount of PageRank.

Then those pages that had a lot of PageRank, because many people linked to them or many powerful people linked to them, would then pass more weight on when they linked. That understanding of the web is still in place today. It’s still a way that Google thinks about links. They’ve almost certainly moved on from the very simplistic PageRank formula that came out in the late ’90s, but that thinking underlies everything they’re doing.

How does Google measure the value of links?

Today, Google measures the value of links in many very sophisticated ways, which I’m not going to try and get into, and they’re not public about most of these anyway. But there is a lot of intelligence that we have about how they think about links, including things like more important, more authoritative, more well-linked-to pages are going to pass more weight when they link.

A.) More important, authoritative, well-linked-to pages pass more weight when they link

That’s true of both individual URLs, an individual page, and websites, a whole website. So for example, if a page on The New York Times links to yoursite.com, that is almost certainly going to be vastly more powerful and influential in moving your rankings or moving your ability to rank in the future than if randstinysite.info — which I haven’t yet registered, but I’ll get on that — links to yoursite.com.

This weighting, this understanding of there are powerful and important and authoritative websites, and then there are less powerful and important and authoritative websites, and it tends to be the case that more powerful ones tend to provide more ranking value is why so many SEOs and marketers use metrics like Moz’s domain authority or some of the metrics from Moz’s competitors out in the software space to try and intuit how powerful, how influential will this link be if this domain points to me.

B.) Diversity of domains, rate of link growth, and editorial nature of links ALL matter

So the different kinds of domains and the rate of link growth and the editorial nature of those links all matter. So, for example, if I get many new links from many new websites that have never linked to me before and they are editorially given, meaning I haven’t spammed to place them, I haven’t paid to place them, they were granted to me because of interesting things that I did or because those sites wanted to editorially endorse my work or my resources, and I do that over time in greater quantities and at a greater rate of acceleration than my competitors, I am likely to outrank them for the words and phrases related to those topics, assuming that all the other smart SEO things that we’ve talked about in this One-Hour Guide have also been done.

C.) HTML-readable links that don’t have rel=”nofollow” and contain relevant anchor text on indexable pages pass link benefit

HTML readable links, meaning as a simple text browser browses the web or a simple bot, like Googlebot, which can be much more complex as we talked about in the technical SEO thing, but not necessarily all the time, those HTML readable links that don’t have the rel=”nofollow” parameter, which is something that you can append to links to say I don’t editorially endorse this, and many, many websites do.

If you post a link to Twitter or to Facebook or to LinkedIn or to YouTube, they’re going to carry this rel=”nofollow,”saying I, YouTube, don’t editorially endorse this website that this random user has uploaded a video about. Okay. Well, it’s hard to get a link from YouTube. And it contains relevant anchor text on an indexable page, one that Google can actually browse and see, that is going to provide the maximum link benefit.

So a href=”https://yoursite.com” great tool for audience intelligence, that would be the ideal link for my new startup, for example, which is SparkToro, because we do audience intelligence and someone saying we’re a tool is perfect. This is a link that Google can read, and it provides this information about what we do.

It says great tool for audience intelligence. Awesome. That is powerful anchor text that will help us rank for those words and phrases. There are loads more. There are things like which pages linked to and which pages linked from. There are spam characteristics and trustworthiness of the sources. Alt attributes, when they’re used in image tags, serve as the anchor text for the link, if the image is a link.

There’s the relationship, the topical relationship of the linking page and linking site. There’s text surrounding the link, which I think some tools out there offer you information about. There’s location on the page. All of this stuff is used by Google and hundreds more factors to weight links. The important part for us, when we think about links, is generally speaking if you cover your bases here, it’s indexable, carries good anchor text, it’s from diverse domains, it’s at a good pace, it is editorially given in nature, and it’s from important, authoritative, and well linked to sites, you’re going to be golden 99% of the time.

Are links still important to Google?

Many folks I think ask wisely, “Are links still that important to Google? It seems like the search engine has grown in its understanding of the web and its capacities.” Well, there is some pretty solid evidence that links are still very powerful. I think the two most compelling to me are, one, the correlation of link metrics over time. 

So like Google, Moz itself produces an index of the web. It is billions and billions of pages. I think it’s actually trillions of pages, trillions of links across hundreds of billions of pages. Moz produces metrics like number of linking root domains to any given domain on the web or any given page on the web.

Moz has a metric called Domain Authority or DA, which sort of tries to best replicate or best correlate to Google’s own rankings. So metrics like these, over time, have been shockingly stable. If it were the case someday that Google demoted the value of links in their ranking systems, basically said links are not worth that much, you would expect to see a rapid drop.

But from 2007 to 2019, we’ve never really seen that. It’s fluctuated. Mostly it fluctuates based on the size of the link index. So for many years Ahrefs and Majestic were bigger link indices than Moz. They had better link data, and their metrics were better correlated.

Now Moz, since 2018, is much bigger and has higher correlation than they do. So the various tools are sort of warring with each other, trying to get better and better for their customers. You can see those correlations with Google pretty high, pretty standard, especially for a system that supposedly contains hundreds, if not thousands of elements.

When you see a correlation of 0.25 or 0.3 with one number, linking root domains or page authority or something like that, that’s pretty surprising. The second one is that many SEOs will observe this, and I think this is why so many SEO firms and companies pitch their clients this way, which is the number of new, high quality, editorially given linking root domains, linking domains, so The New York Times linked to me, and now The Washington Post linked to me and now wired.com linked to me, these high-quality, different domains, that correlates very nicely with ranking positions.

So if you are ranking number 12 for a keyword phrase and suddenly that page generates many new links from high-quality sources, you can expect to see rapid movement up toward page one, position one, two, or three, and this is very frequent.

How do I get links?

Obviously, this is not alone, but very common. So I think the next reasonable question to ask is, “Okay, Rand, you’ve convinced me. Links are important. How do I get some?” Glad you asked. There are an infinite number of ways to earn new links, and I will not be able to represent them here. But professional SEOs and professional web marketers often use tactics that fall under a few buckets, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but can give you some starting points.

1. Content & outreach

The first one is content and outreach. Essentially, the marketer finds a resource that they could produce, that is relevant to their business, what they provide for customers, data that they have, interesting insights that they have, and they produce that resource knowing that there are people and publications out there that are likely to want to link to it once it exists.

Then they let those people and publications know. This is essentially how press and PR work. This is how a lot of content building and link outreach work. You produce the content itself, the resource, whatever it is, the tool, the dataset, the report, and then you message the people and publications who are likely to want to cover it or link to it or talk about it. That process is tried-and-true. It has worked very well for many, many marketers. 

2. Link reclamation

Second is link reclamation. So this is essentially the process of saying, “Gosh, there are websites out there that used to link to me, that stopped linking.” The link broke. The link points to a 404, a page that no longer loads on my website.

The link was supposed to be a link, but they didn’t include the link. They said SparkToro, but they forgot to actually point to the SparkToro website. I should drop them a line. Maybe I’ll tweet at them, at the reporter who wrote about it and be like, “Hey, you forgot the link.” Those types of link reclamation processes can be very effective as well.

They’re often some of the easiest, lowest hanging fruit in the link building world. 

3. Directories, resource pages, groups, events, etc.

Directories, resource pages, groups, events, things that you can join and participate in, both online or online and offline, so long as they have a website, often link to your site. The process is simply joining or submitting or sponsoring or what have you.

Most of the time, for example, when I get invited to speak at an event, they will take my biography, a short, three-sentence blurb, that includes a link to my website and what I do, and they will put it on their site. So pitching to speak at events is a way to get included in these groups. I started Moz with my mom, Gillian Muessig, and Moz has forever been a woman-owned business, and so there are women-owned business directories.

I don’t think we actually did this, but we could easily go, “Hey, you should include Moz as a woman-owned business.We should be part of your directory here in Seattle.” Great, that’s a group we could absolutely join and get links from. 

4. Competitors’ links

So this is basically the practice you almost certainly will need to use tools to do this. There are some free ways to do it.

The simple, free way to do it is to say, “I have competitor 1 brand name and competitor 2 brand name.I’m going to search for the combination of those two in Google, and I’m going to look for places that have written about and linked to both of them and see if I can also replicate the tactics that got them coverage.” The slightly more sophisticated way is to go use a tool. Moz’s Link Explorer does this.

So do tools from people like Majestic and Ahrefs. I’m not sure if SEMrush does. But basically you can plug in, “Here’s me. Here’s my competitors. Tell me who links to them and does not link to me.” Moz’s tool calls this the Link Intersect function. But you don’t even need the link intersect function.

You just plug in a competitor’s domain and look at here are all the links that point to them, and then you start to replicate their tactics. There are hundreds more and many, many resources on Moz’s website and other great websites about SEO out there that talk about many of these tactics, and you can certainly invest in those. Or you could conceivably hire someone who knows what they’re doing to go do this for you. Links are still powerful. 

Okay. Thank you so much. I want to say a huge amount of appreciation to Moz and to Tyler, who’s behind the camera — he’s waving right now, you can’t see it, but he looks adorable waving — and to everyone who has helped make this possible, including Cyrus Shepard and Britney Muller and many others.

Hopefully, this one-hour segment on SEO can help you upgrade your skills dramatically. Hopefully, you’ll send it to some other folks who might need to upgrade their understanding and their skills around the practice. And I’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

In case you missed them:

Check out the other episodes in the series so far:

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SEOs beware: Link builders are back with bogus Domain Authority pitches

Stop optimizing for Domain Authority; it has no impact on Google rankings.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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