Simple task you can perform to build links
A large chunk of my time finding links is by looking through my competitor’s link profiles. Essentially, you’re piggy backing off of their success. While some links are unobtainable (i.e. a random mention in a news post), others can be diamonds in the rough (a high quality niche directory).
I suggest using Ahrefs for this. Plugin your competitors and export their backlinks to a CSV. Do this for all of your competitors so you can get all of their links in one place (Excel). Then you can sort them by various link metrics to find the best opportunities.
But you don’t have to stop at just direct competitors. You can also look at how indirect competitors in your vertical (i.e. if you sell flashlights, a site that sells flashlight batteries) or really any other niche-relevant sites are getting links. If you’re local, look at other sites in your geographical area. If you’re ecommerce, look at how other ecommerce sites are getting links to the same types of pages you’re having trouble with.
Twitter Profile Links
If you’ve got a Twitter account, then you’ve got 15 easy links in the bag. Outside of those, there are numerous ways to build links with Twitter. Instead of listing them all here, just watch this video.
You have pages and posts on your website, so make the most of them. Internal links are HUGE for link building because you can control everything about them, from the location on the page to the anchor text.
If you’re thinking about using a CMS plugin that automatically hyperlinks a certain word every time it appears on your website (i.e. like Wikipedia does), I’d suggest refraining from doing so unless you’re a relatively big brand or if it makes complete sense from a UX perspective. Instead, go through all of your content that’s been previously published, and if you’ve got more detailed content written on subjects that you briefly go over in your posts, then link in that context where it makes sense. But make sure you consistently mix it up from an anchor perspective.
For future/new content, as you’re writing it, try and steer your way into certain topics that you’ve already written on so you can link to it & so it makes sense from a user’s perspective.
Although the majority of widget directories you come across don’t outright give you a link, you can still do some serious link building with them. If you make sure there’s a link somewhere in your widget, you can get it in front of large audiences with these directories, and in doing so, some will embed them (thus, you earn a few links).
Example: GadgetsDirectory.Blogspot.com. Submit here.
Mobile App Directories
If you have an mobile phone app, you can get a few easy links. Or, if you want, you can create one to get these links. An easy one to create is an app that just acts as a mobile RSS reader of your blog (this app from the SPI blog is a great example of this).
Example: Appolicious. Sign up to submit here.
This one is HUGE. Right now, list any services or products you’ve bought recently. As long as it’s not a product or service from a massive company (i.e. Walmart), there’s a good chance you can get a link in exchange for a testimonial.
For example, this testimonial page has a PR of 5. The best part is that it only costs the customers a few sentences about that specific service.
Just like guest blogging, you can get links in return for your content, but why not just trade? You both get content on each other’s site, links, and visitors from an entirely different community.
If you or the other has a significantly more popular blog, see if the less significant one can do something extra in return. A good example is buying the other $10-15 worth of StumbleUpon paid traffic. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it levels the playing field, as you’ll find very few blogs with exactly the same audience size.
Bloggers, just like me, sometimes have trouble cranking out content on a regular basis. That’s where you can help. Pitch bloggers to ask if you could guest blog, because if they say yes, you can get a few links from the post, and if the blog is popular, you can drive traffic too.
If you want, use sites like Blogger Link Up and My Blog Guest to connect with bloggers who need content. It’s scalable, but the bloggers you get in touch with aren’t usually very authoritative (they’re mostly mid-level bloggers).
Keep in mind that guest blogging has been a tactic that’s recently been beaten into the ground. This has a few different major implications:
- Bloggers are generally sick of guest blogging pitches at this point
- As of the time of this writing, Google hasn’t taken any action on them, but it’s only a matter of time
Starting with the first, you need to understand that your pitch will be mixed in with a lot of other similar pitches, so if you think you can send off a batch of generic requests in hopes of getting some quality placements, you’re going to be disappointed. In general, you can test the effectiveness of your pitches by looking at the kinds of blogs that are accepting your requests, rather than the raw acceptance rate, just because some blogs accept guest posts from anyone (and they’re easy to point out by their low quality blogs).
In general, the kinds of sites I just mentioned that accept guest posts from practically anyone are usually not the kinds of sites you want placements from. Therefore, do your research to 1) weed out sites that publish an excessive amount of guest posts (use your own judgment for how you define excessive), and 2) those who haven’t published any guest posts (meaning you most likely have no chance no matter how good your pitch is).
In regards to the second implication mentioned above, Google hasn’t taken action on what they define as ‘large scale guest blogging’, but it’s going to happen soon. To combat this, first understand that because Google solely looks for patterns (Google is math), you don’t necessarily have to do what they publicly approve of, you just have to not fit the mold.
So to do this, do things like:
- Invest time in your content (i.e. only 800+ word posts)
- Have multiple outbound links in the article, not just to your target site
- Have an internal link or two, as very few large scale guest bloggers do this
- Include an image and/or a video, where & if it makes sense
- Don’t get your link in the author bio, but in the middle of the content (unless the site has a quality level that makes it worth getting anyways)
So with that said, if you really want to do some guest blogging at scale, make your pitches stick out like a sore thumb, don’t create predictable patterns, and do your homework by reading one of the gazillion guest blogging guides on the Web if you need more information on the process.
Review Something New
Look for products that people don’t know how to decide between. Then do an in-depth analysis on comparing the two. It’s up to you whether or not you want to give a conclusion of which is better; it’ll help create some controversy, but there are some negative side effects if you don’t include solely objective information if you want it to be held in high esteem for both parties.
There’s also usually search volume for these topics, so if you rank highly and the content is top notch, you could attract links to these posts steadily over time.
One example that I love is this comparison between Ahrefs & Majestic SEO, despite this being an example from the SEO industry.
Make it easy to link to you
Note: this might not be the best option based on the community you’re located in. Are you in the cement niche? Then this is perfect. Are you talking about Internet related business? Then this might not be your best bet, because the majority of your audience probably already knows how to link.
Linking out is huge. Don’t be a link hoard; you’re going to create content, so use it to gain favor with other people. I’ll go more into depth below with specific tactics on linking out, but in general, you only have something to gain when you’re linking out.
The only time when I wouldn’t suggest linking out is if you’re in a hyper-competitive industry (i.e. gambling) where no matter what you do, linking to someone isn’t going to catch their eye and possibly return the favor sometime in the future. But I’d say less than 10% of industries are competitive enough to justify this.
Some directories cost money in order to be accepted into their listings. Once again, while some of these can pass legitimate value, others pass little and aren’t worth your time or money.
Example: The Yahoo Directory. Submit here. The only other general paid directories I’d recommend are the BBB, Business.com, BOTW and JoeAnt (although BBB & Business.com are just for businesses, but seeing that this is most of you, I’d consider them general).
Niche Specific Directories
As opposed to general web directories, niche specific directories only accept sites that meet a certain topic criteria. For example, one directory might only accept sites about arts & crafts. Some of these directories are free, while others are paid.
Example: Calif.com, a directory for California based websites.
Get people to see and read your content
People won’t link to your content unless they see it. At the same time, you need the right people in front of your content; not everyone is a potential linker.
This is where social media, content marketing, and brand awareness comes into the link building realm. Getting people to see and know your content & brand is a massively important strategy to build links.
Because a lot of the tactical ways to get eyeballs on your content aren’t direct ways to get links, I decided to delete that section in this guide, and instead list all of them here. So here they are.
Segment your content – If you catch yourself writing a few monster paragraphs, cut them up into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Make sure you use headers, lists, and bullets when ever possible. Don’t forget to add appropriate spacing. This strategy directly correlates with increased readability, and thus, linkability.
Minimal grammar & spelling mistakes – It just looks bad when you link to content that’s full of spelling & grammar errors. Do your potential linkers a favor and make sure your content is free of them.
Evergreen content – Timeless content can not only be used for manual outreach, but it can also give your content the ability to be rediscovered, and thus, a second chance to be linked to.
Offering your content in multiple languages – Your potential linkers might not all speak English, so get your content translated as soon as possible. When you do this, remember to submit to non-English directories as mentioned above!
High Flesch-Kincaid readability score (readability) – If your content needs a Literature major to be deciphered, then you’re probably not going to get a lot of links. Why? Because if they don’t understand it, they have no reason to link to it.
Social platform optimization – Your linkeraiti and my linkeraiti are two entirely separate groups that find content on two entirely different platforms. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, or a niche news site (ex. Inbound.org), you need to find the right place that gets your content in front of the right people.
I also want to point out that you don’t have to limit yourself to just sites in your close knitted niche. You might find that your space is full of stuck-up webmasters & bloggers that wouldn’t even smile at their own wedding, so move past it and find other semi-relevant spaces full of webmasters that you can catch the eye of.
Remember how people say, “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know”? The same goes for the Web. Those relationships will turn into links, both in the short-term & the long-term.
Just like with getting people to see you content, I realized a lot of the tactical ways to build relationships aren’t direct ways to get links, I decided to delete that section in this guide, and list all of them here instead. So here they are.
Random acts of kindness – Whenever you can, be nice to people. It might just payoff. Always be on the lookout for helping those in need. I know this isn’t exactly an actionable strategy, but I’m telling you, you’d be surprised. These random acts can turn into lasting relationships.
Give a crap – Actually care about people. Show them you’re not just a bot with a picture, but that you’re somewhat human. If they share on Twitter that their daughter just graduated, congratulate them. Something as simple as that can open up your chances to build a relationship in the future.
Participate – If someone is conducting a survey or testing something, get involved and participate. Those are great chances to start conversations with new people.
Local meetups – Whether you find one or start one, meetups are a fantastic way to get to know people close by. For example, if you live in a big city (Seattle, NYC, Philly) then meetups are absolutely perfect. Here’s the best site to find or start one.
User group meetings – A great way to get to know people who think like you is by finding those who use the same products or services like you. A great example is the Hubspot User Group Summit I attended last year (one of my clients used HubSpot and I got a chance to tag along).
Conferences – Seriously, go to them. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve only gone to one, but it was awesome and I highly recommend it. Here’s a fantastic testimonial to why conference events are such great investments.
Call them – Yep, I said it. Get them on the phone. Make them hear your voice and know that you’re a real person. Ben Wills was the first to do this with me. I now know a lot more about him & Ontolo, something I’m extremely grateful for.
G+ Hangouts/Skype – Be the first person to use a Google+ hangout! But seriously, that or Skype is a great way to meet face to face with someone without actually meeting face to face (if that makes any sense!).
Twitter RTs, Responses, & DMs – If you want to get to know someone on Twitter, first retweet them a few times. Then respond a couple times to a few of their tweets, then continue the conversation as direct messages. Finally, ask to email (because 140 characters is never enough), and now you’ve got the ball rolling.
Answer questions – Answer questions on Twitter, Quora, and anywhere else people hang out. People ask questions all the time. These external opportunities are a great way to put you on their radar.
Note: don’t think of it as a short-term input & short-term output, especially if you’re a marketing agency. More so, realize that these relationships can be tapped into for multiple links (i.e. for different campaigns, clients, etc.), as well as for other marketing opportunities (i.e running a joint-contest).
Ask people you know for a link
Whether it’s your friends, relatives, employees, colleagues, business partners, clients, or anyone else, ask them for a link. Someone you know has a website or blog, so take advantage.
I suggest putting pen to paper on this one. As the digital age continues to trend upwards, more & more people are creating their own sites & blogs, and chances are more than a few are people you know. I’d even suggest posting on Facebook or Twitter seeing who’s got their own site.
In general though you really only want to be getting links from relevant websites from these people. If it’s not relevant, it’s not going to have much of an impact, and these people will most likely be a little hesitant to link if it’s i.e. a jewelry store & they run a sports blog.
Instead of trying to cover news first, see if you can take advantage of currently hot topics through newsjacking. This is the practice of looking for new & upcoming stories then capitalizing on them by writing up a blog post on the topic. There’s a few different ways you can go about it:
- Just the story itself – if it’s early on in the story’s life, you can basically fake covering it first by just writing all the known facts about the story & keeping it updated.
- With some analysis – if you’re not one of the first ones there, then try & give a new spin on the topic that adds new perspective.
- Delayed recap – once it looks like all the details are out, try and write a full recap of it & capitalize on freshness.
- Detailed analysis – once the dust has settled, do a deep dive into everything that’s come out, and analyze each point. Do your research to uncover new, interesting facts that are out there on the Web, but not tied in with the story yet.
There are a few other post tactics for this, but these are by far the most popular. For a more detailed review of newsjacking, see this.
Creating fun, quirky microsites is a great way to attract links. While some people might naturally link to your main site to give credit, they’ll most likely link to the microsite, which should have at least one link back to you on it.
Blogging contests usually don’t cost more than $50-100 to sponsor. Make sure to look for ones that require participants to post about the contest on their blog & link to each of the sponsors in the post.
Most colleges have a wide range of clubs, and if you ask one to sponsor it for a link in return, they’ll probably say yes. You can usually sponsor one for $50.
When searching for clubs to sponsor, think general niche instead of specific. For example, if my target site is this blog, looking for marketing clubs rather than SEO clubs will yield a much larger pool of prospects.
Sponsor Animal Shelters
There are usually more than a few local animal shelters you can sponsor, and according to Adam Melson in this post, they can be as low as $10. If you’re a pet related site, this one’s a no-brainer.
By offering discounts to faculty, teachers, and students, you can easily get links from pages like this.
If you’re an ecommerce shop and your products are something that students might be interested in, then these links are a no-brainer.
If you’re a local shop of any kind, then usually there’s a college or two within 100 miles that have a discount program, and if so, then these links would not only be fantastic from an authoritative standpoint, but also a relevance standpoint. For example, if you’re located in Chicago, you should get a listing here.
If you have any job or internship opportunities, you can get a few easy .edu links. For example, if you work in anthropology and you’re looking for an intern, here’s an easy link.
For agencies, try and compile as many of these opportunities as you can in a spreadsheet, and categorize each of them (i.e. travel, hospitality, etc.).
Reclaim Links Pointing To 404s
Sometimes links to your website break over time, whether it’s because you’ve moved the intended page, or because the webmaster messed up your URL. Go into Google Webmaster Tools to see which pages are getting 404 errors, then redirect those pages to either the homepage or the implied intended page.
Most local libraries have a website, and most of them have somewhat of a link profile. Nonetheless, get in touch, and do what you can to get a link; it’s going to be a link from one of the most white hat sites in your profile.
For example, my local library has a Page Rank of 5. At the time I’m writing this I haven’t gotten a link from them, but it’s only a matter of time :).