Before we start building any backlinks, the first step with a ny client is to see how your website is currently doing. To do this, we request access to your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts. This lets us see how you’re performing on various key baseline metrics, including:
Note about anchor tag ratios: If your anchor text consists solely of the keywords you want to rank for (for instance, if you’re selling glass coffee tables and every link you have uses “Glass Coffee Table” as an anchor tag), Google sees this as an attempt to game the system and you are penalized, which we want to avoid! We shoot for strong diversity across anchor text terms. If we find your anchor text is too heavily weighted on a few terms, we may build some new links for the sole purpose of improving your anchor text diversity.
We’ve found it works best to break a campaign up into 3-month “chunks.” This allows us to put enough weight behind a strategy to get results, while also allowing the flexibility to iterate quickly and change course when needed.
In our 3-month roadmap, we decide exactly what type of inbound links we want to go after, how many links we want to get (and how much outreach will be required to get there), and what content will be best to reach these goals.
This is where things get fun. Depending on your industry and what your business does, there are a number of ways we can go. Perhaps we decide to create an invaluable industry resource that will build you authoritative, high quality backlinks and position you as an expert. Alternatively, we may decide that product reviews or guest posts are a better approach. Typically, we pick 2-4 strategies and combine them for maximum effect.
Once this roadmap is created, we monitor our progress against it via a shared Google Spreadsheet. This allows you to see exactly what’s done, what’s in progress, and what’s still outstanding. As you can see, we make it very detailed so that you know exactly that is happening at any given point in time:
Once the strategy and schedule is agreed upon, we audit your existing content and see if anything looks like a good fit for our chosen white hat backlink strategy, or can be tweaked to get there. If not, we advise you on the right type of content to create and help you create it.
Now that we’ve chosen a backlink strategy and have a content piece, the next step is to identify everyone who is likely to be willing to link to the piece. To do this, we have a very systematic process that goes through a number of Google search operators specific to the link type we’ve selected.
Here’s an example of our search operators file:
Using these search operators, we create a list of potential backlink target websites that we think have a good chance of being interested in our content. We run this by you to make sure there are no conflicts of interest (for instance, if one of them is a competitor of yours or of one of your clients, or if you’ve been in communication with one of these targets before and it would be awkward for us to message them without acknowledging this.)
So to recap, now we’ve:
Now’s where the rubber meets the road!
We send a personalized, automated message to each of those potential linkers we identified in the previous step. We have a proven messaging sequence we use for this that works extremely well, and we will tailor it to your specific situation.
We’ve found that a mix of personalization and automation is the best approach when it comes to eliciting positive responses. If people think they're getting a boilerplate email that you’re sending to everyone else, they disregard it within milliseconds. Writing an entirely custom email for each target, however, is too time consuming when we’re doing this hundreds of times. We use a hybrid approach where we have one personalized statement combined with a template that works very well.
Follow ups are extremely important in getting a response from your targets. More than 50% of our positive responses come after the initial email! We use a 4-part follow up sequence that is respectful yet persistent, and we see a 10-20% positive response rate across the board depending on the link type (higher for guest posts, etc.)
Once we get a response, there’s a bit of back and forth communication that we handle in order to get the post (and link) up on their site.
Here's an example of an email that landed us a guest post:
Ahh the best part... (this one speaks for itself.)
There are two ways white hat links will increase your traffic and bring you more business:
It takes at least 10 weeks for links to have an effect on your rankings. Here’s a great article that explains this in more detail, if you’re curious. The good news is that once the links do take effect, the gains they bring continue to accrue on an ongoing basis.
This depends on the strategy we’re using and the industry you’re in, but as a rough estimate we typically bring in 10-20 links per month.
There are two ways we provide reporting to our clients:
There are 10 primary types of inbound links that we use. Of these, for each 3-month period we typically laser-focus on the 2-4 that we think will yield the best results. Here are the various link types we use:
If you don’t have existing content we can use for linking, this is a good way to get links quickly. Many sites allow others to write guest posts for them, as it is an easy way to get relevant content up on their blog. We find the websites in your industry that do this, and then offer a straightforward value exchange: we’ll write you a great post for your readers in exchange for a link, definitely in the author bio and ideally also a contextual link in the body text, which is better for SEO. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get backlinks.
This is another one of our go-to methods. The way it works is this: we help you create an authoritative industry resource and then share it with websites that link to authoritative industry resources. The fantastic thing about resource links is that you can get dozens of links for one resource, so long as you put the research in up front to create one that people will want to link to.
This approach is sneaking up in popularity these days. It’s when a site creates a “best-of” list of things they’ve seen around the web. For our client in the supply chain industry, this was “the top 10 supply chain articles we’ve read this year.” We know these people are actively looking for great content, and we get yours in front of them.
Sometimes links go defunct. Searching for resource pages that have broken links on them is a great way to get your content out there. We have a tool that helps us find these opportunities. Once we find them, we recreate the piece that’s missing and ask them to link to our version instead of the broken version. We then find every other site that is linking to that broken link, and ask them to do the same.
When someone mentions your brand without linking to you, we simply let them know that we’d love a link back to our site.
This is similar to a guest post except you need to pay for it. If you’ve got some budget for it, it’s a great way to get links quickly. In sponsored posts, you often have more liberty to discuss your product/service than in a guest post, which should not be commercial.
For this strategy we offer someone something in exchange for an unbiased review of your product. For instance, one of my clients designs apps for hikers. We reached out to hiking-related websites that were reviewing other apps and asked them to do a product review of our app in exchange for a free upgrade to the “pro” version of the app.
Evangelized by Brian Dean, “Skyscraper"-ing refers to finding an existing article that is getting lots of links, creating a better version of that article, and then getting those same linkers to link to your piece. As an added benefit, you now have an awesome content piece that you can use to get links from people who didn’t link to the initial piece as well. This is not easy to do, but if done well can yield enormous results.
This one seemed to hit peak popularity in 2015, but it still works well in many cases. We sites in your industry that link to infographics, work with you to create an infographic, and use our infographic to get links from those sites. Unlike a guest post, which must be custom-written for each publication, the same guestographic can be linked to from multiple sites. In the land of link building we love “one-to-many” situations, and this definitely falls into that category.
In addition to finding blogs that are interested in your industry topic, blogs or sites that talk about your local area are often happy to write about your business. One of our clients sells logistics software in Asia. This gives us access not only to blogs that write about logistics, but also to blogs that write about Asia business (and Hong Kong in particular, where this client is based). We were able to uncover many white hat link opportunities this way.
In this post we reverse-engineer some of our client's competitors to see what kind of content they are creating and how that translates to new revenueRead story