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Link Building Methods That Work in 2014

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As someone who reads SEO and inbound marketing blogs on a daily basis, I see a lot of bad advice. Now, I don’t claim to know everything but I’ve had enough experience within the SEO industry to be able to see through articles that are just talking rubbish.

If you’ve read much of my content in the past then you’ll know that I’m always very transparent with my advice. I try to share as much valuable and useful information as possible – albeit this helps to get my content shared, but at least I’m open about it.

What I want to share within this post is some of the link building methods that I’ve tested and know that they work.

Debunking Some Myths

Before I get started, I just want to clear up a few things that I hear within the industry that I just don’t agree with.

Myth 1: Black Hat SEO Is the Devil

Black hat SEO

People are all too quick to just rule certain things as black hat SEO methods. I saw a blog a few weeks ago where someone just ruled all guest-posting as black hat.

Yes, I understand that you could potentially use guest blogging in a way that manipulates Google’s webmaster guidelines, but if you just start ruling out whole methods because they could potentially be used in a negative way then we won’t have any methods left!

Another side to this that annoys me is that some people within the industry seem to think that having a knowledge of black hat SEO is a terrible thing – like you’re some sort of government hacker or something. Come on, guys, as search marketers we should have a thorough understanding of all aspects of SEO.

Myth 2: Great Content Alone Gets You Ranked

I know, I know, content is king. I don’t actually disagree with that statement. What I do disagree with is when people that think you can just create great content and it will just suddenly go ‘viral’ (another word that I hate).

Let’s say that you gather some great data and present it in an engaging format, you create a nice write-up for it and pay a great designer to construct it all. You’re really happy and you press publish.

Great, you think.

Now it’s time for the money to start rolling in, you think.

Well, I hate to break it to you but it doesn’t always work like that. Trust me, I’ve made some mistakes in the past where I’ve overestimated the power of good content and just ended up spending a ton of cash on the development of it and not enough on the deployment.

You need to understand who will want this content, engage with them (don’t just send them a cold email) and build relationships with them. More importantly, you need to understand their capacity to contribute to the goals of your campaign.

Do they have the ability and resources to link to you?

Can they share the content?

Could they become a customer as a result of exposure to the content?

These are just a few questions to ask.

Myth 3: More Money = Guaranteed Results

Maybe not the best thing to say when you make a living from people paying you to increase their search visibility, but it’s true.

Yes, more money does mean that you can utilise more resources.

Yes, more money does mean that you can buy more tools.

No, more money doesn’t guarantee results.

My favourite working example of this would be with businesses that fall victim to the dreaded search engine penalty. Now, I’ve worked with loads of businesses to get their website back up and running within Google, but I still hear the same old question…

“How much can I throw at it to speed things up?”

The process can be sped up, you’re right. The only thing is that there are limits outside the control of money; especially within the early stages of projects.

Ultimately, SEO is a long game. You can get some quick wins along the way, but if you want to do things right, and in a sustainable way, then you need to be patient.

Throwing a few thousand at SEO in the first month and expecting to be ranking in the next isn’t a realistic expectation.

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On to the Link Building

As you may have guessed, I needed to get that off my chest! Don’t worry though, my moaning is over – I’ll now share with you a few tactics that I’ve found to work right now, and work really well.

Build Evergreen Content Pillars

Evergreen Content Pillars

You’re probably thinking, what’s a content pillar? Well, it’s a fluffy phrase that I use that helps to describe the content creation approach that I often take with my clients.

In a nutshell, this is what is involves:

  1. Research into understanding what content your target audience is looking for.
  2. Create a map of major subject areas that they’re looking to be covered. For example, if you’re within the travel niche, these subject areas could be budget travel, beaches, logistical advice, insurance, etc.
  3. Find existing content that covers parts of a subject.
  4. Improve the content and ensure that it won’t become dated in the near future (this part is really important).
  5. Create extensive, long-form content that covers wide areas of a key subject.
  6. Do this for as many of the different subjects that you have identified as possible.

Once you have a base of different content pillars, you have a solid foundation of content that can easily be linked to over time and fulfils a content gap. The reason why it’s important that this content doesn’t become irrelevant quickly (avoid time-driven content for this) is because you can use these pillars as linkable assets.

A perfect example that I’ve created myself is my range of ultimate guides that I’ve created over the past few months. I’ve covered big topics like blog monetization and online competitions that have been linked to heavily from related websites.

This doesn’t need to just apply to blogs, though – this can be transferred into more corporate websites as knowledge base sections. Just look at American Express’s Open Forum or the L’Oreal-owned Makeup.com website.

Once you have these assets, you can work on a less time-sensitive strategy for acquiring links. The problem that most SEOs face when producing the more short-form, timely content is that there is an opportunity window of a day or so (even less in some cases). There’s nothing wrong with this content, but it’s a lot more opportunistic.

With a spread of different content pillars, you can build relationships with influencers over time and respond in real-time to the questions that your content answers.

Not only this, but it makes it incredibly easy to link back to your site from external content that you produce because it appears more natural.

I tend to create a bulk load of short-form content for each content pillar that I create, and then post them to sites that I contribute to, referencing my pillar as the core talking point.

Links Pages

Useful links pages

Yes, you heard it right, I said ‘links pages.’ Those seldom-used pages within websites that contain a list of partners, related websites or extra reading resources can be a great little quick win.

One of the main reasons why I still like these links is because they require very little work to gain them and they’re often linked from a relevant website.

For example, let’s say that I’ve got a website that sells artificial Christmas trees. If I found a load of Christmas blogs and home/interior websites, then gathered a list of any of them that have “useful links” or “resources” pages, I’m pretty sure that I’d be able to get a handful of links from them by sending a quick email.

In particular I will look for pages that have a low number of outbound links so that I can maximise the value that the link brings in. These aren’t going to be the best links that you’ll ever get (and you certainly won’t rank on these alone), but they do help to give some diversity to your anchor text and referring domains, which is always helpful.

To find these opportunities, I use ScrapeBox to quickly run some footprints and gather a bulk load of opportunities. If you’re not familiar with ScrapeBox then you can read this awesome guide from Jacob King or you can just enter the queries into Google and pluck out the opportunities manually.

Here’s the simple footprint that I use:

intitle:KEYWORD inurl:”links” OR “resources”

Note: When you’re qualifying the list of prospects, try to take into account the potential that the link has to bring in traffic. Some of the links that I have built from these types of pages to my travel blog actually bring in good levels of traffic each month, so this is a big bonus.

PR Commenting (HARO/ResponseSource)

Help a Reporter Out

I’ve seen a lot of articles over the past two years that talk about using services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to receive requests for article contributions from journalists. This can cover a wide range of topics and can result in some seriously good quality links and exposure.

Personally, I prefer ResponseSource to HARO (mainly because I’ve had a lot more success using this service). You’ll need to pay an annual payment to receive ResponseSource alerts, but this works out at around £25 (GBP) per month (well worth it).

The key to getting results with services like HARO and ResponseSource is organisation. You’re going to receive a number of emails each day from these services that will ask for a load of different contributions – most of these will be irrelevant to you/your clients, but every now and then you’ll get something that is a really good opportunity.

It’s your job to identify these opportunities and respond as quickly as possible.

I’ve set up a variety of different folders within my email to filter through and categorise emails that I receive from the different services that I subscribe to. I have specific folders that will archive emails that mention certain keywords (e.g. emails from ResponseSource asking for SEO-related contributions) and then set up alerts to come through on my desktop as soon as a new one comes through.

Taking this to the next level, I use If This Then That (IFTTT) to send me an SMS when an email comes through from HARO/ResponseSource that mentions any of the keywords I’ve specified. This is perfect for quick responses.

Bonus: You can use the IFTTT recipe that I created to alert you via SMS when a reporter asks for input on an article related to SEO (this can be edited to any topic that you want alerts for). This is really handy when you’re on the move and don’t have create internet connectivity.

Finally, you need to be sure to keep your responses short and sweet. Here’s a template that I use when responding:

Subject: HARO: [Insert the subject that the reporter has asked you to comment on]

Body: Hi [First Name],

My name is [Your name], [Your job title and company]. Here are my answers to your questions:

  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.
  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.
  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.
  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.

Let me know if you need anything else.

[Your name]
[Your Twitter/LinkedIn URL]
[Contact phone number/email address]

You’ll notice that I haven’t even mentioned the word “link” within this email. If there’s one piece of advice that I would give when crafting a response to a reporter then it would have to be ‘don’t mention linking to you.’

This can be sorted out at a later date. What the reporter wants is to get some short sentences that can be added in to their article to back up some points that they make. This is why you don’t want to write more than two sentences for each point.

I’ve had some great results in using these services over time. Even if it hasn’t resulted in a link each time, I’ve been able to grab some extra exposure for my clients which has helped their overall digital strategy and formed some relationships with reporters that can be utilised in the future.

Note: Don’t give up after your first attempt didn’t work out. I’ve had an average conversion rate of around 15-20% on my replies, so not every single response you give will convert.

Create Thought Leadership Personas for Your Clients

thought leaders

One of the most effective ways that I’ve found to gain link opportunities from industry-leading blogs and publications is to position yourself/your client as a thought leader.

If you take a look across many of the top news/blog websites within your niche then you’ll notice that the majority of regular contributors to the site are seen as industry experts or thought leaders. The question you’ll often ask yourself when trying to get links from these sites is, “How do I get my content seen by the editors so that they pick my content up and link to it?” when instead, you should be asking, “How do I position myself/my client in a way that would get the editor to listen to me?”

If the editor of a reputable publication sees you/your client as someone who knows what they’re talking about and has experience in their field, why wouldn’t they listen to what you have to say?

Before I even begin outreach to these kinds of targets, I carry out a number of tasks to help position my client correctly:

Identify someone within the business (my client’s business) that has the potential to be the thought leader within a specific subject area. This could be due to their experience, knowledge around a specific topic, existing reputation, etc.

  1. Optimise their LinkedIn profile to reflect the image that we’re trying to get across. This could involve tweaking their job title, descriptions, projects they’ve worked on, gathering recommendations, updating their profile image (if it isn’t professional enough) and connection seeding (if they have under 500).
  2. Guidelines on social sharing and, if agreed, full social media management across their accounts (this depends on the preference of the individual). This allows me to ensure that they are engaging with the right people and sharing the right content to reflect the image we want to reflect.
  3. Build out their personal profile on the website and create some content on the blog (if present) under their name that can be used as content references for editors.
  4. If you feel that it warrants it, set up a personal blog for them in order to build their name in the industry (I’ve done this in the past and it’s really helped).
  5. Run some PR around the individual that mentions some of the work they have been involved in, etc. This is particularly important within B2B industries.
  6. Comment regularly on a few of the new articles published on the link targets. These should be well-informed and lengthy comments that add value to the article and spark further conversation. It’s a good idea to get input from the individual on this, but you should also have a PR exec that is clued up enough to make some responses.
  7. Draft up some content pitch ideas that will relate to a few of the different target sites that you’ve identified. You’ll want to work with the individual around these ideas to make sure that they’re the right fit for the industry.
  8. Get in touch with your targets with some pitch ideas under the email of the individual and ask about the possibility of becoming a columnist. Don’t mention links or the word guest blog at all, and don’t rush into making contact with your targets. Make sure that you’ve got everything ready and in place first because you may only have one shot at this.

Here’s an example of an outreach email that I’ve done for this:

Subject: Columnist for [Publication Name]

Body: Hi [First Name],

I hope you’re well.

I’m just getting in touch because I’m a reader of, and regular commenter on [Publication name]. I’m the [Job title] of [Company name], an award-winning [Type of business].

I’m looking to further build my reputation within the industry by writing for a select few key [Industry type] publications (hence why I’m getting in touch with you).

Currently, I’m a regular contributor to [Website Name] and the [Website Name], amongst a few others (including my own blog – [URL here]) and it would be great to partner with [Website Name] to become a columnist.

You can check out my full credentials on my LinkedIn page (I sent you a connection request today) – [LinkedIn profile URL]

Here’s an example of some recent articles I’ve written:

  • URL of an article written by the individual
  • URL of an article written by the individual
  • URL of an article written by the individual

I’ve had years of experience within the [Industry type] industry, so could offer a lot to your readers. Alongside this, I’d be happy to meet any deadlines that you put in place.

Let me know if you need any more information.

I look forward to your response.

[Individual’s name]
[Job title]
[Contact details]
[Social media links]

Now, this is just an example of one that I’ve sent in the past that had a great response. Try not to template your emails too much as each one should be quite personal to the editor in question. This should just get you heading in the right direction.

Build Strategic Partnerships

Build strategic partners

Having a partnership with someone else can often be a very easy way of getting a good-quality link. The big question to ask when forming a partnership is, “Is the resource spent on forming the partnership worth the resulting link(s)?”

If the answer is yes, then it’s time to get to work!

Here are a few different types of partnerships that could be struck:

  • Speak at an event.
  • Sponsor an event.
  • Give money/resources to a local charity.
  • Partner up with bloggers to review products.
  • Give away prizes to websites that are running competitions.
  • Sponsor a blog/website.
  • Give discounts on your services/products to the employees of another company.

Reddit Subreddits

Reddit SubReddits

This is a little tactic that I was pondering over keeping to myself because it’s a great way of generating some really high-quality backlinks. But, being the generous bloke that I am, I’ll share it with you all.

As you may or may not be aware, there’s a subreddit for pretty much every kind of interest/topic you can think of. I’d be very surprised if you’re unable to find a relevant sub for your business.

Getting to the point of links… there’s quite a few subreddits that list relevant resources/websites within the sidebar of the page (e.g. http://www.reddit.com/r/Metal). The moderators are the ones that can edit these areas, so you have a few options when it comes to getting your link placed here:

  1. Build a relationship with the moderators and message them to ask.
  2. Become a moderator of the subreddit yourself through being a consistently active member.
  3. Start your own subreddit (you can apply here).

I’ve built some awesome links for a couple of my clients using this method.

Run 10 Miles

Just Giving

Yes, that’s right, physical exercise can get you a really high-quality backlink! And no, I’m not going crazy.

Maybe that sub-heading is a little misleading, so I’ll explain in more detail.

JustGiving.com is a charity platform that some of you may be aware of already. For those that aren’t, Just Giving allows you to create an event that you can then receive donations to your charity of choice for. For example, you could do a sponsored 10-mile run for cancer research, etc.

Well, one thing that I’ve noticed is that Just Giving allows you to place dofollow links within your event page. Just take a look at this DA88 PA45 page that has a nice little link back to the organiser’s website.

So, it’s time to get your running shoes on and to generate some money for a good cause because this link will be worth the run!

Write Someone a Testimonial

Write a testimonial

Testimonials are something that most businesses regularly crave. They build trust with their customers and give them an impartial point of reference toward the quality of their offering.

Supplying a testimonial to a business that you’ve worked with or purchased from can be a great way to get a link back to your site. This is primarily because most businesses will want to publish the testimonial on their website and link back to the person who wrote it.

I wrote about how I managed to do this a couple of years ago to great effect. Also, I recently read a great case study from Preneur Marketing that showcased how Dave Jenyns managed to get a ton of links through recording some video testimonials. Make sure that you give them both a read.

Broken Link Building

Broken Link Building

I’ve never been a huge fan of broken link building as a direct link building method. Over time I’ve found that the prospecting stage of the process is so hit-and-miss that it can be really tough to qualify a good link opportunity (feel free to argue against in the comments!).

Where I like to use broken link building is to initially build relationships with my link prospects.

Instead of going down the route of gathering a list of broken links through a tool like Citation Labs’ Broken Link Finder and then running an outreach campaign to a load of webmasters that may fit the bill, I tend to look at it from a slightly different angle. Here’s what I do:

  1. Gather a list of link prospects where I want to get my content published.
  2. Run their domain through Screaming Frog SEO Spider or Xenu Link Sleuth to see if they have any broken links across their website.
  3. Drop them a polite email to let them know about the broken link. Don’t promote any of your content as this stage.
  4. Follow up in a week or so with a content pitch.
  5. Dramatically increase your pitch response rates!

Buy Some Links from Fiverr.com

Fiverr.com

Ok, before you rush off and start buying 1000 social bookmark links for just $5!!, just take a deep breath. We’re not going to start spamming our site with tons of crap links, which are readily available within Fiverr. Instead, I’ll give you a heads up on how to find some hidden gems.

Alongside all of the crap within Fiverr, there are actually a few legitimate bloggers who are looking for content on their website. For a mere $5 you can secure yourself a guest post opportunity from a relevant blog.

A simple search for your niche plus the words “guest blog” will reveal a ton of bloggers that will let you post a blog onto their site. One thing that you’ll want to be sure you avoid is gigs that offer to write the post as well. Make sure that you have control of the content and that you’re able to check out the blog in advance as well.

Simple, quick and cheap. My favourite.

TL;DR

  • Don’t write off link building methods just because someone writes an article declaring them as black hat.
  • Start building content pillars.
  • Position yourself/your client as a thought leader (and start thinking like one!).
  • Don’t just look at tactics like broken link building as a way to directly build links.
  • Start producing some testimonials.
  • Go for a run.
forum.seat-club.net
honda.org.ua
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About Matthew Barby

A UK based digital marketing consultant, Matt oversees digital strategy at Wyatt International. He is a columnist for many different SEO publications, a lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute and speaks at events across the UK.

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18 Responses

Charles Floate

New site is looking absolutely badass Matt! Definitely looking forward to even more epic-ness from this blog :)

Matthew Barby

Cheers mate – it’s taken me long enough to get this ready but I’m really happy with it. A few tweaks need to be done, but overall, happy!

AJ Ghergich

Congrats on the new site and great post. I am a bit concerned about the Fiverr rec but love the rest. Anything you could expand on in relation to that tactic?

My concern is that the type of blog that you will get is the type that would eventually get on Google’s radar. Not because your content sucks…but because eventually everyone else’s content that pays them $5 will suck. Anyhow, love to hear your thoughts.

Matthew Barby

Hey AJ, good point. The thing with Fiverr is that there’s a LOT of crap on there. Take a look for bloggers who advertise their sites for guest posts but hold lots of strict guidelines for posting.

Also, make sure that you get a chance to take a look at the website before posting. I don’t really use this method much, but if you’re not spamming it with crappy content and commercial anchor text, you should be ok to tie this into everything else that you’re doing.

Like anything with link building – it’s about doing things in moderation!

Ryan

Great post Matt. A lot of these methods work nicely with each other and might even compound your efforts.

Would you consider this piece a content pillar?

Matthew Barby

Hey Ryan – I would indeed call this a content pillar ;)

Prateek

Received a mail for this blog post and I am glad i read it thoroughly. There are many new techniques I learned and other old techniques which I thought only I was using :D. I also love links from Reddit’s subreddit. An awesome roundup. Thanks!

Matthew Barby

I’m glad you learned something! Reddit in general is a goldmine for traffic generation so make sure you invest some time into it.

Alex

Matt,

As a writer and SEO for clients in the States, I’m continually impressed by your writing. I’m more and more convinced that success in web marketing relies increasingly on widely publishing (on a long list of free sites) the content that we create. What do you think of using directory submission services and freely posting on sites like Medium?

Matthew Barby

Hey Alex,

Thanks for the feedback – I appreciate it.

In terms of using automated directory submissions, I’d advise against it. You can’t control where your links will be coming from and the risk/reward is way overbalanced toward the risk side.

With regard to Medium, I think that’s a great idea. Community engagement is an incredibly important part of any digital campaign. Regardless of the fact that you get nofollow links, the traffic potential is huge and you also have the ability to be seen as a thought leader in your field.

Mike McCarthy

Hi Matt, great post and loving the new site design! Interesting note about the thought-leadership personas, and on that note I’m looking forward to seeing how you build out this site :)

Matthew Barby

Yeah, I’m really happy with the design, it’s looking just how I want it to. I couldn’t have done it without my designer (Jenny Khanom) and my developer (Michael Weaver – http://mjtweaver.com/).

Reginald

Hi Matthew,

Insane write up. Lovely mate. Found this on Inbound so voted up too.

Let me see, I think the first part is link building is still important. I always go with naturality and I really don’t care much about the dofollow and nofollow stuff.

At the same time, sprinkle some guest post to create influence. I am a strong believer that when you are influenced enough, the rest will follow.

Oh yes, subscribed to your newsletter!

Have a good day ahead.

Matthew Barby

Thanks for the upvote, always helps!

Soumya

Hello Matthew, this is the first I came to your blog from inbound.org and this is really very much helpful for me. Never thought about testimonial links. Yes you are right we can write good testimonials for a product or service company on their website and can get a link back to our site. But is it ethical or natural?
Second thing I never knew Subreddits. now that needs to be explored.
This is really a very good content perhaps one of the best article I have read on link building. Great work and keep posting your knowledge and experience with us.

Matthew Barby

Hey Soumya,

I’m not saying we should write fake testimonials. I’m talking about testimonials on services that you’ve used/currently use. So in my eyes, yes, that’s ethical.

Glad you enjoyed the article. Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter :)

Nevyana Karaksheva

Hi Matt,

That’s a really cool piece that you’ve compiled here – both comprehensive and filtered as to incorporate only useful and adding value tactics.

I would also mention the infographics idea – especially if you are having a talented in-house designer instead of counting on a free software to make all the difference. It would give you the advantage of presenting bloggers and webmasters with a fresh and innovative content that if executed properly could give you a relatively easy backlink – or better yet several per a project. With the proper outreach, of course.

Marian

Thanks for sharing this information. I agree, if you want to be on top of search results, you have to provide relevant information to your audience. This is the most important part that sometimes we take for granted.