Getting consistent, diverse and relevant links to your site is one of the most important factors for ranking.
The days of simply creating a website, writing blog posts and updating your anchor text to seeing rankings are long gone. To make sure your site has a fighting chance to rank and secure valuable clicks, you’ll need to develop a link building plan of action. However, there’s a right and wrong way to get those links.
Go the black hat route and Google could end up penalizing your site. But when done correctly, you can experience a boost in rankings, traffic and views for years to come.
No matter if you are just learning the ins and outs of link building or have sent more outreach emails than you can count, let us walk you through eight strategies and tips for every experience level.
What is Link Building, Anyways?
Link building is a series of tactics designed to secure links to your site from external sources.
In addition to improving your ability to rank for valuable keywords, link building helps to expand your audience and grow your topical — and domain — authority as well. As your brand gets coverage and links from other websites, Google views your site as more authoritative, and therefore shows it more often on the SERP. But getting these links takes work.
8 Link Building Strategies
There are a wide range of link building strategies to choose from. Which one will work best for you is dependent on your experience level, the amount of time you plan to commit to link building and the type of content you want to create. From taking advantage of organic press mentions to creating and promoting internal content, below are some of the link building techniques that have been proven to drive results.
1. Get Social
A more roundabout way to increase incoming links is to get active on social media and comment regularly on relevant blogs. Creating and maintaining an online presence for your brand will increase your audience size, boost page views and can even lead to new links over time.
Say a reporter searches for a hashtag on Twitter, and you used that same hashtag to tweet about a recent survey you created, you might get coverage off that discovery. Journalists even use Twitter to request data as well, so keep an eye out on hashtags like #journorequest or #prrequest for new linking opportunities that fit your brand.
Commenting on others blogs posts is another strategy you can implement to boost your brand awareness. Not only does this show that you are an active participant in industry conversations, but it also helps build positive relationships with bloggers who you may want to reach out to for coverage in the future.
2. Broken Link Building
Broken link building — also known as BLB — is a strategy that helps secure links on resource pages by finding broken links currently listed and suggesting your post as an alternative. After all, who wants a 404 link on their site?
Site owners and webmasters have worked hard to curate a list of topical content their readers are interested in, so helping them out by highlighting an issue and suggesting a quick fix is mutually beneficial.
BLB is a relatively easy way to earn links, because after you’ve created your piece of content, most of the work is off your plate. This strategy works best with long-form guides and lists, as they serve as an in-depth resource for readers on a given topic.
You’ll want to make sure your guide covers a topic relevant to your site, in order to get links that prove your value. Some examples include a guide to study apps from a college review site or a list of data sources from a content marketing agency — yes, that’s us.
When beginning your BLB outreach, there are search modifiers you can add to your keywords to filter out irrelevant pages. Examples include:
When used in tandem with topical keywords, you can start your search for potential prospects off right. But what exactly do you say once you find a good prospect? We’re glad you asked.
Here is an example outreach email from a BLB campaign that had an average 68 percent open rate and a 36 percent click-through rate.
This email works because it gets straight to the point. Not only does this help avoid prospects from bouncing off your email, it also makes customization easier on you. Make sure to link to their resource page in the body of the email, to make it easier for both of you to return to the page as needed!
3. Link Reclamation
Link reclamation is the process of reclaiming lost or unlinked organic mentions to your site. While most successful for bigger brands that get a lot of press coverage, even smaller sites can take advantage of this strategy from time to time.
There are two tactics for link reclamation. The first is reclaiming a lost link. If a site or resource page used to link to your site but removed the link down the line, there’s a possibility that you can reach out to re-secure that coverage. But for this strategy, it’s important to determine why your link was removed first.
If the link was removed and another resource was put in its place, it’s likely another marketer reached out to suggest a more robust alternative. And unless your original page has undergone a total rehaul recently, it’s probably not worth reaching out as they won’t want to reverse the link to a less in-depth piece of coverage. If you aren’t seeing any external links on the site, they might have updated their policy on linking out. In that case, reaching out is a lost cause.
The other strategy, that usually leads to more results, is reaching out on un-linked organic mentions. Say a website mentions your brand name in relation to a recent product launch, press release or even a review of your services. You can then email them and ask for proper credit to a relevant page — usually the homepage. Below is an example email that, when customized properly, can lead to a 68 percent open rate.
To take your link rec strategy to the next level, and execute lesser-known link moves, check out our advanced link reclamation blog post.
4. Guest Blogging
Likely the strategy you’ve heard about the most — and probably even tried yourself — guest blogging is another great way to earn mid-to-top-tier links back to your site. Though Google has issued warnings for guest posting in recent months, that doesn’t mean you need to stay away from it entirely. The new version of guest posting is all about intention.
Guest posting solely for SEO purposes will likely hurt your site’s authority. Especially if it’s on a lower-tier site that highlights a “write for us” or “guest post guidelines” page. Instead, approach your guest posting strategy with an intent to educate, and look for sites that share outside content that don’t advertise guest posting opportunities. Within that sweet spot, you’ll find mid-to-top-tier sites with topical relevance that will likely accept great content.
Reaching out to a site that doesn’t explicitly ask for pitches can be tricky. With these outreach emails, it’s important to highlight why their readers should care about your content. Below is a sample template you can use to get started.
Once you start getting some bites, the next task is writing up the guest post. Make sure to highlight the most important findings from your original post, but don’t duplicate copy word for word — Google frowns on that. Instead, make your copy unique by focusing on the new audience you’re speaking to. That’s what separates a spammy guest post from an original and authoritative content share.
The reputation of infographics is debatable. While some say they are overdone, others are still securing valuable links on a weekly basis from beautifully designed infographics. Similar to surveys, it’s all about how you approach the project.
When coupled with informative and interesting articles, infographics make great fodder for guest posts. A well-designed — and maybe even animated — asset helps to take your infographic pitch to the next level, and encourages a quicker share. You can highlight your design asset in your pitch too, just like the example below:
Using infographics as an addition to your informative post, rather than the main part of the post itself, means you’re likely to get more topical links from bloggers rather than the typical — and highly penalized — infographic farm sites.
Ever see a survey from a small company that goes viral and think: how did they do it? Surveys can be hard to get right, but when you do, it can pay off in droves.
Survey content works for several reasons. First, you get to pitch completely organic and unique data. Second, since you get to craft the questions, you can make sure it has a direct tie to your brand’s offerings. Finally, when using a tool like Google Surveys, you can filter results by age, gender and location, meaning you can break out your data by demographic for more targeted results.
Journalists want to cover stories that will engage their audience. That means the key takeaway from your survey needs to be attention grabbing. And while you should always have an end goal in mind when creating a survey, it’s important to keep in mind that the results may not always be what you hoped for. But don’t be afraid to work with the data to find another story that captivates or use external data to back up your point.
This survey from Tommy John on the Americans hygiene habits hits all the marks. First, it draws readers in with an attention-grabbing headline. It also uses external data to back up their points and keep readers interested in learning more. And with 370+ links and counting, it’s safe to say this method works.
Interested in learning how to craft and pitch the perfect survey? Learn straight from our team with our content marketing program SiegeLearn.
7. Data Studies
Data studies use external or internal data points to tell a compelling story. Generally, data studies work best for bigger brands whose offerings are closely related to the topic of the study.
Put yourself in the shoes of a reporter. If the brand pitching you is an insurance company, for example, does it make sense for them to be talking about the eating habits of consumers? Not really. Journalists and bloggers want to share data from certified experts, so it’s important that your study reflects what your brand is all about.
When reaching out to reporters for data studies, keeping it short and to the point is your best route to coverage. Highlight key findings in bullet points, and let the journalists know why they should care. Then, link out to your piece to let them read more if they want, just like what’s done in the example below.
Taking a deep dive into a category relevant to your brand is a great way to garner high-end new links. Not only that, but you can set yourself up as an authority within your market by offering interesting insights and predictions for the future.
8. City Studies
A city study is a link building strategy that uses data from specific regions to make a statement about the people, businesses or even the weather patterns. City studies often have great open and click-through rates as they are highly relevant to the journalists and bloggers in the region.
City studies and data studies have a lot in common. First off, they both use internal or external data to tell an interesting story. With city studies, however, you are able to target specific regions with topical information. This can help garner unique links to news outlets, resource pages and blogs for different cities. You can also use city studies to get links back to your location-specific product pages — if you have them — as they will be useful for readers in that area. Talk about a win-win!
When doing outreach for city studies, customization is extremely important. Consider targeting the top five cities on your list, and customize each email to the journalists previous articles. This way, they know that not only are you sending this hyper-relevant content, but you took the time to read their previous work to make sure your pitch was a good fit for their beat. A template city study outreach email looks something like this.
Customize Your Link Building Strategy
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy for link building. In order to be successful in this area of content marketing and SEO, your brand’s authority, goals and time constraints must all be taken into account before getting started. And that’s just what needs to be considered during a normal year! Conducting outreach during COVID-19 is a whole other ballgame.
Do you have a favorite link building strategy from the list above? Or do you have a tried-and-true method we didn’t include? This industry is always changing, and we’d love to hear how you are helping your brand stand out from the pack. For more expert tips, check out Ross’ video on scalable link building strategies below.