There are two essential SEO activities you need to work on to improve rankings:
- Optimising your current website content to increase search engine visibility (on-site SEO)
- Building links to your website from other sites around the web (off-site SEO)
Both are important, but this guide will primarily focus on how I approach a typical link building campaign.
Every website should be trying to generate exposure through outreach and link building.
If you can generate more links to your website, you will:
- Increase brand exposure and generate some buzz
- Please the Google Gods - resulting in free organic search traffic
- Send lots of juicy referral traffic from relevant websites - think pre-qualified, highly targeted visitors
This will result in more website visitors that you can convert into happy customers!
The first step is to create a Gmail account under your business persona.
Generally website owners respond more favourably if they think they’re dealing with the website owner - hence more links.
So I can either outreach under your name, or if you’re uncomfortable with that, as a company employee.
Get Access to Google Analytics
It’s very important to analyse any trends with your current traffic, sources and popular pages to plan and track the campaign.
Get Access to Google Search Console
I can look at the guts of your website to see what keywords you’re ranking for, and which ones need a boost.
I can create a content plan, identify your popular posts and optimise articles that are getting lots of impressions, but not many clicks.
Check Anchor Text Ratio
I’ll use various software to analyse your incoming links and text that’s used in each link (known as anchor text, which can either help you or harm you, depending on how it’s done).
It looks very spammy to Google if you have lots keyword-rich anchor text, and can hinder your SEO efforts.
In this instance, your anchor text would have to be diluted with more natural phrases when obtaining future links.
By reviewing your content I can check the content and analyse popular pieces, as defined by links, social shares and comments.
I’ll also reverse engineer a few competitors to see what’s doing well for them.
All of these URL’s will be listed so I have easy access to them when I’m approaching link targets.
Note: If your content isn’t really interesting, engaging or useful for your target audience, it makes it very difficult to secure links. Why would another website owner want to link to poor piece of content? Think of what you would share on your own social media - it has to be that engaging.
If there’s no good content I can use, we need to come up with a plan to create some that’ll be interesting to my list of targets (and Google).
Think articles, videos, pictures, infographics that are the best on the web. I can provide guidelines on what this should include.
Ideally you have someone in-house to provide awesome content.
If you don’t have a content team to create quality media, I may be able to handle it, although this will incur an additional monthly expenditure.
Hopefully you’ll be able to provide an on-site content budget and off-site budget for content placement on other sites.
On page SEO is very important for Google to decide what your content is about, and display your site in the search results when people input various keywords.
There’s a certain structure to follow and all content should tick the following SEO boxes:
- Alt tags
- H tags
- Keyword density
- Internal/external linking
- User friendly with prominent call to action
I’ll perform a detailed audit of your current incoming links, which involves:
- Checking that all links are clean (from trusted sources)
- Checking link history to ensure there aren’t any spikes/blips
- Checking Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Domain Authority and Page Authority of target pages
Add Content to Targets Tab
I’ll add all of the information above into a spreadsheet to track the campaign.
This will help monitor:
- Content to be used
- Keywords that content is ranking for
- Any keywords I want it to rank for
Generate List of Google Operators
I’ll then use the keywords generated in the step above to create a huge list of Google Operators (see above example.)
These are specific inputs which allow me to filter the results depending on the websites I’m after and type of link targeted.
For example, if you’re building links in the “toy” niche, you could use a term such as “toys inurl:resources” in the Google search box.
This would return any pages about toys that have the word “resources” in the URL and should be a list of resources about toys.
If we’ve created a valuable, informative resource about toys, then all the pages returned would be ideal like targets for us.
Select Link Types Based on Your Content and Budget
Based on the previous steps and type of site you have, I’ll select a few link types to pursue.
If you aren’t in a “sexy” industry, or don’t have a lot of content to work with, the best type of links may be guest posts, blogger outreach, or targeting websites in overlapping niches.
None of these link types require content on your site, but rather content placement, which contains a link back to you.
Create a Project Management Plan
At this point we have all of the information that we need to run your campaign, so it’s time to create a project roadmap.
Find Opportunities, Contact Names and Email Addresses
By this point I know:
- Which keywords you want to rank for
- The content I can use to rank your site
- The types of links I want to secure
- The search operators I’ll use to generate targets for links
I use these 4 things to create a list of targets, which I call prospecting.
I try as hard as possible to get a personal contact email as well as the name of the website owner, just like I did when contacting you!
This means I can build a good relationship with everyone on the list, so they keep championing your site in the future.
There are numerous link types, although usually 5 or 6 can be exploited for any individual campaign.
This is a very valuable link type, and underused. There are content curators all over the web, collecting information on useful links their audience should check out.
If you’ve got a really useful piece of content, you can reach out to website owners asking if your link can be included.
Resource pages + Broken link building
Similar to link roundups, there are countless resource pages around the web, created by webmasters for the benefit of their audience.
This technique works really well with broken link building. If there are any broken links on the page, you can re-create those resources and ask for a replacement link back to your site.
You can also reverse engineer all the sites linking to the broken resource and target those websites too!
Content placements (guest posting)
Still a brilliant way of generating brand exposure and getting relevant, contextual links from high authority domains.
If you can create great content for another site, you can get access to their audience, sending targeted traffic as well as the inherent SEO value of the link.
Sponsored posts mean that you pay websites to feature your product or service. Obviously you have to budget for this cost.
These can be very valuable links if they’re on high authority, well maintained sites. With a higher budget, you can get access to sites your competitors won’t be able to target.
It’s possible to look for sites around the web that have mentioned your product or service but haven’t linked out to you.
You can contact these webmasters and ask for the link to be made active, sending traffic and SEO juice.
Bridge method (location based)
This involves targeting websites in your geographical area and relationship building. Two businesses can help each other out a lot with mutual links or guests posts.
Bridge method (niche based)
This involves targeting business in overlapping industries. If you share a common audience but aren’t direct competitors, it’s very valuable to help each other out.
Think Physiotherapists and Personal Trainers.
This is extremely valuable outreach for brand exposure and link building.
Do you have any newsworthy content that journalists would find interesting? If so, could they add a link to their Huffington Post article?
Often you may have to pay a few hundred pounds for these links, but they’re placed on extremely authoritative domains, are extremely high value.
Alternatively, are you doing anything local newspapers/magazines would find interesting?
- Supporting a local charity
- Hosting a local event
- Engaging the community
- Local blogger
There are thousands of new blogs created every day by passionate writers and budding entrepreneurs.
Many of them don’t make a full time living from their hobby.
If you can reach out with some interesting content that’s beneficial to their audience, they’ll often happily link to you.
If not, you can sweeten the deal with a paid placement on one of their old blog posts.
Uni student blogs
Most universities have an internal blogging platform used by eager students.
As they’re hosted on university domains, they carry a lot of weight.
Students will happily exchange value or link out to interesting projects.
Pillowing tactics (mostly used for link diversity or anchor text dilution)
Manufacturer links (ecommerce only)
If you sell a manufactured product, the manufacturer usually collates a list of distributors, where your company can be listed.
Creating videos provides lots of SEO value as Google owns YouTube. However, there are other sites such as Vimeo, which allow links in the description box.
If there are directories for you industry, secure a link. It helps people find you in the search engines, in addition to providing SEO value.
Are you a member of any professional organisations? If so, update your profile with relevant links, or create an interesting case study that the organisation may want to feature for its members.
Conference and event links
If you attend any events or speak at conferences they usually link to attendees.
Blog and forum commenting
This is sometimes viewed as a spammy tactic, but done right, it can deliver lots of value.
If you leave a thoughtful response on a relevant article, it can generate traffic and build a relationship with the blogger, which may be helpful in the future.
Maybe you’ve written a piece of content that either supports or refutes the blogger’s article, and can leave the link.
One of the most authoritative sites on the web. Anyone can edit content and leave links. However, they have to be extremely relevant, or are removed quickly.
Reverse engineering competitor links
You can see where your competitors are getting links and target similar sites. However, it’s also important to develop your own link building strategy, targeting unique sites.
People love visuals. If you can create an amazing infographic, with nice statistics, information or artwork, other websites will happily link back to you.
This is a method recently popularised in SEO circles. It involves creating the best piece of topic on a subject, anywhere on the web.
Sometimes you’ll find a piece of content that has already been heavily linked to, and try to better it.
If you can invest the necessary resources for this, you can blow your competition out of the water and secure a host of links and social love.
In truth, you should try to make all your content as amazing as possible to facilitate link building.
Broken link building
This can be time consuming, but very worthwhile.
If you find a broken piece of content on the web that’s been linked to numerous times, you can recreate a similar piece on your site and approach all the linkers asking them to link to you instead.
For each of the targets identified I’ll send a personal email, using their name if possible and the most appropriate email format based on the type of link sought.
The approach for content placement is very different to the approach for a resource link for example.
The interactions with site owners are very important. Ideally you can build a relationship and encourage them to support your brand in the future, both in terms of links and social shares.
This is probably one of the most important parts of the link building process.
People get tons of email every day and most of it remains unopened.
Luckily I track email opens, so I know who’s opened an email and not replied, and who just hasn’t seen it yet.
These contacts receive different follow up emails, depending on how they’re categorised.
This is completely dependent on the type of content you can provide, your industry, and the reaction of the targets being approached.
It also depends on your monthly investment - the more you invest in this service, the higher the number of targets I can approach and the greater number of links we can secure.
However, you can expect a minimum of between 10-20 genuine, whitehat (Google authorised) links per month.
The more willing you are to create great content for me to use, the higher this number will be.
The benefits of this workflow are primarily based around two performance indicators.
- Referral traffic growth
- Organic traffic growth
People click links on relevant websites because they’re interested in the content that’s mentioned (referral traffic).
This results in highly targeted traffic, which should easily convert into paying customers.
The second benefit is in terms of SEO value, where links on authoritative domains count as votes for your site, sending it up the search rankings (organic growth).
This type of traffic also results in paying customers. They’re searching for solutions on Google and your website is popping up to provide it.
As long as your website promotes your conversion goals well, you can funnel this traffic to your products and services.
SEO campaigns are like going to the gym. Results take time.
Think 6-12 months. It’s inadvisable to mess around with Google and take shortcuts. Lot’s of SEO spammers/cheap providers get burned (de-indexed), and you will too.
Start now and do it right.
Often companies need multi-faceted campaigns to grow as quickly as possible:
- Marketing strategy
This involves reverse engineering competitors and improving on what they’re doing well, so you become the frontrunner.
Then we can devise slipperly sales funnels so customers have a seamless transition from curious website visitor to brand evangelist.
Content is the foundation on which all your marketing efforts are based. Unless you’ve invented a new yoyo that goes viral without you having to market it…
You need to create interesting, shareable media for people to consume and link to.
If you’ve got a content team in-house that can create long-form, multimedia, keyword rich content, then excellent.
Otherwise, I can handle it.
- Paid acquisition
When your content creation and link building is underway, you might want to pour some gasoline on your marketing efforts…
In the form of paid advertising.
This allows you to test ideas quickly and generate traffic immediately.
- Lead Generation and Email Marketing
It’s all very well getting lots of traffic to your website, but unless you’re doing something with it, it’s pointless.
Converting traffic into email subscribers is an art form…
And after website visitors subscribe to your list you can use true jedi mind marketing…
Segmenting customers based on their interests, exposing them to unique content they'll find useful, and introducing them to products and services at the right time.
The ROI from email marketing is immense.
So, what's next?
Sit back and imagine yourself supping on this fine cocktail while I’m in the sweaty Internet marketing dungeon, toiling on your behalf.