When it comes to link building, there are whitehat tactics and, well, everything else.
I’ve put together what I believe to be the perfect external linking program for off-site SEO.
Below, I’ll show you how to acquire the best SEO links using proven whitehat tactics that can transform your SERP rankings.
What You’ll Learn:
How to Get the Best SEO Links
Right off the bat, I’d like to be clear that we’re only focusing on whitehat, Google-approved linking strategies.
See, Google looks for links coming from relevant websites in your niche, as well as the large, authoritative websites with a national presence (but also related to your core subject matter) pointing back at your website–allowing you to rank higher and higher.
The thing is, it’s hard to build links. Not only is it hard to actually get people to link to your website, but it’s also really hard to figure out which tactics you should be using in your linking strategy.
Here’s a new kind of system that can be used to create a diverse backlink profile from LOTS of different sources.
I’ll start with the launch and the first 30 days the program is live. Then, I’ll zoom out and look at what you’ll need to do monthly, then quarterly to drive lasting, meaningful growth.
Launch + First 30 Days
The first 30 days are critical for any linking program, especially for the best SEO linkbuilding.
This is when you’ll be putting in the most work, developing and implementing a strategy that can serve as a foundation for everything you’re doing from here on out.
1. Identify Your Linking Strategy
The first thing you’ll want to do is identify which strategies to pursue to build a diverse link profile.
There are SO many different strategies out there, so I’m going to just break down some different buckets of different strategies.
Under each of these buckets, of course, there are a million sub-categories.
Promoting content is an amazing strategy, albeit a pretty broad one. So, you might create an industry study, an infographic, a scholarship, or even just a really great blog post.
My recommendation here is, whatever great piece of content you’re trying to promote, you’ll want to email your peers in the industry to let them know about the resource and ask them to link to it.
For example, if you put together some original research about Facebook ads or what pages are landing featured snippets most often, you might mention that this resource includes information that can enhance an existing article on a related topic.
If you’re talking about using a scholarship as a backlinking strategy, you might shift the message a bit. Here, you might explain who this scholarship is for–say, an opportunity for underprivileged students pursuing a degree in your field.
In any case, you’ll want to take extra care to position this information as a helpful resource to your recipients and their respective audiences. In other words–add value.
The second strategy is using Help a Reporter Out (HARO). HARO is a platform that allows journalists to find quotes for an upcoming story by submitting a request.
You can respond to requests by filtering queries based on which categories are most relevant to your brand and whatever piece of content you’re trying to promote.
HARO is almost the equivalent of responding to an ad on a job board rather than pitching directly to an ideal client.
Meaning, you won’t always find exactly what you’re looking for, but when you do, it’s the low-hanging fruit of PR–you’re reaching out to someone who wants to hear from someone in your niche.
PR pitching is related to the HARO approach, only this time, you’re reaching out directly to publications or podcasts.
In both instances, your goal is to land on big publications like a Forbes or a Huffington post. These types of sites reach the general population, but also allow you to appear in a relevant category–so you’re casting a wide net without compromising on relevance.
PR Pitching applies to situations where you have an original story idea that publications are likely to consider “worthwhile.”
For example, if you have original research that readers will find valuable or you’ve discovered an effective strategy for landing new clients or boosting SEO performance–why not put it out there?
Other avenues to explore include industry publications, which reach a smaller, but more targeted group and relevant podcasts.
To pitch a podcast, you’ll frame your pitch a bit differently. For example, if I want to promote a book I just wrote, I might say:
“I’d love to be featured on your podcast. I’m about to release a book that covers X, Y, and Z about [relevant topic]. “
Additionally, you might target retail websites, TV shows, YouTube series, any platform that features content your target audience cares about.
The more platforms you can appear on, the better. I like to think of this as a recession-proofing strategy, as over time, these linking opportunities will generate a ton of free, qualified traffic to your website.
Essentially, you’re bringing traditional PR strategies together with SEO linking–a powerful strategy when implemented properly.
So, I actually really like sponsored content as a strategy. There’s nothing wrong to be paying for sponsored content.
So, you cannot actually pay for a backlink from a specific website unless they disclose that this is a sponsored, nofollow link (or marked as rel-sponsored).
I recommend making a list of all relevant publications that feature sponsored content.
Pretty much guarantees traffic to your site. Keep in mind, this strategy is one of the more expensive items on this list–meaning, it might not be the best choice for those just starting out.
That said, you can add this strategy to the mix as your backlink program begins to start delivering returns.
Unlinked mentions are citations that don’t link back to your website. For example, sites that mention “John Lincoln” or “Ignite Visibility” without linking back to the Ignite website fall into this category.
In these cases, there’s an opportunity to reach out and get that full-fledged backlink–after all, the hard part is over.
There are a few different ways you can approach this. If you’re looking for a free option, you can find unlinked mentions by using Google Search Operators.
For example, you can use a query that looks like this:
“intext: “ignite visibility” -ignitevisbility.com, -facebook.com, -twitter.com, -youtube.com”
What this search operator does is, it allows you to look for sites that mention Ignite Visibility while excluding results from our blog or social media channels.
Here’s what comes up:
Now, there are a couple of entries that slip through the cracks, but generally speaking, you’re able to filter out most irrelevant results–more so if you use the tools found underneath the search bar to narrow your search.
Still, if you’re looking to cover more ground in less time, you might try using an SEO tool to help get the best SEO links.
Any of the following options will serve you well–my recommendation is to look for a solution with other features that address gaps in your content or SEO strategy.
I go over how to use some of these options in another post focused on reviewing your backlinks for SEO.
Alternatively, you might use a social listening tool, which may be a better bet for marketers that fall on the more “creative” end of the SEO spectrum (i.e. content marketers, social media managers, PR pros).
A few solid options:
Additionally, I dig into my favorite social listening tools–Mention, BuzzSumo, and HootSuite in another post if you’d like to learn more.
However you decide to approach this, you’ll want to come up with a list of websites where there’s an opportunity to link back to your content.
Profiles & Review Sites
I’d also recommend targeting profiles, review sites, and infographic sites.
While you might be surprised to here me say this, many of these sites: Yelp, Crunchbase, Good Firms, and others are high-authority domains that generate a lot of traffic and help you take up more space in the SERPs.
Why wouldn’t you want to be on every review site or directory?
If you Google “relevant keyword” + “reviews,” you’re going to find basically every review site in your industry.
Imagine you’re a dental practice or a company that installs solar panels–in either case, there are like 50+ review sites in the results. Insurance, mattresses, software, whatever–be on all of these sites–it’s part of your building an online presence.
Really important for getting in front of all of these communities of influencers on social media.
You’ll need to create an offer–whether that’s in the form of payment or free stuff — in which case, they’ll need to mark posts as “sponsored.”
Here’s a recent post for more insights on how to identify the best micro-influencers for your brand.
Many of the same principles apply for targeting big-name influencers, the main differences really boil down to price and getting a response.
Guest blogging is always a great way to build links to your website.
It’s time-consuming, to be sure, but overall, it’s a really solid strategy for establishing yourself as an authority in your industry. Consider creating a column for yourself or your client–whoever you’re representing.
2. Create the Content You’ll Use for Your Promotions
So, you’ll want to first go through this list of linking strategies to determine which efforts make the best use of your time and budget. Not everyone can–nor should–do everything at once.
Once you’ve nailed down your strategies, you’ll then want to sit down and actually create the content you’ll be using.
The better quality the content and the more timely your subject matter, the better. You’ll also want to look at targeting websites that have published related content in the past.
Obviously you should offer something unique, but it should still tie back to the core categories these publications feature–ideally, you’re creating a resource that can add value to existing content to help you lock down that link.
3. Develop Pitches for Your Proposed Topics
Next, you’ll want to develop a pitch for each of your proposed topics. Make sure you tailor by each channel. For instance, your influencer pitches are going to sound different than an email you’ll send to propose a guest spot on a podcast or follow up on an unlinked mention.
4. Go After the Quick Wins
And finally, you’ll want to kickstart your efforts by going after some “quick wins.” For example, you might publish a few guest posts or focus on getting building citations. Try going after review sites and follow up on linkless mentions before going after a big-name publication.
Once you’ve made it past the 30-day mark, you’ve done the heavy lifting and now, you’re in maintenance mode.
Here’s the general roadmap for turning the activities outlined in the 30-day strategy into a sustainable program.
1. Promote One Piece of Content a Month
Every month, make an effort to promote one really great piece of content. While you might not always have the resources to create a comprehensive industry report or an original tool, you can probably manage a blog post.
My recommendation is to email 100 websites three times each. Ask them to link to you and to feature this amazing thing you’ve created.
2. 3-5 HAROs a Week
Check in with HARO on a regular basis and respond to about 3-5 requests each week.
3. Pitch PR Story to 20-30 Podcasts & Media Outlets
Pitch 20-30 outlets each month. This could be podcasts, news sites, industry publications, TV spots, whatever.
4. Collect Sponsored Content Opportunities
Collect sponsored content opportunities from sites offering advertorial opportunities. Again, as long as these are reputable, relevant platforms, this can be a great way to attract qualified traffic to your site.
5. Check Unlinked Mentions & Email Webmasters Three Times Each
Continue monitoring unlinked brand mentions and follow up with each website on your list three or four times.
6. Target Top Profile Sites
Every month target about 5-6 profile sites, infographic sites, or directories. These websites pop-up all the time and you’ll want to make an effort to be featured on as many relevant platforms as possible to maximize your reach.
7. Collect Responses from All of Your Efforts
Finally, you’ll want to capture all of the responses you receive from these efforts. As you build your profile, those review sites are going to start asking you to guest blog, infographic sites might let you guest blog. People are going to start responding to PR requests.
Anyone who has mentioned you in the past will likely be thrilled to have you guest blog–they already considered you someone worth mentioning.
Save these links in a database–if these sites mentioned you once, they’ll probably be willing to feature you again. Build a database you can keep going back to for more linking opportunities.
On a quarterly basis, you’ll want to look at the big picture. This means measuring results and adjusting your strategy based on your findings.
Keep in mind, while ongoing backlink monitoring and routine audits are important, what I’m talking about here is looking at things like content, messaging, and PR strategies, not avoiding comment spam or malware.
1. New Pitch
What’s your angle this time around? Come up with new pitches that will help build on your SEO linkbuilding.
2. New Content to Promote
At this point, you’ll also want to come up with some new content to promote. What else can you come up with that’s worth linking to? Maybe this time you’ll invest in creating a really detailed whitepaper or hire a designer to put together a really appealing infographic.
3. Determine What’s Working and What’s Not
You’ll need to look at the entire strategy and determine what’s working–or not–across all of these different platforms.
How are pitches being received? Look at email opens and compare them to your overall response rate to see if your messaging is on-point.
How much traffic is coming from review sites/sponsored content/influencer marketing? What share of that traffic signs up for your newsletter, makes a purchase, or bounces upon arrival?
If you’re noticing a high bounce rate, look for a disconnect in the language used to promote your product/service/content and what’s on the page–then aim to get your messaging in alignment.
Look at guest posts and mentions–which sites delivered the best results? Maybe you’ll decide to keep working with some websites and let others go.
4. Come Up with a New Plan
And finally, after you’ve reviewed your efforts and determined which strategies work best, it’s time to apply that knowledge to a new plan.
What will your linking strategy look like moving forward–will you pursue new channels, ditch old ones, nurture relationships with specific websites?
So, that’s it for your PR strategy: we’ve covered what you should be doing for the first 30 days, and on a monthly and quarterly basis.
If you can continue to keep this process in place, you’ll have a very well-rounded program that will certainly help you build a strong presence in the SERPs that’s bound to capture peoples’ attention–and more importantly, put you on a trajectory for long-term growth.
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