Link building with content is more than “create good content and they will come.” It rarely works without a bit of human promotion. A common rule of thumb for link building: “the harder a link is to obtain, the more valuable it will be.” If you have created great content and published it only to watch it float in a sea of noise, you may have skipped the crucial step – outreach. You may need to market your new content. Plenty of writers write great content, so don’t wait for yours to reach the top organically. Push it to the front of the crowd. Be a marketer.
Outreach is one of the original SEO tactics. Find a site you want a link from, scour their webpage for an email address or contact form, and ask for a link. Eventually you start to master the language that wins more links. You find your style and your highest converting carrots. In the early days, the savvier SEOs kept a spreadsheet of information and dates of each action so they could follow up if there was no response. Even though tools like Buzzstream help with the CRM (thus making your spreadsheet Rolodex obsolete), fundamentally not much else has changed. Outreach still matters, even in our spam filled world.
Why Does Outreach Work?
Outreach works because you identify yourself as a human and prove you’re willing to help the prospect in some way. Whether it’s content for their site, help with their authority on a topic, or some kind of promotion, the end result is usually a win-win scenario. However, while the link builder has become savvier, so have the webmasters. They’ve gotten pitched before. Unlike the carefully planned PR pitch you might send to the New York Times, bloggers are used to much lazier pitch attempts. This is unfortunate, as it seems to have made many prospects more defensive to a link building pitches.
How to Pitch
Before you pitch, you need to spend time becoming familiar with the site, so you can develop a personalized pitch. Show you have taken the time to understand their site and explain why you think your link is a good fit. For every prospect I successfully land a link within 1 or 2 emails, there’s an equal amount who take 4-8 emails. Just like sales, every prospect (and funnel) is different.
Some tips for successful pitching:
- Don’t pitch hard – Go in gentle but prepared. Become a “fan of the company,” not an agent of a marketing firm.
- Find common ground – If you’re trying to get a link in the dog food space, you should be prepared to communicate reasonably well about the topic of dog food.
- Have something of value – You can provide a guest post, a coupon code, or any other type of interesting content that either the blogger or their readers would find interesting.
- Be awesome - Awesome people stick out in a crowd. I’ll leave it to you to decide what awesome means.
There’s Value in Updating Content
Time is the enemy of information. As the web grows and data changes, we’re left with a lot of loose ends in the form of outdated content and broken webpages. Tapping on #3 above, is it valuable to perform a service of cleaning up some of this outdated content on someone’s website? Absolutely.
Broken Link Building
One tactic that became popular in 2012 was broken link building. For example, perhaps a website links to an older blog with an educational article. But that domain has moved or has taken the resource offline. Your prospect now has a broken link that you can help repair.
Reach out to the webmaster and inform them that their link is broken, and provide them with content on your own site that they could link to instead. Maybe you would need to quickly create the content before you made the connection with the website owner, or perhaps you’re linking to something already built by your content strategy. It is easy, doesn’t require a lot of development, and is ripe with opportunity. Most webmasters who are managing big blogs or websites simply can’t keep up with all their outbound links. Some will welcome a friendly, like-minded individual contacting them with an easy fix. Garrett French has created a great tool to help you called the Broken Link Finder. It’s a robust engine of opportunity.
I’ve put a twist on broken link building with a tactic I call content refreshing (see our Outdated Content Finder tool, coded by Mike Angstadt). In cases where broken link building is not pulling responses, I often get more reaction by telling someone their information is wrong. Nobody likes to be wrong, especially when the credibility of their content is on the line. In content refreshing, the approach is very similar to broken link building, except instead of presenting content on your own site as an alternate, you’re submitting content that is updated where you have a link embedded back to your website. Are you an expert on changed laws? Do you know about a change that happened in 2008 where a lot of old information still exists on the web? Has there been a significant change in a product you sell? Look for that stale data in your vertical and provide an updated article. In many niches, you’ll have plenty of aged, trusted domains to earn a link from.
Pulling Together the Content
Both these tactics require some coordination with the writers and experts in your organization or your clients’ business. You can’t refresh or fix links if you don’t have the assets. With broken link building you have a higher likelihood of having exchangeable content on your site. With content refreshing, you may need to get creative to provide an original post (after all, we don’t want to push against a duplicate content filter).
Additionally, I find that both tactics are great for content inspiration. The broken link builder and outdated content finder often lead to topics you hadn’t considered for your own content strategies. The web will always grow old, and reaching out to fix or update content is a tactic that never runs out of fish.