Outreach & Link Building – The Basics
So, what is link building in digital marketing?
The entire internet is built upon links. When you’re navigating a website, they’ll be links in the navigation bar and at the bottom of the page to help you navigate your way around the page. When you’re reading a blog, much like this one even, you’ll find lots of links throughout the content to other relevant pages.
These are all great examples of links, but the links we’re interested in from an outreach and link building perspective are what is known as external links.
External links, also known as backlinks, are links to your website from a page that sits on a separate domain from your own, meaning any link to your website from a different website can be classified as an external link. Links to other pages of your site that sit on your own website are known as (you guessed it), internal links.
Both internal and external links are contributing ranking factors in Google, meaning efficient usage of both can help your website rank better in Google search results.
However, before you go and start throwing internal links all over your websites’ pages in the hope it will help your website rank better, it’s important to note that external links are a far stronger ranking factor than internal links, which is why they’re so highly valued in the SEO world.
Unfortunately, external links are far harder to get because they rely on other people linking to your website as opposed to you simply doing it. To get them, you’re going to need to create content that people will want to link to and then devise a foolproof outreach plan to ensure people actually do. Luckily, we’re here to help you do exactly that.
How to get started with outreach & link building
The first thing you’ll want to ask yourself before beginning your outreach and link building journey is “Why would someone want to link to this page of my website?”
If you don’t fully understand why someone should link to the page in question, then you can be sure other people won’t have a reason to link it either. To help better understand the question yourself, it can help to begin to visualise which form your outreach and link building is likely to take. These can typically be broken down into three different types:
Creating content from scratch
Creating your own content with the intention of securing backlinks is the bread and butter of effective link building and is the most traditional route to secure them. There are many different ways to go about creating content but picking the right one will heavily depend on the type of industry you are in, as well as how much time you’re willing to invest in the content itself.
If you’re strapped for time and low on resources, creating an infographic with helpful takeaways for people to use can be an effective way to build links – just make sure it stands out and contains information that’s valuable to your target audience.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to go big, you could put together your own whitepaper on a topic that’s relevant and current to your industry, using insight from your own team of experts and data you’ve collected. Ensure you’re providing something new that your competitors aren’t to give people a reason to link to your content over theirs.
Once you’ve made the content, remember to shout about it to increase its exposure and increase your chances of receiving a backlink. Be sure to post about it on your social channels – Facebook and Twitter work great if your business is B2C, while LinkedIn will work better if it’s B2B.
Collaborating on a piece
While creating your own content from scratch is the tried and traditional way to secure backlinks, you still have to rely on the good nature of people to actually link back to your site. While a good piece of content should do this anyway, it can take time for those backlinks to start coming in.
For those that want to see results faster, you can almost guarantee backlinks to your page by reaching out to relevant experts around the content topic for insight.
How much insight you want depends on the content you wish to create; you could create a Top 10 style piece of content and look to secure quotes from 10 different experts, or you could look to create more of an interview-style piece with a smaller number.
The reason getting other experts to help feed into the content you create is effective for link building is people will typically link to your content from their own site due to the simple fact that they’re included in it. It works both ways though, so don’t try to be sneaky and not link to the expert’s own pages in the content!
As for finding these experts, the internet is your best friend, although we personally recommend using Twitter as it’s a great way to find people looking to contribute quickly and easily. Put out a call for contributors using the hashtags #PRrequest and #Journorequest and you’ll soon see people willing to help out.
The best part? You can even do this in reverse and search these hashtags for opportunities where you can contribute yourself to then secure a backlink back to your own site!
Asking for links directly
At this point you may be asking yourself – this sounds like a lot of work and I already have some content on my site, can’t I just ask people for backlinks directly?
9 times out of 10, this is a big no-no. Not only will it typically come across as begging, meaning you’ll be unlikely to secure a link out of it, but you run the risk of falling into a “link for link” style approach, where someone may agree to link to your page if you promise to then link to one of theirs.
While it may sound like a great idea in principle, it actually goes against Google’s webmaster guidelines, meaning your website could end up getting penalised should you end up going down this route, which has the opposite effect on SEO.
There are only two situations where asking for links may actually be called for. The first is if you find a piece of content with an outdated or broken link.
If the link is old and not relevant anymore, or worse, broken, you may be able to secure a link by contacting the author of the article and letting them know. Once you’ve brought it to their attention, you can suggest a relevant piece of your own content that could replace that link.
Remember to focus on the value here, don’t go in with a link for link attitude. If your piece of content is valuable and will make the original piece of content stronger by linking to it, the author will be hard-pressed to say no.
The only other way you should be asking for links directly is if someone is already talking about you online.
If you find a piece of content where someone mentions your brand or a piece of work your business has created and there isn’t a link, it’s definitely worth getting in contact with the author of the piece to ask if a link can be included where you’ve mentioned. You’ve already seen they’re interested in your work, so more often than not they’ll be happy to add in a backlink if you ask.
The real difficulty lies in finding these opportunities mentioned online. Tools like SEMrush and Mention are great at finding direct mentions of your brand but it can be harder to find outdated articles relevant to your industry.
One way around this is to see who your competitors are receiving backlinks from and checking if any of these are outdated. That way you can be sure you’re getting a valuable link as well as one step ahead of your competitors!
Put simply, unless you’ve been explicitly mentioned in an article or are confident a link of yours would be a valuable replacement for an outdated or broken link, it’s best to stick to creating your own content or collaborating on a piece with experts.
How to write the perfect outreach email
Unless you’re writing a piece of content from scratch, you’re going to need to email experts and authors as part of the outreach process.
When collaborating on a piece of content, we’ve already discussed how to use Twitter to find relevant contributors quickly and easily. However, Twitter isn’t the best place to iron out exactly what you want from your contributor, so it’s best to try and secure an email address from your contributors so you can follow up with them in a more professional manner.
If you’re looking to ask for links from one of the two ways we’ve discussed above, you’re also going to want an email address to send your backlink request too.
Once you have the required email addresses, you’ll need to write an outreach email, which is easier said than done. People have short attention spans, so your email needs to be personal, engaging and snappy, otherwise, your email is going straight in the bin.
If you’ve already reached out to contributors on Twitter for a piece, this process is slightly easier as you’ve already established a relationship so the contributor will still be expecting your email. However, you’ve still got to win them over and convince them of the benefits of contributing to your piece of content.
Take a look at these two example outreach emails below, which one do you think is more effective?
To whom it may concern,
We’re looking for people to contribute to our upcoming article on our top 10 tips when buying a new laptop – would you be interested in contributing?
Let me know if you have any questions,
Thanks for expressing your interest in contributing to our upcoming article on our top 10 tips when buying a new laptop!
As a bit of an explainer, we here at Laptops4all are writing this piece of content which will feature on the blog section of our website and we’re looking for experts in the field to help share their advice. You can find a link to our website’s blog here: www.laptops4all.com/blog
We’d love to get your expert input so if you’d like to get involved, it would be great to get your thoughts on the following:
What is the most important thing a consumer should look for when looking to buy a new laptop?
What do you think most people overlook when choosing a new laptop?
Do you have any laptop recommendations for anyone who may be on a tight budget?
We will of course credit you within the content that we produce, as well as making sure that we’re shouting about your contributions and promoting the piece to our audience.
If you have any questions or want to know any more about the project, don’t hesitate to give me a shout.
Even if you’ve never written an outreach email before, you can probably tell that the second outreach email is far more likely to win the person over than the first one. Why is this?
First of all, you need to be personal in your email. You should always try and message an individual and address them by name. You should also include their name in the email header – people are more likely to open your email if it’s explicitly addressed to them.
Even if you’ve given a brief explanation on Twitter, you’ll still need to outline exactly what you want from the contributor. You don’t want to be unhappy with their response because you didn’t specify what you were looking for but you also don’t want to limit the contributor’s creative freedom too much, otherwise, they may not feel inclined to help.
The best thing to do is give them a few open-ended questions to work from, which gives them some creative freedom while also ensuring you get answers on the topics you need.
You also need to give the contributor a reason to want to contribute, something the first outreach email doesn’t have. People are giving up their time to help you, so you need to ensure you’re making it worth their while. Let them know how being included will help them, and let them know you’ll help promote the article to increase its exposure (which is something you should be doing anyway!)
Monitoring your backlinks
Once you’ve created your content and you publish it, you’ll want to keep track of how many backlinks it earns over time. While you can manually look up the websites of your content contributors to see if they’ve linked to you, you can’t rely on this method to find people who may link to your content naturally.
There are a few different ways to check your website’s backlinks so it’s worth experimenting to find the best one for you. Screaming Frog, SEMrush and Monitor Backlinks are all great tools to help with this.
Use outreach and link building to enhance your content!
Now you know the basics, it’s time to go forth and use outreach and link building to enhance your content.
Want help with your content marketing & link building?
Get in touch and let us know you read this blog. Someone will get back to you in a jiffy.