A Simple Guide to Building Backlinks Via Outreach
Backlinks are the backbone to good SEO, and they have been since the earliest days of Google. There's no better way to establish a website's credibility than to see which other sites link to it. Think of it like buying a new book — are you more likely to pull a random title off the bookstore shelf, or do you want to read the latest New York Times bestseller? In a sense, a backlink is a tacit endorsement of another website's content. Build up enough of them, and your search rankings will flourish.
That said, building a substantial number of backlinks is easier said than done. It doesn't happen without a process. You need to know which websites to approach and how to deliver your pitch. Plus, you must have quality content. Read on to learn more about how to start developing a network of high-quality backlinks to boost your site's SEO.
First, a Warning: Don't Game the System
Back in the olden days of SEO, unethical marketers got big-time results by spamming blogs, forums and defunct websites. This created the appearance of an expansive network of backlinks - but without any real quality or credibility.
Don't think for a second that this approach still works. Not only will Google ignore your website's fraudulently large link network, but your website will likely be penalized for attempting to game the system. There are no more shortcuts to building high-quality backlinks. It's extremely important that you build links the right way.
Start by Making a List
Before worrying about sales pitches and content generation, make a list of all the different websites where backlinks could help your SEO. A good way to start is by searching Google or Google News for the keywords most relevant to your business. Then, ask yourself the following questions when determining a website's potential value:
1. Is the website authoritative?
Backlinks from credible, authoritative websites are far more valuable than backlinks from low-traffic websites. Look for websites that have higher domain authorities. You can find free tools available online to measure domain authority.
2. Is the website relevant?
Domain authority is important, but so is content relevance. If you sell used cars, then don't seek backlinks from websites about home improvement or cosmetics. An exception to this rule is getting a backlink from a journalistic organization such as the Wall St. Journal or the Washington Post. If you can get linked by a credible, regional or national news organization, then by all means, do it.
3. Is the website local?
If you operate a brick-and-mortar business, then you'll benefit from getting backlinks in local business organizations such as a chamber of commerce. Your city or county media is also a great resource for localized backlinks.
Research Names and Contact Information
Going one-by-one down your list of websites, start finding email addresses for people to contact. Your goal is reaching people with influence or decision-making power. Editors and managers are best. However, bloggers and journalists usually hold fair amounts of sway as well.
Finding names and email addresses is easy when dealing with blogs and article-based websites. Sometimes, though, contact information seems hard to come by. Don't give up! Instead, get creative. Try connecting with authors on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or search their names on Google to possibly find other points of contact. Also, most businesses have Facebook pages, and you can mine these pages for names if you don't already have specific people to target.
Stay organized as you do this research. Make a spreadsheet to keep track of the names, email addresses, social media profiles and other relevant information for each website you want to contact. You can also record the domain authority of each website - that can help when prioritizing who to contact first.
Make Your Pitch
Asking for a backlink is a lot like making a sales pitch. You can't simply ask for a backlink without offering something in return. And your rate of success will rise dramatically if you flip that around. Tell your contacts what you want to give them, and move the backlink into the background.
Here's an example. Let's say you own a roofing business, and an unseasonably wet winter is almost over. Contact your local newspaper editor and offer to be quoted in a story about how to get rid of moss without damaging your roof shingles. Or, say you sell sporting goods, and you're in the midst of a hot summer. Contact a well-known recreation blogger and offer to contribute a post about buying a first-time kayak.
Clarify the Backlink
When making your sales pitch, you don't want everything to be about you. However, at some point in the conversation you'll need to confirm that you're getting a backlink. A good way to clarify this condition is to say something along the lines of, "All I ask is I get a link to my site included with my byline wherever my content is shared." Then, after agreeing on that term, you can ask that your content be shared on the website's related online channels such as Facebook or Twitter.
Don't Fade Away
Persistence is key when building backlinks via outreach. When trying to establish contacts, you might need to message people in a few different ways before they'll finally get back to you. Even after you've successfully earned a backlink, following up with contacts can result in more (and easier) backlinks later on. Don't stop reaching out because you fear coming on too strong. Marketers who go away quietly usually don't get very far.
Cultivating your network of backlinks will not happen overnight. It's a slow-going process that requires patience and persistence, sometimes taking several months or even a few years. Even if you're able to find quality backlinks, you might still experience slow progress if you're in a highly competitive market. That doesn't mean you should give up. It may be an uphill climb, but the reward at the top is worth it.
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Phil is Founder and COO of Main Street ROI. Phil leads the company’s operations and is primary creator of Main Street ROI’s marketing training programs. He is an expert in search engine marketing, website analytics, and sales funnel optimization. Phil’s marketing thought leadership has been published on Forbes.com, Inc.com, MSN.com, and many other major business media outlets.
Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, Phil started every game on the varsity football team as the defensive safety.