If you speak to the majority of SEOs, the biggest challenge you will come across is the ability to scale their link acquisition efforts. I’ll admit myself that earning ‘white hat SEO links’ has its challenges. But it can be done effectively and you can successfully implement this with a scalable process.
Acquiring ‘natural links’ is becoming more challenging because webmasters have clocked onto the opportunity to earn money from SEOs by adding links or posts to their site. And the rates that these bloggers are charging are going through the roof.
Majority of SEOs including myself have been involved in link buying schemes in the past. With BGDM and its link building employees, there’s no link buying. This forces my team and I to think outside of the box with link acquisition strategies. Being able to acquire the links for free is one challenge, but to gain them in a way that makes it cost-effective and allows us to gain the links at scale is another challenge. But we’ve been improving our link acquisition process and there’s been a few things that’s contributed to our link acquisition success. I will share these with you and you can implement these in your natural link building campaign.
Identify a hungry market
I think this is the most important thing that people have to keep in mind when they are doing link building execution. The SEO needs to target a hungry market. Right now, the majority of opportunities for gaining links comes from paid linking activities, because the people that run sites want to make money off their sites. It is a huge market, but it is against Google’s Terms of service. The other thing is it isn’t the only hungry market available. This is what SEOs need to try to crack.
Other hungry markets that exist include:
Sites that are looking for content contributions (E.g. Guest posts, collaborations, case studies, interviews, image submissions)
- Sites that are looking to curate content (E.g. Roundups, Newsletters, Best of)
- Jobs/Careers (People are always looking for work in certain industries)
- Journalist news (People are always looking for breaking news in their industry)
- Coupon/Voucher codes (Providing discounts on products or services)
- Competitions (Sweepstakes or giveaways)
- Sustainability (There’s a huge interest in eco-friendly businesses)
- Question and answer sites (E.g. Quora or Yahoo answers. It is possible to earn links on other sites indirectly as a result of people finding the links on these platforms. )
Identify a scalable market.
This is something that was hammered home to me by Ryan Stewart from Webris (Thank you for sharing the video that spoke about this). Even though he was talking about scaling in an e-commerce setting, I could see how the model can be applied when implementing a white hat SEO campaign.
Many site owners struggle to acquire links because they feel like nobody wants to link to their site. There are niches that are more difficult than others, but if the right angle is identified, it is possible to get links at scale.
I’ve previously done some link building execution in verticals like travel, where it is pretty easy to acquire links due to the sheer volume of sites that’s available. But then there are industries like ‘self-storage’ or ‘meeting rooms’ or ‘virtual offices’ where it becomes a bit more challenging to find relevant sites.
I will normally look at the site and identify angles that we can take given their resources and budget. I typically like to acquire links that’s not easily gained by competitors. Here are a few angles that I’ve taken or seen used that tend to create scalable link acquisition opportunities.
Cite relevant people in your industry on your site and let them know about it.
I know I am over the moon whenever I get cited in someones publication and I am happy to share it with my audience. You can do the same with mentions and the person or organisation that is mentioned might reference you on a page on their site.
Invite industry experts to contribute information on your information platform.
If you want to scale the reach of your site, you need to tap into the audiences of others. As good as you might think your website is, not everyone knows about it. It is key that you get in front of an audience that craves the information that you are sharing. If you want to get exposed to a similar audience to the one you already have, you will need to collaborate with others in your industry that have a similar audience.
Think of it as a multiplier effect. If you have 100 people that love and share what you do, and you connect with 10 others who have a similar sized audience that can do the same thing, you will have the chance to get up to 1000 shares. And you will multiply your link earning ability by ten as well.
This is the most scalable option that we use. Essentially, it is guest posting on editorial sites. We don’t pay for guest posts. It isn’t uncommon for us to gain guest posts on sites that have a DA from 30-80.
We aim to share value to their audience with our posts. We prioritise the importance of the creative process (which is usually developing the story that we want to share with the site’s audience) and then we share it with them. There are some rejections, but we can even use our rejected contributions on another website. This has positioned us to scale our white hat guest blogging and contributor site link acquisitions.
Find the contacts of industry journalists and reach out to them as a source for a story.
Journalists are always on the hunt for a good story. Find journalists that are in need for a good story angle and see what you can offer as an information source. You can easily do this by doing a search on Google for relevant industry publications and find the contact information of the journalist or editor.
Look out for industry-specific directories.
Directory link building can be a hit or a miss. I only ever build links on directories if the listing is going to provide some commercial benefit to the business. I also don’t pay for directory listings as I’ve noticed that the editorial listings tend to be much more valuable.
Look out for vendor listing opportunities.
I do look out for vendor listing opportunities. Sometimes these are on local government or chamber of commerce sites. Other times, they are a local or industry specific directory.
I’ve shared the video below, but I tend to get alot of natural links from publishing videos on YouTube. As the videos become more popular and they get shared, so does the link to the website. It is something that works on autopilot once it is in motion.
Make yourself an information source.
This is where we’ve had the most success in the last 12 months. We’ve been working ourselves and our clients hard to be seen as credible information sources. Although we are still yet to perfect it, we have noticed that it is easier to acquire mentions and natural links when journalists, web editors or bloggers are happy to consider you as an information source.
Develop a careers page
You can create a careers page which you can share with local universities and job sites.
Develop an apprenticeship page
You can share an apprenticeship page which you can share with colleges and schools.
Develop an internship page
You can develop an internship page which you can share with universities and other internship websites.
Develop a competition page
You can publish giveaways, competitions and sweepstakes and share the page with sites and communities that will promote your competition.
I feel like people miss a trick when they aim to just get a link from a site. Someone contact’s you out of the blue and asks you to give them a link for their benefit and then once you do, you never hear from them again.
I think there’s a higher value in forging relationships, which can create invitations to contribute to that same site several times and even gain networking or referral opportunities, which will allow you to earn more natural links in the future.
Craft a pitch around value.
Another trick that I feel that many SEOs miss is in the pitch. My team and I do alot of conversion rate optimisation and we want to improve the success rate so we can achieve more while doing less.
I receive pitches to my email with people offering me money to get links on my sites. If they had done a bit more research, they would have seen that I accept some contributor content on some of my sites and they would have gained a free link naturally.
It’s really important to get the value-proposition right when making a pitch. Alot of the site owners get tons of pitches. Many of them aren’t even compelling enough for them to consider and it becomes a chore for the site owner.
We recommend creating a valuable pitch that will incentivise the prospective site to consider our pitch.
Typically, we will reach out to site owners with an ‘expression of interest’ email after reviewing their site and their objectives. We identify if they want to receive external content and then we reach out to them explaining who we are and share some of the previous work that we have published. We then ask them if they would consider receiving a contribution from us. At this point, we wait for their answer.
If they say yes, we work with them to tailor a piece that’s just right for their audience. If we receive no reply or they say no, we thank them and move onto the next prospect.
This 2-step process has been working well for us over the past 6 months.
You don’t have to use this 2-step process. The main point I want to get across is that you have to demonstrate value in a way that will give the prospect exactly what they want.
If you look at the techniques that the advanced black hat SEOs or affiliate marketers use to rank their websites, you can see how the model works. We look at the ‘execution model’ that they use and try to identify the missing ‘value’ element.
Many SEOs are using private blog networks to rank their sites because it works and it can also be very cost effective, allowing them to scale. A similar model that is somewhat scalable is being able to contribute consistently to a hub of authoritative sites. This might see you become an author across 10 sites and have you publish a piece of content once a month, while earning a natural link back in your author bio or even in the content piece.
There are guys like Matthew Woodward who talk about building tiered links to improve their site’s rankings and to protect the site against any potential penalties. The same thing can be done in white hat SEO. Since you will be publishing content that is valuable to your niche audience, it’s likely that you will be able to share the pubications that’s external to your website.
You may have published some insightful guest posts that can be reshared and cited in other online publications and even shared to other resource hubs. These links should improve the authority of the page that is linking directly to your site.
Social media sharing.
Opinions and tactics differ amongst SEOs, but the white hat approach incentivises your audience to share your content. The black hat approach uses automation tools to achieve a similar result, which ends up spamming the platforms. If you share content that resonates with the audience, you will get the social shares that you want to. But there is a creative challenge as opposed to just using an automated software to generate the shares.
The white hat social media sharing also gives your content ‘real exposure’ to an audience. So you will get more eyeballs and engagement with your content. This can lead to an indirect link acquisition and even exposure on other platforms. I mentioned in another post that I had a video go viral on Reddit, which got picked up by 9 Gag. This is the type of exposure that automated software cannot generate.
It’s harder to get genuine comments on blogs nowadays due to the sheer amount of web spam attacking the blog comments section. Links in the comments can generate referral traffic and get your site discovered by others who may link to it in the future. There are some cases where a link in the comments is a dofollow link. The main thing is to contribute to the discussion rather than just spamming the site to get a link.
Many people that go onto the forums are quick to just drop in the link and spam the forum. Rather than contribute to the conversation. That’s the main difference between doing it for web spam vs white hat link building.
Linking out to sites is a great way to notify the webmaster that you have linked out to their site.
There’s a right and wrong way to go about doing article syndication. Simply spamming sites with the same article is a great way to attract a penalty. But syndicating the content that’s already been indexed on your site on other sites with good authority and a similar audience should benefit your site and your exposure.
You are also welcome to check out my list of white hat link building tutorials on YouTube.
Also check out my blog post that shares my white hat SEO link building tutorial.
Some other articles that are worth reading include:
Simple SEO from Blackhat World (Understand the process)
Thanks for reading. If you would like to add anything that I might have missed or overlooked, please share them in the comments below.