How effective is your link building campaign? I bet your answer is “I wish it could be better.”
Talking to business owners and executives on a daily basis, I have yet to meet one who would be satisfied with their link building strategy.
Everyone needs links, yet they are getting harder and harder to get.
Change your link building mindset.
In any business marketing strategy, we’re really interested in one thing: sales.
Yet, if we keep focusing on that end goal, we won’t achieve much. A customer may need up to eight touchpoints before they finally make a purchase. If you only focus on that final sale, you’re missing out on all those extra steps that drive your customer to buy.
It may sound obvious (so I’ll stop here) but the point I’m trying to make is: Marketers cannot focus on the final sale. We need something in between — a secondary metric that will bridge the gap between “a stranger” and a “a buyer”.
This is where the notion of a “lead” came from, i.e. a contact which we consider our prospective/possible/future customer.
A journey from a “a stranger” to a “lead” is shorter and much more predictable than a journey from “a stranger” to a “a buyer”, and once we turn a visitor into a lead, we can reach out to them in a much more meaningful and personalized way (via email, Facebook re-marketing, on-site personalizations, etc.).
In link building we need links, just like in marketing we want sales. But focusing on the final goal is just as limiting in link building as it is in marketing.
Very few link builders these days do anything beyond sending an email, then using automated follow-ups. There’s no “lead generation” in link building. It’s either “link or no link” reporting.
And that’s where that process is broken.
In link building, all those bloggers, publishers, editors, etc. may also need several touchpoints (from something beyond an email). Furthermore, they may not be proper decision makers within the publication you are targeting.
If you apply that lead generation process to link building, you may see much better results, and more importantly, those results will keep growing the more leads you acquire.
In B2B marketing, this is called outcomes-focused data strategy, which basically means you need to know exactly what you want to achieve (the outcome) before you start developing your strategy of achieving said outcome.
This concept is — sadly — seldom applied to link building.
What usually happens:
Both teams are working in isolation.
But what happens if you turn that process around?
Depending on the outlined link building opportunities, the linkable assets should take a specific format or angle, for example:
By letting your link building research guide the content creation process, you will end up with a highly successful campaign that is still delivering links (without the need to do the active outreach anymore).
As we said previously, in link building the end goal is a link. But different leads will need a different number of touchpoints to finally link. Plus, more links are better than one.
This is where a lead nurturing process comes into play.
Just like B2B marketers using different methods to “warm up” leads and take them close to a sale, in link building you will get many more links if you keep reaching out to your leads to remind them of your asset.
If you’re using an outreach tool (both Pitchbox and Link Hunter are good options, depending on your budget and complexity of your project), it will handle some of the lead nurturing for you. At the very least, any outreach solution will:
Many link building teams will find that sufficient. I recommend going further and using a solid customer relationship management approach, which would also include:
If you want to go even further, you can adopt a well-organized customer relationship management strategy towards your linking leads. To get you started, here’s a solid comparison of major CRM types, as well as lead generation and nurturing platforms allowing you to properly organize and monitor your link building prospects.
You can set your link acquisition workflow and automate some parts of it (like follow-ups) while being in full control of everything that is going on.
In B2B, this process is called “account-based marketing”, i.e. when you know exactly which company would make your ideal customer and you start researching how to best onboard it.
In link building, this strategy applies to huge multi-author publications that would make ideal and ongoing backlink providers for your content. Think of the New York Times, Mashable, or a huge research magazine in your niche.
Emailing one of their authors with a request to link to your study or your infographic may not be enough (in fact, it will hardly ever be enough).
To investigate publications I’m really interested in getting links from, I use the following tools:
I don’t use Linkedin for outreach, but I just love its company profiles, which show me which friends (or friends of friends) I have associated with those entities. I have been introduced to quite a few great publications this way:
While Linkedin may be useful to identify existing contacts, Twitter is great for building new ones. For bigger publications, all you need is to find people including that publication in their bios.
A tool called Twiangulate is a great and free option for doing that: Just specify the company name (or its Twitter handle) as a keyword and the tool will find all the Twitter profiles that include it:
Now create a separate Twitter list to keep in touch with all of them.
This may seem obvious, but it’s often a missed step. Many publications list their whole editorial team with all the emails included on their “About” page.
Try developing an outreach strategy for each of those emails. For example, a CEO may not be the best contact to request a link from, but they may reply and give you clearer directions for who to speak with, so ask for a contact!
In my experience, an email is still the most effective link building outreach method. Truthfully, I’ve seen better success with a follow-up email versus the initial email.
But other ways to reach out certainly increase your chances of hearing back. These include:
The bottom line here: Simply being there may remind them of your request and prompt them to open your email.
With diverse touchpoints comes the need to diversify your assets. Your outreach will be more effective if you give your linking leads something of value to include in their article.
If your initial email and the first follow-up weren’t successful, try creating a visual summary (an infographic) in your second follow-up to give them something fresh.
The process may turn quite easy and effective if you provide your outreach and content teams with tools enabling them to handle the creation of those assets. These tools include:
Your team is everything. If you fail to train them properly or distribute tasks among your team members effectively, the whole process will fail to move along.
At the very least:
Your linkable asset should make an instantly positive impression on the people you email. There may by different ways to achieve that, but certain things help for just about any SEO campaign:
I’ve seen lots of people not willing to provide “a free link” to a page that is monetized with ads. There’s no point in arguing with your linking leads on that. It’s easier to remove the ads from the page you’re actively link building for at the moment. Besides, more often than not, it’s very easy to do.
This one is a little bit advanced, but it will help a lot. Adjust your CTAs on the linkable asset page to fit your linking leads rather than your regular ads.
For example, instead of “Sign up for a free trial”, you may include a press coverage link or invite visitors to download additional data or resources.
Using Facebook pixel to record everyone who initially landed on the site through your linkable asset is another great way to re-market your asset to your linking leads.
Very few people will reply to you saying they have indeed linked to your content. But knowing if they have is important because conversion is a crucial part in the lead nurturing process. It doesn’t stop your relationships with your lead, but it impacts your interactions going forward. Those leads who end up linking to you are your best friends. Cancel your follow-ups, thank them, and keep interacting with them on social media.
Again, if you are using an outreach platform, chances are the link tracking will be included. Otherwise, check out Site Checker that has a handy link monitoring feature included.
Safe links mean those we cannot control. This turns a link building process almost into a form of art, or a well-manufactured serendipity (one of my favorite business concepts). You need to do a lot before reaching your end goal, all while keeping your end goal in mind.
These days, when any site owner — professional or amateur — is bombarded with link requests, you need to up your link building game. Luckily, there’s a neighboring marketing area that you can learn from: lead generation. Adopt more complicated and more diverse outreach methods to acquire great links to your website. Good luck!