I will presume that you are not working for a world-class company and you don’t possess an annual marketing budget of a few million dollars. I’ll let you in on a secret: neither do we. I will also presume you are here to pick up some useful tips on how to better organize your overall link building process. Link Building is an integral part of our SEO strategy and it should be a part of yours.
Let’s state this as plainly as possible: if you want a steady and constant flow of search traffic, you need to ensure quality backlinks from relevant websites. This means link building, which is a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle if you want to be at the top of the SERP, brand yourself, and stay relevant.
We will assume you already know how all of this works (that’s why you’re here, right?), and jump right into the good stuff.
We organize our link building process through phases depicted below and we will talk about each one in general. Some of them we will explore in detail in future articles.
Goal setting and keywords
We set our goals regarding organic traffic, Google rank, and identify all the keywords we wish to rank for in order to reach our traffic goals. Every keyword has to be aligned with our buyer personas and corresponding landing pages. We don’t necessarily choose only high volume keywords, but keep in mind that they have some search volume in the recent period. For this, we use Keyword Planner and Serpstat.
We do the target prospecting by taking into consideration factors such as our buyer persona, relevancy, and category of the website, quality of the content, their buyer persona. For this, we use advanced Google search parameters. There are also specific tools for these purposes such as Dibz, Moz’s Open Site Explorer, etc.
After we get a list of prospects, we analyze them and filter down to those which are actionable. There are several factors we take into consideration. How relevant the site is - its trend and recency (meaning that they still publish articles on a regulars basis). The traffic, domain authority, and spam score. What the website is about and if it’s relevant to our buyer persona. We check the quality of published content to make sure their articles are appropriate, fresh, and meet our standards. Hence, this means we avoid link farms at all costs, as well as sites based around gambling, porn or other spam. These are usually considered a no-go if you are a serious company and want to work on your branding and long-term reputation.
Before doing the outreach and writing an article, we always do extensive research. There is nothing worse than doing all the hard work of targeting the prospects and writing an article - only to find out you didn’t invest enough effort in topic research. That’s when you end up with an article that doesn’t correspond at all with what the website is about and the interest of their visitors.
To avoid this, we carefully scout out the site beforehand. This tells us if the categories on their blog fit our buyer persona interests. Next, we make sure they even accept guest posts - most websites that do usually have a dedicated write for us page. On this page there are guidelines, instructions, and suggested topics. Taking everything into account, we then determine if this aligns with our keywords, landing pages, and our blog, i.e. - is it even worth it.
Outreach and automation
This is an extensive topic and requires some special attention, so there will be a future article about it. We will go into detail on how our outreach process looks like and how we tend to make it easier with tools and automation. But until then, let’s go over some of the most important checkpoints.
To begin with, we determine the point of contact. Usually, there is an editor who takes care of all the guest post requests. If at all possible, we find a personal mail instead of the generic contact form which is often placed in the write for us pages - to give it a personal touch and better chances of succeeding. We keep the initial email short, introduce ourselves, explain why we’re writing, and suggest the topic we had in mind - focusing on the added value the editor gains from publishing the article. As with all of our business dealings, we never assume or take things for granted, always negotiate our terms, and have everything in writing.
For managing our opportunities, we use Pipedrive and make the process easier with some automation. After some time and practice, you will establish your own success rate and how many outreaches you should do to achieve your goal. When you have this number - it will be easy to calculate your total effort and time that goes into planning, research, outreach, writing, etc.
Our target was about 20 published guest posts/backlinks per month. The success rate was constant and around 20-25%, which is above industry average for a typical SEO agency when it comes to outreach. For our needs, this was actually doable by one person with a budget of around $200-300 per month.
Article ordering & editing
After agreeing on a topic with the editor, we fill the writer brief with information about what the article should be about. Some basic information: headline, description, useful sources, keywords, and landing pages we want those keywords to be linked to.
Article ordering goes through ActiveCollab where we can set up tasks, due dates, and include the writer brief. This is the best way for us to keep track of all the ordered articles, who is responsible for what task, and the overall progress.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to thoroughly proofread and edit all of the articles that get published with your or your company name on it. For high-quality websites, we write our guest posts exactly like we write articles for our own blog (unique content, expertise, smart storytelling, etc.). On the other hand, when it comes to websites with less traffic and quality, even if these are generic SEO articles, we really have to get creative when it comes to topics, ways to produce new content, talk about our product from different perspectives, and on top of all that - not tell the exact same story over and over again.
A steady flow of links is necessary and we, of course, don’t write guest posts only for high-quality websites. High-quality articles are rare, but should require most of your time. We can roughly refer to this using the Pareto principle rule. They only make up for 20% of the total number of your guest posts, but should, in fact, take up 80% of your time and efforts. We also do write generic SEO articles.
And there you have it - a general outline of our link-building process. Every company has their own variations and does things a bit differently, but we’ve found that this approach works for us. Whichever one you opt for, some advice - to achieve significant results, you need to consider this an important piece of your strategy and do this aligned with your other marketing activities. When I say important piece, I mean that you have to develop a strategy, set your goals and priorities, segregate the time and budget, and allocate a team who will work devotedly, in order to see the results over time. Don’t do this with an “I will build a couple of links this month and then forget all about it…” frivolous mindset. If you’re going to do it this way, don’t do it at all, because, I assure you, you won’t see ANY results and will realize you should’ve invested your time elsewhere.
Also, don’t expect to see immediate results, it takes time for your link building results to “kick in”. That’s why this is a long-term commitment. And if you choose to do it, treat it as an important marketing project - same as any other.