I hate link building.
Nothing is filthier than a person whose life is based on building backlinks on authoritative sites.
Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with the principle of link building.
What frustrates me is this single word attached to the process of acquiring backlinks and developing a link profile for your site.
I hate that word!
Building means creating something from the ground up, like a high-rise tower.
Building also means something artificial or man-made, unlike a mountain.
Buildings can be taken down by forces of nature.
Once natural disasters totaled the structures, people have to build them all over again.
This is similar to the Google Farmer update that penalized article marketing sites for the proliferation of low-quality content online.
Online businesses had to restructure their SEO campaign by turning to other tactics and abandoning article marketing.
If you have lots of links from these article marketing sites, you have to take some of the bad content down to avoid incurring any more penalties.
Imagine the legwork you have to put in doing this!
The point is that the backlinks you have built over time can be destroyed in an instant!
Since links are arguably the deciding factor on what makes a web page rank on search results for its target keyword, Google has always encouraged site owners to attract natural links to their site.
You have got to earn them.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 220 profitable buyer keywords click here or the image below)
Enter the age of link earning!
As Google continues to roll out algorithm changes, it is time to change the mindset of link builders.
Their approach relies on placing links on authoritative sites. This is done strategically and systematically to avoid tripping the Google search alarm.
The approach is sensible, but there’s a glaring flaw to this: there is no guarantee that you can gain backlinks.
For example, you can drop links to comment sections of highly visited sites. But site owners have the option to nullify the link if your comment does not add value.
Imagine the time you have spent in crafting comments are all for nothing.
Honestly, I’ve experienced this before. It sucks.
Then I finally understood the reason: it is all about providing value.
This is where link earning comes from.
Link earning follows the concept of providing value to a tee.
This is achieved by creating something of value – a resource page, e-book, e-course, or something similar.
The creation of these linkbait content allows you to build trust in your niche or industry.
I always link back to Sujan Patel’s post about evergreen content when opportunity strikes. Because I trust the information in the post.
I link back to Stuart’s NicheHacks Private Mastermind Group. Because I trust him and the community he has fostered.
In other words, you want to be the Sujan and Stuart in your own niches!
Build trust through content and gain backlinks! It’s really simple!
This way, you can get people to link back to your site without you telling them.
Let me emphasize this – link earning lets you grow your backlinks passively.
This is unlike the link building model where people will have to come up with a way to acquire a link from their target sites.
With link earning, create your valuable content and watch your link profile get thicker by the day!
Why? Because you’ve earned their trust and their backlinks.
You sold me on link earning! What should I do next?
In this post, I will identify some of the most effective link earning tactics and strategies that I have used over the years.
Applying these strategies in your off-page optimization campaign will help you develop a more well-rounded and stronger link profile.
More importantly, you will understand how link earning can lead to even better opportunities, something that link building alone won’t do.
What else you will learn:
- Grab low-hanging fruit backlink opportunities to improve link profile
- Boost link acquisition to your site passively
- Build better site content that will rank on search engines
- Cultivate online relationships with influencers that you can leverage later on
Wait! Before we do, here’s something you need to understand:
The link earning tactics below are predicated on the principle of reciprocity by Robert Cialdini.
Keith Jackson says this best in this post at MindTools:
As humans, we generally aim to return favors, pay back debts, and treat others as they treat us. According to the idea of reciprocity, this can lead us to feel obliged to offer concessions or discounts to others if they have offered them to us. This is because we're uncomfortable with feeling indebted to them.
For example, if a colleague helps you when you're busy with a project, you might feel obliged to support her ideas for improving team processes. You might decide to buy more from a supplier if they have offered you an aggressive discount. Or, you might give money to a charity fundraiser who has given you a flower in the street.
Keep this principle in mind as you browse through the different tactics below.
Ready? Let’s do this for real!
Your content won’t promote itself.
You must do the legwork in sharing your content to your target audience.
However, it is not as simple as sharing the content on your social media accounts.
An effective content promotions strategy requires you to spend more time and effort than developing the actual content.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out what Derek Halpern of Social Triggers has to say about promoting your content:
It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more.
Or, in other words, create content 20% of the time. Spend the other 80% of the time promoting what you created. “The 80/20 Rule For Building a Blog Audience”
The 80/20 Rule presupposes that you have great content in tow for promotions. You are then required to spend four times more in marketing your content to squeeze in as much traffic as possible to it.
Sound simple in principle. But the implementation can be difficult, especially if you have no idea how to get this done.
As mentioned, social sharing won’t be enough to put your content ahead of the pack.
Even if you have built a following and fan base from Twiter or Facebook, you are not maximizing your content’s reach.
Therefore, you need a more sophisticated promotions strategy that allows you to find your target audience and reach out to them directly.
This is precisely what blogger outreach will do for you.
The approach is simple: tap into the most influential bloggers within your niche and share the content to them.
The application is just as easy, too!
All you need to prepare is the great content you want to promote.
Perform a quick Google search using the “keyword + blog” query.
Replace “keyword” with your actual target keyword of your content
Identify and list down the blogs that cover the topic in your content.
In fact, you can extract the results to an Excel file using MozBar.
Since you want to targert influential bloggers, you do not want to reach out to run-on-the-mill blogs.
Therefore, you should weed out the bad from the list and keep the good ones.
To help you identify the good blogs, use these criteria below as basis:
- Alexa – This metric provides a general overview on how the site is performing globally or locally. That said, I suggest that you should not put too much stock into this figure.
- Domain Authority – This metric developed by Moz computes for the website’s score based on different SEO factors.
- Social Proof – The more Facebook fans and Twitter followers a blog has, the more you should try and reach out to them.
We are compiling blogs that we want to reach out to using your content. The idea is to convince them to link back to your content.
You can do this by first creating an email template to the bloggers as a way to reach out to them.
For this post, I will be featuring two email templates that you can use to reach out to bloggers.
Here’s one approach that you can use:
Subject: Big fan of your blog!
Like the subject says, big fan of your blog!
Among the many posts you have published, I love [title and explain why you like it]. I’ve shared your awesome post on my social media accounts.
It inspired me to write this post that’s similar to the one above: [link]
Hope you like it and keep up the good work!
Let’s break down the post in detail:
- Be effusive to the blog... – Say things that bloggers wants to hear. Praising their posts is one of many.
- ...and be sincere about it! – This includes actually reading the blog posts first before sending an email. You can drop an insightful comment on the post as proof that you read it.
- Share the post – A more veritable proof that you really love the post is by sharing it on social media. A tweet or a Facebook update serves as an endorsement to their post. Doing this also help drive more traffic to their post.
A great example of an email that uses a similar template came from Mike Dane, PR Manager of TruConversion.
Here’s the screenshot of his email:
Was he effusive of my blog? It’s not my blog, but he did praise the post that I wrote for SEMRush. Check!
Was he sincere? Judging from his comments about my post, it seems like he was. Check!
Did he share my post? Yes, he did. He even linked to his Twitter account as proof. Check!
Based on following the three-prong step, it was time for Mike to share his post written at TruConversion.
It helped his cause that the post about the best times to share content on social media was very good.
Following Mike’s cue, you can reach out to influential bloggers using the template above.
Another template that you can use is informing bloggers that you used one of their posts as resource to your content.
Here’s an example of a template using this approach:
Subject: Your post is so awesome, I linked back to it in my blog!
Big fan of your blog, especially after reading this post [title].
I liked the fact that you mentioned [identify the part on the bloggers’ post that you liked the most].
In fact, I liked it so much that I linked your post to my latest content [title of your post].
Here’s the link: [link of your post]
Let me know if you want anything changed in the post talking about your post.
Thanks and keep up the great work!
The idea here is that you linked back to their post.
When writing your post, you will find yourself linking back to authoritative resources as reference to back up your claims.
Instead of explaining the information yourself, why not use someone with the clout and authority about the subject on your blog?
If you have been doing this as part of your content creation, you should let bloggers know that you are using their post as reference to your awesome content!
Once you have informed the bloggers, they should also link back to your post or at least share your post on their social media.
You can tweak it as you see fit. It’s really up to you on how you intend to approach the bloggers with your content.
Once you have the template, save it using Canned Response if you are using Gmail.
To activate Canned Responses, click on the Settings button (the cog icon) and click on the Setting option.
From the menu, click Labs.
Find the Canned Responses app from the lab and activate it.
Compose a new message and paste the template on the body.
Click on the More Options button (the arrow pointing down on the lower right) and save the message.
Once you have saved the template, you can start sending out your content to the bloggers.
If you are sending the email through Gmail, load the template by hovering the mouse on the Canned Responses option.
Don’t forget to edit the details of the template so that the email feels personable and appropriate to the blogger.
Some bloggers do not publish their email on the blog. If this is the case, find the Contacts Page on their blog and send the email there.
Once you have sent the email, all you need to do is wait.
There is a chance that they may not reply at all.
But nothing feels better once they reply!
The best case scenario is that they actually use your content as a featured resource in their blog. The worse case if they share it on social media.
Either way, you still win!
You gain a backlink to your content and/or gain more traffic from their referral tweet to their hundreds and thousands of followers.
To maximize the results of your blogger outreach effort, test out different email templates and see how many replies each gets. Rely on the template with the most replies and disregard the ones that convert poorly.
The site is a brainchild of Ann Smarty, expert blogger/marketer.
Personally, it’s one of my favorite sites to earn backlinks to my content.
As seen in the video above, MyBlogU lets you create epic content. But it is also just as epic in terms of earning links to your site.
This can be done by participating in the Brainstorm and Interviews section of the site.
The Brainstorm section is the place where you can ask users to help you come up with ideas and unique angles on a particular topic.
For the purpose of link earning, find posts in this section that are asking a question about a topic within your niche.
Send your idea and what for them to approve your submission. You can even tweet them about your idea to inform the user on Twitter.
Once approved, wait for users to publish the post on their blogs with a link to your site.
The same concept applies to the Interview section.
The difference is that users can place more than one question for each session. They can also impose a minimum number of words for your answer on each question.
This way, users can get as much detail from the answers they will receive.
I have used both features and it has helped me earn valuable link to my site!
Consider the sites that featured my answered (plus a backlink to my site) thanks to MyBlogU:
“Why Visual Marketing is Ruining Your Facebook Page” at PostPlanner
“5 Reasons to Use Storytelling in Sponsored Content” at Relevance
"8 Unusual (But Powerful) Social Networks For Freelance Bloggers" at Web Hosting Secrets Revealed
All the links I got from these sites came from MyBlogU!
By contributing to the Brainstorm sessions of different users, you get to diversify your link profile and get published on different sites.
The obstacles that you might encounter when earning links from this site is getting the approval of owners.
It’s not really difficult as long as you provide an informative answer to their brainstorm. More or less, users will approve your contributions.
Even if your answer is incomplete, users have the option to request for more information about your contribution. This way, you have a chance to send over a more comprehensive answer and get approved in the process.
The only time that users won’t approve your contribution is when your answer does not add value to the content they are developing. So make sure to be as helpful as possible when helping them brainstorm for content ideas.
Another possible obstacle that you may encounter is the lack of brainstorm entries related to your niche. It is difficult to locate entries outside the marketing or business niches.
Other than these possible issues, earning links from this site should be a breeze. The site has fostered a community that is keen on helping each other out, making it much easier for you to earn your links here.
A key to a successful backlink campaign is by developing a sustainable one.
As mentioned earlier, the mistake that most link builders make is that they take the easiest route in creating backlinks.
As a result, gaining links not only becomes the primary goal, but it becomes the only goal.
What becomes lost are opportunities to help create more value in their sites.
Once a link has been built, they move on the next site. Rinse and repeat.
They rarely go back to the finished sites and form relationships with the site owners. They are people, after all.
This is why relationship building has become a viable tactic not only for link earning, but also fro marketing in general.
In essence, relationship building fills the gap between link building and establishing rapport with site owners.
Instead of targeting actual links, you should go with getting to know about the site owners first.
This a crucial step that marketers must consider
In fact, relationship building goes beyond the concept of link earning. But more on that in a second.
Instead of listing the steps to do in running an effective relationship building campaign, I will discuss a short case study on how I applied relationship building as a way of earning links, plus much more.
I started using Blog Engage a couple of months ago to drive more traffic to my blogs.
As a newbie, I had to get the attention of users for them to visit my blogs.
I did this by upvoting and commenting on the homepage posts.
I tried to be as helpful as possible by not only thanking the blogger for making the post, but also discussed what I liked about it. If applicable, I also discussed points not mentioned in the post that would also help readers understand the topic much better.
I left my comment on the actual blog and the entry on Blog Engage.
A blog that I commented on was Hacknovations. Owner Rachit Singh replied and thanked me for leaving a helpful comment on one of his posts.
After leaving a comment, Rachit mentioned me in one of his Monthly Report post. From there, I saw that he was looking for guest bloggers.
If we are looking at building links, being able to drop my link on his site should be good enough.
But since I am focused on the principle of earning links, I wanted to see what I can do by building a working relationship with Rachit.
I use guest blogging as a way to tap into the audience of other bloggers, so I took a stab at writing for this blog.
It took me a couple of days to whip up a post for the blog, which turned out to be about increasing site traffic using opt-in forms.
It was a fairly successful post that drove a decent amount of comments.
It helped that I also promoted the post on different online communities.
In good will, Rachit commented on one of my blog posts.
Rachit liked the post that he asked me to write another post on his blog.
The content repurposing and upcycling post I wrote became one of most shared pieces of content on his blog.
In between my writing content for his blog, I got to talk to him in private about brainstorming sessions and more opportunities that I cannot divulge at the moment.
In other words, my relationship with him has gone beyond people who happen to work in the same industry.
I can describe it now as people who work hand in hand in the same industry. Two heads are better than one, after all!
Takeaway from this experience
This simple case study may still be at its early stages in order to gauge the effectiveness of relationship building.
However, I cannot deny the potential of applying relationship building into your marketing strategy to maximize your link earning efforts.
I looked for sites related to my niche with the intention of connecting with site owners and bloggers.
I provided sites with insightful comments on their posts. This increases the chances of the comment getting approved, thus earning me a link in the process.
I went beyond the concept of link building by looking for more opportunities that I can work with the site or blog.
In my case, I took up guest blogging. This allows me to create more backlinks to my site (by linking to my other posts in the content or on the author bio). More importantly, it gives me an open line of communication with the site owner.
As a result, not only is a link earned, but I also earned their trust.
Due to the value I provide his blog, Rachit trusts me.
Because of the trust, I was able to build a guest blogging gig at Hacknovations.
Because of the trust, I opened up more opoprtunities to work with a knowledgeable marketer, possibly earn more links in the process!
Now, the method I followed is my own.
Blog commenting is a great way to introduce yourself to other bloggers and site owners. Share insightful comments on as many relevant blog posts as possible.
The more comments you get approved, the more chances that the blogger and site owner will become much more familiar about you.
In fact, if the blogger replied to one of your comments, you can guarantee that the blogger is now familiar with you!
Now that you have established your footprint on the blog, you can take up a guest blogging gig. This is viable if the blog is offering a guest blogging position and you have the time to write a stellar post.
You can try including links to your blog posts on the content as long as it is relevant to the post. But it depends on the guest blogging guidelines, so proceed with caution.
Even if they are not accepting guest posts in general, you can still pitch the idea to the bloggers. The chances may be low, but there’s no harm in trying.
Once you have published the guest post, you can take the relationship even further by leverage your newfound relationship with the blogger to the next level.
Below are ideas on how you can do this:
- Ask them to review your ebook and write a testimonial about it. In return, you can link back to a relevant post of their choice in the ebook.
- Interview them on you own blog and ask them to promote the post on their social media.
- Collaborate on a particular project, i.e. webinar, e-course, etc.
The possibilities are ENDLESS.
You can take a different approach to building online relationships.
But one thing is clear: earning backlinks is no longer the endgame.
It’s all about creating value to other people and getting that value back from them.
Which brings me to...
To tie up all three link earning tactics, we go back to Cialdini.
To tie up all three link earning tactics, we go back to the concept of reciprocity by Cialdini.
The reason why I suggest link earning as a viable approach to developing your link profile is because you provide value to bloggers and site owners.
By providing value to them, you maximize the chances of bloggers and site owners to link back to you!
In blogging outreach, you get to share and link back to their post before you suggest to them your own content.
In MyBlogU, you provide helpful answers to users that they feature on their content with a backlink to your site.
In relationship building, you develop a rapport with the bloggers and site owners that you can turn into a backlink, if not something more!
All three are predicated on the principle of reciprocity. All guarantee the highest percentage of getting you a backlink.
Why? Because you earned it.
Now, this is the part where you come in.
The three tactics mentioned above are just some of the ways that you can earn links from authoritative sites.
Suffice to say, there are other equally effective tactics I did not mention in this post.
Your job now is fill us in on the other link earning tactics that they should apply in their off-page optimization strategy!
I'm sure some of you are using the same principles in developing your link profile.
Now's your chance to share those techniques to the world!