Ever wish there was a way you could speed up the link building process?
I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if you could hunt down hundreds of possible links, evaluate them, and then ask for those links automatically?
Unfortunately, it’s a process that really needs a human at the steering wheel. And that’s something you can’t automate.
Trust me…I’ve spent years and over a hundred thousand dollars trying to figure out ways to make the process more efficient. Whether it was through programming an automation tool or hiring someone else to do the work for me, I tried just about everything I could think of.
There really is just no easy way.
But over the years, I’ve learned quite a bit by trial and error. I also learned from other SEO experts in the space how to make the process more efficient without compromising quality.
Here are the 3 steps you can take to get more quality links in less time:
Step #1: Use tools to speed up link prospecting
When it comes to getting things done and being more efficient, you should always focus on automating things as much as possible.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
A long time ago, many of us used to drop hundreds of links into a program that would retrieve PageRank scores for every link. From there, we would drop those results into a spreadsheet and delete any links without a PageRank score of at least 3.
That process in itself would take a minute or two, which is so much faster than doing it manually.
But luckily enough, there are now tools like Majestic SEO and OpenSite Explorer that can compute huge amounts of data like scoring back link data and giving you anchor text information within seconds. So, if you want to speed up your efficiency, you should use these tools.
- SEOBook Toolbar – use this tool to collect information on search engine rankings. Set your results count at 100 and then carry over the results into a spread sheet.
- Ontolo Campaign Manager – find relevant competitor back links by topic or type. You can also brainstorm for content marketing ideas and monitor competitor back links.
- Blogscape – Monitor the popularity of any brand, URL or keyword on a daily basis.
Another great tool to use is the Link Building Tool by Ontolo. Once you’ve defined your keywords, asset type, opportunity type and campaign type, do this:
The tool will then generate a list of “link building queries”:
Click on one of those queries, and you’ll get a search engine results page with link possibilities:
Of course, you’ll have to hand-select the right results, which is hard to automate at the moment, but it is still a great start.
Step #2: Identify the critical components of qualifying links
This part is a lot harder to automate because a human needs to be involved in a lot of the qualifying. From a broad standpoint, you know so much more about your product, market, and the content landscape than a tool will. A tool can’t tell you that links from a sports site will not work for you if you are in the airline industry. Hopefully, it will one day, but as of now, such a tool just doesn’t exist.
And, as you already know, qualifying individual websites isn’t something you can systematize either. Just because you have a client in one category, like mobile operating systems, doesn’t mean you can treat a site dedicated to Android apps like you treat a site dedicated to Symbian OS.
Is there any way to automate this process? Well, there are about three places that you can do this:
- Prospect requirements – your first step to develop some requirements on prospect links based on scores from PageRank, backlink counts, mozRank or mozTrust. For example, you could develop requirements that a page that is a potential link prospect has to have a homepage PageRank of 5 and URL PageRank of 3. This way you can set a baseline level of value so you know that you are going after established websites. In most cases, you will have to do this by hand, but you can also delegate it to a college kid.
- Link relevancy – what makes a link relevant? Topical relevance. Topical relevance is all about finding sites that have relevance to your topic. Using the example above with the mobile OS market, a site on Symbian OS won’t be helpful if you are hunting down sites related to Androids…or vice versa. This is another task you can delegate to an intern or college student.
- Human-review – this process will take hours to go through because you are taking each link and opening them up on the web. You can speed things up with the URL reviewer tool that allows you to go through hundreds in an hour.
In the end, link qualification needs the eyes and mind of an expert for it to work effectively. There is just not very much you can automate here.
If you are wondering what I look for when going through a site:
- Relevant external links – I only ask sites for links when they only link out to relevant sites. I wouldn’t request a link from a mobile site that links out to dog websites.
- High rankings – most people look to get links from sites that are indexed. I look for links from sites that rank high for terms in their title tags. Because if a site doesn’t rank well, the link probably won’t carry much weight.
- Good design – if a site looks spammy, it probably is. I like links from nice looking sites.
- Fresh sites – getting links from websites that don’t update their content isn’t as effective as getting links from sites that are constantly adding new content. Plus, if someone isn’t updating his or her site, that person probably won’t add a link to you.
- Geographically relevant sites – if you are based in the US and you want to rank on Google.com, then you should get links from sites that are hosted in the US. You can find out where a site is based by using Whois.sc.
- Good sites – by “good sites” I mean sites that don’t talk about porn-, pills- or casino-related topics. I know most website owners don’t talk about that kind of stuff, but a lot of websites have user-generated content these days. So, even if the website owner doesn’t talk about that stuff, you should do a “site:domain.com bad keyword” search on Google to double-check.
- Content links – sites that like adding links within their content are better than sites that like adding links to external sites in their footer or sidebar.
- Authority sites – sites that are old, have a ton of backlinks, and are well-known in a space are authoritative. I love links from those sites.
Now that you know what I look for, let’s move onto step 3.
Step #3: Build a template to speed up link acquisition
So, once you’ve used some of the techniques above to find great links to prospect, what’s your next step? Send out an email to see if the site is interested in linking with you.
As you know, this takes forever. There really is no easy way to automate this. Well, sure, you could automate this (it’s called spam), but you’ll fail because people will think you are just mass mailing and ignore your email.
Email link acquisition needs a carefully crafted human element. That doesn’t mean you have to write every single email from scratch.
In fact, you can create a template, where you personalize just a portion of the email…leaving the rest alone for every email you send.
- Always personalize the email – do your homework and get the webmaster’s name and email address.
- Introduction paragraph – your first paragraph should demonstrate that you understand their audience and what they are trying to do on their website.
- Second paragraph – explain how your website is related to theirs and the benefit their audience will get if they linked to you.
- Closing paragraph – tell them you know they are extremely busy, so you appreciate their time and attention and you look forward to hearing from them. Unless it’s an outstanding site that you have to have a link from, send the email without saying you’ll follow up. You are simply too busy to do such a thing.
Here are some tips for writing an effective email:
- Go heavy on the benefits – do your homework so you understand their audience and then tell them how their audience will get better, stronger or faster from being introduced to your site.
- Delegate follow-ups – if you insist on following up on every single email you send, I suggest you outsource to someone else for really cheap.
If you are wondering what one of these link request emails looks like, here is an example:
Hey Bob, it’s Neil here from KISSmetrics, and I wanted to drop you a line and just compliment your site. Nice layout, good info, and I love your detailed guides. Especially the one on “Getting the most out of your Google Analytics”. I’ve been in the web analytics space for over 6 years now, and I have to say, you write some of the best content in the industry.
That being said, I also noticed you guys link out to recommended analytics providers. I am the co-founder of an analytics company, KISSmetrics, that provides actionable insights to companies like Amazon, Ebay and Etsy. We are trusted by over 100 Fortune 500 companies, and I wanted to see if you would be open to including KISSmetrics in your recommended analytics list.
On a side note, I would love to hook you up with a FREE account that you can mess around with and even use on your blog. I’ve actually taken the liberty of registering you…You can go to KISSmetrics.com to login:
Let me know if you have any questions or need any help with KISSmetrics.
Thanks for reading this email… I know you are busy.
P.S. I hope it’s sunny in San Diego, it’s rainy like crazy here in Seattle.
I truly believe that if you take these ideas and use them in your own link building practices, you’ll see a better return on your time, a higher quality of relevant links you generate and an improvement on your search engine rankings.
I know my process isn’t fully automated… but it works. Just try it out.
Do you know of any parts of the link building process that can be automated?