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5 Tactics to Earn Links Without Having to Directly Ask – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Typical link outreach is a tired sport, and we’ve all but alienated most content creators with our constant link requests. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines five smart ways to earn links to your site without having to beg.

5 tactics to earn links without having to ask

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, I’m going to help you avoid having to directly ask for links.

Some people in the SEO world, some link builders are extremely effective. If you go to the Russ Jones School of Link Outreach, you need to make a big list of people to contact, get in front of those folks, outreach them, and have these little success rates. But for some of us, myself included, I just absolutely hate begging people for links. So even though I often produce content that I want people to link to, it’s the outreach process that stops me from having success. But there are ways around this. There are ways to earn links, even from very specific sources, without needing to directly say, “Hey, will you please link to this?” I’ll try and illustrate that.

The problem

So the problem is I think that most of the web at this point is sort of burned out on this conversation of, “Hey, I have this great resource.” Or, “Hey, you linked to this thing which is currently broken and so maybe you’d like to,” or “Hey, I noticed that you frequently mention or link to blah, blah, blah. Well I have a blah, blah, blah like blah, blah, blah.”

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Folks I think are just like, “Oh, my God, I hate these SEOs, like I’m so done with this.” Most of these folks, the journalists, the bloggers, the content creators of all kinds start to detest the link requests even when they’re useful, even when they help your success rates. I mean, great success rates.

The world’s best link builders, link outreach specialists, when I talked to agencies, they say, “Our absolute best folks ever hover in the 5% to 10% success range.” So that means you’re basically like, “No. Nope. Nuh-uh. Uh-uh. No way. Sorry. Uh-uh. Yeah, no. Uh, no.” Then, maybe you’ll get one, “Okay, fine. I’ll actually link to you.”

This can be a really demoralizing practice, and it also hurts your brand every time you outreach to someone and have no success. They’re basically associating you with . . . and in fact, there are many people in the SEO world who my only association with them is, gosh, they have asked me for a lot of links over the years. It kind of sucks the souls from people who hate doing it. Now granted, there are some people who like doing it, but you have two options.

Number one, you can optimize the outreach to try and get a higher success rate, to do less damage to your brand when you do this, to make this less of a soul-sucking process, and we have some Whiteboard Fridays on exactly that topic and some great blog posts on that too. But there are ways to build links without it, and today I’m going to cover four and a half of them, because the fifth one is barely a tactic.

5 Tactics to earn links

1. The “I made this thing you’ll probably use”

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The first one is the tactic — I’m going to use very conversational naming conventions for these — the “I made this thing you will probably use.” So this is, in effect, saying not, “Hey, I made this thing. Will you link to it?” but rather, “I made this thing and I can have some confidence that you and people like you, others like you, will probably want to link to it because it fulfills a specific need.”

So there’s some existing content that you find on the web, you locate the author of that content or the publisher of that content, and you form a connection, usually through social, through email, or through a direct comment on that content. You have an additional resource of some kind that is likely to be included, either in that particular element or in a future element.

This works very well with bloggers. It works well with journalists. It works well with folks who cover data and studies. It works well with folks who are including visuals or tools in their content. As a result, it tends to work well if you can optimize for one of those types of things, like data or visuals or ego-bait. Or supporting evidence works really well. If you have someone who’s trying to make an argument with their content and you have evidence that can help support that argument, it will very often be the case that even just a comment can get you included into the primary post, because that person wants to show off what you’ve got.

It tends not to work very well with commercial content. So that is a drawback to the tactic.

2. The “You list things like X, I have or I am an X.”

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So this is rather than saying, “I would like a link,” it’s a very indirect or a relatively indirect ploy for the same thing. You find resources that list Xs, and there’s usually either an author or some process for submission, but you don’t have to beg for links. You can instead just say, “I fit your criteria.”

So this could be, “Hey, are there websites in the educational world that are ADA-compliant and accessible for folks?” You might say, “Well, guess what? I’m that. Therefore, all of these places that list resources like that, that are ADA-compliant, will fit in here.”

Or for example, we’re doing design awards for pure CSS design, and it turns out you have a beautifully-designed site or page that is pure CSS, and so maybe you can fit in to that particular criteria. Or websites that load under a second, even on a super slow connection, and they list those, and you have one of those. So there’s a process, and you can get inclusion.

3. The “Let me help you with that.”

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This can be very broad, but, basically, if you can identify sources and start to follow those sources wherever they publish and however they publish, whether that’s social or via content or broadcast or other ways, if you find those publications, those authors expressing a need or an interest or that they are in the process of completing something, by offering to assist you will almost always get a link for your credit. So this is a way where you’re simply monitoring these folks that you would like to get links from, waiting for them to express some sort of need, fulfilling that need, and then reaping the benefit through that link.

4. The “I’d be happy to provide an endorsement.”

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This is sort of a modified version of “I made this thing you’ll probably like.” But instead of saying, “Here’s the thing that you will probably like and maybe include,” you’re saying, “I noticed that you have a product, a piece of content, a tool, a new piece of hardware, some physical product, whatever it is, and I like it and I use it and I happen to fit into the correct demographic that you are trying to reach. Therefore, I am happy to contribute an endorsement or a testimonial.” Oftentimes, almost always, whenever there’s a testimonial, you will get a link back to your source, because they’ll want to say, “Well, Rand Fishkin from Moz says X and Y and Z,” and there’s the link to either my page or to Moz’s page.

5. The “Guest contribution.”

The one you’re probably most familiar with, and it was probably the first one that came to mind when you thought about the “How do I get links without asking for them?” and that is through guest contributions, so guest blogging and guest editorials and authorship of all kinds. There are a few Whiteboard Fridays on that, so I won’t dive deep in here.

But I hope you can leverage some or all of these tactics, because if you hate link building the outreach way, these all have more work that goes into them, but far, far better results than this 5% to 10% as the top. Five to ten percent is probably the bottom range for each of these, and you can get 50%, 75% on some of these tactics. Get a lot of great links from great sources. It just requires some elbow grease.

All right, everyone. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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