There is no doubt that backlinks are as important as ever. However, they are also harder to come by than ever. On a weekly basis I have the recurring issue of websites and publications asking for a small fortune for a nofollow link from a site with a low DA.
Although, with many recent changes to Moz’s toolbar, and the use of tools such as ahrefs and buzzstream, I have compiled my own outreach strategy which combines onpage SEO, traditional link building, Digital PR techniques and good old journalism with a strategic and technical mind.
I have also listed some challenges that we have faced here at Impression and some solutions that have come from our integrated SEO and Digital PR approach.
1. “Create unique, user-friendly content” (to get links)
Gone are the days when business directory links and link for link are good enough to get your clients to the desired first position in the SERP’s. I have found that over the past 6 months my link building has become more and more influenced by a Digital PR strategy, and the results that I have been achieving show that Digital PR doesn’t work without SEO and vice versa. A Digital PR strategy without content that is optimised for search will also miss a lot of opportunities.
Content is more important than ever but the saying that no idea is an original one is more relevant than ever. There are so many blogs and white papers that tell us what we already know – we need to create unique, user-friendly content. But how?
In order to combat this issue, I have stopped creating content on a site without an off page strategy to support it. When I first started reading around Digital PR and learning about how to approach journalists and publications Instead I always ask myself the following questions before starting to create content for a client:
- What is going on in the industry?
- What are the competitors doing?
- What is going on in other industries?
A great way to link build, particularly for a new product or campaign, is through creating content. Using tools such as Response Source you can gain links in national publications through guest comments. Or you can build a collaborative article without even having to write much of the content yourself – everyone wants coverage so utilise it!
You can pitch an infographic or a piece of content in so many different ways, with so many different angles. For example, we are currently working on a content marketing piece. Even before the design of the piece was finished we sent out journo requests and response sources asking for industry experts to comment on the topic that we are covering. Even though we have decided it won’t be necessary to put these comments into the piece, we can use all this different information from a range of sources to pitch are content marketing piece in to publications.
3. Twitter and hashtags
If there are two things you should remember from reading this post they are:
There are some really good outreach opportunities being posted on Twitter. You do have to filter through them but once you spot a journalist looking for comment or content in your or your client’s industry you can then contact that person or save their contact info as a possible future collaboration. Instead of doing a Google search which will bring you some of the biggest bloggers and publications in the industry, you can use Twitter to find more niche content. Not to mention that from my own experience I have very seldom had a response on Twitter where they are charging a fee for a feature or a link.
Whether you are sending out requests yourself to build an article or piece of content (as mentioned above), or you are looking for requests to get your client or business featured in Twitter is a good way to go – especially because it is free! It is no news that social media is used by millions of users every day so it should be incorporated into all areas of your Digital PR and SEO strategy – you want someone’s voice or opinion? Go to social!
Looking for some content ideas? Or ideas to pitch into to journalists that are up to date? Twitter is another way of finding out what people are talking about. You can see trending hashtags and also browse competitor’s social accounts to see what content they are using.
Other useful Twitter hashtags:
#bloggers #bloggerswanted #bloggersrequired
4. Time is free – even to paid bloggers
There is a constant battle with link building and SEO as there are so many bloggers and publications that charge a fee for pretty much everything. Sam Charles, founder of Float digital and blogger, did a talk at BrightonSEO this year about how to incentivise bloggers without spending money. As a blogger and an SEO herself, it was interesting to hear her tips on how to get links from bloggers.
In particular, one point from her talk stood out to me: ‘Outreach as usual and incentivise bloggers with time instead of money.’ In my outreach strategy, I make sure that I do not just rush a campaign. In online marketing and Digital PR everyone is really busy and receives a lot of emails. Don’t waste your time and their time and take a considerable amount of care over finding the right publications and approaching them in the right way.
My top 3 top tips (which do take a little bit of time) are:
– Make sure that the publications I am targeting are highly relevant
– Make sure the blogger definitely links out
– Your email is crafted specifically for them
5. Building relationships
One of the most valuable skills I have learnt from my Digital PR colleagues is to build and utilise relationships with fellow journalists, PR’s and marketers. Similarly to when started a business, it is important to build relationships in the early days and respect that loyalty as you grow. It is no different in the world of offpage marketing – it’s who you know and it’s how to utilise those contacts. You’ll never know unless you ask so never be afraid to revisit journalists, publications or bloggers that you have worked with before.
Get relationships with:
You help them and they’ll help you. Jump at as many opportunities as possible. If you get a good relationship with a freelance journalist you are on for a winner.
Bloggers are good to get relationships with especially if you are looking for referral traffic from blogs. I have found that maintaining a good relationship with bloggers whose Target Audience is exactly what I need for a client has been really beneficial.
- Other PR’s/SEO’s
We’re all looking for coverage and a lot of the time everyone is happy to help. I’m not saying that link for link is the way to go but definitely think about ‘returning the favour’ and I have found that other PR’s and SEO’s think the same way too.
How do you build a relationship? As mentioned in point 4, spend time to make sure that the way you contact the website or journalist is with an offering that is mutually beneficial to them. Always be clear in the first instance about what you want and you will be able to build valuable relationships that could be beneficial in the future.
Common challenges from the Impression team
Charlie, SEO account manager
Challenge: Link building without asking for links.
Solution: Always make sure you are giving the journalist, blogger, business, or publication something whether that’s writing a piece of content, a product to review or coverage through your social media channels.
Rebecca, Digital PR executive
Challenge: Being asked by clients to ‘build backlinks to their website’ but not knowing what publications will actually link out.
Solution: A quick way to check this is to visit Ahrefs – a staple tool for all SEO’s a PR. You can check a site’s outbound links on here, which is far less time consuming than checking articles on every site that you want a link from. Ahrefs also shows you if the links are nofollow or dofollow which is also important to consider when link building.
Pete, SEO account manager
Challenge: Building links for ecommerce clients that aren’t willing to give out products but need high DA links!
Solution: Find opportunities that don’t require product reviews. This is where thought-leadership through digital PR can become a crucial part of your link building strategy. I did this for a particular eCommerce client by making connections within their trade press; I organised interviews, contributed opinion pieces, submitted award entries and even built out a collaboration article which were then pitched in to achieve high DA linking domains.
Integration is key when getting the most out of your outreach strategy. Use Digital PR and SEO, and the foundations from both, to build creative content that will gain
- Make sure your content is created with your outreach strategy in mind
- Go to social for PR – use #prrequest and #journorequest as a free alternative to paid journalist tools
- Time is money – attention to detail is crucial to get free links and collaborations that are mutually beneficial
- Build relationships and revisit those relationships – make sure they are mutually beneficial and be straight forward from the beginning!