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.

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

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

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