3 Ways to Start Earning Links

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Do you know the real value of links today?

Last summer on the Act-On blog, we featured A Newbie’s Guide to Link Building to help introduce the concept to readers. Hyperlinks, just like the one I inserted into this paragraph directing you to our blog post, are a necessity online. They help users find information and pages, and give writers like myself the ability to share pages and information with readers. You may also know that they are helpful for SEO too.

But how do you earn better links – and more of them?

There are arguably hundreds of ways you can get started on earning more links today, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ve narrowed it down to our favorite three tactics. If you plan to do anything new that’s SEO-related in the month of December, try out at least one of these tactics to get started earning better links today.

1. Unlinked Brand Mentions

It’s pretty common for you or your company’s brand to be discussed online without anyone in the discussion referencing your website or your contact information. As marketers, we can reach out to these individuals, thank them for talking about us, and respectfully ask that they include a mention (with a link) of our website. The purpose is less about building a link and more about giving their visitors a better user experience.

There’s an art in the unlinked brand mention ask, however, which shouldn’t be neglected. This Guide to Using Unlinked Brand Mentions for Link Acquisition post I wrote a year ago highlights the most important aspects of using this tactic. There are important Dos and Don’ts such as: Try to avoid the use of the word “links” in your outreach, and make every outreach specific and personal … no templates, please. Here are more resources to familiarize yourself with this tactic:

Unlinked Brand Mention Resources

  1. Google Advanced Search: The very best tool for finding unlinked brand mentions is trusty old Google advanced search. Understanding advanced search commands such as inurl or excluder command “-“. This article on Search Engine Land is a list of advanced link building queries you can try out.
  2. Fresh Web Explorer: This is one of the best tools out there for finding unlinked brand mentions. Utilize advanced search command such as “-“ to exclude your own site, along with many other advanced queries. Alerts can be set up to email you when new mentions are found as well.
  3. Unlinked Mentions Finder: This handy-dandy Google doc is useful for uncovering additional unlinked brand mentions. Simply copy and save as a new Google doc, put in your query and watch the results populate.
  4. Link Building for Startups – this post by John-Henry Scherck is a treasure trove of information for startups/new brands showcasing methods and tactics to earn links. The article discusses automating your prospecting as well.

2. Competitor Analysis

You can get good ideas by looking at your competitors and who links to them.  Are those sites that should link to you too?  This exercise can aid in understanding what content naturally earns links.

How to analyze your competition

Begin by pulling backlinks for your competitor. Open Site Explorer will be your best bet for pulling backlinks, or the free version of the ahrefs.com tool. Simply put in the domain and see what comes back. Be prepared for a massive list. It might seem overwhelming, but with our tips below you can get started. Next, export the data to a spreadsheet so you can review those linking domains. Categorizing those domains isn’t easy, but it’s a valuable exercise.

Missing Link Hanging Chain CleanTips for Competitor Link Prospecting

  • Organize your list and attack the highest yield opportunities first: those with the most authority or those with content (and so readers) similar to yours.
  • Review links from domain names ending in .edu and .gov. How are your competitors earning links from these hard-to-earn-links-from sites? Do any opportunities exist for your brand too?
  • Review the most linked-to content. Open Site Explorer’s “Top Pages” tab is a great source. What makes the content link-worthy? Is it content you too can develop?
  • Review the highest authority pages (highest “PA” if using Moz’s tools). How are your competitors earning links from these high authority pages? Do any opportunities exist for your brand too?
  • Search for URLs which have the word “links” or the word “resource” in the URL. These are often pages which are lists of resources or similarly related links, if your site isn’t listed then it’s an opportunity!

3. Try the Direct Approach Proven by PR

Today, aspects of online link earning are very similar to the way public relations professionals do digital outreach to reach today’s influencers. Their proven tactics and strategies, aimed at building relationships with key decision makers at online publishers, are well worth paying attention to.

Journalists and online bloggers influence the masses and are great influencers to get to know. Hearing about their upcoming editorial schedules, content needs or need for expert sources is  one good way in! And they’re often very good about linking to you, because their readers expect them to. Learning the art of the pitch will be essential to success. Remember, it’s about them, not you. You’re calling to give them a story, not to get a link.

Outreach Best Practices

Make it personalized – acquaint yourself with the individual’s prior published work. In your initial pitches ensure you are adding details of personalization that showcase the time and care you put into getting to know them. The last thing bloggers and journalists want to see is a template type of pitch. And there is nothing worse than praising a piece you think they wrote – but you were wrong.

Keep it brief – get to the point in your outreach quickly. These are busy people with short attention spans.  Be brief, direct and to the point.

Understand their audience – this is what’s really important to that journalist or blogger: their readers. Understand who the readers are, and make sure you’ve aligned your pitch with what the audience will find of interest. Explain how your company or client relates to the audience and will be a source of information or entertainment.

Avoid over-promotion – don’t oversell your pitch. Remember, you’re providing a source for information, not self-serving promotion. Present your company or client as news, information or entertainment. Don’t overdo it, or they’ll see you as an obnoxious pitchman and mark your emails as spam.

Turn nos into yesses – turning a no into a yes is no easy feat. Look at all the pitches you lost and learn from them. There’s a fine line between pushy and assertive, so ensure you pay attention to professionalism and persistence.

Cast away doubt – your journalist or blogger begins by doubting you, and will probably have a show-me attitude. So show them. In your pitch, find an appropriate way to address the obvious doubts they may have. This may include explaining why your client is relevant to their audience. Listen carefully for the doubt and respond. Don’t leave them with second thoughts.

Ready to get started with link earning today? These are three helpful tactics to get you started or realize you’ve already started! Traditional tactics, strategies and outreach are all methods for earning links today. Let us know how you hope to start link earning in the comments below.

Link-Building Resources

31 Link Building Tactics Discovered From Competitive Analysis

10 Link Building Strategies for The Post-Holiday Slump

Webinar: Link Building Strategies That Move the Needle

Link Building Strategies and Tips for 2014

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