“Scaling link building” is a buzzword that died a slow but well-deserved death over the course of the last several years. Panda, Penguin and common sense were nails in the coffin for many wild link building schemes advertised as “cheap and scalable.”
But, if you’re shrewd, there are still a few opportunities to scale remaining in today’s world of authentic, quality, natural link building.
Link builders have to be very careful about what they choose to scale. Scaling the wrong thing, or not scaling properly, leads to a quick disaster. Low-quality, template emails = bad. Beautifully wordsmithed, personalized template emails = good. Farming out arduous research tasks = can be OK. Farming out phone calls to link partners = probably terrible.
It all starts with defining exactly who you will spend your time reaching out to.
Anybody trying to “build links” gets desperate from time to time. And when you get desperate, you grab any opportunity you can find. I think that’s why there is a tendency among link builders to treat each potential link partner as an individual, totally unique case, and then scramble for attention.
I’m not a fan of that individual focus. Don’t get me wrong: personalized, hands-on, one-on-one outreach is important if you want to earn real links. However, from a strategy standpoint, link builders can accomplish significantly more by designing outreach campaigns for specific, well-defined groups.
Instead of coming up with a new strategy for each link partner, you can use the same link strategy on dozens, maybe even hundreds of link partners — and get better at it every time.
Good link builders want the best and only the best links, right? We sure do!
But personally, I’m OK with building some not-the-very-best links as well, if I can get a good number of them relatively easily (and they are, of course, authentic, relevant and natural).
Consider small consultants (in any industry). These are individuals with lots of experience to share and no, or very few, staff. Many of them have a blog, and they are probably managing it on their own.
In a good-sized industry, many consultants also have a decent number of inbound links to their blog, just not enough to change the world on their own. This is a great community to target for link building.
With a little collaboration and ego bait, I’ve found that most small consultants are ecstatic to link to our clients, time and time again. Are they somewhat lower on the authority scale? Sure, at times. Are they relevant? Yep! Do these links impact organic traffic? All. Day. Long.
Now consider a large, well known, trusted industry publication. It takes weeks, even months to nurture a relationship before earning a link back. Sometimes, weeks of effort leads to nothing. If your entire link building effort was focused on a few big fish that didn’t come through, your report that month will be pretty dismal.
If you use an authority metric, such as Domain Authority, when performing link partner research, consider also using an “ease” metric. I’m not aware of any ease metrics in the wild so we just use a simple 1-10 scale:
When determining your ease metric for a given link target, consider the following: Is the target website (and its associated social media profiles) active, recently updated, and/or well maintained? Would this target be receptive to a collaborative content partnership? How likely is it that this target would see any communication from us as nothing but a commercial request or unwanted advertisement? Does this target link to other similar sites?
Seriously, folks — it’s time to grow past keyword-based link partner research. Like any SEO worth his salt, I still love my finely crafted advanced search queries with intitle, inurl and the works to find potential link partners. But Google results simply do not uncover all of the communities of link targets available.
How do you find communities of link targets, maybe even in a niche you may not be familiar with? Here are several good places to start:
And of course, don’t forget to do a few searches as well. (Lately, this one has been serving me well: ["recent industry topic" inurl:blog])
Every website that you uncover is not just one opportunity, but a potential target community. When you uncover potential link partners that are a reasonably close fit, determine if they are representative of a community of similar websites. If they are, and a portion of that community fits your link building criteria, it’s time to head off to the races.
Defining the communities you will target for link building is no simple task. Every demographic counts, and the more segmented your outreach can be, the better.
Let’s consider “Mommy Bloggers” as an example. This group is not simply one community — it’s dozens of communities. Some focus on a topic such as crafts or interior design, while others simply pontificate hilariously about their newborns. A few are extremely influential, established and have a large followings, while many are only followed by grandma and a few aunts and uncles. And there are plenty more in between.
Should you use the same outreach strategy for every one of these communities? Probably not. The more specifically defined your target community is, the better you can craft a link building strategy that will be appealing and effective.
No more one-off link building to desperately grab individual links. It’s time to figure out what works to build meaningful links in well-defined online communities, and then get better at it the next time. Keep it real, be authentic, and give your link partners something worth talking about. Then rinse and repeat — again and again.