6 Ways To Scale Link Building in 2016
Please note: you should know a thing or two about SEO before reading this. Too many posts on link building repeat the same tactics over and over - I'm trying to avoid that and bring you something original.
This blog post is ideal for agency owners, or consultants who currently have clients and are looking for ways to scale their link building process.
After working in many SEO agencies I've realized that the #1 issue that comes up is an inability to build quality backlinks. It's time consuming, costly and is hard to teach to new employees.
Throughout my time as an SEO I've figured out a few ways to build affordable links, at scale, that increase search rankings. Now that I've taken a job here at Agency Analytics, I'm willing to share some of the tactics I've used to get fantastic results for my clients.
Before we start I'd like to run over a few of the tools I use. Also keep in mind that no referral links are being used in this blog post. If I recommend a tool it's because I dig it:
Agency Analytics – I was using it long before I took the job here. The software is a godsend for SEO consultants: rank tracker, backlink monitor, social analytics, automated reporting, all in one.
Scrapebox – Once upon a time it was used to spam blog comments. Now, savvy SEOs use it for many things. Check out Chris Dyson's guide to Scrapebox if you have no clue what it is.
Pitchbox - Is my favorite way to manage content outreach. It's a little pricey but worth it.
FindAnyEmail - Find email addresses by entering first name, last name and domain. I've been using it a while now but ContentMarketer.io is another option that I'm currently testing.
Majestic - My preferred backlink database tool. Ahrefs is comparable and it's best to have both if you can afford it.
Strategy #1: Hacking HARO
Yeah, yeah you've been using HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and you think this is the same old junk but hear me out. This is about SCALING the process for your clients to get your client links from Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, CIO, New York Times, INC, etc.
Your new client is most likely hiring you for a hands off approach. They want results but don't want to put any effort in to it.
Problem is.. They're the experts in their field! Most HARO queries are looking for experts and lets face it - you know nothing about plumbing or plastic surgery.
There must be a better way!
There is. It's called Hacking HARO.
All you have to do is get freelancers to answer HARO queries on behalf of your client. Upwork is filled with freelancers who are specialists in different fields. Find doctors, lawyers... you name it.
I get at least 20 people applying to each job.
All you need to do is make a job title "Need Industry Expert to answer questions". Here is the exactly job description I use:
I need an industry expert to answer questions on a daily basis through HARO (Help a Report Out). You will get sent 3 emails a day with potential questions to answer. You need to sort through these questions and send responses to the given email - we'll pay you per question you answer $10 + a bonus $10 for getting featured on websites with your answers.
This is a quick and easy way to make some extra money every day. These questions do NOT take long to answer. You just need to send a paragraph or two to answer.
When answering the questions you must put your position as expert position and give a link to our website.
Now watch the applications fly in! You can ask applicants to answer sample questions from HARO to test them and pick the best one.
From there you need to set your new expert with a company email for your client. I prefer email@example.com. Also set them up with a nice signature with their position (ex. In-House Nutritionist). Something like this:
Register that email for HARO and give them an example email to run with:
Hi Reporter's Name,
My name's Expert's Name and I'm the Position at Company's Name. I'd really appreciate if you could link to Company's Website if you use my response. Thanks :)
Get your expert to log in three times a day and to answer as many questions as possible.
I've found that $10 per answer with a $10 bonus for getting a link posted has been sufficient motivation for in-depth answers. In my experience the conversion rate from answer to link is close to 20% which results in high-quality editorial links for under $100.
I've gotten some great links this way that are otherwise unattainable.
This is completely scalable and can be used for agencies of any size.
Strategy #2: Inverted Broken Link Building
Broken link building is one of the most used tactics on the SEO scene. There's a reason: it works. Thing is, there's a way to maximize your efforts and take broken link building to the next level.
Ahrefs has a full guide to what they call "inverted broken link building". In essence what you do is find expired domains, get their most linked to content through Majestic or Ahrefs, replicate the content and get the broken links replaced.
Most of the process has been covered on their blog so I won't repeat it. Go take a look. The problem I have with their system is their prospecting system.
They tell you to search through expireddomains.net one keyword at a time to find good opportunities. It can take a while to find a good prospect this way.
Instead I prefer to use the TDNam Clouseouts addon from Scrapebox. It scrapes the clouseouts and regular auctions from GoDaddy.
Just add in your keyword list, let it work for a minute and export the results.
Once you have a nice big list of expired domains you can put up to 600 at a time through the Bulk Backlink checker in Majestic.
You can then poke through the results and find thousands juicy dead backlinks that need replacing. Easy!
Strategy #3: Leverage Freelancers to Guest Post
Similar to hacking HARO this method is highly reliant on Upwork or another freelancing website. It works best with a linkable asset on your website, but you can work it without one.
All you have to do is post on Upwork asking for people to write about your linkable asset (or business). This is the job description I used:
We're looking for people with business blogs to cover our story. You either need to run a relevant blog or write for a relevant publication.
You can check it out here: link to post
Please let me know what your credentials are and which websites you plan on posting to.
Simple! It works well because you can screen all of the websites before you pay them to post.
On one occasion this resulted in 40 people applying to the job, I hired five of them and got the website eight top notch backlinks. All for less than $50 each.
Strategy #4: Use A Reputable Guest Post Service
There are plenty of sketchy guest posting services available.. I get emails like this daily:
Yeah right Elizabeth.
Well you have another option for outsourcing guest posting!
Update (2016-02-04): Earlier I recommended a guest posting service that will remain unnamed. Although I had good experiences the business, others sent me messages saying they were untrustworthy. I'd prefer not to mention them if that's the case!
Instead I'd recommend reaching out to Venchito Tampon's agency Sharp Rocket. I haven't used his services extensively, but I've had him build a few links for me. He's fair priced for the quality of links you get.
Before he does outreach for guest posts he presents the opportunities and you have to OK them first. The articles that included my links were well very written.
If you're an agency who's having trouble building links, using a guest posting service like this can help.
Strategy #5: Streamlined Infographics
Every SEO under the sun has heard about using infographics to build links. I'm just going to share with you my process of scaling it out across many clients.
There are 3 steps to link building with infographics: ideation, design and outreach. Each of these parts can be done quickly.
Speedy Infographic Ideation
My favorite way to come up with ideas is to find other infographics that have already been magnets for links and use them in your industry. Sort the Visual.ly community by views to get some ideas, then reverse search the image on Google.
The most recent example I have is that I found an infographic on the "top apps to get you organized". It was successful and received links from sites like Entrepreneur.com. I used this idea to create my infographic on health apps to get you in shape. See the connection?
I then went to Text Master and gave instructions to write an article on 14 health apps that would help somebody get in shape. I told them to three sentences for each one and include a link to the logo of each.
That's what I used as the skeleton for the infographic. It took about 30 minutes of research and $20 to be written.
There are many ways to get your infographic made.. Some people have in-house designers, some prefer 99 designs, but I usually go with Upwork. Mainly because I've found a great designer through there already so I don't need to rehire.
Simply give the designer your skeleton that's been written and they should have the infographic done within a couple of days. It should cost between $150-300. The infographic creation process goes a quicker after you hire one or two designers because you can rehire.
Scalable Infographic Outreach & Submission
Nobody will link to an infographic that they haven't seen. The idea here is to create an outreach process that's quick and efficient. I break my outreach down in to two buckets: low value and high value targets.
Low Value Outreach Targets
This is sort of a spray and pray method and has worked well for me in the past. What you're doing is getting a huge list of potential targets and email them.
I do this by finding websites using Scrapebox and then scraping emails from the websites. You can use the footprint "intitle:infographic" along with your keywords to find websites who have shared infographics before.
Scrape a list of websites and "grab emails from URL list" to compile a big list of websites with matching emails. With the spray and pray method it truly is a numbers game. A high number of the emails will bounce so it's important to build a BIG list.
Once you have a list of websites and emails you can load them in to your favorite outreach tool. Like I said, I prefer Pitchbox, but you can check out Jon Cooper's guide to outreach tools here: .
Send out a feeler email to start to see if they'd like to see the infographic but don't actually send a link yet. Just a pleasant request to gauge their interest in seeing it.
If they respond you can use the Guestographic technique and offer to give them a guest post to go along with the infographic. Or you can just send them a link in hopes that they post it.
The reason I like Pitchbox is because I can set a follow up email if they don't respond the first time around.
See. 65% is a big deal!
High Value Outreach Targets
These are the sites that you definitely want to get links from. The big guns: Huffington Posts, CNNs, Elite Daily.
Take some time to search for high value websites which have recently posted similar infographics. For example, if you're looking to build links for a real estate agent Jesse Ferreras on HuffPost is your perfect target.
From those articles take note of the first and last name of the author. Match them up with the website and put them through Find Any Email.
Getting the email of the author and not the website's support email makes a world of difference - believe me.
When you have a nice list of high value targets load them in to Pitchbox (or your outreach tool). Send them a friendly email saying you loved the post which included the infographic and you have another one which would be perfect for the site.
This is the most scalable way I've figured out to do infographics.. If done properly it should only take about 4-6 hours so of your hands on time. It should result in a number of quality links.
I've had good success with using Fiverr to list get listed in infographic directories. I know everybody's scared of using Fiverr to build links but this is one of the rare exceptions. Just saying.
Strategy #6: Pretty Quick Private Blog Networks
Before we get going on Private Blog Networks I just want to address the belief that PBNs are spammy, blackhat and should be ignored.
Michael Martinez, the founder of SEO-Theory.com, wrote:
"As someone who operates a successful network of blogs and microsites, I can assure you from extensive experience going back almost 20 years that there is absolutely no inherent danger involved in building and promoting these kinds of Websites. That anyone in the Web marketing field should believe otherwise by now is worse than disappointing: it's embarrassing to all of us."
I agree 100%.
As long as you keep your network private and treat every website with respect, PBNs can still be a powerful way to build links. They still work, and work well.
Cheap Expired Domains
In order to scale building your own PBN you need to start buying expired domains. It's possible to build original microsites (or Traffic Side Projects via ViperChill) but they aren't really scalable – which is the whole point of this blog post.
People caught on to expired domains years ago, and if you're in a popular industry there's a good chance you won't find anything - or they'll cost an arm and a leg through GoDaddy auctions.
Ian Harmon wrote a guide on picking up expired domains with Scrapebox and it's my preferred way to do it. He walks you through building a keyword list, setting a custom footprint in the past (because it's more likely they're expired if they were linked to 5 years ago), and checking the expired domains.
Personally, when looking for domains I don't have a set DA or TF I look for. Obviously editorial links from big websites are a bonus but if the domain has 5+ genuine links it might be a good purchase.
Diggy Marketing also has a useful guide on how to test your pbns before adding them to your network. Diggy uses a clever tactic to test sites and see if they increase the rank of a keyword before you use them.
Buy a few proxies and start scraping! I've found some fantastic expired domains this way that would otherwise cost $200+.
Easy PBN Hosting
Aside from finding good, cheap domain names I found the other problem with PBNs is the hosting. By hosting on a single server you're leaving a BIG footprint to Google asking to be penalized.
Many SEO hosting companies will give you multiple C-class IPs but these don't protect you. Google can recognize bad IP addresses and it can lead to your blog network being deindexed.
Buying individual hosting packages is one way to go but it can be expensive and is hard to to keep track of everything that's going on. It'd be nice to have everything in one central area.
That's where Easy Blog Networks comes in!
Easy Blog Networks gives you hosting on different A-, B- & C-Block IPs through various providers: AWS, Rackspace, Softlayer, etc. This means your website is safe from the IP footprint.
They also include one-click WordPress installation with many themes to choose from, and let you pick from a number of plugins to have pre installed. This is a HUGE time saver.
Personally, the biggest advantage for me is the organization. You can separate your websites in to groups to make various PBNs. One-click sign on and post scheduling are also super duper nice features to have.
Using scrapebox to find expired domains and EBN for hosting you can build out private blog networks in no time.
Alright that's it folks! Use a mix of these tactics to drive amazing results for your clients.
Let me know your favorite scalable link building methods in the comments below. If I like it I'll add it to the post and give you credit :)