Rarely do SEOs jump at the chance to link-build. Afterall, link building is often time-consuming and labor-intensive.
You’ve gotta dig around the internet, find articles that make sense to link from, then convince the person on the other end to grant you a link, if they even open your email at all. Hard to feel motivated about that!
But one thing’s for sure: backlinks have a serious impact on your SEO! In fact, if you haven’t heard already, Google flat came out and said it, links are the #1 ranking factor.
Although many of us hate doing it, link building must be done.
In my pursuit to make link building easier and more reliable, I’ve put together a link building technique that I think makes link building more sure-fire and less painful to do.
I call it the Good Neighbor Linkbuilding Technique and in this post, I’m going to walk you through the whole thing, step by step.
The Good Neighbor Linkbuilding Technique starts out by identifying the right types of websites and blogs to target. These are websites that will view your link request as a value-added proposition for them.
We then learn to read and decipher a page’s anchor links to determine which ones are most likely to reward us a link.
Then we reach out to the author and partners in the organization with some positive observation and a useful link suggestion that helps to add value to their content.
This technique works.
Here is a typical reply I receive after executing this technique.
With any luck, you should see similar results!
One thing to note: This technique assumes you’ve got a piece of content relating to your business and that you’re proud of and believe provides value to others. If that’s not the case, then you can read through the technique but you won’t be able to implement it!
Now, with that out of the way, let’s go through the Good Neighbor Linkbuilding Technique!
Step 1 – Location, location, location
No, this isn’t a post about real estate but when it comes to this technique, where you look on the web matters.
The first step to this method is locating no-brainer linking partners. These are websites and blogs that are related to your niche or industry but are not your direct competitors. It’ll be a lot easier to find a willing linking partner if they’re not directly competing with you. These businesses should ideally be small-to-medium size and approachable, not large blogging networks with an army of writers and administrators.
Once you start to get a handle on who those businesses are, you’ll want to start putting together search keywords that will return results from these websites that relate to your content. Long-tail keywords are best as they usually result in more “diverse” search results, that is, a richer array of small and large blogs and websites.
Let me give you an example to illustrate:
I sell SEO services primarily. I had recently written an article about Content Marketing being the Superman of SEO and wanted to build some links to it.
So what I needed to find where businesses that were jazzed about blogging and content marketing (likely businesses that sell content marketing services to other businesses) but weren’t in the SEO business. I also needed to be sure that they at least had an awareness that blogging and SEO go together and write about that in their content.
To make sure I got the results I wanted, I included a nifty little search operator called intext:.
What the intext: operator does is make sure that whatever you include after the operator will appear in the body text of the pages in the search results. I will use this to target the word “SEO” (I could also include another intext: operator and write “search”, as some people use the term ‘Search Engine Optimization’ in place of ‘SEO’).
Here’s what I came up with:
Pretty simple but this keyword does three things:
1) It targets the right intent. This is a likely keyword that my related industry would write about to attract their target customers: small businesses who are considering blogging and perhaps hiring outside help to do this.
2) It includes the word “small business”. I’m hoping to reach out to smaller blogs for links so this should help target smaller business blogs and websites.
3) It ensures, by using the intext: operator, that the results that come back will have ‘SEO’ or ‘search’ in their body text (remember, my article is primarily based on the SEO benefits of blogging).
A few more tips
You may find the results you get back aren’t exactly on point and you may have to refine your search term as you go. Here are a few pointers that will help you refine your keyword:
- Add more intext: operators to refine your search.
- Use negative inurl: and intitle: operators to weed out unwanted results. For example, I would add -inurl:blog and -intitle:SEO (note the minus signs) to remove blog index pages and page titles that might compete with my business. These pages don’t give me the kinds of results I want, so I don’t want to see them.
- Re-order your main keyword. For instance, instead of why small business should blog use why blogs are important small business.
- Websites that are resource or forum-based are great candidates as they deal primarily in content, as opposed to small business websites that have a blog. You can even try including additional search operators like inurl:forum, inurl:resources, inurl:blog which makes sure that those terms appear in the page URL.
Here’s another example where I changed up the main keyword:
The Importance of Fresh Content
Before we move on to step two, there is one more adjustment you will want to make to your search results.
In the ‘tools’ submenu, select the time frame of the results you want to see to be within the past week or past month.
The reason this is important is because we want to make sure we are reaching out to active blogs and authors. An article that’s a couple years old may no longer be maintained in the same way a newer article would be. Also, an older article may already be well established and getting a fresh link from an article such as this will prove more difficult, not to mention tracking down the author and convincing them to revise an old article.
Fresh content is where it’s at because it’s still early in its lifecycle and so is the perfect time to reach out and try to get that link.
Once you’ve figured out the search query that returns the types of results you want to see – small-to-medium size, approachable blogs and websites – and you’ve tuned the search results to only deliver the freshest content, you’ll have oodles of great options at your disposal.
Don’t underestimate this step! It’s the foundation for the rest of the technique to follow.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to step 2.
Step 2 – Digging Deeper
Once you’ve discovered the search terms that return to you subject-specific articles from non-competing websites, it’s time to narrow down the results a little bit more.
To help with this, we will install a tool in the browser like MozBar. MozBar only works in Chrome and displays the Domain Authority and Page Authority of each search result (the Domain Authority is essentially the overall “rank” of the website. The higher the number, the higher the rank). This will help us to target domains with high enough Domain Authorities that a link from them would give us a significant SEO boost.
A note about MozBar: MozBar can be a little buggy and unresponsive at times. You may need to fiddle with it a little by turning it on and off and refreshing the page before it displays the right metrics. This isn’t ideal and hopefully, the people at Moz will address this little hiccup soon.
Here’s the MozBar in action:
As this technique is designed to be a consistent approach to getting backlinks, we are going to want to be selective about the websites we target. We want to find websites that aren’t so big that they’re unapproachable but that are big enough that a link from them will still carry significant SEO benefits.
Avoid sites with very high DA scores (sites above 80) as these sites often have strict content procedures and lots of moving parts. Although the rewards that come from receiving a backlink from these large sites can be huge, the odds of this happening are rather low and the amount of time it takes before you can successfully get the link approved from one of these sites can extend into the months. And we want results fast, right? 🙂
Instead, aim for websites with DA scores larger than yours but under 80. A link from a website such as this will still move the needle on your SEO. On top of that, these smaller websites will be easier to approach and thus easier to get a link from.
Now that we know the range of DA scores that we want to target, scan through the search results for a page with an acceptable DA score. Also, look at the Page Title and URL as these are quick ways to verify what keywords the article targets.
Remember: we want to find non-competing businesses and industries. If it looks like they sell what you sell, keep looking.
Also, keep an eye out for off-topic keywords. If you notice a lot of these, it might be a sign you have to go back to step 1.
For example, here’s a page title about Facebook being good for SEO:
Because the article I wrote is about the benefits of content creation for SEO, it won’t make sense to pitch my article to this website, as my article doesn’t mention anything about Facebook. Also, note the high DA rating. Doh!
Keep going until you find an article that looks like it would be a good fit for your content and has a reasonable DA score:
Once you’ve found a good candidate, it’s time to check out the anchor links on the page.
Reading the Anchor Links
A big part of this technique is finding articles with the right amount of links and the right amount of link diversity, i.e: a mixture of internal and external links.
An article with tons of links will be harder to squeeze another link out of (that is unless you spot a broken link you can take the place of).
Conversely, if there are no links on the page, this is also problematic and could mean that the website doesn’t follow good linking practices.
Small caveat: As an SEO, you are in a unique position to reach out to these link-less articles and to educate them on the benefits of linking, whether internally or externally, in their content. Keep this in mind if you choose to reach out to these websites.
The key here is finding blog posts with some links but that leave enough room in their content to link to your article.
It’s also important that you find articles with some degree of external links. External links on the page is a positive sign that the website or blog is open to linking out to third-party sites.
Finding these articles requires little more than opening and scanning a page for links. What you’re looking for is low to medium link density. This is a little hard to quantify but you’re looking for large areas of text with no links. If the page is full of links, move on. You want to see a few links but too many.
Once you’ve found a page with a low to medium link density, hover over a few of the links to see where they go. Are they internal or external links?
This whole process shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds per page.
Once you’ve found a page with the right amount of links and that links externally, move on to the next step.
Step 3 – Spotting Your Chance
By now, you should have a blog article with a decent DA score, that’s related to your article, that links out to other websites, and has space for some more links.
The next thing you want to do is locate your keyword on the page.
CTRL+F and type in your keyword (this is the word you used with intext: in your search query).
In my example, I would search ‘SEO’ or ‘search’ (for ‘Search Engine Optimization’, as some people refer to SEO as ‘search engine optimization’) to zero in on sections of the page that talk about search engine optimization, specifically. Once I do, I’ll check the surrounding text for links – or the lack thereof – and see if the surrounding content correlates to my article. In most cases, if you followed the steps up to now, this will be the case.
Sidenote: You might notice while doing this that you have a different article that pertains to a particular section of content that you’ve uncovered. In this case, you can use this opportunity to switch gears and pitch your other article!
The main idea here is you want to find sections of content that feature your keyword and relate to your article but don’t have many supporting links around them.
Here’s an example of what we want to see:
This area of content addresses the SEO benefits of blogging but doesn’t include any supporting links.
Here’s another example:
Here again, we see areas of text that address the subject of my content but that don’t have any anchor links supporting their idea!
This is exactly what we want to see: we have a part of the content that could benefit from a link – and you happen to have an article that you just wrote that’s about just that! Quality.
Hello? Is there anybody home?
Before we go any further, it’s a good idea to figure out how we’re going to contact the author of the article. If we can’t get ahold of the writer it’s gonna be really tough to get a link from them.
To do this, I use a tool at hunter.io. This tool is great because you can input a website and it’ll pop out all the emails it can find for that domain. Often times you’ll find the email address for the writer or other people in the organization you can include in your pitch.
Most of the time, you’ll find the email of the writer – but sometimes you won’t. Don’t worry, there are still avenues we can take.
In the meantime, make note of the email’s you do see. For instance, you’ll often see emails of prominent people in the organization or people in charge of overseeing content on the website. You’ll want to refer to these later when you start putting together your email.
Another avenue you can take is to use a tool like ContactOut, which only works with LinkedIn, to find contact emails and phone numbers.
If you don’t see the email of the primary writer in Hunter or with ContactOut on LinkedIn, check out the end of the blog article where often you’ll see a small bio and writer’s credit. Look for links to their author page or social media profiles. You might have to get a little creative here.
If, for all your efforts, you still can’t find the email of the principal author, you’ll just have to make it up! Take an educated guess. Seriously. Usually, you can get away with using the author’s name @ the domain address of the website, e.g: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The important thing is to give the appearance that we are trying to reach the author as, and in the spirit of complete transparency, we’ll be making the conscious decision to CC management on the email, too. That way, even if you don’t have the author’s email, you can still get the email out to someone in the organization who might be able to make our link-building dreams come true.
However, it’s in your best interest to get the author’s email. That’s because the author often has the most invested in the success of the blog article and if you’re reaching out to add value to the piece, the writer may become your best ally in helping you get that shiny new backlink.
Step 4 – The Pitch
By now, you should have a piece of content that represents a strong backlinking opportunity. You should also have the email address of the writer or others in the organization that can help your cause.
Now it’s time to give the article a good read.
The reason for this is because we will be contacting the writer about the article and we’ll want to have something to talk about in our pitch.
Go through the article and make note of what you like about it. Watch out for any typos that you can point the writer to (they’ll appreciate this), and also identify the section of content that you found to be a perfect spot for a link to your article. You’ll be referencing these things in your outreach email.
I use a canned script for the structure of my email but every email is unique to the author you’re writing to (shout out to Brian Dean for inspiring the format of the script).
Here’s what the script looks like:
We start the article by mentioning that we were looking around for information on the subject when we found their article and link to it by name.
Next, talk about an observation or something you learned and enjoyed about the article. Be specific and try to mirror their words.
Next, tell them that you noticed a section of content that doesn’t have any links and that you had just written a recent article that you thought might make a nice addition to their page as well as help support their content. Be sure to reference the section of the text you’re talking about.
Finally, include a link to your article.
End on a positive note and if you genuinely enjoyed their contribution, demonstrate this by sharing their article, following them on social media, and extending the idea of you contributing a link yourself. This will go a long way.
Here’s an actual email I’ve used:
Title the email “Your Article: [Name of the Article]” and put the author as the main recipient (remember, if you don’t have this address, take an educated guess).
CC on the email other people that you think should be aware of your link suggestion or people in the organization who oversee or manage website content.
Step by Step Summary:
Here’s a step by step recap of the Good Neighbor Linkbuilding Technique:
- Find a search term that targets non-competing websites that write about your subject matter indirectly. Set the search results to be no more than a month old.
- Use Mozbar (or a similar tool) to identify domains with healthy Domain Authority scores. Choose pages that have a DA score higher than yours and under 80.
- Scan the page for links and identify pages with low-to-medium link density. Verify that some links are external.
CTRL+Fto locate your keyword from step 1 and identify sections of content that do not have any supporting links surrounding it.
- Use Hunter.io to verify the email address of the author and others in the organization that relate to the content.
- Read the article making note of what you like as well as defining the section of the content you would like a link from.
- Use the example script above to write your pitch. Set the author as the main recipient of the email and CC other relevant people at the organization.
That’s the Good Neighbor Linkbuilding Technique!
The whole purpose of this technique is to increase your chances of getting a backlink by target non-competing industries and pitching an article to support content they’ve written.
We maximize the impact of the backlink by ensuring a strong Domain Authority score and verifying that the blog author links out to external websites.
We then reach with our compliments on the article and our suggestion to link to our related article.
I can’t guarantee this will always work but the odds are in your favor!
This technique is built upon finding the right keyword in step 1, so take your time to zero-in on the keywords that make the most sense.
You might even consider using a tool like Linkio to manage your anchor text when making requests for links. Linkio manages your links and gives useful recommendations for ranking better.
Remember to use some of the search operators I introduced above to refine your search term.
This is one of the most intensive parts of the technique but the rewards are countless articles that are perfect to reach out to for a link.
Being selective about domains with a good DA score and verifying that they actively link out to third-party websites improves your chances as well as the payoff you’ll get from earning a backlink.
Although this doesn’t take all the leg-work out of link building, it helps to ensure a higher success rate.
Try this technique out for yourself and let me know how it works out for you!