Beginning SEO and link building can be a daunting, yet satisfyingly challenging experience. For my very first post on Builtvisible I want to share some of these things that I have learned on my short journey thus far.
1. The outreach email
I find it surprising to hear from various site owners and blog editors that they still receive blanketed emails that are clearly written with no thought of the recipient in mind. The difference between sending out a standard template to X amount of contacts, and going the extra mile to personalise emails to your high priority sites will affect your outcome greatly. However, there is no one way in how to write the perfect outreach email. It purely depends on your motifs and the type of site you want to gain a link from.
Analyse your targeted high authority sites for relevant elements which you can include in your email. Scope out the language used (and speak that same language in your email), check out the authors/writers – what are their interests? What stories have they written? Target the one(s) whose stories and interests are relevant to your query, or who you can better relate to. Go a little further and voice worthy (and positive) opinions on one of their articles, but be genuine.
2. Nichify your content
When you look at your initial content ideas, and compare them to the list of blogs with which you are intending that content to be placed, you need to closely consider what content is right for whom. Say you have a list of motoring blogs that you plan on contacting for your idea titled ‘10 best sports cars ever’. This idea may be ignored or rejected on the basis that it is too broad in context, and has probably been covered ten times before.
However, if you niche that idea down and work out variations of the same title for contextually relevant blogs, you can essentially multiply your outreach potential. Let’s say one of the websites is a blog about classic cars. ‘10 best sports cars of the 60’s’ might work, but that may still be too broad for that niche. So why not turn that into:
‘10 best car designers from the 60s’
‘10 best classic Jags pre-21st century’
Now, going back to the original idea of ‘10 best sports cars ever’, look at sites outside of the motoring niche that you could tie this idea into. For example, let’s take a British lifestyle site: you could keep that original idea but alter it slightly to10 best British sports cars ever’, or for a film blog – ‘10 best classic sports car chases’… And so on.
For a more comprehensive insight into honing your content for niche blogs and sites, I highly recommend reading Dan’s post on Link Acquisition & Contextual Relevancy [Part 1]
3. List bait
Amongst all those ideas you’ve no doubt got some lists in your content itinerary. Now you just need a somewhere to host it. Think of the typical way in which the titles of lists are written and include that in your search query.
intitle:“Top 10 best”
intitle:“Top 10 worst”
intitle:“Top 10 weirdest”
intitle:“10 things you didn’t know”
Optionally, you can include the keyword(s) related to your idea in the search query in order to get inspired, see what topics work, and what sites they work on.
eg. keyword + intitle:“top 10 weirdest”
Additionally, try changing intitle with inurl. You’ll find that you receive completely different results. Don’t rely on the number 10 either – change the value and even swap the numeric symbols for the actual wording.
You can use the results you gather from the SERP’s in a number of different ways.
- Scope out new sites for your content outreach
- Find fresh ideas for new content
- Use an idea from an existing list and turn it into an article
Pretty much every site which is maintained editorially will have published some sort of list feature in the past. Best of all, if you get it right, this type of content can go seriously viral.
4. Utilizing social bookmarking and community news sites
Google certainly reigns supreme in the virtual ether, but it isn’t the only thing you should be optimizing when it comes to finding ways of driving more traffic to your site. An obvious method for gaining traffic outside of Google is to utilize social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, there are a ton of other social/community based sites to get involved with and are perfect for content driven/editorial sites.
If you have produced content which has viral potential then utilize community based sites such as Reddit, Digg, Fark or even niche ones, such as Hacker News. If you have high karma or a worthy following on such sites then you could use those credentials as an incentive for extra traffic, depending on the authority of the blog you are trying to gain a link from.
5. Embedding URL’s into third party rich media content
Rich media sites such as Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr and Tableau are perfect for placing your own URL into the embeddable codes supplied by the these sites. In order to make this possible you must first have the video embedded on your own site, or your client’s site. But what you really want is an iframe underneath the video which features the embeddable coding, so that it is effectively shareable.
To do this, simply create a textarea in html format and copy the embedded coding into it. Then, to be extra clever, create another textarea that features the embeddable coding to go inside the embeddable coding with your original textarea. This means that whenever anyone embeds your content on their site, an iframe is automatically included, creating something which, as Will Critchlow quite rightly put it, is “kind of like Inception”.
This is a slightly cheeky little tip, but nevertheless a great one. My personal belief is that, as long as the link back to the rich media hosting site remains then that’s fair practice.
6. Sites to approach with caution
In the endless search for decent sites to obtain a juicy link from, the line between a quality site and a not-so-quality site can often become blurred. There are culminating factors which help an SEO to decipher what sites are worth persevering with however. Sometimes it’s a case of following your gut feeling, or being able to notice the tell-tale signs straight away. Then sometimes you need to delve a little deeper. From my personal experience, here are some signifiers to look out for.
An obvious thing to look out for, but at the same time, how many times have you come across a site which has a high number of root domain links but a low page rank. Usually a sign that a site with these type of metrics has an unsavoury backlink profile.
Dig deep into your site and check that the deep level/sub category pages are being indexed. Simply copy the URL of any deep level page (especially a recent blog post), paste it into Google’s search bar and check the results (or lack of).
Content farms / spam sites
Especially with the emergence of the Panda Update, content farms, or sites which are operating amongst part of a network should be avoided at all costs. Common signifiers of a content farm will include:
- Automated content
- Duplicate/scraped content
- Non-unique content
- OTT level of links in body copy
- High volume of links to one site
- Irrelevant pop-ups
- Irrelevant ads (especially those selling the V-word and anything else which promises to miraculously improve your love life, or physical appearance)
Look out for link placements on the homepage, footer and blogroll, which bare no contextual relevance. Even if the link is relevant to a site’s niche, e-commerce sites of any nature that are being linked to without any apparent motive for being there will in many cases be paid for. On the other hand, some editorially focused blogs may sometimes link to other blogs in their niche. This could be a sign of link love, etiquette for each other or they are operating under the same umbrella, and are not to be confused with paid links or a content farm. As long as each of those sites are producing unique content then search engines will see them as genuine. Ultimately, it is a case of being diligent and using your own judgement.
Hosted subdomain sites
“Whoa, this site has one million plus root domain links!” Except it doesn’t. Sites hosted by WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr etc. which still have their default sub domains intact aren’t worth the bother. Search engines will value a subdomain site in the same way as a normal site based on its individual content and own backlink profile, even though the metrics represent that of the parent site (blog host). Because of this you have no real idea of an individual site’s true metrics and rankings.
Date of last post
This is something which I’ve overlooked a few times, but, at the same time, an easy thing to look out for. On top of this, you should also make a note of the frequency in which posts are being published. If the date of each post is significantly far apart from each other then search engines won’t be caching those sites on a regular basis. This will ultimately affect ranking factors and indexation.
7. Use your team
The world of SEO is very much a community, and your workplace should be no different. Whether you’ve hit a brick wall for ideas or had a “eureka” moment, you’re team should know about it.
SEO is forever evolving, and throwing ideas around is all part and parcel of the game. Don’t be afraid of saying something ‘dumb’ either – everyone was a beginner once.