How to Do Linkbuilding Outreach in 2020
If you ask me what my favorite part of optimizing for search is in 2020 (or before), you won’t find link building anywhere near the top of the list.
I say that as someone who has built thousands of links and who’s written multiple how to do linkbuilding outreach blog posts.
I created my first Website in August 1996. I was a CompuServe user and to combat the threat of the Internet they gave all their users 1 megabyte of disk space. No, that didn’t seem like a lot of disk space to me at the time, either.
Fortunately, their Website builder app was appallingly simple. Almost all you could do with it was set up some basic HTML documents so 1 megabyte was adequate for a few text pages.
On the up-side, there weren’t many Websites in 1996 and mine enjoyed a steady stream of visitors and earned some links. Back then people linked to Websites because they were so hard to find and so rare that anyone sharing a link was doing everyone else a favor.
You Can Build Links in 3 Ways
- Place links on your own Websites
- Place links on other people’s Websites
- Ask other people to place links on other sites for you
It’s amazing how many ways people have found to overcomplicate these strategies.
Worse, the aggressive Web marketing community has left a trail of broken Website services in their paths. The unquenchable thirst for more links than the next guy led to an explosion of bad, short-lived link building ideas.
Along the way many good ideas were burned into spam by people who didn’t want to do it right; they just wanted to do it fast.
And now, after 15 years, Google has taken away the only barrier between a built link and a manual action:
They no longer religiously adhere to the “nofollow” part of the nofollow link attributes and robots meta directives.
Thank you, Google. The Web was confusing enough before you decided to cloud everyone’s judgment even further.
I Used to Build 1000s of Links Every Month
If you dig, you’ll find a few comments on the Web explaining that I build links through PBNs.
“That’s not entirely accurate,” as James Rebhorn said in the movie Independence Day.
10 years ago I changed positions at a (now-defunct) company that (at the time) offered reputation management services to high-end clients (billionaires and Fortune 500 companies).
I built a link network for them (unlike any you have seen – and, no, I wouldn’t build it today). We also used Fantomaster’s 10 Links a Day network. We were one of their largest customers, publishing 1000s of articles per month on their network. In my defense, I insisted they be written in ways no one else was writing (spinning) their content.
Link spam is inefficient. I’ve always said that. It doesn’t work nearly as well as you want it to and doesn’t last nearly as long as you need it to.
Whenever we brought a client on board, the first thing I did was ask them for a list of Websites they controlled. We were often able to achieve remarkable results just by suggesting optimization and content strategies using their own existing brand sites.
And then there were the clients who wanted us to work our magic without writing any content or linking to any of their sites …
I was relieved – when given the opportunity to switch to another team in that company – to leave the link networks behind me. By the time Google was rolling out Penguin 1.0 in April 2012, Matt Cutts told me his team was curious about which link networks I was using.
“Fortunately,” I told him, “I’ve been out of that business for quite some time.”
Yes, I Have Written Guest Blog Posts
After Google’s Penguin algorithms began taking down popular link blog networks, people turned to guest posting. I wrote guest posts for Websites in the 1990s – back when we were helping each other build online communities and people didn’t think in terms of “I need links to manipulate the search results [until I get a manual action and have to stop]”.
I also wrote guest posts for Web forums in the 2000s. I thought I was just being an insufferable know-it-all but you could visit the forums where I hung out and read a few short comments and then send out for lunch and dinner while you dove into one of my legendary discussions.
On a good day I could turn out 50-100 forum posts on a variety of topics.
Because I was passionate about what I was saying.
Out of respect for forum owners (I have managed my own forums since 1997), I rarely embed links in my forum posts, and when I do I make them the best, most useful and relevant links I can.
I do this because it’s the right thing to do.
I don’t do it for money.
But I’m not writing 50-100 forum posts a day anymore, either.
The key takeaway here is that a “guest post” isn’t necessarily what you think it is.
It’s NOT you bypassing my spam rules and sending me a message via the SEO Theory blog notification email list subscription email, offering to write articles for a low price so that you can link back to some clueless customer’s Website.
In my opinion (based on 21+ years’ experience of creating content for the Web), if you’re going to write anything other than a snarky comment on someone else’s site, you should leave a useful, thoughtful, or helpful and informative comment.
Help someone with what you say.
If you can persuade me to crawl out of my high-mindedness to write a guest post about some topic, I’ll do everything in my power to make it an amazing piece of content that helps someone.
I may not always succeed, but I always try.
Reflective Dynamics Provides Link Building Services to Clients
When people ask us what we do, we tell them we provide audits, content, consulting (we answer questions in detail and on demand), and we provide link building.
But we advise our clients NOT to violate search engine guidelines.
After all, there are 3 basic ways to build links, and you don’t have to violate search engine guidelines to use any of those strategies.
My partner, Randy Ray, manages our content and link outreach team. I asked him to provide me with some talking points he’d like to share with the world about how our team helps clients bring in links.
And here is what Randy asked me to say. I’ve put his words into italics.
- We specialize in a sniper approach rather than a shotgun approach. The emails we send out are highly personalized.
Depending on your industry, Randy will look for Websites that are most likely to link to good content that sites like yours should (in our opinions) be publishing. The outreach focuses on sites that are less likely to link to spammy guest blog posts.
And we don’t use software to spew links across “tier x sites”.
- We get a higher conversion rate for our emails because they’re insanely personalized and have a sense of humor. We never use templated emails.
When Randy Ray says he never used a templated email, he means he doesn’t copy and paste text into a form and hope the software remembers to inject someone’s name into the right spot.
Randy gives his outreach specialists guidance in the form of rules and suggestions. The rules are a standard set of “do and don’t” requirements. The suggestions are customized to the client’s need, the content we’re promoting, and (if necessary) to the sites that Randy has selected for outreach.
- Our goal is to create relationships with other website owners rather than just getting a link. We prefer to get multiple links from a site over time rather than just getting a single link and never talking to the site owner again.
This is a classic strategy for both me and Randy. We each learned to leverage our Web relationships through our own experience. Yes, I’ve spammed.
But we both prefer honest, editorially bestowed links where you don’t even have to ask. The other people link to your content because they know you and they trust what you say.
Can Randy’s team do this for clients?
It comes down to your patience and commitment. It helps a lot when you content that is worth mentioning somewhere.
Which leads me to …
- We like to create specific content for clients’ sites aimed at getting a link from specific, high-value targets.
I couldn’t say it better myself. If you’re going to do outreach, then outreach begins with the content for which you’re reaching out. If you believe deep in your heart and soul that you must pay random strangers to let you write guest blog posts for links, then maybe that content isn’t as great as you’re claiming it is.
Content can always be improved. If it’s not earning links, even with a little nudge from our team, we’ll take another look at it.
- We also like to contribute professionally written content for blog guest posts. Our content is better than anyone else’s in this business.
I stand by Randy’s statement.
But if you’re assuming we’re out there knocking on contact forms with a linky guest post in one hand and a few dollars in the other, that isn’t how we do things around here.
The First rule of Great Guest Posting is to write a great article – that means you put the other site’s needs and audience first.
We don’t want our clients or the people who accept our content to receive unwelcome manual action notices from the search engines.
- Our outreach specialists are native English speakers from the United States.
There are some great English language writers in every country of the world.
But none of them have applied to work with Randy’s writing and outreach teams. At the end of the day our clients expect us to compose and communicate in a reasonable American idiom, and Randy decided to put our best foot forward on the point.
And – believe me – if you ask him, Randy will tell you without hesitation that in his experience most Americans are terrible writers. It hasn’t been easy for him to find and keep a great team of writers, but they do a fantastic job.
- Our approach includes follow-up emails to prospects.
How important are follow ups, anyway?
It takes time to earn someone’s trust to the point where they’ll write back to you. If you’re going too talk about building relationships you might as well mean it. At least, that is how I feel. Someone who helps you with a link today may help you with another link in a few months, or even a couple years down the road.
You can send out a lot of emails to strangers asking them for links, but the more friends you have with Websites who are looking for great content to write about or publish, the easier it is to work out something that helps them while they help you.
- We have a combined 30+ years of experience doing link outreach.
Whether you care how many years Randy, I, and his team have in asking for links, the point is we’re not new to this game. Many of the techniques that other people are selling courses for are things we learned to do the hard way and from mentors who have since left the game.
And I should add that most of what I’ve learned about link building came from people who just shared really cool ideas with me.
Well, I can honestly say that Eric and I had a few discussions along the way but Randy actually learned much of his craft from the man. Eric had a gift for finding great links and we miss his sense of humor, his wisdom and experience, and his reasonable point of view on the art of building links.
I’ll let Randy have the last word on how we build links for clients:
We never pay for links or suggest to our clients that they buy links.