You did it. You wrote your ultimate ‘skyscraper’ guide. You may have even created an infographic.
You are all set to get tons of links to your content.
You start promoting your linkbait article following the best recommendations out there…
But something is not quite right.
All your links are hard to get. The response rate is not great. People aren’t as open as you hoped they’d be. In other words, you are grasping at straws with your link building efforts.
What if I tell you the problem is with following the best recommendations out there?
Read on to see—the most popular piece of advice is not always the best piece of advice.
Link building mistakes that cost you links
At LinkBuilder.io, we send a lot of outreach emails on a daily basis. We always try new strategies and follow popular pieces of advice. In this article, I’m going to share my thoughts and experience when some of the most popular link building recommendations just didn’t work.
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Tip #1: Check for outbound links before outreach
The first thing you do for any link building campaign is finding link targets. There are lots of recommendations on how to make a list of great targets, usually based on the website’s DA, DR, page rank, their activity, the date of the last post published etc.
I agree that all of these matters. But there is one more recommendation that is a bit controversial in my opinion.
This advice is to check for outgoing links.
I’m sure you’ve seen this before. For example, Moz in their article here mention that before reaching out to the website, you should check to see if they have shared or linked to similar content before.
Usually, you would have to check either the overall number of outgoing links of the domain or the outgoing links in the exact URL you’re going to target. You’ve got the green light if the website is linking to other articles in their piece.
Now let’s have a look at this article by Human Proof Design. If you check all of the links, you will see that ALL of them are internal except for one. This one external link is a link to my article on broken link building. You can see it here:
So following the standard recommendation, I should have left this page and found something more appropriate. But I decided to take my chances. I got in touch and won us a link. It was a relatively easy win because I noticed that they were linking to an outdated guide about broken link building from another website. I suggested linking to my fresh version, and they were open to doing it.
If I had been following best practice, I may have deleted this URL from the list because of the low chance to get a link considering the overall number of external links.
My point here is that sometimes you just have to try. I’m not saying you have to start sending millions of emails to websites who don’t look like a good match for you now. But in some cases, rules are meant to be broken.
Tip #2: Always personalize your emails
The success of your content marketing depends heavily on the way you communicate with other people—especially in emails.
One of the top recommendations is to personalize your emails. For instance, SEJ name the failure to personalize as one of the huge link-building mistakes. And Dunja Lazic shares secrets of email personalization for a successful cold emails campaign in her very popular article on Medium.
Usually, personalization advice includes the following:
- Find what your targets like
- Find what they are stressed about
- What political leaders do they follow?
- What books do they read?
- What do they find funny?
Before I continue, I’d like to clarify that I’m not talking about super basic things like your target’s first name. It goes without saying that you must do this. But executing the described personal research may not be necessary at all.
On the contrary, it may sound intrusive. Just imagine, you are writing to someone you’ve never seen or talked to and you already know their favourite book or their dog’s name. It sounds weird.
When personalizing your emails, what you should be aiming for is a natural approach. What can you talk about to a person you don’t know?
Well, why not.
In fact, we used the comment on weather as an icebreaker in one of our emails and got an impressive response rate of 41%.
The comment was relevant since we sent those emails last winter when it was really cold and snowy in the UK. We mentioned that in our emails for people from the UK, saying, “Hopefully, winter isn’t too chilly for where you are 😉,” and it became a perfect icebreaker for our conversation.
My point here is that we before writing extremely personalized emails, always ask yourself—what would I think if I receive such an email? Am I staying clear of being intrusive?
Tip #3: Prepare article ideas for your guest posting pitch
Guest posting is one of the most powerful strategies for content marketing. And I’d like to discuss the part when you are working on a template for your guest post pitch.
Usually, the ideal guest post template would include:
- Intro and icebreaker – fun joke or personalized comment
- Getting to the point – the reason for writing
- Article ideas – closing remarks
I’d like to talk about article topic ideas.
According to both SEMrush and Quicksprout (and a lot of other websites), you should include well-researched topic ideas in your email template. From my experience, this is not necessary at all. What you may do instead is show examples of your previous writing or describe your expertise.
IF the website is interested in your work, you can then do thorough research on the best topic suggestion for them.
Why does it matter?
It’s time-saving. Imagine you plan to pitch 30 websites for a guest post opportunity. You’ll start with great topic ideas for one website and then move to another. More than likely, you’ll run out of ideas and inspiration by the 10th pitch. (I’m assuming you aren’t using a one-fits-all strategy and sending the same topic ideas to all websites.)
What I suggest instead is getting in touch first. Normally, you would receive 10–15 replies from 30 emails. Out of those 10–15 replies, even fewer may be free options. Let’s say you end up with 5 great opportunities.
Now, you only have to suggest article ideas to the 5 websites interested in working with you. This way, you save time and you can come up with higher quality ideas. In fact, that’s the approach I used when I wrote to Kathryn about guest posting here. And I used this template to get in touch:
My point here is that you should be open to trying new ways of doing things. Follow and analyse the recommendations, of course. They are written by smart people for smart people. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to do something differently. That’s exactly how new strategies appear.
To conclude, I’d like to say that content marketing and link building are always evolving. And it is our task to be able to adjust, create and share new perspectives with the world.
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About the Author: Erika is a senior strategist at Linkbuilder.io. She believes in high-quality link building, reads tons of books and waits for a new season of Game of Thrones.