We all know that links are an essential part of SEO. Most of us also know how difficult it can be to earn those links.
You can probably understand.
I’m sure you remember spending countless hours trying to find the right people to contact, followed by hours of carefully crafting and sending your messages.
And then… silence. And you wonder what was wrong.
There are a variety of tools available for link building today.
They range from powerful aggregators that compile contact information for website owners, contributors, and editors, to a combination of old-school Google, email, and hard work, and everything in between.
Tools are great, but they are not a silver bullet. The fact is that such a thing does not exist.
Effective link building to earn the kind of links that will survive fluctuations in search algorithms requires the right tools combined with an effective strategy.
In this article, I’ll outline a strategy for using LinkedIn to:
- Identify potential link partners.
- Engage with them before outreach.
- Finally, request the link in a way that greatly increases your chances of success.
Identify Ideal Link Partners
Have you ever watched a war movie?
You might see troops carrying weapons and equipment, soldiers loading magazines, and even stealth special ops teams sneaking into the enemy position.
And you’re sure to see enough wild gunfights, fast-moving vehicles, and explosions to make even Michael Bay drool uncontrollably.
But while we all focus on the exciting parts of the battle, we rarely see the extensive planning that would have been required to complete this mission.
Frankly, it’s because this part is not very exciting. But it is this planning that determines the success or failure of a mission.
Planning will also determine the success or failure of your link building campaigns.
So we first want to use LinkedIn to identify people who can and want to link to our website.
There are two ways to do this.
Looking for known opportunities
The first is to connect with people associated with specific websites.
This means that you first identify the websites you want a link from and then use LinkedIn to find people associated with those websites. This could include:
- The owners
- People who have already been featured or interviewed on the website
It works for commercial, educational, and even government websites.
In fact, I recently used this approach to track down the single person responsible for the website of a particular large government agency. (This person’s title on LinkedIn did not indicate their role, so this case required a unique approach.)
Your situation and goals will determine who is the best person(s) to communicate with here.
For example, if your goal is to become a contributor, you’ll usually want to connect with the editor. If your goal is to earn a mention and a link, you might want to connect with a contributor or the webmaster.
In the real world, you rarely have the opportunity to take a direct path, so you will often need to connect with multiple people in order to eventually connect with the right person and achieve your goal.
The first step is to search by “People” in the search box at the top of LinkedIn. This option will appear once you place your cursor in the search box. Just click on it.
The next step is to filter by “Current Companies” by entering the name of the post.
This will return a list of people associated with this post.
This list may not be complete and you may find people listed here who are not actually associated with the publication, so keep that in mind.
Identify new opportunities
The popular websites on your radar are most likely only a fraction of the relevant, high-quality websites available in your industry. While you should definitely work to earn links from these websites, you shouldn’t overlook the newer or smaller ones.
LinkedIn can be used to find some of these websites that other tools may not identify.
Now you might be thinking, “Why should I waste my time with these newer or smaller websites when there are already more popular ones out there?”
There are two reasons for this. First, they are often fruits at hand. In many cases, you can earn more links with less effort when you focus on these websites.
Second, some of these websites will eventually become just as popular as the ones everyone is focusing on today. When this happens, the links pointing to your website will become more powerful, and since you will already have an established relationship, you can continue to earn new links from these websites more easily.
Rather than looking for people associated with a particular website, you’ll be looking for people in a particular industry and people posting content on particular topics.
This approach has an advantage that is actually disguised as a disadvantage. The upside is that since it can be a lot of work, fewer competitors will go to the effort of using this approach.
This is more labor intensive because not everyone you find will have a relevant website to link from. You will have to manually visit each profile to see if there might be a fit. This creates an opportunity to earn valuable links that your competitors have overlooked.
You’ll start the same way you did when searching by posts, but this time you’ll enter a topic in the search box, hit enter, and then click “Content.”
This will return a wide variety of message types, including people sharing useful information, job postings, and a fair amount of garbage. But many of those people will have a website relevant to yours. presenting potentially useful linking opportunities.
Engage with potential link partners
Now that we’ve identified who might be linking to our website, it’s time to act.
It can be tempting to start sending predefined direct messages to everyone in a misguided attempt to maximize efficiency.
Do not do that.
Even though cold pitches on LinkedIn seem like the hot new trend these days, it’s just a very effective way to piss off a lot of people in a very short time.
Instead, treat it like any other relationship. Start by engaging with them in a meaningful way.
This can mean liking and commenting on their posts, and if that makes sense for your personal network, maybe sharing their posts.
You can even tag them in posts where other people are asking questions they might have answered or researching the products or services they offer.
I’d like to note that if you’re linking on behalf of a client rather than yourself, you can use their LinkedIn profile for this as long as you and they fully understand the ramifications.
You really need to understand their industry and their voice or you risk long-term damage to their reputation and personal brand.
The idea here is to first build a relationship based on adding real value over a period of time long before asking for a link.
It is critical really focus on adding value.
This means that you should ignore the “Great article!” type of comments. Anyone can see through this and it’s a complete waste of time and energy.
Instead, invest the time to post an actual background comment. Talk about what you learned from their message or how it applies to a specific situation. Offer additional information to support their position. Or, if you can do it tactfully, you can even present a counter argument.
Sharing their posts with your opinion on the main takeaways is another great approach, but it’s important to clearly articulate what you found useful in their post. Just sharing it without background context will ring hollow.
And as I mentioned earlier, tagging them where someone is asking a question they are uniquely qualified to answer, or where someone needs their products or services goes a long way in developing a strong relationship.
To ask win this link
Now comes the point we’ve all been waiting for…
Request this juicy link.
The requested part is really just the culmination of all the hard work you’ve put in so far to earn it. But even then, it needs to be handled with finesse because if you fumble here, all that effort will have been wasted.
Think about this phase the same way you would any face-to-face business relationship.
You probably know what your friends are up to, right? You know what events they plan to attend in the near future.
You know what they’ve been talking about lately. And you might even know what articles they write or plan to write.
The same goes for your contacts on LinkedIn. if you pay attention.
All of this can be useful information to create a link-earning opportunity because you can find a way to insert a link to your website into what they are working on.
For example, suppose a contact is writing an article about how a new law affects their industry.
If you (or your client) have already written an article that supports their position and have built a relationship by genuinely engaging with them over time, sharing that article as a possible resource to quote will often result in a link .
You can also take a more proactive approach by asking people what topics they plan to write about in the near future, or depending on your relationship, you can even suggest certain topics you already have available to them.
Featured image: edited by author, September 2019
All screenshots taken by author, September 2019