Imagine waking up one day and realizing that everything you thought you knew about link prospecting was a lie.
Well, maybe that’s not too far from the truth.
Do you think I’m kidding?
Unfortunately, I am not.
And I have data to prove it.
Brian Dean, an internationally recognized SEO expert, published a study revealing that your outreach email only has an 8.5% chance of getting a response.
Now let’s do some math.
You send 1,000 emails and get around 80 responses, according to Dean’s estimate.
Not bad, you think?
Well, let’s go a little further.
For these 80 answers, you will have the chance to get 50 links.
In summary, 1,000 emails generate 50 links, or a 5% success rate.
Even 50 links can dramatically change your site’s ranking, depending on your industry. Usually, however, this is not the case.
As an example, in a screenshot below, you can see that the top ranking pages for link building have over 900 referring domains.
To get those 900 links, according to Dean’s estimate, you would need to send around 18,000 emails.
So if you’d rather learn a more effective method of link prospecting than sending out thousands of emails, this article is for you.
Why don’t current link prospecting approaches result in link flow?
When you think of link prospecting approaches, the first word that comes to mind is relevance.
Showcasing topics relevant to the blogs you want to collaborate with is always a good idea.
But what happens when you need to build links for various niches and customers? This is where it gets tricky.
There is no doubt that relevance always plays an important role.
But now it all comes down to relationships. Link building turns into relationship building.
Think about it:
Would you rather link to a stranger’s website or to a domain owned by someone with whom you have a close business relationship.
The answer is clear.
Building broken links works the same way.
We noticed that the link targets were neither responsive nor willing to allocate links to our featured posts.
I’m sure the reason for rejection and silence remains the same – lack of connection.
To note: this rule may not work for well-known sites that get links just because everyone knows and trusts them.
Approaches to link prospecting that bring in links faster and easier
During our email outreach campaigns, we discovered a distinct trend.
We got a lot more responses if, before sending an outreach email, we engaged with our link targets across different channels.
For example, we shared our target pitch content on client’s SMM channels or left meaningful comments on their blogs before contacting them.
A little goes a long way: such a small connection dramatically changed the response rate and the number of links acquired.
We thought: wouldn’t it be better to start building links? only with those who already had a positive attitude towards our customers?
This idea has become the basic principle of our link prospecting.
Now let me show you how we achieve this.
1. Build links through customers and followers
We create a list of all our clients’ website and newsletter subscribers to check if they run any blogs.
Among these subscribers, there are always many who are ready to collaborate on the link building side.
To make sure you are connecting to worthy websites, you can use the Ahrefs batch scan tool which allows you to scan up to 200 sites at once.
For each site analyzed, it extracts metrics such as domain rating, number of referring domains, and organic traffic into a single table:
This tool does not show if a site has a blog or content pages but the lack of organic traffic is a good indicator of the domain not investing in SEO.
Next, we check each website in BuzzSumo to see how many content pages have been added to it over the last few years. Websites that show a lot of new content are the ones we want to connect with.
2. Converting SMM subscribers to link targets
We look at the followers of our clients’ SMM accounts.
If you are in a B2B niche, you will find that some of your Twitter/LinkedIn followers are influencers who regularly contribute to blogs in your industry.
We use the Followerwonk tool to export Twitter followers into a spreadsheet that will show you their websites for further analysis:
Facebook groups are another gem. Unfortunately, LinkedIn and Facebook Company Pages don’t have a list of people who have already liked them.
One tip is to join your industry’s Facebook groups where you can see all the members even if you’re not friends with them:
As a bonus, it gives us a legitimate reason to connect with these members on LinkedIn and then discuss link building.
3. Build on the relationships you already have
Finally, we check the websites that link to our clients’ sites.
Our goal is to find guest bloggers who have mentioned or linked to our clients.
To check referring domains, you can use any backlink analysis tool (e.g. Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, CongnitiveSEO, SEMrush).
To track historical brand mentions, I typically use Moz, or you can also check out the Mention tool.
Stop writing terrible email pitches!
Our approach to link building goes far beyond simple link building, as our link partners are ready to work with us for the long term.
Companies that could develop relationships with 30-50 reliable partners will get as many links as they want.
Even though everyone is talking about the importance of personalization in email delivery, my mailbox is full of dreadful arguments.
I guess this happens because some well-known experts in their email outreach courses recommended not wasting time on personalizing your messages to sites that have a low domain rating.
For example, my site is around 50 DRs by Ahrefs, which I think is part of a bunch of losers who don’t deserve to receive a well-presented pitch. However, I know a lot of well-known experts with DR even below 30.
You never know if a poorly written email will backfire on you in the future.
If you get off on the wrong foot with someone, chances are tomorrow they’ll share that sloppy talk with their 10,000 friends on LinkedIn or Twitter and tag your company’s CEO.
So I highly recommend you to think twice before sending mass emails to random people.
Think of bond building as a long-term relationship.
Featured Image: Created by author, June 2019
All screenshots taken by author, June 2019