Link building is the cornerstone of any serious SEO strategy. If you want rankings, then an ongoing program of acquiring links from high authority sites is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, there is plenty of outdated information on link building strategies available on the internet. One of the most common link building techniques is link outreach, where you manually solicits links by emailing the editors or publishers of relevant websites. When done correctly, outreach can be a highly effective method for acquiring links. However, the manual nature of link outreach makes it a time consuming exercise, and many people look for shortcuts. This is understandable, but cutting corners can lead to lazy practices that sometimes verge on spam. If you want your link building to be successful, it needs to be done with respect and care. Here are five of the most common mistakes I see when people making when conducting link outreach.
1. Using a Generic Email Template
When you start a link outreach campaign, what’s the first thing you do? If you said “Google an outreach email template,” you’d be wrong. Unfortunately, many people will simply copy and paste an email template they found online that looks something like this: Hi John, I was just browsing the articles on your site and noticed a great piece on [topic X]. Really informative. I happen to be working on a piece titled [headline] that I think would be a great fit for your site. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send over a draft. Best, DaveThe problem with this approach is that there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of people just like you doing this every day. Emails just like this pile up in webmasters’ inboxes every day. And guess what? They’re not even going to notice yours.Instead of copying and pasting, craft something genuine based on what you know about the person you’re emailing. Starting a real conversation is the best way to get a response.
2. Boring or Spammy Subject Lines
Email subject lines are vitally important if you want people to notice (and open) your emails. Phoning it in just won’t cut it. Don’t try to be clever. Simple subject lines that get straight to the point often work best. I prefer to research the person I’m emailing and find a common interest, perhaps an article they’ve written or a comment they’ve posted on Facebook, and mention it in the subject line. For example, say the person you are emailing runs a surfing website that also has a linked private Facebook page. A subject line like “quick question re: private facebook surfing group” is more likely to be opened than a subject line like “Guest post for surfing.com?” Remember, you want to get their attention, so starting off with a topic they are interested in is always recommended. Approaching them on a social media site like Twitter and Facebook can also be a great way to avoid getting lost in their inbox. Reply to one of their posts and start up a conversation, then casually mention you’d like to contribute to their site.
3. Not Following Up
Link outreach can be tough, but if you want results, you’ve got to stick at it. If your first email is ignored, don’t give up. Most people get hundreds of emails per day. If they don’t respond to your email immediately, it’s likely to be lost in their inbox. A follow up email can be that little push they need to email you back. Send your follow up around a week after your first email. If you don’t get a response, move on. Sending three or more emails starts to get annoying, and it’s important to be respectful of the people you are contacting. You may pitch the site again at some point in the future, and if they’ve had a bad experience with you before, your chances being published will be even lower.
4. Offering to Buy Links
Paying for links is always a bad idea. While it might seem easier to simply pay someone to link to your site, you are basically asking for Google to slap you with a penalty. You might get away with paying for links for months or even years but eventually Google will catch up with you. It might be an algorithm update that catches you out, it might be a penalty, or it may be too many low-quality links that finally tanks your rankings. Even if your paid links seem to have high authority, Google is likely aware that the sites linking to you accept payment for links. If you’re serious about running a long term, sustainable business, stick to organic link building.
5. Offering Mediocre Content
Securing a link is one thing. Getting your content published once you’ve been accepted is another. If you’ve promised someone high-quality content, make sure you deliver on that promise. There’s nothing worse to a publisher than a writer who promises the world and then delivers a pile of nonsense. Gone are the days when you could get away with badly written listicles and rush-job articles because people were desperate for content. People want good content, and they want it from someone serious. You’re not being smart by trying to game the system. If you’re going to do something, do it properly. Put serious thought into your piece, and make sure it is relevant to the site and adds value. Don’t try to frame yourself as an expert on a topic you know nothing about. Be genuine and honest, and you will reap the benefits. Link building is a long term project that takes patience and diligence. It may seem difficult at first, but avoid the temptation to take shortcuts, focus on creating quality content, and only seek links from trusted sites and you will soon see your efforts returned in rankings and traffic. For more great link building tips, check out my interview with Julie Joyce on the Marketing Speak podcast.
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