When it comes to organic search I’m 99% sure everyone in the industry will agree that building links is the trickiest element of SEO. Even if you put together a STUNNING strategy with surefire tactics, luck still plays a huge role in whether you build links back to your brand’s site.
Building links is harder than ever. Gone are the days you could use sneaky [AKA black hat] tactics to build links, Google will penalise you for that and if you marry this up with the fact the news agenda is WILD, smashing or even just hitting KPIs is really hard.
For Digital PRs, dreaming up, creating and launching a creative campaign is arguably the best and most fun part of our jobs. There is nothing quite like seeing a campaign secure gorgeous, gorgeous links after weeks of perfecting it.
Reactives, the fiery little sister of creative campaigns, is also an element of digital marketing that everyone gets excited about. It’s fast paced, adrenaline filled and competitive. There is nothing quite like throwing your business into the day’s breaking news with an expert comment or saucy stat AND building a link off the back of that super speedy work – it’s totally divine.
But what if you spend the majority of your month’s budget on an all singing, all dancing campaign… and it flops? What if your brand spokesperson isn’t quick enough to sign off reactive ideas or the CEO is too nervous to react to the news agenda? You still need to build links that month and fast.
So I have been around the DPR block a while and there are a few link building tactics I have learnt along the way that I keep in my back pocket and can always rely on to build links if all else fails. Sure, they aren’t good fun and definitely not sexy. Instead they are that reliable [teeny bit boring] friend who is always there to support you, you just probably don’t want to go on a night out with them or sit next to them on a long journey.
SO, here’s 5 ways to build links without a campaign or reactive op in sight.
This isn’t a super quick tactic but 9/10 times it works really well. For this, you need to make a list of key employees within your business. They don’t necessarily have to be c-suite employees, but if they have interesting roles that helps massively. Reach out to the list and confirm who went to university and ask if they would like to be featured on their university’s alumni pages. You then simply need to reach out to their university’s alumni department and ask if they would be interested in profiling these employees. You will naturally include their current employer in this profile and the alumni team will be more than happy to include a link if you ask. You can most likely ask for a do-follow link too – you’re doing them a huge favour, especially if your employee is super reputable. Best thing about this tactic is universities often have SUPER high DA sites – STUN. The University of Sheffield’s website has a DA of 82 and UCL has a DA of 91.
Perhaps another slow burner but this is a super quick tactic and a great opportunity to build relationships with journalists, if done correctly. Don’t ignore coverage that mentions your brand but doesn’t link! Instead keep track of it and once a week work through the list, emailing the journalist who mentioned your business and KINDLY ask if they’d be happy to include a backlink to your site. Make sure to offer them something useful on your site, not just the homepage. A useful, relevant infographic or blog post is a good shout. Remember to tread carefully and confirm any PR teams, either internal or external are happy for you to follow up with coverage if they secured it – there’s no point securing a few links if it sours an important relationship.
It’s highly likely that the founder of your business has an interesting story about why they created their company and how. Were they inspired at University? Did a teacher encourage them to pursue their dream? Did they create a life changing product to help a family member? There’s always a story behind why a company was created. Even if it’s not groundbreaking it’s highly likely local press will want to cover one of their own if they founded a company [hello Reach PLC!]. Founder stories are part of the DNA of business titles and student publications such as The Tab will love to hear about anyone who founded a company at university. Women’s lifestyles also love celebrating female entrepreneurs and anyone who has overcome adversity and founded a company will be of huge interest to stacks of sites, both general and niche. So often we focus on the brand’s products or service, don’t forget the people behind them and bring them into the spotlight.
This is such an underrated tactic. A wee bit on the sneaky side but it can be super powerful. Use a tool like Aherfs to get a link of all your competitors’ links. Reach out to those sites linking to your competitor and offer something even better. This works really well if your competitor has provided data from years ago that you can update, content that you can expand on or offer something even better such as an infographic or a more recent expert comment. This works even better if the competitor link is broken as you can reach out to the site to flag this AND offer something more juicy – win win!
Out of all the tactics I’ve mentioned this is probably the quickest and also the one I have enjoyed the most when the majority of my day was spent link building. Whatever industry your brand is in, it is HIGHLY likely a site will exist that publishes a weekly, monthly or quarterly round up of said industry. For example if you have a CBD business niche or relevant titles are likely to publish round ups featuring the best products, latest news or new launches as this is something their readers will be hugely interested in. I have popped a few examples below:
To find round ups specific to your industry type “relevant keyword” + “round up” into Google and loads will come up. You can then reach out to them and ask to be included in the next round up. Make sure to offer some really useful content, product images or better still a physical product. This is SUCH a useful tactic as all of the sites will be very relevant to your brand, the best sites will also be authoritative and have content writers that are experts in your industry. The round ups are likely to be informative and provide trustworthy content too – can you see you’re ticking all the boxes here. Best of all? You are engaging with your KEY audience who will be on that site because they have an interest in your industry so it’s more likely they will click through to your website and convert. I cannot recommend this tactic enough.
There are of course so many great tactics to build links. These are just a handful, but they are the ones I have found most effective when it comes to building relevant links on high DA sites. I find they are best used alongside reactives and creative campaigns – something to keep ticking along in the background. I hope you find them useful. Happy link building!