August 4, 2015
Every SEO blog you’ve ever read tells you that you need to have links to increase your rankings. These experts also say that all you need to do get links is to “create great content” or “blog consistently.”
If you’ve ever taken a stab at trying to rank a website for yourself, your company or your clients, you know damn well that this simply doesn’t cut it.
What you need is some real actionable advice that actually sees you generating links for your hard work with the added benefit of generating some media buzz as well as referral traffic.
Well hang on to your typewriter and send that non-actionable link building post packing. Today we’re going to learn how to build links from high traffic sites that have a lot of authority and give you the SEO rankings boost you’re after. Let’s dive right in.
Vetting Guest Blogs Sites before You Spend time Creating Content
Before you spend a ton of time writing a guest blog post, doing outreach and reaping the benefits of the link you’ll want to vet the sites first. You should establish some baseline for the quality of sites that you’ll take a link from compared to the amount of work you’re willing to put in.
Here’s a nice little guide we use at Digital Elevator to put link prospects into one of two buckets:
- Authority Guest Post
- High Quality Guest Post
Simply put, we’ll spend more time on an authority guest posting opportunity than we would a high quality guest posting opportunity. We’ll also approach the writing of the guest post differently.
Here’s how we classify an authority site internally (all need not apply):
- Domain authority over 45
- PageRank 5+
- High number of referring domains (1,000+)
- High number of social followers (20,000+ across network)
- High traffic estimations (50,000+/month)
Here’s how we classify a high quality site internally (all need not apply):
- Homepage PageRank 2+
- Trustworthy website
- Decent social following (5,000+ across network)
- Decent traffic estimations (20,000+/month)
If you are going to take the time to get featured on an authority site you have to come with some really great content. It should be original, backed with contextually relevant links, highly visual and likely well over 1,000 words as we know there is correlation between content length and rankings.
On the other hand high quality guest posts don’t necessarily mandate the same intensive copywriting, research and presentation. A lot of times you can simply retune a post you wrote for an authority site and provide a lot of the same value without so much time. It should go without saying that these posts should be completely original as well.
Quality over quantity is really important but in cases where you need to build more links quickly (like for a client) sometimes the high quality approach is better. It all really depends on what your overall SEO strategy is.
Tools Used to Vet Guest Post Partners
The good news about building links based on the above criteria is that you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of different SEO software to vet awesome guest post opportunities. Most of this stuff can be done with Chrome extensions.
Here’s a breakdown of the tools I use to vet sites based on the criteria above:
To quickly examine domain and page authority of a site, use Moz’s free SEO Toolbar for Chrome or Firefox. This tools works great for getting a quick look at potential outreach sites in Google search engine rankings pages (SERPs) as well as on a site itself:
Moz’s SEO Toolbar used to quickly examine domain authority and page authority on a website:
Referring Domains and PageRank
To quickly determine the amount of referring domains a site has as well as their PageRank, I use a free Chrome extension from Rank Signals called Quick SEO. You have to be on the actual site to let the tool do its thing and can click on it for more details.
Note: Ahrefs also has a Chrome extension and this can also be used to look at some of these metrics. Its analysis of referring domains is probably more accurate than the Rank Signals tool.
Rank Signals uses the phrase “Unique Backlinks” to determine the amount of referring domains:
To get a free analysis of how much monthly traffic a site has check out Compete.com. If a site you want to get a post from has mediocre domain authority and low PageRank but looks like it gets a great deal of traffic, it could still be a great link opportunity due to the amount of exposure you could get.
You don’t need a tool to find how many social media followers a brand has. Just go to their website and click around. Be sure to look at the social follower count of all of their networks; some brands crush it in some areas and have small follower accounts in others.
This is just one of those innate things to be honest. If you get to a site and it looks like it hasn’t been updated in months, has a bunch of ads that clutter the appearance, looks like it was put together by duct tape and glue rather than by a professional website developer, has a lot of poorly written articles and accepts guest post from anyone on any topic, stay away.
Finding Guest Post Partners
Despite the hammering of guest blog networks by Google post-penguin and the aftermath that even had Google engineer Matt Cutts saying “guest blogging for SEO is dead,” there are still a lot of sites that have strong editorial processes that will allow authoritative authors to contribute.
In fact, Site Pro News very clearly advertises that it accepts guest posts and fits into our aforementioned bucket of an authoritative guest posting site (check out that amazing domain authority!):
That said, you can always be on the lookout for obvious opportunities like these to guest post on. Just click on the link (look in the footer as well for these opportunities) and read what the criteria is.
OK, so that’s one way and is likely a bit slower than you’d like when you’re putting your list of potential link partners together. Here’s the other way you can do it using Google search parameters.
Finding Guest Posting Opportunities Using Google Search
For a faster way to find guest blogging opportunities use the following phrases in quotation marks preceded by your industry keyword:
- “submission guidelines”
- “guest post guidelines”
- “accepting guest posts”
- “contribute an article”
- “submit content”
- “guest post”
- “want to write”
- “write for us”
- “add a post”
- “become a contributor”
- “guest post by”
- “submit your post”
You can also find a nice list of search operators for link building here.
For example, in a link building campaign done for a client we used the following search parameter to find a nice list of potential link partners:
Career advice “write for us”
We got almost two full search engine results pages full of good guest blogging opportunities which we could quickly vet with the Moz SEO Tool and a look at domain authority (that’s like 20 link opportunities homeboy!):
For some context, the link building we were doing was for an educational site for personal trainers. Because we wanted to attract people who were seeking a new career and simultaneously wanted them to think about personal training as that career and ultimately buy our educational packages, this turned out to be a great guest blog search.
Plus these career sites tend to have more authority than any personal training type site out there. In other words, when compiling your list of potential guest posting sites there may be some trial and error of determining which sites will actually work from the following perspective:
- Quality standards — Domain authority, PageRank or traffic estimations.
- Relevancy to your industry standards — Is the sites primary topic similar to yours?
- Inherent likelihood that someone would actually click your link standards — Is your link contextually relevant?
Putting Together Your List of Potential Guest Blog Sites
Now that you know how to use tools to determine how authoritative a site is and search for potential guest blogging opportunities using Google, your last step is to simply put your list together and start contributing.
To make use of another free tool, check out Google Sheets to create your list. I’d suggest creating two sheets (really just two tabs under one sheet), one for authoritative guest posts and another for high quality guest posts. This way you’ll know how much time you should spend on each opportunity based on the value of that link and the exposure of the site.
Here’s a sample layout of the spreadsheet you can use:
The info is pretty self-explanatory but here’s how I do it:
- Website — either the domain or just the name of the site (ex. Site Pro News)
- Contacted — the date you either:
- Pitched the publication with your idea
- Submitted your guest post
- Contact — did you use a form on the site or was there an actual person who was listed as the editor? Write his or her name here.
- Contact info — most commonly an email address of the contact person or left blank if it was from a form.
- Reference page — the page that had the details for the guest post opportunity on it.
- Notes — what the publication said in response, what you pitched or sent over, anything to help you remember a meaningful interaction. I also like to include the PageRank and Domain Authority here although you could add separate fields for this.
- Published link — my favorite part, adding your earned link once all the hard work is done.
Setting Expectations for Your Link Building Campaign
If all of this sounds tedious it’s because it is. Link building can be very time-consuming but after you install those extensions and get an idea of the types of searches that work to find link partners you’ll find the hardest part is not finding link opportunities, it’s writing the content.
A lot of times you’ll contact these sites and they won’t even respond at all. This is why it makes sense to keep track of any blogs you’ve written for a particular site and give them a deadline for response. For example, if you write a blog for a site and don’t hear anything back from them for three weeks, place that blog in a folder called “needs a home” or something to help you remember that the guest post opportunity never worked out and you need to find another home for it.
If worst comes to worst, you can always use the blog on your own site.
If you do get in contact with the site, and this is especially true with the bigger houses, you can expect some back and forth in terms of the editorial process. Don’t be offended when they tell you that they like your idea but it needs more actionable advice or that it doesn’t make the cut.
Go back to the drawing board and resubmit another post or make the decision if the site is even big enough to spend all the time on it (which goes back to why we have a bucket for authority blog posts and high quality blog posts).
Similarly, if you do get accepted as a contributor to a bigger site, expect there to be a significant waiting period from the time you submit your article to the time it gets published. Sometimes this can take months, which is why link building needs to be an ongoing process and so that your work from months ago will come to fruition later down the road.
If you can connect with a few of these sites each month you’ll have a nice portfolio of sites that you can say you got featured on in addition to the nice boost in rankings and referral traffic. If you are going to be writing great content consistently anyway, this may just be the best approach to get the most exposure possible and helps your SEO in ways no blog on your site ever could.
Daniel Lofaso is the President and Founder of Digital Elevator, a West Palm Beach, FL-based SEO agency specializing in link building and content marketing for clients in the local, national, international and ecommerce spaces. Lofaso also co-founded SwellSpy.com, a live streaming surf and tourism camera site and remains involved in the start-up community locally. Follow Lofaso on Twitter.