How to Set up a Well-Integrated Effective Link Building Campaign

Posted by AnnSmarty

Link building remains one of the most effective digital
marketing tactics, and not just for higher rankings (even though
links do still remain the major organic ranking factor). Links
drive referral clicks, and generate leads, making your site less
dependent on search and advertising traffic.

But how do you build links these days, now that most
self-serving link acquisition tactics are frowned upon by Google
and can result in lost search visibility?

Here’s what we know for sure:

Link building cannot be scaled
Link building is not easy or fast.

A new approach to link building integrates all kinds of
marketing assets and processes including content marketing,
relationship building, and influencer outreach.

This article outlines exactly how to create an effective link
building campaign.

Link Acquisition Campaign Goals:

For your campaign, you want to achieve the following:

You want that asset to bring in links
You want that asset to rank (because high-ranking content keeps
bringing links organically as most writers/bloggers search Google
to find sources to reference)

So there’s a little bit of a vicious circle here: You cannot
rank without links but links also help to rank.

Link building vicious circle

If you really want your link acquisition campaign to work, you
need to aim for both: Your content asset should be linkable as well
as rank on top of Google for related keywords.

What Non-Spammy Non-Scaled Link Building Methods Do We Know?

Researching and creating linkable content (i.e. Content that
attracts backlinks)
Vanity baiting (ego-baiting): Featuring influencer(s) in your
content for them to link back to the published content as well as
attract more links (by name association)
Relationship building (i.e. Connecting to publishers and
journalists on social media for better brand familiarity and hence
higher response rate)
Broken link building (i.e. Reaching out to website owners
linking to broken pages and offering to link to your live page
instead)

If we really want to achieve both links and rankings, we
need to combine all of those link acquisition methods within one
campaign:

Combine

Before we get into steps and tools, let’s illustrate the above
with an example:

Sample Link Building Campaign

We had an ecommerce client manufacturing and selling LED lamps
and our research included “light” as the core topic. We came up
with the following content angles:

Light Therapy
Light and (Kids’) Creativity
Light and Productivity

While we were doing our content research, we came across
multiple articles across a lot of top publications referencing an
interview (dating back to 2015) with a professor from NY Lighting
Research Center talking about the impact of blue light on
Alzheimer’s patients.

The interview had long been deleted but the links were all still
there.

With that in mind, we took the following steps:

We contacted the professor to get an updated quote on the
topic. The professor shared her new interior room designs for
Alzheimer’s patients which happened to perfectly align with our
client’s main ecommerce focus, i.e. “interior lightning.”
We did some additional research (including keyword research) to
identify what we want the asset to rank for to be able to get
discovered by more bloggers and journalists.
At the same time, even before we started working on the actual
content, we tracked down all those journalists and bloggers who had
written about the deleted interview. We also identified more key
influencers who were covering the topic (sticking to our specific
angle, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). We put together a Twitter list
and started interacting with them to familiarize them with our team
before we reach out.

This way, by the time we started to work on the actual content
asset, we knew:

The specific linkable asset topic
The expert(s) we were able to include in our content
The bloggers and journalists we were going to reach out to as
soon as it went live

Campaign

By the time we started our actual outreach, we had two strong
advantages:

1. We could reference our professor in the outreach email:

Ego-bait

2. We could reference other influencers who interacted with us
on Twitter (or even already linked to us). Additionally, we could
use our newly-built social media connections to follow up and find
more people to reach out to:

Outreach campaign

Note: None of these tactics should be step 1: They are all
launched together to inform, direct and empower one another.

Tools for every part of the process

Now that we have agreed there are no “steps” here (because all
of those tactics should be connected), here is the tool you can use
to launch a well-integrated highly-effective link building
campaign:

1. Content asset creation

Like most content creation campaigns, this one starts with
brainstorming. It is a specific type of brainstorming, though, one
that starts with “linkable” angles, i.e. you want to keep your
planned “linking” leads in mind. Generally, the following content
angles usually bring in links quite easily:

“Safety of XX”
“History of XX” (especially if you plan to reach out to
educators)
Recent research (especially if you plan to reach out to
journalists)
Industry survey (and stats). This usually goes well with niche
bloggers.

Image source and more details: digitaleagles.com.au

But there can be more, depending on what it is you are doing.
For example, if you own (or market for) a local business, those
angles should be localized.

The format of your linkable asset is another thing to think
about. There are many options here:

Formats

Note: There’s no need to stick to one format. You can (and
probably should) experiment with several of those by using
content re-purposing
.

2. TextOptimizer for Brainstorming

Text Optimizer is a
great tool to help you find more angles to narrow your research
down. It uses semantic analysis to extract related concepts and
entities from Google search result snippets, helping you to find
more specific angles to cover.

Once you know your specific topic ideas, put them in
TextOptimizer, one by one, to find related angles and questions to focus on:

Text Optimizer research

More tools for content research: Research
and optimize for niche questions

3. Determining your outreach targets

This is a multi-step, continuous process that never really
stops. One of the easiest and quickest way to start is to run the
Top pages” tool
inside Serpstat that determines
web pages that show up in Google for the variety of queries around
your core term:

Serpstat top pages

Note: Export the whole list of top-ranking pages for your core
query and determine outreach tactics for each one.

4. Twitter Bio search for more outreach targets

Social media marketing won’t probably bring in organic links on
its own but social media (especially Twitter) is an awesome
outreach tool to utilize in combination with traditional email
outreach.

Twitter bio search is one of the most effective ways to generate
link-building leads. Twiangulate is a great Twitter
bio search that helps you:

Find Twitter users by a certain keyword mentioned in their bio
(or the combination of keywords)
Find Twitter users by location (this is a great way to find
local journalists and bloggers)
Find common connections of two Twitter accounts (this is a very
useful feature for ego-bait content outreach which allows you to
find who is connected to your included experts)
Find Twitter followers by a keyword (among friends of a certain
account). This one can be used to find active Twitter users that
work at the publication you are targeting for links:

Twiangulate 5. Broken link
building

Ahrefs has one of the coolest
link building features out there allowing you to see (and export)
all pages linking to broken pages within any domain. To access the
report, run your identified leaders in the target niche and click
through to “Backlink Profile -> Broken” report:

Arefs broken report

All you need to do now is to export the report into an Excel
spreadsheet, identify most linked-to content on the website, and
decide if you can build content to replace the deleted page and
claim all those links.

CognitiveSEO is another
(newer) tool that shows the most linked-to broken pages on any
website:

CognitiveSEO 6. Social media
outreach

Since your link building outreach is going to include the social
media component, you need to figure out how your link building and
social media teams are going to collaborate on that.

ContentCal is a solid
collaborative tool that can be used to include your link building
team into your social media marketing. Encourage your link building
outreach team to use ContentCal’s “Pinboard” feature that will
allow them to add social media updates for the social media manager
to approve and schedule them to go out from your company’s official
Twitter account:

ContentCal

Note: ContentCal allows your link building team to contribute to
your brand social media channels without sacrificing on the overall
quality: There’s always a moderator making sure everything looks
good before updates go live.

7. Email outreach

We have tried multiple tools and ended up building our own
in-house solution, but there’s no link building tutorial possible
without at least one outreach tool included. So I’ll go ahead and
recommend Pitchbox (Disclaimer:
This is the only tool here I haven’t tried yet but I’ve heard very
good people recommend it, so I have full trust in its
awesome-ness):

Pitchbox

Pitchbox stores your contacts and email templates as well as
manages the follow-ups and reports]

8. Monitor your campaign performance

If you are managing a multi-format link building campaign that
includes more content types beyond text (e.g. a downloadable
whitepaper, an embeddable infographic, a video, etc.), you may want
to keep a close eye on what content formats your link building
leads engage more with.

Finteza is the free
analytics software focusing on monitoring and reporting on specific
on-page events.

Finteza

While you are actively emailing to your identified link building
leads, keep an eye on how they interact with your linkable assets.
This is a great experience to learn from for your upcoming
campaigns.

Finteza also offers a free WordPress
plug-in
that makes adding on-page events to monitor easier:

Finteza plugin 9. Personalize
your content asset based on the referral

Since your link acquisition campaign includes both email and
social media outreach, it is smart to customize your content asset
based on the referral source to make sure your link building leads
will see exactly what they came for above the fold.

Alter is an easy tool
for personalizing your content based on your settings. You will
need to add their script to the page to serve a slightly different
page copy based on the source.

The first step is to create your audience inside Alter:

Depending on your outreach tactics, you can combine as many
criteria as you want

You can create your personalization using Alter’s built-in
editor:

Alter personalization 10. Monitor
incoming links

Finally, set up link monitoring using Brand Mentions. This tool will
promptly alert you of any new linked and unlinked web mentions and
allow you to better monitor the effectiveness of the campaign as
well as quickly interact with your promoters.

Brand Mentions allows you to authenticate your Google Analytics
account. This way you’ll be alerted by new referral traffic
immediately — remember: Traffic sending links are the best types
of links!

Brand Mentions google analytics Launching a
well-rounded link building campaign: Takeaways

An effective link building campaign includes most of effective
and legit link acquisition tactics, including linkable content
creation, ego-baiting, broken link building and (social media)
relationship management.
None of the above tactics are step one in the campaign: They
all need to be connected — informing and directing one
another.
A key to successful link building campaign is collaboration
(between teams, as well as with niche influencers and
experts).
One of the major goals behind your linkable content asset is
that it needs to rank in top five for a popular query. Once you
achieve that, you can stop the proactive outreach process, as links
will start coming in naturally: All bloggers and journalists use
Google to find sources to reference.
An effective link acquisition campaign includes more than one
content format. Give your media contacts more reasons to link to
you by visualizing results, building embeddable content, and
downloadable assets to take home.

With so many ideas, parts and tools, it may also be tough to get
organized. In most cases, your campaign manager will be able to
put everything together using shared (Google) Spreadsheets (that
also easily
integrate into online calendars
). There are of course
many
more tools
to check out.

Finally, there are many more tools I’ve used at some point or
another. There’s no way I could list all of them in one article. I
did my best to include newer tools (those that are not already
well-covered and well-known) because I believe they bring something
innovative to the table allowing you to take a new approach or
experiment with new tactics.

If you are using any other link building tools in your process,
please list them in the comments below — I am always on the hunt
for more tools!

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