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The Definitive Guide
(2018 Update)
Link Building For SEO
It’s no secret that link building is the
most important skill in SEO.
In fact, it’s a culmination of several
different skills: you need to master
content, sales, programming,
psychology, and good old-fashioned
marketing if you want other people to
link to your site.
Bottom line? If you want more search
engine traffic, link building is a must.
And in this guide I’m going to show you
everything you need to build quality
Let’s dive right in.
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Link Building
Advanced Link
Find High-Quality
Black Hat
New Case
Link Building
Link Building Fundamentals
Chapter 1
Last year we analyzed 1 million Google
search results.
And we found that links impacted
rankings more than any other factor:
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In fact, Google has recently came out and said that backlinks are
one of their top 3 ranking signals:
So it’s clear that links still form the foundation of Google’s
algorithm. The question is:
Why are links still so important?
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So it’s clear that links still form the foundation of Google’s
algorithm. The question is:
Why are links still so important?
To understand that, you’ll need to hop in your Delorean and go
back to the pre-Google days of the internet.
Back in the day, search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista
(remember them?) were the dominant players. And they ranked
their search results 100% based on the content on a webpage.
Enter: Google.
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Their now-famous PageRank Algorithm changed the game.
Instead of simply analyzing the content of a page, Google looked
at how many people linked to that page.
And they were right. Nearly 20 years later, links are STILL the best
way to determine the quality of a webpage. That’s why backlinks
remain Google’s go-to ranking signal.
That said, thanks to updates like Google Penguin, Google now
focuses on link quality (not just link quantity).
You might be wondering:
What is a high-quality link, exactly? And how do I build them?
That’s what I’m going to cover in the rest of this guide.
Keep reading…
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You might be wondering:
What is a high-quality link,
exactly? And how do I build them?
That’s what I’m going to cover in
the rest of this guide.
Keep reading…
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How to Find High-Quality Links
Chapter 2
Before we dive into the step-by-step
link building strategies, it’s important to
know what makes a good (or bad) link.
Why is this important?
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Watch Google penalize your site faster than you can say “what
With that, here’s how to identify links that are actually worth
Thing #1:
You Build High-Quality Links
Thing #2:
You Build Low-Quality Links
When it comes to building backlinks,
one of two things can happen:
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Is the page linking to you a PageRank powerhouse? If so, that link
is going to have a BIG impact on your rankings.
Authority of the Page 13 / 90 Share
In fact, from years of testing, I’ve found that the authority of the
page linking to you matters more than any other factor.
That’s because links from authoritative pages pass more authority
(also known as PageRank) to your site.
(Note: Although Google doesn’t share PageRank information
publicly, they still use it as the foundation of their algorithm).
You can easily check a proxy indicator of PageRank
(“PageRating”) using Ahrefs.
Just pop a URL into Ahrefs and check out its “URLRating”:
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A link’s quality is also determined by a domain’s sitewide
In general, a link from a site like will have a MUCH
bigger impact than a link from a no-name blogger.
While these links are tough to get, they’re well worth the effort.
Again, Ahrefs comes in handy here. Enter any URL from the site
into the tool and check out the site’s “DomainRating”.
Authority of the Site 15 / 90 Share
16 / 90 You can also use Moz’s respected “Domain Authority” metric: Share
When it comes to links, a site’s authority matters.
But that site’s relevance also matters.
For example, let’s say you run a website about The Paleo Diet.
And you get a link from an authoritative site…about unicycles. Will
that link still count?
According to an interview from an ex-Googler, not really.
In general, you want to get links from authority sites…specifically,
authority sites that are closely related to your site.
Relevancy of the Site
According to that Google engineer:
“…getting a link from a high PageRank page used to
always be valuable, today it’s more the relevance of the
site’s theme in regards to yours, relevance is the new
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Is your link embedded in a piece of content?
Or is it buried in a page’s footer?
In general, you want to get links from authority sites…specifically,
authority sites that are closely related to your site.
Link’s Position on the Page 18 / 90 Share
It turns out that your link’s position on a page is important.
Specifically, links stashed away in footers and sidebars aren’t
worth nearly as much as links found smack in the middle of a
page’s body content.
Bottom line? You want your links to appear within the main body
of a webpage.
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No matter where your link appears on a page, you should ask
“Was this link editorially placed?”.
In other words, did someone link to you because they thought
your site is awesome? If so, that’s an editorial link.
Or did you create a profile on a random site and drop a link?
That’s not an editorial link.
As you might expect, Google puts MUCH more weight on
editorially-placed links.
Is the Link Editorially Placed?
Quoth thy Google:
“…creating links that weren’t editorially placed or
vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise
known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation
of our guidelines.”
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Anchor text is the clickable text section of a link.
As it turns out, Google uses anchor text as a ranking signal.
For example, let’s say you get a link to your site with anchor
text: “paleo desserts”.
Link Anchor Text 21 / 90 Share
Google sees that anchor text and says: “Hmmm. That site used the
anchor text: “paleo desserts”. The page they’re linking to must be
about “paleo desserts.”
Of course, like anything in SEO, keyword-rich anchor text has been
abused. Today, building lots of exact-match anchor text links is
considered spammy.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
In short, I don’t recommend building links with keyword-rich
anchor text. But if you DO get a link with your keyword in the
anchor text, it’s time to celebrate.
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Co-citations are the words and phrases that appear around your
Google likely uses co-citations as “baby anchor text”.
This makes sense if you think about it:
The text around your link also gives clues to what your page is
about. So why wouldn’t Google use it?
Link Co-Citations 23 / 90 Share
A few years ago, Google came right out and said:
Is that true?
Well…it depends.
Here are some red flags that can make guest posting spammy:
• Someone is paid to publish the post
• The post contains exact match anchor text
• The site exists solely to publish guest posts
• The site is unrelated to yours
But what if you publish a mind-blowing guest post on an
authoritative, relevant site? In my experience, that link CAN help
you rank.
Is the Link From a Guest Post?
“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is
done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”
– Matt Cutts, Former Head of Google’s
Webspam Team
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rel=”nofollow” is a tag added to a link that tells search engines:
“Don’t count this link as an endorsement.”.
Obviously, when it comes to SEO, you want to get normal,
“dofollow” links whenever possible.
Now that you can know how to size up a link’s quality, it’s time to
start building them.
25 / 90 Nofollow .vs. Dofollow Share
How to Get World-Class Links
With Content Marketing
Chapter 3
Its no secret that content is the key
that unlocks amazing backlinks.
But here’s the deal:
Simply publishing content isn’t going to
land you any links.
As it turns out, certain types of content
work best for link building.
And here are the 4 types of content
that tend to generate the most links:
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What It Is:
Visual assets are:
1. Images
2. Diagrams
3. Infographics
4. Charts and other visual-oriented pieces of content
Why It Works:
Visuals are super-duper easy to link to. For example, when you
publish a chart on your site, you get a link anytime someone
shares that chart on their site. This powerful “share my image and
link to me when you do” relationship simply doesn’t work for textbased
#1: Visual Assets 28 / 90 Share
To date, this infographic has been linked to a staggering 2.5
thousand times.
Real-Life Example:
A few years ago I published an infographic titled: On-Page SEO:
Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page.
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Sure, lots of these links would have come in even if I had
described the same concepts with text.
But a good chunk of these links (I’d estimate 75%) were created
because I presented key info as visual tutorial.
In fact, lots of my links came from people posting the infographic
on their site (and linking back to me):
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And the funny thing is, even though it’s 2018, people STILL link
to my infographic a few times every month. That’s the power of
creating visual assets.
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What It Is:
A numbered list of tips, techniques, reasons, myths…or just about
Why It Works:
List posts pack a ton value into digestible, bite-sized chunks.
In fact, when BuzzSumo analyzed 1 million articles, they
discovered that list posts generated more backlinks than other
content formats…outperforming quizzes, videos and even
#2: List Posts 32 / 90 Share
Real-Life Example:
This list post, 21 Actionable SEO Techniques You Can Use Right
Now, is one of my all-time most popular pieces of content.
Yes, it’s generated a ton of shares…
…and comments.
But most importantly, that post is a link magnet.
It has over 5,000 links.
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And because the page has so many links pointing to it, it ranks #1
in Google for the keyword “SEO Techniques”.
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What It Is:
Content that reveals new data from industry studies, surveys or
original research.
Why It Works:
Statistics and data are highly-linkable. When someone cites your
data, they link to you. These links add up QUICKLY.
Real-Life Example:
Last year I published the largest Google ranking factors study
#3: Original Research and Data 35 / 90 Share
Needless to say, this post contains a boatload of original data.
That’s why the post has accumulated a whopping 3.2k links in a
little over a year’s time.
Like I mentioned above, most of these links come from people
citing a particular statistic from our study:
36 / 90 Share
What It Is:
A comprehensive resource that covers everything there is to know
about a given topic (and then some).
Why It Works:
Ultimate guides pack an insane amount of information in one
place. This makes your guide THE go-to resource for that topic.
Real-Life Example:
I used to get emails from people asking me for keyword research
advice on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything on my blog that covered that
super-important topic.
So I created one: Keyword Research for SEO: The Definitive Guide.
#4: In-Depth Ultimate Guides 37 / 90 Share
Because this multi-chapter guide covers keyword research like no
other resource online, it’s been linked to over a thousand times.
38 / 90 Share
Now that you’ve created a piece of
link-worthy piece of content, it’s time
to build some links.
With good ol’ fashioned email outreach.
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How to Build Powerful Links With
Email Outreach
Chapter 4
If you want to build white hat links in
2018 (and beyond), you need to use
email outreach.
The question is:
How can you reach out to bloggers and
journalists without ending up in their
spam folder?
Read this chapter to find out.
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As the name suggests, Likely Linkers are people that are likely to
link to you.
I’ll show you a bunch of techniques for finding Likely Linkers in
Chapter 6. But for now, let’s use a simple strategy to identify
them: reverse engineering.
First, search for your target keyword in Google.
Grab the URL of the first result and pop it into a link analysis tool
(I’m using Ahrefs in this example).
#1: Find “Likely Linkers” 42 / 90 Share
43 / 90 Next, hit “backlinks” in the sidebar: Share
The sites listed here are all Likely Linkers.
(How do you know which sites to target and which to ignore?
Check out Chapter 2).
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Now that you’ve found a Likely Linker, it’s time to dig for their
email address.
#2: Find Their Email Address
Pro Tip: Use a site’s contact form only as a last resort.
It’s a black hole.
Here’s how:
Use is perfect for reaching out to small sites and one-person
Simply enter a site into the tool…
45 / 90 Share
…and it’ll show you all of the email addresses associated with that
But what if you want to reach out to a massive site? Combing
through this list is going to be a pain.
That’s why, in those cases, I recommend VoilaNorbert.
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That way you’re reaching out to the person that can actually add
your link to their page.
And it’ll show you that specific person’s email address.
Instead of popping in a URL, with you enter a
person’s name and the domain they work at.
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If you want to scale outreach, you’ll need to use scripts.
The trick is to make your script not look like a script (more on that
in the next step).
But now, here’s an example of one of my best-performing email
Hi [First Name],
I was looking for content on [Topic] today, when I stumbled on your
article: [Article Title].
Good stuff! I especially enjoyed [Something specific from their article].
Also, I just published a new guide on [Your Topic]: [URL].
As someone that writes about [Topic], I thought you’d enjoy it.
My guide may also make a nice addition to your page. Either way, keep
up the awesome work with [Website]!
Talk Soon,
[Your Name] #3: Send Them a (Personalized) Script
Notice how the script allows A LOT of personalization without a
whole lot of effort.
48 / 90 Share
The Skinny On Black Hat Link
Building (and Google Penalties)
Chapter 5
No guide to building links would be complete
without a chapter on black hat SEO.
Black hat link building is pretty easy to spot:
If the links go against Google’s Webmaster
Guidelines, they’re probably black hat.
Does that mean you should avoid black hat link
building altogether?
That’s a choice only you can make. I personally
don’t recommend black hat link building (the risk
doesn’t come close to justifying the reward). But
it’s up to you.
That said, whether you’re a white hat or black
hat SEO, you do need to know the penalties that
Google dishes out.
So let’s briefly cover them:
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What is it?
An algorithmic penalty that specifically targets sites that use
spammy link building techniques (like shady guest posting and
blog comment spam).
How to Avoid It:
Only build white hat links. There’s data to show that you can
dodge Penguin by minimizing exact match anchor text (I say
anchor text is part of the story…but it’s more about trust). That
said, the easiest way to avoid Penguin is to avoid shady links
(regardless of anchor text).
Google Penguin 51 / 90 Share
What is it?
A manual penalty from someone at Google. Unlike Penguin,
Google will send you a message via the Google Search Console:
How to Avoid It:
No one outside of Google knows how sites get targeted for
manual penalties. My take is that an algorithm spots a website
that’s potentially gaming the system. And they bubble that site
up to someone at Google for a manual review. So the best way to
avoid a manual penalty is to have a squeaky-clean link profile.
Also, unlike with Penguin, you can recover from a manual penalty
by disavowing links and filing a reconsideration request.
Manual Penalty/Unnatural Links 52 / 90 Share
My Three Favorite Link Building
Strategies (Step-By-Step Tutorials)
Chapter 6
No intro needed for this chapter.
Here are 3 of my battle-tested strategies
for building lots of world-class backlinks:
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First off: what are resource pages?
Resource pages are pages that link out to awesome content on a
given topic. Here’s an example:
Resource Page Link Building 55 / 90 Share
Because these pages exist for the sole purpose of linking out, they
make PERFECT link building targets.
With that, here’s the step-by-step process:
#1: Find Resource Pages
Use these search strings in Google. They’re designed specifically
to unearth resource pages:
• “Keyword” + inurl:links
• “Keyword” + “helpful resources”
• “Keyword” + “useful resources”
• “Keyword” + “useful links”
#2: Size Up The Page
Here’s where you (quickly) answer the question:
“Is a link from this page worth the effort?”.
(Hint: Use the tips from Chapter 2 to make this step a breeze)
For example, this resource page has a decent URLRating of 12.
56 / 90 Share
It’s also on an authoritative domain.
And my link will end up somewhere on the body of the page.
Looks like a winner!
#3: Find “Best Fit” Content
Your content can be the best in the world…
…but if it’s not a good fit for that resource page?
You’re not gonna get a link.
So for this step, find content on your site that’ll fit that resource
page like a glove.
Once you’ve ID’d that content, move onto step #4.
57 / 90 Share
#4: Send This Tested Script
Here’s the script I recommend:
Subject: Question about [Their Website] Hi [Name],
I was Googling around for content about [Topic] this morning, when I
came across your excellent resource page: [URL].
I just wanted to say that your page helped me a ton. I would have
never found the [Resource They Link To] without it.
It’s funny: I recently published a guide on [Topic] last month. It’s [Brief
Here it is in case you’d like to check it out: [URL].
Also, my guide might make a nice addition to your page.
Either way, thanks for putting together your list of resources. And have
a great day!
Talk Soon,
[Your Name] Pro Tip: Like all outreach scripts, make sure to
personalize this script as much as possible. You can use
a script as long as it doesn’t LOOK like a script.
58 / 90 Share
Broken Link Building is one of my all-time favorite link building
strategies. Why? Instead of straight-up begging for links, with Broken
Link Building, you add value to someone’s website.
Here’s how to do it:
#1: Install Check My Links or LinkMiner
Both of these tools quickly find broken links on any page (from within
your Chrome Browser). I’ll show you how to use them in a minute.
Broken Link Building 59 / 90 Share
#2: Find Pages With Lots of Outbound Links
The more links a page has, the more likely one of them will be
Resource pages work great here. So feel free to use the search
strings above to bring up resource pages.
But instead of emailing the site owner right away, try step #3…
#3: Check For Broken Links
Here’s where you run the extension you installed in the first step.
They’ll reveal broken links on that page:
60 / 90 Share
#4: Email The Site Owner About Their Broken Link
Finally, let the person that runs that page about their broken link
(or links), and pitch a resource from your site as a replacement.
Here’s the script I recommend:
Subject: Problem with [Their Site’s Name] —
Hi [Name],
Are you still updating your site?
I was searching for content on [Topic] when I came across your
excellent page: [Page Title or URL].
However, I noticed a few links didn’t seem to be working:
[URLs of broken links] Also, I recently published [Brief Content Pitch]. It may make a good
replacement for the [Point Out a Specific Broken Link].
Either way, I hope this helped you out 🙂
[Your Name] 61 / 90 Share
This video will walk you through the step-by-step process:
Once you watch the video, it’s time for the next chapter:
Awesome link building case studies!
The Skyscraper Technique 62 / 90 Share
Incredible Case Studies
Chapter 7
Now it’s time for me to show you reallife
examples of link building in action.
The best part?
I’ve never shared any of these case
studies before.
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How Julie Used The Skyscraper Technique to Boost Organic
Traffic By 194.1%
Julie Adams’ blog, Our Beautiful Planet, was struggling.
Sure, Julie was publishing great content. But in her words: “No
matter how awesome my content was, no links came.”
That’s when Julie decided to try The Skyscraper Technique.
So instead of publishing another piece of great content…she
created something AMAZING. Here it is:
Case Study #1 65 / 90 Share
And instead of publishing this content and hoping for the best,
Julie used email outreach to build backlinks.
And this landed her a handful of links from authority sites in the
science space:
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Why does The Skyscraper Technique work so well?
Well said.
These white hat backlinks boosted her organic traffic by a legit
According to Julie:
“The thing that makes this so successful is that it’s just
as much about building relationships as it is about
building links. People won’t link to your content unless
they know it exists, and they won’t know it exists unless
you tell them about it.”
67 / 90 Share
Broken Link Building Pays Off
Last year I decided to run a broken link building campaign. So I
followed the steps that I outlined in the last chapter.
First, I used search strings to bring up pages with lots of
outbound links.
And I used Check My Links to find links that weren’t working.
Then I emailed the person in charge of that content to give them a
heads up about broken links that I found:
Case Study #2 68 / 90 Share
(Note how uber-personalized that email is)
When they replied, I sent them the URL of the broken link…and a
piece of content from Backlinko that would be a 1:1 replacement:
And most folks were more than happy to add my link:
69 / 90 Share
How Richard Used Guestographics to Get a First Page Ranking
Last year Rich Edwards published this infographic on his site:
70 / 90 Case Study #3 Share
Most people would just sit back and HOPE that people linked to
their infographic.
But Rich knew that Guestographics can help turn high-quality
infographics into high-quality backlinks.
So Rich reached out to tech sites that would be interested in
checking it out.
When they said: “Yes, I’d like to see it”, Rich offered a unique intro
to make the re-publishing process easier.
Because Rich provided so much value, most tech bloggers happily
agreed to publish his infographic on their site:
71 / 90 Share
It took work to reach out to all of these bloggers and journalists.
But the hard work paid off.
Rich landed 21 backlinks from this campaign.
72 / 90 Share
And thanks to these contextual links, Rich’s site now ranks #2 in
Google for his target keyword.
73 / 90 Share
How Matt Built Links to His Ecommerce Site
Let’s face it:
Link building for ecommerce sites isn’t easy. But it’s possible. Just
look at Matt Lawry.
Like most ecommerce site owners, Matt had trouble building links
to his ecommerce website (an Australian site focused on gifts).
Case Study #4 74 / 90 Share
After all, who wants to link to a site made up of 100% product
pages? That’s when Matt realized that he could use content to
generate links to his ecommerce site.
Specifically, Matt published an amazing piece of Skyscraper
content on his site: “Australian Gin: The Ultimate Guide”.
History of Gin
Of course, Matt didn’t sit back and wait for the links to roll in. He
promoted his content via email outreach:
Because Matt reached out to the right people (and sent them
personalized emails), many people OFFERED to link to his guide.
75 / 90 Share
And all of these links boosted Matt’s rankings for a keyword that
directly results in sales for his ecommerce site: Australian Gin.
In fact, he ranks #2 in Google Australia for that keyword (and has
the “#0” Answer Box result):
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Advanced Link Building Tips
Chapter 8
Here’s a quick list of advanced link
building tips that I’ve picked up over the
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Whenever someone mentions your brand in an article, they link to
you…right? Wrong. I mean, they should link to you. But it doesn’t
always happen. Here’s what I mean:
But with a gentle nudge, most site owners are happy to turn your
unlinked mention into a link.
How do you find these unlinked mentions? BuzzSumo works great.
Get Easy Links With Link Reclamation 79 / 90 Share
Do you publish visual assets like infographics and charts?
If so, there are probably sites using your images without
attribution right now. Don’t freak out. In fact, you should celebrate.
Just like with link reclamation, a friendly email can turn many of
these opportunities into links.
And you can use Google reverse image search to find peeps that
are using your images without a link:
Get “Bonus” Links With Reverse Image
80 / 90 Share
Here’s one thing I’ve learned from sending THOUSANDS of
outreach emails: Send your outreach emails in the afternoon (in
the recipient’s local time).
When you send your message in the morning, it gets lumped
together with the 93 other emails that person has to deal with.
But when you send in the afternoon, there’s much less
competition in the inbox. I recommend using a tool like
Boomerang to help time your outreach emails:
Send Emails In the Afternoon 81 / 90 Share
Here’s an example of this in action from Backlinko:
Create Visualizations of Concepts,
Ideas and Strategies
82 / 90 Share
Believe it or not, but lots of people have linked to me thanks to
this simple illustration:
83 / 90 Share
Why does this work so well?
Well I COULD have simply described the APP formula with text.
But the problem with that approach is that your description is
much less shareable.
On the other hand, when you create a visual, you have something
that bloggers will happily use in their content (and link to you
when they do).
84 / 90 Share
Should you ask for a link in your first outreach email to someone?
Short answer: maybe.
You may get better results with a two-step process (Backlinko
reader Mike found that feeler emails CRUSHED asking for a link
The other benefit of this approach is that it saves you TIME.
Instead of personalizing outreach messages that no one will ever
read, send brief “feeler” emails.
Then personalize the heck out of your next series of messages.
Send Out Feeler Emails Before Going
For the Close
85 / 90 Share
Yes, guest post links have their place.
But they have one big problem: they take a ton of time to write!
Enter: podcasting. Instead of outlining, drafting and editing a
guest post, you just show up and talk about what you know. And –
boom! — you get a link.
The best part?
There are podcasts on EVERY topic.
Here’s an example of a link I recently built by appearing on a
Get Interviewed on Podcasts 86 / 90 Share
If someone links to your competitor, they’re likely to link to you…
right? Right.
And if someone links to TWO of your competitors, they’re even
more likely to link to you.
How can you find sites that links to more than one of your
Ahrefs Link Intersect Tool.
Just list out 2-3 of your biggest competitors. And this nifty tool
will show you who links to all of ‘em.
Use “Link Intersect” To Uncover Likely
87 / 90 Share
There’s no denying it:
Finding high-quality link targets is HARD.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that someone else already curated these highquality
sites for you…
…in the form of “best blog” lists.
Use “Pre-Curated” Lists of Link
88 / 90 Share
Needless to say, if you run a baking blog, every single one of the
sites listed here would make a great link opportunity.
You can find lists like these using search strings like: “best [topic] blogs” or “list of [topic] blogs”.
89 / 90 Here’s an example: Share
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Post Author: Vignesh Mahalingam

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