Let’s face it; links are still the number one ranking factor in search engines.

You’ll hear a lot from the various SEO sites (mine included) about all the different SEO ranking factors you can optimize for and how you should create awesome content.

Those things are all true, they do help, and they are part of a complete SEO strategy. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the top ranking factor is still links.

Now, before we talk about outreach and why it is the new link building, I think you need to understand that the way Google uses links has changed.

The Way Google Uses Links

It used to be (way back when Google first got big) that the number of links alone could give a site a boost.

Many webmasters used black hat tactics like buying links, link pyramids and circles, using directories, and having pages of links, all with the goal of getting more links for their sites.

Keyword Stuffing example

Remember keyword stuffing?

Then keywords and anchor text became important, and everyone was using the exact match anchor text and exact match domains to get higher in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

We then entered the content era, where webmasters spammed web 2.0’s and directories with spun articles. For a while, you could even make sites filled with your own rss feeds to boost your own site.

All of these tactics I just listed off eventually were phased out by Google through various updates. If you tried those techniques today, you’d probably find yourself with a penalty pretty fast and wouldn’t do great in the SERPs.

At the time of writing, Google seems to be cracking down on PBNs (private blog networks), unnatural repeat linking from sites (like when a site links to another site from the footer on every single page), and fake social shares.

If you are using those tactics, I think you should expect to eventually be caught by Google.

What Google Looks At Now

Google keeps getting smarter and better at cracking down on Black Hat methods.

They now consider more factors than ever before.

When looking at links, they consider the trust and authority of the site the link is coming from, whether that site is related to yours, and hundreds of other factors.

They then also consider your content that is being linked to, including length, keywords, related keywords, proof words, your site’s trust and authority, your backlink profile, and more.

Google's anchor text profile. See how diverse it is?

Google’s anchor text profile. See how diverse it is?

Finally, they also consider behavioral factors like the number of shares a post or page has, how many people click the SERP listing, time on the page, where users go next, and more.

Doing Things The Google Way

The best way to go about running your site is really to just do things the Google way.

We’ve heard from Google’s Matt Cutts that Google really wants you to:

  • Create a blog and establish yourself as an authority
  • Do something that is unique/different/original
  • Create content that is useful/helpful to the community
  • Answers common questions in your niche
  • Publish original research
  • Create videos
  • Publish how to guides and tutorials
  • Create lists of helpful resources

Now, that list is great and everything. If you follow it, you’ll no doubt make a great site that is valuable to your readers. You should eventually start picking up search engine traffic.

Google seems to want you to use social to promote your posts, and that does help you to move up in the SERPS.

I’ve written in the past about how to get social traffic in these guides:

But social traffic really only gets you so far.

Link Building Through Outreach

If you want to do well in the SERPs, you really need to get some quality links!

Sure, if your content is good it should get some shares and links. But to increase your likelihood of getting those valuable links, you really need to do some outreach and get your content in front of the people most likely to give you those links, other webmasters!

Now, remember from before that we only want links from related sites with decent authority or big sites with tons or readers and/or awesome authority. I like to use ahrefs DR and Moz DA to measure the authority of a website.

This is why outreach is the new link building.

You can’t just go grab links from some terrible directory or buy links anymore, you have to interact with other webmasters to get the right kind of links.

Getting your content in front of the people that matter

To get our content in front of the people that run those sites, you really need to use outreach.

For our purposes, outreach is the process of communicating with others with the ultimate goal of promoting your online brand.

This could be writing comments on their sites, using twitter to tweet them or reach them on other social sites, filling out a contact form, or writing them an email.  Heck, I guess you could also call them on the phone or write a letter. Just reach them personally and directly!

Some things to keep in mind before doing outreach

When reaching out to the people you want to get your content in front of (and ultimately to get links from), I think there are quite a few things you should keep in mind.

Develop a real relationship

First, don’t just go into it with the goal of using these people. Instead, try to develop a real, lasting, valuable relationship.

I would think this wouldn’t be that difficult, as you probably cover the same topic or a similar topic to the person you are writing to, so you should have a lot to talk about.

Be genuine and honest.

Give them value

By developing a relationship, the two of you can really give each other value.

Just off the top of my head, here are some ways you could give the other person value:

  1. Send them a detailed posts about a topic they might be interested in
  2. Share their content
  3. Write an awesome comment on their site
  4. Give them a social mention
  5. Mention them to your email list
  6. Link to them in your content

Once you’ve developed a relationship, maybe they will return the favor and do those things listed above for you. You could even work together to build content or have the other person read yours before you post it.

Consider the sales funnel

For your own website, you should really be considering the sales funnel in the creation and promotion of all of your content (see graphic below).

Sales Funnel Line Art

This also applies to outreach.

At first, the people you are reaching out to probably have no idea who you are.

You’re first step is just to build some awareness. Maybe give them some free value by leaving valuable comments on their site or social profiles, giving them mentions on your site or social, or even through a cold email (I mentioned ways to give value above).

If you are going the cold email approach, I’d start by giving the person some kind of compliment, like telling them you liked a piece of content they created. I know a lot of people send me those types of emails, and, even though I know what they are doing, I still like compliments. It works every time.

You might want to do some “soft selling” in your first few contacts, like sharing a post with them, as it could convert into at least getting them to look at your content if not getting a share or link.

However, I wouldn’t push too hard or try for the “hard sell.” Your goal is really just to start developing a relationship. Don’t just ask for a link, as you probably won’t get one and also Google hates that.

If you hear back from the person, continue trying to give them value by sharing their stuff, maybe linking to it, and sending them content to check out. This is building up your own authority and trust in this person’s eyes.

Hopefully this secondary contact leads to more conversations, messages, or emails. Eventually, this will likely turn into shares, links, and maybe more.

Conclusion

In this post, we have discussed how outreach is really the new link building.

You no longer just want links in bulk, you want them from authoritative, related websites.

To get those links, you need to do outreach to get your content in front of the people you want to see it, aka the webmasters of those authoritative, related websites.

I also think you should try to develop a real relationship with those people, as it increases your chances of getting links, let’s you get repeat links, and can add other value to your brand.

If you’d like help with outreach or have any questions, please contact me today!

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