Here’s a heavily-guarded link-building secret hack we’re not supposed to tell you as an seo expert: There’s no such thing as a link-building secret or hack.
Link-building is un-hack-able. There is no secret code or magic key to unlock untold link-building success. If there was, you wouldn’t be reading this and you wouldn’t be looking for the best SEO consultant to do this for you. You would have already found the simple solution and you would be doing it right now.
There are no hacks, but there are proven tactics. And these tactics require you to do some work. That work scares most companies away. They’re convinced the next Google algo update will unlock a potential backdoor into link-building success.
This will probably never happen. Nearly every Google update changes the game in a way that rewards the people who actually do the work, and punishes those who look for shortcuts around it.
And the rewards for the companies that do the work have never been higher. A Moz study inspected the top 50 Google search results for about 15,000 keywords. They confirmed that 99.2% of the top 50 websites had at least one outbound link pointing to it. Most had considerably more.
But, you can’t buy these links (anymore), you have to earn them. Article submissions, trading links, and PBNs won’t cut it anymore. If you want to earn high-quality links in 2019, you’ve got to put in the work.
To make sure you’re not doing this work alone, we’ve outlined the 14 steps you need to take to earn links in today’s marketplace.
Step 1. Create Quality Content
Most link-building (and digital marketing in general) “hacks” are aimed at trying to avoid this. That’s because quality takes time and work. And who can afford that? Well, in 2019 you can’t afford to skip it.
Stop looking for cheat codes for the game and just beat the damn game. Take all the time and effort you used to put into finding ways to hack the system and put it into generating truly amazing content.
You need to form a habit of creating epic content to get maximum returns in your content marketing efforts (aka links, traffic, and social shares). This is non-negotiable. Building real authority and earning trusted links requires quality content.
In a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 42% of B2B marketers rated their organization’s use of content marketing as effective while only 16% believe they are ineffective.
Corbett Barr, founder of Fizzle and Palapa, and co-host of The Fizzle Show states that:
“Building a raving fan on the web all starts with writing epic shit. Period — hands down — end of story.”
Google (and other search engines) won’t see you as a useful resource if you just regurgitate ideas and just post mediocre 300 word articles. Why? Because human beings won’t see you as useful either.
Cyrus Shepard, an SEO, online marketer, content publisher, speaker, and writer, suggests that:
“90% of your effort should always go into creating great content, and the remaining 10% into link building.”
This is the 90/10 rule of building links.
As harsh as it sounds, Cyrus states that, “If you’re still struggling to build high-quality backlinks to your website, it’s likely that you’ve reversed the rule.”
You need valuable and compelling content that will warrant the high PR, if you want to succeed with a smooth and scalable link-building plan.
Really, the best form of link building is about positioning your content so that more people can link to you naturally. A single (well-crafted) blog post can be used to earn MANY quality links to your website.
Think about this for a second: How often have you linked to someone’s content just because they asked you? If the content sucked, you probably passed.
So spend less time pitching your content and more time creating content that pitches itself.
Step 2. Know Your Audience’s Pain Points
The more you understand your audience pain points, the more you can create content that locks into their problems and positions your company to solve it.
This is one of the most important parts of creating quality content. A good article doesn’t need to be read by 1,000,000 people. It’s much more valuable if it genuinely locks into the pain points of 100 readers, which leads them to want to know more about you and engage with you.
Here’s how to understand your audience and their pain points:
Identify The Most Popular Blogs In Your Niche
Start by carrying out a quick Google search, using phrases such as:
• Top [your niche] blogs
• Best [your niche] blogs
From these results, examine the blogs you find. Make sure to look for blogs that get a lot of monthly traffic, which you can quickly figure out with a tool like the SimilarWeb Chrome extension.
Let’s say I am looking for “best home improvement blogs.” I type this into Google’s search engine. Then I click on apartmenttherapy.com’s blog as it appears to be a good fit for my target audience.
Then, I head on over to SimilarWeb and plug apartmenttherapy.com into the search bar.
From the results, I can see that they’ve got over 11 million visits each month.
Looking good so far! Next, I start reviewing their blog posts.
• Do their posts often get shared on social media? Check.
• Does their content generate many comments? Check.
Find The Pages That Generate The Most Traffic
While the number of social shares is a great indicator of the type of information your target audience finds valuable, overall traffic volume speaks volume.
So for this step, I’ll head over to SEMRush.
1. Find the left sidebar of apartmenttherapy.coms results page
2. I’ll click on Organic Research
3. and then go to Pages to see the top-performing pages
While it won’t show you specific traffic volume, that’s okay – we’re actually more interested in relative positions.
Here’s my list of the top-performing pages for Apartment Therapy:
Now that you’ve gotten the posts with the highest traffic on this particular website let’s move on.
Go Through The Comments On These Post
This is your crystal ball – your secret silver bullet – your #1 source of insights! Your audience will tell you (in their own words) everything that you’re dying to find out.
Whether it’s any questions they have, what they found helpful, what ticked them off, and what made them happy.
You want to find the blog posts with the most comments and look for any comments that hint at your customer pain points.
Also, remember to look out for recurring themes!
By the time you’re finished going through these comments, you’ll have a handful of free(ish) insights into who your audience is and their pain points.
Tips For Additional Insights
Of course, there are other places where you can find these beautiful insights like the popular online questions and answers website — Quora.
Quora is so popular that even former U.S. President Barack Obama is on it.
Here’s a question that he answered in 2015 on the Iran nuclear deal.
This is a great example of showing the type of insights (from the various types of people) you can stand to gain from Quora.
If you don’t have an account already, sign up and start browsing the various questions/answers that are related to your niche.
Brian Dean from Backlinko wrote a compelling article on a big question that people were asking on Quora.
And here’s the blog post he wrote on the topic that instantly dominated the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Boom! Simple as that.
So, if you’re browsing through Quora and you find relevant questions (especially one that has been asked many times by different people), you can write a blog post on that question/topic – on your very own blog.
1. Answer the question on Quora. Don’t go too in-depth
2. Paste your site/blog link right beside your answer
3. Direct people to the link for even more information
Finding a repeated question is a fantastic indicator that your audience has a problem, and one that you can solve!
Other forums like Quora include:
Step 3. Identify And Target a Long-Tail Keyword
The next step is to start digging for some long-tail keywords based on the information above.
Long-tail keywords are those three or four keyword phrases that are super specific to whatever you’re selling or promoting.
According to Advanced Web Ranking, “long-tail keywords account for about 70% of all web searches.”
They’re simply the foundation of any effective search engine optimization strategy:
Long-tail keywords are the easiest way to outrank your competitors. A New York-based SaaS company recently carried out a comprehensive, 9-month study of its keyword rankings on Google’s search engines.
They discovered that long-tail keywords with/without conventional on-page optimization were influenced much more than single-word/short-tail keywords.
This proves that long-tail keywords are your best approach to outranking your competitors.
Even if it’s a keyword that your competitors have already covered, with better-optimized content you have the potential to gain lots of traction.
So, while examining your target audience and their pain points, make sure you come up with many questions they’re asking on the various platforms you visit.
Start with Google Keyword Planner. Input those questions you found earlier to see some related keywords.
Now visit Keywordtool.io to get more low competition, long-tail keywords, which you can target in your content.
For this example, I’ll enter “home improvements” into the search bar of keywordtool.io (assuming it’s among the keywords I generated from Google Keyword Planner), and then search for it.
As you can see, I now have more than enough “home improvements” related long-tail keywords. To also get some “question related” keywords on the same topic, click on the questions tab on the keyword result page:
Now that we have keywords, we want to add them to our content without keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is now considered a strictly black-hat tactic. It’s also a bit “bush league,” in our view.
Your content should aim to address your audience’s questions and problems creatively. Focus on answering their questions, while using the long-tail keywords naturally and only when relevant.
The user-intent/experience should be your primary goal, and not to solely stuff your article with keywords. Nobody is looking for an article that reads “how to be rich book” repeated 500 times.
Step 4. Craft Irresistible Titles For Your Content
One of the most popular blogging commandments out there is: “Thou shall write great headlines.”
If your headline fails to capture attention, the rest of your content becomes irrelevant.
That is why, before writing any blog post, you need to take that extra step to study proven headline formulas from around the web and tweak every word until it’s perfect.
According to Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger Media,
“Your article headline is the first, and probably the only, impression you make on a prospective audience.”
Advertising superstar David Ogilvy understands the power of writing compelling headlines, and how a headline typically determines whether the ad gets read or not.
He rewrote this legendary headline for an automobile advertisement about 104 times:
“At 60-miles per hour, the only sound you hear in the new Rolls Royce is the ticking of the dashboard clock.”
Legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz often spent a whole week on the first 50-words of a sales page — the headline and the introductory paragraph. He knew that the first 50 words were the most vital part of every persuasive writing — and writing them well, takes time.
“KISSmetrics helps you get actionable metrics for your business”
“Google Analytics tells you what happened, KISSmetrics tells you who did it.”
Neil saw an increased conversion rate of over 40%.
So, how do you craft captivating headlines?
Include Power Words
Including power words in a headline has proven to boost engagement.
Writer Sarah Peterson, from Unsettle.org, explains that, “Power words trigger an emotional response in the human brain, and pack some serious punch to the magnetism of any headline, sales page, or advert, getting people to click, share and buy.”
Some Power Word Examples:
Use Numbers In Your Headline
Including specific (odd) numbers into your headline is a great way to make your headlines more attractive to readers.
Studies have proven that headlines with numbers (and more specifically odd numbers) tend to attract 73% more social shares and engagement.
According to Debra Jason from Write Direction, “one of the reasons why numbers work very well in headlines is because they are like brain candy. In other words, the brain is receptive to numbers.”
Make Sure Your Primary Target KWP Is In Your Headline
Headlines usually fail when they don’t match the written content or aren’t relevant to a specific premise.
If people aren’t finding what they’re looking for on your website, then they’re leaving as fast as they came. Hello, bounce rates!
Keep Headlines Under 60 Characters
If your headline does exceed 60 characters, search engines may ignore the remainder of the headline – resulting in lower conversion rates in the long run.
Check out this brilliant headline by Jon Morrow, creator of Smart Blogger, that has generated over 1,000,000 reads:
See how compelling it is?
In fact, it’s one of the headlines that made Jon very popular.
Step 5. Share Original Research and Data in Your Content
Great content marketing has two elements: Creativity and data.
Without the use of data, marketers/writers lose their credibility. Therefore, if you want people to share and link to your content, then form the habit of creating DATA-DRIVEN content.
According to Search Engine Journal, “data-driven content is the key to sustainable and scalable link building.”
There are many ways to gather data for your content such as carrying out A/B split test, conducting a customer survey, performing an email analysis, etc.
You can also leverage other people’s research. Just ensure that you cite your sources and make sure they are credible to protect your reputation and authority.
For example, Neil Patel is known for publishing well researched, data-driven content. However, whenever you read any of his posts, the majority of the data and studies posted are usually from other sites/sources.
Here’s an example:
Referencing credible research/sources is precisely what you should be doing if you want to back up your claims — especially if you don’t have the capacity (time, money, team) to conduct your own independent research.
Not sure where to find credible websites to find research?
Websites like ChicagoBooth.edu often publish trustworthy research from various industries:
Step 6. Make a Real Connection With The Art of Storytelling
If your content is monotonous, no one will read it. Simple as that. What’s worse, it’s impossible to share!
On the other hand, who doesn’t love listening to an exciting story?
Storytelling helps brands and companies around the world connect with their target market, and boosts brand loyalty/engagement. You can use it to capture attention, increase trust, and form a deep emotional connection with your audience – earning their devotion for years to come.
Good stories help you stand out from the vast blogging crowd. They make your content unique because no one else can tell YOUR story.
What Makes a Great Story?
If you want people to fall in love with your content and more importantly, link to it, keep these 3 qualities in mind:
• Emotion: Creating an emotional connection through intrigue not only pulls an audience into your story but builds emotional connections with your brand
• Relatability: You want to ensure that your story has a genuine connection to the reader. That is why it’s imperative that you know your audience and the audience of your
• Authenticity: The story must speak truth to the audience. Not only will it make your story more persuasive, but it will make you appear more credible
Step 7. Produce The Right Type of Content to Naturally Attract Links
The following types of content attract the most backlinks:
Even though some people complain about having to read “yet another list post,” it remains one of the most popular types of content.
That’s because list posts have a few key things going for them:
• They’re scannable
• They invoke curiosity
• They make a specific promise
While Infographics got the most shares, list posts were easily #2.
Infographics are one of the best types of content for link building. 53% of SEO experts create cornerstone infographics, and 61% of them find them to be an effective means of earning backlinks.
Jubaer Prodhan, an SEO specialist at Vendasta Technologies, had terrific success when he created infographics and then permitted other websites to post his infographics on their sites and link back to him.
Immediately, Prodhan saw a dramatic increase in his content ROI — earning hundreds of links from different domains. In fact, his infographic titled 50 Shocking Stats About Online Reputation Management has attracted almost 1,000 backlinks from more than 300 referring domains.
These massive resources provide your audience with a comprehensive examination of topics that truly matter to them. They offer a potent one-two punch of content that both solve customer pain points and builds your brand’s credibility.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 42% of SEO professionals that responded to a study have created white papers, and 60% of them found that they’re the ideal content for earning links.
This one of the best ways to become popular in any industry. Creating comprehensive guides will not only position you as a leader in your niche, but it’ll also earn you lots of high-quality backlinks.
Let’s look at QuickSprout’s Advanced Guide to SEO as an example:
This guide has generated over 1k backlinks to date, from several referring domains:
Creating this type of guide will earn you a sound reputation and a lot of links when done properly. Start by finding a topic that people in your niche gravitate towards, and create a comprehensive guide on it.
Tip: make sure to cover everything there is about that topic!
Step 8. Write Longer, Information-Rich Content
A study conducted by serpIQ which involved more than 20,000 keywords found that the top ranking posts contain more than 2,000 words:
However, that’s not all. Google has also confirmed their love for long-form, in-depth articles.
A member of Google and creator of the Panda algorithm update Pandu Nayak posted the following on the Google Webmasters Central Blog:
“Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.”
Here’s why long-form content works:
• You’ll be appealing to a broader range of readers
• There’s room to talk about related topics or issues
• People will spend more time on the page
• It’ll likely generate more leads
• The content will be more useful, shareable, and therefore linkable
After HubSpot analyzed 6,192 articles, they also found that articles with 2000+ words got more backlinks and social shares:
Meanwhile, articles with 2500+ words earned the MOST social shares:
Longer-form content is not a new concept. It was used mostly by traditional magazines.
According to Columbia Journal Review, “longer-form has gone digital.”
The decline of attention spans isn’t applicable when it comes to quality content. Based on the data above, It’s clear that people like reading in-depth and informative content – even on mobile devices.
Step 9. Make Your Content Highly Visual
According to Social Media Examiner, 37% of marketers confirmed that visual marketing was a necessary form of content for their business, coupled with text blogging at 38%.
We don’t have to remind you that visual content works. The brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than it does text.
According to Psychologist, Haig Kouyoumdjian, “the part of our brain that handles texts is smaller than the one that processes images.”
Haig discovered that visuals:
• Reduce how long it takes us to learn and understand something
• Make it easier for us to understand difficult concepts
• Increases retention
According to Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, 93% of everyday communication is nonverbal.
Think of how humans react to body language…
Typically, how you use graphics significantly affects how people perceive you and your brand.
Neuromarketing science also confirmed that visual content drives engagement.
BuzzSumo and OKDork recently analyzed 100,000,000 articles and discovered that including at least one image with a post on Facebook tripled the number of shares that post generated, while the shares more than doubled on Twitter.
Step 10. Spread The Word To Your Existing Audience
Now that you’re done creating and publishing your well-crafted SEO content, it’s time to promote it.
The first step to promoting any content is to share it with your existing audience. After all, these are the people that will spread the word about your content to friends/family via WOM.
You achieve this by:
Sending Out an Email Broadcast
According to software company Monetate, “email marketing drives conversions more than any other marketing channel, including social and search.”
QuickSprout also found that email subscribers are 3X more likely to share your content on social media than visitors from other sources.
Therefore, once you’ve published your linkable content, send out a broadcast message about it to your email subscribers before moving on to the next steps.
Sharing It On Social Media
This step is pretty straightforward. Share your content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or any other social media channel you’re active on.
Friends and Mastermind Groups
We all have those close friends whom we often brainstorm and share ideas with. This same group of people can also help to spread the word about your epic content.
Step 11. Distribute Content To Influencers Through Social Outreach
There are two proven ways to go about this:
Reach out to influencers in your niche to tell them about your valuable content, so that they can share it with their audience and probably link to it as well (your ultimate goal).
The great Brian Dean increased his search traffic by 110% in 14 days via email outreach:
So how do you start an email outreach campaign?
First, find the bloggers you’ll be emailing. The best way to do that is to perform backlink checks on your competition with tools like Open Site Explorer. This way, you’ll see all the blogs linking to them – these are your potential linkers.
After that, I’ll make a note of all the links and begin reaching out to the authors one by one, notifying them about my epic content while also (genuinely) complimenting their epic content.
Here’s an email outreach template:
This is the process of using social networks to raise awareness of your content, brand, or to build new relationships.
Similar to the email outreach step we discussed above, however, the only difference with social outreach is that it’s done via social media.
Unfortunately, sometimes you need to go beyond the free promotional methods and spend some money on adverts to reach more people and increase the chances of getting social shares and natural backlinks.
Step 12. Pay To Reach Your Intended Audience
Paid Media Ad Options:
This is one of the most popular means of getting quick exposure online. With Facebook ads, you can reach a wide audience in a short period, thereby getting massive exposure.
The great thing about Facebook Ads is that your ads are optimized to reach only those people who are more likely to be interested and are more likely to engage with it.
HubSpot wanted to promote its brand in a 3-month campaign by leading fans to their page and ultimately engaging them with their content.
After the campaign, HubSpot saw a 71% increase in sales from Facebook, a 15% increase in ROI from Facebook and a 39% increase in traffic.
This is another effective means of getting lots of exposure to your content.
It’s the process of paying other popular websites in your niche to write about your brand for the purpose of exposing you to their audience.
Step 13. Repurpose The Content To Reach A New Audience
One effective way of getting more people to see your content is to repurpose your existing content into other content formats such as infographics, SlideShare presentation, and PDF reports.
Repurposing content has a number of benefits, like reaching new audiences and getting fresh links.
A perfect example of content repurposing in action is when the team at Copyblogger took one of their blog posts (the 3-Step Journey of a Remarkable Piece of Content) and transformed it into a SlideShare presentation.
That single SlideShare presentation has earned over 47K views to date:
Darren Rowse received lots of positive feedback on his “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” series, he finally packaged the series into an ebook and sold it for $29.99 per ebook.
Even after many years from the initial launch, the ebook is still available online — and generating passive income.
Step 14. Update The Content With Current Information To Get New Links
This illustration from the Moz blog indicates how your original content gradually degrades in freshness. In case you didn’t know, this is one of the factors that Google uses to determine your website’s quality.
To boost the effectiveness of your SEO campaigns and increase your search engine traffic, you can update your existing content, giving it a breath of fresh air while improving your freshness score in the eyes of Google.
Updating your content comes with loads of benefits like:
• Correcting grammar and spelling mistakes (in case you missed it the first time)
• Increasing value by removing broken links
• Improving your click-through rate
• Enhancing your content’s accuracy and consistency
• Showing Google that your content is fresh
If people see that your website is regularly updated, their chances of coming back will increase, and Google will reward you for it.
For example, Brian Dean got a great idea for a case study. Instead of writing a whole separate post and trying to promote it on its own, he used it to update an older post.
Brian promoted that updated post to his subscribers and social followers which resulted in a 111.37% increase in organic traffic.
Well, there you have it, folks! We’ve left no stone unturned in this guide, and If you follow these 14 simple steps, you’ll be creating the type of content that will be attracting linkreators for years to come. It’s not rocket science. Just a little effort and stick with it 🙂