If you entered the world of SEO in the past few years (or past few months as I have) you’ll have been taught the mantra that you need to have lots of great content to promote and share in order to earn those “white-hat” links which will skyrocket your rankings and keep you safe from Mr. Cutts penguins. Sadly we are all aware that for most businesses “the build it and they will come” mantra really is just a quote from a Hollywood movie starring Kevin Costner.
At Hit Reach we carry out a lot of outreach for our clients and one of the best ways we get great results for our clients is by combining our content marketing efforts with old school tactical link building to help website owners.
By helping webmasters with their site issues we get a great response rate to our outreach and this is due to Cialdini’s well known law of reciprocity.
Human relationships are based on the reciprocity principle; “If you do something for me, I’ll do something for you in return.” This principle forms the cement of the social masonry that society is built up on.
…it is so deeply ingrained in to us from early childhood that we should reciprocate good deeds from others.
As this article is quite long I have created a menu so you can easily navigate between the different sections:
- Repair Broken Links
- Update Outdated Content
- Enhance other peoples content
- “The Moving Man” Method
- Helping Malware infected sites
- Fixing WordPress Vulnerabilities
Broken link building refers to the process of obtaining a link to your site by identifying and notifying someone of a broken link on their site. Finding a site that is relevant to your niche that also has a page with a link (or links) to a 404 provides you with the opportunity to ‘selflessly’ help them out. To put it simply you point out the dead link to the relevant webmaster whilst suggesting your site is linked to instead.
Unlike traditional link requests you are actually doing the webmaster a favour by providing them with the opportunity to ‘fix’ a part of their site. By identifying a problem and offering a solution, broken link building should prove to be worthwhile.
It’s probably best to simplify the process into four steps. Following these steps can be time consuming, often with mixed conversion rates, but will hopefully result in the web being a better place with the added bonus of gaining you a valuable and relevant link.
Finding Broken Links
There are a few different ways of finding sites with broken links. Combining these varying techniques with a few helpful tools can make this part of the process as painless as possible.
One such method relies heavily on the Check my links tool. Finding resource pages full of links to content similar to your own is a good starting point:
Now you have a list of sites potentially swamped with broken links. Finding exactly which links are dead and which are alive – and kicking – is where Check my links comes in:
The chrome extension allows you to instantly identify broken links on a page, using what I can only assume is some form of wizardry? These resource pages are not where your efforts are going to be aimed. Instead attention is turned towards the broken links themselves. If the page (or indeed company) being linked to no longer exist then running the URL through Ahrefs can provide a list of thousands of broken links which you can now try to acquire, providing they are worthwhile. For example:
Okay so in this case it’s not thousands of links but now you have nearly 100 websites that could be directing a link to you instead of the vast nothingness that is a 404.
Kristi Hines outlines a number of other methods for finding broken links in her post for Search engine journal. I highly recommend reading that if you are going to carry out these steps.
Establishing the quality of a page
The outreach component of the process can be lengthy and unrewarding. This makes it important to establish if it’s worthwhile attempting to persuade a webmaster to link to you in the first place. One aspect affecting this decision is the ‘quality’ of the webmasters page and site. Anthony D. Nelson created the perfect bar chart to explain how the awesomeness of a site can change the way you approach your outreach:
NB: Anthony’s Moz post is a great read and goes into greater depth about the processes and benefits of broken link building.
The awesomeness comes from aspects ranging from how good the design of a site is to its domain authority and page rank. Conversely there are often clear signs of un-awesomeness(?) such as: masses of broken links, prominent advertisements for gentlemen’s excuse me enhancers and no signs of social sharing. If the site meet this criteria, and is relevant to you, then the next step is reaching out to the relevant webmasters.
Finding contact information for outreach
Sometimes the tried and tested methods will be sufficient, for example looking for their email address on a contact page, about page or footer of the website. Also a contact form or interactions through social media can be enough to capture your targets (in the least creepy sense of the word) attention.
If all of the above fail then other methods exist such as using whois or finding out who registered a domain via domain.com. Ross Hudgens does a decent job of explaining the methods in greater detail if you are interested.
Once you have the contact information you need its now time to get stuck into the difficult bit, outreach.
Outreach email templates
The type of correspondence between you and the owner of the broken link will depend on the nature of their business/website.
Different situations require different templates and approaches in order to give you the best possible chance of success. Templates are often suggested depending on the guise which you opt to adopt. For example are you simply a good Samaritan who was merely passing by or are you openly an SEO promoting your new piece of content.
Also the quality of the link will determine the effort and time that should be put into an outreach email. If the link is extremely valuable to your site then care must be taken to ensure this opportunity is not missed. Likewise if the link in question is of lesser quality then time should not be wasted on creating an in-depth and heavily personalised email.
Chapter 7 of Neil Patel and Brian Dean’s the advanced guide to link building does an excellent job of explaining “outreach time” and also has templates which can be tailored to suit your own needs. For example:
They also explain how using Yesware to aid a trial and error process can help identify which templates work best for you. This is particularly useful for finding which subject lines have the best open rates.
Hopefully combining these four steps with the more advanced descriptions found in the articles I have referenced should enable you to build links while helping other people.
Garrett French – 36 articles on Broken Link Building
Melanie Nathan – Reciprocity Link Building
Jon Cooper – Broken Link Building Tips
Naturally over time content on the web becomes outdated.
Trends, interests, and feelings change, data refreshes, ideas expire and studies prove other studies wrong. The problem is that it is always going to be hard to keep every website 100% current and up to date.
Similar to broken link building this technique revolves around the idea of obtaining links through helping a site owner fix a part of their site. The difference being that instead of the problem being broken links it is in fact the issues that arise from linking to an outdated, or factually incorrect, resource.
Its probably easiest to explain by using an example so at Hitreach we have our PHP WordPress plugin:
We could then go and find people who have written about plugins that aren’t supported any more and say “hey” these 5 plugins are no longer working in WordPress 3.9 and instead you could replace them with our tool. This is where the Bill Sebald’s outdated content finder tool comes in:
Now you have a list of potentially outdated pieces of content that you can rescue and restore to their former glory. Likewise there could be people who have written a blog post saying you cant have PHP in WordPress. We then point out we have a solution and hopefully get a mention for it.
There is also the potential to carry out this process in reverse. As Bill explains most of your clients will be experts in some field. Finding out exactly where their skills lie allows you to then seek outdated content which your client can then update.
Thanks to Mr Dyson for coming up with the name for this link building method. Firstly you are going to find a piece of content that is already doing well in terms of Social Media activity (using Buzzsumo) or is getting tons of links (using ahrefs etc). There are a number of different ways that you can then modify the pre-existing content as I will explain using a few examples below.
The link can come as a thank you if you are genuinely able to add some kind of benefit to a piece of existing content or from simply improving quality content which has already proven to be popular for your own site.
Enhancing with Data
Adding value to content through the extension of existing data can often gain you a mention from the gratuitous content creator.
A perfect example of this comes from Jon Cooper following the publishing of his awesome Link Building Strategies post.
The team at Outspoken Media then made a spreadsheet that added things such as time frame, budget and complexity to the original article and gave it away at an SEO conference for free. This makes the initial content more beneficial for users and therefore benefited both Jon and Outspoken.
Enhancing with Translation
Enhancing content that already exists might often be considered morally questionable at times however when the adaptation introduces the content to a whole new audience then this offers universal benefits. A great example of this arises when a post is translated from one language to another.
This allowed Chris’ article to be viewed by a number of people who otherwise would be unaware of his unparalleled genius. It also means that Altura get the post displayed on their own site.
Enhancing with Design
Often great content can be lost in the online abyss due to aesthetically upsetting design. Finding a piece of compelling literature, on a subject with which you are familiar, and improving its design offers an opportunity to create great content. It also helps bring much needed attention to the original source.
The perfect example of this comes from the fuzzy Pixar theory (If you haven’t already discovered this I strongly recommend you check it out now).
Admittedly the original site is far from poorly designed however this recreation utilises simplicity to make the content more appealing and readable. Clearly this is a view shared by many Pixar conspiracy theorists as the social media statistics are quite ridiculous.
Enhancing with Technical Skills
Improving a tool or process with a different take on the underlying technology can often gain you a citation, should you approach it correctly.
John Henry Scherck wrote a post on Link Prospecting and Pivot tables. Chris Dyson then spent 15 minutes writing a macro to speed up the process and gave it away for free with the article. This resulted in this thank you from John
Brian Dean (aka Backlinko), has written about this technique lots and it is something we use regularly at Hit Reach as a great way to start the conversation with a website owner about content placement.
We have set-up a number of alerts within our client niches to check for businesses that have:
- Moved domain
- Changed their Product/Services
- Shut down
For example in the SEO space http://www.whitefireseo.com/ is no longer online, the site currently doesn’t return a 404 error and has a Bluehost landing page.
This means that if you have any automated link checking processes to keep your site up to date they won’t be showing these dead links.
You then check the sites links in MajesticSEO or ahrefs and contact the websites to let them know about the incorrect links and see if they will be interested in your content instead.
Another issue you find a lot if you’re spending 8+ hours a day working online are large numbers of sites that are currently infected with Malware, are hacked or have been injected with spam links.
If you are pretty good at fixing these types of issues you can build up some great relationships with bloggers as many are either unaware their site is impacted or are fearful of an expensive invoice from a web developer.
At Hit Reach we use Scrapebox & URLProfiler to find infected sites and then reach out to the bloggers to inform them and point them in the right direction. We use a couple of free extensions to help us find these sites automatically.
Firstly we use the “Malware and Phishing Filter” which will highlight sites on your prospecting list that have, or recently had, malware issues.
We then use URLProfiler to check the quality of the site, find contact information and help determine whether it’s a good fit for our project. If you’re not technical at all you can always recommend they use a service such as Sucuri – it costs just $89 per year to protect and clean up a site.
Here is a great outreach template you can customise for this technique from Giuseppe Pastore:
Subject Line: (DOMAIN.COM) linking to hacked websites
Hi (WEBSITE OWNER FIRST NAME),
My name is (FIRST NAME) and I’m writing you to let you know that visiting your website I’ve found some links to viagra-hacked pages. To be honest, it’s been very surprising for me to discover you’re suggesting those sites, since I’ve never doubted of (WWW.DOMAIN.COM) quality and I’ve always found useful suggestions both in your own content and your links, so I guess you probably don’t know you’re linking to bad results…
To be more specific, I’ve found this link to (HACKED PAGE) in this page (PAGE URL).
By clicking the link I’ve been sent to a page that contains (VIAGRA|CIALIS|LEVITRA SPAM); I don’t know if you can get the same result because maybe spammed text only appears in some cases (sorry, I’m not an expert of tech stuff so I can’t give you more detailed informations on this, but if you type that URL on GOOGLE you can see they say it’s spammed… (SERP URL)).
Maybe, not to disappoint your visitors, you’ll want to change that link. Being very interested in (TOPIC), I could suggest you this one, I think it could a good fit: (YOUR URL).
-(YOUR FIRST NAME).
As with broken link building it’s no surprise that the webmasters are very receptive to your outreach pitches.
#6. Find WordPress Vulnerabilities
With millions of websites using WordPress as their content management system you can be sure there’s bloggers in every niche who’ve left their website open to hackers or content thieves.
As we are a WordPress specialist agency we have a lot of people on hand who know how to set-up WordPress securely, but, there are free tools available that allow you to check a website’s security quickly:
1. Sucuri – has a free scan service that will tell you if their are any common issues
2. w3af.org – Checks if they are vulnerable to XSS injections.
We will also see if they are using the username admin as a login and check to see if /uploads/ are accessible to content thieves.
Below is a version of an email template we have used in the past
“Subject: WordPress Security Issues with [Site Name]
Hi [First Name],
I was just visiting your website, [Site Name], and I spotted a security vulnerability with your WordPress installation
Currently there is an issue with [wp-config.php/uploads/WordPress Version out of Date] and this leaves your site vulnerable to [attack from hackers/content theft].
If you need any help fixing the issue please contact me and I will send you a link with details to fix the issue.
So there you go six techniques you can use today to improve your outreach response rates.