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Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Technical Link Building

Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Technical Link Building

Ross Tavendale

Modified Transcript

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special edition of the Weekly Wisdom. My name is Ross Tavendale, and I am the managing director of an SEO Company called Type A Media. Now today we are going to go a little bit lo-fi as you can see because our videographer is currently on holiday, but today we are going to be talking about something that is really close to my heart, and that is the subject of link building.

Now typically people say that "Oh God, when we're building links it is so expensive, you need tons of money," or some people say, "You can only do it if it's doing it through digital PR," and mind you, that is just really not the case. If you think about all the tactics from back in the day, all the technical link building stuff, it still works absolutely fine to this day; it is just maybe not as fashionable for people to be doing it. What I am going to be doing is I am going to be taking you through all of the technical link building things that we do for our clients when they have no assets at all. So, that means no content to speak of to generate the link. 

Your Starting Strategy

Okay, first and foremost, I just want you to think about strategy. When we are building out link building strategies, I want you to think about links in three major buckets — hygiene, defense, and then growth.

Hygiene is just fixing anything that is wrong with the site and making sure that the links you would normally get, you are getting. Defense is looking towards your competitors to make sure that they are not pulling away from you, and they are not building more links than you at a higher quality than you. So, you always got an idea of what they are up to. And then growth; these are things that you are going to do that your competitors just plain can't do because they are unique to you. That is going to be your unique selling point when it comes to building these links.

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Hygiene First— Brand Reclamation (1:49)

A nice and easy one is brand reclamation. If you are being mentioned all around the web, but no one is actually linking to you, it is absolutely fine if you get in touch with a journalist and say, "Hey, thank you so much for mentioning my content or mentioned my CEO or reviewing our product. We would absolutely love it if you could also cite your sources and link to us. That would be great."

It doesn't work 100% of the time, but we have now got it down to a process where we are getting about 30 to 40% of people saying, "Yes, that's fine," and adding the link. So, if you have got a lot of brand mentions with no links, this is a great way to build links into this thing. Ways to do that are really simple. Let me just quickly show you in SEMrush itself.

Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Technical Link Building. Image 1

What we can see here, enter the link building module, you get something called mentions. What you can do is add a bunch of your brand mentions in there. I would also recommend that you add your CEO's name or anyone who is a public figure in your business so that that also comes up.

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If they mentioned them in the press, you can contact them and get the link.

Repositioning (2:58)

Okay, so next up is repositioning. Typically this is something that isn't really talked about. Let's imagine that you have got tons of links coming into your site already. Where are they usually going? It is usually the homepage; 90% of all websites, all the links will go to the home page, but that doesn't help me. If I sell blue widgets and I've got a blue widgets landing page, I want links pointing to my blue widgets landing page for obvious reasons.

What we do is I would look at all of the links pointing to my home page, analyze that content to see if any of that is actually about our blue widgets. Probably is; I would contact those people who have written about my blue widgets. I would get them to say, "Hey, you have linked to the home page. Thank you so much. You are an absolute legend, but it is a bad user experience. People are clicking, going to the homepage, and they can't see what you have just written about my blue widget. So, can we get them to point to this one?"

And most of the time people are nice enough to update the link and actually put it to the landing page. Again, if you are using SEMrush, a really easy way to do this is to go into again into the backlinks section and just look at all your index pages, and what the tool is going to do, it's going to cut out all the links per index page.

Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Technical Link Building. Image 3

You can see here there are a measly 46 filings pointing to our home page. I keep going there and make sure that they are all on point in terms of topicality and see if I can get them moved to perhaps a better location.

Defensive Link Building — Link Intersect (4:25)

Okay, so the next one, moving on to defensive link building. The concept of link intersect is really important here. Let's say that five of my top competitors all have links from one particular source, but I do not. That is really weird. Why would all of them have a link there, but not me?

What I would do in this instance is I would actually have a look and see all of my competitors backlinks and what I can go and get myself; perhaps it is a resource page or a links page or something like that where I can reach out to these people and say, "Hey, you've mentioned all those people. We are in this gang too. Do you mind adding us?"

Surprisingly effective. If you are in the travel business, in particular, this is a great one to do. Again, you can go to SEMrush's competitors report to do that. There are definitely other tools out there that have this baked in, so there is a particular link intersect part. I would have a little Google around to find something like that, but as you can see here, here are all the competitors for Type A Media and you can see all the common domains that we share.

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If I keep putting in all my competitors and get that into Excel, I can start seeing where all this stuff crosses over, whether they are getting links and I am not getting links.

Broken Link Building (5:45)

Okay, so moving down. Let's have a look at broken link building; this is by far the most labor intensive, laborious job you will ever do. It is the concept of finding broken links around the web about the subject matter that you write about and then contacting a webmaster to tell them all, "Hey, this is broken, and I have a similar resource." How do we do that?

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What you want to do is you want to have a look at all of your competitor backlinks, extract them and see if one of them is actually a 404 and then when you see all the competitor backlinks with 404s, you can see what pages that they are 404-ing on. You can go to those pages and actually say, "Oh, excuse me, Mr. Webmaster. I don't know if you know this, but you are linking to a broken resource," and they would be like, "Oh hey, thanks very much. I'll get that updated."

Don't ask for the link straight away. Ask for it after they say thank you or engage with you, then you can say, "Oh, we have got some stuff that's very similar to it. As you are updating it, would you mind updating with our link?" Strangely effective, but like I say, you are going to be looking through thousands and thousands of backlinks. I gave a great example the other day of how long it takes for this stuff to work. For one of our clients, we spend two days every week just doing this, and they get about 12-ish links every week. So, that gives you an idea of the type of skill you need — 16 hours of output gets 12 links. It is hard work. I am not going to lie, but if you have got no asset is a good way of doing it.

The Marty McFly Technique (7:19)

So, I essentially just made this concept up. The Marty McFly technique is essentially going back in time, seeing things that have already done well, perhaps in 2017, 2015, whatever. Then making an updated version of it and then pitching it to the exact same people that link to the old version.

We see this in the SEO industry all the time. Perhaps there are SEO ranking factors, or there was an SEO agency salary infographics from five years ago; we can make brand new fresh content with up to date relevant data and then we can contact the exact same people that link to it because they are very likely to link to the updated version that we have just created.

Resource Pages (8:02)

All right, so next up is resource pages. Now, this may feel a little bit old school, but you can actually get a ton of jams. So, what I am going to do is I am going to show you how this would typically work. You do an inurl, and you would look for something like resources, and then you just put in some keyword topped up here. Do not put in a broad keyword. If we were doing travel, I would never just put a massive destination. I would do things like how to get to Dubai or something like that, and what is going to happen? The miracle is one result:

Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Technical Link Building. Image 6

That is a perfect result for us because I can click into there and if I am a travel brand, I can say, "Hey, if you're looking for resources on how to get to Dubai..." and because they are teachers, we can give them discounts, all sorts of stuff. If we make it super broad (8:54), look what happens. Oh, my goodness. Loads and loads and loads of resource pages about Dubai.

You want to keep this as specific as possible so you can get a real narrow list when you are doing your outreach because I'll be honest with you, a 100 or so contacts to go through per keywordit's not that useful to me.

Growth

Next one is growth. Now, when we talk about guest posting, I don't mean this guest posting. We have all seen it, right? End URL "write for us" and then some keywords. So for example, as you see again, we are doing travel, so let's just see travel. (9:16)

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Every SEO and his dog is doing this, and it is a terrible idea to do that at any sort of scale. Why is that a terrible idea? Because it is completely crowded and those links are almost definitely getting devalued because if you look at all of the open link profiles, it is very obviously SEO manipulation.

Now how can we still use guest posting in order to drive a little bit of value and get links?

Well, let's just stay on this travel theme, shall we? And let's look at something called Away. Away are a luggage company that have been doing really well on Instagram recently, and these guys essentially sell luggage products and travel products. The thing is they are huge on social media, and they have got a very active blog. If I am a travel business, what I want to do is create some really compelling pitch. I want to pitch them a story to go on their site. That would typically be a guest blog. They are not a competitor; they are a compatitor. They are a complimentary company inside of my industry.

What I would be wanting to do in this instance is to get a guest blog on their site; although they don't explicitly offer the option. One way to get into that, I would recommend going to find the social media manager or the content manager on LinkedIn and pitching them through LinkedIn.

If you have got some leverage social media accounts with lots of followers, email us, whatever, you can say, "Hey, if you let me guest post on your site, and by the way, it is going to be amazing content, and I don't mean we are not mailing it in. We are not going to a paid writing site and getting a $30 article made. We are going to get a proper cooperator to set and make some really nice stuff, great imagery, the whole thing." They are going to take that, and then you are going to get not only the traffic from their site, but also you are going to get a very high powered link as well.

Asset Creation and Image Reclamation (11:26)

Okay. Moving on; this is a little cheeky one. We talked about reclamation at the start, but we didn't talk about image reclamation. If you are not a fashion company or perhaps a homewares brand or something that has got a lot of its own unique imagery, it is a really easy thing to do to take that imagery and just give it away and put it in places like third-party image saving websites and hope that stuff gets picked up.

Let me give you an example of how well this can work. This is a company called Pexels. Now, I am sure you have all seen this image (12:07) everywhere on the web, right? If we go to Google images, what we can do is we can do a reverse image lookup of that exact URL. Let me put this in here and let me get rid of all the nonsense.

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What we are going to do is we are going to see everywhere on the web that this is currently being linked from. When we do an image search, how many do you think is going to be here? 25 million. Okay. I didn't think there would be that many.

That is a lot, and the point here is all of these people are using this particular image.Can you imagine if you owned that? I would just be reaching out and saying, "Hey, it's absolutely great that you're using our images. It's absolutely famous for your image library, but oh great, can you please cite your sources?" And because you have just done a search for business and this is a very decent business based website, there is no reason why I can't get in touch and say, "Hey, can you put a little caption, a little credit because it's our image?" Really nice way to do it, and it is a slow burn where you are constantly feeding yourself with lots of links coming into your business.

University Deals (13:15)

All right and the last one is a classic. It is university deals. This also works for people who have done military service, police, fire brigade, and things like that. What I would recommend if you got a retail business, how about offering some deals to students or people in the armed forces and actively reaching out to universities or VA places and give them an offer and in exchange, you are probably going to get a link.

Now, people don't do this to get links. Obviously, they do it out of the goodness of their heart so they can help people that a little bit more vulnerable in society and that is absolutely the mentality you should be going into this with, not to manipulate links. However, if you get a nice little link at the back of it, that is absolutely fine — win/win scenario.

A Word of Caution

All right, so a little word of caution. I just want you to remember the concept of flop risk. The way in which I look at flop risk is algorithmic risk versus flop. Flop is essentially if I come up with a concept, and I pitched that to a journalist; they may, or they may not want to actually take that concept and run with it. (13:55)

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The potential that the idea of flops is quite high. However, if I just go and buy a link from someone's blog, the potential of that flopping is zero because I am giving them money. They are giving me the link as a transaction. However, that algorithmic risk of doing that is very, very high.

When it comes to building a proper link building scenario, you got to be very careful that you are not hitting things that are way too high in algorithmic risk just because they are easy.We have all seen it time and time again...do yourself a favor, just go Google Penguin Penalty or Penguin Penalty no recovery or my traffic has disappeared.

It literally ruins businesses. Now, we are all grown up SEOs. We know that link buying happens, but just be aware if you are doing an agency site, it is completely unacceptable because you are meant to be taking your client's businesses into a good place. So, that is absolutely off the books.

However, if you are an affiliate or have any difficult niche like gambling or something like that, it is just the way that things are done. Just be very careful and understand the risk profile. And if you are doing it for someone else, make sure you have a big grownup conversation about how you do link building and what is best for them.

That is everything from me. I hope you have really enjoyed this one. If you liked it, please comment down below if you've got any other technical link building tips for me, but until next time, we will see you later.

Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Ross is the Managing Director at Type A Media, an independent search agency that work with FTSE250 companies and mid-sized brands to help them find the optimal way to talk to more people online.
When not obsessing over his clients rankings, he hosts the Canonical Chronicle, a weekly web show watched by 100k people every month.
If you want to ask him a direct question you can find him @rtavs on Twitter.
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Comments

2000
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Once again a perfect round-up - thanks. I'm slightly behind with this edition, but it feels good recapping what's occurred over the last month or so. Will share with the team for inspiration for our newsletter :-)
Nick Samuel
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

This is a pretty solid round-up of some tried and tested techniques; you couldn't go too far wrong if you applied one or two of these to your site.

Only word of warning to any beginner link-builders out there...the process is usually much slower and more labour intensive than you think :-)
Piergiorgio Zotti - Consulente SEO e SEM
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Interesting post, Ross. Regards from Italy.
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

thanks for the update - good over view of the more modern techniques..
John Rampton
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

While it takes time, I'd rather do my own link building work than pay for any of them.
Ross Tavendale
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

John Rampton
Hard work always pays john. I take the same approach. But to be hi ray nowadays we just opt for PR and content marketing over technical link building. If you are setup for decent media oroduction, it's actually a lot less labour intensive. That being said it does cost significantly more

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