SEO seems to be one of the most complicated marketing avenues for businesses to understand and implement. Businesses hear about competitors or other businesses gaining tens of thousands of organic visitors to their sites and typically start hiring SEO agencies without having a proper understanding of the fundamentals. At its core, SEO is basically two elements: content and links. The more links and content your site has, the better it will perform on search engines.
Although publishing content is great, building high domain authority links to your site is the highest leverage activity you can do to increase the impact of your SEO campaign. I know this first hand because I made this costly mistake myself. Earlier this year, I launched my blog alisquared.co. I used this site as a personal brand to gain more freelance writing work and eventually transition into monetizing it with ads and affiliate marketing.
In the first 6 months alone, I published 67 2,000 word blog posts on a variety of topics. From a glance, any business that invested that much time and money into content would expect a sizable return. What actually happened was I was getting less than 100 page views per month on all of my content. This was primarily because my site had no domain authority.
Even though I was writing great content that was longer than most competitors, Google did not recognize my site as an authority in anything because I did not have links. Additionally, my site started on a new domain. This generally means that Google will place you in a “sandbox” to ensure you’re not a spam website.
I recognized that I had to pivot. Publishing content alone would take years to see any ROI and it was not the best use of my limited time. I started to learn about link building and the impact it can have on your site. This led me to stop publishing content on my site and focus all of my efforts on link building and building the authority of my blog. This is what happened when I focused on link building for a month:
- My domain rank (DR) increased from 0 to 15
- I published 6 guest posts on high domain authority sites (DR 60+)
- My page views increased by 45% in a month
- More pages from my site were indexed by Google
You can get similar or better results by following just two link-building strategies: guest posting and using HARO.
- Guest posting
Guest posting is the best way to get high-quality links to your site. With guest posting, you reach out to sites with a higher domain ranking than yours and write content for their audience. In your guest post, you can place any relevant links back to your site and this will increase the domain rank of your site.
Make sure to reach out to sites in your niche and industry. For example, if you’re in B2B SaaS marketing, reach out to companies in SaaS, marketing, etc. It’s important to guest post for legitimate sites and avoids spammy sites because links from those sites can negatively impact your site. The quality of the site you guest post matters significantly. For my site to go from 0 to 15, I only needed 6 high quality guest posts. There are millions of other sites with a lower ranking than mine who have thousands of links. Their links are not as effective because they are not relevant and they are from low authority sites.
The sites I guest posted on had a DR of: 78,77, 75,73, 66 and 51. I was able to get guest posts on those sites with 0 domain ranking due to personalizing emails and providing value. Here are some tips you can use to increase the effectiveness of your guest post outreach:
Personalization: A big mistake I made when doing my first few guest post outreach campaigns is lack of personalization. This led to low open rates and responses from sites. You need to make sure that the emails you send have personalized subject lines, intros and body. This takes more time to do, but it will skyrocket the effectiveness of your outreach campaigns.
Value exchange: Since you have no leverage to exchange equivalent value links or guest posts, you have to be creative with the value that you are providing for. You can pitch them on topics that they are missing from their blog, content that their competitors are ranking for etc. This is easier said than done, but once you have your first few guest posts published, you can use that as samples of work.
Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a site that connects journalists with sources that have expertise in a given field. On HARO, you will find hundreds of journalists from reputable media companies and sites. These journalists write stories and articles on different subjects and they ask for input from sources on HARO. When a journalist creates a request for sources, you can directly respond and provide your input.
If the journalist selects your response for their article, you will get a link back to your site and this can improve your domain rating significantly. There are journalists on HARO who work for big publications like Forbes, BusinessInsider, CNN, FOX, etc. Sites like this have extremely high domain ratings (90+) and a single link from them to your site is worth thousands of dollars. These publications are extremely hard to guest post for, so HARO is a great resource to get these invaluable links.
Here are several tips you can use to maximize your chances of getting a backlink from HARO:
Enable email notifications and reply early:
One of the best tactics to increase your chances of a request being accepted on HARO is submitting it as early as possible. To do this, you can enable email notifications from HARO and you’ll get 3 emails per day with what journalists are looking for. You’ll get a batch of emails and you can submit your response directly from your email.
Complete and well thought out answers:
Since you are dealing with journalists, it’s very important to show that you put in the effort for your answers. Having spelling and grammar errors in your response is a sure way to get your request rejected. Make sure to read over your writing carefully prior to submitting it on HARO.
You should aim to have about 2-3 short paragraphs for each response to a journalist. This is manual and can be time-consuming, but it’s extremely worth it if you are able to get a backlink from a high DR site.
Don’t apply to requests you’re not qualified for: When you’re searching through requests on HARO, you will see some requests requiring you to have credentials. Examples you’ll see are educational requirements or position requirements. If you don’t fit the criteria, don’t apply for those requests. You’ll waste your time and have your request rejected regardless of how good your pitch is.
Utilizing guest posting and HARO to build valuable backlinks is a bulletproof strategy to building your domain authority. You won’t be subject to fishy links and Google penalties because these tactics are 100% ethical and white hat. To learn more about SEO strategy, check out this guide.