For probably the past 12 months or so, I’ve been focused on streamlining my link building process so that I can maximize the ROI in terms of cost and time. With as quickly as things change in SEO, I feel like you always need to be thinking about what will work in the future when you’re doing link building today. Cause the last thing you want to have to deal with is an unnatural links penalty.
A lot has changed for me, with the biggest change being that I built out my own outreach team and spent around 8 months fine tuning that process. And, I’m spending more time focused on “white hat” link building so that my sites have more protection from penalties in the future.
Right now, I’m really only using four core link building processes when it comes to my own personal sites. This is what’s working for me and keeping my sites afloat (and rising) in Google. And the focus on more white hat links has helped me to get good multiples from the sites that I sold in Q1 and Q2 of this year.
This used to be my primary focus. In fact, I used to have sites propped up 100% by PBNs, but these days I am all about minimizing my risk.
So, I tend to start off most of my sites with PBN links. These days I rent most of my PBN links from Rank Club (formerly Diggity Links) because I’m just not interested in the hassle of maintaining my own PBN. I used to have around 300 sites in my personal PBN network, but now it’s down to maybe 30 sites.
I do have a couple of new test sites where I’m using 100% PBN links for the backlinks, but this isn’t something I advise for sites that you don’t want to potentially lose to a penalty.
When I use PBNs on my money sites, I make these my early links and then once my sites start ranking and earning, I replace those links with white hat guest post links. You can’t replace these links on 1:1 ratio because there are so many factors at play here, so I try to get at least three replacement links for every one PBN link that I remove.
I’ve focused on using HARO for one of my sites this year and earned some great links from it including a DA70+! The problem with HARO is that it can take a lot of time before you secure a link.
If I recall correctly, I was replying to the calls for a couple of months before I secured a link.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to read through the three daily email blasts for sources, and they only come Monday through Friday. Most of the calls for sources aren’t even relevant to my site’s niche, which is one of the reasons why it’s taken so long to secure the backlinks.
And you have to keep up on reading those HARO emails because most of the time the calls for sources have a limited window in which you can reply. I did respond to one late, by a couple of hours after the cutoff, and I still got that live link from it. So, don’t skip an opportunity just because you’re slightly past the deadline.
Most of the time, you just get a link back to your homepage, but I did manage to get a link to a buying guide a couple of months ago. So, if you try out HARO, don’t get discouraged if it takes a few months before you see any results.
My Own Outreach Team
Almost a year ago, I started the process of building my own outreach team. Since I have so many sites, it just made sense to start doing my own link building to save money.
DIY outreach for guest post link building (or skyscraper, etc) is incredibly time consuming, if you’ve never done it before. There is so much involved from finding potential guest post opportunities to vetting the sites to actually getting your link live on the target site.
Before starting this team, I was doing guest post link building the same way everyone else was – using Google search operators to find sites with ‘write for us’ pages or sites that already had guest posts on it. The problem with this method is that everyone else has been doing it and most of those sites are either super saturated with guest posts or they are now charging for them since they had such high demand.
I tested out some ways to automate the process and then compared that to doing everything manually. It should come as no surprise that I found better opportunities and had more success when doing things manually. Many of the sites my team has gotten links on don’t actually offer guest posts publicly, so they are not saturated with links out to other sites.
It took almost nine months for me to fine tune this process!
During this period, I was contacted by businesses and site owners who had read about my experience with FatJoe and were looking for answers on how to outsource their link building. So, I offered them access to my team via my agency and we started doing some link building for a variety of businesses. We’ve worked with ecommerce sites, service-based business, and some affiliate sites.
Not counting the links I got via HARO, my team has managed to acquire the best quality links that I’ve gotten all year. They’re super niche relevant, on sites with real traffic, and some have even resulted in relevant referral traffic. I’m honestly kicking myself for waiting so long to build this team.
If you’re interested in starting your own outreach team, then here are the tips that I can give you:
- Start out doing everything yourself until you get a system in place
- Skip the automation – do it all manually
- Spend time getting to know each site you want to pitch to before you pitch, then send a personalized pitch
- When you start hiring, check each site that your outreacher finds to qualify it first – this way you make sure they’re finding the right type of sites
- Pay well for your guest post content – this is one of the ways you get on the sites that don’t offer guest posts (I pay my guest post copywriter $0.25/word)
- Avoid sites that seem to have lots of other guest posts on their site – the most valuable links are the ones that not everyone can get
- Don’t be afraid to pay for guest post placement on quality sites, but try to avoid those that list your post as ‘sponsored’
The tips above are exactly how I grew my team and how we work. I’m not going to lie, when you do it this way it is a time consuming process. But it actually works really well. And I must say that we’ve gotten really good at it.
And when your pitch is well received by some of the really high quality sites, don’t be surprised if it takes longer than a month for your guest post to go live. My team has gotten guest post placement on sites that have an editorial queue where they send your post back to you with edits, and this has taken up to two months in the past.
There are a few paid services that I’ve used off and on this year.
The service that I’ve used the most is Authority Builders. It’s a guest post service where you pay anywhere from around $75 to over $1000 for a guest post link on a site. My experience has been mostly positive, and though I don’t use them as much as I used to, I do still recommend them to people on a tight budget. It’s not a perfect service, but it is good for people who want to be able to quickly find links at a low cost.
I’ve also used Reach Creator for a site since December 2017. This service is sort of a guest post service, but they promise to do public relations style outreach for your site. (I used the package that includes the 10 links + the linkbait created by Word Agents.) Honestly, I still haven’t decided how I feel about this service. In terms of cost-per-link value, I feel like you definitely get a good value here. And they did get me links on sites that I would never have thought to contact myself. The links were mostly guest posts, but there were also a few niche edits in there. But some of the links ended up on sites with very little traffic, so on sites that I would never have purposely targeted for my outreach if I had gone the DIY route. (The site I used this service on has recently seen a downward trend in traffic/rankings when this is the only link building I’ve done for it. I’m not saying that their links caused this drop, but I chose to not renew the service once the traffic/rankings drop started until I can determine what’s causing the drop.) Going forward, I’ll likely disavow those low quality links with minimal traffic and focus on DIY link building with my team.
Despite having a not so great experience the first time, I re-tested Loganix to see if their service had improved any. I haven’t placed a lot of orders there this year, and I’ve been very careful so that I know exactly what I’m getting, but my experience has been much better. I’ve managed to get some decent editorial links are reasonable-ish prices. Though, I do regret paying over $1,000 for that link on Working Mother. If you’re interested in using them, then I suggest getting on their mailing list and waiting for a sale – that’s when they have the most value – and carefully select your links. Several of the sites they offer you can actually sign up for at no cost and get the link for free. So, keep that in mind as you shop.
Right now, these are really the only ways I’ve been link building. I’ve basically stopped doing blog commenting and other low value link building. It’s all about ROI, which is why I’ve eliminated the low value opportunities.