How To Trade Money For Contextual Links (Without Buying Them) And 1 Free Copy / Paste System Template For You To Use

Gael's Warning Note: Epic rant incoming                 

In this post, Perrin goes into a pretty long rant about how inefficient / lazy most people trying to trade money for links are and points out the real life mistakes that puts their business at risk.

It's a read many people need, but not a read many people want. It will not bring us lots of search traffic or links but hopefully it will create the mind shift needed for long term success in the heads of those who pay attention. 

However, if you just want the actionable part of building system that trade links for money, just click here, we've prepared a copy/paste process for you ;).

Know what I hate? The shortcut mentality people have when trying to reach a goal.

Especially in SEO. I hate them because SEO is not a short game. It’s a long game. And taking shortcuts, to me, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the business -- particularly for authority site builders.

Yes, there are proud black hats out there who use short-term tactics on purpose to make “churn-and-burn” sites. More power to them.

That’s not us, and if you’re reading this blog, it’s likely not you either. But I still see it: people seem to be drawn to shortcuts like moths to a flame.

And do you know where I see it the most? Link building.

It’s no mystery that people hate link building, but it’s still weird. Because here’s the thing: link building is a core competency. It’s one of, like, maybe three fundamental skills you have to learn to do SEO and/or build an authority site.

More...

Trying to get into SEO and not taking the time to learn the (relatively easy, to be frank) skill of building links is like trying get good at dating but refusing to talk to people. It’s incompatible.

I always feel like that’s a good analogy because I think people are afraid of those two things (building links and talking to someone you’re attracted to) for the same reason: fear of rejection.

That leads to stuff like this:

Now, first, let me apologize for putting this person on blast (you know who you are).

This is one of our AH Pro members, and he’s a really cool, smart guy, and like all our members, I truly want him to succeed. More than that, I feel personally invested in his success. He’s part of the AH Pro community, and we’re a family in there.

And that’s why it pains me that he also asks about buying links a lot.

But I get it.

Even if link building isn’t difficult (a claim I stand by), it can be psychologically stressful, even for veterans of the game.

It also takes time.

Coming up with an idea for a campaign, prospecting, creating content, finding email addresses, and et cetera ad nauseum. It requires resources. It’s work.

So I really do understand the desire to just… buy the damn links.

Today, I want to show you why that’s a bad idea, which might make you sad. But then… I want to explain that while buying links is bad, you can spend money to get links.

… and those are not the same thing.

I’m also going to go over a few of the dumb ways people still buy links today -- and even why some of them even get mistaken for white-hat tactics (are you making that mistake?).

What do I mean? Well, let’s dive in...

Buying Links vs Spending Money to Get Links

Buying links = trading money for someone else to give you a link.

It’s a transaction.

In other words, you’ve got money. You give that money to someone else. In return, you get a link.

This can take many forms, and we’re going to talk about several of them in detail. But what I want to prove here is that there are very, very few ways (I contend there are zero ways) to buy dofollow links without putting the SEO side of your business at risk.

Spending money to get links = paying people on an internal team to complete link-building tasks you create and assign that result in links.

See the difference?

When you buy links, it’s like going to the store: you walk in with money and come out with a link. You don’t do anything. More importantly, the money is going to the person awarding the link.

Google doesn’t like this because buying links doesn’t require you to earn the links with your content, which erodes the quality of their search engine.

(Note for clarity: I’m not saying everything below falls into Google’s definition of “paid links,” although some -- maybe most? -- certainly do)

When you spend money to get links, on the other hand, you set up the system yourself -- with your own knowledge and expertise and you do it ethically; you just delegate the specific tasks to employees (or freelancers). But none of the money spent goes to the person giving you the link which is the crucial difference.

This Google doesn’t mind.

It’s essentially just a team of employees doing some real marketing. More importantly, though, it still requires you to build relationships with people and for them to voluntarily “reward” your content with a link.

But the person awarding the link doesn’t get any money.

To put this in perspective, remember that links have always been such a big part of Google’s algorithm because they essentially act as “votes.”

Here’s a screenshot from Google’s own article, “Steps to a Google-Friendly Site”:

Google is cool with you trying to build links with real marketing efforts.

They want you to talk to people or impress them with your content. They want you to reach to people in your market to let them know about your site. This helps them create a better map of the web.

They just want the votes to retain integrity. It’s kind of like politics: if you can buy votes, the results get worse.

What’s more, if you build a business with real marketing, it can drastically increase the value of your business in the long term (i.e. it’s very difficult to exit a business built with grey-hat tactics).

How do you do it specifically? Hang in there. I’m going to tell you exactly how below. First, I want to get on my soapbox about a few things...

Gael's Notes                 

There is one more argument for real marketing systems over plain link buying : You can repeat and optimise your link building system, bringing your cost per link down and quality up over time AND get a compound return for a constant spending when building systems.

On the other hand, as link buying grows, prices go up, if Google deindexes sites selling links, the quality decreases and many paid links are sold on a subscription basis, meaning that to increase your reach, you also need to spend more every month.

This makes the choice obvious from a monetary perspective on my end, even if the risks were equal.​

And for those who will argue that "it's not that simple in their niche". It's your job as a marketer to work out an angle for your site that makes it marketable.

We have done that in the very spammy weight loss market, we have done it in the financial markets, I've seen it done in the casino niche recently.

It can be done, it's just a matter of spinning your message / niche in a positive way to present it to other webmasters.​

The Amazingly Sh*t Ways People Buy Links (that are somehow still popular)

Bad Guest Posts

“Hang on, Perrin,” you might be saying, “I thought you were all about the guest postzz!”

I am. I love guest posting.

But there are good guest posts and bad guest posts. There are a few well-known “bad” guest posts that most people can agree on. But some of these tactics are used by lots of people, are widely accepted, and, perhaps worst of all, I know some brilliant SEOs using these under the impression they’re “white hat.”

Here are the “bad” ones everybody probably agrees on:

  • Guest post networks
  • Buying guest posts from Fiverr
  • Posting on guest-post “farms”

Do people really do stuff like that? Do people actually order links from Fiverr?

Yes. And I’d wager it’s mostly because of Brian Dean’s post 17 Untapped Backlink Sources.

Before you go leaving mean comments, Brian has updated his post and removed his recommendation of Fiverr links. Still, when Brian Dean says something, people listen, and much of his advice works its way into the SEO canon.

Here’s a screenshot from September 6, 2014:

And this is was essentially the logic:

Guest post “farms” exist with surprising regularity, too. These are sites that exist solely (or mostly) to sell guest posts. They have low editorial standards and typically charge a fee. To me, they feel closer to a PBN than a real guest post but guest posts sell for more money.

In fact, they’re so numerous, Google created a new penalty just for them (more or less; they were surely taking a swing at PBNs, too). It’s called an unnatural outbound link penalty, and it penalized and devalued the links of sites who were doing things like selling guest posts.

Here’s the email they sent out (screenshot from Search Engine Land):

Anyway, like I said, most people in the white-hat/authority site circles agrees that the above types of guest posts are bad.

But there’s a scarier side to “bad” guest posting..

...and I’ve even got white-hat friends doing it, and they’re convinced it’s perfectly safe. I’m talking mostly about two tactics:

  • Bribing journalists
  • Bribing webmasters

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve grown more and more dumbfounded at how commonplace these two tactics have become.

They’re sometimes wrapped in the misleading, innocuous-sounding moniker “editorial links.” And hey, those can’t be bad, right? They’re editorial. Google likes editorial links!

Sometimes, people will sell these links outright. Here’s an offering found on BlackHatWorld.

Some services masquerade as outreach but really just bribe journalists. To be clear, there’s no way to prove they’re actually bribing people, but I’ve inquired with a few of these agencies, and the list of sites they “pitch” to looks suspiciously like the ones you can find on BlackHatWorld.

They usually say something like this:

(I’m not making any claims about this agency and won’t name them; I simply have suspicions).

It’s these agencies that attract some of my whitest-hat friends. And I think it’s because they make it sound so legit.

Gael's Notes                 

Essentially those are paid links but on the SEO market, "white hat" links sell for twice as much.

So what do careless providers do to generate more profit off unsuspicious / SEO newbie buyers?

They sell paid links as editorial and charge you twice as much for that while adding a level of risk to your SEO effort, not cool :/.

One once-popular agency that used to broker these links -- Conductor, who was also forced to liquidate itself and get out of the business -- ended up getting hammered by Google and getting called out by ye old SERP god himself:

And sometimes…

...sometimes experts straight up recommend it. Here’s an article from SERPLogic from early last year:

The idea in this piece is basically to reverse engineer your competitors to see what their best links are and then to reach out to those webmasters and try to get a link of your own.

Yea. Sure. Fine. That’s standard, age-old advice.

Then he drops this gem:

And he goes on to say…

But what’s the risk, really? Is Google really going to penalize Forbes?

Well, yea, if they want to. In fact, they have penalized them before, and they were penalized for (want to guess?)... selling links.

If you don’t know by now, Google doesn’t give a flying sh*t who you are. And if Google knows Forbes is selling links, do you suppose it’s tough for them to figure out who’s buying them?

So, yes, I do think there’s some direct risk here. And, honestly, that should be reason enough for anyone who cares about the longevity of their business to avoid them; however, for my money, it’s also a pretty dumb decision financially.

Why? Because links on Forbes (and similar sites) ain’t cheap. I’ve seen these run anywhere from $300 to $1,500.

...for one link.

Like I mentioned before (and, again, please forgive the horn tooting), with our systems, our typical cost-per-link is around $10-$20, which means a $1,500 budget would get us in the ballpark of 75 links, and a good portion of those would be high-authority links.

I’ll take that over a single, moderately risky link any day.

Want one of those systems? We've prepared one for you at the end of this post.​

Does it work? Yes.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Primarily, it’s nutso expensive. Spending that much for a single link is a terrible business decision when you could be getting them for like $20 a piece (I’ll show you how below).

Directories

I really thought directories were on the way out.

But here we are, in 2017, and stuff like this still pops up in the SERPs (I was searching for research on directories; I wasn’t even looking for services or lists).

A thousand directory links? And it was written in November 2016?

Here’s another…

I remember looking for these kinds of lists when I was just learning to build links and it still seemed super hard.

Directories seemed like the perfect solution. I convinced myself they were “making the web better” by listing and organizing good websites.

But let’s be real: is that ever how directories are really used? Or is it more the case that bad SEOs spam the living crap out of them?

Now, directories did used to work, but they only worked a long time ago. I’m talking like 2006, when a link from the highly editorial DMoz could significantly impact your rankings. Today, there are a select few directories with strictly editorial processes that still might pass a bit of juice, but even those seem to be fading.

The most recent study I could find that showed hard, data-driven evidence of directory links working was one conducted by TechToucan in October 2014, in which he saw moderate results after using directory links (although, really, the traffic levels are too low to establish if the links did anything at all).

In post-Penguin 2015, bigger marketing blogs, like Hubspot, were already advising people to steer clear of low-quality general directories and opt for niche-relevant directories with good editorial practices.

For my part, anecdotally, I actually bought several listings in niche-relevant directories in mid-2015 and saw no benefit at all.

In other words, the painfully obvious trend is that directories are dying.

Yes, there are still a few directories that might be worth submitting to (BestoftheWeb and Alltop may be the only big ones left). And it likely won’t hurt to submit your site to a handful of niche directories.

...but…

There is added risk, and the blokes at Google have warned us. Here’s Gary Illyes in late 2016:

And Jon Mueller shortly before:

If the Google guys are warning me against a link building tactic, that’s usually enough for me -- but it’s especially potent given the slow, steady, obvious trend of dissolution.

But risk isn’t the only consideration here.

Most directories (at least the ones that are remotely worth gambling on) also aren’t cheap.

With our current systems (which I’ll talk more about below), our cost per is consistently in the $10-$20 range. So, for the $200 I’d spend on this one link that may or may not work, I could get 10 good links that I know will work.

Plus, do you really want John Mueller laughing at you?

Does it work? No.

Why you shouldn’t do it: They don’t work, and the surviving big directories charge a hell of a lot of money. It’s just not worth the $300 if you can spend that money to get real, powerful links.

Press Releases

Believe it or not, I have a highly successful internet marketing bud who swears by press releases.

He buys them for every site.

I’ve never had the heart to tell him that his sites are probably successful because of the 99 other things he’s doing well, and the press releases almost certainly aren’t making a difference.

Now, you can find case studies that demonstrate the efficacy of press releases for SEO. But, I couldn’t find any there weren’t either written before 2013, clearly under-informed about how SEO works, or selling press release services. If you can find any legitimate case studies, let me know.

Why can’t you find press-release case studies after 2013? Because Google took a big, steaming crap on them (once in late 2013 and again in 2014).

Not only did they penalize press release sites themselves (making it more difficult for people to rank parasite pages), they also warned webmasters that using over-optimized anchor text in press releases violated their guidelines (per their link schemes document):

Google has also advised all sites distributing press releases to nofollow all links (watch the first 10 minutes of this webmaster hangout with John Mueller).

Additionally, even before the 2013 hullabaloo, the Cutt-man himself has said press releases don’t (or shouldn’t) pass PageRank.

Of course, a few cheeky SEOs disproved this immediately using Matt Cutts’ own blog, which I like to think is part of what led Google to exact some revenge in 2013.

What’s all of this add up to?

In my view, if it’s clear Google’s been against press releases affecting rankings since 2011, and if there are no legitimate case studies on their efficacy after 2013, it’s highly likely they don’t work.

The final argument for using press releases is that they have tangential SEO benefits -- namely, increasing visibility, attracting customers, and starting relationships; however, while that sounds good, the only people I could find who have actually run experiments on it say the exact opposite.

Does it work? No.

Why you shouldn’t do it: They don’t provide any demonstrable SEO benefit (again, let me know if you can find a good case study), and the only legitimate study I could find in the space concludes they don’t even have any tangential benefit.

Scholarships

Oh, this is my favorite thing to hate.

Every time someone mentions scholarship links, I jump out of my chair and rip my shirt off like Hulk Hogan.

Scholarship links are when a website offers a scholarship and then reaches out to universities who list scholarships on their website. The results are high-DA links on .edu domains.

Does it really count as buying links? It’s debatable. There’s a good case for and against it. I included it here because it’s become the newest fad, it seemed to fit nicely into our discussion, and it feels like buying links to me.

That said, it’s not new. It’s a tactic that’s been abused for nearly half a decade that’s somehow made a comeback in the last 18 months, and the number of weird affiliate sites offering random scholarships has spread like some highly contagious super-virus.

And it’s mostly because of one public case study: 10beasts.com.

Now, I know some of you guys are fans of Luqman (the owner), and I am too, so before you roast me on that, please understand…

I love this guy’s site. His success is extremely cool, and it’s a fantastic case study. I mean, he made a reported $80,000 last December, which is mindblowingly motivating. He works hard, his site rocks, many of his tactics work, and I learned a lot from the whole thing.

That said, it’s become the posterboy for scholarship links. Here’s a screenshot from a comment one of our members made in the AH Pro Facebook group back in November.

The case study pops up everywhere.

And make no mistake: Luqman is doing tons of stuff right. But the confidence the site inspires in scholarship links, however, is mostly unfounded.

Here’s why.

It’s difficult to decipher now, since the site’s acquired quite a few more backlinks from case studies and the like (and it’s had time to mature and for link juice to spread around).

Here’s the site’s pages and traffic today:

We certainly have some clear winners, but there are lots of pages doing well.

But let’s take a look at the traffic on November 1st, 2016, which was around the time Luqman first started guest posting and opening his case study to the public but still after he’d built a bunch of scholarship links and people were attributing his success to them (excuse the quality; I had to go find this screenshot in our Facebook group archives).

Here, we can see there are only four pages on the whole site getting meaningful traffic.

Every other page on the site was getting... bupkis.

It’s also important to understand that these four pages were, at the time, the only pages with links built to them.

Why does this matter, and how does it relate to scholarship links?

It matters because the scholarship links aren’t pointing to these pages. They are, of course, only pointing to the scholarship page.

What’s that mean?

Well... if the scholarship page was a key factor (or any factor at all) in this site’s success in the SERPs, they would have been boosting the whole site. But they weren’t.

Rather, the much simpler, more elegant, more common-sense solution is that these pages (and these pages exclusively) were doing well because Luqman built a bunch of (non-scholarship) links to them and only to them.

I know that’s just one site.

And I don’t have much other hard data. But I do have some pretty strong anecdotal evidence… because… and this might surprise you… I actually ran a scholarship link campaign of my own.

You heard me -- yours truly did the exact thing I hate most. And the campaign went great. I got 12 links from extremely high-DA .edu domains.

What happened?

Roughly the same thing that happened on 10beasts… nothing.

I got all those “amazing” links, waited for the massive boost in the SERPs, and it just… never came.

I’m not the only one, either. Several people in the AH Pro community have tried these links, and they all got similar results. In fact, I have not yet seen a single example of a site that demonstrably wins because of scholarship links. If you know of one, let me know.

Why is this the case?

I think Google saw years ago that SEOs were abusing these links but didn’t want to discourage universities and companies from partnering with each other to offer real scholarships. So, instead, they simply devalued the links. It’s certainly just an educated guess, but it seems to make the most sense.

Additionally, even if Google hasn’t devalued them, many scholarship pages link out to lots of pages (often hundreds). When any page has that many outbound links, the “juice” gets heavily diluted, making them orders of magnitude less effective if they were to actually work.

And that’s the biggest reason I detest them.

It’s not because they’re moderately risky (they are). And it’s not because they attract an increasing number of spammers (they do).

It’s because they don’t seem to work.

To put a finer point on it, I hate them because they don’t work, and people are still going apeshit over them.

Does it work? No.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Aside from it being spammy as hell? They simply don’t work and are a massive waste of a $1,000 (from a purely cost-benefit and SEO standpoint). Of course, if you believe in the cause, offering a scholarship to a student who needs it is a cool thing to do. 

A Few Other Ways People Buy Links Not Worth Investigating

Of course, the above are not the only ways people buy links. I chose them specifically because they either (1) come up in the Authority Hacker Pro group or (2) I see legitimate marketers using them.

Here are a few others that I don’t think are worth spending time on (at least no with a savvy audience like this one):

  • SAPE links (don’t get me started)
  • PBNs (you know my stance by now)
  • Automated software-generated links
  • Web 2.0s and link wheel services
  • Article directories

These are so antiquated and clearly grey-hat, I didn’t want to spend time on them. But the I think it says something that we could spend 3,000 words (this article so far) discussing in detail link-”buying” tactics that are not only popular today, but worse: tactics legitimate marketers are using without understanding the risk.

Quick Note On Shiny Object Syndrome (& why you should master link building basics instead)

The urge to buy links is, I think, driven largely by shiny object syndrome. Instead of chasing new tactics, it’s many times more profitable to simple master the basics of link building.

This is something I believe strongly. In fact, I wrote an entire lesson on just this idea in our Stage 1 authority site course.

I think it’s that important. And it’s worth discussing here. Because at the root of the phenomenon of people buying links despite the risks and costs is the question, “Why do they do it?”

Many of the people doing these things are my friends. Many of them are tremendously successful. Many of them are punishingly smart. And many of them make a concerted effort to build clean, legitimate, ROI-driven sites.

So why do they, of all people, continually look for ways to buy links despite the risks and costs?

I think it’s mostly shiny object syndrome, but I think it’s a special, entrepreneurial brand of shiny object syndrome.

Here’s kind of what the it looks like from my end, talking to these folks about their businesses:

  • They’ve got a website that’s making money
  • They know some SEO, but they haven’t spent the time to really learn the nuances of link building or optimize a system for it.
  • They also read blogs and talk to other people in the industry
  • Some of these other people are having success with flavor-of-the-month link building tactics
  • They want to try it because the potential return is there
  • But they already have a thousand things to do every day
  • So, the simplest solution is to delegate
  • And the simplest way to delegate is to buy

So it’s not just run-of-the-mill shiny object syndrome. It’s a special brand unique to entrepreneurs; it’s the kind that comes out of people’s desire to grow their businesses by delegating instead of doing.

And I get it.

If you run a profitable website and want to grow, it’s not feasible to learn everything. And there are lots of things you can buy for a business. Why not links?

I hope the answer to that question is clear to you by now.

To take it further, though, I simply want to reiterate the main thrust of this post: it’s not a good idea (and in most cases it’s not a good business decision) to buy links, but you can create systems of your own in which you can put money in and get links out the other end.

To do that, however, you have to master at least one technique on your own. You need to learn it to effectively delegate it (something I think site builders too often forget).

So that’s my argument here. Master the basics, so you can then build a link-generating system. And the list of basic link building tactics is not long:

  • Guest posting
  • Resource pages
  • Broken link building
  • Guestographics
  • Skyscraper

These tactics have been around forever and will likely be around for many years to come. They’re founded on legitimate marketing, relationships, and good content -- all the stuff Google encourages.

You don’t even have to learn them all. Just learn one. Then master it. Then build a system around it.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about next, because I want to get you started here. Today. Right now.

Here is what one of our AH PRO members who just focused on the basics managed to achieve in just a few months.​

Let’s talk about how to create good systems.

How to Spend Money to Get Links: Building Internal Systems Around Core Tactics

Let me start by saying there are entire career fields build around systems and systems analysis. A good systems analyst can make six figures a year doing nothing but analyzing and building systems. Systems themselves can be massively complex, elegant, sophisticated things that include hundreds of people and moving parts.

That’s not how we do it.

What’s a system to us? It’s just a f*cking bullet list.

Literally.

Do this. Then this. Then this. Then this.

That’s it. We do not need fancy systems to build links. In fact, the opposite is true: the simpler the system, the better it works.

But these simple sets of processes are the machine. They are what eats dollars and spits out links.

As a marketing model, link building can be tricky. But broken down into the simplest possible series of tasks, it’s very easy to execute. Pretty much any VA can do it.

If that’s still hard to picture, don’t worry…

I’m actually going to give you a full system below (one that can probably generate a cost-per-link very comparable to the ones we get every day). And I hope you’ll be completely underwhelmed. Because that’s the point!

Components of a Good Link Building System

It’s broken down into the simplest component parts.

To create an effective link building system, you need the tasks to be simple enough that a VA can do them without any special skills.

In other words, you don’t want your VAs to have to know anything about SEO or link building or anything else in order for them to do their job. They should be able to sit down, follow your instructions, and complete the task.

The byproduct of this is…

1 - Minimal management.

If you break any system down into its simplest component parts, the byproduct should be minimal management.

That will require work up front.

You’ll likely have to do a bit of creative thinking to figure out how to break some things down appropriately. But the end goal should be for your VAs to be able to do their jobs without you even talking to them.

2 - They should be detailed BUT concise.

Probably the biggest mistake I see when I look at people’s link building systems is that they are extremely complicated. I know SEOs whose day job was literally building systems whose systems are so complicated even I can’t understand them.

There seems to be this weird fear people have that they have to account for every single contingency in their instructions.

You don’t. Less is more.

Instead, encourage your VAs to ask questions if they need clarification or run into something they don’t know how to handle.

That said, you do need detail.

It is not enough to say, “Find an email for this site.” You need to include how to find it, where to record it, etc. So this is a bit of a tightrope walk and, in my experience, is the most difficult thing for people to get right.

3 - They should include examples of you actually doing the work.

Not me. You.

Your VA should not get a video of Perrin explaining guest posting (you’d be shocked how much this happens -- or how much people “train” their VAs by having them read one of my blog posts… and nothing else).

Instead, they should get a video of you literally doing each step the work. Of course, you don’t need a video for everything. Sometimes, a screenshot will suffice.

4 - They should include the documents you need and credentials to tools you need to use.

In any link building system, you’re going to need places to record stuff: emails, prospects, etc. You’re also going to need to use some tools.

You should create all of the documents and provide credentials to all of the tools. Additionally, of course, your examples and demos should show you working in the exact spreadsheet using the exact tools your VA will be using.

5 - It should be documented in ONE place.

Everything should be documented in one place.

It could be a password-protected page on your site. It could be a Google doc. Whatever. It doesn’t matter how you do it. It just matters that you do compile it all clearly in one place.

Now, I think there’s room to argue with me on this one -- mostly if you have larger systems with multiple employees/VAs, and each of them has their own instructions.

I’d still prefer to document the entire process and simply refer each VA to their respective section (e.g. “Please follow steps 1-3”), since it’s sometimes helpful to read the rest of the steps for context. But it’s certainly doable to have one page per VA or per process.

Personally, I prefer to have one process for guest posting, one for resource page link building, etc.

Finally, the buck should stop with YOU.

If the system ain’t workin’, it’s your fault. It’s also okay.

Building a good system can be tricky. You may not nail it on the first try. So go back, tweak, and try again. And again. And again until it’s working.

Be patient and kind with VAs. Help them understand it’s a process.

One last note: you may not need a VA (but you still need a system).

Virtual assistants are typically only worth it if your time is substantially more valuable than theirs. If you’re still in the bootstrap phase, that might not yet be the case.

I didn’t use VAs until 2015. In 2016, I still preferred to do most of the work myself. It’s only this year that I’ve been working on truly automating most parts of my business (which, ironically, is quite a bit of work itself).

But I still created a system.

Even if you’re doing the work yourself (something I recommend if you really want to master link building), documenting your process in detail will (1) help you iterate on your process much more efficiently and (2) more seamlessly hand it off to a VA when you’re ready.

So you don’t necessarily need a VA. But you do need a system.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some actual systems that you can actually use.

A System You Can Use

I’ve created a sample system below. It’s real. You can copy it, paste it, use it, and tweak it yourself. I just left out one crucial thing…

Video demonstrations.

You need to do those because you need to train and manage your own employees and VAs. Other than that, you should be able to use these systems as they are.

The stuff in red are things you would do. Stuff in [red brackets] is for your reference.

Sample System: Guest Posting

This is a system that still involves a little work on your part (as most systems do until they -- and you -- become more advanced). But the bulk of the legwork is taken care of by a VA. This is very similar to how my systems look now.

There are also spreadsheets linked below. Feel free to use them yourself (File > Make a Copy).

[Overall Structure]

  1. Prepare keywords to use with guest posting
  2. Search for prospects in Google by combining keywords with guest post footprints.
  3. Vet prospects
  4. Record good prospects and their contact information in a tracking spreadsheet
  5. Send emails using canned responses
  6. Record status of each prospect and respond to emails
  7. When a pitch is accepted, write or outsource guest post

Prep

  1. Prepare big list of keywords related to your niche based on content you can link to.
  2. Prepare relevant documents and credentials.
  3. Write an outreach script and save it in Gmail using canned responses.
  4. Instruct your VA to download the SimilarWeb Chrome extension.

Step #1: Prospect Guest Post Targets

1. Open this spreadsheet to find keywords. These are the keywords you will use to find guest post targets.

2. Open Google.com.

3. For each keyword, perform four searches in Google. One for each “footprint.” To search for them in google, simply type keyword + “footprint”

Here’s what it looks like:

4. Before looking at these, change your Google settings to show 100 results by typing &num=100 at the end of the URL in the address bar and hit Enter. Google will now show 100 results.

5. Open the tracking spreadsheet. This is where you will record prospects.

6. Visit each site in the search results that appears to be relevant to the keyword. Skip any that are not relevant.​

Now, we want to vet each site by checking for two things: (1) it gets over 10,000 visits per month and (2) most of the blog posts are not guest posts.

7. To check traffic, click on the SimilarWeb Chrome extension.

8. To check that most guest posts are not guest posts, simply look at the first five blog posts you can find. If no more than two are guest posts, the site passes.

9. If the site meets BOTH criteria, record it in the traffic spreadsheet. Record the name of the site, the URL, the name of the best contact person (preferably an editor or site owner), and their email. If there is no name, leave it blank.​

DO NOT record sites that do not have email addresses.

DO NOT spend more than 2 minutes on each site.

10. Repeat until you have processed all 100 results (remember, you will only end up recording the good ones).

11. Repeat with the next keyword + “footprint” combination until you reach 100 prospects recorded in the tracking sheet.​

Please see the video below for a live demonstration of how this is done.

[Then, record a video of you actually doing this work so your VA can see every step of the process].

Step #2: Email all 100 prospects.

  1. Open the tracking spreadsheet.
  2. Open Gmail using the following credentials:

Username: [provide username]

Password: [provide password]

We want to email each person on the tracking spreadsheet using a canned response, which I’ve already prepared.

3. Click “Compose” to begin a new email, and click “Canned Response” > and then “Super quick proposal...” under “Insert” from the menu in the bottom right corner.

This will populate the email with a pre-written post.

4. Replace the fields in all caps with information from the tracking sheet and paste their email into the Recipient field.If you could not find a name, just say “Hey there”.

If you could not find a name, just say “Hey there”.

5. Double check that all information is correct.

6. If all information is correct, send the email.

7. After you have sent the email, change the Status in the tracking sheet to “Pitched.” This is the only time you will worry about this column.​

Please see the video below for a live demonstration of how this is done.

8. Repeat for all 100 prospects.​

[Then, record a video of you actually doing this work so your VA can see every step of the process].

Step #3: Reply to emails, submit guest posts, and update tracking sheet.

[Now it’s back to you. I’m not going to go into detail for this stuff, since this isn’t a post on guest posting; it’s about systems. But these would be the final steps of the system].

  • Reply to emails as they come in.
  • Update tracking sheet.
  • Negotiate with editors and webmasters.
  • Write or outsource articles as they are accepted.
  • Submit guest posts.
  • Update tracking sheet.

Step #4: Wrap up campaign.

  • Briefly analyze the campaign (what worked and what didn’t).
  • Make tweaks to the system if needed.
  • Close tracking sheet.

Step #5: Prep for new campaign.

  • Create duplicate, empty tracking sheet.
  • Contact VA to review modified systems or instructions.
  • Let ‘er rip.

This is just one example of a system.

If you’re feeling underwhelmed… good! Our systems are not fancy. They’re just bullet lists.

Now Let’s Bring it Back to Spending Money to Get Links

Using systems like that one are how you spend money to get links.

You set it up, input some money, sprinkle in a teensy bit of your time, and… voila. Links appear in your backlink report.

Systems do take a bit of work to set up, but they really can become machines that eat dollars and spit out links. But I want to break it down with cold hard numbers.

In the system above, here’s what we’ve done:

  • Handed off 80% of the labor to a (presumably cheap) VA
  • Opted to do the remaining 20% ourselves, so we can keep tweaking the system.

The numbers per campaign might look like this:

  • Prospects found: 100
  • Emails sent: 100
  • VA cost: $6/hr
  • VA hours logged: 5
  • Conversion rate: 7%
  • Cost per guest post (writing): $15
  • Your total time: 2 hrs
  • DA range: 25-53

Again, this is very close to what our campaigns look like, and it’s very close to those I hear about from my colleagues who are doing a lot more guest posting than I am.

With these numbers the result would be 7 links for $135 and two hours of your time. That comes out to a cost $19.28 per link. Remember when we were talking about spending $1,000 on a single link?

And the system outlined above is a rudimentary system.

A more advanced system might use tools like Gmass and Email Hunter combined with better VAs with more sophisticated skill sets. And that’s when systems can really gain momentum and start securing ridiculous links for super cheap.

Over to you…

Sometimes (at least for me) this kind of thing is weird to visualize until you’re actually in there doing it. So I’d be pumped if a few of you tried to implement systems of your own and reported back here.

Of course, this crowd is also full of seasoned marketers. Many of you probably already have much more advanced systems than this, and, if I were going to hazard a guess, some of you might also be buying links using some of the tactics described above.

Whoever you are, I’d love to hear what you think about all this, so drop me a note in the comments!

Perrin Carrell
 

Hey there :) I'm Perrin, part of the Authority Hacker team. When I'm not blogging about Internet Marketing here, I help businesses improve their online presence, and, of course, I run a couple profitable blogs of my own.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 96 comments
bayazad sheikh - January 25, 2017

Hey Perrin, Can you please share the email pitch with subject line that you use to get answers from the webmasters. My open rate is pretty good, but not response rate.

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - January 25, 2017

    There’s no magic-bullet subject line. The best link builders I know are writing new subject lines for every campaign. Why? Because (1) as soon as a subject line appears on any blog, it gets blasted all over the internet, and (2) it’s many times more efficient to A/B test dozens of unique subject lines.

    Write your own and test them 🙂

    Reply
Jeff Wiebe - January 25, 2017

Hi Perrin. As a poetry MA you know that “his advice works its way into the SEO cannon” should be “his advice works its way into the SEO canon.” I suspect your voice to text betrayed you. Similar with the graphic “cannonized” which should be “canonized”.

Respectfully,

J

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Sam - January 25, 2017

Hey… Perrin… Thanks for the amazing post.

Awesome as usual and tons of value…

I have couple of questions though..

Higher DA means you gotta give them really good quality articles… Nd quality article means more money u have to spent…

Where do u hire writers for guest post? Textbroker??

Nd do u prepare separate kw research only for guest posting??

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - January 25, 2017

    You can outsource anywhere you like. Textbroker is a good option, sure; they’d be like $16.80 for 700 words (typical for a guest post). iWriter’s another option. You can also hire someone to write them or write them yourself. When I was on a really tight budget, I used to just write them myself, since it was cheaper for me to spend 45 minutes of my time than it was for me to spend $15 per post.

    Reply
Reader360 - January 25, 2017

Thanks Man! You are rock,Awesome article.I learn new things.
Kwwp it up <3

Reply
Jeff Wiebe - January 25, 2017

Hi Perrin. Can you help me understand this part of the article?

“But the I think it says something that we could spend 3,000 words (this article so far) discussing in detail link-”buying” tactics that are not only popular today, but worse: tactics legitimate marketers are using without understanding the risk.”

Respectfully,

J

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Jared - January 25, 2017

This post just hit the spot, I have moments where I question myself as to whether there is an easier way by paying for links but there just isn’t. I’ll come across a well known blog that talks about PBN’s or something else and think, yeah that sounds cool, I’ll dabble with them and kick myself afterwards.

Anyway – thanks for driving this point home!

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Andrej - January 25, 2017

Thank you for this great tutorial. I have one worry about it: I’m writing all review articles on my website myself and they are of not very high quality and they are also quite short. And because of this I’m afraid that if I email a prospect and ask him for a guest post, he will decline it because of lower quality content on my blog (my writing is not that bad though) – if they’ll check my blog first. And right now I cannot afford to hire writers, as I’m starting from almost 0. Or do the prospects even not check your website? Do you include a link to your website in the emails that you send to your prospects?

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jagadeesh - January 25, 2017

Really appreciated. This might be helpful for newbies as well as intermediate level bloggers.
This articles also helps to invest our budget on which part of LinkBuilding.
Thank you

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Aaron Stevenson - January 25, 2017

Hey Perrin. Where do you find your VA and where do you suggest outsourcing your article writing? I am getting so burn out sending emails myself and was stoked I got an email about your post. Awesome job and so helpful.

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Purwanto - January 25, 2017

Hey Perrin, how about link & post placement?

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Vincent - January 25, 2017

Awesome post Perrin. I too have been highly intrigued by the 10beasts case study. How Luqman was able to rank so fast is beyond my comprehension. I had always been under the assumption that a new site is place in Google’s sandbox for at least 6 months, and only then does it rank. But he was ranking within 4 months – amazing!

I personally hate link building. This is not because I don’t like doing the work, its because I hate doing so much work and then seeing no results. As an example, I have been targeting a keyword that gets approximately 80K searches per month. I created a highly in depth piece of content that was visually appealing and very useful. When I check my Google Analytics stats, people are spending up to 8 minutes on the page, which shows that they clearly like what they see. And Google can obviously see this too.

The keyword I am targeting is very competitive. But the funny thing is I have slowly and steadily been building high quality links to this page through guest posting. When I say I have put in the work, I mean I have sent out over a thousand outreach emails over the span of 1 year and have built around 50 contextual dofollow links. These are links from a variety of legitimate websites with DA 40+. I thought this would boost my rankings…but I sit comfortably on page 5. The content of the sites on pages 2, 3 and 4 is nowhere great as mine is. They also don’t have as many links.

This is why I say I hate link building. My site is 2.5 years old, has hundreds of pages of in-depth content on it and that page has lots of good links pointing to it, but doesn’t rank. Luqmans site has 10 pages and he was able to rank for a highly competitive keyword in a few months.

Anyways haha, I just wanted to rant and sulk somewhere, and this post gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. I am not sure whether to throw the towel in on that page or continue link building and hope for the best! When you don’t see results its very annoying lol

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - January 25, 2017

    Yea man. Some keywords are weird. I’ve had similar experiences.

    I’ve marketed some posts like crazy and have never seen results, and then I have other articles making tons of money that I never pushed at all.

    Links ARE important, but there are lots of other factors now. If a page has 50 links, and the rest of your site isn’t similarly “stuck,” I’d consider looking into other factors: evaluate your site structure around the article, run an WDF*IDF analysis, etc.

    You also have to take into account stuff like SERP “lean,” which is where Google gives preference to certain KINDS of sites.

    Lastly, it’s totally okay to cut your losses and market the posts that ARE working. If you have a post that’s making money, spend your energy expanding it and writing similar stuff. 🙂

    Reply
    Aaron Stevenson - January 25, 2017

    It sounds like you have a different problem. Either a penalty from Google or you are targeting something way too competitive like “weight loss” that you just can’t compete with unless you are a mega authority site. Normally page 3 or 4 is the starting point for a new post with no links period on mid competition keywords. At least that is the experience I’ve had.

    Reply
    Gary - January 25, 2017

    Here is something interesting that Luqman says in response to question #3 over at CloudLiving…http://www.cloudliving.com/luqman-khan-success-story/

    “Well, I don’t want to completely disclose any of my niche sites since I’m using PBNs and I don’t want to receive any threatening emails.

    However, I’d like to share one of my authority sites, which I’ve been working on for the past 4 months using white hat stuff only.”

    I’m not saying he’s using a PBN for his 10Beast site, however it makes one wonder how he could rank so fast using all White Hat tactics. If it’s legit, more power to him and congrats.

    Reply
      Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

      Yea; I wanted to refrain from making any guesses about it, so I honestly kept my study to the efficacy of the scholarship links only. I do know people who have similar suspicions, though.

      Reply
Cameron - January 25, 2017

Perrin,

Thank you for this article. I have a few questions about managing the email accounts.

Do you use a new Gmail account for each outreach?

How do you safely manage a Gmail account with an overseas VA? I have tried to have a VA manage a Gmail account that I created for outreach, but Gmail flagged it and disabled the account. Are there any settings in Gmail that you use to prevent this?

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - January 25, 2017

    You’re most likely to get banned if:

    – You are using a newer free gmail account
    – You aren’t using tools with dedicated tracking domains (like MailShake or Gmass)
    – You’re using a script you found on an internet marketing blog (how many thousands of people are spamming the same one?)
    – You’re not personalizing your emails at all

    To avoid getting banned:

    – Write your own scripts (don’t just change a few words; write something totally different)
    – Use Google Apps instead of a free account
    – Use a tool with a dedicated tracking domain
    – Personalize emails at least a little

    Reply
Jesper - January 25, 2017

Awesome article Perrin. Say you are only doing campaigns for guest posts, is there a risk do you think of getting a backlink profile too heavy on guest posts? Or too many too fast. And getting caught in some kind of automatic penalty?

I am a fan of your work by the way, and I actually started my first Amazon Affiliate site at the same time you started yours on Niche Pursuits, and have been doing this “full time” for a year now.

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - January 25, 2017

    Congrats man! And thanks 🙂

    You’d have to be doing some seriously sketchy shit to get a guest penalty from guest posting, especially if you’re using the system above, which includes a process to vet sites before pitching them.

    To many too fast? No. Look at the link profile for bestproducts.com. 🙂

    Reply
Sandy - January 25, 2017

Hey Perrin, thanks for another detailed post.

I recently found a gig on Fiverr for guest posting. The owner of the gig is actually an author on a blog that has a great backlink profile and authority (checked with Ahrefs).

I know that you mentioned Fiverr is pretty much a BIG NO. But in this case, would you say that if proper research is done, Fiverr would still be a reasonable alternative to get a quick link?

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    Nope! Links are easy to build. I wouldn’t add risk to my business just for a link. 🙂

    Reply
      Sandy - January 26, 2017

      Thanks Perrin for your advice! I didn’t end up buying anything from Fiverr. Like you said, its just too risky!

      Colleen is very lucky to have you as her mentor for NSP3! Keep up the great work!

      Reply
Jeff - January 25, 2017

OK, I’ll admit I’m an amateur at SEO.. but from my experience, building links for the sake of SEO is a waste of time. I started a site in Nov 2015 and emailed a bunch of people asking them to link to it and although a few did, it barely brought up my SEO rankings. Ditto with posting on facebook and other social media sites.

I then tried Reddit and Stumbleupon and they brought in a TON of traffic whenever my posts were well received by the community. But I noticed that every time after the “spike” of traffic died, my search engine traffic rose a little, not a lot but more so than from the linkbuilding I did before. Later, I stumbled on a specialized social network for my niche and started posting to it and got a TON of traffic Nofollow links. Despite those links being Nofollow, my rankings started to bulge and my search engine traffic seemed to double every few months.

Yeah, I keep reading about how backlinks, particularly do follow ones, are key to a higher SEO ranking, but my first hand experience seems to contradict this fact. The only time earning backlinks made any difference is if the link itself brought in a lot of traffic. Maybe backlinks mattered in the past but I only recently started with SEO now, and as far as my personal experience tells me, they by themselves are worthless unless they bring in a ton of traffic as well.

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    Keep in mind, too, that both links and new content seem to have a “sandbox,” making it very difficult to track what’s actually affecting your rankings.

    But yea, links are just one factor. All the data available suggests they’re stil among the most important factors (and THE most important, according to Ahrefs), but there are certainly many things that go into how a page ranks.

    Reply
Jackie - January 25, 2017

Personally I was able to obtain links from Lifehack, Business2Community Engadget, Tech.co and other “editorial” sites by writing the articles myself and was able to get contributor just by applying and showing writing samples. For Lifehack I didn’t even have to provide samples. Once you get a few accounts under you belt it becomes much easier to get new ones. In time I feel I may be able to become a contributor at Entrepreneur and Forbes; those sites want you to demonstrate that you actually have personal experience as an entrepreneur or at least have expertise in the field you want to write about which may mean having your own ventures such as a startup, authority site, being an owner of an agency etc.

A lot of these “editorial” sites including Fast Company and Tech Crunch accept open submissions. If you’re a good writer you can simply pitch without having to bribe anyone. I can get listed at many of these “editorial” sites with just an hour of my time and I have to say the links aren’t magic by any means. Sites with strong PBN links are still outranking me and getting more traffic by far. I have some pretty good “editorial” links and I still cannot even get to the first page for “best hair dryer”. I’ve been on the second page forever, barely earning anything. One editorial link is useless; you need like dozens and hair dryers is not even that hard of a niche compared to “best mattress” or “best coffee makers”.

I’ve noticed in some very competitive niches (I’m talking about competitive keyword of 70 and up in Ahrefs) when people are mainly promoting hosting programs with massive payouts, they have to use a combination of paid editorial links, outreach and guest posts in order to keep their position. I am following the progress of some of these sites in Ahrefs and these guys have to build over 100 links a month just to keep their position (they are outranking WordPress.org for competitive keywords) and guest posting on places like Ahrefs blog, Search Engine Land etc. In this instance I can see why they need to pay in order to build the number of links required to keep their position. However, they aren’t just paying for links but doing outreach and non-paid guest posts as well.

I’ve started freelancing on the side and can actually make more “selling editorial links” than with my Amazon sites. It’s become a way for me to make some extra money that I could use to put back into my sites.

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Roman Milovidov - January 26, 2017

Hi,Perrin! I did not found any of your example video. Where can i see it?

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Jackie - January 26, 2017

About our scholarships links, it’s funny that you mention it because SO MANY of my competitors are doing it in every niche! I was tempted to do it as well but I don’t want to spend $500; I was just thinking of going with $350.

For an example of sites that have a lot of Scholarship links look at Sleepoplis. He has over 70 edu links and his traffic is insane; I mean INSANE. Of course he does have other links to from infographics and outreach but I don’t know if those links helped or not.

ThankYourSkin and FixYourSkin also do scholarship links and their domains are so strong now they rank for keywords with no links built to those pages…

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    Thanks so much for the comment, and it’s always good to think about what works and what doesn’t. It makes us all better.

    Respectfully, though, I’m really done spending energy debunking scholarship links. But I’d encourage you to look at the rest of their link profiles. ThankYourSkin has 300+ linking domains. A very small % of those are scholarships. Tung himself will tell you they don’t work, as he has in the AHPro group (correct me if I’m misrepresenting you, Tung).

    I’m all for finding case studies, but arguments that boil down to, “These people have scholarship links. They have 10x non-scholarship links, too. But it’s probably the scholarships.” Just don’t hold up.

    Reply
      Jackie - January 26, 2017

      Thanks for your response. I wasn’t arguing that scholarship links work; I was just citing these sites of examples of big sites that were using scholarship links. I saw you using it as well and started getting “shiny object syndrome” and feeling like I must get them too in order to get on the first page. I was considering it a few days ago but not anymore after reading your post. I’d much rather spend my time doing something that works than wasting money doing something that’s not going to.

      Reply
        Perrin Carrell - January 27, 2017

        Ha. Yea. I really wish I HADN’T done it myself. It was just a waste of time and money. Certainly sticking to tactics I know work for future sites.

        Reply
Daniel - January 26, 2017

Hello Perrin,
In a comment you mention SERPS “lean”. What exactly is that, since it seems I.ve never heard of it. Also, what do you think of comment backlinks as a complimentary method of linkbuilding? Are they likely to hurt than help? Or are they totally bullcrap?

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    Yea good Q. First time I heard it was actaully from Hayden over at NoHat, although I think it’s mostly just a name for a common-sense phenomenon.

    SERP lean = Google ranking mostly one kind of site for a given keyword.

    Where you’ll see it most is with eCommerce. If you search for any broad product (e.g. “baseball bats”), it’s almost 100% eCommerce stores. So, the idea is that Google understand people searching for that term are typically looking for stores, so they show stores preference in the SERPs, making it difficult for non-stores to rank.

    Another example would be, like, academic-type keywords where only universities show up. But for our purposes, most of the time, SERP lean occurs in the form of eCommerce stores dominating the SERPs.

    This isn’t something I’ve ever found hard data on, but it’s something that I’ve found to be the case MOST of the time. I’ve also ranked for a few keywords that I discounted because of SERP lean. So it’s not a 100% thing. It’s just something I consider when doing keyword research and am thinking about which content to spend money on.

    Reply
Zahid - January 26, 2017

Awesome article, Perrin.

Do you prefer outreach emails sent from a ‘@gmail.com’ address or ‘@domain.com’ email hosted at Google Apps?

@domain.com often end up into SPAM folder, even if hosted at Google.

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    I use GSuite and an @domain.com address. Free Google accounts tend to get banned pretty quickly, even if you’re personalizing for webmasters and vetting sites up front.

    Reply
Ed - January 26, 2017

Excellent article as always!

But don’t you need to do a bit of research for each prospect to offer his the right articles for him by looking in Buzzsumo or Ahrefs ? I thought that in order to get a response rate you need to pitch a couple of suggestions for articles.
That requires A) To see what used to work for that prospect. B) Think about catchy article guest posts to suggest. Do you think a low budget VA really can do this?

I found out while looking for guest posts that so many sites are so fed up with them, they write in their contact pages not to contact them at all about guest posts, they don’t want, and I am not talking about ultra high DA sites. I am talking about 35-40 DA sites too.

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    This is a really good question. Answer is yes and no.

    I break prospects out into two batches. One has DAs in the “Goldilocks” zone of, like, DA20-60. Small-medium bloggers. They get a standard pitch with basically all the same post ideas. And that’s fine. If I’m pitching all running blogs, I can just pitch cool, running-related posts. If two places accept the same pitch, I can just write different outlines with different ideas for the writers when I outsource it, so everyone gets their own good, unique content.

    However, as I prospect, I’ll find the occassional DA60+ blog.

    These go in their own batch, and they’ll get much more detailed pitches. Often, I’ll even take a different approach: simply making friends with editors before doing any actual pitching. And I’ll typically write those myself or hire good writers.

    But remember, if you are writing personlized, well-researched pitches for EVERY prospect, your ROI will tank–just in terms of time spent. It increases your outreach time from 2-3 minutes/prospect to like 30 minutes/prospect. At that rate (10x the teime), instead of spending 3 days on a campaign, you’d spend an entire month. That just obliterates what could have been a great ROI.

    So it’s a mix, and I typically reserve the detailed pitches for really juicy targets.

    Reply
Ian Orford - January 26, 2017

Outstanding article Perrin, this is what SEO is all about.

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Eric Ruth - January 26, 2017

Guys,

Fantastic content rich article. Thanks. Curious about The Hoth. You teased it in the email announcing this article, but I didn’t see it actually referenced in the article – unless it’s veiled and went over my head – which is certainly possible. My take-away is that you don’t recommend buying links, regardless of source (Hoth included). Just want to confirm that’s accurate. Thanks.

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    Perrin Carrell - January 27, 2017

    I don’t want to call out agencies I haven’t used (at least not in the past 2 years). Additionally, REAL guest posting services often do look like the HOTH’s guest posting service (price-point-wise).

    HOWEVER, the thing that should raise lots of red flags for you is guaranteed DA of sites your links will be on. Anyone who’s ever run a guest posting campaign knows it just doesn’t work that way. You scrape the best prospects you can and get links wherever you can. If you don’t you’ll filter out too many sites and waste money.

    The other thing that raises red flags for them and similar services is that they don’t seem to care about your content. Real guest post services almost always want to see your site and content before agreeing to run a campaign for you, and if you don’t have a good linkable asset, they’ll work with you to create one. You simply need good content to run effective campaigns, since you’re talking to real people who are making editorial decisions about that link.

    Lastly, it’s expensive. I do know of some guest posting services that are completely legit, but they’re almost always used by businesses or bigger agencies because it’s expensive.

    That’s why we advocate simply setting up your own system as opposed to doing something like the HOTH. It’s much cheaper, and you’ll know exactly where the links are coming from.

    Reply
James Watkins - January 26, 2017

Hey Perrin,

Thanks for the amazing post, putting a great system in place for link building is 100% the way forward.

Although PBN’s and shortcuts work now, Google is forever changing and becoming better at spotting manipulation.

great work

James

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Matt Hagens - January 26, 2017

Great post Perrin….really solid information.

Sounds like you use GApps to manage email. What are you using for outreach management? Gmass? Mailshake? Etc. I’ve found that using something like Gmass with auto followups improves response conversion by a TON. Thoughts?

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    I use Gmass and love it. And yep: GApps. I just bought a lifetime account on MailShake and am going to try it. I imagine our new product writer/tester is going to be taking a look at it, too.

    Reply
Azam - January 26, 2017

The best link building tips I’ve ever seen for free. Thanks Dear Perrin.

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John - January 26, 2017

I agree with what you’ve said, the problem is I dont think it’s as easy as it all sounds. For some it is and that’s cool but outsourcing link building or buying links isn’t just easier it’s so much quicker.

I try not to do it but it often seems like the quickest and easiest way to get links especially when they seem to be offering the same thing you’re proposing which is to post content on guest posts.

Sites like http://fatjoe.co/ – would you consider this as a no no too?

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    Matt - January 26, 2017

    fatjoe – no

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      John - January 26, 2017

      I’m assuming that means, no don’t use them?

      I had my doubts but again, it looks so easy :-S

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      David - January 29, 2017

      Hi, Matt. Can you please elaborate? Did you mean “no they’re bad” or “no they’re okay”? Thanks!

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    Quicker BEFORE you have a system. AFTER you have a system, it’s slower, since in your own system, there’s no middle man.

    Additionally, imho, “quicker” is not worth risking my whole business.

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      John - January 26, 2017

      True, true, this is what stops me actually. 🙂

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Marc McDermott - January 26, 2017

Dammit Perin, stop trying to get black/grey hatters to do real SEO. Let them keep spinning their wheels. You’re creating competition for us! 😉

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    lol sorry man

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    Matt - January 26, 2017

    Not sure “spinning their wheels” is the best way to describe it. Black/grey can be VERY profitable is done smartly….and no that’s not an oxymoron.

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Nick - January 26, 2017

Exact same system as me. Nice one Perrin

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Alison - January 26, 2017

Awesome article which confronts so many issues. But do you know what?? I manage 6 websites & have never bought a link, also never do outreach guest posting etc OR ANY LINK BUILDING AT ALL.
All websites rank extremely well & gut feeling is google loves them & my other gut feeling is that user expert & time on website affects ranking the most – eventually:) My site visitors watch several videos on each page, click to other relevant case studies and spend a lot of time reading all the useful content. Fortunately, from my observations, other sites in my niches worry about backlinks all the time – let them go & spend inordinate amount of time & effort desperately getting even their white hat links – I love building highly readable, content rich sites that visitors find
extremely useful. By the way I LOVE my niches & that shows.
Cheers

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    Perrin Carrell - January 27, 2017

    Believe it or not, I actually know someone who makes five figures per month without building any links. It’s certainly a school of thought.

    In my experience, though, both growth and overall consistency of success are much higher if you build links. Plus, it’s extremely rare to grow a HUGE site without building links, which is what we like to do here: build massive authority sites.

    So it’s not that it’s impossible to succeed without them; it’s just more difficult and puts an arbitrary cap on growth.

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Dennis - January 26, 2017

The rules in regard to vetting guest post site, “No email address move on.” Does contact form count or is that a “move on?”

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    Perrin Carrell - January 26, 2017

    Depends on your system. I usually skip them. Not because they’re bad or ineffective; mostly because it takes more time.

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Lee - January 27, 2017

Those scholarship links… I swear that was a thing 10 years ago too.
I had a competitor that filled his backlink profile with about 50+ scholarship links, and I blasted past him in the rankings with almost no effort. Just goes to show they’re about as effective as a directory link now.

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Albert Tan - January 27, 2017

Hi Perrin,

This is really an eye-opener post for many marketers, veteran or newbie.

Most link building advice in the net are mostly black hat or grey hat. Recently I was in Warriorforum and saw many are looking for ways to rank fast by asking what kinds of link building tactics are to be used.

As expected most advice are black hat or grey hat. I actually listed authorityhacker.com as one of the sites “to go to” in my reply.

White hat link earning is time consuming and sometimes it costs us nothing but time.

For example, I was doing blog commenting on one blog post and get engaged with the author. I said I have written a similar article (which is 2,000-word blog post) and asked whether he would like to have a look. He gladly replied it was OK.

In the end he even put a contextual backlink pointing to my blog post inside the same article. DA (Moz) of his website is 48 and DR (Ahrefs) is 55.

That’s how I get a link at zero cost BUT I need to spend some time and effort.

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Ben Rose - January 27, 2017

Great article. Just started to slip down the road of paying for authors to publish content on high DA sites linking back to my site. I will back off.

Just wondering… What is your stance on forum links? Are they worth obtaining. Do you see them as risky?

Thanks!

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David - January 27, 2017

Hi Perrin, my name is David. I’ve found your post full of personality and I’m happy to hear it now in 2017. Your explanations made me form an idea about the current state of the market but most of all, thank you for putting me on the right track. I fell in love with White-Hat link building while reading this. “A system that eats bucks and spits back links” Ha! Ha! Ha

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Matt - January 27, 2017

Hey Perrin, great post once again! It really cleared all my thoughts on buying links. One question. What are your thoughts on guest posts that don’t allow contextual links, just author bio link, but on a decent site?

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    Perrin Carrell - January 27, 2017

    Thanks, man 🙂

    Real, editorial links on good sites are almost always worth it. Author bio links DO count. Just not as much as those in the main content area.

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Justin Bilyj - January 27, 2017

I really enjoyed this post, especially the stats and replicable process. Top 5 for the site imo..

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Ubaid Ullah - January 27, 2017

What are you recommendations on emails going to spam folders. Let’s say, you’re sending 100 emails in an hour, then what do you think the conversion rate would be?

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Perrin Carrell - January 27, 2017

Spam folders are weird, but generally, to stay out of the spam folder, send less spammy emails.

By far the best thing you can do is write your own emails. The SECOND you copy and paste a script you found on an internet marketing blog, you lump yourself in with hundreds of other SEOs who are all blasting the web.

That + do as much personalization as you can without killing your time spent. Even if it’s just mentioning the name of the site or person you’re emailing.

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Jackie - January 27, 2017

What should I do if I already guest posted a ton with some success and tried my hand at infographic marketing/outreach but still not getting on the first page for my desired keywords? I feel like I seriously guest posted at at least 30 places; no kidding. Anything from low DA 20’ish blogs in my miche (beauty blogs) all the way to “editorial” links talking about the business side of my niche and I still cannot move up. Is it just a matter of getting more links? I already have 129 referring domains and DA 29 and it’s making less than $200 a month. I have the “potential” for all these great keywords with 2,000 searches a month, 13,000 searches but it’s all on page 2 so I don’t make anything. At this rate I am afraid I will need like 350 referring domains to get to page 1 but I am in a niche with heavy Serp lean so maybe that’s what’s required? I see people in other niches with lower DA than me making much more money and ranking for more stuff.

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Brendon Maynze - January 28, 2017

Your content is always so great and insightful. I find this blog and Matthew Woodward’s blog are the best in the entire niche. The only two worth subscribing to the email list anyway lol!

Anyways, another great articles. I know that your stance on buying links is pretty harsh, but what about social signals? I’ve read that social signals are a great way to boost your SERP rankings, but still am unsure whether or not to purchase them. I enjoy manually building links, and love the idea of having an authority blog, but after months of hard work and research it seems like nothing is paying off. I’m looking forward to trying this whole guest posting thing, hopefully it gives my website the boost it needs.

Any thoughts?

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John - January 28, 2017

This is nothing short of amazing, the best and most complete article about linkbuilding. I have read countless articles on the subject but this is the only on that gave clear guidance as well as actionable tactics to get the job done. WELL DONE!!! I look forward to your next podcast.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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AgencyGuy - January 28, 2017

Awesome post Perrin/Gael. I can totally relate …

I’ve worked for 3 different marketing agencies and what I have seen is appalling …

The first one generates links via xrummer, GSA, SENuke… we would have to hide under rocks when clients asked for link reports

The second agency didn’t do offsite at all because they got all of their clients penalized in the past.

The third agency buys links left and right while calling their process white hat. Needless to say, these campaigns can quickly climb into the thousands per month as this is a very expensive way to tackle link building.

I can absolutely see how anyone following the steps above can crush any agency despite their high monthly link-buying budget.

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    Jackie - January 28, 2017

    AgencyGuy,

    I work for an agency as a day job and we actually don’t build any links at all short of one small round of manual link building (I have to submit by HAND) to local business directories like yelp etc. They don’t use a service like Yext; I have to fill out the forms one by one. Granted we are in a non-competitive industry and our clients rank without lots of link building and only aiming to rank for their local city. My entire day consist of building new pages for numerous products/cities and copying and pasting in schema code etc; I literally build like hundreds of pages a day changing out cities/products and getting carpal tunnel syndrome from copying and pasting. I know there are plug ins for this but we don’t have the permissions to install them; I have to do it by hand. It’s killing me and I dream of the day when I can make passive income from an authority site. I learn literally nothing from my job except how to do on-page…. Can you imagine working at an agency where we do no guest posts, no link building etc because they feel it is too “risky”? Even quality guest posts on Lifehack etc; my company doesn’t want any of it! Really tired of working to make someone else rich.

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    Jackie - January 28, 2017

    AgencyGuy,

    Oh one time we did have some clients who wanted to rank for top tier keywords that were non-city and very competitive. The more appropriate strategy imo would be high quality guest posting and perhaps skyscraper/outreach. Do you know what our agency had us do? Write on web 2.0’s like Medium and even no-follow web 2.0’s…. and the web 2.0’s had no links back to them etc… it was useless and only “busy work” as the client expected to see proof of work that we did… needless to say the sites never ranked for anything. The links we got were useless. I know because I tried them on my own site and didn’t even get in the top 100 with them! Then there were times they were getting so paranoid (at my work) and told us not even link to the client but only mention their name/brand as a “citation”. Ridiculous.

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Ali Mohamed - January 30, 2017

Awesome post Perrin/Gael,

But what do you think about a new site (just 15 day old) that only uses PNB and a lot of comments, it is now in page 6 in SERP for a high competitive keyword. My website target the same keyword but it is now in page 12 in SERP (4 months old). I don’t use PNB or comments, i try to get backlinks with white-hat tactics but the progress is very slow.

Does this mean that the black-hat & grey-hat tactics works better than white-hat tactics.

Any advice.

Thanks.

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Mark - February 1, 2017

Guest posts work for some niches, but there is a huge number of niches where it just plain doesn’t work. The author of this post does not seem to have enough experience with a large enough variety of niches, no offense intended. Try the “guest posting” approach in your niche, but if you’re doing a remotely decent job at it and still aren’t seeing satisfactory “link conversions” after having sent 100+ e-mails, it’s probably the niche, not you.

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