Grow Your Site Series #4: How To Build White Hat Links At Scale

What you will learn

  • Why you don't need to keep chasing the latest link building tactic
  • A step-by-step breakdown of how we scale proven link building tactics
  • Many of the tools we use to automate and scale link building like never before
  • How to overcome the most common roadblocks when handling responses
  • A reminder that our flagship training, Authority Hacker PRO is opening this week!

In todays podcast, we’re talking about one of the main things everyone wants to know about when scaling their authority site…

…scaling white hat outreach/link building.

To get other episodes in this mini-series, and for bonus content, check out the series home page.

Traditional White Hat Link Building

One thing we always tend to notice is that people love finding new ways to build links. The truth is, you can get far better results by doubling down (and scaling) the proven link building strategies. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Here at Authority Hacker, we use a combination of Skyscraper and guest posting to build links. And even though we exclusively focus on those two tactics​, we’re able to build more links to our sites than ever before.

Here’s a brief overview of how they work:

For guest posting, it’s all about finding a site (or prospect) you want a link from, and simply asking them to write a guest post for them. It’s probably one of the first white hat link building techniques that gained popularity after Penguin, and we talked more about it in last weeks blog post.

For Skyscraper, the premise is simple. Create linkable assets on your site, find similar (outdated and/or lower quality) content, and reach out to whoever links to that resource asking for the link to be changed to yours.

We much prefer Skyscraper because you can get multiple links to one piece of content, whereas guest posting is generally just a single link, making it a lot more expensive overall.

Skyscraper doesn’t work well in every niche, however, so guest posting is a good fallback option. You can also overlap the two by offering prospects a guest post if they refuse your Skyscraper proposal. (And that converts reasonably well, by the way.)

Breaking Down Our Process

Our process is mainly built on the Skyscraper model, however we do incorporate guest posting whenever possible.

Let’s run through the entire process, step-by-step…​

Step #1: Creating Linkable Assets

This involves looking at content that’s already generated a signficant number of links, and simply improving upon it.

You can do that by making it more informational, more value-driven, longer, prettier, etc. And obviously, avoid any affiliate links, opt-in popups or ads. At least until you’ve completed your outreach campaign.

You can outsource this, and any good writer should be able able to produce something better if you provide them with a competitor example. Just be sure to provide a solid brief of the angle your trying to achieve.

Step #2: Building Links To Those Assets

This involves finding the prospects (or link partners) who have linked to your competitors resource, and actually asking them for a link.

The first thing to do is just Google your topic, take the results, and look at how many people are linking to those pieces of content.

Using a tool like Ahrefs (highly recommended), you can not only check who’s linking to these resources, but you can also exclude low quality opportunities using the filters.

After that, it’s just a case of exporting everything to get your final prospecting list.

Step #3: Scale It Up

To scale, the first thing you’ll need is more prospects. A lot more prospects, in fact.

Rather than searching Google with a single keyword, you’ll want to create a list of 15-20 keywords using tools like UberSuggest, Scrapebox, or Keyword Shitter (yeah, it’s actually called that). Not only that, you’ll also want to take the first 100 results from Google for EACH keyword.

(There will be a lot of duplicates, but you should be able to fix that easily in Excel or Google Sheets.)

This alone will likely generate thousands of prospects, and repeating the Ahref’s export process thousands of times is far from efficient. One way to overcome this, is to copy the export URL (which includes the filters) and create a formula to replicate it for any new URL.

Pro Tip

We have an entire webinar recording on this in Authority Hacker PRO Platinum, including done-for-you spreadsheets with all the formulas baked in. If you’re a member, you can find the recording here.

Finally, use a merge tool (like this one) to merge all the sheets together and create a final prospecting list with thousands of potential link partners.

(This is also where you do any final filtering, removing any unsuitable link prospects like Youtube, Amazon, Wiki, etc.)

Step #4: Finding Contact Info

When it comes to actually finding names and email addresses, you pretty much have two options.

The traditional approach is to manually go through each prospects and find their name and email listed on one of their sites pages, or even social accounts (i.e. about page, contact page, Facebook page etc.)

Obviously this is very time consuming and expensive, especially when your trying to scale. That’s why prefer the automated approach, which leverages tools like Hunter (previously Email Hunter) to scrape contact information for around 50% of your prospect list in a matter of minutes.

The tool has a limited free plan but it works if you’re just getting started. Knowing how much time this saves, we’ve easily been able to justify the cost of upgrading. The one downside, however, is that it often finds multiple email addresses for each prospect, meaning you have to manually go in and delete all but one.

Any domains where Hunter didn’t return an email goes into a separate database. We then assign people to go through those prospects manually when they have nothing else to do.

Step #5: Scaling Outreach

When we first started out doing this, Buzzstream was considered the go-to tool in the industry, and we were able to use it quite effectively at the time. It’s particularly good for what we call the “sniper approach”, a very targeted, relationship-focused form of outreach. (Useful for small niches with limited prospects.)

In order to scale, we were forced to move away from Buzzstream to newer tools like GMass and Mailshake. These are great for what we the call “shotgun approach”, a more spray-and-pray form of outreach that focuses on reaching as many people as possible.

While we don’t advocate blasting the same exact email to thousands of irrelevant prospects, we do take a middle ground on this one. Both tools mentioned not only give you more sending power, but they also allow you to scale personalization using mail-merge.

They also take care of auto follow-ups, sending a number of follow-ups to any prospect that hasn’t taken a specified action. This alone is MASSIVE for scaling, and something that will multiply your response rates and, of course, placement rates.

Pro Tip

We have a bunch of outreach templates in Authority Hacker PRO, and the problem is, a lot of people use them without taking some time to customize. That leads to a huge chunk of people sending the same template, and recipients get confused about who they’re talking to.

Step #6: Handling Responses

Finally, there’s a few common roadblocks people face when handling responses from this process, so let’s cover what they are.

#1: Confusion – Sometimes, people just wont understand your request. Maybe they don’t know what a link is, or they don’t know how to update the content to include. Whatever the reason, this kind of thing does happen and you should have pre-made responses ready to tackle it.

#2: Disagreement – You will occasionally get responses from people who refuse to link to you because they flat out disagree with something you said (or did) in your article. If this happens, you’ll have to make a decision whether you want to modify your content in order to please them.

#3: Outsourcing – When things really start to pick up, you’ll definitely want to look into hiring someone to handle responses for you. In this case, we recommend hiring a “people person”, as in someone who has some form of customer service experience. We find that “data people” tend to be less effective with their responses.

(We also strongly recommend a native English speaker. Yes, they’re more expensive, but they provide a much stronger ROI in the long run)

#4: Rejections – When a prospect simply refuses to place a link, it’s often hard to turn a hard ‘no’ into a ‘yes’, though it can be done. We prefer offering something else, whether that’s a guest post or another form of value add in exchange for a link. (We see a 40-60% success rate with this approach)

Pro Tip

Don’t be afraid to go back to link partners later down the line, and ask them to link to one of your money pages as well. You’d be surprised how often this works.

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  1. Killer Article.
    I want to add one more link building tactics, controversy link building tactics really boost your ranking on the SERP.

  2. Great podcast! Link building heaven :)

    You mentioned a few times a database you use for keeping track of contacts. Specifically you said you used it for keeping track of contacts that need to have their emails manually found and also for keeping track of successful link partners.

    Would you mind sharing the name of the database you are using?

    1. It’s simply a Google sheets doc, nothing too fancy. A couple of columns for their name, site and email address and that’s just about it really!

  3. Hey Mark,

    If I use to scrap the contact info for my 15,000 link prospects, I get a huge list of email addresses. has two features, email finder and email verification.

    Should I run these emails for verification again just to be sure they are deliverable?

    Considering that verifying an email will consume another request credits, hence I spend double per email…!

    I am worried about hard bounces because according to if 10% of your emails bounce, then less than 50% of your total broadcast will get delivered to actual inboxes.

    So I don’t want to tout myself having run a 15k prospects outreach campaign when only less than 5000 prospects actually received my emails.

    Alternatively, could I use a software like URL Profiler or Scrapebox to scrape for email contacts from webpages and then just pay to clean my emails, thereby avoiding

    What do you think?

    What was your experience with just emailing prospects after exporting the list from…?

    What was your percentage of hard bounces and did it affect your deliverability?

    Thanks for the white hat link building at scale tips.

    1. Can’t speak for Mark, but in my experience, yes, you should absolutely be using a data validator/verifier, BUT… I don’t think Hunter’s is that good yet. I personally like, and some other colleagues I know use Neverbounce.

  4. I’ve been digging into this process and I’ve hit a minor roadblock.

    Tools like & Scrapebox don’t grab contact names for you to personalize your outreach. Do you spend time manually reviewing each site to find this info or do you just throw something generic in the outreach e-mail?

    1. There won’t always be a name available even when the address is publicly available. You can sometimes manually review and guess their name if the email is something like [email protected], but if its not available you can just replace it with “hi there” or something similar.

  5. You guys probably already do it, but I thought I’d share a little improvisation I did here which makes exporting the reports from ahrefs far less time consuming by leveraging the Parito principal

    I started off with 25 keywords and got about 2500 results using Scrapebox. After removing the duplicates, I was left with about 1200 unique URLs. Now instead of exporting each of these one by one, I used the Batch Analysis tool in Ahrefs (you can analyse 200 URL’s at once) and exported the results. I repeated the process 6 times to cover all the 1200 URL’s I can gathered.

    I then wrote a small C# script to merge these reports into one csv file. Then I opened the merged file in google docs and sorted these by the number of backlinks. There were a total of 36k backlinks pointing to these 1200 URLs combined, but 80% of these came from just 300 URLs (~25% URL’s).

    So I only exported the 300 that mattered rather than all the 1200. Huge savings of time.

    I also created the export URL (with &export=1&charset=utf-16 appended to the URL’s) which directly downloads the file so you don’t even have to click on the export button. Just click the link in the google sheet and BAM, the file stars downloading.

    If I’m bored again, maybe I’ll create a tool to download these URL’s automatically. In fact I think I might be able to automate the process completely using just the source URL’s from scrapebox.

    Thanks a lot for sharing your tips, guys. You’s is the only SEO blog that’s worth reading.

  6. One of your best podcasts so far. I’m a new AH Pro member and didn’t find this info in the members area as the outreach blueprints were showcasing Buzzstream which you guys don’t use anymore. I really have found your podcasts to be invaluable and figured out that in order to fully get the most out of my membership I also need to listen to every podcast as sometimes you’ll cover new stuff such as how you are merging the files together or using a custom formula to extract the ahrefs export url. Curious who you guys have doing all the exporting; do you do it yourself or is it a linkbuilder and if so I presume you also have to train them on how to export and use Hunter?

    1. Definitely do it yourself to start with. If you don’t, you won’t really know how to manage the person you eventually hire to do it :)

  7. William Assurian

    Hey great podcast. A quick quesiton. What would you do when the older linking asset has over 500 linking root domains and many of them are junk and international sites. the old link is from mashable.

    I seem to be getting very poor results while prospecting for skyscraper. only like less than 5% of the url turn to be real prospects whom i can outreach. Rest all seem to be junk or unqualified prospects like international sites, junk aggregator sites. For me it’s usually 20 domains from 200-300 domains.

    Not sure if I doing something wrong here or is it generally so with the tech industry where there are lot of scraper sites and the like or if it is usually like this conversation rate with skyscraer prospecting across all niches or maybe if it is because I’m choosing sites like wired and mashable to go after their targets?

    1. That’s usually what happens when you reverse engineer big sites. The solution is to reverse engineer smaller sites that tend to not have all these scrapper links.

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