5 Ways to Build Links by Lending a Hand

by Kane Jamison

This is a guest post by Kane Jamison from Hood Web Management.

I love adopting a givers gain mentality everywhere I can in my business, and my link building strategies are no exception.

So when I read rule #6 from Neil Patel’s article last week, The 10 Golden Rules to Attracting Authority Links, I started jumping up and down and shouting “That’s the ticket!”

Alright, I wasn’t literally jumping up and down – but I was excited. It’s such a no-brainer: rather than contacting webmasters and trying to convince them to link to you, you’re contacting webmasters and offering to lend them a hand. Who could turn that down? 

Why I like this as an alternative to BLB and normal guest blogging

There are plenty of ways to offer value to a webmaster. For example, Jon has done a great job of writing about broken link building (and types of tools) which are very effective. But, there tends to be a lot of research that goes into broken link building: finding the broken links, finding other sites that link to that same broken link, tracking everything in spreadsheets – this is all before you even contact the webmaster, mind you. At the end of the email, if you’re only finding a few links for them, and requesting a link on top, are you providing enough value to justify the email and a link? Some webmasters would argue no, and that’s going to bring down your conversion rate.

Normal guest posting is a great strategy, as well, and you’re providing a free piece of content. That said, sometimes it’s hard to come up with a great title, and quite frankly guest blogging has been used so much over the last couple years, that I bet there are more than a couple webmasters that are getting tired of the identical guest blog offers they keep getting.

So, if you’re looking to add some spice to the same old guest blogging routine, or you’re looking to escape the humdrum of research necessary to craft that perfect email pitch, here are 5 tactics to switch it up by lending a helping hand to your fellow webmaster:

#1 – Keep it simple and ask them what they need

We’ve all got a million things to do, and not enough time to get them done. Keep your email short, sweet, and authentic. Even if they can’t think of a single topic for you to write about, I guarantee you’ll be off to a friendly start with that person, which is all it takes to get a foot in the door.

Sample Email Template:

I haven’t had a chance to test it yet, but here’s a sample email template that I’d use for a webmaster whom I didn’t know previously:

Hey [NAME],

My name’s Kane, I’m the [BLOGGER/WRITER/WEBMASTER] at [MY SITE NAME]. I’ve been reading [THEIR SITE NAME] for awhile now and I’d love to jump in and contribute a guest post.

Before I start throwing title ideas at you, I thought I’d see if there are any topics that you’d like more content on, or any ideas you’ve had floating around but haven’t had a chance to write about? If so, I’d be happy to write the content for you as a guest post.

Optional: Here’s a link to a few of my past articles if you need an idea of my style:……

Let me know what you think, but if not I’ve got a few ideas of my own as well.

Thanks for your time!

-Kane Jamison

Pro Tip: If they’ve seen your name a few times, either from blog comments, or maybe in a tweet where you @mention their name, I think you’ll see better results. That said, who could turn down an offer like this?

#2 – Offer to update their dated content

Every blog that’s been around for a few years has content that’s out of date.

I’ve seen a few link builders, in particular Wil Reynolds, suggest a content tactic where you find a website that has had annual contests in the past but hasn’t updated them in recent years, and start up the same contest on your own site. It’s a great tactic, and definitely worth considering.

But what if you found a dated piece of content on a still active site, and instead of borrowing the concept, you offered to update it for them? You’ve earned a solid link, and frankly half the work is done for you, because all you’re doing is updating what’s changed. This can be just as easy as writing a unique post if you choose the right type of content to update.

Example #1 – SEOMoz 2.0 Awards:

Moments ago I went to Google, searched for “2008 website awards,” and you know what I saw at the bottom of page one? A no-longer-updated web 2.0 awards competition done by SEOMoz

It’s a PA 88 page with over 242,000 links from 479 root domains:

So tell me, is it worth it to you to email the SEOMoz team, and see if they’d be willing to hold the competition again, if you were the one that assembled all of the judges and took care of the process? Maybe 20-40 hours of work for a PA 88 link that none of your competitors can copy?

Example #2 – Search Engine Land’s “Which URL Shortening Service to Use”:

Here’s an example: Search Engine Land has a post from 2009 titled “URL Shorteners: Which Shortening Service Should You Use?” It’s listed in Open Site Explorer as one of the top pages on their domain, and taking a look at the OSE stats, it has tons of links, tons of shares, and tons of PA:

To further support my point, Danny Sullivan has even gone so far as to add a note from March 2011 at the top, stating that the content needs to be updated:

OMFG – Someone get on that! I’m willing to let this opportunity go on the basis that I’m confident I can find a thousand opportunities just like that one using this method.

#3 – Recreate their past successes with a sequel

Don’t reinvent the wheel! If they’re a popular site, they certainly have popular content right? Even if it’s not out of date, you can still improve upon it.

Open up Open Site Explorer, see what their top pages are that have gotten the most links, and find a way to create a sequel to one of those pieces of content. This is going to be different than simply updating out of date content, because this time you have to find a way to improve on the content by adding new ideas, rather than just updating for a new time period.

Example – Diggin Food Blog:

Here’s an example that isn’t SEO-related. When I’m not thinking and writing about SEO, I’m thinking and writing about gardening and urban homesteading. Let’s say I wanted to submit a guest post to DigginFood.com, a large Pacific Northwest gardening blog. When I take a look at their top content, I notice that there’s a lot of how-to’s about creative gardening structures: a mini-greenhouse, cool chicken coops, a seed starting station, planters made from gutters, etc.

When I take a look at that, it tells me that a linkbait article focused on that would do really well on DigginFood. So, if I were to pitch them an article, maybe I’d try “Top 10 Most Creative Recycled Garden Projects“, or maybe “The 25 Coolest DIY Garden Planters.” I can guarantee you that both would be super successful if written well.

Pro Tip: Depending on the site, it can be OK to be clear about why you chose that title. “I noticed that DIY projects have done really well on your site in the past – I thought a post titled ‘The 25 Coolest DIY Garden Planters’ would be a hit with your audience!”  Include something like that in your pitch email and you’ve instantly shown them that you’ve done your research and know their audience well, and therefore will be more likely to write content relevant to their audience. I wouldn’t tell them you’ve been researching them with SEO tools, though, maybe just reference their “Most Popular Posts” on the sidebar if they have one, or just play it off like you’ve been following them the whole time and happened to notice that content.

#4 – Leverage their niche’s popular content

This is similar to #3, except you’re raiding other sites in their niche for ideas, instead of their own site.

Go find 1 or 2 of their competitors or similar sites. Now check the top pages of those sites in Open Site Explorer, and take a look for what you can write about.

I’m not suggesting that you copy a piece of content, what I am suggesting is that you create a response to one of those articles, or perhaps content ‘inspired by‘ one of those articles. You can also create a response piece that disagrees with someone else’s opinion, just don’t go negative – keep it a friendly debate.

Example – This very article:

Right now, the article you’re reading was inspired by a guest post on SEOMoz.

And here’s another point – by referencing other parties, you’ve instantly multiplied the number of parties that get value from your content. By writing this post for Point Blank SEO, I’m pulling in a 3rd and 4th party to the equation: Neil Patel and the SEOMoz blog (and arguably the Moz community to some extent). I’m not writing this post with the expectation that Neil or SEOMoz will necessarily link or tweet to it, but you know what? It’s a win / win / win / win situation regardless of whether they even hear about this article. Point Blank SEO gets a solid piece of content, I get the author link for creating the article, SEOMoz gets a link back to Neil’s article, and Neil gets a link back to his guest post and to his site at QuickSprout.

#5 – Escape the textual & embrace the visual

Go back to the original photo in this post. You’ll notice that Neil didn’t just recommend doing an interview with Guy Kawasaki, he recommended doing a VIDEO interview. Know why he recommended that?

Because he knows that alternative forms of content, whether it’s video, an infographic, or a podcast, are a lot harder to come across for many websites and can deliver way more value!

Instead of offering up yet another guest post, offer up something they’ve never been offered. It doesn’t have to be time-intensive, as long as it’s quality. A podcast or video can take the same amount of time as a guest post when planned well. A video interview is the perfect example.

Moral of the story? Find ways to create value for others

If you take away anything from this article, just realize that link building doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, where you desperately attempt to give the webmaster just enough value to elicit a link.

Find ways to create value for others when you build links, not just yourself! Remember, givers gain, especially in link building.

This post was written by...

Kane Jamison – who has written 1 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Kane Jamison+ is the founder of Hood Web Management, a Seattle SEO company. Before you forget, you should connect with Kane on Twitter at @KaneJamison, where he promises not to spam you with foursquare check-ins.

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  1. Greg Holbert says:

    I’m glad someone is promoting the idea of promoting others! It’s a great technique that I’ve had some success in while promoting my blog and website. People are much more inclined to help you when you extend your hand first, and if you want someone to help you, it only makes sense to help them first to get some incentive! I’m glad more people are embracing organic SEO, and that people are making more real relationships than most superficial social media ones!

    • I couldn’t agree more – not only that – it makes you feel good! ha!

      Here’s to more getting the really simple idea of business Karma!

      Thanks for the post Kane! @onlineprtips

  2. Charles Sipe says:

    Great post Kane. I’m already thinking of ways to implement these tactics in my work, especially tactic #2.

  3. Kane Jamison says:

    Thanks Greg & Charles! Glad you got some value from it. Charles, I think you’ve already got the value-proposition nailed with those diet coke shenanigans…

5 Ways to Build Links by Lending a Hand - Point Blank SEO