No matter what link building tactic you're employing, there's always the tedious work of filtering out all the candidates first.
Reaching out for links is the easy part, right?
Deciding and training someone to do this is also a bit difficult because there's a bit of an art to it.
How is someone going to know whether or not you think this site is good?
“How can I frame their mindset to think like me?”
Today, I want to give you a simple framework to use for your outreach.
This applies to guest posts, niche edits, and even podcast appearances – if that's part of your strategy.
(Who said niche site owners can't go on podcasts?)
For an overly simplified strategy of outreach, let's use this example:
- You've picked a keyword you'd like rank for
- Look at who's linking to the pages that rank for that keyword
- Reach out for a guest post, niche edit, or podcast appearance.
Somewhere between 2 & 3 is a step where you have to create a list of sites to reach out to.
If you've ever done this then you'll realize that even though you start with a list of 1000 backlinks, you may really only have 30 solid sites to reach out to.
How do you get from 1000 to 30?
Well, after you've exported your list of candidates, it's time to start asking yourself these questions:
1) Does It Pass The Four-Second Test?
You read that right, it's a four-second rule, not a five-second rule.
This question helps put you in the seat of a regular visitor and assess whether it passes that “first impressions” test.
Four seconds might seem quick, but it's very realistic. Just count it for yourself, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi!”
This might be due to slow loading times or the site just looks awful and untrustworthy.
Many older sites don't pass the four-second test because of their style and it doesn't mean that if you got a link from them it would be negative for you.
Far from it, I'm just trying to simplify the process for you and your assistant.
Having hard rules in place gets rid of any confusion. So stick to your guns when you can!
2) Do You Need To Check Another Page To Tell If This Site Is Legit?
If the site doesn't pass the four-second test, you'll either leave because it's so terrible or you'll go to another page to give it another chance.
If the search was SEO driven and the site doesn't match their keyword intent then a normal user would bounce.
However, you're putting on your SEO hat right now.
If you get to another page and it looks legitimate then you might have yourself a solid outreach candidate.
Another tip would be to check the Domain Rating (DR) score since that's usually a quick indicator of link building ROI.
3) Is The Anchor Text The Same As A Higher DR Site?
You might be wondering what the heck I'm talking about here.
As mentioned earlier, the most common strategy for outreach is grabbing data for a keyword you'd like to rank for and looking at who's linked to the articles ranking well for that keyword.
This means you might be working off a list like this:
In this picture, each different colored arrow represents a grouping of anchor texts.
Often times, you'll find sites with lower DRs republishing original content from higher DR sites.
Republishing content from other sites isn't necessarily bad if you add the right attributions and the sites with higher DAs still do it, but consider how the site fits into your overall strategy. Consider how it fits with the other questions in this framework.
Saying no to republishing sites and yes to original content publishers might be a simple cut and dry way of leaving out grey areas in your SOP.
Plus, you might even get republished anyways simply by guest posting for the higher DR site!
4) Is The Site Talking About One Niche Or Random Topics In Every Post?
Usually if you've come across a site with tons of random topics that don't appear to have any relation, it's likely that you've found a PBN site.
There is such a thing as a “good PBN” versus a “poor PBN” though.
Poor PBN sites look strange and out of place.
They make you think “why is this site still publishing content?”
For example, you might see a very plain blog with recent blog posts about snow removal, SEO, top mattresses, and indoor running all within the past month.
Also, in the picture below, is an example of a PBN footer.
Now let's be clear…
PBNs definitely work. Whether you like it or not.
It's just how it is and some people put more care into their networks.
We'd like to believe we're one of the people who care a lot about our links and our customers success. So every PBN site has a lot care put into it. For more info, you can head over here.
Going back to “random topics though”:
Bigger publications like the Huffington Post, local newspapers, etc. cover a wide array of topics and can provide really great links but in general, if you see a lesser known site with many different topics it's likely not going to add much value to your link profile.
Usually these sites have lower stats and can't give you the juice you're looking for.
Want Backlinks THAT Drive Results?
- Manual, White Hat Backlinks
- Traffic Driving Articles
- Automatic Link Building
5) Does The Site Have Enough Relevant Traffic To Make An Impact?
Begging for a link is quite easy, but if guest posting is your strategy then you need to think about the ROI more.
A guest post may take a couple hours to put together something meaningful and if it the audience for that site isn't highly targeted to your niche then I'd think about it a bit differently…
One rule of thumb might be to consider how wide the audience is.
When the audience is broad, like in the Huffington Post, write a shorter article that goes over high level tips.
If it's a highly targeted audience then write something in depth and go deeper on that topic.
Think about the reader in other words.
Again, the more relevant traffic, the better.
6) Is The Context Of The Outbound Link Relevant To Your Niche?
There are two situations where someone might link to an article:
They are referencing it because it's relevant to the topic they're discussing or…
They're simply using it as an example for something else (the post has a good design, writing style, it's an example of listicle, etc.)
If the article is focused on something to do with your niche, then it's hands-down a better link.
Google's crawl bot considers the text around the link to be important.
7) Is It Worth It?
This is a sort of open-ended question but I think it's a good one to end on.
When you are prospecting a link from a particular site, is it worth the hassle?
Link building is tedious, but of course it's very powerful.
To me, creating 30 different forum profiles isn't worth it and reaching out to iffy sites also doesn't provide a high return.
Reach out to the best sites possible.
It really makes a difference when your site is filled with great content and you've got good branding too.
Turn the tables around and think about how these questions would turn out if they were turned onto your own site.
Do you think your site would pass?
If not, consider reading the branding part of this article.
If you do think your site would pass, go ahead and see how these questions fit into your link building process and let us know in the comments!