How to Automate Link Building

by Jason Acidre on September 10, 2012 · 38 comments · Content, Search, Social


Link building is an outcome, as Ian Lurie shared on his MozCon presentation this year. That’s true, and I couldn’t agree more. You can even automate your link development efforts with that perception alone.

To win in the link building game in the post-penguin era, you must know how to become a link magnet and should start mastering link baiting (no need for super viral content, just content that can potentially attract links). Since that’s where most natural links on the web come from.

Note: I’m not saying that manual link building is dead, because it’s not! Many of us are just using it in the wrong way. It’s a marketing tool, and being a tool for search engine optimization is just secondary. Use it to build awareness, not to improve search rankings. I have an upcoming post that’s related to that, so expect a link to that post from here.

If you’ve been reading some of my stuff on this blog, then I’m pretty sure that you’re already familiar with the tips I’ll be sharing in this post. This is simply just a recap of the things you can execute to automate the process of attracting and acquiring more natural links to your site.

Build insanely awesome products

Link building, and even marketing as a whole, is so much easier if you’re offering a product/service that no one else in your market can match. People will always share things that they find really useful or products that can really help solve their problems.

The best thing about making your products as the fuel of your marketing campaign is that it can help cultivate brand evangelists that will automate your marketing process along the way. You can almost certainly convert consumers to voluntarily share your product(s) to their peers/networks/followers when they find real value and awesomeness from using it.

Just look at Traffic Travis (even though I’ve worked for them in the past, I’ve become an advocate and an avid user of this tool), they have served thousands of Internet marketers all across the globe just by offering a free high-utility toolset.

Because they’re providing something of high value, they have managed to attract and acquire thousands of natural links/press mentions to their site over time (was even featured on Entrepreneur written by one of its brand evangelist from Single Grain).

This approach doesn’t just apply on actual products, as it can also work on other types of businesses or organizations (service-based, B2B, non-profit or membership-based models).

For instance in this blog, my ideas are my products. The more people like my ideas, the more I’ll get links, right?

Start aligning product development with marketing. Know how your clients’ products/services work and help identify areas it can still improve on and possible enhancements that will make it more awesome. Then don’t just promote, evangelize it.

Once your product is all set, start finding and building good relationships with your satisfied customers, particularly those who have written positive reviews or shared the experience about your product/service on social networks. These people will most likely be your brand loyalists in the future.

Aim to consistently satisfy their needs, or offer co-creation for your next product/versions (asking for feedbacks/suggestions). These simple actions will make them feel that they are a part of your product’s growth and will increase the chances of having them spread the word.

Look at Vans (I’m a huge fan of the brand), they allow people to create and customize their own design for shoes:

Become the “Go-to-Brand” in a specific niche of the industry

Build your brand as an authority in a single sector of your industry first. Share your expertise through the content you publish on your site as well as with the content you distribute on other industry sites/blogs. Then gradually scale to other areas of your industry.

For example, I have been known in the link building scene, because I’ve somehow focused on sharing ideas and strategies on link building for quite a while. Along the way of associating my personal brand to that niche led me to ton of linking opportunities:

  • Interviews
  • Group interviews
  • Roundups of best blogs discussing the niche
  • Editorial mentions
  • Invites to do guest blogs

Focusing on one specific niche of your industry is a good way to build a strong mindshare for your brand. Because once you’ve become known and be seen almost everywhere in that niche, you’ll be always on top of mind to people who might want to write something related to your niche.  And that’s certainly one of the best ways to automate and generate natural links/mentions to your site.

Screenshot was taken from Anthony Pensabene’s extremely useful guest post on SkyrocketSEO.

Moving on, seeing that I’ve somehow built a good reputation on that side of the industry, it’ll be much easier for me then to slowly build up my brand on other aspects of online marketing like content marketing, social media, etc…

Offer premium images and offer embed codes

Original high quality images are strong linkable assets that you can use to generate natural links. It’s a necessity when it comes to building great content, so bloggers basically need them.

There are so many ways that you can do to build links using images, but if you want to automate your link building efforts with this approach, it’s best to provide auto embed code scripts for all your sites high-quality images.

Continuously build and promote evergreen content to scale link acquisition

Like what I’ve shared on my previous post, one of the most fascinating attributes of evergreen content is its capability to continuously generate links to your site.

This type of content has high tendencies of getting links over time, as long as the content is providing valuable information that never goes out of date and as long as people will have ways to see/find the content.

The key to efficiently automate your natural link building process through providing ton of evergreen content is to build constant exposure to them or steady channels that will allow them to generate consistent traffic.

Getting constant traffic to these pages will increase the likelihood of getting more links to them (since some might use it as a reference).

Ways to send continuous traffic to your evergreen content:

  • Build contextual links to your evergreen content (both internal and incoming) that will be seen by your target audience. You can build links through related community discussions, your guest blogs and through requesting resource links from other pages related to your content.
  • Promote old evergreen content every so often on social networks, so new followers may be able to see them as well. You can use tools like Bufferapp to schedule your old posts to be shared on different social networks.
  • Make the content rank for its targeted keywords (both short and long-tails) to drive search engine traffic who’re specifically looking for the information it contains. You can also check out this content optimization techniques.

Own informational keywords on SERPs

People, specifically bloggers who do their research, tend to link to pages that rank highly on search results for informational keywords. Given that skilled bloggers will always reference others’ work to establish credibility and trust.

I’ve personally experienced this dozens of times, where I get referential links because I’m ranking at the top of Google search. For example, the link growth of my online marketing strategies resources page had tremendously increased since it reached the #1 spot for “SEO strategies”.

There are many possible reasons why people will link to your content when your content is ranking well on Google:

  • They linked to it and used it as a resource to lessen the need of further emphasizing the subject.
  • To establish trust with search engines (knowing that externally linking to trusted sources are also assessed by search engines).
  • They actually found your content useful and thought it’s worth sharing to their readers.
  • They want to connect and build a relationship with you.

So if it’s a good link bait tactic, how would you make your solid content rank highly on SERPs?

There are 4 ways that you can do to rank better on informational keywords:

  • Create the best content about the subject/keyword. Study your competitors’ similar content and outdo them in terms of information, presentation and delivery.
  • Build links to your informational page through guest blogs, community discussions, link outreach as well as building strong pages in your site that will internally link to them.
  • Improve your overall domain authority by building more authoritative links and pages to your site. This will allow your site’s newer posts/pages to have better chances of getting immediate rankings on SERPs.
  • Build and improve your author portfolio and implement authorship markup to increase your pages’ SERP click-through rate.

Build content targeted to advanced segments as well

Identify communities and content hubs in your industry that are getting the most link love and search share. Study how they generate, deliver and present their content and how they naturally attract links and social shares.

This data mining process will allow you to understand what types of content resonate well to your industry’s advanced segments or those who also write about your industry (bloggers, industry analysts, journalists, etc…).

Target these people through creating content that they’ll more likely read and learn from. You can have better response rates from your outreach if you can provide content that these influencers will be really interested in. With that, you can then easily build rapport with them and eventually get more exposure through their networks.

Leverage Unique Selling Point

Just like providing exceptional products, your brand’s USP is as important. Stress on your brand’s strong points in every online marketing effort you implement (content marketing, link building, guest blogging, display ads, etc…).

Because the more people know what really sets your brand apart from your competitors, the more you’ll get natural referrals from people who have personally experienced your product/service, such as getting mentioned on forum/community discussions and even on getting reviews.

A great example is Zappos’ exceptional customer service. Leveraging that resulted to hundreds, if not thousands, of recommendations from satisfied customers (both on and offline).

Build strong readership, audience funnels and alliances

One reason why content marketing is so efficient in getting more natural links to a site is that it amplifies the reach of your content.

Building solid readership, audience funnels and relationships are basic parts of content marketing that will not just boost your site’s social sharing activity, but also scales the opportunities of acquiring natural links.

Your online peers will always send new readers down your way, as they continuously share your content through social sharing or linking and as they grow their own following/readership. That’s why investing on these kinds of relationships will always be a win/win situation.

The more readers they send to your site will be the higher chances of getting new link sources for your content.

Few tips on building audience funnels and alliances:

  • Create content that are relevant to their interests on a weekly/monthly basis.
  • Encourage readers to share your content and follow you on social networks (make this as your content’s secondary call to action).
  • Interact with people who shared your content on social networks (like sharing their works as well).
  • Build a mailing list (newsletter) to get better insights/feedbacks from your readers too.
  • Cite their works as a resource to initiate reciprocity.

Get linkable people to write for you

Invite people who have large/substantial follower base in your industry to do guest blogs or be a contributor to your site. It will be easier to entice them if you’re already connected with them.

Another option, in case you feel that you’ll be struggling to invite influencers to do guest blogs, is to find and hire niche freelance writers (that already have strong following) in your industry.

You can use Followerwonk in finding freelance writers who can work and create good/linkable content for your site. Having them shared the content to their followers is definitely the plus in doing this method.

Organizing and hosting a blogging contest on your site, and inviting influencers to participate is also another great way to bait linkable authors to write for you. Look at what Unbounce did last year.

Final thought

I really liked what Ross Hudgens said about automating link building – it’s all about automating 90% of the process, and then leaving the 10% to humans who will create 99% of the value. Now stop using those automated link building software, they won’t help you one bit in this era.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Sansar Gupta@GoWebBaby September 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Again Something Really interesting by jason…
And as You specify to “Offer premium images and offer embed codes”
So should i post “info graphics” like these
“http://www.gowebbaby.com/why-you-should-move-to-wordpress-infographic”
“http://www.gowebbaby.com/how-does-wordpress-work-infographics”
Please Reply…Thanks..

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seogenx September 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm

It’s 100% true that manual link building isn’t dead. It’s present only if you follow the right way to do it. Content is still king and you can win links by leveraging good piece of content, which people like to read, bookmark, share, and commenting too. This will save your time to find link building outreach as your content is going to be naturally referred by people and ultimately the increasing popularity of that content will lead to better ranking on search engine of the page containing this content. This is an example of result that not only Google but also people are looking for in SERP and it’s a strong reason why Google is constantly updating it’s search algorithm to make it more natural and trustworthy.

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Ian Harold September 11, 2012 at 12:33 am

“I’m not saying that manual link building is dead, because it’s not! Many of us are just using it in the wrong way.” I couldn’t agree more with you on that. I think that majority of people is using link building just for the SEO purposes – to increase ranks – and they don’t think about the enormous advantage of creating awareness. People really should know or learn, how to do link building finely.

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Stuart@SEO Chester September 11, 2012 at 3:26 am

Jason this is fantastic! Congrats on writing such an awesome post – hits every current, relevant and fresh link building nail BANG on the head! Point to point totally spot on :)

That good that this is actually the first blog comment I’ve made in a few years now I think, ha!

[Referenced this post here - http://tweets.seochester.co.uk/tweets/245464002912735232 ]

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Kaiserthesage September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Haha! Thanks Stuart! And I’m honored to have your probably first ever blog comment this year :)

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Lee September 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Hi Jason,you say 90% automate your link building. I don’t think I am that far ahead yet but what I am doing is improving my posts to try and make each one higher quality than the last. Then hopefully I will get more repeat traffic. So for pushing that point thanks.

Great points thanks lee

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Jason Hervey September 12, 2012 at 6:27 am

I agree that content is still king. Google very well knows what sites out there have valuable information and which are just kinda *there*. Words to live by.

Grr… FANGS!

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Vijayraj Reddy September 12, 2012 at 10:02 am

Hi,

Link building is an outcome obviously as stated above. Automating it is slightly opinionated one. Our efforts should be towards generating the best content, building a community, promoting the blog and the rest will fall in place. I am saying this out of experience.

Regards,
Vijay

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Thiar Thea September 13, 2012 at 12:10 am

Well, however the content is still king. I will do link building automation, but also improve the content as well

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Jessica Johnson September 16, 2012 at 8:27 am

I’ve found that having linkable content has been the best link building process for me, which is all automated. The process of contacting people usually gets me 1 in 20 which is why I have stopped asking for link exchanges. Good write-up you did!

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Basith Abdul September 16, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I recently started with backlinking and others to increase to traffic to my website. This article helped me a lot and i have learnt a lot.A very good article for a beginner like me!
Thanks a lot!

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Ashish Rai September 18, 2012 at 1:56 am

Great post, Jason. I think you nailed it. Awesome product/service supplemented with evergreen content does almost all the elbow grease work for building links. Where else manual link-building should be conversion-focused. And it’s not a paradigm shift in link-building strategy or anything It’s just that SEOs need to be able to put on entrepreneur’s hat time-to-time. As it all starts with understanding the website/business goals.

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Shumaila Kamal September 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

KAISERTHESAGE
You are really a great blogger. I am totally with you in this point of Link Building. You have done a great job by making this awesome post. Thanks for giving me so nice information.

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Kevin Loyed September 22, 2012 at 5:31 am

Hey Jason! I agree that content is totally king. And that is really great. These times you can focus and do something sensible.

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Deniel September 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I’ve actually heard somewhere that Google does count (or give weight to) some nofollow links. Or perhaps it’s more like they count all your back links and give you some weight for a percentage of nofollow links.
But if you think about the title of this post “Natural Link Building” – in order to look natural you should have a mixture of nofollow and followed links.

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Nadeem Khan October 2, 2012 at 3:01 am

Lolz, your post title was about “automatic link building” and what you have explained is all about natural link building, which isn’t bad given the fact that automating the link building process would definitely attract Penguin penalties !

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Jeff Bronson October 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Personally, I really like the direction Google is heading, focusing on real and natural content.
Automated tools and the like did work for quite some time, no doubt.

However, with this new direction, real businesses will start to win vs. thousands of IM’ers pushing the same Clickbank products.

I was shocked and confused at first when I saw you write “automated link building” lol. After reading the post, I see you are referring to the automation of processes.

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Gabe October 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Ha ha – A link-juice post about link-juice. Phenominal! This would be a perfect example of your topic. Oh, the irony :) As I was reading this I started to think about my own content and what I could do to really engage my visitors, using share-worthy content. Then I thought to myself “man, I really need to favorite this page to refer back to”

It was just funny (my thought process) – Anyhow, good job in being an awesome authority on natural automated link building.

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Anthony Pensabene October 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Yo Jason, thanks for the shout.. and for the ideas you always give me.. :)

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Shane October 20, 2012 at 10:28 am

Agreed to your points…. few days back google has updated content algorithm its also playing a pivotal role in link building

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Matz October 23, 2012 at 2:05 am

I do agree Jason! By the way, do you know other sites we can use in looking for a good writer aside Followerwonk?

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DailyTUT October 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Seriously, its not just about how to automate link building, i learned some new tips today in how to write a best article. You have a mind blowing great write up here for automated link building. Cheers.

Rob.

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Jay cutler October 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Hi,
Nice post it is true that manual link building isn’t dead and save your time to find link building outreach as your content is going to be naturally referred by people. And ultimately the increasing popularity of that content will lead to better ranking on search engine of the page containing this content.
Thanks for the sharing

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SEO Calgary - Andy Kuiper November 13, 2012 at 9:16 am

I couldn’t agree more, link building can be ‘automatic’ if one approaches it the right way. Two points you made really stand out in my view (they are nothing new, but often ‘tried and true’ is better than ‘new’);
1) “no need for super viral content, just content that can potentially attract links”
and
2) “Become the “Go-to-Brand” in a specific niche of the industry”

If one really works on these two aspects, good quality links should follow.

Thanks for reaffirming that if one focuses on proper content creation… quality backlinks will follow
Andy :-)

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Duncan Jones November 15, 2012 at 4:46 am

Ian Lurie really knows his stuff. I’ve been following him for a while now and he’s never let me down. This is a great post for all to see well done.

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Silas December 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Lengthy informative blog post well organised and easy to read through. As a newbie researching ways to make it to number one on the Google ranks with a specific keyword you will most definitely come across link building as the first or second most important thing to master. mostly the tips available online are manual techniques so this automated process is really helpful to save time. Thank you.

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Rajkumar Jonnala January 16, 2013 at 6:44 am

I too used the software Travis Traffic and it provide whole lot of information that no other free tool can provide. It’s an must use free SEO software for all Search Engine professionals.

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Jordan J. Caron@Best In Victoria October 10, 2013 at 8:21 am

I love getting picthes from SEO companies selling automated link building. You know it’s done by software because there is no way they can produce that many links. The quality of those links is crap anyways.

Liek you say, get humans to do most of your work and create the value in each of those links.

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Nathan Brook November 22, 2013 at 4:04 am

Brilliant! One of the greatest posts I have ever seen. I have been waited for this kind of post for a long time. Thanks.

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Dan Carter December 14, 2013 at 6:25 am

Wow i fully agree with what you have written. Great article as usual. You have so much to offer. thanks.

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Jason @ eStoreCoaching January 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Awesome primer, summing up the hard work that needs to be done to get top rating. Its not easy to produce evergreen or even linkable posts, but when you do, its all worth it. Writing about Funnel optimization is something I tried focusing on for ecommerce owners.

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