How to Automate Link Building

by Jason Acidre on September 10, 2012 · 40 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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