There are many myths and misconceptions scattered around the internet of what steps webmasters should take when building links to their new website(s).
I have built many websites in my time and worked with clients who have only recently built their websites. Your sites are not going to be an overnight success (unless you're a celebrity) and you won't get to number 1 on Google on day one for your key terms by submitting to 50+ directories.
So what are the first link building steps you should take when you setup a new website? And more importantly, what are the most ethical steps you should take that won't get you kicked out of the SERPs after only a week?
Here are the methods to take on board to grow your business' online profile from scratch:
What do you want your blog to be known for? Maybe it's a single post that goes viral and brings in regular visitors, or maybe it's a series of posts that keep visitors coming back for new additions each week.
Whatever it is, your website or blog needs some flagship content; something it is known for. People like resources they can refer to (Wikipedia is a good example). The average person doesn't want to be trawling Google, they'd prefer to be able to reference a single resource for the topics they're interested in.
If you can create a resource that visitors can keep turning to, you'll be creating what is known as "authority content" and being an authority on your chosen subject is one step towards success.
So create some awesome content or have an awesome product on your site before you think about link building. This will give people an incentive to link to your website; it helps both with link building and acquiring links naturally.
Guest blogging is one of the most-common and successful link building strategies today. Go out and guest blog!
If you're unknown in your industry you may have to start at the lower quality blogs with smaller audiences before you work your way to the top. However, if you have some quality guest posts to provide external websites with there's no harm in thinking big.
The key to guest blogging is providing great content for other websites. Webmasters will generally only accept content if it's great, something different and/or worthwhile to their audience. I wouldn't advocate paying site's for your content to be published.
(image via http://cdn.impactbnd.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/the-7-Benefits-of-Guest-Blogging.jpg)
What Do You Want To Get Out Of Guest Blogging?
Authority? Branding? SEO? Fame? Probably all of these, right?
Determining your goals is key. You may want to consider putting a different strategy in place for each of the sites you contribute to. One may be specifically for increasing your brand awareness, another solely for SEO purposes and another for increasing your Twitter following, for example.
Determining what you want out of each post is paramount to improving your exposure and building your brand. Get a feel for the website you're wishing to contribute to before you write your piece. Do they have a big Facebook fan base? Are they quiet on Twitter? Do they provide "good" link juice?
Finding Guest Post Opportunities
An integral part of guest posting is finding places that accept guest content or websites that you can persuade to publish your content.
You will want to find sites that are relevant to your industry or niche. So if you are blogging about blackberries you may want to consider fruit, healthy living, maybe even gardening blogs etc.
Google is a great place to help locate these blogs. Use any of the searches below in Google, replacing "keyword" with keywords relevant to your industry or niche:
- Keyword "guest post"
- Keyword "guest post by"
- Keyword "guest post guidelines"
- Keyword "submit guest post"
- Keyword "write for *"
- Keyword "write for us"
These searches should help you locate websites that are accepting guest posts.
Once you have built up your name and reputation within your vertical you may want to start approaching the top sites in your industry and other sites in general, that do not have a "write for us/guest post" page on the website. If you believe these websites have potential to increase your reputation further and/or send traffic and Facebook Likes your way, offer to contribute on their website whether on a one-off basis or regularly.
Competitor Backlink Profiles
Another way to locate guest post opportunities is to find out where your competitors guest posts on other websites. If you know anyone who does, check out the Majestic SEO backlink profiles of these people or companies to locate all of the sites they are getting their links from.
A lot of guest posts get shared by the author and the publisher on social networks. Twitter is a hotspot for this. Run a similar search as you did in Google previously along the lines of Keyword "guest post" in Twitter search to see if the results bring back any opportunities in your industry.
Pitching To Guest Post
After you have located the websites you want to guest post on, there are a few steps to take before you contact them.
It's good to get to know the blog's content before you make your pitch. The average length of their blogs, the depth of their content (beginner, advanced?), imagery usage and the type of content are all important to know.
Seeing what content has and hasn't been covered too is important - the blogger is not likely to accept any topic they have already covered on their website.
Formatting and Style
It's good to take a look at other guest posts that have previously been published on these websites to see what it was about them that got them published in the first place. What formatting do they use? Headers? Images? A unique layout?
Read the Guidelines
Make sure to read the guidelines for guest posts if a website has published them. A word count limit? Banned topics? Submit examples before your actual work? Don't annoy the webmaster by not following the guidelines.
Personalise your email
I recently published a blog that outlined the nuisance of bloggers who send unpersonalised emails in the hope they can guest post on my websites. I ignore them. Well, I don't respond to them - the only use they are to me is to highlight their lazy tactics in blog posts such as this.
If you start an email with "Dear Sir or Madam" or "Dear Webmaster", don't expect a response. When my website has my name on it, and the email address too, I don't look favourably upon emails from people claiming to like my website when they don't have the decency to call me by my own name in their email.
Make sure to personalise it - start with their name, tell them what you like about them/their work etc.
Make sure you tell the webmaster why you should be blogging on their website. Few sites will just accept and publish your post without any incentive. The incentive may be that you have a relevant social audience that you will share you work with.
Share examples of work you have published elsewhere - ideally ones that aren't stuffed with links back to your websites and ones that have had good social engagement or shares.
Remember that it's not about you or your business, but rather a guest post has value for both parties involved. Save your business plug for the author bio.
Sometimes the author bio is the only place a website will let you include a link back to your website. There's often no harm in a little self-promotion here either - after all, you've written a blog post for the benefit of the website and now it's your turn to get something in return.
Include a "Follow me on ___" to try increase your Twitter followers, or a link back to your website if you want to increase your backlink count.
A content marketing plan is essential for getting the most out of your content efforts. As with a long distance journey you're making for the first time, it's important to have a roadmap in front of you to know where you're going. This rule applies to content marketing too.
Ideas are key to any content marketing plan. Being creative and imaginative is an important part of your campaign so make sure you get a few ideas down on paper. A team brainstorming session is often a good way to get a bunch of creative ideas. Setting up an editorial calendar/planner in Google Docs or Excel can be useful to keep track of everything in a tidy manner.
Key dates for the business should go into this plan. For example, if we were doing this for a travel company we might include tour dates, festival dates, peak times of the season etc. This helps with content ideas and the time they should be published to see the biggest return on investment and conversions.
Timing is important. Timing of when you publish your content, when you distribute your newsletters, when you send Tweets can make a big difference in your content marketing campaign. Use a trial and error approach to discover which days and times have the best effect on your content.
Do you have any business partners whom you would be able to ask for a link from their site or any local businesses whom you could potentially get promotion from?
These two types of businesses can really help push your product or service, especially if their industry is somewhat related to yours, or your product supports theirs.
Creating profiles on social networks is a good way for companies or individuals to promote themselves, their products and services.
Social networks can be used for more than just promoting your services. It's great for branding, can be used as a reputation management tool and as a low-cost marketing platform.
Starting from scratch can be tough, but if you share content that is educational, engaging and/or valuable to your target audience this is usually a good way to go about increasing your following.
Make sure you create a consistent brand image for each profile not to confuse potential followers and to make it easy for them to recognise your business when you have shared or published content elsewhere.
Starting discussions on these networks will create engagement from potential customers whilst expanding your reach further.
Social profiles are also becoming a part of Google's algorithm for ranking results - make social networks one of your priorities when starting up a new website so that you don't get left behind.
(image via http://blog.sitefox.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/2564571564_f4b10ffe86_o-500x375.png)
Social bookmark sites such as Digg, Delicious and Reddit can be a good source of traffic to your website. From experience they're not great for converting traffic and often leave you with a high bounce rate.
However, if you have created content that you believe people would be interested in sharing, perhaps to increase your brand name and exposure then submitting to these bookmarking sites is useful. It is common practice for webmasters of new websites to use bookmarking sites from day one as they're a great way to bring traffic when you have no social following, no brand name and no rankings in Google.
From an SEO perspective this puts your content and your website in front of thousands of people who could potentially refer to it, and link to it from their own websites.
It's good ethics not to use these sites solely to promote your work. Build up your profile by sharing other people's work and leaving comments on articles submitted to the directory. The higher the reputation you hold on these bookmarking sites, the more exposure your submissions get.
(image via http://mrwebstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/social-bookmarking-sites.jpg)
Another source of traffic for brand new websites is to leave comments on other sites.
If you make a genuine comment on other industry-related websites where you can drop in a URL to your site as a reference or an answer in response to any query on the blog post or in the comments then you're opening yourself up to receiving visits from those whose queries you may have resolved.
Don't leave your keyword as the username - use your name or your website name. Otherwise you're risking having your comment deleted and losing trust by coming across as commenting solely for SEO purposes.