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Link Building: Use Your Leverage

Link building is time consuming. Despite what you may read from so-called “link building experts” online, I can tell you from personal experience that it takes a lot of work and has a success rate similar to the process of cold calling.

In fact, the two processes are about the same.

As a salesperson selling minor league baseball sponsorships, I was given a phone book and told to “go get ’em!” Making outbound sales calls is a numbers game: You make a 100 calls to get 8 face to face meetings and from those meetings you write 5 proposals and close two sales.

And so it goes with link building. We start by searching for other websites that might make good partners and then pitch them on an idea we hope will result in a quality link. I don’t want to marginalize it too much, but in a nutshell, that’s how we do it. It’s a lot of time, a lot of dead ends, but in the end, the accumulation of links is what will separate you from your competitors online.

Using Leverage To Build Links

That’s why I like to begin my link building for any client by going after the low-hanging fruit. It’s a lot easier to get links from people you already have relationships with, as opposed to starting from zero. It’s even easier to get links from people you have leverage with. Put another way, start your link building campaign with businesses you spend money with.

Here’s my step-by-step method for using leverage to build links:

1) After stressing to my client the importance of links to their website, I ask them to go to their Accounts Payable manager and get a printout of every single person or business they spend money with.

2) Once we have the master list, we review it together, creating a spreadsheet that contains:

  • Each business’s website
  • Their contact name and email
  • The nature of their relationship

3) From here, I take over on behalf of my client. I start by getting organized. Learn how I do it and download a sample spreadsheet (link coming soon).

4) Before I begin my outreach, I record each site’s PageRank – this helps me prioritize which sites are more important to get a link from.

5) Now the work begins. I go through the list and look at each website looking for a way to pitch my link building opportunity. Each site is different and this is where you’ll need to get creative.

Here are some of the strategies I use to help my clients get a link from people they already do business with:

  • Testimonials – Do they have a testimonials page already? If they’re a B-to-B, chances are pretty good they do. If you can find testimonials on their website, I offer them one from my client, in exchange for a link.
  • Guest Posts – If the business is related to yours, but not a competitor, offering a guest post in exchange for a link is pretty easy. In the case of the fertility clinic I work with, they refer business to psychologists, acupuncturists, dieticians, and other health professionals, all of whom have websites. If those business owners maintain a blog, than a guest post is a great way to give them value, while getting a relevant link back to your site, usually in the resource box at the end of the post.
  • Links Pages – Well, it doesn’t get much easier than this. If you see a links page, see who they’re linking to. If your business fits the bill, ask to be added. Remember, you spend money with them – you have leverage.
  • Advertisers – Before you sign the deal with any media partner, make sure you make getting a link to your website part of the agreement. Online versions of major newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, and billboard companies typically have high PR, aged websites. You might need to get creative to find a way to get the link, but make sure it’s included. It’ll give you a leg up on your competitor who doesn’t insist on it.

6) As I do the outreach, I update my spreadsheet notes with the URL of the Gmail thread. This way, I can just click on it and find the conversation and what I was asking for. I’ve got to stay organized, because many people won’t get back to me – even though my client does business with them. I’ve got to be persistent, too. And super nice!

7) In general, the higher the PageRank of the website, the more challenging it is to get a link. If I can’t come up with an idea for why they should link to me, I’ll reverse engineer the site to see who they’re already linking to. Use an outbound link finding tool like this one to search an entire website for their outbound links. It might help you get ideas.

Conclusion

Being creative is what makes link building fun and the reward of earning a link feels about as good as it used to when I made a new sale back in my baseball days.

If you want to build up your PageRank and steadily increase your dominance over competing websites in your niche, you need to build a lot of links from a lot of different domains. Follow the tips in this post to hit the ground running and feel free to contact me if you’re stuck or just need an idea on how to get a link from a strong site.

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