Stop Begging for Links: 4 Engagement Methods for Content-Based Link Building

This post originally came from Michael Gray, who is an SEO Consultant. He and the post’s writer, Garrett French, have generously shared their content — which, as you can see, has resulted in both links and a legit hat tip.

spam_for_links_200Link begging is the practice of identifying link prospects, usually through competitor backlink analysis, and then contacting each one of those sites and begging for a link. Link begging typically ignores the original context of the link, as well as the probable motivation of the linker. Not only that, it’s potentially destructive to an organization’s industry relationships and the link builder’s will to live.

Engaging the experts and bloggers in your space can lead to far greater returns on your time and effort. Engagement will also make you happier – it emphasizes community, participation and recognizing the good work of others. Here are four content models and outreach suggestions for engagement-based link building.

These are listed in a rough order of progression that should help to grow your publisher relationships.

1) Aggregate and Curate Great Content
What are the best blog posts, articles, PDFs, Videos, discussion threads, twitter feeds, conferences, news sites and social networking sites in your niche? Research ALL the resources in your space and then organize them into meaningful categories. Focus on the categories that contain people you’d like to engage with in the group interview phase.

Simply listing the resources is not ideal, though it’s certainly far easier. It’s better to spend some time thinking about how to best present your resource aggregation in a way that makes it easier for your readers to make decisions about what links to click on. Here’s an excellent example: Link Building Master Class

Once you’ve created your resource aggregation – ideally with 100+ resources from 100+ different sources – email these folks and let them know that they were mentioned in your round up. Ask them, if they think it’s worthy, to share it with their audience.

Most importantly, while mentioning the resource, ask them if they want to participate in your group interview…

2) The Group Interview
The group interview can be a powerful way to build links, reciprocity and high-value content. As noted above, we recommend that you request that people answer group interview questions AS you outreach to let them know that you included their resource in your roundup. This warms them up and increases the likelihood that they will link to your resource. Further it indicates that you genuinely believe they add value to the space.

Once you start to get some affirmative responses begin to work on your questions. Generate your interview questions by reviewing previous expert interviews in your space. Aggregate questions and look for angles that haven’t been touched on before. You could also hit controversial topics, or get reactions to some of the latest news. Our recommendation is to keep your questions to about about 5 or so.

Here is an example of a group interview we did recently, and here is one we admire that takes the group interview to a whole new level. If you have design resources available we highly recommend the second course.

Once you have completed and published your work, reach out to the participants to let them know their interview is live. It’s a good idea to ask them to mention it to their readers and Twitter followers as well, though this is not always necessary ;)

3) Solo Interviews
Solo interviews work best – in terms of link generation – when they’re interviews with notable experts in your industry. Another way to generate a list of solo interview subjects is to crack open your analytics and see which of your experts drove the most traffic to your site through their promotion efforts. Which of your experts’ tweets about the group interview got retweeted the most? Which experts linked directly from their blogs?

These folks would all make excellent candidates for follow up solo interviews. Make sure that you’re asking new questions that probe into genuine areas of passion for your experts. Treat these solo interview questions with the utmost concern and attention to the subject’s background and history. Learn as much as you can about each specific subject and use what you learn to guide your line of questioning.

Outreach for solo interviews is a little less intensive. You should primarily let the subject know the interview is up. If this subject has been interviewed before, consider making a list of the sites that link directly to these interviews and letting folks there know there’s a new interview up. You could also comment the previous interviews, as a further interview is highly-relevant.

4) Create Interesting “Writing Assignments”
In creating a writing assignment or prompt for your space you first come up with an intriguing concept or question – perhaps one left over from your interview questions. Then you answer this question yourself and implore your readers to do the same. The goal is to make it something that others would genuinely have the urge to write about in their next blogging session.

Another along the writing assignment lines is to just send the question to a number of folks and ask them to answer it on their blog. This “distributed group interview” can often result in links when the authors mention who prompted them to write in the first place. Consider aggregating their answers on your blog, and even highlighting the best paragraphs from each person.

In closing, don’t put yourself through the agony of link begging. Get creative, get engaging and use your questions to generate links, relationships and targeted traffic to your website.

Garrett French is the co-founder of Ontolo, Inc., and co-creator of the Ontolo Link Building Toolset, which uses your target keywords to find and grade link prospects. The Link Building Toolset reduces link prospecting and qualification time, letting you focus on the most important part of link building: relationships.

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