11 Lessons I Learned From Building 100 Whitehat Backlinks In 28 Days
Backlinks are still one of the most important ranking factors for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)…
But how do you get the damn things?
Over the last few months I've been focusing on building backlinks for my own websites (and my clients), and the biggest lesson I've learned is that if you don't have the right system in place, then this can be a serious grind…
That's why I've focused on the skyscraper technique.
If you've never heard of it, this is basically where you find competing articles with a lot of links, create a better piece of content and reach out to those linking websites asking if they could share it.
…And the last 28 days have been awesome!
I've built over 100+ high Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR), whitehat links reaching out for just a few articles. Plus it only took an hour a day to manage the campaign (I'll explain how later).
But it's not been an easy ride – my results have come from months of testing, tweaking and a LOT of trial and error.
I've now compiled a list of 11 lessons I've learned from the whole process because I've seen a whole lot of people asking how to get more backlinks for their own websites.
(Hopefully it'll help you get a few links yourself.)
So let's get into it…
1. Outreach like a human.
If you're reaching out to webmasters, don't hit them with the hard sell explaining why your website is so great compared to everyone else's – and why you need a link.
Just be conversational, offer value and don't be aggressive in your approach.
^ Do this and you'll set yourself apart from 90% of the outreach emails most webmasters get.
2. Focus on content.
With any skyscraper campaign, your content needs to be waaay better than your competitors.
Here's a few tips:
• Remove all ads, affiliate links and pop-ups
• Always spell check and grammar check. It doesn't have to be perfect but this helps.
• Add plenty of charts and custom graphics to increase its readability
• Format it nicely – keep your paragraphs at 3-4 lines maximum, keep your sentences short and make sure there's no fluff just to fill out your word count
• Skyscraper articles should be EPIC! 3000-5000+ words is the standard to set if you want a lot of links
3. Pick your battles.
Always research your competition before you setup a skyscraper campaign.
Let's say you're writing about health:
If you're a relatively unheard of website, you're going to struggle against authoritative industry experts like WebMD.
Yes, it can done – but this approach will make your life much harder.
So try to compete against websites and articles you know you can beat.
4. Manage your inbox productively.
If you're sending out 100+ outreach emails per day, your inbox is going to stack up quick!
And you can easily spend a whole morning managing it.
Instead, here's what I recommend you do:
• Just check your inbox once per day
• Remove email notifications off your phone
• And keep a bank of canned responses so you can reply quickly (you can set this up in your Gmail settings)
5. Scale up.
If you want a lot of links, you need to outreach at scale.
And that's the beauty of skyscraper:
On most of my link building campaigns, I'll contact 1,000+ prospects about the content. And a decent percentage of these will convert into links.
Tools like Hunter, Lemlist and Mailshake are incredibly useful for this.
6. Be persistent.
First of all, you should never spam anyone. Only offer value in your emails…
However, you do need to be persistent. I'd recommend setting up an automated sequence to follow up with webmasters 1-2 times after the initial outreach email.
And if someone doesn't get back to you, don't take it personally.
Sometimes, webmasters will reply to me 2-3 weeks later with a link. So it's important to follow up so you're not forgotten.
7. Offer an incentive.
You've got to think about what's in it for the webmaster – and why would they bother spending the time to add a link to your website?
The stronger your incentive, the more links you'll get back.
For example, you could offer a social media share to say thanks for the link.
8. Avoid outreach templates.
If you Google email outreach templates, you won't be stuck for choice.
But the problem is, most of these templates have been rinsed and everyone's using them. In fact, you'll struggle to avoid the spam inbox with these sorts of templates.
Instead, focus on writing an email outreach campaign that's unique and original.
9. Boost your deliverability.
When you're doing cold email outreach for link building, you need to be really careful about spam filters.
Spam filters are designed to pick up certain keywords.
So avoid using terms like free, bro, offer or any other keyword that could hurt your email deliverability.
Plus if you keep hitting the spam folder, the domain you send your emails from will get burned. I'd also stick to plain text emails and avoid sending images.
Outsource basic tasks such as finding emails, writing the content etc. That's easy to do with platforms like UpWork.
This will save you a ton of time and let you focus on the actual outreach campaigns instead.
It's the easiest way to quickly scale up your campaigns.
11. Link quality.
Don't reach out to spammy websites just because you could get an easy link.
You want to focus on high-quality, whitehat websites that offer genuine value as a backlink.
So when you're prospecting for outreach contacts, check through your list, look at their website and make sure you're not reaching out to anyone that looks remotely blackhat.
That's it from me…
Hope you found it useful :)
If you need any tips or you're stuck on your own link building campaigns, just let me know and I'll be happy to help out.
Great list. Could you elaborate on the type of links you acquired? Were they in the body of existing posts? On a resource page?
Thanks! Yes, they were mainly inside the body of existing posts. Quite often the websites I contacted would remove their original link to my competitors, and direct their blog to mine instead.
Could you give a hint as to the type of post you wrote and the type of post where you obtained a link?
From my experience, your strategy can work very well under some circumstances but not at all under others. Those circumstances are mostly defined by the industry and post type.
Sure, so my links were mainly from an overview guide in the technology space (don't want to reveal my niche here), and admittedly there are a lot of skyscraper opportunities in this niche…
However it means I need more links to compete too :)
But yea, I know there's some niches where it's hard to find relevant skyscraper opportunities.
In that case, I'd probably turn to link building with infographics because it's still scalable and you'd have more prospects to outreach to.
I'd also recommend looking at competing Wikipedia articles too – they tend to have a lot of links but they're not very engaging, so it's easy to compete.
Did getting the backlinks help with ranking with google?
Link building has always helped me improve rankings in the past, but it's a waiting game too.
I'd expect to see a big improvement over the next couple of months ⏰
do you get links in the same industry
Mostly, yes. But if there's a 'generic' website and they've posted a blog relevant to your niche then that's an opportunity too…
So for example, if a high Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR) news website posts about your niche specifically, then it's worth reaching out to them.
As part of connecting like a human, I would suggest looking for ways to connect before you ask. ie…share their posts, follow on Twitter, like their stuff on FB, etc.
Fo sho! It might be difficult to scale this if you're reaching out to 1000+ websites, but perhaps you could hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) to handle this side of things.
I would keep the influencer outreach inhouse–you want long term relationships, not just one share. :)
Great post. Reads a lot like Brian Dean without the single-sentence paragraphs (a compliment).
The one question I have: you said to specify an incentive. Can you elaborate on this part? Do you offer the incentive in your initial outreach emails? And what kind of incentive? Is a social media share really an incentive to share your content?
Thanks, really appreciate the compliment!
So I mention it in my initial outreach email, at the end of the copy.
Just a sentence explaining that you'll 'share their website as a way of saying thanks" will do.
So a social media share will be a strong incentive if you have a substantial following. It's worked really well in my experience.
But even if you don't have a big following, some webmasters will still take you up on the offer.
You could also offer a shout-out to your email subscribers, promoting their website as a way of saying thank you.
It's all about finding a benefit that your prospects will be interested in and making it win-win.
Great advice. I appreciate you writing all of that out, thank you.
Is there a particular tool you recommend that helps in searching for prospects, ie finding articles that fit your space and identifying which have valuable inbound links that you could contact?
Absolutely, check out Ahrefs . Once you're on their content explorer section, plug in your keywords and then sort by referring domains.
It might take a little tweaking to find relevant skyscraper topics but it's worth it.
Thank you, I'll give that a try!
Awesome content! I've been refining our backlink strategy so this definitely gives good ideas.
Question: what's best the most successful way to get in contact with whoever you are reaching out to?
Do you always try to find the author via email? And use other things like Twitter if you can't find them there?
…asking for a friend :)
Haha here's the answer for your friend 😜
Personally, yes I just focus on cold email outreach for link building because it's so scalable and time-efficient with the tools you can use.
But I know I'm going to miss out on some prospects along the way…
If you were willing to put in more time, you could reach out to the authors on Twitter/LinkedIn etc. This approach could be worth it for the higher DR websites, and especially if you're looking to build some solid long-term relationships with authors/webmasters.
So the Virtual Assistants (VA)s find the emails and toy write the email and send it?
Yep, so you can use Hunter to find emails in bulk (you can copy and paste large lists of URLs on there) or just hire a VA to find them.
I'd recommend writing the actual outreach email yourself, because it's really important to get that part right. Keep it short, conversational and value driven for the reader.
Better outreach copy = more links/conversions.
Then upload your email list/copy to a tool like Lemlist or Mailshake to automate the whole outreach process.
Thanks mate, and do you try get links for every article you write?
I tend to split my content into 2 main categories:
• Skyscraper articles: Epic content that's purely educational and designed to get links. I only do outreach for skyscraper articles.
• Money articles: Monetised with affiliate links or whatever else you use. I wouldn't do outreach with this type of content because it's self-promotional – I'd only setup internal linking to these articles.
I'm having problem with outreach. No one responded back. My content is already ranking 1st page but I want to get more backlinks.
I tried the Hunter tool. I'll wait to see if it does anything. Any suggestion? Do you know I can outsource this outreach?
Sure, I can give you some tips on getting responses/outsourcing but it depends on your situation :) Please PM me and we can brainstorm some ideas.
Thank you for the list. I wonder if you could share a generic outreach email that you might send? I'm a developer, and would like to improve my blog with some better quality content and try to get some ranking for it. I've always been a terrible writer outside of strictly technical content that's heavily edited. I think I sound either like a robot in interpersonal correspondence, or it's a confusing ramble. Just wondering if I might get an idea of tone and how to write that doesn't sound like a Viagara ad.
Some of the follow-up comments in this thread have great ideas too. I've been following
r/seo for the past two years and reading blog posts here and there, and I think this has been the most helpful to me so far.
It may sound like a silly question, but when you're reaching out to people, how are you hoping that they link to your site exactly? Via a blog post?
I've tried reaching out to a few companies with very little success. I struggle with how to approach the subject.
I like the idea of mentioning their company on social media!
Exactly. When you're doing skyscraper outreach, you want them to link to you via their blog post :)
So what you'd do is:
• Find competing articles in your niche with a ton of links
• Build a list of all the blogs that have linked to those articles
• Create a much better piece of content than your competitors
• Reach out to the prospects from step 2. At this point, you'd say something along the lines of:
'Hey, I came across your article (link) and I noticed you linked to one of my favourite guides (link to competitor). I actually created something similar but it's much better because of X, check it out here (link to your article). It might be a great resource to link to. If you decide to go ahead, I'll do (insert benefit here) as a way of saying thanks.'
^ Obviously that's just the theme of the email – you wouldn't write it exactly like that.
If you feel really uncomfortable about asking for a link, just ask for a share instead. It's a less direct and more ambiguous approach :)
Have you ever had any luck outsourcing the whole process?
Whenever I have tried to do it, it seems like "outreach" always ends up being a euphemism for guest posting services. Whereas the kind of outreach I do is more like what you describe.
This is one of the main reasons why a lot of clients hire me :)
There's not many whitehat link builders out there who can actually scale link building, because it takes a bit of tweaking, planning and strategy to get it right.
If you're struggling, feel free to drop me a PM and I'll see if I can help you.
Do you mind sharing your outreaching script?
Thanks, I can't share my outreach scripts online because sometimes these things tend to be replicated when they're posted online :)
But the tips in the post above should give you plenty of info to start writing your own:
e.g. Make it conversational, win-win and get straight to the point.
Thank you for your reply. Just one question – do you think it's getting harder day by day?
I've been doing outreaching for almost 3 years now and feel it in some niches.
Definitely, it's getting harder and harder.
I see link building becoming more value-driven and creative in the future 🤓
Sadly, I've noticed that it's more common for webmasters to ask for paid links too.
Yeah, it may hit the ceiling in few years!
Re: Paid Links: Yeah, they now know that they are being pitched for links instead of feedback 😀
Hey I even want to start email outreach will gmail help out sending more than 200 emails a day? as you mention it…
Hey there! It's better to get a Gsuite account, at that sort of volume Gmail will block your account.
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