Outreach and link building are key components to any SEO campaign, but they are a hotly debated topic in the digital world. Link Building – for those uninitiated – is the process of persuading external pages to link to your website to give it more authority.

In the dark ages of SEO this was a much easier task, but when Google introduced the Penguin algorithm in 2012, quality replaced quantity as the prime objective.

This meant that SEOs had to focus on ‘white hat’ tactics if they wanted to avoid penalties and gain credible links that Google would value. Even with a well-overdue Penguin update upon us; four years later, the art of outreach and link building is still no guaranteed formula we can all agree on.

However, one solution to make outreach and link building an easier task is to start thinking about user intent.

Why might people actually want to link to your website to begin with?

By focusing on your output rather than outcome, you can start building a positive brand reputation online in the eyes of both Google and your users.

YOU CAN BE GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO. NATURALLY ATTRACT MORE LINKS.

Whilst traditional communications and relationship building have their place – much like the old-school seduction techniques – they have become too time-consuming, too annoying and too out-dated for a more cynical, emerging ‘Tinder generation’ of influencers.

We already know that a high number of outreach email flirtations usually end up in the trash or flat-out frustrating your target so providing them with something they need, can help us avoid becoming the kind of marketers we’re all sick of dealing with.

The growing cross over between Content Marketing and link building was touched upon in this piece on How Link Building Has Changed In Recent Years. Good quality content organically gains interest and integrates into the user journey, therefore ‘earning’ links that most SEOs can only dream of.

In short, if the quality of your content is useful, outreach and link-building could be a much easier and more natural process!

YOU CAN BE VALUABLE. PEOPLE WILL PAY ATTENTION.

Clients are told daily that outreach and link building is something they ‘should be doing’ but it’s all too easy to lose sight of why. Both are still very important to Google’s ranking factors, so it should never just be implemented haphazardly or just for the sake of it – this is how we end up with lazy impersonal pitches and poor links.

Not only is this a waste of time and resources, it’s actually damaging your brand reputation and putting your rankings at risk.

How it’s done, is what matters.

You need to be offering something useful, which is luckily one unanimous point we can all agree on. The strongest links come from editorial sources, key influencers and bloggers, so allow those people to positively interact with your brand, by carefully considering a link building strategy that engages real people through valuable content.

YOU CAN BE USEFUL. BECOME PART OF THE USER JOURNEY BY FORGETTING OUTCOME.

Seek to give users the right information at the right time whether it be educational, insightful, a solution or something that is just cool and interesting to get people sharing and linking back to your site.

This Google Maps of version of Westeros from Game of Thrones was used to gain links to a popular travel website; a unique, memorable idea that has few limits in share-ability.

If your content becomes useful to a niche segment, a popular blogger or industry influencer, their community will likely engage with it too. The obvious benefit is that your output then reaches a much wider audience without the rigmarole of press lists and pitches and naturally leads them towards your brand when they need it.

YOU CAN EARN IT. CREATE SOMETHING WORTHY OF A LINK.

Invest, Research and Create.

Three key actions to make outreach and link building easier and more effective:

Invest
Many businesses panic when they realise that time and a chunk of budget will need to be invested in link building but who says that you can’t use your budget wisely to find collaborators, widening your organic audience even further? A talented graphic designer or a passionate copywriter could deliver exactly the kind of message you want in a way you may have never thought of and open up communication with their audience too.

Research
Good content marketers always place research first and foremost, looking for new angles on upcoming events or annual holidays for inspiration as well as using tools like BuzzSumo to see what users are sharing and discussing. If you can pin-point a gap in user knowledge or needs, you can begin to create link-worthy pieces people will thank you for and want to talk about.

In November 2015, ethical company Traidcraft launched the #JustFriday campaign, which communicated a more charitable approach to Black Friday.  Silverbean created supporting blog content and an infographic on Black Friday statistics which were shared by bloggers, businesses and national news sites.

Traidcraft gained over £2,000 in revenue from their blog whilst their infographic received over 3,000 organic shares on Facebook; a fantastic return on investment considering that very little outreach was done. The success was that the idea was unusual, well planned and well executed.

Create
Consider what format you want to use to make linking or embedding easier. While infographics and videos are obvious choices for gaining strong links, creating the piece and keeping up with competition can be challenging so start off simply. An insightful blog series, ‘How To’ guide or shareable visuals will give you plenty of leverage if they are good enough so don’t be afraid to think outside the box if your resources are limited.

YOU CAN BE BETTER. YOUR LINKS WILL BE BETTER QUALITY, STRONGER AND WELL-DESERVED.

The outreach part of link building is always the biggest challenge but the best thing about researching and developing great output is that you already know that somewhere, there are people who can use it and will show their appreciation by linking back to your site. This means less of your time and budget are being spent on the outreach tactics that are no longer working.

Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Inbound.org are ideal for creating communities where you can publish your post directly to industry experts where they are more likely to gather momentum with the people who need it most. Don’t be afraid to take the opportunity get to know your users better and actually EARN their attention.

If you’ve created something truly useful and worthwhile, you should be rewarded through some strong, authoritative links which will increase your rankings and give your brand the boost it needs.

What better way to prove your marketing chops than having users link back because they want to, and not just because you asked? We call that useful content.

We’d love to hear how you’ve developed your outreach and link building approaches in line with user needs, digital developments and algorithm updates. Share them with us on Twitter, and don’t forget to discover our latest insight, too:

return on attention graphic by Silverbean - as part of outreach and link building article