Garrett French’s #SEOchat on Scalable Link Building Tips & Tricks

Ready to take online PR to the next level? If you haven’t sat in on a Thursday evening #seochat, you’re missing out!  Each week, the guys from Search Marketing Weekly bring on special guests to share their expertise in different aspects of SEO.  For one hour beginning at 9pm EST, that person tweets their heart out in answer to several pre-selected questions, as well as participant follow-up questions.

Just like positive public relations builds credibility, so does link building for your digital domains.

This week, Citation Labs founder Garrett French stopped by to talk scalable link building techniques.  The author of the The Link Building Book, French also writes for Search Engine Watch and never fails to disappoint with his creativity and technical know-how.

What is the first step to get started with any link prospecting campaign?

There are basically two steps that have to happen at the same time, said French.  You have to make sure the market can support the strategy.

  1. Conduct a linkable asset survey to see what you have that people will link or share, which could be as simple as, “Do you have time and expertise to write guest posts?” or as complex as backlink analysis to see what’s gotten links on your site and finding more similar potential linkers.
  2. Determine if there are enough publishers in the market to support the tactic in question.

French generally assumes they’ll have low conversions, he said; for BLB about 1-3% and guest posting 8-15%.  With those conversion rates in mind, he knows whether they’ll need 100 prospects + outreach to fulfill a contract or 1000.

What are the core methods of link prospecting and what link building tactics do they support?

Garrett believes there are 6 core methods of link prospecting:

  1. Query Google at scale for link prospects – this is the most flexible method of building prospect list.
  2. Find and scrape lists of blogs, so long as you’re in large verticals with active curators.  You have to have high-grade content for this to work, and a vast library of existing content helps, too.
  3. Find dead pages that still have links and ask for links to your similar content; this is called Broken Link Building and it has a close relative, Link Equity Salvage.
  4. Competitive co-citation analysis, though he finds this approach inflexible because it doesn’t allow for scale or tactic shifts.
  5. Buy targeted email lists.
  6. He has read of folks scraping twitter and believes it makes sense, though he hasn’t personally tried it.

How important is competitive research as part of your link prospecting?

French said that he rarely uses direct competitors as a starting point for link prospecting, though he will, on occasion, look for footprints of especially prolific guest posters.  He has looked at a backlink profile to try and discover tactical approaches to adopt.

More important than competitive research, he says, is just plain old market-language research.  What terms are used in the market to describe the market and its segments?  This makes a HUGE difference in the productivity of prospecting in Google.

Use the tilde to find variations in language, he recommends. Careful attention to language usage is one of the fundamentals of productive, efficient link prospecting with queries.

How valuable are advanced search operators for link prospecting and what are some of your favorites?

Advanced operators are very valuable, said French. “They enable prospectors to better segment that insanely massive index of Google’s. This segmentation via operators ultimately creates domain diversity among your prospects.”

He recommends trying out the intitle: operator, which indicates to Google that you only want to see results with that keyword in the title.  Similarly, the inurl: operator means the keyword must be in the URL.

You’ve written previously about the “Footprint” as it pertains to linkbuilding.  What is the footprint and how does it affect your link prospecting?

Simply put, said French, footprints are the key to getting targeted prospects at scale.  “The footprint is part of a link building query, usually appended to the research phrase,” he explained.  “Footprints are typically tactic-specific, so you need to know your tactic before prospecting with Google. If you’re looking for guest post prospects, you could use a footprint like [“guest post”], for example.”

He sometimes uses  the terms footprint and advanced operator interchangeably, though French does clarify that the advanced operator can’t do it’s incredible job without a great footprint.

Follow Garret French on Twitter.