Eight tools and techniques to boost your link building efforts

There’s no question the difference between a successful search marketing campaign and one that fails is very rarely due to a lack of creativity or a naive strategy. Far more frequently it’s down to inefficiencies or wasted resources.

So what can you do to reduce those problems? Try and constantly improve things. Those changes are very rarely revolutions in your process, but just small refinements.

What follows are eight of those small refinements and improvements that I’ve made recently which I think have made me a better link builder.

1. Qwerly

I’m sure I’m not the only person who keeps much closer tabs on Twitter than my email inbox. The sad truth is if you want me to get my attention an @ message or DM on Twitter can often be much more effective than emailing me.

This is equally true in any link building outreach efforts. This logic is the similar trend that link building can be more effective if your pitch is made over the phone than by email.

Though Qwerly is intended to be an API which tries to make the connections between social profiles, it can be a great way to try and make the connections between different ways of contacting someone, i.e. “I have your email address. What’s your Twitter username?”

It’s far from perfect but it has helped me track down the social media contact details of people I was hoping to build a relationship with.

Ultimately though it’s about understanding who you’re talking to, some people are going to be much happier having a phone conversation than an email, but some people prefer email to Twitter.

If you don’t have that type of knowledge/information about the person you’re trying to get in touch with, you’ve not done enough research on them. Your mode of communication should be determined by what works best for them, not you.

2. Toluna

I’m such a big advocate of Toluna that I think some people are beginning to suspect that I’m on their payroll. That’s not the case and my obsession with their service stems entirely from my love of their product.

I’ve found over the years the success of a link building campaign is entirely dependent on the quality of the piece of content you’re using to attract the link. This content can be something like a voucher code, a viral game, infographic or a great statistic and research.

It’s never been a secret that research data can help build some great links; what used to  be the challenge was how you got that information.

It was easy if you had a huge customer base as you could send them a survey by email, give them a nice prize and you were sorted. However it wasn’t so easy for the people who didn’t have those circumstances.

This is where Toluna has made my life easier. I can quickly (and fortunately cheaply) survey segments of the population. Proper marketing research, this is not; however for quick straw polls that make some great link bait, the service is perfect.

3. Finding more guest posts with advanced search operators

Guest posts are one of the mainstays of many link building campaigns, however the time and effort of guest posting is skewed in the direction of finding and contacting potential publishers rather than on developing outstanding content.

I’d rather spend the time on the post rather than researching potential partners, so anything that can make that process easier is helpful. I’ve had some good success with two particular Google searches using their advanced operators which allowed me to track down the opportunities with less effort.

The first is inurl:category/guest your keywords. This will return a series of blog posts (typically on WordPress) which have been categorised as a guest post and that also contain the keyword relevant to the site your building links to.

I have found some amazing guest opportunities using exactly this method. However, it depends on the blogger putting all their guest posts in a separate category, which doesn’t always happen.

There is another advanced search query which can help you track down guest post opportunities. Search for inpostauthor:guest your keyword this will find the blog posts where there is an author called guest, guest post, guest contributor etc (Hat tip to Yoast on this one).

By covering off these variations you’ll very easily be able to find people publishing guest posts around your keywords. Because they’ve already publish similar content before you saved yourself pitching to people who aren’t keen on guest posts.

4. Backlinks.In

I often have to remind myself my job as a search marketer isn’t to ‘beat Google’: it’s just to do better than my competitors in the factors that Google appreciates.

The most important part of that statement is better than your competitors and without a thorough understanding of the competitors you’re up against you can’t create an effective strategy.

Extensive competitor research is a vital element to any SEO project but often I want a quick assessment of the relative strengths of a number of websites. Backlinks.in allows you to get the link count of a list of different websites.

In the world of super duper SEO tools this may sound a bit basic but it’s a simple and quick tool that just works. In my quest for efficiency it’s not about using a tool that can do everything; I want one that can do precisely what I need as quickly as possible.

5. Custom Search Engines

I love Google custom search engines; they allow you to build your own little Google based on a list of websites you’ve specified.

This saves you times in lots of different ways; I have a custom search engine of the websites whose RSS feeds I subscribe to, which means that if I’m trying to track down an old blog post I’ve remembered I can do it much more easily as well.

You can be a lot more inventive than that. Perhaps you want to take all the websites which link to your top fifty competitors, create a customer search engine including them, then carry out the guest post advanced query discuss above?

The potential to make your life easier is only limited by your imagination.

6. Trade associations

As link builders we sometimes let ourselves believe that high quality links are hard to track down, and often that’s simply not the case. Nearly every trade body or organisation list all their members in a directory, if your client or employer are a business operating in that sector, why aren’t you listed in that directory?

And unlike most directory submission theirs a tangible business benefit to being listed. You can find a directory of trade associations here.

7. Crowd Flower

When people ‘outsource’ link building it ends in tears, either with work that has no impact or that is ill-advised. This doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from a worldwide flexible work resources; you just need the right work being carried out by the right people.

Anything that is about building a relationship or insight isn’t appropriate, as the chaps at Distilled put it, “you can’t outsource giving a s**t”.

In terms of tracking down the contact details of a journalist you’ve been following or carrying out repetitive research tasks you may be wise to consider services like Crowd Flower or Mechanical Turk.

I’ve only begun to scrape the surface of these services. It’s important to note that they can be used in a positive way that’s about delegation and efficiency not spam and deception.

8. Sponsor and do some good

I can honestly say I’ve personally never bought a link in my life, but I’m not naive about the fact money often changes hands, the thing that makes me most sad about the whole process is the number of low quality websites that only exist to sell links which add nothing to the web.

Part of me wishes that some of that money could be spent in a way that benefits society and the internet as whole.

Sponsoring worthy causes can be a great way to do that. We’ve had a client who wanted to outreach to the amateur sporting community. Sponsoring small teams like those listed on UKsponsorship.com enabled them to do that.