Screenshot from Ahrefs content explorer tool

Gavin Hirst - Friday 10th June 2022


5 free* link building techniques [and how they can work for your business]

You’ve landed on this blog either a) because you’re interested in link building, b) because it said you can get something for free in the headline or c) because you are hoping for a quick, free and easy way to build links back to your site.

Well, the truth of it is, nothing ever comes for free. Hence the asterisk.

The techniques described in this blog won’t cost you anything in terms of tools. Everything mentioned here can be done through the free versions of the various tools mentioned.

So what’s the cost I hear you say?

Well, like everything that revolves around link building – blood, sweat and tears. And in many cases, time. Your own time never comes for free. There is a cost associated with everything you do during your working day so whilst there may be no direct cost to your business, effective link building is going to take a lot of your time so be prepared for this when you go to your boss with some of these great tactics.

So, now the painful part is out of the way, let’s dive into some of these amazing tactics and take a look at how you can increase the number of quality links you can earn back to your website.

1.      Unlinked mentions

This is one of my favourites in the relatively ‘low hanging fruit’ basket for link building, especially if you are a medium to large brand. With tons of content created every day, it’s actually amazing how many times brands get mentioned in blogs, forums, answer sites etc. Many of these mentions are just that – a mention. No link back to the business.

Kerching!

There’s an opportunity right there.

You can use a couple of tools for rooting out these unlinked mentions. Google Alerts is a go-to for things like this. Simply type in your brand’s name (and related brand search queries) and Google will ping your inbox every time it’s mentioned online. If the mention is unlinked, reach out to the publisher and ask for a link.

Ahrefs’ Content Explorer has the capability to search for a keyword or topic (in this case, your brand) across the web and will bring back a list of sites where you are mentioned. Then carry out the same process as with Google Alerts. SEMrush offers a similar feature too.

Then there’s always Google itself. Enter your brand in quotation marks and trawl through the results to find unlinked mentions.

2.      Outdated Content

Perhaps one of the most under-utilised backlinking techniques is updating outdated content across the web. There is so much content out there that it can quickly get outdated and we know how much value Google places on fresh content.

So, how do you go about finding this outdated content? Well, it comes down to time once again. You need to identify the content you already have (especially if it is already performing well) and then carry out research around this topic and related topics. Check out the top-ranking pages for these topics and see if there is anything that could be improved upon by linking to your own great resource.

The key to success is adding value. Let’s say you’re in the travel and tourism niche and you have some really great blog content on ‘the best things to do in Auckland’. There are heaps of blogs and articles that cover this topic so take a look and see if any of them are out of date. New things to do are popping up in Auckland all the time. Make sure you have the most up-to-date resource for this topic and outreach to those sites that have out-of-date content to let them know and to see if they would be interested in linking to your content as part of updating their own.

You could even suggest some helpful edits to their piece of content that then links out to your own piece of content.

Cyrus Shepard, Founder at Zyppy suggests that content around the area of data, statistics, studies and trends are often good ones to target for updates “These types of content are often tied to specific dates, e.g. ‘mobile coupon trends 2018’ and ‘consumer credit card behaviour survey 2016’.”

Bonus tip: as well as looking for topics where you have created content, try and look at content where your competitors appear and are linked. If you can find outdated content that links to your competitor’s site and update this with your own, up-to-date, highly valuable content, you have the potential for a double win if you can take the link and remove a competitor’s.

3.      Featured Bloggers and Industry Experts

A third and final favourite of mine is to create a post that links out to experts and bloggers in your field. Pick out those experts with the highest level of domain authority and the ones that share similar views to yourself.

Then all you need to do is create an “11 experts have their say about X” or an “11 of the best x bloggers in New Zealand” post that talks about that person, and what makes them so good (you could even reach out for a quote from them) and then link back to their blog or website. Once you have compiled your post (it’s good to add images from their site into your own post), reach out to them and let them know about this resource you have created.

Take the time to really get to know and understand the content they are creating. Make sure you follow them on Twitter and other social platforms and try and engage with them before you outreach to them.

We find that most of these people will link back to your post, certainly through social media platforms but around 20-30% of the time, we can also secure a link back from their website – that’s a pretty good ratio for link outreach.

Bonus tip: If you are reaching out to bloggers specifically, create a badge that they can display on their website. People love the recognition so putting someone in a ‘Top Ten Travel Bloggers in New Zealand’ post is a big deal. You can set the badge up so it automatically links back to your post, helping to generate an even bigger success rate in terms of links back to your site.

4.      Podcast Jacking

Matthew Woodward says it best in his post here. His suggestions essentially suggest becoming an expert in your field and appearing on the top podcasts in your market. His ways include finding the podcasts that are relevant to you, looking at your competitors that might also appear on podcasts and getting in touch with the podcast targets and requesting to be included in their future episodes. Remember not to just send 1 email – most of the responses come from the 2nd or 3rd emails sent to the prospect. Matthew got a significant amount of links from some great domains by utilising this method – it could work for you!

5.      HARO

Link building in NZ is hard. We have a relatively small market to target and whilst we can look overseas for those links, they are not all that relevant to NZ-specific businesses. If you do have to look to overseas publications, it’s important to target high authority domains that are in your niche or industry. These will provide strong signals about the relevance of the link back to your website and add potential value to visitors who click through to your site from that link.

One tactic we use for a number of our clients is HARO – Help a Reporter Out. Twice daily, emails land in our inbox from reporters looking for expert contributions to articles they are writing. You can sign up for as many of the topics as you feel relevant and these will then be tailored in emails to your inbox.

You can then assess each of the link requests and determine the relevance of those links to your business. Simply reach out to them and meet the brief – typically a request for a paragraph of expert opinion on a particular topic or perhaps tips specific to the industry. In return, you will typically be able to mention your business name and add a link back to your website, or in some cases, the HARO request may ask for information and a link back to supporting content. Either way, it’s a win for you if your comment gets picked up as it will get you a highly relevant link back to your website.

Bonus tip: don’t hang around when that email lands in your inbox. Journalists are inundated with submissions as soon as the request goes out so not only do you have to provide a high-quality piece of commentary, but you also have to get in there quick if you want yours to be picked up.

Summary

There are lots of great tactics out there to help you generate backlinks to your site or to your clients’ sites. These are just five of my own personal favourites and five that I have seen a lot of success with. The one thing they all have in common though is that they all take time. You need to weigh up whether your time spent trying to acquire links is going to deliver an ROI. Make sure you are targeting high authority sites so that when you do get that link, it really helps to move the needle both in terms of the potential to drive traffic to your content and the potential to improve your domain authority.

Hopefully, you find these five tips helpful. Backlinks are still a hugely important aspect of SEO so if you are struggling to move forward with your link building/acquisition, drop us a line and let’s see if we can help you to drive more traffic, improve your rankings and make more money! We work with some leading brands, both here in New Zealand and internationally to help them to build links here in New Zealand and Australia and we have had a lot of success over the past two years in driving highly relevant backlinks to clients’ sites. We are one of New Zealand’s leading SEO agencies with a focus on link building – call or email and we would be happy to chat through the successes we have had to date.

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