Today’s guest post comes from Peter Attia. Peter Attia is the founder of Cucumber Nebula, an internet marketing blog. You can find him on twitter: @PeterAttia
Over the past few years, link building has been put under a microscope. Everyone is trying to figure out how to create perfect links: what anchor they should use, where the link should be placed, what text should surround the anchor, etc.
I prefer reaching for high quality links with less than spectacular location and anchor text. What they lack in anchor text matters little in comparison to the authority my site gains.
Here are some campaigns and examples I’ve worked on in the past.
1.) University Specific Landing Pages
One of my favorite campaigns was for a moving and relocation company. Their main market was people moving from one house to another, both in the same state and across the country.
Our initial idea was simple: college freshmen need to relocate and most colleges have student housing. How can we make shit happen?
I started diving into different college sites and looking through their housing pages. I quickly noticed that several colleges had pages dedicated to external housing resources – everything from fire safety issues to finding the perfect roommate.
These pages were exactly what I needed! Now I just had to figure out how to get on those lists!
The Final Plan
We started digging through some of the moving related landing pages we used for PPC. These pages were simple and easily altered.
I was able to make a landing page dedicated to specific universities. I replaced the moving truck image with a girl holding school books, put the college’s logo on the top, and even used their school colors for the template layout.
I then reached out to people running the student housing pages and showed them their dedicated landing pages. I also offered a discount for their students.
To save time, I didn’t create dedicated pages until I got a response. Once I got a response, I quickly used their logo and school colors for the template and showed them that the page was already live. Nearly every single person that saw their schools dedicated landing page put it on their resources list.
One important thing I’d like to note is that I did not pitch until I got a response. I originally showed them an example college on the opening email instead of a page dedicated to their school. The response rate was extremely low, so I then sent a very vague email just asking to get in touch with the person in charge of the housing page. This increased my response and conversion rate dramatically.
2.) Local Charity Events
This is one of my favorites because it’s also great for building your office culture. Find local volunteer programs within your city and sign your office up!
These events are typically only a day long, so you don’t have to worry about your office being empty for too long. They can range from fixing up old play grounds to giving away food and clothing to those in need.
I’m not saying you should attend these events solely for links and notoriety, but they are a great way to get recognition online. These events are usually listed on local newspapers and websites, as well as the charity’s site.
3.) Putting College Logos on Your Product
This methods requires resources and the right kind of product – it won’t be right for everyone. Students go nuts over products with their school logo on it, especially in college towns that take their sports seriously.
Like tactic #1, there are many pages on university sites dedicated to apparel. These stores will also carry random products like mugs and bottle openers, so it’s easy to ask for inclusion.
However, the real juice comes from actually offering a college specific version of your product. These will get you links from college blogs, newspapers, sports sites, etc.
4.) Niche Specific Tools
This was another campaign I did in the moving niche, where we targeted established business sites.
We already had a tool on our site that gave estimates for relocation, so we decided to shrink it down into a widget. This would allow us to approach real estate sites who often deal with customers looking to relocate.
By providing them with a tool their competitors don’t have, we help them while gaining a link in return.
The trick here was approaching companies as if this offer was exclusive for businesses in their area. In reality, the tool was free to anyone.
I understand this may tip the moral scale a bit, but it worked quite well nonetheless.
5.) Resource Listings
This tactic works quite well for, but is not limited to, EDU sites. EDU sites always have several pages that consist of nothing but resources and information – Example.
You need to dig through these pages and find one that is relevant to your niche.
You can find tons of these pages by using some of the simpler advanced queries.
- site:.edu resources
- site:.edu “science resources”
- site:lsu.edu resources
- site:utexas.edu “external resources”
The key here is creating a resource for these pages that is spectacular and worthy of being listed.
To avoid downtime, I would recommend doing your email outreach prior to creating the resource. After getting a response from the page moderator, you can then create and pitch your resource.
This way you won’t waste a day creating a resource for a moderator that never responds. I would recommend using a similar outreach strategy to the example listed in tactic #1.
6.) Startup Competition and Events
This is similar to volunteering for local charities. Find competitions and events for start ups in your city! These get a lot of publicity weeks before they get started and are great for building your company’s reputation.
If there isn’t one you’re fond of in your city, try starting one. It’ll be lots of work, but the payout will be worth it. Here are some events that work well.
- Startup Olympics – A mixed competition of physical activities, sports, and of course drinking.
- Startup Crawl – A bar crawl except at different start up locations. Great for networking.
- Startup Riot – A conference where local startups give a brief presentation about their startup
- Tech Cocktail – Local conference and happy hour events for the tech industry.
If you attend the conferences, get a speaking gig! Speaking at conferences is a great way to get leaders in your industry familiar with your brand as well as build long term relationships.
An additional perk to the competitive events is more publicity being thrown at you if you win.
7.) Collecting Data from Thought Leaders
People love data. People also have huge egos. A great way to get authority links back is to work on a project with several thought leaders, like a survey of CEOs of your industry.
Then once the survey is released, you can reach back out to them. If you don’t get a link from their corporate sites, you’ll at least get a mention from their personal blogs or twitter accounts. Industry leaders have plenty of followers, so it’s well worth it. Also, If the study is an infographic or something easily shareable, they’ll be more likely to spread the love.
You can use the same method above, but by scraping collected data and visualizing it instead.
For example, if you look up information on how much electricity we use throughout the world, you’ll find endless amounts of data. Like:
- What that electricity is used on
- What countries use the most electricity
- Which countries use the most green electricity
- Amount of electricity used per person
- Ways to save on energy consumption
- Increase in consumption over several years
This is a tiny list in comparison to the amount of data you can pull together. By taking this data and making it visually appealing, you automatically have an infographic that can do quite well.
Again, after you’ve put all this info together and shared it, you can reach out to all the companies and people that put together this information and tell them about it. Small businesses will be especially eager to share the information on their site as a form of recognition.
8.) White Label Your Product for Another Brand
This is another one that depends on your product, but works especially well in the apparel industry. You can offer free outfits for businesses in exchange for a mention or sponsorship on their website.
One polo shirt company I worked with supplied a well known Austin Festival’s staff with shirts that contained the festival’s logo. This was a small price to pay considering every one that had to deal with the festival’s staff would see their shirt. They also got mentioned on the site as well as physical banner sponsorship during the event.
That same company also provided the staff of a local restaurant with shirts for their staff, which got them mentioned on their business site as well. There are several ways you can play with this idea. It’s only limited in how you can leverage your product.
9.) Article Ego Bait
I discovered this tactic on accident years ago, but in hindsight should’ve been obvious. Find a popular company, brand, or person that is very social and community focused. Write an article revolving around their history and story. It needs to be a well thought out and motivating story about how they became successful.
After you have it all written up, show them the draft you’ve written up and ask them if they have any suggestions and what they think. The reason I say to do this in draft form, is because I’ve had some issues with them wanting specific copyright images to be used.
Work with them on when would be a good time for you to put the article up and simply ask them if they wouldn’t mind promoting it. As long as you’ve built this small relationship of asking them how they’d prefer it tailored beforehand, they’ll be open to the idea.
This works especially well with bands. Since bands have followers that adore information about the band, they’re tickled pink to see a full article about them. Since it’s tweeted by the band itself, it gets some great amplification. Also, musicians tend to have thousands and thousands of followers, which is spectacular.
You can usually squeeze in a link on the bands about or information page as well depending on how well your story fits. Again, this is why it’s important to make a solid article. If it’s better than the story on their own site, they’re happy to link to it.
10.) Student Discount Programs
Lastly, this is one of the easiest ways to get legit EDU links and requires minimal resources. Lots of schools have either an alumni sponsorship, student discount card, or staff discount program. These are extremely easy to get into – just find them and contact the right people.
Create a Discount
First, you’ll need to create an actually discount code for your product. This can be any type of discount code whether it’s a cookie, coupon code, or a discounted landing page. The only issue I’ve run into, is a couple schools requested that the code work every time, not just for first time purchases.
Finding Discount Programs
Next you need to find the actual discount programs. I was able to find several with simple queries. Here are some of the ones I was using:
- site:.edu intitle:”student discount program”
- site:.edu intitle:”student discount card”
- Site:.edu intitle:”employee discount
- Site:.edu intitle:”employee discount program
I would recommend trying to find discounts specific to your niche before running to the general discounts. You’d be surprised at the breadth of some of the resource and discount pages colleges provide.
Similarly to the other email outreach examples I gave earlier, I would recommend reaching out with a vague email first and asking for the person in charge of the discount page. People are more likely to keep communication with you once they’ve started an initial response. This gives you the opportunity to pitch on your second email.
Even if they don’t agree to your offer, they’ll at least say so instead of ignoring you. This gives you the chance to ask them “why?”. This is invaluable since most of the time a tiny change can drastically increase your acceptance rate, but you’d never know that if you can’t find out what that change is.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you need to lean towards the wants of who’s linking to you. Not what you yourself want. It doesn’t matter if your anchor text isn’t perfect. It doesn’t matter if they linked to a deeper page than you’d like. Be happy that you got an authoritative link at all and move on to your next prospect.
I quote from the beginning of the article: “How can we make shit happen?” 😀
Typo, or on purpose? 🙂
I’m sure Google/Matt Cutts publically stated that they had levelled the playing field when it came to .edu links so they aren’t as effective due to the amount of spam the .edu sector was recieving.
Isn’t the college discount hussle what got O.Co penalized a few months back? They were going around offering discounts to .edu sites that linked them. Here’s a write up
Not saying that it’s wrong, just that someone else got in trouble for it, so buyer beware.
Matt from BuzzStream here.
I think Overstock.com did something very different from what Pete’s suggesting.
O.co asked college bloggers to post content with deep, anchor-text rich links to specific product pages, while Pete’s suggesting you get a branded link to the homepage on a college student/staff discount page.
Links that have brand and navigational value that actually send traffic are far less risky than deep links to product and category pages with the intention of manipulating search results.
Matt is exactly right. This is very different from what Overstock did. They deliberately tried to manipulate rankings by offering student discounts instead of money for links. It was still an incentive and no different than a paid link.
What I’m referring to is creating a student discount to be placed on a preexisting resource page.
It’s similar to paid directory links. If you’re paying for a directory listing and it’s moderated, it’s ok. If you’re paying for a directory listing just to get a placement, it’s considered no different from a paid link.
Hope that helps!
Hi Peter. Thanks for this article. Especially appreciate the email templates in article. Would you be willing to specify in the article the subject lines of the email contacts.
Thanks in advance.
Sorry I missed your comment earlier. I’ve used several different subject lines and I still don’t feel as if I’ve found the perfect one. I usually keep it very short and just write “About Website Name” or “About Jason Smith’s Blog”. This way the subject line at least sticks out from other emails.
I know this is an extremely short subject line, but I do that so it displays properly on mobile. I’ve been getting a lot more email responses from people on mobile devices, so this is the best I’ve come up with so far.
I would suggest doing some experimenting though! Like I said earlier, I think there’s room for improvement. Hope that helps!
The free tool is what I like best. I takes some effort but a well written (WordPress) Plugin can work wonders if used by lots of people. Not only can one get links directly by including an option to activate a backlink but in most cases you gets loads of contacts to exactly those people from the niche in question.
I completely agree. I like that you can get links from relevant businesses this way as well. It can be tricky to convince businesses to link to you otherwise, but if you have a resource they genuinely find useful, they’re happy to.
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