Armed with great content and understanding your plight, you’re ready to invest both time and money into promoting your content. Great. Strap in as we discuss in detail some white hat promotion methods to acquiring backlinks.
Engage Your Existing Audience
This one should be a no-brainer. Any time you publish new content, let your existing audience known about it. Email your subscribers and post on social media. Go for the low-hanging fruit. If you are not actively engaging these crucial audiences, then you need to start doing so yesterday. Ensure your site has a moderately aggressive email blast prompt and have an active presence on appropriate social media channels. This does not mean you need to hit these channels with content constantly or even at any given interval – again, quality vs quantity, but you need to have them available for engagement when you do come out with new or update content.
Community Discussion and Comments
One of the easiest (and sometimes sleaziest) ways to get backlinks from unique domains is to leave comments with backlinks in them. This is frowned upon as spam most of the time, for obvious reasons – if you’ve ever had a blog or perused the open comment section of one, you know what these look like. But it can be done ethically and usefully.
With proper research, you can find articles to comment on and provide meaningful feedback that contributes to the discussion. Sometimes it will be appropriate to leave a backlink and others it won’t. We recommend establishing yourself within niche online communities without promoting yourself – at least at first.
Once you’re a trusted member of a community, and have “selflessly” contributed for a while, the occasional self-promotion in the interest of the original poster (OP) in a thread will be overlooked, even in hostile environments. Be sure your linked content is helpful, relevant and in fantastic shape – the obvious stuff.
Tolerance levels for this kind of self promotion will vary. Reddit, in particular, is notorious for roasting and banning users who self-promote. However, backlinking in comments can be a very legitimate way to create useful backlinks that not only benefit you, but other readers as well due to your fantastic content.
You can find comment and discussion opportunities on other blogs, forums, QA sites like Reddit and Quora, Facebook groups, Slack channels, and even in the comment sections of YouTube videos.
Backlinks are hard to solicit. But one of the best sources to solicit are other authors and experts who you reference and include in your work. Not only they are obviously interested in the same topic, they’re almost guaranteed to have a website to backlink from. Collaborating with other authors and experts in your community is also great virtual networking and can open doors as you establish credibility and reputation in your niche.
The typical way to approach this sort of outreach is usually to include their work and backlink to them as a courtesy, and then notify them of the reference and make any relevant introduction. Alternatively, you can reach out prior to writing, requesting “permission” to cite authors, to vet the odds of them even responding. Direct solicitation of backlinks may or may not be appropriate in either case, but you may be able to imply or slip in the request sometimes.
This straightforward method of writing content for other blogs in exchange for a backlink to your own can be both powerful and tricky. On the one hand, you want to blog for websites that have high DR – you don’t want to waste your time guest-blogging for low DR sites. On the other hand, you don’t want to be turned down unanimously in your outreach attempts, potentially wasting your time failing to gain opportunities to guest blog.
Google themselves have even technically warned against it in certain contexts, but we, along with most industry giants, still believe when done correctly it can be very helpful. Guest blogging is its own intricate beast and we will cover it more in detail later in a future article already in the works and include a link here.
Another great way to promote your content is to repurpose it into other formats besides just text. Video (think YouTube, vlogs, etc.) is probably the most commonly used repurpose method, but audio methods like podcasts can also be immensely effective. Above and beyond the usefulness of the content itself are the backlinks that submitting these kinds of content to appropriate platforms can provide. Even slideshows and single images can provide extra avenues for customers to reach you.
You may find that a really useful and properly submitted YouTube video can far eclipse your original on-site content if viewers find it particularly useful. You may get some website referral traffic, but more importantly you will have established yourself as a subject matter expert for that topic for the viewer. They may subscribe to you and are likely to get recommendations to additional videos by you, leading to future content promotion opportunities.
Podcasts are another great way to repurpose content, particularly if you already have a large amount of content to draw from and/or can dedicate the time necessary to churn up quality episodes at a rate that will keep your audience engaged, should that be your goal. Either way, backlinking to yourself from podcast platforms can be another great repurposing tool.
Update and Expand Your Existing Content
This is one of the low-hanging fruits that we think even many of the most active online businesses overlook. Your existing content you’ve already written, even when aged, is likely still very relevant, you probably just need to update it after some time. Every few years you should refresh and re-promote your existing articles, saving you a ton of time trying to find new topics and ensuring your existing content stays relevant and accurate. For most businesses, somewhere in the 2-5 year range, they’ll need to refresh or update their content. When you hit this point in your publishing career, it is almost always best to be sure your existing content “foundation” is solid and up-to-date before venturing back to writing new content.
Updated content is also an easy sell for promotion. “Remember this useful article from year such-and-such? Well we’ve updated it to be even more relevant today!” An article that’s already credible and established can even gain traffic and backlinks exponentially and regain momentum that can exceed previous interest. You also may find opportunities to expand greatly on previous articles and give them more breadth and depth. On average, we recommend spending about half your writing time updating outdated articles and the other half writing new ones.
Replicate Your Competitors’ Backlinks
If you are struggling to find outreach and backlink opportunities at this point, well, shame on you. We’re a forgiving agency, though, and will grant you one more vast source of backlinks: your competitors. If you are reading this article, odds are you are not the industry leader and top Google result for all keywords you want to rank for, which means you have competition that is surpassing you with their SEO efforts and results. Bummer. But this also means you can utilize tools to analyze and go after the same backlink sources they’re using. We again use Ahrefs for this ourselves.
To research a specific competitor’s backlinks, we recommend Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. Under Backlinks > New, you can see the most recently acquired backlinks. These will be the most likely domains and authors to consider linking to your content as well via outreach, since they were just recently active. You can even set alerts in Ahrefs so you receive notifications whenever your selected competitors’ domains get new backlinks, so you can potentially capitalize on the relevancy and obtain one yourself by reaching out. Just like many forms of lead generation, these alerts and the resulting opportunities should be considered extremely time-sensitive.
To analyze multiple competitors simultaneously and see who is linking to some/all of them, we again use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer > Pages > Best by links, filter by “HTTP code > 200 ok” and then take the top 3-10 page URLs and run them through Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool (under “More”). Strip the protocol from the links pasted and use the “Prefix” setting for each link for best results. You will be shown sites that link to all the articles you included, which should be very solid candidates for backlinks to your similar high quality content. You can even narrow down further to display sites that have linked to all of the domains you selected but not your own.
You can also find backlinks utilizing Ahrefs’ Site Explorer > Referring domains section and filter “Link type > dofollow”, but you’re likely to end up sorting through a bunch of low-quality and spammy domains that you don’t want to be associated with. The previous methods will yield much higher quality results, albeit with a bit more effort involved.
Circling back around to this pillar of obtaining backlinks, paid ads are almost always a necessary evil for building backlinks, especially at first. Relevant both as a supplement to manual backlink building and as a complete replacement once you hit a certain threshold, paid advertising allows you to trade money for your valuable time to gain highly-targeted visitors, a small percentage of which will ultimately backlink to your content – if your authors are worth their salt.
Even large and successful companies have advertising budgets to supplement their content promotion efforts. Worded differently, corporate giants who already dominate their niches and who have naturally growing backlink profiles still see the need for advertising budgets to reach a larger audience. This should be a massive indicator that such a budget is indispensable for a business (like yours) looking to carve their way into the SEO ecosystem.
For promoting content, we currently strongly recommend Facebook ads, which can reach thousands of users targeted for various provided demographics for a fraction of the cost of Google Ads and other more expensive PPC options.