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A day in the life of a link builder

by Terry Hearn
24th Feb 2017 - 8 min read

In the ever-changing landscape of SEO, it is increasingly difficult understand Google’s algorithms for search ranking. What we do know is that link building still plays an important role for anyone trying to make a page rank higher, and that the quality of links tends to take precedence over quantity. But who are the mysterious people creating all of these valuable links? Follow me as we experience a day in the life of a link builder…

8.51am The day begins with a check of the emails. With some luck, there will be responses from campaigns that are already running. More likely, is a deluge of automatic replies and out of office notifications, many informing you that the person you were supposed to be contacting started a sabbatical, moments before your email arrived, or is currently sunning themselves on a beach in Honolulu.

9.23am A new campaign is about to begin so it is off to a team meeting. We will have the page the client wants to promote and we will then work on generating content ideas around that. The key here is relevance. We do not want to create advertorial content. Instead, the aim is to produce interesting, amusing, practical, or thought provoking pieces that offer genuine value to the reader.

11.41am With article ideas in place, these pieces now need a potential home. Prospecting is the process of finding relevant sites to offer these pieces to. A high quality link means little to our client if it is on a site with very low traffic and very low domain authority, so the key is to find reputable sites with a good audience. This can be a time consuming process and has to be done carefully as building good relationships is the only way to get content placed and links built.

Building relationships

Sometimes everything just works. You create a strong article and the site you offer it to loves it and posts it without any changes. Other times you need to work with an editor to tweak and revise the content until it becomes exactly what they want. And of course, there is the odd time when an editor will reject the content even if they think it’s well written. If that happens, we learn from it and adapt, either by revising the content or finding other sites to approach.

11.46pm An email comes in. A site that was pitched to last week liked the piece, a travel guide, but wants it to be about exclusively British locations. No problem. A quick rewrite and 45 minutes later, the revised version is sent away for review.

12.28pm After compiling a list of potential sites, it is now time to begin drafting the articles.

Writing, and writing well

As with getting any articles placed on a site, there are two audiences that need to be considered, the editor and the reader. At this point hoping for a link is irrelevant. If the editor suspects that you are not engaged with their site, your content is quite likely to be dismissed out of hand, and quite rightly. There is no shortage of dull, half-baked, thin and mediocre content on the web, which is why we don’t add to it.

The best way to establish a good contact is to focus on writing a piece as if you were a writer looking to get published – because that is exactly what you are.

3pm-ish The rewrite was a success! The travel piece has just gone live. If you are lucky, the editor will send a preview before putting the page live, allowing you the chance to give the piece an additional proof read and check if they decided to keep the link in place. With a bit of luck, it will be marked as a follow link as well. All that will remain is to make a record of the article’s placement and to thank the editor. Hopefully the process of collaborating on the piece has proved to the editor how much creating high quality content matters to you, which will make them more likely to open your emails in future.

Nofollow

Links can be defined as “nofollow” in the site code, otherwise, they’re “follow” by default but not labelled as such. For link builders, getting a nofollow link in your article is unlikely to benefit your client’s organic search rankings, but may still offer other benefits, including click-through traffic to their site. If your client was mentioned in the piece, then they will also benefit by having their brand seen by the readers.

So how do you avoid no follow links?

You can’t. It is completely at the discretion of the editor of the site you pitch to if they wish to include a link and if they do, whether it’s a follow or nofollow. But there is a good way to encourage follow links. Here comes the magic word again… quality. If you offer high quality content with links to supplemental information, the source of a quote or statistic, the contextual relevance of the link will justify its place in the article.

  • Bottom line: any link in an article must be contextually relevant and add value… for the reader!

3.15pm

QA is a vital part of any editorial process and link building is no different. A professional editor will not forgive careless mistakes and could reject an otherwise strong article if any errors are spotted. The team will diligently check every piece before it leaves the writing stage of the process.

3.59pm An email has come in from a blogger you’ve been working with, her post is live and she has sent through an invoice. Not all link building is done through organic outreach. Some campaigns include working with influential bloggers, to review a product or service for instance. The benefit of this is that the blogger writes a sponsored post for their site, guaranteeing placement and saving time on the creation of an article.

Sure, the link might be a nofollow, but that’s ok. As long as the review is interesting, honest and offers something of special value to their audience, then it’s a win. People might click through to the client’s site or share the article on social media, gaining further exposure for the brand.

4.04pm With the articles in hand, it is now time for the most important part of the process. Pitching is make or break. The quality of both your article and the site you are trying to get it placed on are irrelevant if your pitch is ignored. As with the article itself, it is vital to have an awareness of the site’s audience and their interests. Condensing an entire article to less than 100 words, especially if it is on a complicated topic, is challenging, but this is the point where you can sense if the campaign is likely to be a success.

4.46pm The moment has come. The research, writing, prospecting and pitching have all come together and it is time to launch the campaign. And then… nothing. For a few minutes, there is peace, which will be broken by the cries of your Inbox as a steady stream of replies start to arrive. Unless your timing is incredible, many of these will be out of office or automatic replies. Often the first hour includes the first rejection, but sometimes also includes the first positive reply. Sometimes, you won’t hear a thing for a day or two – that’s not unusual. It just means the editors you’re pitching to are probably working hard on something else, like reviewing one of the other 300 pitches they get each day.

4.57pm With your campaign well underway, it is time to prepare for tomorrow as you draft ideas for the next meeting and the next batch of articles. Of course, most days do not run this smoothly. There will be deadlines, slow replies and frustration. A few of your articles will take a number of attempts to find a home – this is normal – and some sites will edit what you offer them, most won’t. Likewise, some will remove all links, others will pick and choose, but these challenges are what makes successful link placements so rewarding.

5.41pm Log off, shut down, go home. Eat, watch TV, sleep. You know how it goes.

But wait a minute!

“There’s no link in this article!” I hear you cry. That’s because we were saving it till last, driving home the point that it’s only worth including a link if it’s relevant and offers the reader extra value. So, if you want to find out more about the art and science of link building, “follow” this link.

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