It’s important to understand the benefits and potential downsides of different types of manual outreach. Building quality backlinks is one of the best ways to improve the long-term presence of a website in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Manual outreach is a somewhat umbrella term used to describe the process by which these types of links are commonly acquired. Before launching off on your own outreach campaign, it can be wise to consider the benefits of different approaches.
Terms & Terminology
Marketing has a lot of buzzwords associated with it. Other industries do too, though even those are usually coined by marketers. Manual Outreach is a term used by marketers and SEO professionals to describe a process that often results in a high-quality backlink. This process typically consists of finding related websites and contacting them via email. This conversation is then steered towards such an arrangement that results in a link being added to your website (or a client’s website). You’ll find conversations in many online forums which debate the merits of different types of link negotiation and there is a lot of marketer-speak used interchangeably. For the sake of this discussion, here’s a list of common SEO terms related to manual outreach and their definition within the context of this article:
Manual Outreach: Contacting websites on a per-site basis with the intent of getting a backlink.
Guest Post: A piece of content provided to a website in exchange for a link.
Content Marketing: Sharing content with other websites or influencers with the intent of getting a backlink.
Resource Links: Links from pages meant to serve as non-contextual references for website readers.
Dead Links: Links on websites that link to content that no longer exists, or is no longer relevant.
Templated Responses: Email templates used for generic outreach campaigns. Substitutes small pieces of site-specific info to seem more personalized.
Different Types of Outreach
Manual outreach campaigns shouldn’t be structured in overly-constrictive ways. That’s to say; you shouldn’t feel like you have to achieve a single type of goal when contacting a website and you shouldn’t feel like you have to contact a website in a certain type of way. Being able to develop a sort of freestyle approach can help make your outreach efforts more effective and efficient. For example, if you’re searching for contact information on a website to email a templated response—don’t be afraid to just fire a one-liner into a contact form and move to the next site.
Sometimes templates can help ensure groups of employees or contractors are able to approach with the highest effective demeanor
If you are reaching out as part of a content marketing campaign focused on sharing an infographic and realize a website is entirely text-based—don’t be afraid to shift gears and work towards getting a guest post! Try to always use honest and relevant exchanges when contacting sites and stay away from templated responses when possible. Sometimes templates can help ensure groups of employees or contractors are able to approach with the highest effective demeanor. For single affiliate websites, this is rarely recommended. Below you’ll find some quick tips on different goals and approaches of manual outreach with a brief discussion on benefits and potential pitfalls.
The end goal of guest posting requests is to write an article for another website that contains a link back to your website. In many cases, this type of arrangement involves each website accommodating a guest post from the other in the pursuit of mutual benefit. This SEO method was all the rate in the early 2010’s but has since ebbed in its effectiveness. There are two main issues with guest posting that can cause it to fall apart when attempted at scale. The first issue is what many SEOs call reciprocal link building, which qualifies as a link-scheme by Google’s definition. Per the big G: “Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking”. This means that when you get a large number of links from sites that your site also links to—Google sees a red flag and many of these links get canceled out. In most cases, you won’t receive a penalty but your links won’t add any SEO benefit either.
You can’t post the same article to multiple sources, and that each article needs to be well-written and well-researched
The Second downside of guest posting is that it necessitates the creation of a lot of high-quality content in addition to the content you create for your website. For guest posts to be effective they need to be quality content that is also unique to the source. That means that you can’t post the same article to multiple sources and that each article needs to be well-written and well-researched. For single sites with single authors where you are the one writing all the content, you’ll find that you can get into a groove which makes writing a bit easier. You’ll save time on researching since you’ll be familiarized with reference after your first guest post! When working with other writers, however, you’ll often find that each post requires the same amount of investment even when written on the same topic. One disadvantage of writing your own content is that the language, keywords, and subject matter tends to be narrower than if outsourced to many different writers. This is a pretty subjective critique, but arguably impactful to SEO.
Guest posting doesn’t have to involve a reciprocal arrangement and you don’t even have to make it know you are able to offer such an opportunity. You’re selling point here is that you are able to provide a quality piece of content for a webmaster to post to their website. If websites look like they commonly post voluminous amounts of content—they’ll probably be happy to accommodate guest posts. Remember to be respectful of their native format, their audience interests, and keep things informational. If your website is about hiking shoes don’t write an article about the benefits of hiking boots—write an article about the 5 Best Hiking Trails Near Lakes in the US. Remember, you’re getting a backlink in exchange for adding value to their website.
Content marketing is arguably the whitest hat method of manual outreach. This involves reaching out to websites similar to how one would when trying to earn a guest post though without providing content. Guest posts could arguably be said to be paying for backlinks since you are providing content in exchange for a backlink. Content marketing differs in this approach in that it works to find websites that would find value in your content and share with them. Ideally, these types of links would be contextually-relevant inclusions in text-rich content such as articles and reviews. Different types of websites utilize different formats and paying attention to how information is presented on their website can help with your efforts.
The difficulty with content marketing is that you’ve got to imagine a way that your content might fit in with each website you contact
Content marketing will result in what are arguably the most well-diversified, high-quality links. These links will appear in native website formats, often be precluded by unique author text, and typically be distributed among social media profiles and email lists. The difficulty with content marketing is that you’ve got to imagine a way that your content might fit in with each website you contact and steer the conversation with their webmaster in such a way to increase your likelihood of success. For example; let’s say that you develop an in-depth infographic that you’re hoping to get related websites to share. Simply posting your infographic won’t give you much direct SEO impact unless you get them to use an embed code. Another popular approach is to seek the inclusion within a resource links page on websites. These are pages where websites include a long list of other websites that may be of value to their readers. These links will earn you a unique referrer domain but often have little contextual relevance. Another approach here is to find content that has already been published that has a broken link, or maybe just a section that could conceivably include a link to your content, and ask the webmaster to include a reference to your content.
Content marketing can be one of the best forms of SEO when done well. Working to develop lasting relationships with relevant websites can help launch future partnerships, social media mentions, and many unforeseen positive SEO events. When done blindly using templated emails, however, content marketing almost sounds like begging. Imagine getting an email from someone bragging about the value of their content and asking for you to give them a backlink for their effort. Again, having a grounded, honest, and personal touch to content marketing can help dramatically increase your chances of success. As a general rule, you’ll get fewer links for your efforts with content marketing but they’ll have a better diversity and be arguably more in line with the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Briefly mentioned above, resource links are backlinks to your website that are often included in bulk among other related links. These are often the easiest links to negotiate since they require little consider from other websites. If your website contains content that is of genuine value these links can be a means of last resort during outreach efforts. If a webmaster shoots down your requests for including links in existing content, accommodating a guest post, or replacing a broken link to direct to your site—adding your site to their reference links page can be an easy concession. The only caveat to this method is that a website must have a resource page link. If you make the mistake of asking for a resource link to a website without a resource page you’re going to sound like a cheesy marketer and likely get nill.
Sometimes opening with the request of providing a link from a resource page can be a way to pave the path for larger ask down the road. Offering to share their content on your social media channels can be a great way to break the ice—just don’t make it sound like you won’t share if they don’t help you out! Resource links can be some of the quickest links earned during manual outreach campaigns. They aren’t the most powerful with regards to SEO but can still offer a solid contribution to your overall rankings.
This type of outreach link is a bit different but can be powerful nonetheless. Scholarship links require having a scholarship fund for your website and reaching out to university financial departments to include a link to your page. Most university websites have a scholarship webpage where they list various financial aid opportunities for students to apply for. In most cases, there will be a ‘corporate’ or ‘commercial’ scholarship opportunity section. The big kicker to this method is that you’ll need to eventually award your scholarship to someone. A general amount seen by such funds is anywhere from $500-1000 in value. If you can afford more—give more—after all, some lucky student will thank you for it!
You’re going to get a lot of .edu links pointing to your scholarship page but it’s going to be a lot of hard work. Creating a page that discussing some content related to your main keywords and adding a link to one of your most profitable pages can help boost those rankings. Another consideration—albeit only minimally impactful—is to name your scholarship something related to your most sought after keywords. For example; a niche website about diet and exercise might create a Health & Wellness Scholarship.
The approaches towards manual outreach campaigns listed here are only meant to be a jumping off point. As you become more and more familiar with the process of reaching out to other websites it’s likely you’ll realize there’s no real secret to it. In most cases, outreach campaigns are a numbers game. Generating the most leads is the most predictable way to generate the most links. That means that not lingering too long on any one website to find contact info, not devoting an excessive amount of time for anyone guest post, and not getting hung up sending lengthy emails for any one site. Investing the time and resources it takes to earn quality links can seem daunting for new sites without revenue. In almost every case we’ve seen it can be said that high-quality links equate to quality long-term SEO results.