Tag: backlink strategy


Niche Site Step 3.1: My (More Effective) Backlink Strategy

So, it’s been all of 1 week since I posted my backlink strategy for my niche site pizzaovenhub.com and . . . sorry guys, I’ve changed it all up already.

Sorry to rock the boat!

I’ve never professed to be an expert in this field, and that’s what this journey is all about – learning what works and what doesn’t, so I can teach my readers, and be the crash-test dummy of backlinking and SEO.

The broken link approach that I mentioned in my last post only seemed to work for social sharing, and quickly started to lose the initial momentum and conversion rate I mentioned in my previous post.

It also became fairly obvious, rather quickly, that well-ranked blogs and websites are wise to the templates high-profile bloggers like Neil Patel provide you with, and they are sick of them! So to get a link from the guys that matter – it’s going to take a lot more than good content and a template outreach email.

So I changed my strategy, and now I have something that works – and I’m already seeing the impact in rankings on derivative keywords from just one powerful backlink placed under this new strategy.

So, here it is . . .

My (Effective) Backlink Strategy

A step by step graphic about how to backlink effectively

My effective backlink strategy ultimately comprises 4 parts (with a bit of thought in-between – hence the 5 steps above), just as my previous strategy did – except the approach is much different:

  1. Find relevant links
  2. Outreach, but in a different way (see below)
  3. Develop and post agreed content
  4. Get your link

So here’s the 4 steps in more detail:

1. Find Relevant Links

Forget resource pages and links pages this time – we’re delivering much more value to the link target than ‘useful information’ for their readers, so we don’t just need to hit the sites that actively link out on resource/links pages.

Plus, this new approach is going to get you high-quality contextual links (embedded within the link-target’s site content) – just the sort that Brian Dean from Backlinko says you should be aiming for.

To find my relevant links, I started with a brainstorm – I brainstormed all related keyword terms, derivative (including your primary phrase but not exclusively your primary phrase, so for me, things like ‘wood fired pizza oven training’ and so on) and semantic (not including your keyword phrase but linked to it in some way, so for me, things like ‘firewood’ and ‘outdoor cooking’) keywords.

Then, when you have a list of derivative and semantic keywords, do some Googling on these terms to see what sort of websites come up.

Now, before you jump into step 2 and contact them, you need to think about what sort of value you could add to their site and their business.

Tune in to WI FM (What’s In it For Me), from the website owner’s perspective. What can you deliver to them that helps them meet their business/website/blog’s objectives.

And I’m not talking vague things like ‘providing a valuable link to show their visitors’ – these website owners really don’t care about this. They’re either selling something, trying to raise their profile with potential customers, or communicating a particular message to their audience, or all three.

You need to therefore deliver something to them that will help them sell their products/services, raise their profile, or communicate their message.

And to do that effectively, you’re going to need to develop your content after you know who you’re trying to get a link from – so you can customise the content down to actually mentioning them in the piece.

This is where running other ecommerce businesses through my position at Vitalife Group came in useful – it gave me perspective of how I’d feel about bloggers contacting my companies for backlinks by using the broken link and ‘valuable content’ approach.

To be honest, I’d probably fix the link and not bother sharing the content – because I’m wise to the approach now, and I know their primary motivation for getting in-touch is not to help me by finding broken links, it’s to help themselves by getting a backlink from my site.

And the same applies to authoritative websites and blogs – they’ll receive tons of these emails, and they’ll be wise to your motivations for contacting them, so even before they’ve started reading the content of your email, the barriers are up.

So instead, once you’ve found a few ‘link targets’ by searching Google for your derivative and semantic keywords, you need to take the following approach . . .

2. Outreach, but in a Different Way

Don’t use templates for your outreach! Start every point of communication with link targets from scratch.

I know, I know. It’s laborious, and takes a lot of time.

BUT, if you are focusing on highly authoritative, relevant sites, attaining just one quality link like this can rocket you up the rankings (as I’ve already experienced this early on – but more on this later in the post) – so don’t worry about this process taking time.

Backlinking is about quality, not quantity.

Put all of your efforts into attaining each link you outreach for – it should never be a case of copy/paste, hit send and repeat. Do this, and you lose the whole impact of this highly-effective strategy.

So, start with your first link target, make sure they are ranking well for either a derivative or semantic keyword in your field, and think carefully about what they want.

I did this, and my first target was a pizza oven retailer.

They had an exclusive, slick-looking pizza oven for sale – and it was available only from them. This meant, if I wrote a feature about it, it would only ever benefit them in terms of the awareness it generates – which would deliver a high level of value to them.

So, I went ahead and dreamed-up a new concept of announcing our ‘Pizza Oven of the Month’ on the blog. It was the 1st November, so seemed the perfect time to start something like this.

I wrote a very flattering piece about the oven, covering its features, and what I ultimately thought of it and why it was November’s Pizza Oven of the Month (which was all actually truthful – by the end I did want one of them myself!).

I then contacted the website and told them about the review and the fact that one of their exclusive models had made our Pizza Oven of the Month award. To which they shared socially, and also placed a contextual link to my niche site on their HOME PAGE of all places!

That’s a 100% conversion rate right there. This was the first target I’d approached under this strategy, they were ranked highly for my primary keyword and other derivative keywords, and I’d just attained a juicy backlink from them on their most important page of all.

The impact of this link was immediately apparent, in a few days it made my site rank for lots of derivative keywords (although, strangely, it’s still not showing for my primary keyword ‘pizza oven’ – but a few more links like this and I’m sure it will).

From not ranking on anything other than ‘Pizza Oven Hub’ – which is ultimately my domain name, and noone ever uses this as a search term – to ranking at the following places for these words:

Buy Pizza Oven Online – Rank 44 Worldwide

Pizza Oven Recipes – Rank 127 Worldwide

Outdoor Pizza Oven Recipes – Rank 153 Worldwide

How do I know this?

I use a combination of my Google Webmaster account for my niche site, which tells you what search terms your site is showing for, then I run these search terms through SERPs.com’s Rank Checker Tool, to find the precise rank at any given time.

The above data is interesting, not just because I wasn’t ranking at all prior to this single backlink, but it’s also interesting that the best ranking keyword is related to buying pizza ovens online – which is the primary focus of the site providing the backlink, to sell Pizza Ovens online.

Although I have an Amazon affiliate store on my niche site and a ‘Buy Pizza Ovens Online’ page, this is certainly not where my textual content is focused – it’s more around the types of pizza oven available, and also quite a lot of keywords focused around building your own pizza oven. So it’s definitely not my on-site content that’s guided this ranking.

Now, as I said before, I’m no SEO expert – I’m just crash-testing theories – but perhaps this suggests that Google takes the relevance of sites that are backlinking to yours not only seriously, but it also guides your ranking in searches based on your backlinking site’s content (perhaps even more so than your own on-site content?).

Or perhaps it’s simply because competition is less fierce in this long-tail term? And I haven’t surfaced that well elsewhere because the other terms are more competitive?

I dunno.

I just found this a very interesting point.

I think, in truth, Google’s algorithm is probably so complex, with so many layers and variables, that even the boffins that built it and maintain it couldn’t explain specifically what single part of the algorithm leads, primarily, to ranking for a particular term.

I also heard they were using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to allow the algorithm to adapt to new search terms never used before and so on.

That’s all a little bit too complex for me – I’m just trying to get my little Pizza Oven niche site ranked well – and the common consensus, and my own data, show that quality, relevant backlinks are the general direction you need to head in to achieve this.

I digress . . .

Back to the strategy.

So, in my example I kind of did things backwards to what I prescribe in my 4 step guidance, I created the content prior to contacting the link  target – but I thought in that particular instance (and probably in many others) it would add more credibility to build the content and publish before discussing it with the link target.

It’s more credible to say, ‘hey, I just featured your product on my blog and it won our Monthly award’, than to say, ‘hey, if you provide me a link on your site, I’ll say one of your products won our Monthly award’.

It all depends on your particular approach and the type of custom content you’re building – it’s a judgement call you have to make on every link target before you approach them. Is it more credible, and therefore more likely to get shared, if I build the content THEN share this with the target, or is it safer to contact them first and build a feature with their involvement/awareness of it, to better guarantee a link placement once published.

I’ve used both techniques, and both are proving to be effective.

3. Develop and Post Your Agreed Content

So, if you’ve approached your link target at this point, and they have agreed to link to your feature if you build something around their product/service – you’re now in a position to type out your content and give them something worth sharing.

When writing your actual content, remain mindful of what your link target wants from the piece (to sell more products/services, to raise awareness of something, etc) and ensure you get this across effectively, but also remember that the target will not want the piece to sound as though you are affiliated with them, as it then loses credibility for sharing amongst their readership and visitors, so try to keep it sounding independent and unbiased.

4. Get Your Link

When you’re happy with the content, it’s often a good idea, provided you have contacted your link target beforehand and they are aware of the feature being built, to get their input before publishing.

Ensure it meets their needs and get their stamp of approval before you send it live.

Then all you have to do from here is let them know it’s gone live, provide the link, and kindly ask that they link through to the piece from their website as agreed.


You’ve got your high-quality, relevant link.

Plus, you’ve just built yourself some relevant, unique, fresh content for your site at the same time – it’s a win-win.

The approach not only wins more backlinks at an incredible conversion rate, but it also commits you to continually developing new content for your site – which is often hard to keep up when you have other commitments beyond your niche site.

And that’s that!

Give it a go, and let me know what success rate you have with it by sharing your story in the comment section below.

Good luck! And remember, this is a time-consuming approach, but a very rewarding one.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend an hour or two building custom content and pretty much guaranteeing a quality backlink than spend an hour or two sending template outreach emails to ‘hopefully’ get one or two responses and maybe a backlink from someone.

This is a high-quality, high-impact approach that works – it adds genuine value to your link prospect’s sites, and also to your own.

Let me know how things go.

a backlink strategy for a niche website

Niche Site Step 3: My Backlink Strategy (and an early progress report)

In this post I’m going to divulge my backlink strategy for my niche site.

If you’ve been following my niche site challenge this far, you’ll know that I am not using any paid advertising methods to bring traffic to my niche site – this is pretty much the only rule of the challenge.

So, SEO is the main focus for my niche site, with an aim to get on the first page of Google for my primary keywords ‘pizza oven’ (for those just dropping-in on this post, my niche site is pizzaovenhub.com).

And as everyone knows, aside from on-site content optimisation, the key to good Google rankings is ultimately down to gaining quality, relevant links from other websites.

To do this properly, in a way that won’t lead to penalties from Google (like blog comment and forum spamming), it takes great content, a carefully thought-out strategy, and a lot of time spent putting that strategy in-place.

So, my last post discussed my content strategy and how I built some awesome, engaging, and relevant content for my niche site, and how I optimised this for search engines.

In this post, I’m going to discuss my backlink strategy for the niche site, and how I get this content noticed, shared, and linked-to by relevant websites.

Here goes . . .

My Backlink Strategy

My backlink strategy ultimately comprises 4 parts:

  1. Find relevant links
  2. Outreach, to gain those relevant links I’ve found
  3. Follow-up on outreach to maximise conversion
  4. Consistently repeat

So here’s the 4 steps in more detail:

1. Find Relevant Links

The easiest way to get links is to look for resource or links pages on relevant sites.

These are pages set-up purely with the intention of the website owner pointing his/her visitors to other useful websites. So it shows the openness of the website owner to sharing external resources, and it provides a perfect pitch for your own link to go here.

Brian Dean from Backlinko states in his SEO guide that contextual links are the best (links within posts and regular pages) – but these come more naturally from relationships and awareness of you and your brand. The resource and links pages are the quick wins to focus on when you’re starting-out.

During my research I’ve seen a lot of long-winded and fancy ways to find these sort of links.

But I just went with a very basic approach – I Googled various keywords related to pizza ovens plus ‘resources’ or ‘links’ at the end. So for example:

Pizza resources

Pizza links

Firewood resources

Firewood links

And so on . . .

After all, you’re ultimately looking for high-quality, relevant links in Google’s eyes – so what better way to verify that sites are high-quality and relevant to your field than running some Google searches on your keywords, and outreaching to those that show on the first page of results.

It pretty much guarantees both relevancy and quality in Google’s eyes – otherwise those sites wouldn’t show in the first page of results.

I did try using the -inurl: search technique for resources and links pages, so for example, searching:

pizza -inurl: resources

This is ultimately telling Google ‘I want you to show me all websites related to pizza, that have the word resources in the URL’ – with an aim to just drawing-back only resource pages (rather than sites that contain phrases like ‘the number 1 pizza resource’ and so on).

But it tended not to bring back anywhere near as many relevant results as just searching ‘pizza resources’. Maybe my niche just isn’t suited to this type of search. Anyone else have trouble with this? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Top Tip: Make sure you use an incognito browser window, and sign-out of any Google accounts when you’re searching for backlink opportunities. This ensures the search results aren’t skewed by your previous browsing history or preferences, and Google bases results purely on relevance and site quality.

As a general rule, for the results on each related keyword, I’d run down all relevant websites on the first page only, and contact them all one-by-one.

Here’s how I did it:

2. Outreach, to gain those relevant links I’ve found

UPDATE (04-11-16): Tom Watts from Blog Traffic Builder got in-touch after reading this post and recommended a software to make outreach (and following-up outreach leads) much quicker and easier. The software is called Ninja Outreach, and you can see how it works in my video review here.

You’ll see from this that the software is great for some things, and worth checking out, but for other things, like the ‘broken link’ technique, it’s a little more difficult to use. So it’s still worth taking a look at the more manual method I adopted below.

Another tip I learned from Brian Dean’s SEO guide was to use the ‘broken link’ technique when doing outreach to websites – this delivers a much greater conversion than simply begging for a link to be placed on their site.

What is the ‘broken link technique’?

So, in summary, the broken link technique involves visiting a site’s resources or links page (the page where you are most likely to be able to gain a link), and checking to see which links on that page are broken.

When you find a broken link, you contact the owner of the site, and you now have something productive and useful for them to listen to (alongside your pitch for a link) – you’ve just identified an improvement that can be made on their website.

First things first then – how do you find out if a link is broken without tediously clicking on each link to test?

Well, there’s an awesome free extension for the Google Chrome browser that automatically runs down all the links on a page and generates a quick report on which ones are okay and which ones are broken.

It highlights broken links in red, so you can copy the link and send in an email to the website owner.

Here’s the link to the free extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/check-my-links

And here’s what a check looks like once complete:

a screenshot showing how broken links look using the Chrome extension

So once you’ve found your broken link on a relevant site’s resources or links page, you’ve got your ‘in’ and it’s time to approach the site owner with what you’ve found (and a pitch for your own link to go on there).

The reason the broken link method is so effective is that it’s harder for someone to ignore a broken link on their site than it is to ignore a begging email asking for a link. If they care anything about their website and their own Google rankings (which they should, if they are showing up on the first page of results for your searches), then they will just have to access their content management system, or contact their developers, to correct it.

And while they’re already in there correcting the link, it becomes 100x easier for them to either replace the broken link with the link you have proposed to them, or to just drop your link on the page somewhere relevant (just as a thank you for spotting the broken link!).

So, here’s the template email I used to contact the site owners about their broken links. I pitched an article to my prospects, but I would imagine tools/calculators (if you have any of these on your site) would work great for resources/links pages too:

Hi (name, if you can find it on the site)
I stumbled on your awesome (genre of website) resource page today. Great work!

Just wanted you to know that I found a couple of dead links:

(Provide links here)

Also, I actually just finished my new article over at (URL of your article on your niche site) that contains some great information on how to (what the article is about).

It might make a nice addition to your resources page or a share elsewhere on your site.

Either way, keep up the great work you’re doing with the site.


(Your name)

With this template I hit a conversion of between 7-10% across the sites I found through my keyword searches – which I think is pretty respectable. So for every full page of 10 Google results, I’m just about getting 1 link at the moment.
And to get this conversion up further, I do this . . .

3. Follow-up on outreach to maximise conversion

Sounds simple, but if you’re hitting the outreach hard, it can be difficult to remember who you’ve contacted and who you haven’t – so that you can make follow-ups to your prospects.

This becomes especially difficult if you’re using a mix of both on-site contact forms and emails via your own email client – as then you don’t have one centralised point to pick-up on all the emails you’ve sent.

The way I manage this is by dropping the web address or email address of each site into a spreadsheet – a simple spreadsheet, and just one field for each contact.

When I was a lot younger, consulting for a business, I remember they used a follow-up system for customers and leads, and it was so clunky and unnecessarily complex that it just didn’t warrant the time invested entering all the data, just so follow-ups could take place.

So, now I avoid any software or complex solutions when it comes to follow-ups – your time should be spent on the outreach and follow-up itself, not on unnecessary data entry to try to facilitate these things.

If you get a positive response and a backlink from your lead/contact, then highlight their field in green, so you know not to chase them any longer.

The only other useful field would be a date to show the date you last contacted the prospect – so you aren’t bombarding them with requests every day, or alternatively, you aren’t leaving it too long to follow-up to the point where they have forgotten about your original outreach email.

Here’s my email template for follow-ups to your backlink prospects (though I haven’t used this myself yet as it has been less than a week since I sent the initial emails out – I’m planning to leave at least 1-2 weeks between emails to the same prospect):

 Hey (name)
I just wanted to follow-up on my last email to you about the broken link on your site.
Did you manage to get this fixed?
It tends to have a negative effect on your search engine rankings when you have broken links on your site – and I found your site really useful, so am keen to help you stay visible for other people like me to find you.
Also, did you check out my link? Here it is again if you missed it: (URL of article on your niche site). It shows you how to (what the article is about).
Feel free to drop this in your resources/links page when you go in to correct your broken link, if you find it helpful.
Keep up the great work – I keep on coming back to your site.
(Your name)

This message uses a mix of fear and flattery to help provoke the website owner to take action on the broken link, and to consider your link for their site.

You can repeat this email a few times over if you hear nothing back over the course of a few weeks.

Backlinking is a rather laborious numbers game, so persistence and consistency are key. Which leads me to the 4th and final part of my backlinking strategy . . .

4. Consistently repeat
Repeat the above 3 techniques as many times as possible.

Think semantic (those that are similar to, but don’t include your primary keyword) and derivative (those that include your primary keyword) keywords when searching for relevant sites, and that should give you a nice diverse set of websites to approach for links.

For me, with pizzaovenhub.com a semantic keyword could be ‘firewood’ and a derivative keyword could be ‘wood fired pizza oven’.

With backlinking, there comes a time where your website will have enough search engine visibility and awareness that you’ll naturally gain backlinks from this – it’s a self-reinforcing principle, backlinks gain rankings, which in-turn raise awareness and this attracts more backlinks naturally.

But we’re right at the beginning of this principle, where no awareness or rankings currently exist, so we have to ‘force’ backlinks with outreach initially to get ranked, and then things should naturally reinforce from here forwards.

It is tedious, and there are other things I’d rather be doing, but the fact is, if you don’t encourage backlinks, you’ll never get ranked well, and you’ll therefore never get substantial traffic and revenue from your niche site.

This is a point in your niche site’s progress where consistency and persistence are absolutely key to success – so keep at it, and the results will come. I’ll be documenting my progress as I go so you can see how this hard work pays off eventually.

If you are building your own niche site, there’s plenty to be getting on with in terms of using the ‘broken link’ outreach technique.

If you have any other tips and tricks when it comes to outreach, please share them in the comments below.

Here’s a (slightly premature) progress report on my niche site pizzovenhub.com . . .

An Early Progress Report

It’s only been a couple of days since I started my outreach, and I have already gained 2 Twitter/Facebook shares.

I do have 3 solid leads from this too, who are willing to share future content should they see fit on their sites. These are people I can share new blog posts with, and also present guest post opportunities down the line when I start exploring this technique too.

My rank for ‘pizza oven hub’ has also jumped from no 8 to no 3 on Google – so I must be doing something right with the things I’ve been introducing, although still no ranking to show for my target keywords ‘pizza oven’ – some solid backlinks should change this.

I’ll post a full progress report 1 month from now to show you what has changed with my niche site – and I’ll hopefully be able to accompany these with income reports from the site, who knows!

Stay tuned for more.