Whenever you ask someone in your SEO Facebook groups or blogs about the best techniques to build links, you probably get the same answers.
A lot of those tactics have some success, but they might not work always. Sometimes there might be a dearth of details about how they actually work in real life.
Most people seem to be fine with this because they don’t understand SEO very well. Content creators tend to follow this method because:
- What they’re doing gets them ranked on Google.
- Readers tend to click on the link.
- SEO isn’t really the domain of creators and most of them don’t understand it very well.
Considering this, it’s not surprising that various polls have revealed that most people find link-building to be the most challenging aspect of SEO.
In this blog, let’s ignore Google and what you may want, and let’s focus on the nitty-gritty of successful link-building.
The key to building successful links for your business or your clients is to take one tactic and master it as opposed to running about with several different tactics.
Master one tactic and become part of the 1% SEO providers for that tactic. The method we’re going to discuss changes the game for a few reasons:
- It’s simple and straightforward.
- It can be scaled easily.
- It’s inexpensive.
- It works in every segment.
- It can be outsourced
Read on to know how.
Building white hat links is not a secret process, veiled in some mystical chant. There are no magical spells or shortcuts.
Successful link builders pick one link building method and master it. They don’t keep jumping between different methods. Pick one method and execute on it until you master it.
So, here I am all prepared to teach you everything about the technique I love. It is called the Shotgun Skyscraper Technique.
When it comes to link-building, there is a lot that you can do. Most people use multiple methods and tactics to grow online.
But soon they get overwhelmed. To really dominate the SERPS, it’s best to learn it through a structured course.
Shotgun Skyscraper – An Overview
The Skyscraper Technique is Brian Dean’s method of finding content with a lot of links pointing to it and simply creating content that is better than the original by being more in-depth, adding more media, etc.
Next, you need to reach out to the people who are linking to the original content and offer them your blog post to link instead.
The most common variant of the Skyscraper method is the Sniper approach. This approach entails sending a personalized email to each of the owners of the sites linking to your competitors’ content.
This method is effective, but very time intensive.
Do the math: if you send 1 email every 10 minutes, that’s 6 emails per hour and 48 emails per an 8 hour day, assuming you don’t take any breaks.
On the other hand, you might send out 200 automated e-mails every day. And just hope for someone to reply.
So, how does the Shotgun Skyscraper method work?
Semi-personalized emails are sent using templates. Don’t forget that link outreach is a volume game. It’s better to get 5% of 1,000 than 25% of 50.
Shotgun Skyscraper Keyword Research
You should choose keywords with a high Keyword Difficulty (KD) score. The competitiveness of keywords is referred to as their KD score. It is usually easier to rank keywords with lower KD scores in Google.
The Shotgun approach does it differently. Here, you actually find keywords with a high KD score. Keep in mind that the Keyword Difficulty measures the number of links that point to the top 10 results in the SERPs for a particular keyword.
As discussed earlier, the Shotgun approach is most effective when you have a lot of sites to contact and keywords with a high KD mean tons more links. Keep in mind that the focus is not to rank your Shotgun Skyscraper content but to use it to get more links to your domain.
How To Find Good Keywords
For keyword research, you should use services such as Ahrefs, which may seem expensive when starting out but speed up the process significantly.
Start your keyword research with a broad, encompassing keyword and then use that as the basis for finding your Question keywords with the high KD score subsequently.
The broad keyword for this example is “acid reflux.”
The keyword has a high KD score of 64 which also means that the competitors’ pages will have lots of backlinks to them, which is exactly what you need.
The next step is to make sure that this keyword has a good amount of informational content published around it. This is important because it’s easier to get links for informational content than for money pages.
You can use the ‘Questions’ section of Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to quickly check this.
One keyword that looks promising is ‘How to get rid of acid reflux’ because:
- It’s competitive.
- It’s informational.
- It’s a decent choice for the skyscraper method.
The above data is just for the top 10 results, but you should export the top 100 results from Ahrefs as a .csv file. The next step is to run each URL through Ahrefs Site Explorer to find exactly which sites link to it.
Keep in mind that all these pages are linking to a competitor’s post and that they would probably be willing to link to your post on the same topic. Remember it will happen only if your content is worth linking to.
Once you get the results from Site Explorer, click on ‘Backlinks’ in the left-hand menu.
Refine your results by choosing ‘One link per domain’ and also filter the links by using ‘Do Follow’.
You can see that by analyzing a single URL, you get 87 sites to contact.
Next, click on ‘Export’, ‘Quick Export’, and then ‘Start Export’.
Open the .csv file and find the column ‘Referring Page URL’. These are the pages linking to your competitor’s article.
Repeat this process with the top 100 URLs you exported earlier. Collate all the ‘Referring Page URLs’ into a single “master” sheet or document.
Creating Skyscraper Content
When using the Skyscraper method, it’s easy to overlook content quality. Most marketers just skim through the articles on how the Skyscraper method works, and they don’t fully understand it.
If a content creator puts out a 5,000-word piece of mostly fluff, people are not going to link it.
For the Skyscraper method to work, your content needs to be significantly more informational and valuable than your competitors’ pages.
Your content should encompass all your competitors’ key points and, at the same time, provide more in-depth and relevant information. You can also add value by making your post easier to read.
Keep the following pointers in mind:
- Avoid pop-ups.
- Don’t use affiliate links.
- Avoid making it a fluff piece by using fillers.
- Add mixed media – a picture is worth a 1,000 words.
- Make it informational and engaging.
How To Find Email Addresses
The next step is to find email addresses of the hundreds of sites identified in the previous step. You can try to approach this manually by perusing each site for the contact information, maybe even go as far as perusing the code for Mailto tags.
Hint: ‘About’ section of business Facebook pages are a good source of email addresses.
With this approach, you’ll eventually get stuck again.
Let’s do the math again. If it takes you 2 minutes to find an email, and you have to find 1,000 emails, that’s 33 hours of hair pulling work.
With this in mind, it’s better to subscribe to a service like Hunter, which can do this entire exercise in seconds.
Hunter utilizes multiple sources of data available in the public domain to find the email address associated with each site. All you have to do is upload a list of URLs and Hunter does the rest.
Your information is processed and Hunter gives you a list of valid email addresses.
Typically, about 30-60 per cent of emails are valid. For the remaining unresolved sites, keep a separate list and either tracks them down manually or use other tools.
This is important because, as per the data, responses from hidden emails are comparatively higher.
Hunter can end up listing up to 10 emails for a single domain. You would have to use some sort of excel macro or a script to find the most effective email address to use.
The Negotiation Phase
In utopia, people will give you links just because they are happy to help. In reality, a good many of them will ask you to pay for links.
Paying for links is utilized by many sites but it can get very pricey very quickly. With a little effort, you can save that money and any trouble from Google.
When asked for payment, try to move the conversation over to a more collaborative or mutually beneficial tone. With a little bit of perseverance, you can probably get the link for free.
Divide replies you get from prospects into categories such as:
- Paid links
- Link exchanges
- Guest posts
Now, use a preset reply template for each category to move the conversation forward. Put a lot of thought into your reply templates.
You want the contact to move forward with your proposal. This tip has significantly worked well to generate links for us.
The Shotgun approach reduces your time significantly, so whatever time you do put in, make it count.
It’s Just Another Funnel
Think of the Shotgun approach as just another sales funnel. It’s about the right mindset to implement this approach.
Break the system down to steps and each step is a yes or no filter funnelling sites towards your ultimate goal of garnering links.
You can devise a metric to measure against for each step and then devise a test to allow you to optimize each step.
It’s an iterative process, but you’ll end up with a smooth system that crunches through your prospects and spits out the desired results in a more effective and efficient manner.
Remember, outreach is just a numbers game. The more you pour into the top of the funnel, the more likely you are to get unpaid link placements coming out of the bottom of the funnel.
Each step of the Shotgun approach has been broken down into steps for you.
Assign a resource to each step and keep optimizing it to suit your needs. This is the most efficient way for white hat link building at scale.
Bear in mind that if you keep on jumping from one link building method to another, you’ll probably never get the results you want.
But master one approach, become part of the top 1% at it, and you will turn your site into a powerhouse of link building.
Among the pioneers of Digital Marketing, Pradeep has been part of the Internet Industry since 2000. He has been a serial entrepreneur for the last 17 years and is currently the CEO of Digital Vidya, a leading Digital Marketing and Data Science training company. A graduate of IIT Delhi and a recipient of Adobe Content100, Pradeep is one of the most sought-after international speakers in Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship.