Of all the ‘Wild West’ SEO (search engine optimization), authority and backlinks may be the most notorious. I recently sat in on an industry brainstorm with roughly twenty SEOs and marketing-savvy business owners. They were well versed in research, optimizations, and emerging algorithm complexities, but when it came to site authority – crickets. The state of a site’s authority is relegated to ‘organic outcomes’; its backlinks to the arena of increasingly scarce and scattered experts (and often associated with link farms/less-than-savory SEO activities).
Organic and targeted
Websites can see a lot of progress in their authority, organically. That’s fair. Links come and go with the ebb and flow of outside content. Newsworthy sites have a particularly straightforward time sitting back and letting the authority roll in via links. After all, the right link is a vote of confidence that will contribute to traffic and potentially keyword rankings. But like so many other aspects of digital marketing, leaving the chaos to control itself will only get you so far.
It’s easy to differentiate a site investing in its authority from one that isn’t. Have you ever wondered how a new site on the block is competing for keywords you’ve historically ranked for, despite your commitment to SEO? One likely explanation is that the site is complementing its organic authority gains with more intentional, targeted backlink-building campaigns.
Like most things, your website’s authority is ultimately a game of who you know. That may be an oversimplification, but the reality is that striking up a conversation with the right people, and getting a link to the right page on your site, is going to move the meter. That might mean finding instances where the press mentioned you but didn’t link, creating content designed to attract links. It may also mean *ahem* writing guest posts and asking for a link, among other strategies. As I submit this post for editing, I’ll ask for a backlink when it goes live – easy.
The good news is that the ‘cold’ conversations, also known as outreach campaigns, don’t have to be complicated. They shouldn’t be. I’ve joked that a fitting title for the outreach handbook could be “How to Worsen Your Writing to Improve Your Outreach”. This means that formal, nearly-robotic marketing emails won’t cut it.
In marketing, people hear ‘campaign’ and imagine a funnel of complicated automation, laced with finely written email prose, strategically chosen verbiage hand-picked to trigger conversions on a Tuesday or a Thursday. Outreach isn’t that. Instead, imagine outreach as the opposite of everything you hate when you receive a marketing email. If you need a primer, check out I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry.
How to find a backlink
Finding websites to work with isn’t rocket science until you need it to be. If you’re struggling to identify who might be worth your time to collaborate with, consider the sites you read regularly and trust; who’s linking to your competitors; who’s publishing ‘top 10 lists’ relevant to you; are you getting press coverage where links might have been omitted or forgotten? There are SEO-specific tools that can dig up broader results. Picking one or two good targets based on the above criteria, and working on those, will yield a better ROI in the early stages of your authority moves.
Investing in tools and experts
Speaking of SEO-specific tools, once you hit your stride and feel like the right conversations are becoming harder to find, don’t shy away from the likes of Ahrefs, Semrush, or Moz. Reaching the next level of authority expertise may sometimes demand more granular data. Once you’re working with long lists of target domains and have a lot of plates spinning, it might be a good time to consider bringing in some help. Managing authority strategies in an attempt to compete for multiple critical keywords is a good time to ask yourself if dedicated expertise is the logical next step.
The strategy is to be authentic, and authenticity is a free game – you don’t need a specialist for this part. If you want a backlink from a site, read their content. Engage with them on social media. There’s some finesse in identifying who to talk to and how best to get to the answer you’re looking for. The idea is to establish a connection. There is no bulk sends here. Backlinks aren’t the arena of SEO specialists alone. So, go make some ‘authority plays’!