The Power Of Authors And Content For Link Building
Guest posting is a method of link building that seems to have been done to death over the past year. I’ve seen endless articles that discuss the latest advanced search operator that will help you find new guest posting opportunities.
For me, this approach to link building seems a little too linear, and the processes involved are very convoluted.
When you think about it, there are thousands of SEO companies, webmasters, and bloggers that are all running the same kinds of queries within Google. This means that the competition you’re facing to actually gain a guest post opportunity (never mind finding one) is insanely high.
The typical approach to guest posting is as follows:
- Use an advanced search query (footprint) to find a list of websites that take on guest bloggers.
- Scrape the results and organise them in a manageable format, for example, an Excel spreadsheet.
- Gather extra domain/webpage statistics on the list of websites to find how authoritative they are (i.e., Domain Authority, Page Authority, CitationFlow, TrustFlow, etc.).
- Filter through results to identify the high-quality targets based on a set of criteria.
- Gather contact information for the major targets.
- Build a content pitch for each of the targets and begin an outreach campaign.
- Follow up on responses and get content writers to write articles for the successful pitches.
- Send over the content to the link targets that have approved your guest post request.
- Earn a backlink from within the article’s author bio.
I’m not saying that this process doesn’t work. In fact, I’ve written several tutorials on ways to improve and perfect this process in the past. What I am saying is that there’s a better approach to take than this.
Authors instead of websites
If you look through the process above, it’s all focused around looking for websites that will publish content that you provide them with. Once this transaction has taken place, it’s time to move on to the next website.
This kind of process isn’t too far away from the churn and burn methods that make up a lot of black hat link building.
What I propose (and what I’ve been doing for some time now) is that we approach this from a different angle. Try starting with authors.
Influential authors and bloggers have the ability to not only write great content, but they have access to channels that they can distribute the content through. Additionally, these authors will often have lots of existing relationships with big industry publications that can be taken advantage of, giving you a competitive advantage.
Considering this, it makes much more sense to be building relationships with authors instead of webmasters, especially when it comes to scaling high-quality link building.
Using this method myself, I’ve managed to build links from the likes of Forbes.com, Business Insider, The Chicago Tribune and many more.
The author outreach process
Like with guest posting, this approach can be scaled into a structured process. The big difference here is that we’re not going to start with Google.
Here’s an overview of the process that I take:
- Find good quality content relevant to my niche that has been shared heavily.
- Find the creators of the content and the sites that they’ve posted on.
- Gather extra stats on the authors to find out how authoritative they are (e.g., social influence, contributor list, etc.)
- Filter through the list to identify major targets.
- Reach out to the list of authors and build relationships with them.
- Work with them to create quality content assets.
- Utilise their distribution routes and contacts to build links and social signals to the assets.
Step 1: Finding popular content
This stage is important for a number of reasons. The first reason is that it allows you to understand what type of content seems to perform well within your niche. The second is that is gives you an idea of who the top authors are, and the third is that you can see the websites that are benefitting from working with top-quality authors.
To find the types of content that are performing well, I call in the help of a few different tools. The first tool that I use is BuzzSumo.
BuzzSumo is an incredible new tool that allows you to scour the web to find popular content relevant to your niche. The tool also allows you to gather social media statistics on the content as well, which can then be exported to a .csv or .xls file.
Using the food industry as an example, you can search for “recipe” within BuzzSumo’s “top content” search to gather a list of great content.
Within the screenshot above, I’ve filtered down to only search for guest posts and infographics from the past six months. This usually means that it has been written by an author that writes for multiple publications.
You can then export all of the data into a spreadsheet by clicking the “Export” button to the right of the search bar.
I tend to do this for a number of different types of content within my niche and collate the spreadsheet data into one central spreadsheet. This just gives me more data to work with.
Step 2: Finding the content creators
The data that you get within the BuzzSumo export is awesome. Not only do you get a list of the content URLs along with the social shares across each network, but you also get some information on the authors of the content.
This comes under the “article_amplifiers” and “article_amplier_images” columns. Now, you don’t get this info for all of the URLs, but on the ones that you do, you will get the name or pseudonym of the author as well as the URL of their profile image.
The first thing that I do with this data is filter out any content that has a small amount of social shares (I usually calculate this relatively in comparison to the other content across my niche).
Once I’m left only with top-performing content, I will do some reverse image searches (head to Google Images and click on the camera icon in the search bar) on the URLs within the “article_amplier_images” column to find the social accounts of the authors that have written them.
The screenshot above is the results of a reverse image search on one of the top URLs from within my BuzzSumo export. Here’s the content in question:
It turns out that Kris Carr is a New York Times award-winning author and has also made a documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer. I think that it goes without saying that having a relationship with Kris would be hugely beneficial for any food-related content marketing campaign.
To quickly find the names of the other authors that aren’t listed within the BuzzSumo spreadsheet, I use a little bit of XPath that I learned from Richard Baxter’s MozCon presentation (thanks, Richard!). Here’s that code:
=XPathOnUrl(INSERT URL, "//a[@rel='author']")
You’ll need the SEO Tools plugin for Excel to run this within Excel. Also, you’ll need to replace the “INSERT URL” section of the query with the URL of the webpage.
Apply the formula to each of the URLs within your spreadsheet and go make a cup of tea. After a few minutes, you’ll have a load of author names magically appear within your spreadsheet.
Note: This method won’t gather all the author names, as it only works on content that has a rel=author tag attached to the author’s name. All the same, it’s pretty useful.
Now that you’ve gathered that load of author names, you can start gathering more data about them. I’ll come back to this though, as I’m going to show you some more ways of finding influential authors first.
Another feature of BuzzSumo is its “Influencer Search.” This works in a similar way to Followerwonk’s Twitter bios search tool, but it delivers some slightly different stats.
Staying with the example of the food niche, I’ve typed in “food blogger” into the search bar.
Unlike Followerwonk, BuzzSumo gathers stats about the URL on the Twitter user’s profile. This can give us an idea of the authority of their website as well as their social stats—perfect for identifying influential authors.
Like with the other BuzzSumo search, there’s an export feature so that all the data can be collated into a spreadsheet; I’d recommend doing this.
Additionally, I tend to create private lists within Twitter that have loads of niche influencers within them. This helps me stay on top of what they’re talking about and also any new content that’s coming up in the future.