1. SEO & Link Building Philosophy
Hi Kelsey! I’ve been a fan of your work for two years now. Thank you for taking the time to shed light on SEO at the level you and OGM operate. I’d love to dive into your SEO and link-building “philosophy,” if you will. For starters, 2020 was a volatile SEO year for many. Some pointed fingers at guest post links, while others doubled down on the tactic’s validity. “Digital PR” and “linkable assets” both became buzz phrases. What are your favorite link-building tactics, and did 2020 see any changes there for you?
Our strategies have surprisingly stayed somewhat the same throughout 2020 and 2021. The one tried-and-true method for link building that continues to work for us is to build relationships with other sites.
If you focus on building relationships with other domains that are in your niche, you can reach out to them on a monthly or bimonthly basis and share suggestions about existing or upcoming blog content where they can add a relevant link to your content and vice versa.
We have 40+ partners to date, and these partnerships have allowed us to reach all our link-building goals with ease. Plus, many of our partners are guest posting on other domains and don’t mind adding a link or two to our clients within their articles. This allows us to earn backlinks on new domains that we wouldn’t otherwise have received a link from.
In 2021, we also jumped on the “digital PR” bandwagon because, to me, that’s really what it’s turning into—PR. You can’t guest post your way to hundreds of backlinks unscathed (and trust me, I’ve done this and suffered the consequences of a manual action).
Link building in 2021 is all about finding places to get your brand mentioned that actually offer value. This means less spammy guest posting, more high-quality quote placements from CMOs, and/or unique content that includes proprietary data to give other sites an actual reason to link to it (more on that below).
2. Who do you think is good to study right now?
You’ve been building links for several years. For up-and-coming link builders, who do you think is good to study right now in March 2021?
I personally love reading articles by Ross Hudgens from Siege Media. He totally understands the holistic view of SEO and how link building plays a part in it. He also shares really tactical advice on how to actually build lists, what tools to use, etc.
I personally love listening to his interviews with growth directors and lead SEOs from successful SaaS companies to gather insights on what competitors are doing for link building and what we could try at OGM. This interview with Kevin Indig has been on repeat for me.
3. Runing outreach campaigns at scale
You’ve run outreach campaigns at scale. What is your favorite software to set your outreach teams up for success?
It’s a no-brainer: BuzzStream or Pitchbox. When it comes to scaling outreach, you need a tool that can help automate sending emails, and those two are my faves. You’ll also need a tool to help build outreach lists, and Ahrefs is by far my favorite for this.
You can easily get a list of relevant, high DR domains by searching competing domains in Ahrefs and pulling all the referring domains to that site.
Filter out all the “noise” (e.g., wikipedia.com, amazon.com), and you’ll be left with a high-quality list of websites that you can build link partnerships with.
The last tool you’ll need is a prospecting tool to find professional emails for outreach. Hunter.io, Clearbit, and ContactOut are the three we use at OGM.
The key to a successful outreach campaign, however, is to find the right people to reach out to. Make sure you’re finding emails for marketing managers, SEO managers, or growth managers.
These are the people who are most likely managing the blog and other content, so they would be the people actually processing requests to add links.
A rule of thumb: if you find yourself having to explain the importance of link building to the people you’re reaching out to, you’re contacting the wrong people. Pretty simple.
4. Google’s top 3 ranking factors
Super reductionist: What do you think are Google’s top three ranking factors as of today?
I think the top three ranking factors are (1) whether or not the content satisfies the intent, (2) whether there is enough internal linking and “link equity” flowing to a certain page, and (3) whether the domain has overall topical authority on the particular keyword a piece of content is trying to rank for.
To break it down: satisfying the intent is basically the 101 of ranking for content. You can understand the intent of a certain query by simply looking at the SERPs and seeing what types of pages rank for that term.
If you search for “inventory management software,” you’ll see all the results are either a page comparing different tools or a landing page for a specific product.
This can easily inform us that if we wanted to rank for that term, we’d need to create either a comparison page listing different tools or a landing page for our product (or both!).
Creating an informational blog post defining what inventory management software is without actually providing solutions probably won’t perform well because it’s not satisfying the intent for “show me the tools that I can manage my inventory with,” which is what this query is inherently asking.
Internal links are so, so important. I’m constantly amazed at how much of a factor this is in determining how a certain piece of content will perform organically.
Whenever we make an optimization to a certain page, we make sure there are at least 10 internal links pointing to a page. And don’t be afraid to get “hacky” with it and find creative ways to add internal links through modules.
For our client LendingClub, we noticed internal linking was a huge issue. The blog and the resource center were siloed from the rest of the site. To fix this, we added a linking module on all the core landing pages as well as basic text at the bottom of every article that links back to the resource center articles and vice versa.
Finally, topical authority is a rising-tide-that-lifts-all-boats sort of thing.
This is difficult to quantify, but essentially, the more topics you publish content on and are an authority on, the more likely you will be able to rank faster for related topics.
Whenever I create a content strategy for a new client, I make sure we have strong content on our pillar piece (e.g., “inventory management”) and then we begin tackling related topics that will help us increase our overall authority on that topic (e.g., “inventory management tips,” “inventory management apps”).
5. Linkable assets for companies on a budget
We know links are huge, but some companies can’t afford to buy them or even manage ongoing outreach campaigns. For companies on smaller budgets, what are some creative ways they can try to create valuable or interesting enough content (infographics or otherwise) to serve as “linkable assets”?
Create content that uses proprietary data. And by no means does this have to be hard or complicated.
A quick way to get proprietary data is to conduct a survey with your audience and customers. You can even interview a handful of partners and include their quotes within a content piece.
ShipBob did this with their customers at the beginning of the pandemic when many brick-and-mortar stores were moving online and existing e-commerce stores were having to change their marketing strategies.
Their COVID-19 e-commerce advice article drove a total of 76 referring domains and ranks on page 1.
Another trick is to write listicles that target comparison intent. We did this for our client Skubana in their article on the best Shopify apps.
Once published, we reached out to all the apps mentioned on the list with a message that gently stroked their egos. Here’s what it looked like:
Let me tell you, people ate it up. The rule of obligation is definitely at play here (i.e., when others do something for us, we feel a strong need to return the favor.) It’s now become one of our top-performing outreach campaigns.
6. Google isn't the only search engine
Hypothetical hot take: if Google imploded tomorrow, what platform would you look at next to begin building a ranking strategy for your clients?
Assuming YouTube didn’t implode along with the Google search engine, I’d have my clients make the switch to ranking on YouTube. I personally love video content and see time and time again that whenever we add a video to existing blog content, engagement goes up and that page performs better over time in searches.
I’d also have my clients repurpose their YouTube content on other social platforms like Instagram Reels and TikTok. There’s something so “sticky” about those platforms. . . That Gen-Z is onto something. . .
7. Perfect complement to SEO
Assuming budget is no issue, what do you feel is the perfect complement to SEO?
Having an amplification and social strategy. I feel like there are so many missed opportunities if we publish an article and no social promotion follows.
When done right, the comments on social media are a goldmine of information.
And when people do engage, I’ve noticed they usually engage on the social post and not within the comment section on the article itself. Many times the comments are filled with insights into questions customers have that we can later update our article with answers to.
The comments can even go so far as to inform us about certain topics we should consider prioritizing and creating new content for.
8. Did we miss anything?
That was great—thank you for sharing all of that information! Is there anything you’d like to add that I might have missed? If there are any particular graphics you want to include, feel free to send them over, and I’ll be sure they’re inserted in the proper place!
No sir. 🙂 I think I’ve covered it all, but lemme know if you have any other questions for me!