For online subject matter experts (which, face it, all B2B content marketers are!), SEO isn’t just a buzzword—it’s survival. The difference between a first- or second-page Google ranking makes a profound difference in traffic, conversions, and your bottom line.
While most businesses have resources dedicated to technical SEO—things like pristine on-page practices, sitemaps, and code—the element of authority, more often than not, falls in the lap of marketers.
To boost authority (and improve SEO), the first step, of course, is to foster a following and subscriber base with a high-quality and effective content experience. But nourishing and engaging your customers is only part of the equation. To achieve true SEO authority, marketers must venture off-page. This comes in the forms of external linking and citations from equally authoritative, and highly relevant sites in the space.
However, long gone are the days of pay-for-play links and other unscrupulous practices. To make your off-page strategy effective, these connections need to be truly meaningful and provide real value to respective audiences.
To identify promising content partners, look for the following attributes:
Domain authority: Using an SEO metric analysis tool (such as Moz’s free Link Metric Chrome extension) check out how high a potential partner site ranks in terms of their domain authority—the higher their score, the more credibility they’ll provide your site in the eyes of Google when they link back.
A natural fit: Don’t force it—if your audiences and messaging are too different, it will only result in a jarring experience for all involved. Rather, look for brands that are in peripheral categories to your own, where shared content will be truly meaningful and provide real value to respective readerships.
Existing partnerships: Does your prospective partner already accept guest posts or have a history of collaborations with other brands? While it can certainly be worth introducing the concept to those who don’t, brands with off-page experience will have an immediate understanding of the intentions and goals of the collaboration.
Once you’ve selected your short-list of sites, it’s time to reach out. But establishing connections is easier said than done. More often than not, they’ll require a cold email proposing a collaboration. But cutting through the noise of an inbox, especially with an unsolicited message, is no easy feat. Here are some best practices for getting that elusive blog editor, content marketer, or marketing manager to say yes to an off-page link swap.
Be the Right Person for the Job
Full disclosure: as the Managing Editor of Zoocasa.com, an online real estate brokerage and news resource specializing in homes for sale in Toronto and other major Canadian markets, I am in the unique position of both spearheading, and receiving, such efforts. In addition to managing the content creation for our brokerage blog, I am tasked with seeking out thought leadership collaboration opportunities—and of course, link swaps.
This also means I’m constantly bombarded with emails from guest-posting hopefuls, and from the typo-laden to the meme-embellished, I’ve seen it all. But the quickest way for your earnest pitch to find its way to my trash is to come from a third party.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s certainly value in using agency services to manage outreach, but an external email address immediately indicates two things: first, my email is on a database somewhere, and second, that blog idea is being shopped to multiple outlets at once. Rather, outreach from a like-minded content professional from your organization will at least garner a read.
Track Down the Right Contact
Another trait those deleted emails have in common is they aren’t addressed to me personally—often, they’re forwarded to me by our customer service team. General inboxes are where content pitches go to die, and this is so easily solvable with a little research. To start, fire up good ol’ LinkedIn and look up who at the organization handles the curation of content. Then, it’s time to get a bit investigative: if you can’t source their email online, predictive email format apps such as Hunter.io or Chrome extension LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help you narrow down their contact in a pinch.
Send the Perfect Pitch
As previously mentioned, no editor or content manager worth their salt is interested in pre-existing content. Not only is it a turn-off from a journalistic approach, but it’s harmful to your partner site’s SEO, too. Rather, develop a few thoughtful pitches created with that site’s editorial focus, audience, and tone in mind. This indicates your intention is to provide great, mutually beneficial content.
That doesn’t mean you can’t seek to gain exposure for studies or infographics that your company has created—just be clear that you’re prepared to provide a custom version for your partner, with a unique angle geared just for them.
Including a clear example is also a great way to establish quickly your intentions and the quality of your content offering, which is why I typically include a deck on my cold outreach. It doesn’t need to be fancy—just a well-branded presentation that boasts of your existing partners, highlights your content, and explains who its creators are.
Be Upfront with Your Motivations
Some brands may not be immediately clear about the value-add you’re proposing. They may assume this is sales outreach, that there’s a hidden cost or some other catch. I find that establishing upfront why I’m reaching out—to collaborate with relevant and authoritative brands in the space and to cultivate off-page SEO opportunities—works wonders. Finally, don’t be afraid to take the conversation from online to a call—the more personal the connection, the better!