This is a growth hack that will practically over-night boost your website’s backlinks in a measurable way. It’s proven to be just one of MANY growth hacks that have allowed the construction project management software startup I work for, Geniebelt, to boost traffic, get more leads, and increase relevant referral traffic from all over the web. I presented this growth hack on the 10th of May at the Nordic Growth Hackers event in Copenhagen, Denmark. You can see the video of the entire presentation here, or read on for a step by step breakdown of the hack.
Anyone can do it.
This is mantra of my presentation. It’s an over simplification to a straightforward idea- hire entry level folks that want to understand digital marketing and get them excited to learn and do more by giving them a chance to get short but MEASURABLE victories.
Before I get going, I want to mention my favorite quote by Lewis Carroll that sums up the startup scene and growth hacking as I know it, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
I’d get that tattooed on me somewhere if it wasn’t so long and if I also didn’t think hipsters ruined tattoos. Besides, you don’t put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari (sarcasm).
Trackable marketing metrics:
The following are key performance indicators and what my entire marketing focus on daily basis.
- Backlinks / Referring Domains
- Leads / MQL (Sign ups/Referrals/Emails captured)
- Conversions (Purchases/Sign ups/Demo)
- Social Shares
- CPC / CPM / CPL
- UR / DR
The above gives the ability to find out the most import metrics:
~ROI / CAC(customer acquisition cost)/LTV (Lifetime value)
For the benefits of this presentation, we’ll be focusing primarily on backlinks and referring domains .
More Marketing Jargon:
Before I get too far ahead I need to define the marketing terms I’ll be mentioning throughout this growth hack for those that aren’t digital marketers or people that are just learning the craft.
How your site is measured:
UR: The WEIGHT your website carries. It’s based on lots of things – **It’s all about how likely you are to rank.
DR: REPUTATION/STRENGTH of those linking to you.
My grandma used to always say, “If you lay down with dogs, you’ll get fleas.”
This means that if you have terrible friends surround you, you’ll eventually pick up their terrible traits and habits.
In terms of marketing – if you have terrible websites linking to or from your website, search engines will assume you’re running a terrible website too.
A link that points back to your website. There are two types:
No Love. Little to No Credit- a little snippet of html that tells google not to give credit to that link.
The good links. A hyperlink passes the “link Juice.” This is practically currency in marketing.
The root URL of a website e.g., Google.com, Forbes.com, Geniebelt.com, etc.
Why increasing quality backlinks matters:
- Boost to UR/DR
- Increase in traffic -> more sign ups -> more leads -> more money
- More high quality traffic from qualified and targeted websites -> ideal customers
- 40% of SEO
If I owned an ice-cream cart, I know I’d get a lot more sales by pushing my cart on the boardwalk of a beach than I would trying to sell ice pops on a floating iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean.
This is to say, that you want to go to places that your ideal customers hangout.
Where is the niche that you serve represented most online?
What other websites do people who buy your product/service also have?
Where do people talk about the kind of stuff you’re selling?
40% of SEO – backlinks:
Backlinks are how you tie into the web, your niche, and all other things that matter.
If you genuinely think they have a marginal effect on how you rank, then I’m happy to take a look at where you’re getting your intel from- followed shortly thereafter by an inquisitive look, eye-roll, and a quick, “cool story bro.”
Everyone has their own opinion on SEO. Do a little digging and draw your own conclusions.
The Growth Hack
Find domains linking to your competitors and get them to link to you.
Over the span of the year we saw a massive upwards trend in links using this method resulting in following under 4 months:
- 130% boost in traffic
- 428% increase in referring traffic
- Doubling do-follow backlinks
Step 1: make a list of competitors
If you don’t have a spreadsheet of all your competitors (regardless of the size of your company) then you need to figure it out quick. A quick google search can do the job but feel free to use other tools like:
Step 2: select a backlink checking tool
Find one that works for you. Some are free, others are expensive. I recommend spending a little extra cash to be able to get software that you can trust.
The tool we use is Ahrefs, because:
- It updates every 24 hours
- Can crawl up to every hour
- User friendly and easy to navigate
- Good for displays
I use it every day it’s a perfect tool for SEO and for measuring your backlinks- I can’t say enough good things about it. I’m NOT being paid to say that.
Next we’re going to analyze the results of the exported backlink list from one of your competitors.
-Put in the URL in Ahrefs
-Click the Search button
-Click “Referring Domains”
-On the next page, hit export
-Save it as a .CSV file
You now have a list of all the referring domains for one of your competitors. Crazy right?
Step 3: cleaning up the trash:
Not every domain linking to your competitor is “good.” Go through the exported .CSV file of your competitors linking domains and remove the rows for the following:
- URLs of your competitors
o Your competitors are NOT going to hook you up with backlinks
- Sites with a Domain Rating lower than 25
o Sometimes it’s not worth the effort and you don’t need to bother
- Sketchy sites from foreign countries where you have no customers
o This can often be Chinese, Russian, Pakistani, websites that provide no value for you.
- Websites that are clearly unrelated to your product/service/niche/demographics
Here’s a little Bonus Hack
If you do this process for all your competitors, you can combine them all into one large list. You’ll have the biggest list of targeted websites to start getting backlinks from in your niche.
This is how you can eventually overtake competitors and fight for the number 1 spot.
Once you’ve combined all of your competitor’s links into one spreadsheet, you’ll need to remove duplicates. This can be automatically in excel. DO NOT TRY AND DO THIS MANUALLY.
See one of many different YouTube tutorials for de-duping links in excel spreadsheets:
Remove your backlinks from the competitor list
Step 4 scrape Contacts:
You need to contact the right people from your very large master list of potential backlinks. The best way to do it, is to scrape these websites. The scraper tool I’ve use:
Sign up for either of the above services, then download the extension that allows you to scrape contact details with one click. We use BuzzStream and it works just fine.
Open up the URLs and one by one and capture the contact details and social signals.
Make sure to put all of these into their own project and give it time.
You can see an example of the scraping works in a gif:
THIS WILL TAKE A WHILE.
It’s slow going to build a contact list inside of a project in Buzzstream. It’s a perfect job for an intern or while you’re listening to a podcast.
Missing contacts? Too many emails addresses?
Once you’ve scraped all the sites on your list, you may notice that there aren’t any email addresses for some of the sites.
You can take the manual route or attempt to reach that contact via some of social signals. Sites like Who.is or a few google searches may turn up something.
Step 5: Outreach
Now that you have this massive scrapped list inside of a project in BuzzStream. It’s time to do your email templates.
This is where people get LAZY. Don’t be lazy!
Create lots of different types of Outreach Templates and test everything.
Different types of Outreach templates:
The following are different outreach templates I’ve personally received that touch on the different ways you can ask for a backlink. Some templates require sending the emails with custom fields or manually doing some research.
Just dropping in a quick line to ask if it’s fine if that I send some article ideas your way for a guest post at your website geniebelt.com ?
NOTE: In return for the FREE CONTENT/ARTICLE that I will be providing you, I would expect just a favor of a backlink from within the main body of the article.
Let me know if I should send you the topic ideas?
Have a great day!
Share My Awesome Content:
Subject: I love your site
How are you?
I was checking out some of the articles on your site and found your post about XXXXXXXXX. Great stuff!
I couldn’t help but notice that you link to that article about XXXXXX. I also love that resource!
In fact, it inspired me to create a thorough and up-to-date version of XXXXXX. Here is the link to the article I recently wrote in case you wanted to check it out: XXXXXXXX
It might be worth a mention on your article.
Either way, keep up the awesome work!
You Linked to My “Friend” – and by friend, I mean competitor:
Subject: Add link to a post on XXYourWebsiteXX
My friend is XXXXX from XXWebsiteXX, She lets me know that you have been added her url on this post: XXXXURL OF A SPECIFIC POSTX. So for now, could you add my site to this post, too and I can add link to a post on my site or share it on social media. Please consider my request.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Broken Links on your website
I hope you are having a good day.
I really enjoyed your blog but while bouncing around a few articles I did happen to notice broken links and thought you may want to know so that you can fix/remove them. I wasn’t sure, is this the right person to report the broken links on XWebsite nameXX?
Additional Outreach Tips:
While we can’t give it all away for free the above templates do work. Try testing the following:
- More than one ask
o Would you be open to a blogger exchange, partnership, etc
- Try different subject lines
o There are libraries written about this very thing
- Share your best content
o If you have a post that’s proven to be huge, tell them you want to write something similar!
- Best specific
o There is more manual stuff in here, but if you mention a high preforming article and get the right author- this usually results in a good conversation.
- Offer Value
o Don’t churn out shit that nobody wants
- Be Helpful
o Give something- advice, a tool, or something genuine
- Be Different
o Sometime the weirdest stuff gets the most attention
Again, try and test everything! But also find out what is to be expected in your industry for open rates and click rates.
I can tell you I get a lot of these every single day, sometime when I see something that grabs my attention, I’ll take a look and respond. Truthfully, the personal touches more recently have been doing it for me. See what works for you!
Deadlinks – The Additional Hack
This is a bullshit-artist’s way of getting a deadlink and it was referenced earlier in the “helpful template” above. But it works.
A deadlink is when a link to a URL no longer goes to the correct destination and a 404 error is served up instead. This is commonly the result of human error, website restructuring mistakes, websites shutting down, etc.
True Statistic: 2.4% of links on the average website will be dead links.
Another way to think of it is, every website with at least 100 different links will have an average of 2.4 dead links.
Therefore, you can email a massive amount of webhosts and claim that you’ve found a deadlink on one of their pages. If that person gets back to you to ask where you found it, then you can run their website through a deadlink checker:
Note: only run someone else’s website through a deadlink checker after they respond to you.
If you find a deadlink
Respond with the link and tell them they should replace that broken URL with someone from your website or blog. OR you can ask them as favor for finding this, it would be a nice gesture to let you do a high-quality guest post.
If you don’t find a deadlink
Tell that it’s not showing up anymore- but now that you’ve got their attention, you had found it when you were going through their content and was hoping you could find out more about how to get a guest post on their blog- because you really like their content.
Even when you’re wrong, you’re right. It’s just another way to get your foot in the door and genuinely meant to helpful.
Step 7 Tracking results
After you’ve worked your way through this long process, you need to be able to show what you’ve done has work. People want to see results.
Go to Ahrefs, plug your URL into the search box
Under Backlinks, click “New.”
Did you get the backlink?
Backlinks are updated every few hours on ahrefs but it takes roughly 24 hours for anything to show up. See what anchor text was included (if any) and where the back link came from.
Check for the No-Follow!!!!
Follow the direct URL listed in Ahrefs over to where it is located on the referring website, right click on the link to your website and hit “inspect.”
If inside of the html you see “rel=no-follow.” That means you don’t get any credit for that link. Contact the webmaster and ask to remove that snippet of html and make it a do-follow link.
This is a comparison of Geniebelt’s traffic from February 2016 to February 2017
87% increase in overall sessions.
67% increase organic traffic
64% increase to direct traffic
428% increase to referral traffic (other web pages pointing back to our site)
Seeing the accumulated boost was felt across the company and it’s part of why I dig marketing so much. We were able to test, measure, scale, and then view the results.
This is a very simple growth hack with a lot of small steps.
Create a competitor’s list
Use Ahrefs to export backlinks
Get contacts by using a scraper and outreach tool
Test different types of ointment messages
Track your results
Anyone can do this and it’s staggering that more companies aren’t trying. We accomplished these results by doing this growth hacks and MANY others like it.
This growth hack will not work forever. Almost every growth hack you’ll find has an expiration date where google catches up to those that are trying to find a short-cut. There are many reasons that this will continue to work but many more why it will eventually fall out of favor.
Growth hacks aren’t magical silver bullets and there is no replacement for hard-work and good content. Continue to innovate and try new things, just make sure you have a way to track and test everything.
Don’t send off garbage content for your blogger exchanges. It will ultimately hurt you in the end and discredit marketers everywhere.
A big thanks to Nordic Growth Hackers! It has been ages since I took the stage for anything and I absolutely miss the rush of getting on stage and weaving through a presentation with people working on innovating and fun projects.
It’s a great honor especially due to the fact that this event was the first one I attended shortly after moving to a Copenhagen, Denmark from Washington, DC back in January of 2016.
It’s really nice to be a part of a community that’s into this type of stuff. I have friends back home that rant and rave about how they love car shows and I could never understand it because I’m not a car guy. But these events speak to me- it’s my “car show.” I really enjoy hanging around with people that “get it” and enjoy “talking shop.” I’m looking forward to the next one!
See the slides of the full presentation here.