How to Get The “Untouchable” Editorial Links Like The Big Boys
There are always new phases and hot topics when it comes to SEO, and as history tends to always repeat itself, there will be plenty of things that are popular now that will fade into oblivion and there will be plenty more “next best things” to take the SEO world by storm.
I experienced it with Sape links years ago, when Speed Rank was the first service to really offer the Russian link network to buyers from all over the world. Now, with SerpLogic’s outreach service, I am seeing history repeat itself again. Editorial links are hot and it’s not just SEO agencies that are trying to scoop them up as fast as they can get their hands on them; business owners that are attempting to do their own SEO are on the lookout for them also, simply because they are the latest SEO buzz.
They can cost several hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars.. for a SINGLE link. Why is a single link worth so much money?
- They help build trust. To be able to say “My website was featured in Forbes” is the ultimate e-penis statement.
- They are the most powerful single link you can get your hands on. Links are still the most important algorithm indicator, and editorial links give you the juice and the authority. Google assumes any website being mentioned on these sites has to be legitimate and of high value.
- They kick back referral traffic for several years. If you get your website listed in an article on Forbes for example, it’s going to rank high in the SERPs and always pull organic traffic for years to come. Do a search for almost anything and you will often see articles on these mega websites from 2013 and older. So, an editorial link can push referral traffic to your website for years to come. These links are investments in building your business and not just adding a single link to your profile.
- They aren’t easy to get. As you will see by reading this post they are not the easiest links to get your hands on. Can it be done? Of course, but it will not be easy and you will have to be willing to invest a huge amount of time. Most businesses don’t have the time and manpower to do it on their own, so they hire agencies. They pay a premium to get the job done the right way. So, before you question why I would be writing this post when I sell these types of links, just understand that most people don’t have the time and energy to do it. You just have to look at the folks buying sape all these years – people simply can’t be assed with the hassle themselves.
It’s VERY easy to identify the editorial links that are helping your competition rank.
When people use private link networks these websites are often blocking crawlers, so the typical link exploration tools we are all familiar with won’t out these sites. The major websites don’t block crawlers and bots, so if your competitor has links from these editorial powerhouses you will be able to easily find them.
I have been doing a lot of link analysis work recently and I have noticed on things when it comes to editorial links: anchor text is the last thing you should be worrying about, for two reasons:
- I’ve seen a large amount of keyword specific anchor text links being removed recently by the editors. They aren’t stupid; they know the SEO benefit of these links is very high. So, it doesn’t surprise me that they are cleaning up the articles.
- If your on site optimization is solid then naked URL and company name anchor text will still give your website the authority kick it needs to rank for multiple long tail keywords. Let the author work in whatever looks natural, whether it’s the URL or just the company name. Either one will do the trick, and you will see that you don’t need a “make money online” type of anchor text to see results. Natural always works when it comes to editorial links.
Dive into the link profiles of your competitors and find out what editorial links they have.
This is a manual task that will take some time, but it’s really the only way you are going to easily identify the best editorial links your competition is using to rank in the SERPs. I use three main tools for this, and while each one will typically find links for major editorial websites, I have personally seen some missed, so I make sure to run my competition through all three of them just to be sure I identify as many opportunities as possible.
The great thing is that once you run the tool on a URL you can sort the data by DA or TF and quickly see the best links on top. Links from Forbes, Huffington Post, etc. are always going to be at the top, as their metrics are the strongest. The examples below are from an analysis of QuickSprout.com, you’ll notice the difference in data each tool gives me.
Open Site Explorer
Ehhh, Open Site Explorer really took a dive over the past two weeks. It used to pull its data from bit.ly shares but now it appears that relationship is over and now they pull from other random sources. I can tell you now that the “Just Discovered” data is almost non-existent. This is a major step down for OSE in my eyes. I’ve even noticed they don’t pick up on all of the big editorial links on some of the websites I manage.
Here is a quick snapshot of an OSE data pull. If you look, you can see that the links are sorted by DA, from highest to lowest. The desirable editorial links are always going to show up on top when you do this, making your job easier.
As I mentioned, the “Just Discovered” data has plummeted over the past couple weeks since they are now sourcing this data from random (and in my eyes very poor) resources, so I will be paying attention to this over the next couple of updates. If Moz continues to tank I will can it from my toolbox and save myself the $99/month. At it’s current performance level it’s not worth the money. If you pay attention to SEO industry news you will know that Moz just took on more investor money, so look for them to put more effort into the stuff that is making them money, which I assume isn’t OSE.
Using the same approach as above, sort your data by TF and look for the big boy links. As you see, they will gravitate to the top, as the juicy editorial links are always going to have the most Trust Flow. Here’s a nice example of what you should see, very different from OSE:
Download the excel spreadsheets, clip out the weak data and just keep all of your editorial links. If a website has multiple links from the same website don’t delete them. You will want to analyze every single one, as this will help you identify the author(s) they are using and let you see the big picture.
Since Open Site Explorer has gone down the shitter, Ahrefs has become my main source for link exploration. They seem to return the most data and will often kick back some links that majestic will not find. This is why it’s worth the extra effort to run multiple tools. Your data will look like this:
Download it to an Excel file and remove the crap and keep only the top editorial links. Remember you aren’t going to use this data to find directory opportunities or anything else. We are strictly only going after editorial links here. Think of sites like Inc, Huffington Post, Forbes, Fast Company, etc.
Create a list of editorial links to research.
Now, you will want to make a master list for every competitor and sort it by website. Some sites might have multiple links from a single site, so organize it all before you start. It will help you save time in the long run if you take a few minutes to get it all sorted and easy to work with.
Here’s an example of why this works so well: I was doing some research for a client the other day and I noticed that they had 5 links from a major website. After looking at all 5 articles that had the links, I realized it was the same author that posted each one. Common sense told me that this person didn’t just randomly link to the SAME website in 5 different articles by coincident. They obviously have a personal relationship with the website or they are part of a link buying circle, but if that was the case it would be pretty stupid on their part because I found that footprint in 10 seconds.
After doing some outreach it was clear that this author was friends with the website, as he wouldn’t even entertain cash for linking to my client. You will often run into this, and being organized allowed me to go into the process with a strong gut feeling about a personal relationship existing which as indeed the case.
Organization is key, especially if you are doing this on your own. You have millions of other things to do, so saving time in this process will help you greatly. Build strong lists that are complete and organized.
Locate the authors that linked to your competition & find out everything you can about them.
The key to getting editorial links is to establish relationships with the people that have the ability to post content and drop links on these websites. The authors on the top websites are a mix of staff members and contributors, both of whom you are going to need to network with if you ever want to feel the rush of scoring one of these bad boys.
In the previous step you sorted all of the editorial links by website. This will allow you to identify the authors that you are going to need to research and then approach. They are linking to your competition for one of two reasons:
- They are actually interested in whatever content they linked to and it provided statistics to their story. AKA: it was a legitimate link and was placed there without the website working out a deal or pitching the author.
- They placed the link because they were paid to do so. It happens more often than you might think, and guess what? If they accepted money from your competition they will most likely accept it from you for the same link, unless of course it was a personal favor or something.
When I find an author that I want to get to know I use four communication methods. I like to go fairly aggressive and I use all four at once with the intention of getting their attention quickly and making my name stick out in their head. I want them to remember Tommy McDonald, because when they see my name coming from four directions they are more likely going to pay attention and give me a few minutes of their time. Here are my four communication methods:
I can promise you that anyone that is writing for a major website has a profile on LinkedIn and they are active enough to check their messages on a regular basis. This is the most professional way to contact someone, so I would suggest that you create a professional looking profile if you expect anyone to ever respond to you. This includes a fully completed profile and a professional headshot.
Some people will have their profile open and allow anyone to message them. Others will only be able to accept InMail messages, which you can buy. With a premium account you get 15 InMail messages a month.
Pro tip: the authors that sell links and have no shame will have open profiles.
If you have to InMail them it will require a bit more convincing and work. This isn’t when you should pitch. You just want to establish a connection with them. Tell them you love their work and would love to connect on LinkedIn. If they read your message and connect with you make sure to endorse them for a few skills. This helps to butter them up.
Twitter might not be popular with regular people, but the entire journalist community is active on Twitter more than any other social media network. This is because they like to see all of the news in short Tweets, so it remains a very popular option with the people that write for the big websites.
Since you only have 140 characters, you can’t write a detailed message like on LinkedIn, so you will need to do something to get their attention. Simply Tweet them and ask if you can DM them. They will follow you if they agree and then you can send them a direct message. Don’t just ask them for a link. You don’t want to do any pitching now. Remember, the key here is to connect with them on multiple channels so they know who you are. My goal is to always connect with an author on 3 of the 4 (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Email).
Instagram isn’t really used for business, BUT it is the most popular social media platform for regular use and there is a very good chance you can find all of the authors on here. It’s easy to DM anyone on here also, and I can tell you that not many SEOs are contacting authors this way. Some of you are probably wondering why I don’t include Facebook on this list. Well, it’s because Facebook won’t allow you to message anyone you aren’t fronds with. Sometimes you can, but it will go into the “Other” folder, which NOBODY ever checks so the message is wasted. If you can connect with an author on Instagram it will really help your name stick.
Some of the bigger sites will include the author’s email address in their profile. You can also do Google searches to find them (or at least help you guess). The BEST way to use this approach is to send a VERY simple email to them. Something like:
Subject Line: “GREAT article (name)!”
I just wanted to reach out quickly to tell you how much I really liked your latest article about (subject) on (website). Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more of your writing.
What is your Twitter? I’d love to follow you so I don’t miss any future articles from you.
That is a great approach because it isn’t asking for anything, it strokes their ego, and it ends with a questions, which triggers a reply. Then, if they reply with their Twitter handle follow them and then reply letting them know that you just followed them. This really helps you stand out.
Start building relationships.
Once you are connected in at least 3 of the 4 ways mentioned above, start to build a relationship with that person. You have to go easy at first and don’t smother them or make it so obvious. You don’t want to retweet 10 of their tweets right away and start commenting about every single thing they have ever written. You will come across as desperate and they will smell your link intentions from a mile away.
Here is how I use the 4 ways mentioned above to build the relationship once we connect:
Once you are connected here you will see all of their updates in your feed. Most authors will share all of their stories on here, so make sure to give some a “like” and also drop a comment. You don’t have to comment on all of them, as that would look desperate, but pick and choose the ones that you can add nice feedback to that will appear to be genuine.
Giving them endorsements on a regular basis will also help. No need to endorse multiple categories, as they will get the notification even if you just give them one. So, once a month, give them an endorsement so just stay on their radar. It’s a simple way to help them remember your name and face.
The “like” is ok, but it’s kind of useless because it doesn’t help more people see the particular tweet. If you really want to get noticed on Twitter you should @ mention them here and there and also retweet their content, but don’t simply press the retweet button. Make sure you always use the retweet with comment option and include something like “Make sure to read this great article by (include their Twitter handle)” to really get them to notice you. This little extra effort really helps. If they reply and thank you it will really help to build the relationship. Don’t retweet all of their content but once a week is a good amount to keep your name on their mind.
Instagram is more of a personal social network so you can like some of their pictures and comment on a few, but keep it fun and don’t sound too stuffy. This is where you want to show off your personal side. When someone also connects to you on this level in addition to a professional one, it really helps to establish a relationship that can eventually lead to authority link acquisition greatness!
This is something I would advise you only do once you have established a decent connection across the other methods. People get so much email spam these days and you don’t want to come across as annoying, so I would suggest you never email an author more than once a month. You can even do a monthly recap email where you mention a few of their articles. Remember, this is not the place to ask for links. This is strictly relationship building.
Ask for that link and don’t be afraid to throw out a financial offer.
Once you have a decent relationship built up its time to put it to use and see what kind of link magic you can work out. I always go for the free approach first. If you did a good job at sucking up, I mean building the relationship, you can sometimes get them to agree to link to something as long as you make it appear like it’s something their readers would benefit from.
If you REALLY get to know an author you can even offer to give them a unique piece of content that they can have exclusive rights to. This is where infographics come into play very nicely. Large websites love them and authors love them, they just don’t like the lengthy process and cost associated with making them. You have to really get to know them while you build that relationship and see what you can offer that they would be likely to want to publish.
Some of the ways I have won over an author beyond offering infographics, is exclusive interviews with the CEO/owner of the companies I’m doing SEO for. So, if I am doing SEO for a large company and I connect with an author that writes a lot about random business topics I will pitch them the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with a major executive but to take it a step further I offer to hand them a completed interview that they can pick and chose content from.
Why does this work so well?
Most of these authors are paid VERY little if they work for the website or they aren’t paid at all if they are just a contributor. If you hand them an exclusive interview to pull content from you just cut their workload in half (or more) for a new article.
The trick is to think of topics that you can come up with that will give a lot of information to the author. The last thing they will want to do is post a generic interview. It needs to have some really good information packed into it.
Now, if they just aren’t biting…
OFFER THEM MONEY!
Seriously, this is how the editorial link world works. You have to pay to play!
Back to the point about them not making much money…
The smart ones are making a lot of money, because they are selling links all day long. I’ve done enough of these introductions to know that there are two types of authors when it comes to buying links:
- The ones that will never admit that they sell links. They will point you to some middleman that magically will get your link in an article. They do this to protect their accounts.
- Authors that have no shame and will give you a PayPal address to send money to. 5-7 days after your link is live and they even handle the content. You can usually tell by reading their articles whether or not they are easy to buy, because they will write about random topics and random companies and you can spot the link drops from a mile away.
Some authors will be very sketchy about accepting cash, but they will take free gifts all day long. If your client sells something desirable ask them for a monthly allowance of free products to use for bribes. I have done this on many occasions and it is great because you get the links and you charge your fee and the link cost you nothing to obtain because you used product that was given to you by your client. You don’t have to tell them what you are doing. Just explain to them that a set amount of product will help you get them more exposure.
Use HARO every single day. (FREE editorial link opportunities daily)
HARO is free.
HARO is easy to use.
HARO can help you get editorial links for free.
HARO can help you build relationships with little effort.
ARE YOU USING HARO?
Most people will say no. They sign up and try it a few times but they don’t stick with it. Make sure you sign up for the master list and you will get it 3 times a day. Take 2 minutes to read through and see if there are any requests from the big websites. You will typically see a couple in each email. Here are my tips for successful FREE editorial links from HARO:
- Create an email signature specifically for your HARO replies. It should include your full contact information and also your bio, along with what you are knowledgeable about and an offer to help with any of their future stories.
- HARO requests receive so many replies, but most are 1-2 lines from lazy people that don’t know what they are doing. Make sure your replies are very detailed and address the question. Avoid general replies, as those will get deleted.
- Reply to even the anonymous ones. Not all of the major websites will reveal their identity, because they don’t want to get slammed with requests from every SEO under the sun looking for a link. I’ve actually secured links from websites like Fast Company and Forbes by responding to anonymous requests. Don’t assume they are all from low quality websites. They are just trying to stay under the radar.
- If you have the budget, hire a VA and make them reply to every request. Now, your business won’t be a good fit for every request, BUT if you have them reply with a general email that appears to be coming from a PR agent, you might be able to uncover nice link opportunities. Create them an email account from a custom domain name and have them reply to EVERY SINGLE request with something like this:
“Hi, my name is (Name) and I represent a very successful CEO that I feel would be able to provide valuable input for your article. How soon do you need to have his feedback?”
This accomplishes two things. You get them curious. They now wonder who this CEO is and they are going to be willing to hear your pitch. You also end it with a question, requiring a reply. This gets you their contact info, and another person to now build a relationship with. I have built a lot of author relationships that started with securing their contact info through a HARO pitch first.
A lot of people will say that HARO is over saturated and I’d probably agree with them, but it’s also a great source of networking and building relationships with more authors. Plus, if you can secure the occasional editorial link this way for free it only helps.
You have two options if you want the hottest SEO links these days:
- Use a service that can deliver them to you without any fuss and pay the market value. Remember, there are always going to be people that say that they will be able to get you these links, but most are full of it and don’t have direct access. I’ve spent a small fortune on my hunt for these kind of links, getting to the sources isn’t an easy task.
- You can use the information I provided above and start to research, build relationships and pitch. While it will be very exhausting and frustrating at times, it can be done if you are willing to put in the work. It will be a full time job, but for some it’s the only way to get their hands on quality editorial links, as some of these can cost more than a thousand dollars each.
So, if you are going to buy them, make sure you work with someone that can actually deliver as promised. If you are going to try to get some on your own, just be prepared to put in the work and don’t be discouraged if you fail. It takes a lot of work just to get your foot somewhat in the door, the information laid out in this thread is a damn good starting point.
As always I hope you enjoyed the read. Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed below. Until next time.. Ciao for now!