I’m writing this post because I needed to do a link outreach campaign and I thought it would be interesting to make a case study about it (I’m a bit of a nerd about things like that.) So I thought it would be interesting to turn this into a little case study as its in my city and everything is out in the open. The technique was simple, I’d find some small Cardiff based bloggers and aim to get some local relevant backlinks to hqseo.co.uk. Idea was simple, budget (both time and cost was small) but let’s get going.
So the strategy:
Very simply we would be emailing blog owners simply asking to place a link in a relevant post (or sponsor their next post) in return for £20-150. Ideally the situation is a win-win. We get a nice relevant local link, although it will likely not be that powerful we are just looking for relevance rather than power. And the blogger themselves gets to place a link in an old article which doesn’t receive much traffic anymore & get’s a nice small cash sum. Win-win situation.
Stage 1: Finding bloggers:
To start I searched “Cardiff bloggers” and variations and just went from there. I didn’t really want to look for businesses here as generally even small businesses are highly corporate and £20-150 to a business doesn’t make much difference, to a blogger who potentially doesn’t generate revenue this pays for the domain for a couple of years at least and generates some income outside of ad revenue.
One issue that may be misinterpreted is £20-150 being the “value” of the blog, but we will if anyone gets insulted and how we can deal with that. Update: No one did as we rarely quoted prices, usually individuals had set prices in their head.
Stage 2: Email Addresses + tracking:
Now that we have our bloggers list, roughly about 35 in total, we need to get emails. This is pretty easy as bloggers are generally up for a chat so put their email on the homepage/contact page.
After going through the sites fully we’re down to about 20 that qualify, some are too small/large or simply not associated with Cardiff.
Note: Even after follow ups if no one gets back to me or we get no links I’ll still be posting the results and looking for some advice on how to improve in the future.
When collecting emails, names, interesting post URLs etc I also considered the strength of the domain (ahrefs) and then just made a note of the maximum I would pay for this link. Some of the domains were very strong, meaning if they turned round with a counter offer that was still reasonable we would probably take them up on this as generating local authority/relevance for a website is a pain in the a**!
Stage 3: Emailing itself
The script I used was essentially the below, I tweaked it slightly based on the individual but the baseline stayed the same.
I own a marketing company in Cardiff and found your post (xyz.com), I wanted to know if I could pay you a fee to place a link to our website on this? If you prefer we can also sponsor you to write a future post?
Let me know if you have any questions.
After sending the email I also tweeted some of the individuals just to let them know I was a real person and to get that open rate up a bit.
By this time we started emailing we were about an 90 minutes into the campaign.
And another 30 mins later we were done. 20 people emailed. BRB – Getting some coffee this sh*t is hard work!
Note: Anyone who doesn’t respond in 1 week I’ll follow up once but that’s gonna be it. Let’s see how this goes.
Stage 4 – Connections + back and fourth
During this process I didn’t want to simply get my link and be done, I’m pretty big on establishing connections where you live and in your business, as a result I wanted to build the connection along the way to the link too.
Anyway I won’t dive into the back and fourth of emails I’ll just get straight to the results. There was a lot of back and fourth with a number of different bloggers. Some politely declined, some were SEO experts in disguise and tried to teach me how to do SEO which was nice and others were seriously cool individuals.
Stage 5 – The Results
So before I get to the statistical results from the campaign I wanted to talk about some general results that interested me:
- Personal bloggers are generally really friendly & more responsive than cold emailing companies. Higher response rates, more positive language etc.
- Some are slightly touchy when it comes to talking about commercial interest in their blogs. Tending to over-value the asset in question, which makes sense as they’ve put a lot of work into it and we are trying to value it. This actually happened less than I think mainly because we were a small local business.
- SCARED OF GOOGLE – This was a real eye opener that actually interested me more than the entire process, so will outline it below.
“No follow” paid links
Now if you’ve been in the SEO for any length of time you’ll know the number one ranking factor is links. Brief lesson: No follow links carry “zero” ranking benefit whereas do follow links are great and are what you want. No follow links can be good in some areas to balance anchor text, get some additional relevance and make a site look like more of an authority. For example, all links from Wiki are nofollow but are still pretty handy to have.
Anyway, one of the strange things was a few of the individuals who responded early on mentioned no follow links in the first sentence, meaning they are very scared of “being banned from Google.” Although paid links are “bad and everything”, when done correctly its undetectable, but that’s a black hat story for another time. From my point of view, I found it very interesting how scared Google has made people in relation to this, it does show how well they have implemented their scare tactics.
But anyway, to the results themselves:
Response rate was about 60% – Which if you’ve done any cold emailing in the past you know that’s frecking awesome.
Of the 13 people that responded all were up for discussing a link further. Although about 3 mentioned “nofollow” which meant it wasn’t really worth it for the prices quoted (Around £80-100 in most cases.) A couple of others didn’t want to produce content for the niche, which is fair enough, seo is shady to the average person and on some blogs (say fashion for example) it just didn’t make much sense to do.
So we had about 6 warm connections. 3 of which we got links from. Costing about £170 in total. Below are the screenshot stats for 2 of these links, all links were just branded/URL:
Not bad for a £180 investment.