Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our members, Joshua B Allen, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.

One of the hardest things in SEO is putting a team together to build a sustainable outreach link building campaigns for clients.

Anyone can buy links but real outreach is the next level as it can be a daily grind.

He is currently running an agency called Smartlinks and you can ask him anything related to outreach and its process. Let’s pick his brain.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until bitcoin value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s success and strategies.

3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.


Table of Contents

Are you using any outreach tools?

We use a bit of scrapebox and search operators to find relevant opportunities.

We use mailshake for reaching out to the prospects.

With manual outreach about how long does it take to get a few solid links for your clients?

For a live link, it varies on how quick the prospect answers back.

3 days-5 days. Another 1-3 weeks to see the effects on the serps.

The biggest issue I have seen with real outreach (not from lists) is the time it takes, Can you drop a link to your service?

We’ll have an actual purchase option soon directly from the site.

Do you specifically look for local links or more niche related links?

Depends on the client.

If it’s a local client we look for both niche relevancy and location based.

It helps to get both types.

How are you compensating your employees? Is it hourly or per successful outreach?

Pay per month based on hours worked currently.

We’ve tried per live link but I find the employee burns out quicker.

What metric do you look for?

We look at the basics first like DA, TF, relevancy and age.

You need to determine if it’s an actual site or not.

When prospecting, aim for sites with TF of at least 15+.

What’s the success rate of outreach in general?

3% is the average for most companies.

We’ve got an average of around 5-10% depending on the niche.

Some industries are more willing to accept a guest post than others.

What’s the most difficult part of the process?

The hardest part has been finding quality writers in each niche.

When we first started we tried to get writers who didn’t know much about the niche they were writing about.

It’s hard finding quality writers. It’s even harder finding quality writers in a given niche.

Why did you get started in SEO?

I originally started in 2012 doing Seo for an affiliate site selling a weight loss product.

I originally got into blogging and web design.

Once i found out about seo, I fell in love.

Do you have a template for outreach? Might be too much to ask…. Any good online resource or link that I can read which is closer to your approach?

We have a base template we use and we add on to it for each niche.

I can make a template for you in a little while if youd like.

Did that template ever get sent out?

An awesome template Dan Ray uses:…/Guest+post+outreach+email.pdf

When you conduct outreach to land new links, do you create and manage relevant personas or do you approach webmasters in full transparency as a links provider?

We approach prospects as either part of the marketing team or outreach team.

We always make sure to include our clients business when reaching out.

Do many websites ask for monetary compensation?

I would say 20-30% ask for some kind of monetary compensation.

It varies on the niche.

High competition niches are more likely to ask for compensation.

1. Do you have in house writers or use the client’s/their outsourcers? 2. Do you outreach in your or your client’s name? 3. How do you train your link prospectors? 4. How do you avoid all the blog farms? 5. Do you systemise outreach and follow up to templates or do it manually?

1. It’s best to find writers for in-house.

You’ll have more control over quality and turn around time.

2. We use to in our clients name but we ended up reaching out to the clients friend and it looked unprofessional.

We now use our names but we use the title outreach manager or marketing manager and include the clients business.

3. Build out SOPs and a training area.

The first few times you’ll need to monitor and assist them until they understand the process.

4. Test the domain before outreaching. Check the stats of the domain and cross reference TF.

Another good idea is to try finding posts within the past year on the site.

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Check the frequency of their posts.

5. Systemise it but add a personal touch to each email so it looks like a real person wrote it.

Follow ups can be more automatic.

How do you add a personal touch for something that you send to thousands?

We send out each email manually not in bulk at one time.

What’s the most effective way to find blogs that allow guest posts in a given niche?

Search operators.

keyword intitle:”write for us”

keyword intitle:”write for me”

Keyword intitle:”contribute to”

Keyword intitle:”submit” + inurl:blog

Keyword “submit a guest post”

Keyword inurl:/guest-post/

Keyword “guest post”

Keyword “guest post by”

Keyword “accepting guest posts”

Keyword “guest post guidelines”

Keyword “guest author”

Keyword “guest article”

Keyword “guest column”

Keyword “become a contributor”

inpostauthor:guest keyword

inpostauthor:”guest blog” keyword

inpostauthor:”guest post” keyword

Interested to know what you say in your initial email. Do offer guest posts or to pay for a link or offer something else?

In the initial email we compliment a post on their blog and we offer content from a writer that excels in their niche.

We show some examples.of our writing style in that niche.

We try to avoid paying if we can. Sometimes it’s not always viable though.

What’s your success rate on getting a free peice of content up there. Do you mention you’re going to embed links or just not talk about it and hope its not an issue?

Our success rate varies on niche. 5-10% on average for the success rate.

We let the prospect know we’ll link to another piece of their content as well as a piece of our content.

1. Do you pitch topics in the first email itself or do you first ask if they would like to hear some ideas? 2. Is guest post link building your favorite type of link building tactic or some other?

1. We pitch the first email We send out.

2. It’s one of our methods.

We also do video submissions, doc submissions, web 2.0 submissions.

Social bookmarks on the clients branded accounts as well as manual blog commenting, citations for local clients, PRs, etc.

What do you do if your client doesn’t have quality content to link out to? I guess “free” guest posting becomes harder in that case since the other part can’t see anything valuable?

We do onsite seo and make sure the clients onsite has content before doing the outreach.

What are your best suggestions for coming up with Guest post topics?

Keyword tools and Google trends.

When you’re in a difficult niche , whereby finding sites to work with is challenging to get placements of guest posts, or links to content what are the strategies you use to access tangential opportunities ? For instance, I’m in a privacy / dating niches for the same product and both of those are awful for different reasons.

We find similar sites. If there’s absolutely no prospects, we find prospects in a similar field.

A dating site could land a guest post on blogs about dating, single living, romance sites, etc.

You could even try traveling sites or blogs, personal blogs, etc.

If you’re desperate for a guest post you could try reaching out to broader niche sites like clothing sites and try to incorporate the two niches together.

Are all your content pieces over 3000 words?


3000 would be preferred but we have landed 600 word guest posts as well.

Have you built outreach links for smaller local businesses? If so, what operators and what type of links are you usually getting?

We have. You would need a mix of local links and niche relevant links.

To find the local sites, use search operators including things like your target city name, region name, area name, zip/postal codes, etc.

The nice thing about going for local links is you don’t have to worry so much about the niche.

What type of links do you build for local businesses that you find easy to get and are effective?

If you have a client in New York, most websites and blogs in and from New York will help the campaign, especially with DA of 15+.

What methods of outreach do you find the most effective? Phone or other?

Phone works amazing.

You’re more likely to get a response.

If it’s a tough niche to get guest posts in, I would highly recommend calling if able.

1) While prospecting what factor do you pay most attention to? TF/DA/DR AR? 2) Do you think TF is accurate enough? Coz I might have a prospect with links from high TF sites but also a lot of links from poor TF sites. That would reduce the TF effectively. 3) A rudimentary question about TF : I have noticed that TF of a base domain like is much less than . What version of the domain do you check?

1. All of them.

If we’re scraping a list of prospects we start with TF and cross reference the other stats if we get a response to make sure it’s a legit site.

2. It’s not perfect but used with the other metrics, it can give you a better idea of the prospects site.

3. Base domain.

The two can show different results because they collect data at the URL level.

1.From where should a newbie in link building start when it comes to cold outreach? (when noone knows you and you know noone). 2.What is the best way to connect when trying to obtain a link, when you have to write to a total stranger? 3.Will the upcoming GDPR impact email linkbuilding and how?

1.It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

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If you’re a new digital marketer trying to land a guest post to boost your digital marketing site, have a signature with your name,

Title within the company (founder/managing partner/outreach lead/marketing lead/etc.

2. Try to be natural. Introduce yourself, compliment a page or post on their site or blog.

Propose an idea of a new blog post or page and offer to guest post with 1 relevant link to their page.

1 relevant link to a high authority site and 1 relevant link to your own website.

3. People will always find ways around obstacles.

How long is your average guest post?

800 words is about the average.

600 words is the minimum I would recommend.

You’ll shoot yourself short with less content.

It’ll still work, just not as well.

I just ran the numbers of having an internal writer. It must be like $1500 month = $75 / day. They could do max 2 articles a day. So just simple writer cost is around $40 per article. Then time to arrange links, etc. So all in it’s around $50. Or are you able to get it lower than this?

We’ve basically been collecting writers from everywhere.

We even have job board listings in some major cities hiring college students.

You pay per article.

If you pay per hour, you aim for someone who can produce atleast 2 articles per hour (600-800 words).

Currently paying about $5 per web 2.0, $10-$25 per guest post and $15-50 per onsite post.

What would you recommend Getting Local link is more important or high DA niche works better even if it’s located outside of the country

For local seo? The local link personally.

You’ll get a boost with the high DA site for local and non local but the local link would help the local ranks better.

What is your personal opinion about NinjaOutreeach and BuzzStream vs. Mailshake? Why you prefer Mailshake in this case? Is it because that you just looking for an easy and understandable price plan + mainly focus on outreach funnels, follow-ups etc. and all these other contact scrapings, domain authorities features etc. is a pretty much low priority in good cold email outreach tool?

We prefer it because we use a separate email account for each clients outreach.

Most of the competition only allow 1 email account per sign in.

NO is an awesome alternative.

I believe they allow several email accounts to be used as well.

At this point in time we started building our own outreach tool.

Basically similar to the ones listed without having email account limits.

For seo companies doing outreach themselves.

You should be using a branded email account from the site you’re trying to get a guest post for.

What do you do to accelerate links going live? I have a lot of articles sent out where the webmaster is not publishing the article for weeks.

I did not see this post. I do apologize.

Periodically check every few days.

Give them some time between messaging them.

If they still don’t post it, use it for your own blog post or a new guest post.

Don’t wait too long or they may try to use the content themselves.

How much % chance is that one can outreach and get a guest post for his client without paying anything.

Varies. Let’s say you send out 100 emails.

Out of those 100 emails, 40 are interested. Out of those 40, 15 ask for money.

For this instance it would be 25% of them would accept without asking for money. YMMV.

Do the ones that never ask for money ask for a reciprocal link instead, or do they just do it for nothing?

It’s weird, people don’t usually ask for a link back.

I’ve seen it happen a few times but people usually want good quality content on their sites.

How much time do you spend optimizing the guest post and is the guest post tar getting any KWs that you also target or do you always avoid that? I imagine not though.

The guest post usually does contain some keywords I’m going for because its relevant to my site.

If you use a good writer, you shouldn’t have to do too much optimizing but it’s not always the case.

If you’re using subpar writers, 9/10 of the articles will need to be optimized and corrected.

Can you share what is your experience with real estate niche? What has been the conversion?

Tricky. If it’s an independent you have a better chance than if it’s a big company with tons of realtors.

Stick to the smaller realtors not the big companies like Remax.

If it’s a big realtor company, it’s lower like 5% unless you can get an individual who has a separate site than the big company.

For the smaller companies it’s around 10-30%.