Link Building With Interviews: How Thought Leadership Builds Links & Leads

In 2009 we found that visitors from our two blog interviews converted to inquiries 3X more than visitors from our SEL articles. We also discovered, in the link building query group interview we conducted with 21 link builders, the “share-power” that interviews can have. That piece received 443 tweets, 238 Delicious saves and over 4k links. Our second most-popular article at SEL received 161 tweets, 126 Delicious saves and 301 links.

So. Do you interview others or try to get others to interview you?

Either way, the queries are the same to find your prospects. Here are query ideas to get you started.

Media interview queries

[kw] intitle:expert interview or talk or discuss or answer
[kw] expert interview
[kw] intitle:”group interview”
[kw] intitle:”advice from”
[kw] intitle:”chat with”
[kw] intitle:”conversation with”
[kw] intitle:”discussion with”
[kw] intitle:”q and a with”
[kw] intitle:”tips from”
[kw] intitle:”q/a with”
[kw] intitle:”q&a with”
[kw] intitle:”question and answer with”
[kw] intitle:”questions and answers with”
[kw] intitle:”thoughts on”
[kw] intitle:”talks with”
[kw] intitle:”talk with”
[kw] intitle:”discusses”
[kw] “group interview”
[kw] intitle:”thoughts from”
[kw] intitle:experts interview or talk or discuss or answer
[kw] intitle:experts interview or talk or discuss or answer
[kw] intitle:expert interview or talk or discuss or answer

To speed up your research, auto-create these interview queries in our new link building query tool. Just add your keyword and select “Thought Leader” from the Asset Type dropdown menu.

Running queries and analyzing your interview prospects

The queries above show you people and sites that conduct interviews (targets for getting interviewed) and they show you people who submit to interviews (targets for interviewing).

If you want to get interviewed, use our guide to qualifying link prospects to identify the sites that will have the greatest impact on your rankings. For large digs I’d also recommend removing the “intitle:” command from the queries above, running each query and then analyze them using the SERPs dominator process. This will show you a far larger universe of prospective interviewers (hat tip to Dennis for this idea).

If you want to interview people in your industry, make note of people who consistently give interviews and gather all the URLs of all their interviews. Interview subjects are highly-likely to help promote your interview with them. Make note too of community metrics that illustrate their social reach such as Twitter follower count, how many times they’ve been listed on Twitter, their blog subscribers, etc.

By no means should your interview prospecting stop with queries though: your existing relationships are another great source for interview prospects.

To interview or be interviewed?

Interviewing others—especially group interviews—has the potential to earn many links but far fewer leads. Getting interviewed earns you one link but many leads. If you’re newer in a space, build your community and reputation by interviewing others. If you’ve been in the space longer this does not give you the “right” to be interviewed, but you will have a better chance of landing interviews through outreach.

Interviewing others, either solo or in a group, requires careful question preparation. If you land an interview with a prominent industry expert you must go back and review their previous interviews (it won’t do to ask questions they’ve already answered elsewhere, unless you use a different angle). In group interviews you must create engaging questions that help your guests demonstrate expertise and meet the information needs of your audience.

Getting interviewed requires far more finesse and relationship building. You’re asking others to “vouch” for you to their readership, plus do the actual work of interviewing you which may require becoming more knowledgeable about what you do. If you don’t do your homework in approaching potential interviewees you’ll come off looking arrogant and overreaching. But, the leads are worth the effort.

Further thoughts on interview execution

Preparation is everything, whether you’re interviewing by phone, email, audio podcast or on video. Treat every interview like a serious business engagement by conducting thorough background research. Know where your subject went to high school, his first job after college and be prepared to ask how these historical nuggets impacted his ascent to the top of the industry (unless those questions have already been asked in other interviews). But you’ll know this because you already sourced and took notes from all previous interviews by querying: ["person's name" interview].

On the other side of the microphone, in some cases you may get more interviews if you write and answer great questions for yourself and simply submit the interview as if it were a guest post. Researching previous interview questions with industry experts—and staying relentlessly, thoroughly helpful—will help you ask yourself some solid questions that make it easier for your interviewer to hit the publish button. Further, be aware that the person interviewing you might be interested in your capacity for pushing the interview in your community. It won’t hurt to let them know how you plan to help promote them!

Group interviews done well are exhaustively thorough. Here are two fantastic examples from the link building space: 11 Experts on Link Development Speak Out and Link Value Factors. Your goal as a group interviewer is to dig out nuggets of actionable brilliance using questions and your decisions about organization and editing. It’s a lot of work, but if you have great interview subjects and incisive questions, the links will follow. Plus, promotion is “baked in,” as the interview subjects will mention the interview to their network.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Week Column | Search Marketing: Public Relations


About The Author: is co-founder of Ontolo, a link building agency and co-author of, which leads motivated readers through the methods and processes of large-scale, crawler-based link research, link acquisition and linker-targeted content strategy.

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  • nickstamoulis

    Hi Garrett,
    This is a very interesting post about incorporating interviews as part of a link building program. I have always found it very tough to set aside the time for an interview. I agree with you that the relationship building part is a must and that is what is what takes an extreme amount of time.

    As the owner of an SEO blog, I find it tough to dedicate the resources to this, since 50% of my readers are SEO/SEM industry folks, who may link to the post, but the big question is, will I generate any qualified leads from this? Not too, sure, this is why I have passed on this in the past. After reading your article, I may consider it as a goal for 2010 to incorporate into the mix…

  • Garrett French

    Hi Nick!

    To be clear, the lead increases that we have seen come when we’re interviewed by others. Both of our interviews in 2009 were within the “SEO space.” However, we sell into SEO agencies too.

    This article wasn’t just a recommendation that SEOs get involved in interviews though… your clients should consider working to get interviewed too, and certainly to conduct group interviews. Those queries will show you who interviews and gets interviewed frequently, as these folks are good targets for outreach.

    On our group interview we did see some leads as well, but only because the post was so widely circulated. Group interviews take a lot of time and leg work, but the benefits are fantastic both to you, the community and the people you interview.

  • eg

    Hi, Garrett! We’re so glad the WordStream interview generated some leads for Ontolo! We’ve had a lot of success with interviews on our blog. We find it brings in new readers.

    Some great tips here. Thanks again.

    Elisa Gabbert

  • Garrett French

    Hey Elisa! Yeah – we’d be up for another interview anytime ;)

    Also, it’s nice to hear that interviews bring in new readers – we’ve been publishing offsite only, so don’t have subscription growth data.


  • Julie Joyce

    Excellent piece as always sir…and I’d like to add that in addition to seeing good leads coming from being interviewed, I’ve also seen good ones come from being quoted in content, period. I think there is an inherent amount of trust that comes with having your words referenced on a site where you have no real “pull” so to speak.

  • Garrett French

    Hey Julie!
    Wow… you’re gonna make me come up with a whole new set of queries ;) Great tip!



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