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A Link Building Blueprint: Utility Linking
Almost every SEO I know spent the better part of last week discussing recent changes Google made to its ranking algorithm. This update hit some webmasters hard while others went unscathed, and results still seem to be settling out.
Nothing I’m working on was impacted (knock wood) probably because I tend to use a wide variety of linking tactics over a broad spectrum of sites. I think it makes a lot of sense to diversify my linking efforts, if any of my partner sites are dinged in an update, I’ll be fine since I have a lot of additional links out there working for me.
This week’s blueprint tactic is known as “utility linking”, it’s a great way to increase your backlinks and help insulate your pages from algo shifts. (Previous article: A Link Building Blueprint: The Foundation.)
The basic premise behind utility linking is simple: using various pre-set phrases plus your keywords, you find sites to add your content to.
Sounds pretty straightforward right? Well, yes and no; some of this is simple URL submission, but some of it involves being a little creative and working beyond straight link submissions.
To illustrate, I’m going to use the phrase “dog grooming” as my keyword and go through several ways you can increase your backlink counts through utility linking.
Begin With Simple Link Searches
You’ve probably seen this link building method before but didn’t tie the name to the tactic. Basic utility linking uses preset phrases plus your keywords to find submission opportunities. Here are some common phrases :
- add URL + dog grooming
- add website + dog grooming
- submit site + dog grooming
- suggest a site + dog grooming
You can develop lists of phrases on your own or use one of the many utility tools on the market. I go through the first 20 results and look at each site as a potential link partner; you can go deeper of course but I’ve found after 20 results the quality usually goes down.
Of the four phrases listed above, I combed through the “suggest a site” results, it took me about three minutes and I found four prospects; two directories, a news outlet and a Twitter account. I doubled checked the two directory pages showing in my utility results to see if they were also showing in the index for the single term “dog grooming” (they were) so I added my site to each.
In less than five minutes, at zero cost and using only one of the many preset terms I have, I gained two links on indexed pages.
I also found a news outlet and a Twitter account that looked interesting. The news blog was dog themed, a quick check of their editorial policy showed they accepted story or article content.
I always try to pitch a series or multiple articles so I’ve negotiated for time as well as content. It took two minutes to find their editorial policy and another 10 minutes negotiating the content placement. We netted three links and established a new guest blogging outlet.
So far, I’ve spent 15 minutes working for my five links. Since I’ve only searched one phrase (suggest a site) and there are approximately 50 more, I think it’s a safe bet to say I’ll probably be able to pull at least 75 new links from my efforts.
The Twitter account I found in the SERPs belongs to a pet Q&A site and had been listed four times. I like the “listed” feature on Twitter, if anyone takes the time to create lists and add sites, they’re passionate about their topic. Go through these lists, friend the people on them and research each member to see if they have a blog as well.
Use the fact you follow their list as a way to break the ice when you email and inquire about guest blogging. Increase the number of times you tweet to at least six times a day, point to the content you dropped on the news outlet and as a guest blogger. Support your content where ever it sits.
Discover Resource Link Searches
Some of the sites in my development portfolio reside in niches dominated by big brands, they rank well and tend to run promotions everywhere I look.
When I want to find a list of sources hosting content or being cited by big brands, I do a little resource utility linking and run this:
linkdomain:domain-to-check.com site: .edu “resources”
The opportunities with this are endless and I’ve found killer sites to partner with. You can change the TLD and quoted term to broaden your search, drill through all the results to be sure you’re taking advantage of everything.
If you’re interested in being listed in The Open Directory Project (DMOZ) this will help you find the right category to submit to:
- “Only submit sites to this category ” + “Dog grooming”
Adding your URL to the wrong category is one of the main reasons sites don’t make it into DMOZ. Improve your odds by letting the right category come to you.
5 Tips For Utility Link Building
Before you start a utility campaign, have the following ready to go:
- Several 400 – 600 word blog posts or articles using varied anchor text phrases pointing to internal pages of your site.
- Compile a list of references so bloggers can see what you’re doing and where.
- Keep a spreadsheet handy with all the sites you submit to, once you’ve added your content set up an alert to keep an eye on the link(s).
- Consider hiring an intern to help with URL submissions; focus your time on finding blogs, forums, niche directories and other outlets to host your link embedded content.
- Read through this utility linking article for additional sources and phrases.
This tactic is very effective and will yield a lot of links, but it can also be a time killer so find a pace you’re comfortable with and keep at it. Until next time, good linking!