ChatGPT for link building: A primer
This quick guide shows how to use the popular AI chatbot to support your link building processes and campaigns.
I’m fascinated by the potential of ChatGPT to improve link building tactics, focus efforts and deliver efficient campaigns.
After performing over 1,000 prompts and using the tool for client campaigns, I’m certain ChatGPT should find its way into your SEO tool stack. Below, I’ll cover how the AI chatbot can be used for link building processes.
To set up this article, I had ChatGPT write me a nut graph:
“The use of AI-powered tools like ChatGPT is becoming increasingly popular in the world of SEO, and for good reason. In this article, I’ll be showing you how ChatGPT can be used for link building and why it’s a valuable addition to your link building toolkit.”– ChatGPT, prompted by Kevin Rowe
Yes, I think I will do just that.
Before we jump in, I want to explain the anatomy of a prompt.
Can ChatGPT assist with an article on link building for SEO?
When planning and executing campaigns, I use established models referenced in reputable books and universities. I can’t memorize them all, so I frequently have to review my book notes or search Google to find templates. This typically involves 5+ websites and several clicks for at least an hour of research.
Let’s see how ChatGPT does at recommending a template for this article.
Prompt: “What are 5 contemporary case study templates from highly authoritative sources?”
I don’t hate these results, but I need more direction to make this usable and actionable.
Prompt: “Which of these case study templates are best for a 1500-word article on link building?”
I don’t know if I completely believe this, but I’m no quitter.
Prompt: “Write an outline for that article about using ChatGPT for link building, using that template.”
This isn’t a lousy outline for less than 5 minutes of work. Although it requires the touch of a subject matter expert (SME), and the headings could use some SEO love.
Let’s follow this structure for my article and see how it goes.
Using ChatGPT for link building: A case study
Case study overview
The importance of using ChatGPT for link building
After using ChatGPT for research and testing it with my team, the business case for ChatGPT is to:
- Build a deeper understanding of specific tactics and tools.
- Narrowly focus the direction of efforts.
- Build efficiency in research, planning, and on-site content for earned links.
Introduction to ChatGPT as a potential link building tool
ChatGPT is like a junior SEO specialist who reads a lot. They may not have the experience and context to understand a technique’s impact, but you can identify many great ideas with the right prompts. But I guess that’s just being a manager and leader.
The ideal scenario would be that the entire link building process could be automated in a way that was 100% compliant with Google’s link spam guidelines and have a short-term impact that drove 3:1 ROI.
However, the realistic application is it can save time and resources at various stages of a known process or help with rapid brainstorming of new link building ideas.
To use the tool, you’ll need to develop your own prompts. This clever graphic from Rob Lennon provides a robust structure to get the most useful responses.
You don’t need to use this structure for every prompt. But as you’ll see below, a good prompt structure is helpful to uncover insights that could have taken much longer to find otherwise.
A brief background on link building
Current landscape of link building
Which link building technique should you use? This is as polarizing a question as presidential elections, at least for an SEO geek.
Here are significant considerations when creating a link building strategy.
Link building ethical considerations: A wide range of tactics can be used. All of them have different levels of risk. If you’re concerned about link building ethics, you will want to stay up-to-date on Google’s perspective on links.
Google’s POV: Google’s John Mueller suggests building great content and telling people about it through social, relevant blogs and forums, and other online or real-world communities.
I highly recommend you reference Google’s material on link building (especially if you’re in a Your Money Your Life (YMYL) niche):
- Watch the SEO Office Hours for more detail on their POV.
- Review their link spam policies.
- Read Google’s recent documentation on SEO link best practices.
- Check out the search quality evaluator guidelines, a great source for evaluating a site’s quality.
- Subscribe to Search Engine Roundtable by Barry Schwartz for his excellent coverage of Google’s search documentation.
Link building techniques: These can be categorized into paid, organic/natural, and earned links. Backlinko’s list of link building strategies can help you gain direction. I highly recommend customizing your own email templates for outreach.
Here is a general overview of the common approaches.
- Paid links: Guest posting is popular. This includes creating content for third-party blogs or trade sites, which can be paid or organic. There is a wide range of metrics, quality standards, and contextual considerations when selecting which site to spend time working with for a placement.
- Link earning: Creating content that has a unique value proposition (UVP) or a unique selling proposition, and then sharing it with a community to see if they will like and share it. Basically, going viral. It’s a lot like product marketing but with content.
- Digital PR: Using tools like HARO to secure links through journalist outreach.
- Link reclamation: Includes unlinked brand mentions or unlinked thematic mentions (i.e., finding articles with a contextual but unlinked keyword).
- Niche tactics: Then there’s a variation of tactics like infographic distribution, unique data-driven articles, coining new phrases, widgets and calculators, and so much more.
The limitations of current link building techniques
Following ChatGPT’s template results in a wordy article, so let’s keep the rest of this simple.
No link building tactic is guaranteed to work. They are all time-consuming. The economy of link building is the biggest limiting factor.
Limitations of ChatGPT
Refer to this list of limitations from OpenAI before using ChatGPT for real business applications.
Challenges with SEO-specific link building
Earning links is among the hardest facets of an SEO or content marketing program.
After building thousands of links, I’ve found the biggest challenges with running a scalable and impactful campaign include the following:
Evaluating site quality
Content and site quality are critical to SEO. Algorithm updates like Penguin and the December 2022 link spam update powered by SpamBrain make it so.
65% of marketers use third-party metrics such as domain authority, domain rating, or page authority to evaluate site quality which Google does not use. Instead, the search quality rater guidelines point to factors such as contextuality, reputation, usability, and the quality of the site or contributors as an entity for such evaluations.
Also, note that this document was updated on December 15, 2022. ChatGPT has no information about recent changes because it is not connected to the internet.
Determining which factor drove your KPIs forward is difficult on both domain and page levels. Google has stated it devalues links to a site and doesn’t demote the site if it’s caught performing link spam. This creates major challenges for analysis.
On-site content creation and off-site link research, prospecting, and outreach are mind-numbingly resource-intensive and time-consuming.
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ChatGPT as a solution for link building
Looking at the challenges of link building, I've found a few applications to solve these massive hurdles.
Evaluating site quality
Unfortunately, ChatGPT can't evaluate site quality for you. This simplifies the process of interpreting Google's guidelines on site quality.
Prompt: "Create a list of criteria to evaluate site quality for link building against Google's Quality Quality Evaluator Guidelines."
Let's dive deeper.
But how do you identify expertise and reputation? I asked to "elaborate on expertise and reputation" and got:
Not very algorithmic, but for those who want to do link building that complies with Google's guidelines, this can be useful.
So let's get more specific and find software to help.
OK. Now I need a step-by-step process to use a tool. Let's use Ahrefs.
This does have some initial value and will provide direction for people new to using Ahrefs for link building, but this is great for initial direction.
In the same line of thinking, ChatGPT can give you some tool recommendations.
However, with general prompts like, "What tools are best to evaluate a site's ranking improvement in Google."
I used the word "best" which is not the most concise language, but let's see where it takes me.
I love Serpstat, so let's see if I can quickly identify a process to evaluate my keyword rankings.
There you have it. I'm certain we can go much deeper into niche tools and processes with these types of prompts.
I've been attempting to completely automate natural link building techniques, to no satisfaction.
You know what would be amazing? If ChatGPT could help with broken link building.
This looks amazing at first glance and would have saved me hours of research, but none of these links are useful.
I thought this would be clever if it worked, but this list was of internal links or to pages that had no links pointing to them. This doesn't help with broken link building.
However, with some prompting, I was able to identify a tool (Ahrefs again) and get answers for how to find the broken link reports...
You can also save time with "act as" and the "step-by-step" prompts.
Let's see If I can use these prompts to understand John Mueller's perspective on link building and have Brian Dean write me a strategy.
First, let's see what Mueller has to say about how to build links.
Now I need to design a link building program with a strong foundation in great content (The response above suggests creating viral content, which is its own article).
Prompt: "Write me a strategy for SEO link building as if you were Brian Dean from Backlinko."
I'll take this and see if I can make it more actionable.
The step-by-step hack doesn't provide the exact steps to the point where I can follow just this plan, but I was able to narrow down and find some direction in under 5 minutes of prompting.
ChatGPT for link building – a promising use case
Content marketing and link building are different from programming. There isn't much published research from reliable sources to train against.
When you have people to reference, known strategies and specific tools or processes, ChatGPT can potentially reduce research time.
I hope to see ChatGPT provide more valuable automation and scalability. But right now, it's a great assistant to shorten the research and planning process.
Consider creating your own prompts to show you how to use general SEO/link building specific tools or quick references for established processes.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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