The Secret to Securing Free, High-Quality Backlinks: A Step-by-Step Guide

As a link-builder, you’ll often find that outreach targets ask for payment in exchange for links back to your site.

But instead of dipping into your budget each time you needed a link, what if you had a reliable method for consistently securing free, high-quality backlinks?

That’s exactly what we want to teach you in this post.

Now, let’s delve into a few highly effective techniques to help improve your prospecting process and land you some great, non-paid backlinks.

But first, why do some sites ask for money while others don’t?

Target the Right Sites to Avoid Link Fees

Many outreach campaigns result in cash-for-link requests because link-builders make the mistake of targeting sites that primarily generate revenue through content.

Unlike company blogs, these sites don’t publish content to market a particular product or service. Instead, their content is their business. They tend to be well-established publications, rank well on Google, and monetize their high visitor counts through digital ad impressions.

As a result, such ‘content-only’ sites receive a ton of link requests every week. They understand the benefits a link from their site can provide, so many of them decide to charge a placement fee for the privilege.

In fact, some marketers create and grow content sites for the sole purpose of selling links to link-builders. That’s their whole business model (often referred to as “link farming”). But working with these sites can be costly, and their links can underperform. Over time, a site that accepts money for links will often lower its criteria for relevance and who can buy links. This can end up degrading the website’s overall quality and, in turn, its linking value. And, of course, we should probably mention that buying links to manipulate rankings is a direct violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines and carries a certain amount of risk with it.

So content-monetization sites aren’t your best bet if you want free links. But what’s a better alternative?

We suggest you narrow your focus to ‘real’ company websites when prospecting for sites to reach out to. That is, sites within your niche that use content for marketing their products or services.

The reason for this is simple. These companies aren’t interested in making money directly from their content. All they care about is generating leads and customers. So if you can make their lives easier by providing them with a great piece of content written by a subject matter expert or a linkable asset that helps them better serve their audience, you have a strong chance of earning a non-paid backlink.

Now, let’s uncover the best ways to find these sites. Next up, we have a video featuring Bibi the Link Builder, who will guide us through the prospecting process. She ensures we avoid content monetization sites and concentrate on targeting non-paid link opportunities.

How to Fine-Tune Your Prospecting Process for Free Links (3 Steps)

Here are the steps you should follow to build a target pool of relevant company websites:

1. Explore Your Audience’s Digital Stomping Ground

The first step is to discover what kind of company websites serve the same audience as you.

When building a prospect list, there are three main types of company websites to look for:

  1. Sites that rank for keywords or related terms you want to rank for: For example, suppose you run a garden furniture business, and you want to rank for the term ‘6 seat garden furniture set’. The goal here would be to pitch your linkable asset to gardening sites that rank for similar terms.
  2. Sites that are relevant to your customer journey (but aren’t direct competitors): Here, you’d pitch your asset to sites that mention topics like gardening tools.
  3. Sites targeting a niche that correlates with yours: Here, you’d pitch to sites that cover topics like bird-watching because your audiences overlap.

2. Create Search Expressions to Find Suitable Sites

Once you have a better grasp of the kind of sites in and around your niche, you’ll need to identify common patterns and create a list of search expressions that you can then use to find specific companies and their contact details.

Search expressions are basically a combination of keywords, modifiers, and advanced search operators that allow you to exclude specific results from your searches (in this case, content-only sites).

They are key for ensuring you only target suitable prospects.

3. Build an Advanced Search Operator Campaign in Pitchbox

Finally, you’ll need to load your list of search expressions into an Advanced Search Operator campaign in Pitchbox.

Pitchbox will begin retrieving your prospect and personalization data which you can then use for your outreach emails.

Watch this step-by-step over-the-shoulder video walkthrough on how to get high-quality backlinks for free.

Prospecting Example: Email Marketing Software Provider

Now let’s see what this three-part prospecting process could look like in action.

For the sake of this example, let’s imagine you work for an email marketing company and want to find some prospects for free links.

1. What Other Sites Does Your Target Audience Visit?

You start by heading to Google to see what other companies might be involved in your target audience’s customer journey.

Obviously, people use an email marketing tool like yours to help market their business. But they use other tools for this job too.

To get a better sense of what these tools are, you search the term ‘best marketing software’, which leads you to a software comparison site.

Here you find a list of business software categories and learn that marketers also use tools like reporting software, landing page software, and accounting software.

Since most of your email software clients also use accounting software, you realize accounting software providers could be ideal companies to reach out to. If you created a linkable asset around accounting, they could use it to promote their product to their readers and link back to your site in the process!

You add ‘accounting software’ to your list of prospecting keywords.

2. Defining Your Search Expressions

You know that if you just use the keyword ‘accounting software’ to find websites for outreach, you’ll end up with many content-only sites, review sites, and affiliate sites that just talk about accounting software and monetize their content.

You need to create some refined search expressions to limit your search to companies that actually provide accounting solutions.

To define these search expressions, you look for anything that can help you differentiate accounting software websites from sites that just talk about accounting software.

You notice that almost all provider websites have a pricing page. So you create a search expression containing a modifier to only include sites that have a ‘pricing’ page URL: ‘accounting software inurl:pricing.

You repeat the same process for all your other prospecting keywords.

3. Loading Your Search Expressions into Pitchbox

You head to Pitchbox, my link building software of choice and create an Advanced Operator Search, name your campaign, and enter your list of search expressions.

Then Pitchbox crawls the SERPs for all the expressions you entered and delivers the list of targeted prospects complete with contact details and personalization data.

Now you can begin your outreach!

Final Thoughts

Many link-builders fail to secure free, high-quality backlinks because they keep reaching out to sites that monetize content.

But with a few strategic tweaks to your prospecting, you can sidestep link fees altogether.

The solution is to target companies that share a common audience with you and pitch them a linkable asset to help sell their products or services.

We’ve seen that creating a prospect list of suitable company websites for your outreach campaign can be a little tricky. But once you’ve found a way to exclude link farms and content-monetization sites from your list, you’ll be ready to start the outreach phase with confidence.