Link Building In Times of COVID (Link Builders Take the Wheel)
And it’s okay not to be okay. I miss hanging out in the park, getting my ass whooped at the dojo and going to SEO events and hugging friends and having a drink and, and, and…
That said – we have to go on and adapt, use our bestest creativity and resilience to get through this shit.
Thank your lucky stars your business has an online component. Though you’re probably feeling the effects of lockdowns and furloughs, you do have a longer window to react than pure offline companies.
In addition to that, amazing new opportunities open up because new demands emerge from this crisis. And while your competition is panicking or staring into the headlights, your ability to quickly switch up strategies will give you an advantage… an advantage they might not be able to overcome when things settle into the new normal.
Finally, to just STOP won’t contribute to any economical recovery. You’ll just be a passive link in a chainreaction of businesses holding their breath. While in fact…you’re NOT a passive link in the chain – you’re a motherfucking LINK BUILDER!
Link Building, Now
Taking all of the above into account, it’s clear you should not pause your marketing efforts. If anything, you have to move forward, fast. Just tailor your strategies to what’s in demand right now.
This includes your link building outreach. Getting relevant, high-quality backlinks can serve you in the short-term (referral traffic) and in the long-term (relationships, branding and rankings).
The landscape is changing, but that only means opportunities are shifting, not that they’re disappearing.
Adapt, Tweak, Pivot, Be Agile, Be Opportunistic
To keep on keepin’ on with your link building doesn’t mean business as usual or, as we say in Holland, “to pretend your nose isn’t bleeding”. With some creative pivoting and a healthy dose of common sense, you’ll be able to win great links no matter what.
So how do you do this? According to my one-month-lockdown experience, in some niches it’s going to be quite easy. Just a couple of changes and your prospects will be eager to link out to you.
In other cases, it can be more challenging and the links will come a bit slower than usual. But you’ll soon be able to see what works and what doesn’t. And as always, you learn the most by DOING.
To help you get going with your doing, here’s what I’ve learned so far. In a listicle. Yeah, I know. Sooo 2014.
5 Ways You Keep Winning Links in Lockdown
1. Be a Mensch – Don’t Be a Link Builder
This is something I always emphasize when I train new link builders:
Pitch like a writer, not a link builder.
In your outreach, don’t focus on “getting that linky-link” but on showing the relevance & quality of the content you’re pitching. There are several ways to do this as I’ve outlined in my guide for lost link builders.
But now more than ever, the human aspect of outreach is even more essential. Don’t pretend you’re fine and don’t tip-toe around the current crisis. Add little personable elements here and there in your email. It shows you’re a real human and creates a common bond.
Just a simple “hey you okay?” is cool, but you can also go all out like one of my team members did (her name is Naru and she’s awesome):
Whatever you write though, read it out loud in the grimmest, most condescending, insincere tone you can. This is a great check to see if your genuine, light-hearted, personable intentions could come off as offensive, condescending nastiness.
Here’s an example that got bashed on Twitter (outreach for a movie):
And their peers chiming in:
Humor is a wonderful thing but bring the light, don’t stomp someone deeper into their Corona hole. Heyooooo.
We’ve been trying to be pretty lighthearted about it in our templates, just including stuff like ‘Cabin fever is driving me crazy’ or ‘Alexa has even stopped talking to me’, you know, stuff like that helps a lot.
2. Give Your Link Prospects Some Slack
You don’t know what the situation is of the person at the receiving end of your email. Did they get furloughed, are they worried about their business, are they or their loved ones sick?
I made the mistake of not changing the timing of my follow-ups. For a specific region they hit prospects right in the middle of mass furloughing, and I got this reaction:
So if a prospect is late in their reply, forgot to do something or reacts a bit unfriendly – cut them some slack.
It might delay some of your links going live, but it will increase your chances of a link actually going live at all and you’ll build a valuable relationship for after-Covid.
“We started to talk more. Rather than just pitch ideas, we’re having conversations.”
3. Get Covid With Your Content
When this whole thing happened, my team pivoted any content ideation they did towards Covid-19. I was a bit reluctant about this, especially with industries that got hit pretty hard.
So for some niches, I asked my guys to stick to pitches they created earlier. However, this happened (hospitality industry):
A lot of prospects turned out to be just as thirsty for anything that would be helpful to their audience during this time.
When it came to guest posts, for instance, they were grateful for getting someone else to cover those topics so they could focus on keeping their business afloat. Or on homeschooling their kids (it’s like having a second job with the worst boss ever, trust me 😱 ).
Quick Tips for Coming Up With Covid-19 Content Ideas
Here are some simple ways to brainstorm timely, relevant article topics:
Trends & Covid
- In Google, search for <niche> + trends + 2020
- Pick one of the trends, search for <that trend> + covid
- Look through the titles, and use them as inspiration for your article
Step 1: “Human resources trends 2020” → “Cultivating authentic workplace cultures”
Step 2: “cultivating authentic workplace cultures covid” → the SERP shows titles such as:
- “COVID-19: How to Create an Emotionally & Physically Safe Workplace During A Crisis”
- “COVID-19 Puts Company Cultures to the Test”
- “Covid-19 Creates a Moment of Truth for Corporate Culture”
- “The heart of resilient leadership: Responding to COVID-19 – A guide for senior executives”
- “COVID-19: Work culture in a viral age”
- “How to navigate the transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic”
Step 3: Create your own title
The search results are all great posts on highly authoritative sites. To come up with your own, mix and match or put a spin on them that’s targeted at a certain niche.
And if you’re feeling super creative, identify what’s NOT being discussed but should be.
This is where you offer your or your clients’ expertise for a link prospect themselves, in relation to the current pandemic consequences. Here are some examples:
- If you’re a cybersecurity company → advice on VPN’s for remote working
- If you’re a legal company → advice on employer liability, employee rights, supplier contracts
- If you’re a digital marketing company → advice on marketing opportunities during Covid
4. Prospecting: Travel is Dead? Forever? Nah!
While you need to be sensitive on when and how you reach out, don’t count out specific niches/industries if they’re basically shut down because of Covid.
If anything, they have more time on their hand for things such as online marketing, and this is where you can jump in.
- Delivering content that will help their potential customers now so they remember you and your client later? Check! ✅
- Providing them with expert advice that can help protect and potentially save their business? Check! ✅
So don’t dismiss hard-hit industries – they’re in a funk, but a lot of them are not ready to throw in the towel yet. Collaborate with them in a time where they need partnerships more than ever.
On the flip-side, there are industries that are thriving at the moment, so you might also want to pivot your outreach efforts to those. Some examples are (thanks to Jon Buchan for his input):
- Groceries delivery services
- Meal delivery services (ingredients and recipe boxes)
- Video conferencing (and necessary peripherals – webcams, mics, headphones)
- Home entertainment (Netflix, gaming, podcasts)
- Home exercise content and equipment
- Online counseling/therapy/coaching
- Other ‘at home’ hobbies: drawing, reading, baking etc
- Online learning and course platforms
- SaaS, SaaS, SaaS
If these are relevant to your business, you can ride on their wave and help them out with providing valuable content. They might be so flooded with customers they actually need some extra writing hands.
5. How to Take Care of Your Team in Lockdown
If you’re managing a team of link builders, you have to make sure they’re safe, healthy & motivated.
Whether that’s in-house personnel or virtual assistants at the other end of the world – I don’t care: You are responsible for them.
AND, small detail, if you don’t take extra measures to make sure your team can cope – your link building will take a hit. And that would suck GIANT Godzilla monkey ballz.
Perhaps your team members are working remote for the first time, or they’re somewhere where current conditions are not ideal. Of course there is only so much you can do. One thing I focus on is to make sure they have enough entertainment, brain stimulation and exercise.
I’ve asked my team what works for them and combined it with my own tips:
- Daily check-in meetings, and make them 90% fun (my guy Gab loves his voicemod)
- Create Slack channels around their interests (gaming, music, etc)
- Give them a Netflix account
- Offer a daily paid hour for learning something new, or something fun
- Check in on how they’re feeling, and if they’re taking care of themselves
- OR: set up a Trello task for daily NOT DYING:
(if they fail that one, they’re fired)
(I actually paid them a bonus for not dying as well)
Take it Away, Arnold
These are sucky times. But just because some things are changing, you should not put everything on hold. You have to tweak your old ways of doing things and create new opportunities. So in a non-appropriate, weird and wonderful way, these are exciting times too.
We’ve seen a pretty big demand in people wanting links on resource pages. They’re looking more to diversify and re-evaluate their backlink profiles.
Most of our clients have been adaptable. Fortunately, a lot are in online industries like SaaS and technology companies… they might get even more business from people working at home.
One client in online learning, they’ve doubled down amid increased demand for their business. They see organic traffic as their future. A lot of industries are not cutting back and as people move towards new technologies, things like ecommerce can accelerate.
Editor’s Note: After chatting with Bibi about her article, I thought it would be fun to hop on a quick Zoom call with her and some of the top link builders in our community (quoted above) to start a conversation and hear how they’re adjusting their strategies given that they all have their own unique approaches and operate in various niches within link building.
You’re strong and smart, and you can adapt. Building relationships and building links never takes a break. If anything, now is the time to create bonds that will make your business unbreakable and will make it impossible for your competition to catch up later.
So get your ass into gear, or, as Arnold says:
Love & Distant Hugs,