In the hunt for backlinks, there are two major approaches: guest posting or niche edits.
Indeed, backlinks are among the most important ranking factors for Google as analyzed by Backlinko:
Google has even a specific patented algorithm for this called TrustRank, which shows how the search engine utilizes information from annotations and labels from experts to order search rankings:
The number and quality of backlinks directly impact your Domain Authority and thus the potential of ranking your content.
The question is then: how on Earth can I get those golden links?
Fret not, I got you covered with the two main techniques: guest posting and niche edits.
Let's dive right into it!
Defining the terms
What is guest posting?
Guest posting is the process of publishing a blog post as a guest on another website. This allows you to get a natural link to your own website.
Bonus point if it comes from a high Domain Authority site: you'll get some good link juice coming to yours.
So that's it, that is the only thing to do then!
Not so quick!
It is not the only technique and it is not all bees and flowers.
Keep reading till the end to get a more complete picture and decide what works for you.
For now, let's meet the challenger: niche editing!
What is Niche Editing?
For this link-building tactic, you don't need to write a blog post. You can relax your fingers and close your favorite editing tool.
The idea is to add links to your website onto existing content on the other website.
It is as simple as it gets. Or is it?
There are a few things to know about niche editing that you won't want to miss out on.
Does guest posting still work?
Nothing new under the sun, publishing posts as a guest has been a common practice for years.
But in 2014, Matt Cutts of Google declared in a post about guest posting: " if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop."
Has everybody stopped? Not really, and according to the Optinmonster blog, the majority of the blogs actively publish several guest posts each month, and many still use it to gain domain authority and go up in the search rankings.
Now that I’ve convinced you of its potential, you are surely wondering how to build those precious links.
Building backlinks using guest posting or niche editing
Which page to target?
That is one of the first questions you should ask yourself.
Using tactics such as guest posting or niche editing without having a clear link-building strategy won’t lead you anywhere.
Decide which page you want to bring traffic to. In general, a best practice is to provide links to:
- Your moneymaking pages. These could be product landing pages that you can use to rank for high purchase intent queries.
- Relevant articles that are searched by people in your target niche,
- Your homepage.
Prioritize getting deep links, which are backlinks that point to either your landing pages or blog articles. Having too many links to your homepage makes for an unnatural link profile and may cause you to get penalized by Google. On the same note, having too many links directing to your About page may rouse suspicion.
Next, you are to choose a relevant anchor text, that is the portion of text that is set as the link to the URL you have chosen.
You can use many options for your anchor text, from the focus keyword of the targeted page to a branded anchor (with the name of your company).
I just used in the last sentence an anchor text.
What type is it?
Actively building links has a clear benefit: if done well, you will get traffic from a website with higher domain authority.
This acts like an authority transfer which helps you gain more trust in the TrustRank Google algorithm.
Your own domain authority will climb up.
If you paid attention to the previous paragraph (I am watching you!), you may have noticed 3 words: ”if done well”.
There is a lot behind that and if you want to get a good reputation and avoid getting a penalty, you will want to read the following points carefully.
Bad link-building practice can ruin your website and you will struggle for a long time before recovering from that.
Low-quality link builders
It is very tempting to click on one of the results on the SERP when you search for link building that promises you to get XX links for XX dollars (or whatever currency you use).
There are pretty cheap deals, but we’d advise against buying them.
For example, you can find a freelancer on Fiverr for example promising 2000 high-quality links for $10! But oftentimes, these links are spammy and may end up endangering your domain reputation.
In marketing, there are no shortcuts.
The quicker you want things to go, the faster you will go down. Even if you can experience a peak in traffic initially, you will lose in the end.
You may have seen this acronym at some point. This means Private Blog Networks. As the name says, these are networks created for the sole purpose of bringing a ton of links to your website.
Tempting, right? You will have the impression that you control your link building strategy, with a controlled cost. Everything running smoothly.
Wrong! This is banned by Google and the quality of backlinks is very low.
The result? You may be penalized, thus losing rankings and it has been said clearly by Google that you don’t even gain anything by using them.
Are niche edits safe?
Yes and no. As usually in SEO, the answer is “it depends”.
If you use a “white hat” approach as I will detail below, you’ll be safe.
You can be tempted to go the “grey hat” route because you can get a nice increase in traffic as demonstrated on this graph:
But you can get the same results from a white hat campaign, without the risks!
If you turn to the dark side of SEO and use ‘black hat’ techniques, prepare yourself to get into trouble. Basically, this can happen when you buy links (because how can you know how they get them?) or you create your own PBN for example.
To understand better when it is safe or not, let’s have a look at how Google itself sees link building.
What Google thinks of link building
Let’s head to the bible of SEO: Google Search Central.
It is stated that: ”Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”
If you read further the page, you will learn that buying or selling links is against Google guidelines. Even link exchanges or the use of keyword-rich anchor text when guest posting.
To sum it up, only links that are “natural” are allowed.
There are still grey areas there and we won’t go into more details here because it would be an entire long article just on the topic. For now, you can read what Niel Patel says about Google guidelines for link building.
How to get guest posts?
How do I find sites that accept guest posts?
If you decide to go for publishing guest posts, the first obstacle you will face is to find a website that accepts them.
If you feel like a drop of water lost in an ocean of millions of websites, follow my tips below to gain time and energy in your quest!
Analyze competitors backlinks
Knowing your competition is a good idea in general for a business. In this particular case, you want to know who they get their links from.
Chances are that you’ll find a few candidates accepting guest posts.
The secret Google tips
A more straightforward approach, with the drawback of being easy thus popular, is to simply use Google.
Try using the following search phrases:
- Your topic or niche + “write for us”
- Your topic or niche + “guest post”
- Your topic or niche + “blogging guidelines”
- Your topic or niche + “contribute”
You will certainly find opportunities, but they may be saturated with requests or only websites with a relatively low DA.
But you may find better opportunities using a smarter set of keywords, such as:
Your topic or niche + “guest post by”
Your topic or niche + “guest contribution”
Your topic or niche + “contributing writer”
Your topic or niche + “contributing author”
Or anything along those lines.
Notice that I did both searches using the same keyword and I came up with different websites. Therefore, using both methods will bring more opportunities.
You can also use tools like Ahrefs and Buzzstream to facilitate the process.
Last little secret tip: search for websites where an influential writer publishes guest posts.
This technique is not so common and may get you a few gems if you get lucky!
How do you write a good guest post?
Now that you know where you want to publish a guest post, how do you create this wonderful piece of content?
Find content gaps
Spend some time on your targeted website to scroll through the list of articles already published.
What you are looking for is a content gap, a topic or subtopic in their niche that hasn’t been covered yet. Or not extensively.
When you will reach out to the website owner with such a piece of content, they will immediately see the value of it and will be much more likely to accept publishing your post.
Bringing value is the key here.
Brainstorm the title or headline
This is the most important step since you will use it to pitch the website you want to get your post published on.
The best is to write 10 variations and choose what seems the best.
Since “the best” is somehow subjective, you can use tools such as American Marketing Institute Headline Analyzer to get a more objective assessment of the quality of the title.
Here is the result I got for this exact blog post:
Usually the higher the Emotional Marketing Value, the better. People make decisions based on emotions!
Hire a writer
Guest posting doesn’t mean you have to spend hours researching a topic and typing on a keyboard. You can save a lot of time by hiring a writer.
Make sure he/she has some understanding of SEO though.
You can find good writers on different platforms, generalist freelancing ones such as Fiverr or Upwork, or specialized ones such as BloggingPro or iWriter. However, the quality may vary a lot, so a bit of caution is required if you don’t know how to distinguish quality writing from a subpar one.
Alternatively, you can also hire a content marketing agency with an established reputation like Embarque, and delegate your whole SEO content marketing process.
How to pitch for guest posts
Before you even write the article, you have to reach out to the website you identified and pitch them to accept your guest post.
Yes, I insist on the before because you don’t want to lose time and/or money creating the perfect piece of content if your post is not even accepted for some reason.
You only need the topic or, better, the title/headline of the post you propose to publish and a brief description of what it is about.
You can find many outreach templates on the web or guides to learn how to write them, but to help you out, here is an example:
[Something specific about the website, the owner, the company]
I am contacting you to propose contributing a guest post on your site.
Based on what you already published, I think that your readers would love this topic:
[Headline] + [Brief Description]
You can check out the latest example of guest posts [link] I wrote to get a feeling of what you would get.
Would you be interested in my contribution?
Paid or free guest posts
In your search for the next website accepting your article, you’ll find out that some of them will do it for free, others (most of them!) will ask to pay.
If you are asked to pay to submit your post, you have first to check that the website is not spamming you. If not, you have to ponder the value you get out of this publication and decide if it is worth it.
Note that other websites will pay you to get a guest post. Which makes sense because you are bringing high-quality content to their website.
The cherry on the cake!
How to get niche edits
The black hat way
Some people go to others’ websites and hack their content to add links to their websites. I don’t need to say more to make you understand how bad this is.
3-way link edits
The idea behind this is to exchange links between multiple websites.
While it can be an effective way to garner links, a bit of caution is required when executing it. You don’t want your domain to host links from low-quality domains.
Analyze competitors backlinks
As for guest posts, you can analyze your competition backlinks and select the best ones to reach out to them and ask for a link.
This is also known as the Skyscraper technique. The idea is to identify the websites linking to the best content for your topic and propose them to link your (better) version of it.
As for guest posts, you have to pitch the website to get a link from them.
For them to accept, you have to provide something valuable, usually better content than they already link to (Skyscraper) or something new such as a tool (calculator, quiz, etc..), a nice infographic or even a video. Otherwise, you can also propose a 3-way link swap. Here is a template you could use.:
Subject 1: Backlinking opportunities
Hi [first name],
I’m [name], and I'm the SEO content strategist for [company], [company description].
I’ll make this short. It’s often quite hard to get high-quality backlinks, but they’re an essential way to get traffic from search. We’re wondering if you’d be open to having a three-way link exchange with other reputable domains? You won’t have to do anything, as we’ll be handling the whole campaign :). We also have excellent metrics: [insert metrics].
Otherwise, I'd also like to know if you're keen on hosting a guest post. High-quality, SEO and relevant to your audience, of course!
If you are not responsible for this, could you pass me to the right person?
In all cases, offer something their audience will enjoy!
Paid or free niche edits
Through your research, you probably stumbled on many paid offers for niche edits. These are grey hat at least, if not black hat. When paying for backlinks, you need to be careful and make sure that the domain that will provide a backlink has the right metrics, including
- The right domain rating (DR). As a best practice, it’s best to get links from domains with a domain rating that’s higher than yours.
- The topics they’re ranking for. Get links from domains that post content about relevant topics. Otherwise, getting links from irrelevant domains can result in a waste of money.
- Traffic source(s) by country. If most of your target customers live in the US, and you’re getting links from Singapore, you’re maximizing the chances of your content ranking for Singaporean queries but not necessarily American ones.
Using Guest Posting Vs. Niche Editing
Alright, now that we have seen in more detail both tactics, what are the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
Pros and Cons of Guest Posting
- You get your name out there and build your authority
- You control the quality content
- You get links from fresh content
- Your content is not on your website
- The results will get some time to come (Google won’t rank your article on the first page tomorrow)
- Many high authority websites don’t accept guest posts
- It takes time and money to create the content
Pros and Cons of Niche Editing
- You get links from existing (and ranking) content
- Fast results if you choose well the targeted website
- Low investment because you already have the content
- Less exposure of your name/brand than guest posts
- You can’t necessarily control the content or anchor text.
- Many shady practices around those links
Guest posting or niche edits, which one is your favorite? The answer depends on your marketing strategy.
Do you want to focus on creating great content on your own website? Go for niche edits.
Do you want to get your name on high-domain authority websites? Publish guests posts.
But why chose? In the end, the best strategy for backlink building may well be to mix both!