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How to Deal with a Link Drought

So recently I had my one year ‘anniversary’ of working at Boom, and what better way to celebrate than getting loads of links for our clients and being really good at what I do… Well, it didn’t quite work out like that, not on the outreach front anyway. I experienced what we’ve come to call a link drought.

If you don’t know what a link drought is, you’ve probably already guessed what it is. I wasn’t getting many links (that’s being generous, I wasn’t getting any) and despite my best efforts with my content promotion and outreaching methods, things weren’t looking up.

‘What has you being rubbish at your job got to do with me?’ I hear you ask. Well, from what I’ve been told and from what I’ve read, at one time or another a slow-down in links happens to us all, so I’m going to share my experience of how I felt during the drought, how I reacted and finally how I got out of the link slump, so if you ever find yourself in the middle of a link shortage, you can help yourself get out of it.

Before I start… My first piece of advice: don’t ever say that you’ll quit your job if your next piece of content doesn’t get links. Twice.

A Bit of Background – The Link Flood

wave gif

Here at Boom, we have some really talented designers who put together some genuinely awesome content, I’m not just saying that so they continue to give me jaffa cakes. In fact in my previous job one of the directors came up to me and showed me this pretty cool interactive coffee content and said ‘this is what we should be aiming for’. Not too long after I left for Boom and discovered that our guys had actually made it.

This makes my job easier when it comes to outreaching our stuff. You might have heard people say ‘content is king’ which implies that as long as you’ve got good content, the links will roll in. I can’t say I agree with this entirely, like Matt Barby highlighted in Brighton SEO last year – you can have the best content in the world, but if you don’t tell the right people about it, it won’t get links, or it certainly won’t get as many as it can do with good outreach.

Back to what I was saying… Our designers produce awesome content, which makes things easier for me when I’m promoting it, because when you show it to people that have an interest in that area or niche, most of the time it does actually take their interest because it’s so well made and looks sweeeeet.

Cast your minds back to summer, specifically July. We made these Star Wars Music Albums for our client Superfi, and I was given the task of outreaching them. As I’m sure you’ll agree, the albums are really good, pretty funny and well designed which made outreach super easy for me. I did my outreach, contacted people I thought would find it funny or interesting and we landed 100+ organic links because the content was so good.

I made friends with the people that I’d spoken to about the Star Wars Albums (I’d highly recommend you do the same with your successful outreach projects) and got in touch with them again for my next few pieces of content – if their sites were relevant of course – and the links continued to come in from high quality, relevant sites. Winning.

What To Do In a Link Drought

A key thing to remember when outreaching is that not everybody will say yes, don’t be demoralised when people aren’t interested or out-right just ignore you. You’ve got to stay confident in your content and the fact that you’re not just link fishing, but you’re actually helping them fill their sites with content that will engage their audience and increase social shares from their site, it’s mutually beneficial when done properly.

After a while of not getting any links, after being so successful for all those months, my head did start to drop a bit. This wasn’t helped by the fact my colleagues reminded me that I’d said I’d quit my job if I didn’t get any links.

Aside from that, quite a few of my tasks at this time were outreach and promotion, so for a time I felt like I wasn’t very good at my job. So what do you do? Do you carry on doing what you’re doing and hope things change? Do you experiment with your outreach methods and see if you get more success? Or do you just drop it and get on with something else?

I did all of the above.

1: Keep Doing What You Do Best

Like I said, you’ve got to remain confident in what you’re doing, even if you have to force yourself to keep going. I’d got links before, some from huge sites we thought we stood little chance of getting featured on, and knew I could do it again, so I persisted. I tried to get in touch with old contacts, I looked for new sites and started to target smaller blogs rather than bigger sites.

Many factors can affect the result of your outreach, from the time of year (December seems to be a bit slower) to the news at that time. For example, if you’re outreaching to news sites around the time of a global news event, it’s likely that journalists will be focusing on the story and not your infographic. External influences can, and do, play a big factor in the success of your outreach.

2: Experiment With Your Outreach

We’ve all heard that Einstein quote that says ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’, right? As far as I know, I am not insane, as I’m sure you’re not either, therefore after some time you have to hold up your hands and admit that it’s not working and change things up.

There are plenty of tools available now that show you if your emails are being opened and if your links are being clicked on – Buzzstream now does both, although the link tracker is a bit hit and miss, but I’m sure they’ll get it right in time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re not using Buzzstream, you should be.


2.1: Look at the data

Use this information to tell you where you’re going wrong:

  1. If your emails aren’t being opened, you know you need to change your subject line.
  2. If your emails are being opened but the link isn’t being clicked, you know your emails need tweaking.
  3. If your emails are being opened, the link is being clicked, but you’re not getting placements, then you know you’re either getting in touch with the wrong people or the content just isn’t strong enough.

This gives you an understanding of where you’re going wrong and how you can improve. You just need to then go and do it! The screenshot above is from a project I struggled to get links for, but as you can see my emails were getting opened by some pretty big sites. So my subject line was mostly spot on, but I wasn’t getting placements, so either my email or the content wasn’t right.

2.2: Try different techniques

One way in which I tried to get out of the link drought was to go old-school and do some broken link building. This is basically where you find a broken link on a page, and you email the author or site admin and say ‘this link is broken, here’s a link to some content that’s similar but works’. Who isn’t going to update their site for links that actually work?! Give it a try!

3: Leave it for a While

If you’ve got time, leave the outreach for a couple of weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes later on. Fortunately for me, I don’t exclusively do outreach, so there were other things for me to get on with to take my mind off the fact that I was struggling to get links and that I had to quit my job.

When you come back to outreaching, you’ll find that you got a bit more energy and you may well have read up about some new tools and techniques to help you out.

Look Out for Outreach Opportunities

quality street

This is how I actually got out of the link slump. You may well have seen the story about the Quality Street tins getting smaller, if not, where have you been?! Well a couple of months ago we did a study for our client, Appliance City, looking into this whole topic and debate of whether chocolate is getting smaller or not.

There was outrage on social media about the shrinking Quality Street tin, and this was spotted by my manager Wayne who then sent it to me. This was a great opportunity for us as the social media world was kicking off about chocolate shrinking and we had an infographic all about the subject.

I did a reverse image search of the picture of the tins and compiled a list publications that were talking about it story. One of them was this article in The Mirror written by a lady called Ruth. I sent Ruth an email saying I’d seen her article and that our infographic might interest her.

Ruth emailed me back saying that she really liked the infographic and would like to write an article based around our research, linking to Appliance City (and to Boom too, which was a nice bonus).

All of a sudden, the link drought was over with a link from a national newspaper. Nice.

So there we go, hopefully my below-par performance of late has helped you realise that link droughts do happen, and that if you ever do find yourself in the middle of the barren desert that is not being able to get links, you’ll be able to use a few of these tips to get yourself out of it!

Boom Online

Boom Online

Boom was founded in 2010 as an eCommerce specialist digital marketing agency. Our specialism is in the home retail sector, where we've managed SEO, PPC and Digital PR for both household brands and local businesses.View Author posts

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