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Brian Dean from Backlinko discusses Affiliate Marketing Link Building

We have a special guest stopping by today at Brian Dean of Backlinko, an SEO consultant and link builder, has decided to visit and share some of best link building tips, insights, and strategies. You may have seen his post, 17 Untapped Backlink Sources before. This interview is like that: tons of actionable tips and you can apply to your link building campaigns today. We also discuss some top level history of Brian’s most successful Affiliate Marketing niches.
1. How did you get into Link Building and what type of niches do you run affiliate sites in?
I first got into link building when I launched my (now defunct) Clickbank product in 2009. Like many people new to IM, I had a product and a site…but no traffic.
When I looked into traffic sources, SEO stood out because it seemed like a great way to get easy, “free” traffic. Obviously, I was dead wrong about that. But over time I learned the ropes, and despite trying a few different things in affiliate marketing, stuck with SEO.
I got serious about link building after launching my current authority site in a sub-niche of the make money online/work from home niche. Because links are very hard to come by in this space, I really needed to think creatively.
That’s how most of my lesser-known link building strategies came about: I couldn’t go full on white hat/inbound/content marketing in this niche. And I wanted to get away from black hat stuff. So I had to think laterally about where I could get links that looked natural…but weren’t.
2. What strategies are working best for affiliates in 2013?
Like SEO, I think the affiliate marketing industry has grown up a lot over the last few years.
Take Again, technically an “affiliate site”. As you can see on their About Us page, they have a 15+ full time staff.
To answer the question: I’d say that the strategies that work for affiliates are the same things that work for any site: great content, manual outreach, branding etc.
In other words, affiliates that are crushing it right now aren’t the guys that own sites like They’re people with branded sites that publish great stuff.
I look at it like this: affiliate commissions are just how you monetize your site. It doesn’t have to represent your brand or your content.
I build links the exact same way for affiliate sites that I do for clients with a brick and mortar business.
3. What are your thoughts on using services such as PR Web and SB Wire for affiliate link building?
I see them as a massive waste of resources for most affiliates. Pre-penguin, press releases were the cornerstone of my link building: they’re easy and guaranteed links that you can easily scale using syndication. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, Google has dialed down their effectiveness to almost nothing.
I know that Daniel Tan was able to rank Matt Cutt’s blog for a nonsense keyword using a link from a press release. But I haven’t seen any movement from them myself in the last 18 months.
That being said, getting your link into a Google News approved site isn’t a bad thing (I personally think Google News sites hold more sway with Google because they’re manually approved for quality). But spending $300 to do it? Crazy.
First off, you can get your press release published into Google News approved for $2 or with (DA80) for $25.
Secondly, that’s $300 that could be spent on an infographic, a Yahoo! Directory link, or even some “behind the scenes” paid link action. All of which are much more powerful than a press release.
That being said, if you have something legitimately newsworthy to say that can get you come links from blogs, then by all means publish a press release to get the word out. But publishing a press release about changing your about us page probably won’t do you much good from an SEO or referral traffic perspective.
4. What are your thoughts on affiliates using exact match domain names in 2013?
I don’t think it’s a good idea. Obviously, Google doesn’t outright penalize exact match domains (why would they?), but it’s really hard to create a brand around an EMD.
(To me, the EMD update simple closed a loophole in the Google Penguin filter. Because Penguin targeted overused money anchor text, it wasn’t sure if links to an EMD contained anchors for their brand name or the keyword. For example, if the site was, anchor text with the keyword “cheap laptops” could be perceived as a brand anchor. But they figured it out and added EMDs into the filter along with everybody else).
And with Google’s new obsession with brand signals, you’re much better off creating than
5. What type of hosting set up would you advise affiliates to use if
they have multiple websites?
I recommend hosting each site on a different IP. I think there’s a .01% chance of Google putting the pieces together and figuring out all of the sites that you own, but it’s a risk I’m not willing to take.
Considering how cheap hosting can be, there’s no reason not to spend the extra $5-$10/month to get a new server or host for every site in your portfolio.
6. What SEO tools are you using or would recommend for affiliates? The best link analysis tool on the market. Awesome for reverse engineering, but also gives you a “feel” for what types of links are currently working.
BuzzStream: For managing manual outreach campaigns.
Boomerang for Gmail: Can delay sending emails and even set automatic reminders. Makes outreach easier.
Yesware: Tracks email open rates. Another tool that helps manual outreach.
ScrapeBox: Gotta love Scrapebox. Amazing for finding guest posting targets, resource pages, or anything that can be found with a search string.
7. What are your top 5 link building strategies which are effective in 2013?
Handyman Link Building: Think of ways that you can improve another site: you can give them a new banner, add a diagram to their content, or fix broken links. DMOZ is a gold mine for this because the sites are older and tend to need a hand. Best of all, you can get a lot of the work done on Fiverr.
Infographic Marketing: I’m surprised more affiliates don’t take advantage of this strategy. It’s some of the easiest links you’ll ever get. And while Google said that they may devalue links coming from infographics, that’s easier said than done. Besides, even if infographic embed links get devalued, that doesn’t mean that links pointing to your amazing infographic will.
Ultimate Guide Link Building: There’s so much noise about “great content”, but not much actionable advice on how to make content that generates backlinks. Forget link bait and build ultimate guides around your target keywords. It works: the KISSMetrics blog went from 0 to 350,000 visitors a month by publishing ultimate guides.
Branded Solutions: I’m just starting to experiment with this, but I’ve seen it do incredibly well (just look at the number of results for: “derek halpern feature box” or “inbox zero” in Google to see what I mean). Basically what you’re doing is creating “reference bait”: a unique solution that you name and brand. If it’s legitimately useful, people will link back to it after they try it out.
Manual Email Outreach: It’s boring, time consuming, and converts terribly (although that can be improved with techniques like broken link building). But it’s the best link building strategy out there. If you want links, you need to hustle. And the best form of hustle is email outreach.
8. What are your thoughts on buying expired domains for affiliate marketing use?
I think they’re generally better than a fresh domain (assuming that the expired domain had a clean link profile) if you want to build a blog network.
But if you’re an affiliate looking for a domain, definitely get something brandable. If it’s expired and has some domain age, great. But I wouldn’t buy an expired domain to use as a money site unless it was a name you wanted anyway.
9. What niche have you had the most success in with affiliate marketing?
I’ve had the most success in the make money online niche. Although in retrospect, it’s one I wouldn’t recommend because it’s hard to generate links.
10. With broken link building and affiliate sites what strategies do
you use when emailing prospects to obtain a higher conversion with
acquiring links?
Here’s what I do to increase my outreach conversion rates:

  • Use highly-personalized templates: Templates are a must. But the more personalization you can add to it, the better the response rate you’ll get. I use the person’s name and website in the subject, first sentence and again at the end. This cements the idea that this is a personal email.
  • Be human: It’s really, REALLY easy to delete an email. You can make hitting the delete button that much harder by using informal language and even smiley faces to your outreach emails.
  • Find the linkerati: For larger sites with massive staffs, you need to find the likerati — the people that control the links — on that site. I always spend the extra time identifying the linkerati, and try to send a message directly to them.
  • Give massive value: Think of ways you can add value to the person’s site when doing outreach. The more you do, the higher your conversions will be. For example, let’s say you’re doing broken link building. You can just point out the broken links…OR you can provide replacements and updates URLs for all of the broken links. The latter really gives people that “wow” factor that makes them want to reciprocate your effort with a link.

11. What would you be doing if you were not in SEO or affiliate marketing?
I’d definitely be in another avenue of marketing. I love sales, social psychology, and being an entrepreneur.

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