Outreach, or link building for those of us who aren’t scared of the term, has completely changed over the years, for the better. It used to be that it involved paying an “SEO agency” (and I use the term loosely there) to basically spam comments on blogs, articles and forums with name containing a link back to your site. Thank god this stopped and the industry moved out of this slump!

Now, things are entirely different. You need to make sure that you are getting links that provide quality equity rather than purely looking for quantity. That just makes sense, really, doesn’t it? However, it is also best not to focus solely on the creme de la creme of websites. You need to make sure that your backlink profile at least looks natural, even though it isn’t because you’re link building.

The best way to visualise this is something that a previous colleague and I came up with, which we called the Natural Link Curve. Basically, we looked at what a completely natural backlink profile that complies with Google’s desires would look like. Here it is:

natural link curve

In essense, the natural link curve would have a small number of very low quality links simply because it is utterly impossible not to. Then, as you move to the mid-range Trust Flow, the number of links increase because there are more of these websites out there, and they tend to reference content on other sites quite often. Finally, as you reach the pinnacle of Trust Flow, the numbers decline once again. This is because the websites that hold this amount of Trust Flow are websites like the BBC who aren’t going to put a link to just anybody.

In other words, they are incredibly difficult to get. In fact, the high end side of that natural link curve would actually be zero for most sites. With that in mind, the best place to focus your link building is to look into blogs and articles within that middle range of the link curve! So, here’s a few things you should be looking at when trying to outreach!

Trust Flow

It pretty much goes without saying, following on from that long introduction, that Trust Flow is the first port of call when judging a website. As mentioned, you want it to be within that middle ground of the natural link curve. However, you also don’t want the Trust Flow to be any more than 5 points below the Citation Flow. If it is, it means that they have some pretty spammy links that are pulling down the equity quality.

That’s not really something you want to be associated with, so this is a nice and quick way to cull that huge list of potential bloggers down!

Search Visibility

Visibility is a score given to a website by the tool Search Metrics. Basically, it calculates a score from zero to infinity based upon the number of keywords a website ranks for and what position it ranks in. As such, it is a great way to see how valuable Google considers a site to be. If the site has low search visibility, then it doesn’t rank well, meaning Google doesn’t actually value it.

If the website isn’t valued highly, it may have had some issues such as algorithm or manual penalties in the past. These are definitely something you want to steer clear of! However, actually judging what low search visibility is can be hard. The best way to do it is by comparing that site to others in the same industry/blogging genre. If the score is considerably low (in relative terms) then avoid the site like the plague! That’s especially true if you are unsure about their Trust Flow as well!

Do they advertise?

This is the final major killer when it comes to outreach potential. Basically, after checking a site’s Trust Flow and Search Visibility, you need to check everywhere on that site to see if they accept advertising. Now, this doesn’t refer to things like AdWords, which is fine. Instead, I am referring to “sponsored posts” with links in, any type of branded “blogger network” that posts about that brand’s products with links back to the brand’s site, or anything else like that. Basically, if it looks like a paid link, it probably is. And let’s be honest, if we can spot a paid link, then Google definitely will and you don’t want to be associated with a site when that happens to it.

And once again, that’s all there is too it!

If your potential outreach target has passed these checks then it is likely their site is a good one to contact! Hopefully these three simple yet necessary checks will make you feel more confident about your choice of outreach target. In this day and age, with Penguin now a real-time update, it is even more important than ever to make sure the links you are building are as natural looking as possible, and are not coming from sites likely to get hit with a penalty themselves.

So, go forth! Keep the natural link curve in mind and run every potential outreach site through these checks! Improve your link profile and build up the equity in your site with confidence and safety! And if you have any other tips and tricks, please feel free to let me know about them in the comments!

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