“Sean, I’m gonna be honest with you mate.” He said through a series of half-smiles. I knew there was something wrong – and I knew it way before this meeting.
“I’m really not happy with the quality of links I’ve been getting.” Yep, he was right. I’ve been out of the linkbuilding team of my own company since over 3 years ago and so far, majority of the links in the reports for his company is of crap quality.
“And if this keeps on, I’m sorry to say that at the end of this month, we’ll have to look for another SEO company to help us hit our goals.”
In those years that I’ve been hands-off, my linkbuilding team hasn’t really grown. In fact, it went stasis – almost inanimate in its growth and output. Needless to say I was afraid, frustrated and downright angry.
“Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.”
That’s what came out of my mouth when my brain was actually thinking “Oh sh*t, oh sh*t, oh sh*t!”
The contract size at stake was up to $60,000 in revenue for SEO Hacker. I had to do something – ANYTHING to keep this client on board.
Stepping Down and Stepping Up
First thing I did was to ask my linkbuilding team leader to step down the helm – which he so humbly did. I took over as the main strategist and director of our team’s linkbuilding efforts. This was a critical step because if I did not take over, I wouldn’t have been able to review and overhaul the existing strategy and change it to a new one.
Next, I looked for critical linkbuilding tools that I think would help us in our efforts in a 10x scale. So I searched around in Google, blogs, reviews and anything I could wrap my mind around and found out two tools that piqued interested: Buzzstream and Inkybee.
I was a bit skeptical trying Buzzstream out – again. You see, we were able to implement this early on in the life of SEO Hacker as a company. But it didn’t produce any significant result for our linkbuilding team back then. I was hands-off from the team and my team lead during that time told me that it wasn’t worth what we were paying.
So I shut it down and cancelled our account.
It’s been over 2 years since that time. I expected Buzzstream to have improved significantly since then. Our clients have grown – and so has the linkbuilding team. So I thought that it’s just fair for us to give it another shot.
I checked back in to Buzzstream and found out that my access was still working. But the status of the account was cancelled. So I did what I thought was best and Tweeted the CEO and founder Paul May.
@paulmay hey man, was wondering if I could talk w you via Skype about Buzzstream? I’m looking for a solution such as yours for long-term.
— Sean Si (@SEO_Hacker) May 27, 2015
Paul responded almost immediately and we had the chance to talk on Skype about what I had in mind for Buzzstream. It was a short but very productive talk. Paul had my Buzzstream account reactivated and sent me some tutorial videos (which I later sent to my entire Linkbuilding team). He also gave me a generous deal to try Buzzstream out (Thanks Paul!).
We immediately jumped into Buzzstream and figured out how to reach out to webmasters who are relevant for our clients.
We were greeted with this screen:
To which we went ahead and added a list of websites we pulled up from Google’s top 100 results. For this case study, I’ll just go ahead and put in dummy data (example1.com, example2.com, etc.)
After that, Buzzstream does its work.
We wait for the stats to come out – at this stage, Buzzstream is still pulling data.
There we go. (Woah – didn’t expect those domains to have PageRank scores!)
After pinpointing which websites we were going to go after, we whipped up our outreach template.
It wasn’t anything fancy but it got the job done. Here’s what we put in as the subject line and message:
Subject: Your site is awesome! Just one Quick question :)
Message: Hey [First Name],
Read through your site ([Website Name])a bit and found out that you’re writing stuff that I’m very much into (Website Niche). Was wondering if you’d let me write one article for you? I promise it’ll be worth publishing and will be a piece your audience would love to read.
Let me know if this is something you’re interested in :)
Relative to my personal opinion, we received a pretty good reply rate (12%).
The thing I love about Buzzstream is that it keeps everyone in the loop. I could see who among my team is doing well with the template, who is experimenting on using other templates and subject lines, who is replying sooner and who is replying later.
Things were looking good. Until finally, we were able to wipe through almost all the prospects I pulled up.
My first batch of scraped prospects from Google was fast running out. We needed prospects. Good prospects. And fast. So I looked for a tool that would help me find (scrape?) good, quality prospects that we can reach out to.
The thing about link outreach is that if you get low quality prospects, your entire lead time from your first email to the supposed live link increases by almost 800%. That’s a lot of time to waste. Ergo, getting your prospects right the first time around saves you 8x more time that you can spend elsewhere.
To illustrate my point, here’s our outreach data in four weeks time:
And the depressing difference of our outreach-to-reply ratio (in percent) between weeks:
So while our efforts were increasing substantially, our returns were decreasing dramatically. It doesn’t make any sense. After pulling in some data from Buzzstream, I came to the conculsion that it must be on the quality of prospects we were getting. You see, it’s not really logical to think that your prospects are running out – because of the simple fact that there are billions of websites out there.
Running out of good prospects after reaching out to 1,376 websites just doesn’t make sense. The solution seemed obvious – me and my team are in need of a tool to help us get better prospects.
I looked over at Inkybee’s features page and found it fascinating.
The thing is, I wasn’t sure if it could deliver. After all, there are so many SaaS tools that could claim this and that – and fall short on the actual execution. So I emailed the owner – Hugh Anderson.
After a series of back-and-forth emails, I decided to try Inkybee out – and invited my entire linkbuilding team over. We jumped in to use the tool almost immediately.
We were greeted by a simple enough dashboard – a search box.
After doing a quick search (for this case study, I used the keyword ‘customer feedback’) it returns results that look like this:
Obviously Inkybee does not rank prospects in terms of Moz’s PA and DA, rather it ranks websites and blogs in terms of their overall visibility and engagement. From their website, here’s how they explain those two metrics to be:
Visibility is a measure of how visible a blog is on the Internet in relation to all other blogs. Visibility equates to audience, connectedness and authority metrics.
- For example, Mashable and Huffington Post are highly visible and therefore would have the highest visibility scores.
- It is measured on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 100. This means that, in absolute terms, to increase from a score from 80 to 90 is over 1,000 times harder than to increase from 30 to 40.
Engagement is a measure of the average social sharing, liking and commenting on any story on that blog.
- Measured on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 100.
Other than that, there’s two other metrics they use but don’t show in the search results page:
The relevancy score is a measure of how often the words in the corpus are used across all the posts written by the blog.
- A relevancy score of 100 means that all of the blog’s posts talk about the concept of ‘public relations’
- A relevancy score of 50 means that in general, about half of the blogs’s posts talk about public relations. The rest may talk about social media (for example).
4. Overall Ranking
The Total Ranking is a blend of these 3 scores above with engagement and visibility ranking higher than relevance on the basis that they are all reasonably relevant. How often each blog posts is also factored into this calculation.
We were very excited about these four metrics. So we went ahead and took a shot at our first prospects. We do not have conclusive data as of yet – however, we’ve seen a general uplift in our numbers because of our prospects from Inkybee.
Over the course of 1,376 outreaches done in a span of 4 weeks, we were able to bag 25 editorial links from 25 different websites. While that puts us at a 1.8% outreach to live links ratio (which I think is horrible but has a huge opportunity for improvement), our client was very happy with the end results.
The approximate manpower hours we spent for those 1,376 outreach emails was around 80 hours. That’s a huge lift in efficiency since I went back to take the helm of linkbuilding. The entire sprint that resulted in 25 editorial links saved us one client with a contract of $60,000 in its entirety.
If you found this post useful for your outreach efforts, or if you have some things to add to improve this, let me know in the comments section below.