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Just discovered how my top competitor is getting links via “Author Spying”!

I just stumbled upon a link building tactic that I think might be worth a goldmine (at least to me)! First, some background information to give you some context. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been actively scouring the internet for opportunities to build links for a site in the real estate niche – I’ve been browsing through forums and their marketplaces, reading articles on various link building strategies and even experimented with a few link purchases for some of my lesser known sites.

Giving you this background information because it’s necessary to realize the state of awareness I’ve been in while browsing through content online. During the day, I’d typically consume at least 7-10 articles in that niche and I’d always look at the outgoing links from within each article to figure, “why did this author choose to link to this article”. It bothered me not knowing how I could get my links featured in those articles when I had equally good and relevant content available on my site.

So, it’s on one of these reading (and investigative) scours that I stumbled upon an author, whose content I loved, and discovered that in this article she linked out to 5 different sites and 3 of those links were to blog articles on sites owned by the same person, Mr. X (the sites and their owner are quite well known in the industry). I found that to be a bit suspicious.

So I Googled the author, found multiple places where she wrote, found her website, I followed her on Twitter, checked out her LinkedIn profile and from all that research, I discovered scores of articles she had written across various blogs that had at least one or more links to the same competing site. My eyes lit up when I noticed that.

These were links on super-popular highly authoritative websites and my potential competitor was getting links by the dozen to 3 of his websites! It was clear to me that there was an arrangement of some sort here where she was being incentivized to link to one or more of Mr. X’s sites from every article she published. It was smartly done where there were links to other relevant sites and you might not find Mr. X’s links to stand out but when you look at all the author’s posts together, you’ll notice the commonality of the domains being linked out to!

Don’t bother reading further if you’re looking at me to be naming names out here, I won’t be doing that! By the end of this piece, you might very well be able to figure and discover a lot of people and names for the niche in which you’re trying to build links.

I figured this could be an opportunity for me, my thought process was, “she is already writing regularly for them, why not ask her to include a link to some of my relevant blog posts as well and we both can profit without too much extra effort”. I contacted her through the email listed on her website as well as connected with her via LinkedIn. Over the course of a couple of email discussions, we arrived at an agreeable price per publication. So there it was, I finally figured how to get the same links that a very large and well-known site in my target industry was getting! Now I just to have to reverse-engineer few more links by their author profiles – we can call this the “author-spying” approach to link building.

While it’s a well-known link building technique to get links by guest posting and/or getting someone to do the outreach, article writing and publishing for you, it’s not so well known (at least till I stumbled upon this opportunity) that it might just be easier to find and approach authors who are already writing in your niche AND are linking out intentionally because of an arrangement of some sort. I think this is so much smarter an approach:

  • Review all the links they have from other blog sites
  • Check the author profile for that blog post – investigate the author for where they’ve published content, what kind of sites they’re linking out to and whether there is a pattern
  • Contact the author and try to establish a relationship where you can work out an arrangement for any future writings they do

You’ll find many people advertising editorial links for sale in high-end publications and what they essentially do is use their guest posting authorship credentials to provide you a post with links from there. However, there are many more sites that don’t give out such linking opportunities. Yet, if you visit those sites you’ll find there are authors who seem to be able to publish out there. That happens only because of a pre-existing relationship that the author has developed with those sites. Replicating that relationship wont’ be easy and it’s much smarter just trying to establish relationships with these authors for acquiring links to your site.

Having said all this, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when going about this approach:

  • The links you can typically build on the better sites are ones that point to some of your blog posts, rather than your main money-pages.
  • This is not a white-hat SEO tactic and would involve some form of payment to the author for the content and the link(s). Practically though, I’ve analysed several links recently and can say with some confidence that many sites ranking do seem to be paying for these kinds of links. I wish that was not the case and there was another reason for these links but I guess some of these industry niches just have so much money involved that top players are willing to engage in such tactics and you are left with no choice but to do it yourself.
  • You might not want to over-do it with the same author since someone with a keen eye (dare I say, myself ;)) might be able to put two and two together to dissect your pattern. It might not be too far away that Google might also associate links with author credentials to potentially discount too many repeat links from the same author (this is just speculation and could be the topic for another discussion).

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this strategy. Have you thought of this before? Or are there any other similar strategies that you adopt? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sameer Panjwani

Sameer Panjwani is the CEO & Founder of Mondovo.com, an online marketing toolset that helps you track your rankings, monitor your site stats and research your competitors'. A man of many talents, Sameer occasionally writes about social media marketing, content marketing and SEO. In his free time, he loves reading about the latest trends in SEO as well as spending time with his two little daughters.

2 Comments

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  • Good article. Confirmed what I had been thinking as well. I think it happens more than we’d like to think. I don’t know if I’d consider it black hat. You pay for a link, but often we have to pay for an article or our time.

  • I’ll confirm this is the method that some large sites have used with me as a writer… they sometimes want a link on my site, but they really want linked in my articles on the high domain authority sites. The pricing model is simple: the higher the domain authority, the better the roses that I get. 🙂 bloggers are a fantastic way to make this happen because we typically (if we are good) guest post or contribute to a number of sites to get backlinks for our own sites/and it’s super simple to add a link that we really just love ;). My best relationships work out when I have 5-6 links that the client is wanting so I can make it work. Hope that helps?

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