How We Went From Getting 80 Sites Penalised To Scaling True White Hat Link Building


The bread and butter of any self respecting online marketer. If you aren’t building links, you’re doing something wrong.

Long story short, they matter.

A lot.

Here is our link graph for HealthAmbition as pulled from Ahrefs (That early spike was some negative SEO*).

​If you check the site on Ahrefs, you will see we added over 1,500 linking root domains to the site in the last 12 months.

But it wasn’t always this good. In April, 2012, a penguin wrecked our company!

Back then, Gael and I ran a digital marketing agency. Heck, let’s call it what it really was: a grey hat link building farm masquerading as a proper agency.

Our approach to SEO was:

  • Do some basic keyword research
  • Stuff those into client sites
  • Apply grey hat link building tactics
  • Wait for rankings
  • Profit

The scary thing is, it actually worked.

Before we knew it, we had a rapidly growing client base, an overpriced office, and around a dozen staff to help handle the relentless influx of work.

When we reached 50 clients, we threw a massive party at the swankiest club in town. We brought all our friends and literally poured Grey Goose down their throats.

Yeah, that actually happened. Well, now that I’ve hidden my old (terrible) facebook photos, let’s continue.

After the hangover, we got straight to work building spreadsheets and processes that would help us scale link building for clients.

Back then, we were using tools like Linkvana, Article Marketing Robot, and BuildMyRank. (Warning: Do not use tools like this, for reasons which will become painfully obvious in just a moment)

We’d buy a cheap article for $5, spin it with software like WordAI, and blast it out using these tools. It was easy….

…too easy!

The business continued to grow, and in a little over a year, Gael and I had gone from dirt poor international vagabonds to handling 90 something clients, including some fortune 500 companies.

(We even had a big poster on the office wall with our total number of clients on it.)

This pretty much sums how we felt…

But little did we know, we were sitting on a ticking time bomb.

As Google hit the big red button on their infamous Penguin update, our empire promptly came crashing down faster than a Jenga tower during spring break.

The worst part? We didn’t even see it coming.

From April 2012 — the month Penguin first struck — 90% of our clients were slammed by unnatural link penalties

When the first client complaint came in, Gael and I were still partially in denial about what was happening. The truth is, we didn’t really know the full extent of what was happening. And we certainly didn’t know what to tell the client.

That call was the first of many.

One by one, our clients grilled us with endless questions we simply didn’t know how to answer. You have to remember, penalties for low quality links were unheard of back then. And there was no such thing as a disavow tool.

It was our worst nightmare, and we were far from waking up.

Almost overnight, we lost around 75% of the clients which got hit, leaving us in a precarious financial position.

We still had to pay rent on our overpriced downtown office. And with a good chunk of our 2 year lease remaining, it could hardly get any worse..

Ironically, the very thing that destroyed us… saved us.

Plenty of other agencies were hit, and their clients were looking elsewhere for a solution. Despite losing the majority of our clients, it had never been easier pick up new ones.

But we soon faced another challenge.

Everything we knew. Every system. Every process. Every spreadsheet. None of it would ever be the same, and our “secret sauce” was gone.

We had to completely re-learn SEO from the ground up.

It essentially came down to two options:

Option 1: Figure out a way to do what we did before, while flying under Google’s radar.

Option 2: Figure out a way to make SEO work, in a way Google actually approves of.

If you’ve been reading Authority Hacker for any length of time, you’ll know we chose the latter, white hat option.

This time, we weren’t going to risk building our business on another house of cards which could collapse at any moment.

We wanted long term profits.

And we wanted to be real marketers.

Onward To Guest Posting

After the dust settled, we started scoping out new opportunities, and one tactic immediately stood out to us.

Guest posting.

Guest posting was still in it’s infancy back then, but for many, it was quickly becoming the ‘go to’ link building tactic of choice for white hat marketers.

So that’s what we did.

We started building systems that would allow us to guest post for clients at scale, and it worked reasonably well.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the “good old days” of ranking a site in 3 weeks, but it was something we could sell.

And sell we did…

Being based in Hungary, we were able to do guest posting for cheaper than just about anyone else (who was competent).

At one point, there were over 30 people in our office with 18 of them working on guest posting.

We sold guest posts on forums, to other agencies, to other ‘guest posting agencies’, to our friends, and I think one guy even sold guest posts to his mom.

It was madness.

Our new link building strategy called for a new set of tools.

And using a mixture of Buzzstream and google sheets, we were just able to manage things.

The premise was simple, assign each order to one person. We had one guy manage all the content ordering and another person oversee the whole team.

We built rudimentary process documents along with a recruitment and training process for new staff. It was a slick operation.

Except… it wasn’t.

Eventually, we found ourselves being sucked back into the black grey hole of SEO. And despite setting out with good intentions, we had inadvertently built another house of cards.

I’ll explain…

If you’ve ever outreached for a guest post, you’ll know that many websites are quick to ask for money in exchange for a post (or link).

And you guessed it… we coughed up.

Not because we thought it was okay. “Sponsored posts” are nothing more than buying links, plain and simple. We knew that.

But our team quickly learned that paying for placements was significantly easier than hustling for them. And, since their bonuses were based on sales numbers, they payed little attention to the mounting costs.

This was epic mistake #1.

The next corner we cut was reusing the same sites again and again. Ever heard of or (no, I’m not going to link to them).

These guys took guest posts from anyone with even a semblance of passable English, and we took full advantage of that.

If we had to do 1,000 guest posts, but they were for 150 different clients, we could get away with 300 links across just these two sites alone. We knew they’d never turn us away..

And the funny thing is, we found plenty more sites that were just as easy to land repeated guest posts on.

So between sponsored posts and our ‘go to’ sites, we had most of the work covered. Anything left over could be placed with tools like MyBlogGuest (until they too got penalized), or on some rare occasions, actual guest posting.

(You know, like the way it was supposed to be done.)

But what happened next was a race to the bottom.

Before long, everyone was offering guest posting services. And truth be told, I think most people just saw it as a morally justifiable way to describe buying and selling links. Well, to the Google Gods, at least.

Once again though, Google started to take notice.

They did a pretty good job of going after the worst offenders, and those who were selling links. I strongly suspect this was due to data they gathered from the link disavow tool.

It was basically an easy way for Google to identify bad neighborhoods.

And while it wasn’t ‘Penguin-level’ devastation, guest posting, at least the way we were doing it, was suddenly a lot less effective. Some of our clients were even hit with penalties again. Whoops!

This time though, it wasn’t so black and white.

For many people, ourselves included, the term “guest posting” encompassed all ranges of activities, including straight up buying links, guest blog “networks” and other obviously (in hindsight) frowned upon practices.

As people soon realized, real guest posting was, and still is, approved by Google.

So for the second time, we had developed (and scaled) an inefficient process. As Google and the market caught up, the cracks in our business really started to show.

Doing It Right (Finally)

During all of this, we experienced something every agency knows all too well: Client Fatigue. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it occurred, but for the last couple of years, our hearts really weren’t in the agency business.

It was around this time we started Health Ambition, along with a handful of other (less successful) side projects, including our failed writer management platform, CopyCog.

Health Ambition showed some early promise, and it quickly became our baby.

We focused on producing great content for the site, and despite doing hardly any link building outside the odd (real) guest post, it continued to grow nicely.

Eventually, we even started picking up links naturally. It worked something like this:

  • We’d write a lot of informational content
  • A small percentage of it would actually rank #1 (for less competitive and poorly monetized keywords)
  • Other writers would be researching similar articles and would quote or refer to us, thus giving us a link (like the Huffington Post did here, here and here)
  • These links would grow our authority and more informational articles would rank.

This wasn’t a real strategy though. And it definitely didn’t scale.

The only reason it was able to take us that far, was because our content was actually quite good. We put a lot of effort in to ensure high standards were met.

The problem here is that it’s quite an expensive link building strategy (if you can call it that). For every article that gets a Huffington Post link, there were 200 that didn’t.

Around this time, we began to get a sense that Health Ambition could be BIG. We had successfully created a $2.5k per month Juicing funnel, and we started seeing some reasonable income from Adsense too.

And then it happened.

Our review of a very popular Clickbank product started taking off. Despite building ZERO links to this page, it was suddenly making $700 per day.

I can vividly remember waking up every morning and checking clickbank to see how much money we’d made while I was sleeping.

Alas, this didn’t last and traffic to the page began to die down. The golden goose was gone.

That brief window was one of the key turning points for us. It was a pivotal that showed us what was possible if we gave it the attention it needed.

Following this was an intense research and planning phase where we started looking at how we could really grow the site.

It all boiled down to one thing…Links.

We needed to rank for more search terms. (Duhh!)

And because the ‘Health niche is quite competitive, heavily monetized keywords need to be held up by a site with significant authority.

In order to improve our domain authority, we needed more links.

The question was, how?

We knew that Guest Posting could work, but we were ready to kick things up a gear.

Coincidently, this was around the same time Brian Dean dropped his famous Skyscraper article, and we were quick to put it to the test.

After a ton of tweaking, we finally found a model variant of Skyscraper link building that would work for us.

(The exact steps are outside the scope of this article, but we cover every detail in Authority Hacker Pro).

The process involved a LOT of outreach, but it worked amazingly well and was far more efficient than guest posting..

Very quickly, we ran into another roadblock.

Link building takes time. And lot’s of it. Unfortunately, it’s also one luxury Gael and I didn’t have… and still don’t.

If we were ever going to scale up, we needed help.

We hired a full time link builder and, almost immediately, I started getting excited about the potential to scale.

And while we made plenty of mistakes with scaling our agency, this time, we knew better.

Step 1 : Simplifying things with Gmass & Mailshake

The old guard of the SEO world, I’m talking guys like MOZ and Distilled, had always championed Buzzstream as THE outreach tool to use for link building.

Buzzstream is a great tool, if you know how to use it properly (we even reviewed it here). The problem with Buzzstream though, is that it requires a lot of work to maintain.

The “gurus” don’t tell you that.

In fact, most recommendations you read about stem from personal gain or lack of understanding. As we soon realized, this was no different.

(This is also why we only ever recommend products that have worked well for us, regardless of whether or not we stand to benefit.)

As I was saying…

Buzzstream didn’t allow us to scale for several reasons.

If you don’t have a consistent tag structure, it can quickly get very messy. So unless you and your team has extreme discipline, you’re going to run into problems.

Also, there wasn’t a mass send option. You literally needed to review every single email before it was sent out.

This is fine, if you are doing highly high-end influencer outreach. But for Skyscraper link building, we were often looking at hundreds of emails per day. As you can imagine, this isn’t really feasible with Buzzstream.

Finally, Buzzstream’s email scraping isn’t great. It works, but it’s not nearly as effective as some of the dedicated email hunting tools out there. (Don’t worry, I’ll reveal all of these later).

So with Buzzstream crossed off the list, where did we turn?

Enter Gmass.

Gmass, was the first tool of it’s kind. It’s not a CRM in the same way that Buzzsteam is. Rather, it’s an add-on for Gmail or Google Suite. Think of it like mail merge for email.

Here is a video we made for our upcoming review:

It has a bunch of other cool features, such as automated follow up sequences, suppression lists (more on that later), open/click tracking, scheduling and more.

Since we were usually emailing potential link partners about new epic content we had created, we often didn’t need to pitch them hard in the email. We could just let our content do the talking.

This meant that it was much more efficient to send MORE emails, rather than making each email super customized. Getting 5% of 1000 people to link to you, is better than 25% of 50.

Of course, Gmass offers plenty of customization options with it’s merge fields, allowing us to 8x our daily outreach sending in no time at all.

We recently took things one step further and switched from Gmass to Mailshake. Mailshake has most of the same features, except that it’s it’s own web app. This allows much better data reporting and easier cross-team use.

Step 2: Stop F&#KING Spamming ME!!!1

After switching to Gmass, one problem became apparent.

Since Gmass allowed us to send significantly more emails, it wasn’t long before we were repeatedly reaching out to the same people.

Again, and again, and again, and again….!

Think about it for a sec.

If we send a new campaign to the same person 3 times in a month, with each sequence having 3 follow up emails, that’s 9 emails per month from us. Or, almost one email every 3 days.

We would often be in the middle of negotiating a link with a responsive potential link partner. Then, we’d send them a new campaign and they would write us off as spammers.

Here’s a recent example of what I mean:

Of course, there were probably a fair few people hitting the ‘report spam’ button because we were emailing them too much. But we wouldn’t know about that.

What we did know, is that it would potentially hurt our deliverability rates if enough people reported us, and that was something we couldn’t allow..

2013 Mark wouldn’t have cared, but this time I wanted to get it right.

I’m a big fan of spreadsheets, and while I’m no programmer, I know my way around Excel and Google Sheets quite well.

So here’s what I did.

I created a blacklist. A place where we could store a list of domains that we would never email again.

If someone told us not to contact them, we simply added them to this list which prevented us accidentally reaching out to them again.

Note that Gmass and Mailshake both have something similar to this built in now. However, they work slightly differently, and having an external blacklist means that we are fully in control of our data. This made it much easier for us to switch from Gmass to Mailshake recently.

The blacklist is actually quite simple. It’s just a list of URLs. I use the formula below to extract the raw URL (IE get rid of the https://www).

=IF(ISERROR(FIND(“//www.”,A2)), MID(A2,FIND(“:”,A2,4)+3,FIND(“/”,A2,9)-FIND(“:”,A2,4)-3), MID(A2,FIND(“:”,A2,4)+7,FIND(“/”,A2,9)-FIND(“:”,A2,4)-7))

In the example cell A2 would contain the URL we want to strip raw.

Now, every time we build an outreach list, we paste the new list of URLs into that blacklist checker sheet. This sheet will also have a column to extract the raw URL. And we’ll then do a VLOOKUP to find if each new URL from the outreach list is in the blacklist.

If you are an Authority Hacker PRO Platinum member, check out this webinar I did on it.

Not only does this prevent us emailing someone we shouldn’t, but our blacklist checker also looks for some other problematic URLs, such as ‘tag’ pages instead of post URLs.

By building and maintaining a blacklist, we were able to scale our outreach without pissing everyone off. When you start sending hundreds of emails per day, a small problem like this can quickly snowball unless managed properly.

Step 3 : Hunting Down Emails

When we started, the biggest bottleneck in the process was trying to find email addresses of websites we wanted to contact.

We’d spend around 2 minutes on each site with anywhere from 30-75% success rate, and hired a full time ‘link builder’ to help us scale it..

Initially, there wasn’t too much optimization to be done. The process involved checking various parts of the site, as well as some social media properties.

HINT: A decent percentage of businesses have their contact email in the Facebook Page About Section.

Perrin, who was one step ahead of us, built an entire process in Mechanical Turk, which allows you to ask a series of questions to real people. In this case, Perrin asked them things like:

  • “Does a contact email appear on their contact page?”
  • “Does a contact email appear on their privacy policy page?”

It was a good process and cost around 10 cents per email harvested. But that’s still quite expensive when you start doing hundreds per day, across multiple sites.

So that’s when we started using Hunter.

Hunter is a tool which uses multiple sources of publically available data to find email addresses of any domain you give it. I don’t know exactly how it works, but there is some combination of scraping and data harvesting using plugins/gmail add-ons, etc.

Their Pro plan is €159 (around $170), which gives you 20,000 requests per month. They have cheaper plans too, of course.

You plug in a list of domains and Hunter will spit out a list of corresponding email addresses. Usually you get emails for around 40-60% of the domains.

Initially, we tried to figure out how to find email addresses for the sites Hunter couldn’t find. But then, a thought occured.

Why not just spend the time building a bigger input list, and ignore any site Hunter couldn’t find?

That involved a little more work in Ahrefs, but only an extra 10 minutes or so per day. And as a result, we boosted productivity by around 500%.

In my Authority Hacker Pro Platinum webinar, I showed this exact process in action. However, since then, things have gotten even better!

If Hunter only finds one email for a domain, that’s great, you can go ahead and use it. But if it finds 10, then you need to make a decision on which one to use..

This was something our link builder was doing manually. And it took time. Not nearly as much as finding emails manually, but it still wasn’t efficient..

I had given him some training about what a good email to use would be. For example, it was usually better to email, than As he started doing it more and more, his brain naturally developed it’s own algorithm for what to choose.

We spent some time trying to work out exactly what that was (it wasn’t easy). To test our logic, we applied the model to previous selections that had been made. It wasn’t 100% perfect, but it was very close.

I went on Upwork and hired an “Excel Guru” (his words, not mine) to build an Excel macro. This is a little script that runs through a series of actions automatically.

Now, with the click of a button we could automatically choose the best email address to use from Hunter’s output.

One big downside of this was that the Macro crashed my laptop when I tried to run it on a gigantic file, so don’t try to sift through lists larger than 20,000 emails 😉

And before you ask, no, I’m not sharing the Macro file. That would inevitably find it’s way into the hands some more unscrupulous individuals.

It cost $150 to build but saves 30-60 minutes of time per day, so it was a no brainer.

Step 4 : Improving Our Email Responses

Until now, we focused mostly on improving the qualitative side of outreach.

That was the low hanging fruit. Quick wins that software and tools could easily automate.

With process improvement, it’s usually best to pick one area at a time and focus 100% on that. Changing too many things simultaneously can cause confusion and often leads to a breakdown.

When we started doing our outreach, I was handling the responses myself. I felt like I did a good job in terms of knowing what to say.

But, having a million and one other things to do, I couldn’t always dedicate time to it everyday. Sometime I’d go 5 days without responding to emails and this obviously hurt the link acquisition process.

You could also argue this wasn’t a high value piece of work. However, I think it was hugely valuable to do it ourselves, just to get a feel for it. The concept of doing it yourself before outsourcing is something Gael and I practice a lot.

The main benefit in this case, was that I was able to template responses for around 80% of situations. For example, if someone replies back negatively, by asking for money for the link (something we absolutely NEVER do anymore), we have a template response for that.

PRO TIP: You can use Gmail canned response feature to make this even easier.

Once I had templated many of the responses and documented the rest of the process as best as I could, I hired Mary, Filipino VA on Upwork. I spent a considerable amount of time training her, and or the first two weeks, I’d check every email response before she sent it.

Then, I’d let her send only templated responses automatically. It took around a month before Mary would send every email without having it approved.

At that point, as I grew more and more confident that she could handle it, I decided to give her free reign in our inbox.

And slowly but surely, Mary began to slack off. She’d miss days. When she did show up she would often have really poor keyboard/mouse activity levels, meaning she was logging time but not actually doing much.

There were still links coming in, but there was no hussle. While she could follow a process, she was terrible at handling less common responses..

This was around the time we significantly increased the number of emails being sent, so we really had to find a better option.

Eventually, we decided to hire someone locally in Budapest on a full time basis. Jon, the candidate we chose, was a strong people person. His background was actually in the fast food industry.

Jon about to whip up a Pepperoni Feast

Many people would be hesitant to hire someone with such a profile and no college education. However, we’ve consistently found that real world experience trumps a degree, in the online marketing world. This is especially true with people facing roles.

We followed a similar training pattern with Jon as we did with Mary before him. I think the added benefit of having someone full time meant that they could really focus on results and improve the process further..

During our weekly meetings, Jon has come up with lots of great ideas. For example, we started tracking different metrics in our success sheet in order to better identify which kinds of emails, templates, and followups were resulting in links.

When we got a flat out no, instead of trying to turn that into a yes, we started asking for different kinds of links… like a guest post. And when we got a yes, we even followed that up by asking for a second or third link too to high value pages.

HINT: Look out for people who are very receptive when giving the first link. Ask them for another, but this time towards one of your money pages. You’d be surprised how often this works.

All these new things were ‘bottom up’ process improvement ideas.

When I studied business at university, one of the few useful things I learned was how the best ideas for improving a process usually come from the people doing it every day – not management.

(The technical name for this is a ‘quality circle’ and it really does work.)

Onwards and Upwards

In the space of just one year, we’ve gone from having an inefficient but workable link building process to a highly-scaled, and super effective outreach machine. We’re now comfortably able to roll this process out to new sites with very little effort.

As a result of all this, our cost per link is now crazy low at under $8 per link acquired. I don’t care how efficient you are at building PBNs, you simply cannot do it for under $8.

The best part?

The more we scale, the cheaper it gets.

And even though we’ve come this far, there’s still — and always will be — improvements to be made. We’re continuously developing our process and looking for ways to eliminate bottlenecks.

Right now, our biggest bottleneck is extracting data from Ahrefs.

The next thing planned is to build a custom tool which will interface directly with the Ahrefs API. There’s a ton of cool things you can do here, and it’s possible to automate a great deal of manual work.

As painful as these lessons have been over the last six years, they were massively important in finally understanding how to scale link building.

And there is still a huge opportunity here for anyone reading this. White hat link building is done correctly by exactly 0.04927% of websites (statistic made up).

There’s no “secret”. No magic tactic. The REAL route to scaleable white hat link building is in the execution.

If you’re not getting results, you probably fall into one of four categories:

  • You’re not sending enough outreach emails
  • You’re building links to the wrong pages
  • You’re asking the wrong people
  • The way you ask sucks

Pick one tactic and get started. In our premium course, Authority Hacker Pro, we explain our exact process step by step. Many people have had similar results just copy & pasting our exact process.

Shameless plug, yes, but you can really pick any link building guide out there and get results if you apply yourself in the same way.

Every week, make sure to review the process and pick one area to improve or optimize. Repeat that over and over again, and you’ll eventually get there.

Some people may already be doing some kind of link building, with mixed results. Unless you are doing things yourself, the solution is hardly ever to hire more people.

You can probably make your team have much more efficient and scalable by simply improving the process.

It does take time to hone your skills, like anything. But once you master this, the sky’s the limit to what you can do with SEO.

​If you want to learn more about how we scaled our link building process, be sure to sign up for the AH Pro waiting list. More details on that coming very soon!

Mấu chốt: Bài này nói về cách tiếp cận các websites để xây dựng static Skyscraper article do Brian Dean sáng lập.


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Mark Webster

Hi I’m Mark. One of the guys behind Authority Hacker. I build and market awesome websites. If you want to know more about me, check out the about page.

 Click Here to Leave a Comment Below28 comments

MikeMay 3, 2017

Nice post, Mark.

I like but it’s crazy expensive.

Have you looked into URLProfiler? It’s what I’ve been using to collect email addresses in bulk and it’s a helluva lot cheaper.

Also another tool to look into is LinkProspector, it’s basically advanced Google queries on steroids when you’re searching for resource page links + blogs to link to a guestographic.


Mark Webster May 3, 2017

I haven’t used those, but my understanding is that Hunter has it’s own database and more than just scraping to input into that.

MikeMay 3, 2017

Yeah, I’m curious just how much better Hunter is with their secret database. Would be fun to run a test of 1,000 URLs and see how they perform vs URLProfiler.

Mark Webster May 3, 2017

Good idea. I’ll do that next month.

Emmett MooreMay 3, 2017 is too expensive. Period.

Gael Breton May 3, 2017

Well to be frank if you are at the point where this feels expensive, you’re probably not at the point of scaling yet. This kind of stuff is life changing if you already make money and need to grow. If you can’t afford the tools, just do the work manually, grow to the point where you make more money then spend the money when time is more of a bottleneck than money.

Mark Webster May 3, 2017

We had a full time guy manually finding emails for about 50% of his time. This cost many times more than It was a no brainer to buy it. To scale, you need to compare time & costs of manual vs Hunter. When it becomes cheaper and faster to use Hunter, then make the switch. Until then, don’t. Simple.

JasonMay 4, 2017

5,000 requests in for $99. My system uses 2 requests per prospect (don’t ask..), so that’s just under $0.04c per prospect.

About 60% of those will be confidence sore 60+ (which is my limit). Then, about 3% of confidence score 60+ emails turn into guest posts (links).

So assuming you use the full 5,000 requests per month, that’s 2,500 prospects * 60% = 1,500 “verified” emails. 1,500 * 3% conversion to guest post/link = 45 links.

$99/45 links = $2.2 per link.

So with a good system, costs $2-3 per link. Quite cheap if you ask me. Plus, there’s the additional benefit of no bouncing emails, and bulk tools for efficiency.

JoeMay 3, 2017

Awesome post, always really helpful to hear other people’s processes. I love, it’s definitely a game changer.

It’s interesting you went back to the spreadsheets though, as that kind of seems to be going in the opposite direction of scale (a bit backwards). I know you guys know all about Buzzstream, but it seems like Pitchbox would do a lot of what you’re doing, and even though it’s more expensive than a spreadsheet, it would make sense at scale.

Gael Breton May 3, 2017

We’re actually about to start field testing pitchbox yep, although it’s hard to beat the flexibility of spreadsheets especially with advanced macros / functions.

Mark Webster May 3, 2017

Spreadsheets also allow you to have full control over your data. For us, moving from Gmass to Mailshake was easy, purely because we had the data externally.

Tunde IfeMay 3, 2017

Yes this another inspiring article that will definitely make me take action. The first one was Spencer’s post on niche pursuits which made me create my first niche site back then mehn I have come a long way in this failing game if I want to follow the saying (failures are medals that should be added to your cap). Did i say that right? I should be a general by now. I have 3 niche sites that are currently making me less than 10usd per month. the keywords research is good and the articles are also very good, but have less than 5 links to them n total.

My Achilles heel is building links it seems its a big ocean out there with no one to guide me, when I read some of brain deans article I get to work and come out with zero result. Guess I have most of the problems you mentioned, but i believe my biggest problem is prospecting i don’t just know how to start from the query in the search box to selecting the websites that will be okay.
This is one of the articles that opens my brain and rekindle the fire I have for this.

I just have to keep trying. I will get there.

Thanks a lot for this.

Waiting for the AHPro course to be reopened.

Mark Webster May 4, 2017

I’d definitely recommend focusing on one site only to start with. Until you get to 4 figures per month at least, then it can be a waste of time to start others. Starting new sites is often a distraction from doing the hard work (ie link building). How many outreach emails did you send using that method?

Tunde IfeMay 5, 2017

I think I sent more than 200 emails for a guest post campaign i ran. The common reply i got was paying money which i ignored. My biggest challenge in guest posting is having to brainstorm topics for each website. But with my new motivation(courtesy of this post), I sent 70 outreach messages yesterday with ninjaoutreach.

The second one was scholarship link building i think i sent more than 300 emails. Got few links that moved some of my keywords to the second page.

I will keep reading and applying.

Took your advice am now working on just one website.

Mark Webster May 5, 2017

Yeah, it’s often worth talking with people who ask for money. If you are nice, and propose a good topic and show examples of past guest posts you’ve written, a percentage of them will accept (without the money).

col May 3, 2017

This guide is awesome. This is an are I have been struggling with but this makes it quite clear. I had checked out gmass but didn’t really look in enough detail. Will definitely apply this technique. In terms of domains are you just using custom searchs in Google or are you using ahrefs in some way to compile relevant domains. I’m in when AH pro opens btw.

Mark Webster May 4, 2017

Thanks man, we use Scrapebox to find what we call ‘competitor domains’. Then we used Ahrefs to find people linking to the competitor domains. These are the people we outreach to.

colMay 4, 2017

great, makes perfect sense. going to give this a go and I’ll let you know how I get on. keep the good stuff coming. cheers

Adam SingfieldMay 4, 2017

Hey Mark – Scrapebox offers some cool tools… would some of them (eg. the fast poster function) be considered black/grey hat?

Mark Webster May 5, 2017

Oh yeah, there are definitely some black hat uses for Scrapebox. But we don’t use any of them. We only use it to scrape SERPs.

JimmyMay 4, 2017

Hi Mark and Gael – great post as usual,
A few questions:

1. Would you mind sharing with us what is your success rate? i.e – out of 100 emails, how many links do you actually get placed? and also what is the average DA of the linking site. I am assuming that high DA sites are swamped with outreach emails so success rate with high DA is pretty low – is this correct?
2. What sort of site DA is your minimum for potential target sites?
3. What do you do when the site owner asks for money or link exchange – do you do it / do you pay?


Mark Webster May 4, 2017

Sure Jimmy 🙂

1. It varies wildly from article to article. Some sites get much high success rates than others. On average, across everything, around 5-7% of the people we contact will give us a link using our form of skyscraper. The average DR (Ahrefs metric) is 40.5 and the highest DR link is 87. High ranking sites aren’t always more difficult. Few people are actually trying. If you can start talking to them, they are often no more difficult than an average site.

2. We used to have a minimum DR20 or 25 I think. We changed that to 10 when we started scaling, since the marginal cost of doing this was tiny when we starting using Hunter. Interestingly, only 24 links have been from such sites over the last 3 months.

3. No, absolutely not. We never pay for links. That’s just asking for trouble. We have a standard email response for that saying that we don’t pay for links. We’ve found that asking for different type of links can often work instead though. For example, if we are doing skyscraper link building and a site asks us to pay, we tell them “no, we don’t pay… But how about we writer a high quality guest post for your site instead”.

JimmyMay 5, 2017

Thanks Mark – appreciate your detailed reply. 🙂

What happens with a link for link requests? Do you also offer to write a post for them?

Your results are awesome! 7% success rate is amazing.

Just out of curiosity, how does DR20 compare to the MOZ DA?


Mark Webster May 5, 2017

We don’t accept those either. Link exchanges are also a no-no in the eyes of Google. We have to be squeaky clean for that. I don’t know exactly how the DA translates to DR to be honest.

Bhuboy May 4, 2017

Thanks for this very informative post, I am currently building my stage 1 site and have recently started skyscraper technique. I haven’t got results from it yet but i’m sure it will come


Mark Webster May 4, 2017

Hi Bhuboy, how many outreach emails have you sent so far?

Puneet May 4, 2017

Great guide on Mark and Gael on white hat link building through mass outreach. I have subscribed to the waiting list of AH Pro and looking forward to be part of the community.

Mark Webster May 4, 2017

Thanks Puneet, you’ll be hearing from us very soon 🙂

Matthieu Gauthier May 4, 2017

I just finish to read all your article and this story is impressive.
It’s very good to have your experience about building black and white links.

I’m also impressive about the fact that it’s possible to find thousand of website to reach, i didn’t realise it was that much.
But you probably have a lot of non-authority websites…

But to use all your tools you need to have so much content to find links for.
I’m still at the first step : making good content.

Mark Webster May 4, 2017

Yeah, having good ‘linkable’ content makes a big difference. Though to be honest, you really don’t need much to start link building. Just a few pieces will work.

Krishna Rajaganesan May 4, 2017

Hey Mark,

Good read. I am sure email marketing results will improve with Gmass. I would love to read a post about your E-mail outreach campaigns.


Mark Webster May 4, 2017

Hey Krishna,
Thanks. We kept the exact process and templates we use in AH Pro. Otherwise too many people would start using them.

CallumMay 4, 2017

Great post guys. Can you elaborate a little more about the macro process you are using in Excel? If a domain has more than one email, does it automatically filter on the most likely email. e.g editor@ then support@ etc


Mark Webster May 4, 2017

Yes, though it uses a number of variables from the output including job title.


Doug Beney May 4, 2017

Sick! Wasn’t expecting to find myself in an Authority Hacker blog post, lol. Really interesting story at the beginning by the way. I can’t even imagine what it was like to have all of your clients calling you up, freaking out about getting penalized.

EricMay 4, 2017

So I made the rookie mistake of getting a few posts on a few of the very guest blogging websites you mention here not to post on. Not a whole lot, but maybe 6-7 guest blogging websites. Those are the only links to my website at the moment.

What should I do? Disavow them or let them be?

Obviously, I’m going to start doing it the right way henceforth.


Mark Webster May 5, 2017

I don’t have a specific recommendation for you. I don’t think two of three of those will do you any serious harm. It’s more that if that is your only strategy is to get links from such places, then it can be problematic.

Leon Turetsky May 4, 2017

Hey Mark,

Awesome epic post! Love your writing style.

My question is what would you say is a reasonable average pay per hour (range) for someone doing outreach for you?

Mark Webster May 5, 2017

It depends, but I’m happy to pay more for someone who is smart and native English. You get some many more links by having a good person do the negotiation part of link placement.

JohnMay 4, 2017

Cracking post!

So refreshing to see actionable information instead of vague, rehashed ten a penny content you see in a lot of I’m blogs. Can’t wait to dig in to AH Pro.

Can you explain how you prospect with scrapebox and then Ahrefs?


Mark Webster May 5, 2017

The exact step by step process is in AH Pro. I don’t want to give it out here, but if you’re already a member, just ask in the FB group and I’ll show you what I do.


PeterMay 5, 2017

Another good post, expands on some of the things I’m currently looking into. I can’t tell, or maybe I missed it, but does Mailshake integrate with GSuite accounts or just the free Gmail accounts? I looked on their website and it leads me to think it’s free gmail accounts only.


Mark Webster May 5, 2017

Thanks Peter. Yes, mailshake does integrate with Gsuite accounts. It’s super easy to set up.

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