Social Proof Blog Cover

How to Get Free, High-Power Backlinks by Leveraging Social Proof

Some of the best backlinks out there can be had for free, as long as you can provide something most brands can’t get enough of: Social proof.

What is social proof? Who wants it? And more importantly…

How do you leverage that desire to get super-powerful free links, free content, and even free stuff delivered to your home?

That’s what you’re going to learn in this guide, along with all the advice you need to do it right the first time. Let’s look at…

  • What is social proof?
  • How the “Social Proof Link Strategy” works
  • Where to find prospects
  • How to craft compelling pitches
  • How to follow up on a successful pitch
  • A look at the crazy results we’ve gotten.  Like this…

Homepage Testimonial Link  

Hompage Testimonial Graph 02

Video Version

Consider this a new standard for my posts.  Here’s a short video version of the below content for all you visual consumers.

For everyone else…

What is social proof?

It’s both a way to describe human behavior and one of the big goals of any advertising department. First, the original concept…

  • Q: What is social proof?
  • A: Social proof is a psychological concept that was created to describe how we tend to mimic the behavior of others when we’re in unfamiliar situations.

Endorsements, surveys (“4 out of 5 dentists agree”) and other means are all used to convince customers that they can feel confident about making a decision to buy.

social proof illustrations

That confidence is something you can help provide. Brands crave outside reviews, testimonials and ratings.

How do you make the connection? Here’s an example.

Example: How to provide social proof

Imagine you have a budding health site. You’re aware that some people in your niche (let’s say a supplement site called TestoMonsters) are still working on building their authority.

Maybe their homepage is completely bare of any encouraging endorsements.

backlink for social proof

This is your opportunity. Reach out to the guys at TestoMonsters. Tell them you have an authoritative health site and you’re considering to review their product.

In return, you’d like a backlink to your post.

This is an easy sell

TestoMonsters wants their prospects to know that people are reviewing their product favorably.

If you apply the strategy discussed next, you can leverage this desire for social proof into much more than just one choice link in your niche.

The Social-Proof Link Strategy

The goal of this strategy is to leverage the desire that brands have for social proof at a larger scale. To think not just in terms of one link, but maybe 20 over a period of time. Maybe a stack of free content. Maybe some swanky free products.

Matt & Pete strategies drawings 01That’s going to take ambitious outreach and a strong pitch, but don’t worry, because this guide is going to tell you how to handle those in just a bit.

For now, let’s focus on your link targets. To pull this off without wasting time, you need to target people who have a lot of need for social proof. People like…

  • product manufacturers
  • product/brand owners
  • course creators
  • service providers

They’re going to want social proof that keeps their product in a positive (but objective-looking) light. What kind of content would that be? Well, to stick with the supplement example, titles like…

  • Top 5 Testosterone Boosters
  • The Best Boosters for Bulking
  • Venus Factor Review

If you’re doing client SEO for a local business you could apply the technique locally. Here are two example businesses and titles that could make for a compelling pitch.

Business ExampleArticle Pitch
Meal Delivery ServiceSan Francisco's Top Farm to Table Restaurants
Plastic SurgeonAustin’s Top 10 Best Clothing Boutiques

If you’re doing e-commerce, you can go for a shoulder niche.

Business ExampleArticle Pitch
Watch company10 Incredible Style Tips Every Man Should Consider
Natural Supplement companyTop 5 Websites to Start Your Biohacking Journey

If you’re feeling skeptical that this could make a difference, make sure you don’t miss the data at the end. We’ve got some numbers to show you.

Why does this work?

Companies want these offers because this kind of content is valuable social proof. They want their website visitors to know they’re mentioned on top 5 lists or raved about in influential places.

i see links everywhere meme

Sometimes you’ll even get homepage links—that’s how important it is to them to show off their ratings.

  • Q: Won’t it look weird to receive too many link exchanges?
  • A: It won’t look weird to have link exchanges as long as you’re diversifying with plenty of other links. Nonetheless, if you are worried, then just link to their Amazon listing instead.

For now, the most important part of this strategy is connecting with valuable link targets. Let’s focus on where to find them.

Where to find people

If you have experience in a niche, you know where the best fishing spots are. In almost any niche, you can…

  • Reverse engineer your competitors, see who they link out to
  • Look in affiliate networks
  • Go nuts browsing on Amazon

If all that sounds like too wide a net, you can just brainstorm. Anywhere online that people in your local area or niche congregate can be a good source of relevant leads.

How to find their emails

Some high-value partners (in order to avoid spam) avoid making their direct emails too easy to find. You can usually locate it by…

finding email addresses using hunter io

  • Searching their site: If the contact information isn’t on the homepage or sitewide footer, it is often still listed on the contact page. Be prepared to go a few clicks deep into contact page links to get the real email.
  • Using scrapers like hunter.io: This application uses a full name to scrape from public profiles all over the internet. From the data, it gathers the most likely contact information for the name.
  • Social selling: Contact them through the social pages (not their private profiles) for their product or company. Ask for more direct contact information if they seem receptive in direct chats.

How to write compelling pitches

If you’re going to be managing a lot of contacts (it’s wise to build a long list), you can use email clients designed for outreach to make things easier. The following platforms have features like automation, targeted tracking, and reply management.

  • PitchBox
  • Mailshake
  • Gmass

Doing it manually is always an option.

woman using email in a meeting

If you have no experience with these tools or methods, you can catch up with this scalable white hat guide. There, you’ll find in-depth information on snooping contact information, organizing it and developing a written pitch.

Here’s an example pitch that you can modify for your social proof campaigns. It works better when they have some incentive. In example 1, the incentive is getting placed on the list. In example 2, the incentive is improving a poor position on a list.

Example pitch email: Opening Pitch I

Hello _____________,

I wanted to reach out to you about an article I’m getting ready to publish about The Top [Products] in [Niche].

[Your Product] only came to my attention after the list was done, but if you’d be willing to link to our results, it would be worth it for me to do a quick writeup and add it. Let me know.

Best regards,
(Name)


Example pitch email: Opening Pitch II

Hello _____________,

I wanted to reach out to you about an article I’m getting ready to publish about The Top [Products] in [Niche].

[Your Product] came in at 6th place. It’s still a good showing, but I don’t want to be unfair. I think it may not have done as well as some of the others because I didn’t have as much information on it.

The piece is already complete, but if you’d be willing to provide a link to the piece, I would be willing to re-evaluate [Your Product] with any extra details you can provide about its features.

Let me know if you have any information before the piece is published on [date]

Best regards,
(Name)

If your website has a persona attached to it (see more in section 4.4 of the scalable white hat guide), testimonials can be used as bargaining chips.

For each of my authority sites, we work with real influencers that become the face of the site. And we’ll get these influencers to offer a testimonial.  [Make sure to opt in to my list.  I’ll publish a guide on how I get real E-A-T for all of our sites]

These testimonials can be leveraged in exchange for placement on homepages, and accompanying links. This usually happens after the first link has been placed, as a sort of, follow up ask. You can approach the topic with a pitch like this one:

Example Pitch Email: Persona Pitch

Hello _____________,

Thanks so much for the link. I think your visitors are really going to appreciate our take on [Product]. After seeing the review and the feedback from our own readers, [Persona] from our company tried out your product and became an instant fan.

[Persona] is interested in featuring [product] in some future content and providing a testimonial on their experience. If you’d be willing to host it on your homepage, we can work together to build what you need.

Best regards,
(Name)

And for good measure, add a signature.

This framework lays out the value proposition for your potential partner and doesn’t take too much of their time.

They may not want the content, though. Especially if it’s a “____ review” post, they might offer to help you write the content. Sometimes, when you ask for details, they’ll just rewrite the whole thing for you. Go for it. its free.

Just remember to tone it down when needed.

If it’s going to come off overly salesy, you could lose the respect of your readers (and the value of your site as a source of social proof).

Say yes, but maintain the right to edit it.

How to Follow Up on a Successful Pitch

A little negotiation will likely follow a successful pitch. Even if someone is interested, they may want different terms. This isn’t always a bad thing because this is where you learn there can be amazing rewards for providing social proof.

publish button keyboard

Sometimes you can negotiate using what position you’ll place them in your top X lists as a bargaining chip.

When you’ve developed a confident process, try to get samples of the product, links on juicy pages, and free content.

After the negotiations are done, your next step is to complete the content and publish it. Contact them when you’re done so that they know the beneficial content is out there. Then, just wait for them to link.

Our results

So, how well does this strategy work? So far, like a dream. After a series of tests, we achieved…

A 42.5% open rate

Nearly half of all the niche-specific targets we mailed opened our offer. It’s an impressive percentage for an outreach campaign.

13.03% conversion rate

For every seven or so people we made contact with, we got one high-powered link. That’s an amazing exchange rate even before you consider the fact that we weren’t paying for the links.

Wall of Fame

I’ve attached a bunch of screenshots of some examples of the best links that we’ve gotten with this technique.

Homepage Testimonial Link

Hompage Testimonial Graph 01Inner Page

Hompage Testimonial Graph 03 Inner Page

Hompage Testimonial Graph 04

Start Leveraging the need for Social Proof

With the knowledge of how the strategy works, how to find prospects and how to reach them, you’re ready to start leveraging their desire for social proof to land some juicy links.

Pete & Matt meetup 01

Our advice will help you start extracting some of the benefits we’ve learned, benefits that typically only come with experience.

And again, make sure to sign up, so I can let you know when my E-A-T strategy gets released.

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11 Comments
  • James Johnson
    Posted at 10:37h, 10 October Reply

    Some great actionable tips and advice in here… as always Matt!

    I had a question though…

    What are your thoughts on the impact a high authority link will have on a site as a whole if this link is pointing to the article pitch on our site?

    Will it provide any ranking benefits to other pages of the site if there aren’t any internal links to target pages?

    I’m just thinking for a post such as ‘Top 5 Websites to Start Your Biohacking Journey’ it might be tricky to work in some internal links without it sounding un-natural?

    Thanks!

    • Matt Diggity
      Posted at 11:14h, 10 October Reply

      There’s link juice… and there’s trust.

      Of course you’ll get more juice going straight to a piece you want to rank, but trust is sitewide.

  • James Johnson
    Posted at 12:35h, 10 October Reply

    Right you are – thanks!

  • Dan Phillips
    Posted at 17:05h, 10 October Reply

    Great post! I’m mostly focused on local. So these will end up being direct link swaps / exchanges between sites? is that a problem?

    • Matt Diggity
      Posted at 23:16h, 10 October Reply

      On a low quantity level, its fine. Just to a lot of diversification.

  • Casey Gentles
    Posted at 23:03h, 10 October Reply

    Hey Matt this is a fantastic spin. I’ve used this method to get a LOT of free products that I promote as an affiliate but I never thought about asking for a link.

    This idea is genius.

    Question though, do you find any variance in your conversion rate as it relates to digital or physical product owners?

    Thanks a bunch.

    …..
    Casey Gentles

    • Matt Diggity
      Posted at 23:16h, 10 October Reply

      We don’t have any sites right now pushing digital products. I’m sure its even more easy though.

  • Arie
    Posted at 07:12h, 11 October Reply

    Nice strategy Matt. Great to see how you always come up with out of the box examples and take a custom approach to link building.

  • David J Forer
    Posted at 08:51h, 11 October Reply

    Great article as always. I like the concept a lot as it can be used in a few different ways. The one thing I struggle with is how to use it when you are brand new or haven’t built your authority. Would you change your pitch or who you target if you are fairly new in a space without any authority? Just curious what your thoughts are.

    • Matt Diggity
      Posted at 09:46h, 12 October Reply

      Your conversions will be lower, but it doesn’t mean it won’t work.

  • Shamim
    Posted at 14:16h, 11 October Reply

    Surprisingly I have been following the exact same strategy for one of my niche. Instead of pitching first, I publish the article first and then pitch them for social shares and links.

    Thats work as well.

    Thanks Matt.

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