Written by Brian Dean –
I built 5,660 backlinks last month.
(Without sending a single outreach email.)
A new strategy called Reverse Outreach.
And this case study I’m going to show you exactly how I did it, step-by-step.
The Big Problem With Link Building: Scale
Outreach-based strategies like The Skyscraper Technique still work GREAT.
(When done right.)
But there’s one big problem with most link building strategies:
They don’t scale.
And if you’re in a competitive niche, you NEED to do link building at scale.
For example, take a look at Backlinko.
According to Semrush, I have 47.3K referring domains.
That sounds great. Until you look at some of my competitors.
Like Yoast (67.2K referring domains):
Search Engine Journal (214K referring domains):
Or other huge brands in the marketing space, like HubSpot (341K referring domains):
Let’s say I wanted to close my link gap with Yoast using email outreach.
I’m currently about 20K referring domains “behind” Yoast.
And let’s assume that 5% of the outreach emails that I send result in a backlink.
That means I’d have to send 400K outreach emails just to catch up to Yoast.
(Plus, this assumes that Yoast isn’t going to get any more backlinks during that time. Which isn’t going to happen.)
So when I did the math, I realized that I needed a different approach to link building.
One that could scale. Big time.
After months of testing, I think I finally found it.
It’s called “Reverse Outreach”.
Here’s how it works:
How “Reverse Outreach” Flips The Script on Traditional Link Building
Reverse Outreach completely flips the script on outreach-based link building.
Instead of reaching out to bloggers and journalists, you have them come to you.
Specifically, you target keywords that bloggers and journalists search for. And create content that they WANT to link to.
Let’s look at a real-life example.
A few months ago I published this post on my site:
This post was designed specifically to get backlinks from journalists.
(More on that later.)
I also made sure to optimize that post around keywords that bloggers and journalists search for.
(Like “TikTok monthly users”, “How much time people spend on TikTok” and “TikTok downloads by country.)
Sure enough, that post eventually ranked #2 for “TikTok users”.
And started to rank for dozens of other keywords too.
Yes, this brought in some traffic.
But that’s not really the point. The people searching for these terms aren’t really my target audience.
The goal with this content was simple: get backlinks from authority sites.
And that’s exactly what happened.
That page now has editorial backlinks from Bloomberg:
And dozens of other authority news sites and blogs.
With that, let’s jump into the step-by-step process.
Step #1: Find “Journalist Keywords”
Your first step is to find a “Journalist Keyword”.
A Journalist Keyword is just like it sounds:
It’s a keyword that journalists use when researching or writing an article.
For example, this page from Backlinko is optimized around the journalist keyword “social media usage”.
Who searches for that keyword?
A blogger or journalist writing about how popular social media is!
When they do, my page gets in front of them with the data they need.
And they cite me as a source in their articles:
(In fact, that single page has 11.5K total backlinks. 95%+ of which came from Reverse Outreach.)
The question is: how do you find Journalist Keywords?
People Also Ask Boxes
Just search for a topic in your niche…
…and look for People Also Ask questions that are looking for data.
These are usually questions that bloggers and journalists want answers to.
If you get stuck, just search for a different keyword (it can take a few to get going).
Or expand the People Also Ask boxes to reveal more commonly-asked questions.
Next, look for a page on a competitor’s site with a lot of links.
Then, find the Journalist Keywords that the page ranks for.
For example, you can see that this page from Backlinko has a lot of backlinks.
And if you look at the keywords that the page ranks for, you’ll find LOTS of journalist keywords.
Target Trending Topics
Specifically, trending topics that don’t have a lot of easy-to-find data sources.
That way, YOU can be the go-to source for data on this emerging topic.
For example, remember Clubhouse?
Well, when Clubhouse was poised to become “The Next Big Thing”, everyone and their mom was writing articles about it.
There was only one problem:
It was a huge pain to find useful data about Clubhouse!
So I found every Clubhouse-related stat that I could. And whipped together this collection of Clubhouse stats.
That page quickly picked up passive links from The Guardian, Cosmopolitan Magazine and more.
Note: Interest in trending topics (like Clubhouse) can fall off the map. But the upside still makes the approach worth it. Even though Clubhouse is no longer relevant, that single page (which took about 2 hours to write) still brought in 1.6K total backlinks!
You can definitely target Journalist Keywords in your niche (or in related niches, as I did with my Clubhouse post).
But don’t be afraid to go outside of your niche a little bit.
For example, this page about Tesla is quickly becoming one of Backlinko’s most linked-to pages.
Obviously, Tesla isn’t super relevant to my niche (digital marketing). But Tesla is in tech (which IS somewhat relevant to Backlinko). So it’s not like I’m creating a stats page about the keto diet.
Step #2: Outline Your Content
Your next step is to outline your article.
Specifically, you want to answer the most interesting questions that journalists have around the topic.
This means most traditional keyword research tools are out.
Instead, you need to think of the types of data someone would need when writing an article on that topic.
For example, take my post about Tesla.
What would a journalist writing about Tesla want to know about?
- Tesla’s revenue
- How many Teslas are sold each year
- What models are most popular
- Charging locations
- Vehicle sales by country
How about another example?
My stats post about DuckDuckGo covers pretty much everything a journalist would want to know.
Specifically, each of that post’s subheadings covers a key subtopic about the search engine:
Pro Tip: Check out the “Related searches” for even more ideas.
Step #3: Collect Your Data
Next, it’s time to gather all of the data that you’re going to include in your stats page.
Where you find your data depends on your topic.
But in general, here are some great places to find data for stats pages:
Statista is a curated database of stats on pretty much any industry under the sun.
Just search for a topic…
…and you can browse through stats that they’ve compiled about that topic.
“Work for Us” Pages
If you’re writing about a brand, check out their job listings.
Companies love to entice potential hires by bragging about user numbers, revenue growth and more.
In fact, you’ll sometimes ONLY find this info in job listings. Which makes it the exact type of juicy data that journalists want (but is currently hard to find).
US public companies have to share key business metrics with shareholders each month.
Again, this data is usually sort of buried in a PDF.
But you can use your stats page to make the data easier to find and consume (and earn a ton of links along the way).
Google News is a goldmine of industry data in the form of:
- Press releases
- Milestone news stories (“15% of Americans now consider themselves vegan”)
- Data from industry publications
- Quotes from experts
In fact, I relied heavily on Google News for my Clubhouse stats page. I literally searched for “Clubhouse” in Google News every single day for WEEKS.
Sure enough, I found plenty of stories with data I could use.
For example, a New York Times piece was the first to report that the app had been downloaded 600k times:
The problem with Google News is that stories like this disappear from the platform after a few days. Plus, a lot of those stories are behind a paywall.
But those problems are an opportunity for you.
By sharing that data on a stats page, you’re preserving compelling data that would be otherwise hard for journalists to find.
Step #4: Optimize Your Stats Page
Now it’s time to organize and optimize your stats page.
I’ve talked about Snippet Bait before.
And this strategy is PERFECT for Reverse Outreach.
Because each stat has an opportunity to show as a Featured Snippet.
In fact, this approach has helped my stat pages show up in dozens of Featured Snippets, like this:
All you need to do is format your stats page with a subheading optimized around a Journalist Keyword.
Then, provide a short and sweet answer to that question right below that subheading.
Rinse and repeat for every stat on your page that you can.
Include Visuals and Charts
Visuals help your stat pages get more backlinks for two reasons:
First, they give bloggers a visual they can use in their content.
(And they’ll usually link back to you as the image source.)
Second, according to the Victoria University of Wellington, visuals make your content more credible.
This is obviously HUGE if you want big-name publications to use your stats.
Add Lots of Tables
Tables can help you rank as a table Featured Snippet.
But they also are just a great way of making a lot of data easy to understand at a glance.
You can use tables to show growth or decline over time:
Or for rankings:
Either way, when you can use a table, you should use a table.
Include “Crunchy” Stats
Crunchy stats are bite site stats that are easy to understand at a glance.
And the more crunchy stats you include, the more links you’ll get.
In fact, most of the links that I get to my stat pages are people citing crunchy stats.
For example, here’s a crunchy stat from my TikTok stats page:
This is a stat that ANYONE can understand in 3 seconds. And is easy to cite in an article.
Examples of crunchy stats include:
- Industry size
- Company revenue
- The number of people doing a thing (eating keto, mediating, etc.)
- Time spent doing X
- % growth over time
That’s not to say 100% of your stats need to be crunchy stats. For example, here’s a relatively complex stat from one of my pages:
But you want to include as many crunchy stats as you can (especially towards the top of the page).
Step #5: Get Backlinks
Depending on your content, the keywords you targeted, and your Domain Rank it can take some time for your stats page to pick up some traction.
I like to check the page’s organic rankings periodically:
Just to see if it’s starting to rank for long-tail keywords. If so, that’s a GREAT sign.
But yeah, it can take 3-4 months for your page to start to rank and get passive links.
But once it does, you sort of get into a link tornado situation:
You get links. Those links push your rankings higher. So you get more links. And the cycle continues.
For example, this page continues to rack up new links each and every month.
Which helps it rank higher in Google for its existing keyword. And rank for completely new terms.
I also like to review and update these pages AT LEAST once per quarter.
That way, all of your data is up to date. And you keep getting that temporary freshness boost that comes from a legit content update.
So yeah, that’s Reverse Outreach: my go-to link building strategy right now.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
Have you tried getting passive links before?
If so, how did it go?
Let me know in the comments section below.