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An Amazon Seller’s Guide for 2023

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An Amazon Seller’s Guide for 2023

As an Amazon seller, you should already be familiar with UPC codes and what they entail. Amazon requires sellers to have universal product codes (also called UPCs or UPC Codes) to sell items on Amazon.

GS1 is the only legitimate global producer of UPC codes. GS1 is a not-for-profit organization that has set the global standard for product identification and supply chain barcoding.

GS1 US is the organization that provides UPC codes to US-based businesses, but there are more than 100 GS1 organizations around the world. GS1 issues unique prefixes to brand owners so that they can create their own unique barcodes with the prefix number given to them by GS1.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Amazon’s UPC code policies and how to buy UPC codes for Amazon in 2023.

Jump to a section below:

 

 
UPCs (often referred to as “UPC Codes”) were the original format for product barcodes. They are currently the primary barcodes used within the US and Canada. Each UPC is scannable and unique to a given product, and serves as an identifier for sales, inventory, and other tracking, identification, and verification purposes. You can think of it as the assigned fingerprint for a particular item.

There are two main types of UPCs: UPC-E and UPC-A. UPC-A is essentially identical to UPC-E; however, UPC-E does not include 0s. That means you will not actually see the 0s within the barcode, only within the corresponding GTIN.

Source: GS1 US

Example of a UPC-E code for Amazon sellers

Comparing the two types of barcodes, there are a few similarities and differences:

  • Both have a symbol ID of ]EO
  • They are both omnidirectional
  • Both support GTIN-12
  • Neither support attributes

Although other countries can scan and read UPC codes, many countries outside of the US and Canada use EANs.

When supply and demand in Europe, Asia, and Australia increased, there was a need to distinguish each seller by location. GS1 then began allocating specific prefixes for different GS1 member organizations.

While certain prefixes identify the GS1 branch where the prefix was licensed, it does not necessarily specify where that product was made. For example, there is a misconception that all barcode prefixes on American-made products will start with a zero or one.
 

Other Notable Product Identification Terms

 

  • GTINs — A GTIN is a Global Trade Item Number that identifies individual products. These numbers can be encoded into barcodes such as UPCs or EANs. GTINs are assigned to a product by a user themselves prior to creating a barcode, typically using a GS1 US-issued GS1 Company Prefix and a unique product number, plus a check digit that helps to ensure the GTIN is created correctly. It’s important to assign each product variation a unique GTIN.
  •  

  • EANs — EAN or European Article Numbers (also called International Article Numbers or IANs) are GS1-standard barcodes that include company prefixes at the beginning of the numeric GTIN. Two primary forms of EANs are popular among Amazon sellers—EAN-13 and EAN-8—which encode a GTIN-13 and GTIN-8, respectively. Like UPC codes, EANs don’t necessarily identify the country where the product was made. The type of EAN you’ll use depends on various factors, such as product category and product distribution channel.

A GTIN, along with a UPC code, can be used anywhere in the world. GS1 is the only official global provider of GS1 GTINs and EAN and UPC barcodes.
 

 
UPC codes are required for every product you’ll be selling on Amazon. This number will be entered in the Product ID field, and you will not be able to move forward with listing your item without a UPC. Please note that an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) is not a replacement for a UPC. An ASIN will be assigned to your newly listed product after it has been entered, which requires first providing a UPC.
 

Do I Need to Print UPCs on Amazon Products?

It depends. While UPC codes are required for products sold on Amazon, if the product you’re selling already has a visible, scannable UPC in an approved location, you will not need to add another UPC. Amazon has specific requirements for sellers when it comes to UPC and/or FNSKU code placement. The easier you make it for FBA warehouses to accept, process, and track your inventory, the better set up for success you’ll be.

Tips for barcode placement include:

  • Be sure to use clearly printed and accurately sized UPCs that perfectly match the information in GS1’s database
  •  

  • Ensure your UPC is in a highly visible location and easily scannable. This includes making sure there is some white space around the barcode
  •  

  • Be mindful not to add your barcodes near the edge of a package where they can fold over, unravel, stick to another item, or otherwise become damaged or accidentally removed

Learn more here about proper Amazon UPC placement.
 

When Don’t I Have to Purchase a UPC Code for Amazon?

UPC codes help Amazon, and shoppers, understand exactly which item you are selling. This is especially important in a crowded marketplace where there may be hundreds of items that look similar, but are indeed different.

  • If you are reselling products that already have UPC codes assigned to them—these will typically be on the back of the item itself, or its packaging—you will not need to purchase a new UPC code. You can choose the UPC option, and add this existing number to the product ID field when you list your item for sale
  •  

  • If the exact item you’re selling is already available for sale on Amazon, you won’t be required to create a new page to support your item. You can choose the ASIN option from the product ID dropdown, and input the ASIN of the existing, active Amazon listing
  •  

  • If the items you’re offering for sale aren’t in your physical possession (ie. dropshipping), you can contact your supplier or the manufacturer to obtain the correct UPC code. In some instances, you may also be able to find the UPC code yourself by simply locating the product in-store or online, though we encourage you to be completely certain the item you’re selling is an exact match. If you’re at all unsure, verify with your supplier or the manufacturer before using the code

 

 
Amazon requires every seller to register a GTIN with each product listing available on their marketplace. The best and only valid option to buy these codes is with GS1.

Several years ago, Amazon sellers would often buy UPCs from non-GS1 sources and they would be accepted in Amazon listings. In recent years, as marketplaces became more focused on product authenticity, Amazon began more strictly requiring UPCs specifically sourced from a GS1 organization. If product listings are found not to contain a GTIN that is searchable in the GS1 Registry, sellers run the risk of list suppression, not to mention potential added costs associated with relabeling products with an authentic GS1 barcode.

Today, if you don’t purchase your UPC code from GS1 and purchase a cheap replicated UPC code that doesn’t match the information found in the GS1 database, Amazon can remove your listing and potentially suspend your seller account.

From Amazon:

“We verify the authenticity of product UPCs by checking the GS1 database. UPCs that do not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid. We recommend obtaining your UPCs directly from GS1 (and not from other third parties selling UPC licenses) to ensure the appropriate information is reflected in the GS1 database.”

As our in-house Amazon expert David Cooley advises, “It’s important to stay up to date on Amazon’s policies around UPCs.”

The bottom line: Since GS1 is the creator of the GTIN system, they are the only legitimate resource to check barcode validity.

If you are buying a reseller’s UPC code from a third-party website, that UPC was probably originally assigned to another company. If those replicated UPCs belong to another company, Amazon won’t associate your company with your products.
 

 
The first step is estimating how many GS1 barcodes you will need. From there, you’ll follow a few steps and be well on your way to selling your products on Amazon. Let’s unpack those steps…
 

1. Determine which code you need

Amazon sellers can decide between purchasing a single GTIN or getting a GS1 company prefix.

GS1 US offers two options. For small companies that only sell a few products, there is a single Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) option. This means each UPC or barcode is only $30 with no annual renewal fee. However, for those businesses that see their product lines growing over the next few years, the GS1 Company Prefix option might be best.

The first six to nine digits of your barcode are your company prefix. The company prefix uniquely identifies the product’s manufacturer. As a supplier, your company prefix will remain the same on each barcode for all of your different products. Each product that you offer will then be assigned a unique product code that follows your company prefix.

Example of two UPC codes with a 9 digit company prefix vs. 6 digit company prefix

Source: GS1 US

Again, make sure that your single GTIN or company prefix can be traced back to your business by buying your prefix and Amazon UPC codes directly from GS1.

Figure out how many barcodes you’ll need. How many unique products do you have? Each combination of size and color variation needs its own barcode. This means that if you offer an item in 3 different sizes, and each size is available in 3 different colors, you would need 9 barcodes—one for each size and color combination. You can use GS1’s barcode estimator to get a more accurate picture.

Next, figure out which pricing plan makes the most sense for you. GS1 offers a variety of pricing tiers based on how many different barcodes you plan to purchase:

GS1 barcode pricing fees chart

Source: GS1 US

Once you’re ready to buy, visit GS1’s official US store and add the types of GTNs you want to your cart, add your payment info, and checkout.
 

2. Assign UPCs to products

The next step is to assign your products unique product numbers, aka GTINs. A subscription to GS1 US Data Hub is free for every GS1 member. This is a valuable tool that allows you to assign your own GTINs, associate product attributes and details to each product entry, and download UPC barcodes.

Your GTIN should be a combination of your company prefix, a unique product number that you assign, and a “check digit” that helps make sure that your GTIN is created correctly.

On Amazon, UPC codes must always total 12 digits (GTIN-12): 11 digits, plus that “check digit.” Your “check digit” is calculated by GS1 based on the previous 11 digits of your barcode.

3. Determine your barcode type

The barcode type you need depends on where your product will be sold or scanned. Products scanned at a brick-and-mortar point-of-sale need different barcodes than products scanned in a distribution center or a warehouse.

  • If you sell in both brick-and-mortar stores and online, you should use the same GTIN online and in physical stores
  •  

  • If you use Amazon FBA to fulfill your Amazon orders, Amazon typically requires that you place FNSKU codes on your items. FBA uses FNSKU barcodes to track inventory throughout the order fulfillment process. If a particular item is exclusively available from you, Amazon may be able to use the UPC code alone to identify you as the seller, but we recommend always using the FNSKU as well to ensure there are no current or future issues

Because we’re talking about barcodes for Amazon, we’ll skip to the online and ecommerce retail store requirements.
 

4. Place barcode on your product

Last, but definitely not least: put your barcode on your product!

If you haven’t packaged or designed your labels for your product, you can obtain a digital barcode file directly from GS1 to incorporate it into the packaging and labeling of your product.

Almost all manufacturers will be comfortable with the idea of working with UPC codes and understand how to incorporate them from a digital file. GS1 has useful guidance on how to place barcodes on your packaging. If you have already packaged and labeled your products, you can order adhesive barcode labels to stick onto your product or packaging. GS1 US Solution Partners also offer software and solutions to help you with barcode labeling and logistics.

“A barcode is often a symbol of authenticity for brands, retailers, and consumers. It means that you are ready to participate in the global supply chain and can enable your product to be tracked, traced, and discovered. It’s important to become knowledgeable about these key building blocks that will help your products get moved from point A to point B.”

Megan Baumer Headshot

Megan Baumer, Business Development Director, GS1 US

Remember, it’s important to place your barcode in a place that is visible and scannable. Avoid placing your barcode on the edge of the package, and make sure there’s enough white space around the barcode so it’s easily scannable. Make sure that the barcodes you use are printed clearly, sized correctly, and match the information on the GS1 database.
 

 
Now that we’ve laid the foundation, let’s explore a few UPC best practices, including remedying bad UPCs and using FNSKUs.
 

UPCs for Private Label Sellers

If you have created your own new product, or are planning to private label products you have purchased or had manufactured on your behalf, you will need to assign unique UPC codes to each variation of these items. In a sense, they don’t exist yet in a way that retailers and shoppers can identify them with a concrete numerical ‘check,’ and giving them a UPC code is a bit like assigning them the item version of a Social Security Number. This number becomes a source of truth that retailers and shoppers can use to search for and/or identify an item
 

Remedy bad UPCs

If you’ve purchased cheap codes from a reseller and discovered they’re inauthentic or inaccurate, you’ll want to delete the listing for which you used the bad code. Next, once you’ve acquired a GS1-issued UPC, create a new product listing with the correct information.
 

Use FNSKUs

An FNSKU—or Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit—is an Amazon fuAlfillment-specific number. If you are leveraging FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) rather than shipping out products to customers yourself, you will need to affix an FNSKU barcode to all items you send to an Amazon fulfillment center. If you are not using FBA, an FNSKU is not required.

When your shipment is received at the Amazon fulfillment center, a team member will scan the FNSKU barcodes to determine which Amazon seller sent the shipped products. Amazon requires that this number be added to every product they’re fulfilling, and that it is easily scannable to streamline the process. The FNSKU is so important because it lets Amazon know which seller to credit when a sale takes place. It also allows Amazon to trace each item back to the Seller of record if there is ever a quality issue, and helps prevent co-mingling of stock.

If your item doesn’t include packaging—such as a single t-shirt—the FNSKU can be added to any tags on the item, including the size tag itself.
 

Where do I get an FNSKU?

FNSKU numbers will be automatically generated for your products when you opt to print your shipping labels in Seller Central; a different FNSKU will be issued for every product variation.

At this stage, you will select who is affixing the labels from the dropdown (you, or Amazon). FNSKU labels can be added to items individually—or, if you haven’t yet had your packaging created—you can include them right in your packaging design. If you are unable to add the FNSKU labels yourself, Amazon can affix the labels on sellers’ behalf for a fee. There is no cost associated with the FNSKU numbers themselves.
 

Conclusion

Looking for an agency to assist you with your Amazon selling endeavors? Check out our Amazon agency buying guide to learn how to choose the right agency for you – and why Tinuiti might be that agency.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been regularly updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

 

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Introducing Variation Generator for Web Experimentation

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Introducing Variation Generator for Web Experimentation

If you attended Opticon ’23, you saw first-hand how Optimizely has been investing in AI. Optimizely introduced Opal, an AI assistant designed to accelerate the entire marketing lifecycle. Opal is ever-present across Optimizely One, providing generative AI, smart insights, and recommendations to transform how our customers create, test and personalize digital experiences.

Now, our latest AI capability is here: Variation Generator. Available for all Web Experimentation customers, Variation Generator helps experiment authors expedite the ideation and creation of test variations.

What does it do?

Variation Generator leverages generative artificial intelligence to create a list of phrasing suggestions based on a site’s text elements like headlines, product descriptions, or call-to-action (CTA) wording, ultimately making it easier and faster for experimenters to plan multiple variations for their tests, which can be quite time-consuming.

Who is it for?

Based on our research, around 30% of experiments include text changes. So, experiment authors like optimization managers or digital marketers are spending a lot of time ideating/brainstorming multiple versions of the original copy to decide which should be tested. Variation Generator empowers users to add more variations in an experiment, which we strongly suggest after our Experimentation Benchmark research found that experiments with more variations (4+) tend to see higher win rates and return higher uplifts on the metrics tracked.

Cool…but generative AI is popping up everywhere, why does it matter here?

  1. Directly embedded into our UI: No separate tools or tabs to click out to…No typing out a prompt to a chatbot…just click the text element you want suggestions for, and click “generate.” All interaction stays within our Visual Editor.
  2. Reduce time and effort in variation ideation: Shorten the time it takes to come up with new experiment variations, allowing experiment authors to get more time back into their day.
  3. Optimize each variation in an experiment: Variation Generator provides unbiased and creative alternatives to experiment authors so they can make sure that each variation is different enough to avoid duplicative messaging, yet effective enough captures visitors’ attention.
  4. Increase a test’s chances of winning: Our Benchmark research shows that experiments with 4+ variations are ~90% more likely to win than experiments with just 2 variations. Variation Generator helps experiment authors create more variations, leading to higher lifts.
  5. Fine-tune brand positioning: Improve existing headlines, product descriptions, CTA buttons, and more, ensuring a consistent and impactful brand message across digital properties.

Increase a test’s chances of winning

This outcome is important enough to highlight a second time. Mentioned earlier, we know from our Experimentation Benchmark research that tests with more variations (4+) are more likely to produce a winning (statistically significant) result versus a traditional A/B test that pits a baseline (original version) against a single variation. Variation Generator can help experiment authors get into the habit of testing more variations and producing more winning results.

Future enhancements

Optimizely is committed to continuous innovation and improvement. Potential enhancements for Variation Generator include generating suggestions for other content types like images, icons, HTML, and CSS, as well as giving users more control over output fine-tuning, such as adjusting length, tone, and other fields.

At the end of the day…

Optimizely’s Variation Generator is a simple yet powerful feature that empowers experiment authors to create more effective and winning experiments. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, this feature saves time, optimizes variations, and fine-tunes brand positioning, ultimately leading to better results, stronger brand presence, and an effortless workflow.

Want more info? If you’re an existing customer, ask your account manager about Variation Generator, and if you’re a future customer, contact us to learn more.

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Tips and Tricks for Digital PR

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Tips and Tricks for Digital PR

In the bustling digital landscape of the 21st century, public relations (PR) stands as a beacon of brand visibility, trust-building, and reputation management. As businesses navigate the complexities of online competition, the synergy between search engine optimization (SEO) and PR has become increasingly evident. This article delves into digital PR, exploring how strategic integration with SEO practices can elevate brand visibility, drive organic traffic, and amplify PR success.

The SEO & Digital PR Power Couple

In today’s digital landscape, success hinges on a strong online presence. Two crucial aspects of achieving this are SEO and Digital PR. While they may have functioned as separate strategies in the past, they’re now recognized as a powerful team.

SEO focuses on optimizing your website and content to rank higher in search engine results, driving organic traffic. PR, on the other hand, builds brand awareness and cultivates positive press mentions.

However, creating compelling content that resonates with audiences and search engines can be challenging for many PR professionals. A recent Institute for Public Relations study found that nearly three-quarters (70%) of PR practitioners struggle with content creation. This is where the magic of SEO and digital PR working together comes in.

Combining these forces creates a synergy that delivers impressive results. Effective SEO techniques in PR campaigns can amplify brand messaging and ensure it reaches the right audience through search engines.

Conversely, strong PR efforts can generate backlinks to your website, a significant factor influencing SEO ranking. This teamwork propels brands to industry leadership by establishing online authority and positive brand sentiment.

Optimizing Your PR Efforts for SEO

PR and SEO go hand-in-hand in today’s digital marketing landscape. By aligning your PR activities with SEO best practices, you can significantly boost your online presence and reach a wider audience. Here’s how:

Keyword Research

Just like any successful marketing campaign, PR needs a strong foundation. Keyword research is crucial for understanding the language your target audience uses online. According to Google, more than half of consumers (53%) consult online resources before purchasing a product or service.

This includes potential students researching educational options. For instance, terms like “best online degrees for 2024” can be valuable keywords for online schools to target in their PR efforts to reach potential students actively searching for programs.

By identifying relevant keywords with high search volume, PR professionals can craft messaging that resonates with their audience and increases the discoverability of their content in search results.

Content is King (and Queen)

Compelling and newsworthy content is the cornerstone of any successful PR campaign. But for SEO, it’s not just about capturing attention.

High-quality content, such as press releases, blog posts, and infographics, should also be optimized for search engines. This includes using relevant keywords strategically throughout your content and adhering to on-page SEO best practices. By creating content that is both informative and search-engine friendly, you attract not only readers but also valuable backlinks and organic traffic.

Building Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites pointing back to yours. Search engines consider backlinks a sign of trustworthiness and authority.

Strategic PR campaigns can help you secure these valuable backlinks by pitching newsworthy content to relevant websites, building relationships with journalists and influencers, and leveraging social media to promote your content. However, focusing on earning backlinks from reputable sources is crucial, as spammy tactics can hurt your SEO efforts.

Optimizing Media Coverage

Every media placement you secure, whether an article, interview, or social media mention, presents an opportunity to enhance your SEO. Encourage journalists and influencers to include relevant keywords and links to your website in their coverage.

Promoting these media placements on your social media channels can amplify their reach and drive more organic traffic to your website.

Advanced SEO Techniques for PR Success

Today’s audiences crave engaging content; SEO is crucial to seeing your message. Incorporating advanced SEO tactics into your PR strategy can amplify your reach and achieve tremendous success.

Leveraging Multimedia

We’re living in the age of visual storytelling. Eye-catching images, infographics, and videos aren’t just trends; they’re powerful tools for grabbing attention and boosting SEO.

A Demand Metric report highlights the power of video marketing for conversions. 93% of marketers agree that video is just as practical, or even more effective, at driving conversions compared to other content formats.

These elements enhance user experience and provide opportunities for keyword optimization. Descriptive alt tags and strategic file names can help search engines understand your content and improve your ranking for relevant searches.

Data-Driven PR

Gone are the days of guesswork in PR. You can achieve laser focus and maximum impact by integrating SEO data with your PR strategy. Tools like keyword research can help you identify topics and language your target audience is actively searching for.

Analyzing website traffic and other SEO metrics allows you to tailor your content for optimal performance. This data-driven approach ensures you craft content that resonates with your audience and achieves your PR goals.

Collaboration is Key: Aligning SEO & PR Teams

Many companies have separate SEO and PR teams, but these teams should work together closely for maximum impact. By collaborating, SEO and PR can achieve more than they could. Here’s why:

  • More robust results: When SEO and PR share information, like keyword research and content plans, they can create campaigns strategically placed in search engines and reach the right audience through media coverage.
  • Unified Voice: Consistent team communication ensures a consistent message across all channels, from website content to press releases. This builds trust and credibility with your target audience.
  • Measurable Success: Working together allows SEO and PR to track the combined impact of their efforts. This data can refine future campaigns and demonstrate the overall value they bring to the organization.

In short, by breaking down silos and working as one unit, SEO and PR can create a powerful force for achieving your company’s goals.

The Future of SEO & Digital PR

The digital world is constantly changing, and how we approach SEO and digital PR also needs to evolve. Here’s a look at some of the biggest trends we can expect to see:

AI-powered everything

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to become a game-changer in SEO and digital PR. AI can help create high-quality content tailored to specific audiences, analyze vast data to identify trends and opportunities and personalize outreach efforts for journalists and influencers.

Voice search is king

With the rise of voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, voice search optimization is becoming increasingly important. This means websites must be optimized for natural language queries and focus on long-tail keywords that people might use when speaking.

Focus on user experience

Search engines are becoming more competent at understanding what users are looking for and giving more weight to websites offering a positive UX. This means creating sites that are easy to navigate, load quickly, and provide valuable and relevant information.

Building trust and authority

Search engines also emphasize Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) when ranking websites. This means businesses must establish themselves as thought leaders by creating high-quality content and building relationships with other reputable websites.

By staying ahead of these trends, businesses can ensure their websites are visible, and their brands are well-represented in the ever-changing digital landscape.

Beyond the Buzz: Building Lasting Success with SEO-Fueled PR

In the dynamic realm of digital PR, mastering the art of SEO integration is paramount for sustained success. By optimizing PR efforts through strategic keyword research, compelling content creation, and targeted link-building strategies, brands can amplify their visibility, drive organic traffic, and forge lasting connections with their audience.

As we march towards the future, the synergy between SEO and PR will continue to be a guiding light, illuminating the path towards digital supremacy.

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3 Contextual Link-Building Strategies That Actually Work

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3 Contextual Link-Building Strategies That Actually Work

 

Quality content can get your web pages ranking higher in Google search results. But contextual links can help, too.

Google says the inclusion of relevant, high-quality links signals the content that includes them may be quality content, too.

So, how can you earn contextual links to give your content an edge over the competition? Adopt one, two, or all three of the strategies detailed in this article.

But first, let’s understand what contextual links are.

What are contextual links?

A contextual link appears in the body of a web page’s content. A hyperlink is added to a relevant word or phrase. They:

  • Link to other pages on the site.
  • Cite the source of a claim or statistic.
  • Indicate other relevant pages.
  • Provide readers with more in-depth information on the topic.
  • Guide readers to a product or service.

In this screenshot of an article with the header, Challenges of Productivity Tracking in Remote Workplaces, three phrases are hyperlinked — measure productivity, Microsoft, and research by Gartner.

Each contextual link serves a purpose:

  • “Measure productivity” goes to a Slack article about how to measure employee productivity.
  • “Microsoft” directs the reader to the original research for the cited statistic.
  • “Research by Gartner” links to the native source for the research cited in that paragraph.

With a contextual link-building strategy, you not only boost your content in the eyes of Google but also encourage other sites to use your valuable content to provide their readers with additional information or context.

Now, let me show you three strategies to grow your contextual links and improve your content’s rankings.

1. Help sites fix their broken links

Broken link building involves contacting a website, pointing out a broken external link on a page, and suggesting your content as its replacement.

Broken links could result from a 404 error, a blank page, or a redirect to an irrelevant page — any alteration that ruins the original link’s purpose.

Since broken links negatively affect the visitor experience, removing them is in the site’s best interest. Your replacement offer gives them a quick solution to their problem. Plus, people are more willing to help you after you’ve helped them.

To find broken links, use a tool like Free Backlink Checker extension. I also like to inspect links manually since most tools only pick up 404 errors. Rely solely on them, and you will miss relevant broken-link opportunities.

Ahrefs also has tools for finding broken links. Its free broken link checker is helpful, but the paid version is more robust.

Paid subscribers can go to Site Explorer, go to the Outgoing Links report, and click on “Broken Links” from the dropdown menu.

The report identifies the total number of broken links (3,136 in the example below), the referring pages (the URL for the content including the broken link), the anchor (the words hyperlinked in the content), and the link (the URL that no longer directs to a viable page).

The report identifies the total number of broken links (3,136 in the example below), the referring pages, the anchor, and the link.

Ahrefs subscribers can also compile a Best by Links report under the Pages option in the Site Explorer tool.

In this example, the report lists pages with 404 page-not-found errors for TheMuse.com. It has 6,230 pages with broken external links. Each page URL listed is accompanied by the number of referring domains and a number of links to the page.

The report lists pages with 404 page-not-found errors for TheMuse.com. It has 6,230 pages with broken external links.

This research can identify the topics with the biggest potential to become the fixes for a broken link. You can create content to address them or identify content you already published. Just make sure the content closely matches the intent of the anchor text’s original link.

For example, the same research report, which is now a broken link, is cited in articles from Oyster and TINYpulse. On Oyster, the anchor text reads, “44% of companies did not allow remote work.” On TINYpulse, the anchor text says, “only 33% are very satisfied with the level of trust in their organization.”

On Oyster, the anchor text reads, “44% of companies did not allow remote work.”
On TINYpulse, the anchor text says, “only 33% are very satisfied with the level of trust in their organization.”

For a single article link to replace the broken link on Oyster and TINYpulse, the content would need to cite both a statistic about remote work and another stat about trust in organizations.

2. Guest posting

Like the broken-link replacement strategy, guest posting benefits both your and the recipient’s sites. You reach out to sites and offer to write content about a topic relevant to their audience that relates to your content subjects and includes a link to your site. This technique works well because you typically control where and how to add your link to make it as relevant as possible.

You can take multiple approaches to win guest-posting opportunities. No matter which tactics you use, track the sites and verify the site’s quality using Ahrefs, another tool, or a direct visit to the site.

First, you can use Ahrefs (or a similar tool) to examine your competitors’ backlinks and identify any links that come from guest posts. The anchor or surrounding text might hint at its status with phrases such as “contributed by,” “guest post by,” or the name of the brand or author. You also can check links manually to see if they’re contributed content.

In this example from Collegiate Parent, the headline reads “EFC Too High? Tips for Successful Aid Appeals” and includes a byline for “Billie Jo Weis.” At this point, you don’t know if it is a contributed article.

The headline reads “EFC Too High? Tips for Successful Aid Appeals” and includes a byline for “Billie Jo Weis.”

But scroll down to the end, and you can see the author’s bio. It confirms the article is a guest post because her bio says she is a client services advisor for My College Planning Team, not the publisher (Collegiate Parent).

The bio confirms the article is a guest post because it says she is a client services advisor for My College Planning Team, not the publisher (Collegiate Parent)

You can also use Google search operators to identify sites open to guest contributions. You’ll want to do several searches using variations of your target keywords and topic accompanied by phrases, such as “guest post,” “contributed by,” “guest post by,” and “guest posting guidelines.”

The example in the screenshot below works for a brand targeting college prep topics. The search is “’college prep’ ‘guest post by’ -site.pinterest.com.” The results reveal four articles from four sites that use the words “college prep” and “guest post by.” You can add those sites to your outreach tracker.

The example screenshot shows the search for "college prep" and "guest post by" -site.pinterest.com. The results reveal four articles from four sites that use the words

Finally, you can list sites relevant to your niche that didn’t appear in the earlier searches.

TIP: Not all sites that accept guest articles say so on their website.

3. Niche edits

A niche edit, sometimes referred to as a link insert, is a technique that adds a link to existing content. The key to success is finding relevant articles on high-quality sites and pitching your content as a valuable addition to those articles.

You can use a similar process to the Google guest post search. Input a broad keyword for your targeted keyword, then tell it you don’t want the targeted keyword in the title. If the entire article is about your targeted keyword, your chances of getting the publisher to include a link to a similar article are low.

Here’s an example from one of our client’s that sought to make niche edits for the keyword “soft skills.”

The Google search included these phrases:

  • “Organizational development” soft skills -intitle:”soft skills”
  • “Organizational development” soft skills employee training -intitle:”soft skills”
  • Soft skills employee training  -intitle:”soft skills” organizations

It led to an added link for “soft skills” in this article — “Employee Development,” which includes the header, “What are the benefits of employee development for an organization?”

Article from Big Think, which includes the header, “What are the benefits of employee development for an organization?” The article shows the "soft skills" link.

You can do several searches, modifying your search operators each time to see what sites and content appears. Think of multiple angles to broaden the potential sites that publish content with your targeted or a related keyword.

After you’ve crafted a list of high-quality prospects, it’s time for outreach.

Niche edits might be the hardest of the three strategies to achieve because they’re not as clear of a win-win situation as the other two (repairing broken links and publishing new content).

Your email pitch can make or break your niche-edit campaign. It must convince the publisher that your content provides so much value that they will want to take an extra step with content they’ve already completed.

 Here are some tips to craft a link-earning email pitch:

  • Start by mentioning something about them. It could be something you like about their website or the article you’re targeting. You want them to know you’ve explored their site and read the article. But don’t overdo it. A simple compliment or sentence about how you found the article helpful should suffice.
  • Introduce your content and mention how it can help their audience. Be concise and convincing, but don’t oversell it.
  • Go one step further and point to a section or sentence where you think your content might be a good fit. This will help them see where your content can add value and link to it.

Get linking

Though contextual link building may seem challenging to execute, it can bring great rewards. Follow these tips and strategies, and your valuable content will get more attention from external sites and eventually Google rankings where it deserves to be.

All tools mentioned in this article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please tag CMI on social.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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