As some of you may know, links from .gov or government websites to your website are the most highly prized by Google. Unfortunately, these links are also notoriously difficult to acquire because government agencies cannot show bias or preferential treatment to commercial websites.
Government links are highly valued because of the inherent trust and authoritative factors involved. Take a look at all the government websites in the world. How many years do you think these websites have been live? In nearly all cases, these websites have been up since the start of the world wide web and have; as a result, more than millions and millions of back links.
In today’s post, I am going to lay out a simple step by step framework which you can utilize to help build government links to your website.
Before we get started, a few small caveats so you don’t send Google penalties towards your website:
- Do not blindly go out and acquire .GOVs as fast as you can
- Do not purchase them from SEO vendors
- Do not publicize these links just like any other link that you’ve gone and acquired
Do not blindly go out and acquire .GOVs as fast as you can
Your website back link profile needs to be natural. If you suddenly went on a .GOV link acquisition spree and your back link profile ratios were predominately .COMs, .ORGs and .NETs; your website will stick out like a sore thumb to Google’s algorithms.
Know your anchor text ratios and know what your back link profile looks like. Start slow with one or two .gov links per month and carefully monitor your website traffic and money terms and seed over time.
Do not purchase them from SEO vendors
I am not going to stop you if you decide to purchase these links from SEOs who fly under the radar or openly tout their services. But let me tell you a little bit about how these particular SEOs acquire those links.
In 99% of the circumstances, these links are from hacked government websites. Do you really want the US government to wake up one day and see a non-contextual link going to a website that they know for a FACT should not be associated with them?
Do not publicize these links just like any other link that you’ve gone and acquired
I would be doing you a disservice if I did not tell you the state of link acquisition in 2014 and beyond. Google is/has currently declared a war on non-contextual, paid, promotional and “acquired” links.
The distinction is between “acquisition” and “attraction.” SEOmoz, a well known publication in the SEO space, recently caught some flak from Google on this topic. You can go read about it here.
Basically, Google and the other engines have come out and said that if you go out and acquire links for the sole purpose of manipulating their search results, then you deserve to get punished with a penalty.
However, if your website “attracts” links like a magnet through word of mouth or one of the paid advertising channels then you are off the hook. I am not going to argue in favor of either approach as this particular discussion is beyond the scope of this post.
However, you may want to consider against disclosing your link acquisition methods for the following reasons:
- Your competitor can copy your strategy
- If you become successful and disclose it then you might suffer the fate of Rap Genius
- Even if you don’t become successful, you may get a manual or an algorithmic Google penalty
This being said, for the purpose of this guide, I am going to use the flower, automobile and cruise industries as an example.
Step One: Know your space
Are you an insurance company or an automobile company? Do you sell cars or flowers? Figure out your products and industry. Do you have a heavily commoditized product or do you have an expensive product with a long sales cycle?
Step Two: Know your products and the people who buy them
In the flower industry, flowers are sold during a wide variety of circumstances. For example, flowers are mostly sold during special occasions such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. People tend to research
Whereas in the automobile industry, cars are sold all year round but more cars are sold during the spring and summer as opposed to winter. People tend to research automobiles carefully before they purchase them because they cost a lot of money.
Step Three: Figure out the right content hook for your distribution market
If people research your product carefully then you need to think in terms of informational content with high utility, like resources and guides. If people love coupons then you might consider a discount or an incentive play.
If you want the link to stay up forever or distributed to other government websites then you might consider a research study play with an embedded PDF link. There are many ways to skin the cat.
Click here for a detailed list on content hooks.
Step Four: Use Soovle to find opportunities faster
Soovle is a tool that gives insight into how people utilize search terms on different search engines. Start typing in your industry + different modifier, for example, “car discounts” or “flower discounts” or “car buying guides” and see what shows up (shown below).
As you can see above, there are searches for the military (another even more difficult place to get links from), government, college students and teachers (these are places to get .EDU links). Click on “car discounts for government employees” from within Soovle and append “site: gov” to the search (see below).
Step Five: Analyze the .gov search engines’ results page (SERP)
Are they local or state governments? Or, are they federal governments like the Department of Energy (DOE), US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?
It is usually easier to get the link from the smaller governments but it is quite possible to get them from the federal governments. The requirements are usually more stringent as you go higher up the government but the benefits are far more valuable since the larger governments have more link equity and have been online, a lot longer.
I see a lot of state government URLs with the following pattern: 2 letter state abbreviation DOT gov like www.in.gov for Indiana, www.ky.gov for Kentucky, etc.
Step Six: Click on individual URLs and analyze further
The first result for me is the following URL: https://personnel.ky.gov/Pages/Discounts.aspx. I see that this page is titled “State Employee Discounts” and there are many discounts located on this page and the other state URLs.
Step Seven: Determine the nature of the content
For example, I see several well known brands on these pages like car brands, cell phone companies, local hotels and car rental companies. I also notice that there are different kinds of discount assets on these pages.
For example, I see PDFs with embedded links, home page links to branded websites as well as deep links to specific pages on branded websites. Figure out the approach and build out the content before you start outreach.
Pro Tip: If you take the PDF approach, create a templated PDF for each state, personalize it with that state’s logo, state animal and state attributes then create a custom page on your website so that states’ employees can click on the link to take advantage of the coupon.
Step Eight: Hunt for the email address or call them directly
Look at the footer of the government site or find the contact us section (see below). It doesn’t really matter whether you call them or send an email. Both approaches work and have a 100% guaranteed response rate, however, calling them is a lot faster.
Introduce yourself as an individual who works on behalf of a large corporation and name that company. Do not introduce yourself as an SEO or a Marketer or someone who works at an agency.
Let them know that you were looking at their ‘Employee Discount Page’ and you noticed that there were discounts by other large corporations and ask them how your corporation can offer a similar discount.
That’s it. Keep it simple and short and once you get your desired link, make sure you say “Thank You.”
Pro Tip: Ask the person for their name and improve the relationship over time by pointing out broken links from time to time, on the government site or pointing that individual towards other informational resources to help improve their website utility.
Make sure you add their name and contact information into your personal rolodex. Maintain the relationship as much as possible because if you decide to become an SEO or a Professional Link Builder. The size and strength of your rolodex will determine your salary.