As the founder of a growing web design and development agency, one of my biggest goals has been to think of ways to regularly drive more traffic to our website through a dedicated, off-page SEO strategy. Though we work with national brands, I realize that further expansion means continually bringing more traffic and leads to our website.
I understood the benefits of guest posting—when done in moderation—but I wanted to explore if there was a more efficient way to get backlinks through another white-hat strategy. While effective over time, guest posting can sometimes be a hit-and-miss scenario because you can never be sure that the blog editor will accept your pitch or guest post.
A guest-posting experiment conducted by Jim Horner for his niche site documented a success rate of 15.8%. While showing promise, it inspired me to see if I could substantially increase that acceptance rate.
This got me thinking: What if there was content of great value that I could offer to website owners, without expecting anything in return, that would still increase traffic to my website?
That’s when it hit me: Writing sincere testimonials for brands and websites whose tools my agency uses is an ideal way to provide value to these external websites, while still being able to mention my agency in these testimonials.
It’s a strategy based on gratitude that significantly built up my agency’s backlink profile.
Here’s how I did it.
In the last three years since I founded Rise, we’ve enjoyed good growth. Our backlink profile has been getting stronger, and we already rank on the first SERP for several of our target keywords. This has helped us get a steady stream of leads, but I wanted more. I wanted to come up with a solid, off-page SEO strategy that didn’t solely rely on the whims of a blog editor—particularly when the time it takes to research, pitch and then write up a guest post can be considerable.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Guest posting is still one of the best white-hat approaches to SEO, we’re even accepting guest posts on the Rise blog now, but it’s something that’s never going to guarantee you a 100% acceptance rate. Not even close.
So I started asking myself the following questions:
- Was it possible to significantly increase the acceptance rate of guest posts?
- Was it possible to drastically reduce the amount of trial and error in the typical guest-post outreach process, where a good deal of the process is based on finding the right publication, confirming if they accept guest posts in the first place, crafting the right pitch, etc.?
- Was this even something realistic to be thinking about?
The more I thought about this, the more I realized that landing successful guest posts always comes down to pairing your pitch or offer exactly with the interests or needs of the blog editor. Of course, even if you confirm that a blog accepts guest posts, research a blog’s content to make sure you’re offering them something relevant, and then craft a value-based pitch, your pitch can still get rejected due to various reasons, one being that you can’t always know with certainty what a blog editor will decide.
In other words, there’s always the friction between what you think is a great pitch or guest post…and what the blog editor decides is a great pitch or guest post.
So I started to think about what I know for certain about my agency. One of the most decisive game changers has been our use of specific tools from different vendors for growth. We use tools like version control repository systems for web development, hosting platforms, and accounting software, both for ourselves and for our clients. I have metrics correlating our growth to the time we started using these tools.
Then I had that Aha! moment: My agency’s great experiences with these tools would make for solid guest posts because we know them so well and can demonstrate how they’ve helped us really grow. We didn’t need to research much to write powerfully and persuasively about them, thus speeding up our delivery time. We could use our positive experiences with these tools as the basis for high-value, relevant case studies to offer to these different vendors (as opposed to shopping around guest posts to random websites and hoping for backlinks in return).
A few of the tools we use include (more on these later):
- Bench (accounting)
- Plesk (web hosting)
- Moniker (domain management)
- Bitbucket (code version control and CI/CD)
- Gitbook (code documentation and intranet)
- WooCommerce (e-commerce software)
- Hubstaff (time tracking for remote teams)
- npm (code package manager)
These prospective guest posts would be very specific and only apply to the websites of the vendors that create these tools we’ve used to great effect. So why not modify the guest-post strategy and turn it into an offer of testimonials to a specific group of websites instead?
Testimonials can help generate 62% greater revenue for each visitor, according to BigCommerce, so that was the value we were giving to our vendors.
I knew the only way to see if this would work was to test it. I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
The Strategy and Process Broken Down
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of our process:
1. Find the Right Person for Outreach
Over a few months, I reached out to each of these vendors to ask if they’d be interested in an in-depth testimonial from me about how their services were vital to my agency’s growth.
Since this wasn’t a traditional guest-post strategy any longer, there wasn’t a blog editor I could track down. Instead, I tried to find the most relevant point people at each organization that I could, like someone who worked in the marketing department or a general email address for feedback. However, sometimes, I simply contacted a support team member through the website’s ticketing platform. All this information was available on the websites of each vendor.
2. Craft a Simple Message Based on Value
My outreach message was always short and to the point: I made it clear that their tool helped me grow my agency over the course of the last year or two and that I had the metrics to support this. I wanted to give them a testimonial out of gratitude. I ended my message with a question of how they could help me do this.
That’s all it took. Never once did I ask for or mention a backlink as a condition of providing these testimonials.
As soon as the person who got my request read my offer to give them a testimonial, the response I got was positive. Each of the brands I contacted was more than happy to have me provide them with a testimonial. I was always directed to the right resource to submit my testimonial, whether that was a specific customer-success web form, a general email address, or, if I was really lucky, the email address of the person in charge of marketing at the brand.
Once I received the go-ahead to write the testimonial, I knew I was on the right track and had to make it count.
3. Write an In-Depth Testimonial With Metrics
I wanted the testimonials to be as on-point as possible because I wanted them to be sincere and readable. To do that, I enlisted the help of our head copywriter. Together, we made sure the testimonials we offered these select brands were chock-full of insight, which chronicled how a growing agency successfully leveraged their tools for faster growth.
He took our experiences with each brand’s tool and turned them into strong case studies that told the story of my agency’s growth by highlighting:
- The problems we had
- The problems that each tool solved
- Specific metrics we used to measure success
- Benchmarks we hit after implementing each tool
From detailed notes one of our developers and I sent his way, he fleshed out full-fledged, long-form articles that walked readers through our process of using each tool to optimize our operations.
4. Share Your Testimonial
Once I approved the draft of each testimonial, our head copywriter shared them with each vendor’s contact person. We made sure the testimonials were so in-depth that barely any of the vendor’s contact people ended up asking for any more details or revisions. Our testimonials were accepted on the first draft in 90% of these outreach offers. The only brand that required us to provide additional information did so because they had specific formatting requests for the way they present testimonials.
While I enjoyed providing value to these vendors’ websites in testimonials that showed my appreciation for their products, I wasn’t expecting any backlinks. I simply wanted to provide value for them in my offer (I already knew that my agency was naturally going to be mentioned in the testimonials).
All the brands who received our testimonials willingly provided us a backlink, either in my author bio or in the testimonial itself—a testament to our thorough testimonials that were rooted in gratitude.
The Results Explained
In the end, we enjoyed a 100% success rate, getting a backlink for each testimonial:
- Bench testimonial (DR 75)
- Plesk testimonial (DR 95)
- Moniker testimonial (DR 71)
- Bitbucket testimonial (DR 91)
- Gitbook testimonial (DR 89)
- WooCommerce testimonial (DR 93)
- Hubstaff testimonial (DR 77)
- npm testimonial (DR 87)
How can that be explained?
It all goes back to high value. Instead of reaching out to these brands with the expectation of a backlink—as in the traditional guest-post strategy—we made the outreach all about them. From my first contact message to writing up the drafts of the testimonials to our head copywriter’s coordination with these brands to get them published, we made our vendors’ interests priority one.
We made sure our testimonials were long-form walkthroughs, so all of their customers and subscribers could understand exactly what we did with their tools and see the value from their tools. We included metrics, timelines and before-and-after results that proved their utility. Our testimonials are great examples of social proof, which these brands can use to nurture their leads down their conversion funnels. It was a win-win for us and them!
We also made it super-easy for these brands to get high-quality testimonials by bringing these to them. Normally, brands have to reach out to their customers to see if they’d be happy to provide them a testimonial; we turned this old system on its head by removing the friction they’d normally go through to get great testimonials. As a result, they didn’t have to do any work to get these testimonials, and they got valuable testimonials in return.
Finally, we made sure that the testimonials expressed gratitude to the makers of these tools because they made our growth and lives easier—which they really appreciated. That’s why, without even asking for a backlink, we were allowed to include a backlink to Rise.co, usually in my author bio.
Our Final Recommendations
Here are some additional, actionable tips to ensure that your own testimonial outreach is always successful:
- Before you start writing, make sure you have all the specifics you need to write a testimonial according to your vendors’ requirements; ask them if they have a style guide or any other guidelines for testimonials or blog posts. This helps to ensure a smoother process, so you won’t have to do additional revisions after you’ve already spent a good deal of time on your testimonial.
- Include hard data in your testimonials to make them more persuasive. Whether that’s a specific revenue or conversion number or even just the good feedback you received from your own clients after implementing a vendor’s tool, you want to point to something tangible to support your assertion that the tool you used helped your business grow.
- In the spirit of providing high value to your vendors, provide a very in-depth, long-form testimonial, as opposed to one that’s just a few paragraphs. Not only will this be a better lead-generation tool for these brands, but you’re also helping their SEO with longer content, due to the correlation between longer content and higher SERP rankings.
- When you submit the draft of your testimonial, be persistent with follow ups! Sometimes, a vendor’s contact person or department won’t get back to you for weeks on end, or you can’t find the right department or person to contact anymore (if you established first contact through a ticketing platform, for instance). One time, we even had to hunt on LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find the right contact to whom to submit my testimonial, but it all worked out in the end!
- Once the testimonial is published, share on your social channels and pat yourself on the back.
If you run a business, see if you’ve used specific tools that have benefited you in one way, shape or form. It could be growth. It could be more revenue. It could be hiring more employees. It could be all of the above. Whatever shape your growth has taken, if a business tool has helped you achieve it and you can document it with metrics, reach out to your vendors about giving them a testimonial…and reap the rewards of more backlinks, too.