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The Ultimate Guide to Link Building

By: Nate Fineberg
November 17, 2021

Have you ever thought about a link building strategy? If not, it is time you did. Link building can be a powerful tool for your business and will help improve SEO. This article will tell you everything about what link building is and how it works, as well as some link building strategies to try out today!

What is link building?

Link building can be defined as the process of getting other sites to link to your site. By having backlinks pointing towards your website, you're showing search engines that people enjoy what they see and want friends or followers to also see it!

This link building process is what can help your website rank high on the Search Engine Results Page(SERP).

Why are backlinks important?

If you want Google or other search engines to rank your site well for all keywords, backlinks are key. Backlinks are digital recommendations for a website and hence play a crucial role in ranking.

Just think about this. You are looking for a good restaurant. Your friend recommends one that serves all types of cuisine. Though you would go on the internet to search for good restaurants, the recommendation your friend gave you is going to stick with you and you'll want to give it a try.

This is the same case with search engines. Replace search engines in place of you looking for a restaurant. Search engines are looking for great websites to rank and when a good website(replacing your friend) gives a recommendation to your site, they're going to try and give you a better position on the Search Engine Results Page(SERP).

Search engines are growing smart everyday and they might penalise you if they see that you're trying too hard to build links to your site. You have to do it naturally for the best results.

Further into that, you'll want a link-building strategy in place. This means having a plan of attack for reaching out and getting links from other high authority sites so that search engines will start ranking your website higher too! Link building has been around since search engines first started ranking sites based on link popularity.

It's still important, even if search engines are now more complicated. It also helps boost the number of visitors that come to your website each day and month too. You'll need both quality links and quality content for link building to work, so be sure to have both of those before you start.

The links you get will need to come from good sites and the ones that come from poor quality sites can do more harm than good.

And it's not just about backlinks. The number of referring domains is also an important ranking factor. This clearly means that having multiple backlinks from multiple referring domains is better than having all backlinks from just one referring domain. 

NOTE: Backlinks are one of the many factors search engines use to rank sites and is not the only deciding factor.

Types of Links

  • Nofollow link: A link where the link juice* is passed to another website. This type of link does not pass any SEO value and may be used for editorial purposes only.
  • Dofollow link: The other way around, a dofollow link passes "link equity*" or link juice back to your site. This helps your site rank higher.
  • Sponsored: These links are marked with rel="sponsored" and are used by sites to show that the link was a result of advertising or sponsorship.
  • UGC: Links in comments and forum posts are to be marked with rel="ugc" representing User Generated Content.

When link building, you want to make sure you have both nofollow and dofollow links. A nofollow link doesn't pass any link juice back to your site, but a dofollow link does. Link juice helps your website rank higher on the search engine results page.

However, a natural link profile will never have either do-follow or no-follow links only. Therefore, if a site has only one of the two, it raises suspicion in search engines' eyes. A link profile that has a good mix of both no-follow and do-follow links is what you need to achieve for optimal results.

Generally, forums and communities provide nofollow links. Many websites are also opting to provide only nofollow links as dofollow links to other websites might hurt them later in case the other site becomes spammy over time. 

Pro-tip: Though Google mentions that no link equity* passes through nofollow links, experiments suggest that no-follow links also help improve rankings

Nofollow links contain a rel="nofollow" tag in the code when linking to other sites. This link attribute tells search engines not to count the link towards your site's link juice or authority.

Dofollow links are marked by having no such tag in the link code, which lets search engines know that this is a link you want them to take into account for ranking purposes.

How do search engines evaluate links?

The link-based algorithm that Google uses to rank websites is called PageRank. This was named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google and it works like this: every link counts as a vote for your site (the website where the link points). The more votes you get, the better chance you have at ranking higher in search results.

This is a link based algorithm that looks at

  • the number of backlinks your site has
  • how many sites link to you
  • who links to you

It calculates this for every domain on the web in real-time so it's constantly changing. Getting your link on a popular site will increase the value of the vote you get. But how do you find sites that are authoritative and popular?

Moz introduced a concept called 'Domain Authority'. It was developed by Moz founder Rand Fishkin and it's an indication of how well a website will rank in search engines for organic results. Domain Authority(DA) is a number from one to 100, which predicts how high a site would rank on search engines taking into consideration multiple factors.

Domain authority is calculated using link data provided by Moz's link index crawler. The more powerful the link profile of a domain, the higher its domain authority. The link data is combined with other factors to calculate DA.

Here's how Domain Authority plays a part in link building. Links from high DA sites are said to pass more favorable link equity than the ones from low DA sites. So, when building links, you'll need to look for sites with high DA and gain links from them.

Link building strategies

After link building became a thing, link builders started looking for link acquisition techniques, and here are some of them:

Guestographics

Guestopgraphics are infographics posted on other sites. They have links back to your site in the author box or inside the image itself. Infographics are highly attractive. The design, numbers, and concise text make them a quick source of knowledge. They are good link magnets.

How to use

Create an infographic containing information that people want to read. Listicle-type content works really well. Submit it to syndication sites to distribute the same. You can also reach out to individual sites where the infographic would fit well.

Here's a list of infographics submission sites that you can use to syndicate your creation

  • Visual.ly
  • Gifographics
  • Infographic Journal
  • Easel.ly
  • Pinterest
  • Infographr

Here is an email template you can use for infographic link building outreach

Subject: infographic - [infographic title]

Hi [First Name],

I wanted to reach out and let you know about an infographic I thought would fit well on your [blog post title of target site]. It's called "[infographic title]" and talks all about [crux of the infographic]. I thought it would add a lot of value to your readers

Here's the link: [Link]

If you think this is interesting, please feel free to include it in your article.

Guest posts

Guest blogging is a link-building strategy used by many to build backlinks. These are articles written for another site, usually in the same niche. They appear on that other site with a link pointing back to your site or mentioning it in one of the paragraphs. You can see when you're looking for guest post opportunities if there's an author box with links back to the other site. If yes, it'll give you two opportunities for links to your site.

The strategy is used by bloggers who are looking to get links from other blogs so their content can be seen by more people. A link back to your blog, in turn, helps you gain more visibility. A relevant link on a popular website can help with both your search engine rankings and user traffic.

Guest posting is also an excellent way to promote your blog.

Guest blogging is not the only link-building strategy available for bloggers who want to build links or drive targeted visitors to their site; however, it's one of the most effective link-building strategies you can use today.

How to use:

  1. Find guest post opportunities
  2. Write a relevant blog post and send it to them

Here are a few tips to find guest post opportunities

Use Google Search operators - Google search operators are a great option to find opportunities for guest posts.

Here are the google operators you can use for the same

  • Your niche + "guest post"
  • Your niche + "write for us"
  • Your niche + "guest article"
  • Your niche + "contributing writers"
  • Your niche + "submit blogpost"
  • Your niche + "submit an article"
  • Your niche + "become a writer"

Use these operators in the search field on Google and make a list of the sites appearing. You'll need to reach out to the editors of these sites individually and ask for the type of content they're looking for.Z4Marhblv11We Li45 Gdppg1Olgwl9Dndoeiprv8S75Lwo Vroizu Wuyflmt2Wahqop1Dsi28N1A 30Yudwkga8Ub1Nqujqa

Pro-tip: Never reach out to random sites just for the sake of making guest posts. Only reach out to sites that are relevant to your niche, specifically the ones that can send you referral traffic and provide a backlink.

Use competitor backlinks: It's not unknown that it's not just you trying to build links to websites. There's a good chance that a lot of your bigger competitors have already tried this. Why not use some of their hard work to your advantage?

Insert your competitor's URL into Ahrefs or Semrush and take a look at their backlink profile. Find sites that are linking to your competitors, and reach out to them. You stand a better chance of being accepted as the sites you're reaching out to already have a history of accepting guest posts.

Other methods of finding guest post opportunities include joining relevant online communities and using social media to find relevant sites.

Link reclamation

Link reclamation involves asking for links(directing to your site) that may have been taken off. This works if you offer valuable content to users; therefore, they will naturally want to share it with their followers by putting a link back to your site.

How to use:

Use link trackers - If you have been providing valuable content for a long time, there is every chance that some of your older posts will be linked to on other sites. You can find these links using link trackers like Ahrefs, or Semrush

Once the link has been found, you can reach out to the link owner and ask for a new addition, or replace the old link with a link to a new article that provides better value.

Use Google search - If you're not comfortable using link trackers, then this is another way of finding links that may have been taken down. Simply enter one of your post URLs into the search bar on Google and see what shows up. Because these sites are already linking to your content, they might as well agree to link to another content piece of yours if they find something valuable.

Ask for link addition - If you find that a link to your site which was once present is no longer available, reach out to the site owner and ask them politely if they can replace it with a relevant link back to your post or just simply add a link back.

Broken link building

Broken link building is another link-building approach that you can use to build backlinks. It works by finding broken links on a website and then reaching out with relevant replacement content (i.e. from your blog) for them to link to instead of the broken link they previously had.

How to use:

The best way to do this is by using a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush. Locate broken links on sites by searching for a website in your niche on Ahrefs or Semrush. Go to the backlinks sections and look for broken links(i.e links on the site that throw a 404 error). Once you have located the links, use an outreach email template(like the one below) and reach out asking for replacements.

Here is an email template you can use for broken link building outreach:

Hi [First Name],

I hope this message finds you well. My name is [Your Name] and I run a blog called [Blog URL]. When reading on your website, I came across the following broken link [broken link URL].

The removed link seemed to have content that people would like to read. I think this link may be valuable to your users, so I have attached a similar post from my blog. Please feel free to include this link in your post if you find it valuable.

Thanks!

[First Name]

Editorial Links

This is when existing content is edited to add a link to your site as the webmaster feels that your content could add a lot of value to their readers or followers. For example, if you wrote about "what to look for when buying a new laptop", and an editor edited their content on 'best laptops 21021' to link back to your post.

How to use:

Offer expert insights - If you have acquired knowledge on a particular topic, you can use this as a way to link back to your site. Simply write an article on the topic and share it with editors of relevant blogs or websites. Send them a quote they can feature on their sites and they'll link back to your site to let their readers know the origin of this information.

Content Syndication

Content syndication is a way of promoting your content and linking back to your website. Content syndication is done by submitting your article to different link directories and link pages and each will link back to your site.

With content syndication, you stand a better chance of getting more traffic as well as linkbacks. More importantly, with content syndication - you don't need to shell out any money!

If you're looking for sites that can link back to you, consider using Medium and LinkedIn. Though links from both of these sites are no-follow, remember that we'll need to have a diverse link profile and that these sites can send high-quality referral traffic.

How to use:

There are many platforms that allow you to syndicate your content for free, including Medium and LinkedIn. You can also reach out to specific websites about republishing your work or just simply share it with them on social media platforms. Though not all webmasters will agree to feature your article on their site, if the content is really valuable you'll definitely be able to find a few good sites ready to share it with their readers.

HARO links

Help a Reporter Out is a link request platform where journalists and bloggers look for experts in specific niches to feature on their site. If you have the knowledge they're looking for, this can be a good way of getting you a link.

How to use

Join HARO - To participate in link opportunities, you'll need an account on HARO. Once there, simply find requests that are relevant to your niche and answer them according to the guidelines provided by the journalist or blogger who made it.

Image credit: Growwithless

PR link building

PR link building is a long-term link building technique where you get your brand or website featured in press releases.

How to use:

Write Press Releases - Write interesting and useful articles that can be used for high-quality press release distribution sites. Keep the titles catchy so they'll stand out, include links back to your site, and link out to other relevant articles you've written.

Use Help a Reporter Out, as mentioned above, to become an expert source for press releases. The more frequently you are quoted in different publications the stronger link signals it sends back to search engines about your site's authority and trustworthiness.

Skyscraper technique

The skyscraper technique is a link-building strategy that was made popular by Brian Dean. The process involves finding link opportunities and creating content similar to what you've found, but better! This way the webmaster will have no choice but to link back to your site as it offers more value than their current piece of content.

How to use:

Find link opportunities - Find link prospects by looking for link pages and broken links on websites.

Create better content than what you've found - The next step is to create a piece of content that's way more valuable than the original one, with similar keywords as well.

Reachout to the websites that were discovered in step 1 and pitch them your new article

This is difficult yet one of the best ways to gain links organically.

Influencer Mentions

This is where you get influencers (people with a large social media following) or even key opinion leaders in specific niches promote your brand on their channels. This strategy can really boost the visibility of your content and help it rank higher than if no one noticed it.

How to use:

Find influencers in your niche - If you want someone with a large following on social media, look for key opinion leaders who are well-respected by their followers. Reach out and let them know about the value you can provide for their readers. Note that simple mentions of your brand's name without any link to your site is also valuable in helping your site rank.

Organic VS Paid backlinks

Now comes the big questions of whether you can take the route of paying for backlinks. You need to be cautioned that paying for backlinks is against the guidelines of search engines. This is taken as a practice that's manipulative. In fact, trying to build links through outreach is a topic that falls in the grey area as search engines suggest that no one should try to build links.

Natural links take time to come but when you create great content, you can definitely expect organic backlinks. Create content that people would want to link to. For example, if you're in the restaurant niche, articles like 'best restaurants in [city]', 'top 10 romantic restaurants for a date night in [city]' are link-bait content pieces that webmasters would want to link to.

Let's now jump to the tools you'll need to have in your arsenal to crack the link-building game.

Link building tools

Ahrefs - backlink checker

Ahrefs is a tool that helps you find link opportunities. It can also help you find broken links. The link prospector will help you find sources with the best potential so you can grow your link profile from white hat backlinks. Ahrefs is also a top keyword research tool though it primarily started out as a backlink analyzer.

Buzzstream - email outreach software

Buzzstream is link building and link prospecting software. Buzzstream has a suite of link building tools that allow you to discover link prospects, contact them through email outreach campaigns, monitor your campaign performance with metrics, automatically follow up on emails when they don't get opened or receive no reply, and manage all the data in one place via their CRM link building software.

Moz - link research tool

Moz has one of the best link research tools on the market though they also offer link analysis reports for backlink profiles you've already acquired. You can use link explorer to find new link prospects. Moz also offers blog analysis tools for finding influencers to be guest contributors on your website, link-building opportunities within any of your existing content, and more.

Hunter.io - Email finder

Hunter.io is a link prospecting software that will help you find email contact information for your link prospects using their email hunter tool. You can also use Hunter to verify if an email address already exists or not, so you don't have to waste time sending emails only to get no replies because the link prospect never received it due to a misspelled/unexisting email address.

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Pitchbox - Link building CRM

Pitchbox is an email outreach tool that allows you to manage all your link-building campaigns in one place. You can use PitchBox's link building software to find new link prospects, contact them through automated or manual modes, organize the data into lists/folders for easy reference and filtering at a later date (like link prospects for link building campaigns you've already run), and monitor your link building campaign performance.

Muck Rack - Link prospecting tool

The Muckrack link prospector will help you find new link sources based on keywords or topics that matter to the industry, brand, publications, journalists/influencers.

Outsourcing link building

How to choose the best agency for link building?

Outsourcing link building can be a great strategy for growing your link profile and boosting the visibility of your brand. However, not all agencies are created equal - some will do more harm than good by either breaching Google's quality guidelines or just being plain ineffective at link-building in general. There is no universal link-building agency that does it better than all the others - there are only link-building agencies that work well for specific industries or link-building strategies.

Here are a few questions to ask before hiring an agency:

  • What kind of results can you expect?
  • How will they measure success?
  • What is your budget and how much do you want to spend on link building per month/quarter/year?
  • How often will they communicate with you throughout the link building campaigns and how much time are they willing to dedicate each day/week/month to link-building activities?

The link-building strategies you choose will depend on your budget and what kind of links you're looking for. There are also certain types of links that work better than others, but this depends on the industry you operate in too.

It's also important to diversify your anchor text as much as possible. This means that you shouldn't just link with the same keywords all the time or search engines will start seeing those links as spammy and they'll decrease in value over time. Instead, use link-building strategies that use a variety of link text and make sure to link out with branded anchor texts where possible (links with your business name in them).

If you do link building right, it will help build the authority of your brand online. It'll also drive traffic back to your website. The great thing about this is that if people like what they read on your site, there is a chance that they'll automatically link back to you when sharing it with their own audience.

Looking to outsource your SEO efforts? Give Group6 Interactive a try!

Glossary

Link Equity- link equity is the value that a link passes to your site’s search engine ranking. Links from high-quality sites with a high domain rating will give better results than the ones from low-quality sites.

Link juice is the term for how link equity flows through a website or blog post to other websites it links out to. Link juice passes based on Google's PageRank algorithm that was first created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Written by:
Nate Fineberg
Nate Fineberg is the owner, president and CEO of Group6 Interactive. With a long history in the creative space as a high performing web developer, he has decades of enterprise level industry experience. Before starting Group6 Interactive, Nate worked as a web developer at IDEA, a Houston Texas based creative agency before moving on to SONY, located in San Diego California, as a senior Web Developer.
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