What is link building and why is it so important? Our complete guide to link building is designed to help you create backlinks to your website and build your authority. Since you’re here, you might already know that link building is one of the most important SEO tactics to implement. The fact is, link building is one of Google’s top three ranking factors.
Pro Tip: Don’t fall into the trap of building or buying low quality links. Google prefers quality over quantity and link buying very much frowned upon. When you build links that offer a high degree of relevance to your industry as well as your location and the products and/or services you offer, your website gains greater authority, which in turn translates to better ranking.
What is link building?
Link building is an SEO strategy that incorporates one-way hyperlinks (backlinks) to a website via:
Broken link building
Building useful tools
Each of these can improve search engine visibility.
How links influence search engine results
Back in the days before Google ruled the internet, old-fashioned search engines used a web page’s contents to rank search results. Link building was possible, but it didn’t play a role in search algorithms.
These days, the game has changed. Google and other search engines look at how many links lead to a certain page, and they use those links in two ways:
To find web pages
To determine where web pages should rank in search results
PageRank automatically measures the quality of web pages using an algorithm that takes the number of links pointing to the page into account. This used to be the only qualifying factor but these days, Google takes the context of each link into account, determining the relevance of each and in turn deciding where each web page belongs in a set of search results.
Here’s another important tip: While quality matters most, the number of links pointing to a web page is still taken into account. Web pages with higher numbers of quality links are granted higher authority.
If you already have a website, you can use tools such as Ahrefs, Moz and Majestic link analysis to check backlink performance and measure your site’s authority.
If you’re looking for a free backlink checker or backlink audit, get in touch with us at email@example.com and we will send you a free breakdown of all the backlinks currently pointing to your site.
What is a high-quality backlink?
In any link building strategy, it’s vital to understand the difference between a good link and a bad link. After all, there’s no point in wasting your efforts. Use the following tips to find the best link building opportunities and position your site for greater success.
Check the page’s authority, DA/DR, organic traffic and backlink profile
The best links have a major impact on your ranking simply by connecting your page to those with greater authority and in turn, passing greater authority to the site you’re hoping to boost. In fact, the authority of pages that link back to you matter more than any other single factor.
Use Ahrefs or another SEO tool such as Moz Pro or SEMrush to analyse websites and see their rankings and organic traffic levels. This tactic provides you with at-a-glance backlink analysis that includes URL Rating, Domain Authority and Domain Rating. You can also use Ahrefs to have a quick look into the site’s backlink profile and outgoing links – does everything look nice and natural, or has the site in question linked to 20 domains with a DA of 0 in the last month? Similarly, where is the site’s organic traffic coming from? Is it from where your potential customers are based, and are enough people reading the content on the site in question? These tools quickly reveal whether backlinks are worth pursuing.
Check the site’s relevance
Unrelated sites – even if they’ve got outstanding authority – won’t help boost your ranking in the way that relevant sites will. If your site focuses on real estate and you get a link from one of the best cooking sites, that link might not count for much even though the cooking site is authoritative. The reason is that relevance matters just as much – or perhaps even more – than PageRank. Your link building sites need to be relevant and authoritative to perform well.
Use relevant anchor text, but not too much
In case you missed it, anchor text is a clickable section of text that connects readers to your site. And as you might have guessed, it’s another one of Google’s ranking signals.
For example, imagine that a link to your real estate site has anchor text that reads “homes in Malibu.”
Google takes note of the anchor text and immediately believes that the link leads to a page about “homes in Malibu.”
Enough is as good as a feast here. Building too many exact-match anchor text links is spammy, and it’ll detract from your ranking. Use link co-occurrences (words and phrases near your link) to give search engines more clues without constantly repeating the same “homes in Malibu” anchor text.
Aim for prominent link placement and stick to Google’s guidelines.
A link is a link, amiright?
Links that are embedded in content are more valuable than those buried in a sidebar or a footer. Try to have your links embedded within the page’s main body.
Your link gets you even more authority if it’s editorially placed, meaning that someone linked to you because they felt that your site offered value.
What not to do: Never try to beat the system with unnatural links and don’t give in to the temptation to attempt anything that aims at manipulating PageRank. In its guide to avoiding link schemes, Google says:
“Creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.”
In contrast, Google says that “Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
The backbone of great link building: Strategies for convincing other sites to link to yours
Since your content will rank higher when external websites provide editorial links to your pages, it’s best to focus your efforts on getting other sites to link to yours. Remember that relevance and authority matter when deciding which of these strategies to use.
Link building is only effective when it’s done correctly.
1. Know what not to do: Shortcuts such as buying links can land you in hot water, since they’re against Google’s linking guidelines and usually spammy. Don’t give in, even if a prohibited strategy sounds foolproof. Google can and will see exactly what’s happening and you’ll be forced to start over at square one.
2. Get quality links by asking for them. If you know others in the same industry or niche, ask them to link to your site. Friends, business partners, and other personal contacts can be helpful allies.
3. Position your product or service where it will be reviewed or otherwise mentioned. Every industry has its influencers. You can probably think of a few individuals, bloggers, YouTubers, or others with large followings. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts about your product or service with their audience.
4. Create high quality content and promote it. When you take time to invest in unique, high-quality content and promote it the right way, others will link to it.
High-quality content is:
Informative, with useful facts and a thoughtful approach. It doesn’t simply parrot what’s already out there; instead, it dives a bit deeper. It’s a bit longer and it offers more perspective than the average article that covers the subject at hand.
Unique. Google likes things that are unique, so long as it meets other standards. What Google doesn’t like is content that’s plagiarized. Don’t be afraid to inject your content with personality, share your opinion, and maybe even joke around a bit with your readers. No one wants to link to content that’s basically a clone of everything else that has been written before.
Entertaining, or at least not bone-dry. Don’t worry – if you’re not a great writer, it’s fairly easy to hire someone who can write SEO-friendly content that people will enjoy reading and sharing. Speaking of sharing, it’s a natural part of the link building chain. Be sure that your content is equipped with share buttons, even if you’re still working to attract an audience.
Optimized for search engines, so it’s easy for interested readers to find. Read up on writing for SEO optimization if you haven’t already. It goes hand in hand with link building, covering everything from headlines to keywords to those all-important CTAs that convince curious readers toward deeper engagement.
Last but not least, high-quality content is valuable. It helps your readers by answering their questions, giving them insight, solving problems, and more. Google’s algorithms do an incredible job of detecting valuable content and rewarding its creators with better rankings.
Content creation tip:
When the focus is on link building, certain types of content offer widespread appeal. Consider:
List posts that provide lots of relevant information
Infographics with valuable information and a pleasing visual format
Comprehensive guides with lots of information in one place
Pro Tip: If your content isn’t evergreen, refresh it periodically so that it retains value and continues to work for you.
Don’t overlook internal link building
Most link building discussions cover the same old territory: Backlinks and external links get most of the attention. Don’t get us wrong; these are vital strategies and you won’t succeed without them. But internal link building plays an important role in your site’s success while making sure that visitors can navigate without frustration. Best of all, it’s an easy way to build links for free.
Internal links are exactly what they sound like: They’re links you create on your website that lead to other pages. Just like external links, internal links need to be relevant. They can add a little more authority and trust to your website, particularly when they are placed on pages that external links point to.
Since browsers use internal links as an indicator of page importance, be sure that you have plenty of internal links pointing to the most important pages on your site. Search engines take them into account, meaning they have an impact on ranking.
The takeaway? Internal links can help with organic growth even if nothing exciting happens right away. Just to make sure that all internal links make sense.
Conduct keyword research to ensure that you’re using relevant keywords. Better relevancy = more traffic.
Create content around keywords (again, ensuring relevance and usefulness) to enhance your site’s architecture. Remember not to resort to keyword stuffing. It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere for your readers and it will ultimately harm your ranking.
Pro Tip: Optimize internal link anchor text by using clear, concise language and exact terms whenever you can. It’s the opposite of the strategy we recommended for external link building. Using the same real estate example, this means placing a link with the exact anchor text phrase “homes in Malibu” on pages where the link will be useful and make sense.
Add nofollow links
Wait…links that shouldn’t be followed? Doesn’t that go against everything we just covered?
The quick answer is no.
Nofollow links prevent search engines from trusting links that might have been put in place by spammers in areas where user commenting is allowed.
Granted, this is a very small aspect of your link building strategy, but it’s one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Before you start: Structure your link building campaign
A link building campaign is a lot like a roadmap: It helps you stay on track, prevents you from heading down winding alleys and little rabbit holes that might stall your progress.
1. Set realistic goals. Here’s a good one to try: “Increase organic search traffic.”
2. Decide where to focus first. You’ll want to build links to your homepage, and if you have product pages and/or pages that describe specific services, you’ll want links to those, as well. Moz’s Open Site Explorer is an outstanding tool for link analysis, with the ability to show you link building opportunities and much, much more.
3. Identify assets. Your products and/or services are clear assets; so are the experts on your team, the data that you’ve accumulated, and the useful content that you’ve produced. While you’re in the brainstorming process, identify which assets will be most attractive to those who will ultimately link to you.
3. Identify your target audience. Imagine that you just created a website that covers all the ins and outs of the ketogenic diet, and you’ve built a guide to keto baking ingredients. This means your target audience will probably include:
Companies that produce the ingredients you mention
Brainstorm your own area(s) of interest to uncover your target audience.
4. Find specific targets. Google is once again your best friend, so use simple search terms, i.e. “List of baking websites.” Use sensible tools such as Google Chrome’s Scraper and 10 Best Network’s URL Opener to speed things up and take some of the tedium out of this task.
As you locate relevant targets, create a spreadsheet with their contact details, which are usually located on the site’s contact page, or perhaps in a footer or sidebar area.
Get started with outreach
Link building outreach requires people skills. If you’re not up to the task, hire someone to help you!
Remember the part where we mentioned creating top-quality content? Here’s where it comes into play. Bloggers and influencers are busy, and top sites receive lots of link building requests. Make sure that your request is friendly, relatable, to the point, and not even a little bit spammy.
When you reach out with a link building request, make sure to:
Use your contact’s name if possible
Create a catchy subject line, not just “SEO” or “Link building”
Mention something you like about their work and mention how your
Make a quick proposal; your message should be short.
Use real contact information for yourself. Include multiple ways to make contact.
Follow up just once if there’s no reply.
Keep a spreadsheet with information on all contacts you’ve tried, succeeded with, and struck out with.
Here’s an effective outreach example:
Hi (insert first name),
Hope you are well. Just a quick message to say I came across your blog while researching (insert subject) and I found your article on (insert article title).
I’m actually currently researching and writing a post on (insert your blog post title) and I thought it would be a cool follow up for your readers.
It would be great to get your thoughts.
The internet is full of awesome link building ideas. Read up, try the ones that appeal to you, and see what works.
Pro Tip: Link building and other SEO tactics don’t succeed instantaneously. This process takes time, so place your focus on long-term success.
Link building is a massive field that’s always changing. If there’s just one thing you take away from this guide, let it be this: Quality matters more than quantity, and it really does get easier. Persistence, perseverance, and a long-term approach are among the most important tools you can use, particularly when you’re first getting started.
Want some help with creating the best backlinks? Get in touch with our expert link-builders today on firstname.lastname@example.org.