If link building weren’t hardwork, we might be all ranking on the primary pages of Google, right? Acquiring high-quality backlinks is difficult! But the rewards including increased brand awareness, new potential leads, and valuable connections are well worthwhile.
The problem: there’s a lot of information out there about link building. Some of it is good, some are not so good and the rest are plain bad.
So to help you build links the right way, we’ve put together this complete, noob friendly, guide to link building. Let’s start with the basics.
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. Search engines use links to crawl the web. They will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website, and the links between entire websites. There are many techniques for building links. SEOs tend to agree that link building is one of the hardest parts of their jobs. Hence, if you can master the art of building high-quality links, it can truly put you ahead of both other SEOs and your competition. Links are a sign to Google that your site is a quality resource, and worthy of citation. In turn, sites with more backlinks tend to earn higher search rankings.
There are a few most important aspects to keep in mind when building links. You should know that all links are not created equal. For example, a link from an authoritative website will have a greater impact on your rankings than a link from a small or newly-built site. You should only focus on earning links from websites with a higher domain authority than your site with a decent amount of backlinks. Tools like SEMRush will easily pull data for you to identify these sites.
Once search engines have crawled pages on the web, they can extract the content of those pages and add it to their indexes. In this way, they can decide if they feel a page is of sufficient quality to be ranked well for relevant keywords. Google created a short video to explain that process. When they are deciding this, the search engines do not just look at the content of the page. They also look at the number of links pointing to that page from external websites. And the quality of those external websites. Generally speaking, the more high-quality websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in search results.
It was so effective because it was based upon the idea that a link could be seen as a vote of confidence about a page, i.e., it wouldn’t get links if it didn’t deserve to. The theory is that when someone links to another website, they are effectively saying it is a good resource. Otherwise, they wouldn’t link to it, much in the same way that you wouldn’t send a friend to a bad restaurant.
But soon enough Google started to discount a number of link building techniques that were previously deemed fine. For example, submitting your website to web directories and getting a link in return. This was a technique that Google actually recommended at one point. But it became abused and overused by SEOs, so Google stopped passing as much value from that sort of links.
More recently, Google has actively penalized the rankings of websites who have attempted such overuse of these techniques—often referred to as over-optimisation—in their link building. Google’s regular Penguin updates are one such example. Knowing which link building techniques to avoid and stay within Google’s guidelines is an important part if you want higher rankings for longer time.
You need only ONE link building strategy: Create something “link-worthy.” I know that sounds like the same advice you’ve heard a million times, but it’s true.
Just think of your strategy as the engine driving your link building endeavors, and the tactics as the pistons that keep it running.
Now, let’s get to the tactics. (Yes, TACTICs, not STRATEGIES.)
Every good link building tactic revolves around outreach.
What is outreach?
It’s where you reach out to people in your niche and introduce them to your content.
But here’s the critical thing: You don’t necessarily need any “content” at all. You just need to have something worthy of a link—it might be your product, service, business, brand, or even personality.
But I’ll level with you: outreach almost always works best with linkable assets.
That means reaching out and telling people in your niche about content that is likely to be useful to them—big blog posts, tools, infographics, etc.
To whom should you reach out to?
Guest blogging is one of the oldest link building tactics in the book.
How does it work? You write an article for another website in your niche. They publish it. You link to yourself from that article. It’s as simple as that.
How do you find good guest post prospects? Well, you can use the same method everyone else uses, which is to find sites actively appealing for guest bloggers using Google search.
But EVERYONE is doing that. Those prospects gets tons of guest post pitches daily.
So here’s the twist:
Don’t look for sites advertising the fact that they accept guest posts. Just look for relevant sites, then pitch them anyway. Most sites are open to taking guest posts even if they don’t explicitly state it.
Think about it like this: why on earth would a site turn down a well-written, free piece of content that has the potential to attract visitors to their site? They wouldn’t.
The Internet is filled with broken links. Often, these broken links exist on valuable, high-quality pages. Broken link building is a very popular practice that works on the premise of helping webmasters fix their broken links by providing a superior alternative for them to link to.
Although the specifics can vary, the basic process looks like this:
Here’s an example. You run a dairy testing company and want to build links to your scientific resource pages. A university in your area happens to have an older page on dairy resources, but many of the links are broken. You kindly reach out to the webmaster to point out the broken links, and helpfully suggest your newer and up-to-date resource as an alternative. The university webmaster then links to your dairy resource page.
This process can be repeated over and over again. Sometimes you use your existing content as a suggestion to replace broken links, other times you create new content specifically for this purpose.
Links are difficult to build. There are no two ways about it.
But did you know that you’re probably losing backlinks all the time?
Of course, you can counteract this natural process by building a consistent stream of new links. However, reclaiming lost links is often much easier than building new ones from scratch.
Link building isn’t rocket science. The tactics I shared above will work for all websites. You just need to execute them.
Will some tactics work better for some sites than others? Of course. Your job is to test each tactic and see what works best for you.