Discussion 2:Link Building to Help Traffic for a Business Website
Link Building: The Truth About Business Growth And How You Can Use It To Grow Your Business. There's a lot of negativity and false information around links and link building in this sub. Some people put them across as a kind of miracle solution, while others say they're dangerous…the reality is that both can be true.
Having worked as a link builder for a long time, I know that when done properly they're extremely powerful. Also, about 80% of businesses actively do it. I've helped rank fortune 500 companies for key keywords by building links, as well as well known brands and businesses, right the way through to small start ups (both bootstrapped small scale startups, and externally invested (ycombinator etc)startups too. The point being: if done properly it works for any niche, any business type.
A link campaign always works if done properly. Therein lies the danger, "properly" is the operative word: so many people don't do them properly. When done wrong, they can be dangerous and probably where a lot of the scaremongering comes from
When done right and given time, you can drive more traffic to your site and rank on the first page of Google for those tough to track keywords.
Luckily, they're quite easy to get right. Here are my observations and tips I use to build clients successful link campaigns that either increase traffic and/or capture/increase ranking for dynamic keywords.
If you're going to do it yourself, hopefully these tips help your business grow. Because that's what good links do: grow businesses. However, if you're hiring a link builder or an agency, these can provide a yardstick by which to measure their work. They've also been popular in other subs…so I've put the best together for viewing here.
I hope it's of use to you (both other link builders and business owners) and if anything doesn't make sense, please feel free to drop a question in below and I'll answer it as best and as soon as I can.
Ask For Internal Pointer Links
So you've placed a link in existing content (contextually of course!) or published your own content including a link, on a desired websitesite: make sure you ask the site owner to internally link tothe content where your link is. So usually, when a webmaster publishes a new post, they'll go back through relevant posts and create a couple of internal links to the new posts (In which you've secured a link). If they can do this with authoritative posts, then it's going to give your link more juice (like the above). However, so many of them don't. For whatever reason, they might not link to the new post. It might be laziness, not knowing how effective internal linking is, etc.
When you're speaking to them, and negotiating, ask them to do it and they will, it won't cost you any extra and will instantly make your link more powerful. Just make sure it's a relevant post they're linking from. If their website is huge, with loads of posts, it might be helpful to find one and ask them to internally link from it (bonus if you can ask them to link to it from a traffic heavy post).
Work In Collaboration With A Client's (or your own) Content
Again, you want the best for your client (or maybe for yourself), so work in collaboration with what's going on on the clients (your own) website. If you've gone through some keyword consultation, then ideally, you want to be targeting that same keyword in website content as you're targeting for linking. It works really well and they tend to bounce off each other. It might be that you're putting out content on your blog, or targeting the keyword on a product or service description. It doesn't matter…just work in collaboration. Using certain keywords for the anchor text which aren't targeted on the website at all will be a lot harder and take longer. Doable, but harder..
So many businesses just fire off links and place random anchor text. Strategise and ensure they're in line with what you're targeting on your own web page that you're linking to.
Check Keyword Difficulty Before Agreeing Work
The client (you can probably skip this one if you're building links for yourself) might have a keyword in mind… There's a lot of link builders out there who will simply agree and start building links. That's a mistake. It's hard sometimes going back to a client and saying no to a particular keyword. Especially if they really want to rank for it. But when you check out the keyword difficulty, as well as the age of the client's website etc. it can become evident that targeting a certain keyword won't get them the results they need. This is especially the case if the client themselves are new to their business, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in general. Take the time to educate them, and find a better angle of attack which usually comprises a voluminous keyword with less difficulty. Do this and you'll protect your relationship going forward.
Don't Just Discount Old Looking Sites
It's easy to do. If a site looks a bit old, it's easy to discount it as "spammy"…sometimes, it's a grave mistake. Some pretty brilliant sites haven't been updated aesthetically for years. Yet they still receive huge traffic and put out stellar content. On the other side, there are some really awful sites out there that look really nice on the eye. Don't decide not to place a link on a website just because it looks a bit dated.
Don't Just Focus On The Keyword, The Paragraph Around It Has To Be Relevant
So many people will just throw the keyword into the article and call it a day. By doing this, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to add contextual relevance to the link in question. The paragraph around the link shouldn't be promotional. It shouldn't suggest that you use the product/service that you're linking to, instead, it should focus on giving the reader pertinent, and relevant information that you think they'd genuinely find useful. This gives Google more information when indexation occurs. Just make sure it's information that's relevant to the service/product/website that you're linking to. It's pretty powerful and an easy way of making your link pull more weight.
Falling Into The Traffic Trap
Everyone knows, or should know, that Domain Authority (DA)/Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR)/website authority etc is a vanity metric, and you shouldn't look to acquire links from sites based on that metric alone. Which is why most people will look at traffic instead. Traffic is 100% better to look at than vanity metrics, however traffic itself can be misleading. It depends where the client is based. If you've got a client based in the USA (or your business is based there) no, finding a site with 100k Indian traffic isn't going to do as much good as a site with 50k traffic all based in the USA (unless they're looking to expand to India, or any given country, or are offering their products and services internationally). Check where the traffic is coming from before jumping in and contacting the site owner.
Don't Be Afraid To Secure Another Link From The Same Site
So many people, both link builders and indeed, businesspersons, are obsessed with referring domains. While a number of referring domains (good domains, mind you) are good, there's no harm in getting another link, using a different keyword, from the same site. This is because sometimes, for whatever reason, a link from a certain site can absolutely send your ranking for said keyword into the stratosphere. I've seen a large FTSE 250 corporate client go from second Search Engine Result Page (SERP) to no.1 on SERP 1 after one keyword placement on a site (it was very niche, but still). Sometimes you secure links on a site that really pulls weight, so go back and use it again. It'd be a mistake not to. At the end of the day, it's not about having a chunk of referring domains or a large number of backlinks, it's about climbing the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) in your given keywords. That's all that matters.
Don't Spend An Age Sniping Your Competitors Link Profile
Sure, if you can get a few swapped out, great. However, speaking to webmasters and asking them to swap out links is a long and tedious process. Especially if the client (or yourself) doesn't have better content to link back to. If the profile is huge, you can spend an age doing this. Instead, get links off better sites. It's as easy as that. If they've got some good links from good quality homeware websites, get links from better ones, or even the same ones. Don't get lulled into sniping theirs away when you'd do just as well putting the effort into your content and fresh links.
Spending Too Much time Linking To Your Links
If you secure a link on a website, and secure other links which point to the content you have a link on, the page rank will increase and the article will become more authoritative, thus increasing the link power. However, in doing this, you're securing quality (hopefully) links to someone else's website. It's a strategy that works, sure…but in my experience, you'd be better off just building more links to your website on a long term basis. That is unless you're in a particular position and know it's the right thing to do.
Know The Rules Before You Break Them
As with all professions, there are usually rules. However, rules are broken all of the time, sometimes to the detriment of the person breaking them, but sometimes to the advantage. The trick isn't in breaking rules whenever you feel like it, but in choosing the appropriate time to do so when you're confident it'll work in the unique situation in which you find yourself. For example, I was building links for a FinTech company who wanted to "explode onto the scene". Usually, with new start ups you can't build too many links (see below) because that wouldn't logically happen. However, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) had won a small business award which generated a fair chunk of traffic/media reporting. So, we built more links than I usually would have (breaking the rules) using specific keywords referencing the past success. It worked really well. Point being, if you know the rules, you can break them in certain instances.
Cracking Out Too Many Links
It depends what the business does, but if you're a start up or haven't long launched, knocking out too many links too fast isn't a good strategy. A large corporation, whose been around for a long time can take a multitude of links because it's a logical thing to do and happen. A brand new business getting too many links is unnatural, so don't do it. Why would a load of webmasters link to a startup that has no ranking and no presence? Knowing the right amount can be hard and varies from one niche to the next, and of course you have to take individual circumstances of the startup/business into account. There is a variable here. If it's a complete local service, then local outlets might write about the new business opening…for example, local food blogs etc. might write about a new restaurant opening and link to your website.
Be Dynamic With Strategy
If you own a bunch of websites or businesses, replicating what worked for one in terms of link building might do nothing for the other. Even if they're both in the same niche. You need a new strategy and thought process per project. You also don't want to just keep doing the same thing month on month. Being proactive is great, but in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), as you'll know, websites don't always react the same. You need to tweak as you go along on a reactive basis. Sure, using what you know works for a certain niche might be a start point…but if you're not taking the uniqueness of each individual business into consideration and reacting to different movements month on month you won't be doing the best for your client's website (or your own website)
Know the difference within PBN's. PBN stands for Personal Blog Network and it's always been known as a no go area for individual businesses or SEO's. It's a kind of cheap option which might help you in the short term, but can prove dangerous in the long term. However, not all PBN's are the same…take this example: Dave owns a PBN of 2 thousand almost identical sites. He creates one bit of content, then spins it multiple times and posts it (imagine each word being put through synonyms or a thesaurus). This is a no go. Jess owns a PBN of two websites. One is a blog covering home decor, the other covers gardens. There's completely different content on each website, but both might be worth submitting content too. Point being, not all PBN's are the same and don't run away just because you've heard the phrase "personal blog network". People use the term PBN for different things, whether right or wrong.
Unique Link Building Process
Your linking process has to be unique per project. Everyone knows you go for relevance etc. So for example if you were linking for a toy company you'd go for mum/dad blogs and parenting sites. However, it goes beyond that. A link strategy for a corporate Software as a Service (SaaS) business, and then a strategy for a small startup selling musical beats or ecommerce, Business-to-Business (B2B) v Business-to-Consumer (B2C) etc. would be totally different. That's not saying the obvious in that you get different links off relevant sites…but how you approach the whole thing has to be unique to the client in terms of budget, amount of links, type of websites targeted etc. You learn as you go on, but a client wouldn't be getting their money's worth if you used the same strategy for different kinds of businesses (remember, i'm not talking about Where you place the links here).
Web 2.0 And Their Ilk
Web 2.0 links are trash by themselves. So are directory links. This isn't < year > anymore. If you're just buying or placing 2.0 links and only 2.0 links, you're going at it the wrong way. Same with directory. The only way 2.0 links work on their own is if you're doing it for direct referral traffic as a pose to try to increase rank on Google (or other search engines). To do this you'd write epic content with hope of a click through. If you're just spamming your site over 2.0, or you're paying someone for say…500 links a month they just won't work like they used to 7 years ago. Don't waste your money and time. They CAN work if used as part of an overall linking strategy for larger budgets as part of social proof…with other links. In short…don't approach anyone offering a tonne of 2.0 links. (BTW 2.0 links are links on sites like Facebook, Quora, Twitter, blog comments etc. However, people usually dispute what's a 2.0 and what isn't, that's the general gist).
The Problem With Domain Authority (DA) and Vanity Metrics
The problem with Domain Authority (DA), Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR), and any other third party metric. People love to cling to these. From clients, to link building agencies and SEO specialists. Links are often priced by DA. Higher DA the higher the price. Even after all these years people still do this. Which leads to a conundrum. Essentially, we all know DA (and all variations of) is pretty much meaningless. However, we can't ignore it because so many people use it as a barometer of success. Don't. Instead, look for traffic, relevancy, quality of content etc. These all don't need to ring true on every link you place…especially if you're going for a huge campaign designed to rank you on page one in a hugely competitive word. However, you do need to pay attention to it. Avoid that link with a DA of 70 and 0 traffic and go for the one with a Domain Authority (DA) and good metrics. The key here comes around working with your client to properly show them what will help their site, we want the best for their website and trying to simply *raise a DA* does nothing for them (if you own your own business and are securing links to it, don't focus on DA) It's pure manipulation and gives people a bad rep. If an SEO is offering to raise your DA and nothing else steer clear. With that said, the annoying thing is that most great websites now have a high DA…so people will point to that and say "well look, they've got a high DA (be it a client or case study) and i want one too. Anyway, enough about DA.
What We Do
You're not paying for a link, you're paying for a backlink profile. Whether you're a business owner, or a link builder…this is important. Don't snatch at random links. A good link builder is there to build your website a top quality link profile which suits you…not to just buy random af links. The proper profile is important and it comes under the unique link building process but I thought it should occupy its own area. Its why buying links off of agency sites etc. isn't a great idea in most cases. You pay to build a backlink profile…not for random links.
Link Plus Mention Tactic Works
Use the link plus mention tactic. This is a tactic I've used for years and just seems to be a whole lot more powerful. First, every link builder will have their own methodology and some will literally die on their sword before admitting there's better out there. However, this is what I've found works best for my clients. So…you have a keyword in mind, and, as usual, you write the content from the point of view of the website owner and drop the link in so that it sits perfectly naturally in the text. Done. Well, within the same paragraph as you mention the keyword, you need to also mention something pertinent to that business (being your client or the business you own), like a co-citation but not quite. For example, you have a company selling complex engineering components. You drop in the keyword, then later on (or before) you mention another item they sell, or another keyword or phrase pertinent to the company (but not their brand name). It means the content around the link is a little more powerful and I find, with Google's algorithm getting better all of the time, this helps them realise that the blogger has truly found the link useful as they have included a little context. It takes a bit of practice though as it can't seem promotional at all but once you've got it down it's powerful. It's worked for me from seven figure Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses right the way through to startups and one person Dropshipping Ecom stores.
The Logic Approach
Go for what I call "the logic approach". Many clients, and businesses who are building for themselves, often worry about Google penalties for backlinks etc. Some of what we do might be against their T&C etc., but nothing i've ever done has resulted in a penalty and, while i'm not saying it's because of this approach (maybe i'm just lucky), I do think it has something to do with it. Basically, you just ask yourself whether in the real world, would the website owner logically link to your website in content? More than often, the answer is yes. For example…you're building links for a Business Card printing company, and you've placed the link in content concerning setting up your own consultancy company, on a website which covers info around setting up a company. Perfectly logical to mention getting business cards created in the article, and perfectly logical to link to a business card creation business because the web owner thinks readers will find it useful. So long as you can make those little connections, you'll be fine. It's all simple…it's all logic. You can stretch this a little of course, it all depends on the content. Would they logically write that content, and could they link to you. In short, ensure the content is not promotional around the link, and that it looks like the blogger has written it.
Keyword Variation Is Important
Be varied with your keywords. Again, this is obvious but let me explain. Google is more likely to notice a sudden 100 backlinks with exactly the same keyword. That doesn't logically happen in the real world. Use variations of them. These days, using the exact keyword you want to rank for still matters, but less so all the time. You've probably seen the use of certain keywords sometimes rank different but similar keywords? So try to be varied. There might be a single word you have in mind or you might be going longtail…this is especially important to those with a large budget trying to rank a start up, or those with even bigger budgets trying to smash no.1 on the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). Be precise in your keyword research, but don't do the same one over and over again in a short space of time. You'll probably be fine in reality…but it's better safe than sorry. Remember, this isn't about avoiding a direct penalty, it's about avoiding those annoying penalisations where you're ranking just drops when Google spots something…off (not something that pings on your search console). Also, be varied in where you're linking to in terms of the client (or your own) website. I always find a mixture of links to landing page, blog posts and product pages work the best, with the fewest to product page (when building links to improve the website en masse over a one keyword campaign). Don't slam out multiple links all to the same place in a short period of time, be varied.
Trash Link Lists
Link lists are useless as soon as everyone gets their hands on them. For those in the link business, link lists are golden. They represent years (in some cases) of research, networking and work. As soon as these lists get out there, each site is devalued. You don't want to use huge link farms. Most may consider selling their list, or swapping with another builder…but if you share a link list to hundreds or thousands of people…it's lost its edge. So, if you're looking to place links for your business or you're like me and are a link builder, be careful when using these mass distributed lists.
Floating Links Are Underpowered And There Are Better Alternatives
These are usually used on PBN's but are also used on normal websites too. It's where a link to your target page is placed (using a relevant keyword) in a menu, or at the bottom of a page…instead of being in relevant content. Hence, it's just floating, like a website menu item would. Most good websites you'd want a link off aren't going to let you have a menu link item which is why it's easy to see the majority of them are on Private Blog Networks (PBN)s. Some people like to use them…I hate them. Their effectiveness is diminished because there's no way to contextualise the paragraph around the link. It's just floating. Put your efforts into placing links in unique, well-written content.
A lot of these are also found in directories. You can get good directories, and bad. Some are useful, some aren't. Most aren't. You're always better off putting effort into content based links.
Always place links in unique content that has been written for the website it's being placed on. You can then, in a nuanced way, contextualise the keyword (link placement) by talking about the industry or business type without being overly promotional. It sounds a bit technical, but it's really easy when you get the hang of it. Just remember:
• The contextualisation cannot occur in a promotional way
• The content has to be relevant for the website AND the link (80% website, 20% link)
Context contextualisation is one of the most critical parts of link building. Links placed inside good, unique and relevant content will always do well, but if you can contextualise the content around the link it'll do much better and you'll get even more power from it. It's why curating the content is so important.
No Follow: Is There Any Point?
Many powerful websites that used to offer do-follow links now only offer No Follow. They might also mark these posts as "sponsored". These websites are the ones that will fastidiously follow Google's rules. They're usually powerful websites with nice traffic because they're the ones that have the most to lose if anything bad happens to them (shadow penalty etc).
It's led to a lot of businesses procuring No Follow links, thinking that the change often cited by these websites means No Follow now carries more value than they once used to, or that they carry equal value to do-follow.
Theoretically, yes, no-follow links have some power. However, Google have not, and probably will not stop putting emphasis on do-follow links because these are the links that Google think bloggers/website owners etc. find genuinely useful because (again theoretically) they've used these links without any external input while writing their article.
Do follow will always win.
In larger link campaigns, I'll always use a few no-follow links to ensure variation and keep things realistic. In smaller, direct campaigns, I'll just focus on do-follow.
If you're a small business or just getting started procuring some links for your business, always go do-follow. If you're not sure which they'll be, ask the website owner first.
Also, if they're going to mark the link placement as sponsored, think again too.
There's nothing wrong with websites doing this, they're just looking after themselves. But, there are still tons of epic websites out there who will agree to give you a do-follow, and they'll be way more powerful.
So, be patient, don't jump at the first site that agrees to place your link, especially if you're on a tight budget. Most link builders will try and get you the best deals possible anyway (or they should), but if you're doing it on your own, be patient and find the right websites.
Link Comments Do Not Work (again)
I absolutely cannot believe there are still "reputable" agencies and freelancers who place these types of links. If you're a business owner looking to place your own links, these kinds of links are where a page has a "comment option", and you simply write out a crappy comment and dump your link in there.
They don't work. They haven't worked for almost 10 years now (< year > is where their proper effectiveness waned utterly).
Don't buy these kinds of links. Sure, they might be cheaper than proper, editorial content-based links, but you'd be better off saving up a little bit to grab the proper links rather than spending on these links. In my opinion, if that's the only link-building option you have (for whatever reason), you'd be better off getting no links whatsoever.
The only links that work these days are links placed in content written for the website (not YOUR website) the content is going on. It's all logical, which I know I've spoken about before. It has to appear like the website owner has written the content and dropped in a link to your site because they think it'll be useful to their readership.
Link building is not something you should ever go cheap on. It's a sensitive process.
Blanket Strategies Do Not Work
There are still so many people out there, SEO users, digital marketers, etc., who will use the same strategy for every single client. I'm not just talking about the small agencies either. Some of the biggest digital marketing and SEO firms out there use the same strategy for every single client. Links on the same websites, the same amount of links for each client, similar keyword strategy approaches…
Each client is different and they need a bespoke plan of attack. That's why copying other case studies and trying to build links for your website (or your clients website) based on other people's success won't always work. It's a shotgun approach. Sure, you might hit it right every now and then but by developing a bespoke approach, you can get it right every single time. Put a strategy together and work on it. Don't do the same thing over and over again if you're an agency, and if you're building links for your own site…try not to copy other case studies. Do your own research and put your own strategy together. It'll be far more effective.
Link Inserts: Are They As Good As Fresh Content
The benefit of link inserts is that the content you're putting them into might have already developed a readership, gained authority online, or have been indexed by Google. The downside is that, as above, there's less chance to contextualise the content.
On most link-building campaigns, whether for large corporate clients or smaller startups, I do a mixture of link inserts and links with fresh content, usually leaning towards fresh content. Remember, all of the content has to be unique. So if you're inserting a link into content, run that content through a plagiarism checker first (like copyscape etc.) to make sure it's unique. If you're writing the content it obviously will be.
Doing both is beneficial because you get the immediate(ish) impact from link inserts and the flexibility and freedom to curate contextual content when you're writing the whole thing.
I know some of you might just say that if you're inserting a link, you need to wait for it to index again before it works anyway, but in my experience, they often work a lot faster. Sometimes way faster, sometimes only a little. It's just a good tactic to vary the links and logically, a web owner would go back over the content and update it and if you're adding good, relevant paragraphs it'll look super natural.
What I'm saying is that not all link placements on the internet are in fresh content, a lot of updates are to existing content. Doing both ensures your campaign stays logical in Google's eyes.
Get Good Links First, Not Second
So many startups and new businesses will look into buying poor links because they're cheaper. I get it, looking after the bottom line is important. But take this case study as an example. I had a mid-sized business approach me (SaaS) recently to undergo a link-building campaign. They'd gotten up to over a million traffic monthly, before being completely wiped off the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), with their traffic now in the 10k range.
Why? They didn't know and wanted me to fix it. I ran a backlink audit and there it was. Over a million Private Blog Network (PBN) links were bought at the start of the company's life. They're the only reason I can see why they were totally wiped off the SERPs. These are some of the worst PBN links I've ever seen. Content didn't even make sense; it was all garbled up as they'd used the same content literally hundreds of thousands of times but put through a content spinner.
Links like this can give you a quick boost…but they aren't worth it long term.
I've seen it another time on a law firms website too. She (the boss of the firm) ended up deleting the website and starting afresh (traffic had gone down to 0). Her new website is now doing really well. In this case, it was been quicker to start a new site than build enough
You hear these horror stories all the time. Some people get away with it too.
Point being, focus on getting good links first so your business has a good foundation. If you get good links after buying a tone of crap links, things won't be as smooth. It'll still work, but it's just a lot harder.
The Days of Skyscraper Are Over
It's the same everywhere. People repeat the same advice they've read ad infinitum. Skyscraper might have worked for a short period, but it doesn't anymore. People still pull together vast lists of content they want to scrape, and will offer genuinely better content than what the article in question already links to…then they'll ask the content creator to change the link so that it's pointing to their website (and to better content). It won't happen for a number of reasons:
• The website owner won't have the time to do it
• They'll ignore the email
• The initial link was a paid placement and they won't move it
• They won't want to change up any of the content because it's already ranking well on Google, messing with the content may inadvertently change what made it rank in the first place.
• You're not offering money, or enough money (webmasters now know how valuable these kinds of links are).
…to name but a few. Of course, it can still work. It does still work for some and you can get lucky. But…the time-intensity involved just isn't worth it. You're better off building your own backlink profile than messing around with this old strategy. It was old a year or two after its inception…but as we see often, the internet is an echo chamber and it's been repeated all over the place on a tonne of blogs and SEO websites. Remember, if you build quality, keyword researched content, you can end up getting natural links anyway.
Where Are You Pointing The Links?
Be consistent here. Different strategies work and it depends what your industry and marketing plan is. It's not just a case of picking a keyword you want to use in your link-building efforts. It's a case of picking where you're pointing the link to.
Some point every link to the homepage, as that's the main page they want to ran. Others will point links to a product page (especially if they run a one-product website).
Others will point links to content. If you're pointing links to content, it has to be incredibly well-written content (no one is logically going to link to crap content. Keep it logical). If your content is where you're going to get your sales from, then you focus on ranking it.
At the same time, try to vary it a little. Especially if you're a start up. Blasting links to exactly the same page might not look natural.
Think about where you want the links to go. This is a really deep subject and I might write a post about just this alone.
Think about what page you think will convert, and make sure you're targeting the same keyword on that page that you're using as the anchor in your link building!
It Needs To Look Like The Website Owner Wrote The Content
You see on a lot of websites that there is an author picture at the end of the content and it'll have a small bio. You want to avoid sides like this. Much like you'd usually avoid your content being listed as sponsored.
Remove anything that could come across as artificial in the eyes on Google.
If you've got a bio stating you're the CEO or owner of X or Y business then you've linked back to your website in the content you've written, it's obviously promotional isn't it. Google would expect a no follow link in an article like this.
It needs to look like the website owner wrote and published the content of their own volition. Like I said, some have turned away from this. Most will still do it. Especially if you're paying and/or offering good content. I know I've touched on this above but it deserves its own paragraph because in my opinion it's important. These are the only links I generally build and with patience they work every time.
Don't Overthink Link Building
A lot of people can get worried when building links, and for obvious reasons (see poor lawyer and Software as a Service (SaaS) co. above).
If you do it right, there's nothing to worry about. For all Google's bluster, for all that they say links should be natural and not artificial, they can't police good links. They can police crappy links and Private Blog Networks (PBN)s.
They can't police them because if you build links logically, and if they look like the website owner has written the content and placed the link, there's technically nothing wrong with it. They're just writing an article and placing it on their site…like every site owner does. That's why it's so important the content is unique!
Do things logically and you'll be fine with no cause to worry!
Disscussion 1: "The Beginner's Guide to Link Building" by Ahrefs [
r/BigSEO TL;DR version]
Last year I published a TL;DR version of our "Beginner's Guide To Keyword Research" here on
r/BigSEO and it received plenty of upvotes and quite some positive feedback. (Huge thanks for that!!)
So I thought you folks might enjoy the TL;DR version of our "Beginner's Guide to Link Building" too.
The original version of that guide was published at Ahrefs Blog a few years ago and we regularly update it to keep it fresh. But it is freaking 7000 words long, which is 30+ minutes at average reading speed.
This condensed version is ~4x shorter and (hopefully) contains all the most important ideas and takeaways from the original.
So let's dive right in!
Chapter 1: Link building basics
If you want to rank high in Google – you need to have links!
(good luck with your SEO if you think otherwise)
And yet links aren't the answer to everything. In many cases merely getting more links than your competitors won't guarantee that you will outrank them. There are many other factors besides links that can influence where you rank in Google.
Chapter 2: How to build links
Conceptually, most link building tactics and strategies fall into one of the following four buckets:
• Add – manually add links to websites;
• Ask – reach out to website owners directly to ask for a link;
• Buy – pay for them ¯\_(ツ)_/¯;
• Earn – get organic links from people who visited your page.
(these come together into a totally un-memorable acronym – AABE*)*
1. Adding links
We're talking about link building tactics that allow you to manually add your link to some website, without asking anyone's permission. Some examples would be:
• Business directory submissions;
• Social profile creation;
• Blog commenting;
• Posting to forums, communities & Q&A sites;
• Creating job search listings;
These kinds of links bring very little value for one simple reason – anyone can easily get them.
So you should only bother with such links in the first few weeks of your website going live. After that, it'll be better to switch your focus to acquiring higher quality links.
2. Asking for links
This is when you reach out to some website directly and try to negotiate a link. Some of the most popular tactics that SEO users use to persuade website owners to link to them are:
• Guest blogging \- create useful content for their website.
• Skyscraper technique \- show them a better resource than the one they're linking to.
• Link inserts \- show them a resource with exhaustive information on something they mentioned briefly.
• Ego bait \- mention them or their work in your own content in a positive light.
• Testimonials (& Case studies) \- give positive feedback about their product or service.
• Link exchanges \- link exchanges (duh!).
• Resource page link building \- show them a good resource that fits their collection.
• Broken link building \- help them fix a broken link on their page.
• Image link building \- ask to get credit for using your image (or actually offer them to use your image on their page).
• Unlinked mentions \- ask to turn the plain-text mention of your brand into a link.
• Link moves \- ask to make changes to an existing link.
• Help a Reporter Out (HARO) (& journalist requests) \- give an "expert quote" for their article.
• Press Release (PR) \- give them a killer story.
The tactics listed above seem quite reasonable, but once you actually try them out, you're quickly going to find out that:
• Bloggers don't want your guest article.
• Your "Skyscraper" isn't that good after all.
• Your mention of their work in your post has led to just a brief "thanks."
Asking for links is always an EXCHANGE OF VALUE!
You get value from their link. What do they get?
The answer usually boils down to just three options:
• They already know and respect you. They've benefited from your work somehow in the past, so they're happy to help you back;
• Your content is so mind-blowingly awesome that linking to it would simply make them look (and feel) good;
• They want something from you in exchange.
The first two are generally a prerogative of big brands and eminent individuals. So more often than not your case would be #3.
3. Buying links
Google is strongly against buying links.
This means that buying links is risky and might get you in trouble. Especially if you're a newbie and you don't know what you're doing.
But the truth is, many people in the SEO industry do buy links. Some do it in greyhat/blackhat ways and still manage to fly under the radar. While others manage to "negotiate" perfectly legitimate links from reputable websites and minimise risks: via partnerships, co-marketing, etc.
That said, here at Ahrefs we never paid for any links. The risk is just not worth it, given that there's plenty of opportunity to get high-quality links for free.
4. Earning links
This is when people link to your content without you having to personally ask them to do it.
To make this happen, you need to create content of exceptional quality and promote it hard to reach as many people as you possibly can.
Here are a few tactics and strategies that fall into this category:
• Linkbait (or linkable assets) – data studies, infographics, maps, surveys, awards;
• Podcasts / interviews / expert roundups;
• Content promotion;
Two important factors in earning links are your reputation and credibility. Sometimes even the most amazing piece of content might go unnoticed if it is published by a newbie blogger. While a reputable person can get tons of links to rather trivial stuff.
But the way you build your reputation and credibility is by consistently creating high quality work that people enjoy. So while earning links might seem hard when starting out, it should eventually become your primary link acquisition strategy.
Chapter 3: What makes a good link?
I'm sure you're well aware that Google treats links as "votes." The more votes a page has, the more Google likes it.
But, unlike with modern democracy, those votes are not equal. There are 6 main factors that determine how much a given link will help your page to rank higher in Google:
• Anchor text;
• Nofollow vs follow;
[here's a nice illustration btw]
A good understanding of these factors helps a lot in prioritising your link building efforts.
Let me expand on just the first two:
There's "page authority" and there's "website authority."
"Page authority" refers back to Google's original PageRank algorithm, according to which (in layman's terms) a page with more votes of its own casts a stronger vote.
That is why SEO users often strive to acquire links from old pages with strong backlink profiles or even build backlinks to the pages that they have acquired links from (also known as "Tier 2 links").
But a newly published page may very well acquire lots of backlinks in the long run too. So don't blindly prioritise building links from existing pages over the newly published ones. Prioritise building links from pages that are link-worthy.
As for "website authority" – folks at Google have consistently denied that it even exists. But at the same time it feels quite intuitive that a link from The New York Times should have more value than a link from your neighbour's website (unless of course your neighbour is Jeff Bezos).
But then again, maybe "website authority" is nothing else but a high concentration of high-authority pages on a given website? Unfortunately, no one can give you a definitive answer to that question.
Here at Ahrefs we measure website authority with a metric called Domain rating (DR) and it is based solely on the strength of the backlink profile of a given website. Think of something like PageRank, but for entire domains, rather than individual pages.
A common SEO rookie mistake is to neglect link opportunities from low authority sites, as if they're somehow detrimental to your SEO success. They're not. Just like a newly published page can acquire backlinks over time (boosting the value of a link from it) a low-authority website can become a big deal in a few years time.
So the right way to use a website authority metric like DR is for estimating the relative amount of effort that it makes sense to invest in acquiring a link from a given website.
For example, if an owner of a DR20 website is asking for a short quote for their article – go for it! But if they ask you to write a 5,000 word long guest post – you might want to save that for a DR60+ website.
Let's say you have a blog about dogs. Would you rather get a link from TechCrunch (high authority) or some popular blog about dogs (high relevance)?
There's no "right" answer. In fact, there's quite a bit of debate in the SEO world on which one is more important – authority or relevance.
Whichever side you're on, most SEO users agree that the relevance of a linking website is a very strong factor in the eyes of Google. So if you want your website to do well in Google, make sure that many other websites from your industry are linking to it.
Chapter 4: Best link building tactics
So what are the best and most effective ways to get links?
Arguably, it's these ones:
1. Pursuing competitor's links.
Competitor link research is not really a "tactic" per se, but rather a way of uncovering the exact tactics and strategies that work well in your niche. If they managed to acquire those links, then you too should be able to do it.
But don't merely follow their footsteps. Your goal is to figure out how to acquire links faster and more efficiently than they do.
• Do they get most of their links from organic product reviews?
• Did they create a killer linkable asset?
• Do they exchange links with other bloggers?
• Did they publish a ton of guest articles?
Whatever works for them, you have to find ways to execute it more efficiently.
2. Creating linkable assets.
"Linkable assets" are noteworthy pages of your website that people naturally want to link to.
The most common types of such pages are:
• Studies & research;
• "How to" guides & tutorials;
• Definitions & coined terms;
• Online tools & calculators;
• Infographics & "Map-o-graphics;"
• Awards & rankings.
I'm sure even in the most boring industries there's a way to create an interesting piece of content that would attract links. And then you can use internal links to send some of that "link juice" to the pages that you want to rank well.
3. Content promotion.
Even the most link-worthy content won't get any links unless people discover it first.
That is why promoting your content is absolutely essential for link acquisition.
The most proactive tactic would obviously be email outreach – finding relevant websites & pages and reaching out to their authors asking to get mentioned.
But other than that, any conventional content promotion method might very well result in some organic links. The more people discover your content, the higher the chance that some of them will mention it on their website sometime later.
4. Guest blogging
Websites need to publish quality content if they want to get traffic. For that reason many of them employ writers and pay them handsomely to create high quality content that will bring visitors.
So if you reach out to such a website and offer them a high quality piece of content for free – there's a very good chance that they'll bite.
Here are two tips that will make your guest post pitches more effective:
• Work your way up. – The editors behind the top websites in your industry won't waste time talking to you, unless you can show them examples of high quality content published on other reputable websites. So start from writing for smaller blogs and flaunt your best work while pitching bigger blogs.
• Do keyword research. – Website owners want traffic. So if you do a bit of keyword research and offer them a few relevant topics that they can rank for in Google, it will be harder for them to say no to your pitch.
Chapter 5: Link building tools
There are many tools that might be useful for link building. But as a beginner, you only need two: a link prospecting tool and an email outreach tool.
• For link prospecting I honestly believe there's no better tool than Ahrefs ' Content Explorer (I'm biased though). Just search for a keyword and the tool will spit out hundreds of thousands of pages that have mentioned this keyword in their content. These would be your link prospects.
• For email outreach we ourselves use Pitchbox, but I know many other SEO users are happy with Buzzstream or MailShake.
Let's wrap this up
• If you can manually add a link to some website it has little to no SEO value.
• Asking for links only works if your content is truly exceptional.
• More often than not website owners would want something in exchange for linking to you.
• Buying links is very risky, so you better refrain from that.
• Quality content DOES attract links organically. But for that to happen you have to promote it hard.
These five takeaways alone should form a solid foundation for building up your knowledge of link building.
I hope you enjoyed this trimmed and condensed version of our "Beginner's Guide to Link Building."
Here's a link to the full guide, which in its turn links to a ton more resources for further reading to help you expand your knowledge of the topic.
Press Releases Should Be Done Every 90-Days to Maintain Authoritative Links
What’s the difference between a nofollow and a dofollow backlink?
What Software to Create Backlinks is Safe Without Google Penalty?
55k Backlinks From Decent DA and PA | Churn and Burn | Temporary Cheap and Spammy Tactics
Tips for Backlink Outreach
Which Backlinking Is It Better to Homepage or Inner Pages?
If You Have No Budget to Buy a Contextual Backlink
Worried if We Get Google Penalties Because of Our Guest Posts
Just Getting More Backlinks Versus Other SEO Techniques
Monthly Budget for Building Backlinks and Creating Linkbait Content
Some Effect After Guest Posting on a DA 60 Site
It looks like Proof that Content Quantity is not enough without Backlinks