How to Build Backlinks: Everything you need to know
Introduction to Backlinks
Backlinks are the lifeblood of search engine optimization. No SEO strategy is complete without backlinks.
Everything you need to know about Backlinks
This is, literally, everything you need to know about building backlinks. Many guides claim to be “definitive” or “ultimate” but they lack in one specific key area: How.
Not only will we walk you through what backlinks are, why they work and pros and cons, we will also show you how to implement an effective backlink strategy that’s sure to give your SEO efforts the boost they desperately need.
And not only do the techniques that we’re going to show you work, but they work almost instantly.
If you’re struggling to rank on Google, you need this guide.
Chapter 1: The basics of backlinks: What are they?
In this chapter, we will cover:
- What are backlinks
- Why backlinks are important
- How backlinks affect SEO
What are backlinks?
Quite simply, backlinks are links from other websites to yours. Sometimes called “inbound links” or “external links,” a backlink is a link from a third-party website to your website.
Search engines, such as Google and Bing, view links as a “vote,” so to speak. When another site links to your website, search engines see this as an indication that your content is valuable and trustworthy.
However, not all backlinks are created equal (we’ll get to that later).
Why backlinks are important
Since backlinks are, in a sense, votes of confidence in your website, telling the search engines that your content is useful and credible, they are integral to your SEO strategy.
Just like in an election, the more votes you have, the better off you will be. The more websites linking to your site (voting) the higher your site will appear in search engine results.
While the importance of backlinks is not new, they are more important today than ever, as domain authority plays a huge role in your site’s success.
How backlinks affect SEO
Google and other search engines are constantly updating their proprietary algorithms but the one constant has been the importance of link building.
While Google is mum on what it considers important ranking factors, it has admitted that links are a “Top 3” ranking factor. And industry studies routinely highlight the impact of backlinks on SEO, with some going as far to call backlinks the “most important” search rank factor.
So, now, the question remains: How do we build backlinks.
Let’s read on.
Chapter 2: Building backlinks that actually work
In this chapter, we will cover:
- Different types of backlinks
- What makes a good backlink
- How backlinks can hurt
- How to build the right kind of backlink
Different types of backlinks
As we mentioned earlier, not all backlinks are created equal.
There are two basic types of backlinks: High-quality links and low-quality links.
Just as quality trumps quantity with your content, the same is true with backlinks.
In fact, we’ll take it a step further and say that a single, high-quality backlink can have more impact than 1,000 low-quality links.
But what makes a backlink high quality?
What makes a good backlink
There are four main characteristics of a high-quality backlink:
- Domain authority
- Anchor text
- Topical connection
- It’s not “noFollow”
Domain authority is a big one, but it’s no big surprise. Links from a high-authority domain carry far more weight than links from low-authority domains. For example, a link from the New York Times’ website is far more valuable than a link from Joe the Carpenter’s website.
Domain authority passes through links. The more authority a website has, the more it can pass to yours.
Google assigns authority to domains and pages as a measure of trust, and that shouldn’t be ignored. The problem is that links from high-authority domains are hard to get. But the added effort is worth the reward (more on that later).
Second to domain authority is anchor text. Anchor text is the text that’s used to link to your website. If the anchor text includes your target keyword for the page, you get an added boost.
There’s a direct correlation between keyword-rich links and search engine results for that keyword.
For example, if you write a blog post on the topic of “keyword research,” you want third party sites to use that as the anchor text, which is the part of the link that visible to the reader.
However, we do have to note that you can overdo your anchor text links (i.e., shady black hat link building). Thanks to Penguin, one of Google’s most significant algorithm updates in years, the search engine filters out overzealous keyword linking automatically.
A topical connection is another important trait of high-quality backlinks. Links from a website within your industry or niche are more powerful than others.
When we write about the power of content marketing, we’d rather have links from sites related to marketing, or other closely related industries, than sites about bicycling, for example.
And finally, the most important aspect of a high-quality back link is that it’s not “noFollow.” No follow is a code used to tell search engines to ignore links. No-follow tags are powerful when used correctly, but when it comes to link building, steer clear.
This isn’t a huge issue since the vast majority of links on the web are “dofollow,” but it’s important nonetheless.
The bottom line is that no-follow links do not count toward SEO value.
Chapter 3: How to build linkable content
Content is king.
When asking websites to link to your website, it helps to have content to which it’s worth linking.
Content is the backbone of all SEO campaigns. Perhaps the most important aspect of a link building campaign is to create content worth linking to in the first place.
High quality, on-topic content is a magnet for outbound links. The three most popular content pieces (as far as obtaining link is concerned) are:
- Blog posts
Understanding what your customers and others in your industry are talking about is the key to creating valuable content.
Here are three topics with proven linkability:
- Talk about things that make you curious: If there is a problem or issue in your business or industry that makes you curious, there is a good chance others are interested as well. Take the time to research the issue thoroughly. Make yourself the expert.
- Give a unique name to a specific strategy: Every busy or industry has a specific way of doing something that doesn’t necessarily have a name. Consider coining one. Consider Merlin Mann’s “Inbox Zero,” a productivity hack for your email inbox. It’s not a new technique, but by giving it a standout name, the links came flowing in.
- Provide real-life examples: It’s one thing to talk about how to do something, but it’s an entirely different story with real-life examples. This helps consumers searching for your product or service feel more comfortable knowing other people or businesses have seen success.
Chapter 4: The power of content for backlinks
It’s no mystery that content is the key to quality backlinks. That’s why we dedicated an entire chapter of this ebook to talking about building linkable content.
Now, we’ll dive into the best strategies for using that content to its fullest potential.
Turning your content into backlinks
So, you’ve created an amazing piece of content. Now what?
Now it’s time to get those backlinks. Here are four strategies we use to turn premium content into premium backlinks:
- Look for broken links: Broken links, or pages that return a 404 error, are fantastic opportunities. The majority of the time, website owners don’t know they have broken links on their site. If you find a website with a broken link, find similar content on your website – or create it – and then inform the site owner of the broken link and provide a link to your content as a possible replacement. Links break for a number of reasons, including name changes, business failure, new websites, etc. There’s a really cool Chrome Extension called Check My Links, which can be used to find broken links on a website.
- Write guest blog posts: Almost as important as blogging on your own site, writing guest blog posts for other industry sites is a great way to get backlinks. For example, our Chief Content Officer routinely writes blog posts for UpCity.com, a digital marketing lead generation aggregator. But make sure you’re only writing guests posts for sites with a higher domain authority than your own. Develop relationships with industry-related websites and watch the backlinks roll in. Let’s be honest, not many sites are going to turn away free, high-quality content.
- Use link roundups: What’s a link roundup? We’re glad you asked. Link roundups are daily, weekly or monthly blog posts or email newsletters that highlight the most recent stories, articles or blog posts for a given topic or industry. A simple Google search for “your keyword” + “link roundup” will display some resources. You can reach out to them directly to ask that they link to your content.
- Build an infographic: Good infographics are link bait, plain and simple. Not only are infographics incredibly useful for building your SEO strategy, they’re also relatively easy to create. Note: an infographic does not need to “go viral” to be considered a success. But like any piece of content, you can’t just publish an infographic and hope for the best. You need a strategic promotion plan just as you would any piece of content. Of course, you will want to hire a graphic designer to make sure your infographic is pretty. No one likes an ugly infographic.
Chapter 5: A backlink strategy that actually works
In this chapter, you’ll learn:
- How to get the low-hanging fruit
- How to reclaim unlinked mentions
- The power of reviews
Backlinks: the low hanging fruit
Like any digital marketing strategy, the small wins can be the most important. One of these low-hanging fruits of the backlink world are testimonials.
Businesses of all sizes love to highlight their customers via testimonials. More often than not, testimonials contain links to the client’s site.
If your business is currently using a product or service that you absolutely love, ask to write a testimonial for their website. Make sure to give permission to use company your name and logo.
Some of our best backlinks have come from testimonials.
Always be sure to check the site’s domain authority first. A low DA score may mean a link isn’t worth it.
It’s pretty simple to reclaim unlinked mentions. Many times websites will talk about your products or services and simply forget to link to you.
A simple email as a friendly reminder could be all it takes. Something like this:
Dear [website owner],
Thank you for mentioning our [product or service] in your blog post [blog post title with link]. The post is great and it really means a lot you mentioned us.
I noticed that your mention does not include a link to my website. Would you mind adding one?
Here’s the link: [link]
Thank you for your time and once again, we really appreciate you talking about our [product or service] in such a positive light.
Being proactive is integral to a link building strategy, and it’s safe to assume if a company or blog is writing about you, they probably like you – even if they didn’t include a link.
A friendly nudge is usually all they need to rectify the situation.
So, how do you find unlinked mentions? There’s a tool for that.
Check out BuzzSumo or Mentions.com for more information. You can also set up free Google Alerts for brand mentions and double check if a link is included.
These are some of the easiest links to acquire. We know from experience.
Reviews are powerful link building tools
Most every industry has multiple product and service review sites. Whether your company has a product, service or anything of value, you can turn that into a backlink.
The trick is to offer your product or service to bloggers and other reviewers for free.
You have to tread lightly here since Google Webmaster forbids offering a product or service in exchange for a link, so choose your words carefully.
- Step 1: Find a blogger in your niche
- Step 2: Offer your product or service to said blogger
- Step 3: Sit back and wait for them to write about you.
- Step 4: Hope for a link.
Remember, no quid-pro-quos. Send the product or offer the service but don’t ask for anything in return.
Chapter 6: Tips, tricks and real-life examples
Actionable tips and real-life examples
Building backlinks is a lot of work. But no pain, no gain, right?
It’s nearly impossible for us to include every single backlink strategy in this guide. That’s because every industry is different and unique linking opportunities can present themselves in numerous ways.
Here are a few actionable tips to help you get started.
- Create content for multiple platforms: Yes, the ultimate goal is to drive traffic to your website and boost your SEO, but creating content specifically for third party platforms is powerful. For example, create a video specifically for Facebook or a quiz hosted by Twitter.
- Create evergreen content: If you’re going to invest in content, it’s best to create content that’s always linkable, instead of something that has an expiration date. For example, we created a pillar page on our website titled, “Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing.” While this page is update on occasion, it’s mostly timeless advice.
- Interview experts: Industry experts love the spotlight and are usually willing to talk to even the smallest bloggers. Connect with them on social media, ask a question and then include their response in your post. Tag them when you share on social. Hopefully they will share with their followers as well and maybe even link to your site. Here’s an example of a post we did: Content Marketing Advice from Industry Expert.
Some bonus link-building strategies
Some more niche link-building strategies include:
- Offering scholarships: Webpages with a .edu are backlink gold. One great way to get a link from a .edu is to offer a scholarship within your industry. Another .edu strategy is to create content for their resource page. Most colleges and universities have a resource page for students, staff and faculty. For example, if you own a moving company, you can create a piece of content around tips on settling into your dorm room and ask your local schools for a link.
- Help a reporter out (HARO): News sites are typically some of the highest authority website that exist. So a link from a trusted news source could do wonders for your SEO. A great way to get news sites to link to you is through Help A Reporter Out (HARO). Sign up for a free account, monitor request within your specific industry, pitch your credentials and expertise, and hopefully you’ll get a nice juicy link out of the deal.
- Reverse engineer competitors: Use a backlink checker to see from where the majority of your competitor’s links are coming. If they are creating a specific type of content or are using one of these unique link-building strategies, you can piggyback on their success.
- Become a guest speaker: Many local organizations will invite community members to speak to their group. Chambers of commerce, networking groups, and Rotary clubs will often promote guest speakers on their websites. Boom, instant backlink. This technique can also work for industry podcasts. With an internet connection and webcam, you could be a guest on a podcast almost anywhere in the world.
At the end of the day, building backlinks is hard work but the outcome is worth it. Domain authority is one of the most important SEO ranking metrics and backlinks are the proven way to build that authority.
The more valuable your content, the more people will link to your site.
If you’re interested in launching a link building campaign, give us a call today. We would love to help you build a successful link-building strategy.