Link building is an important part of SEO. If you are not doing it, you are missing out on the opportunity to outrank your competitors. With that said, link building is a double-edged sword. If done wrongly, you could get penalized by Google and lose traffic.
In this guide, you will learn about what link building is all about and the right way to carry it out in your SEO campaign.
In simple terms, link building for SEO is the process of adding hyperlinks on external websites that point to yours. A hyperlink or link is usually embedded into texts on a webpage. When you click on a hyperlink, you are directed to the destination that it points to.
Hyperlinks are also used by Google crawlers to understand the importance of a website or page. In general, Google will treat a webpage as important if it has links from high authority sites pointing to it.
In Google’s own words: "Webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages."
Before we move forward, it helps to understand how a link looks like in the HTML code. A hyperlink usually has a different colour than the normal text.
It looks like this in HTML:
<a href="https://www.techinasia.com/singapore-social-media-stats">4.6 million Singaporeans </a>
There are two important elements of a hyperlink, the URL and anchor text. The anchor text is where the link is inserted, and in this case, is the ‘4.6 million Singaporeans. Meanwhile, the href value holds the target URL.
Terms like URL and anchor text are often used in explaining link building strategies.
In the world of SEO, White Hat refers to techniques that are compliance with Google and black hat is the opposite.
As far as Google is concerned, links have to be earned naturally and they should not be bought or manipulated. White hat link building for SEO, which complies with Google’s guideline is about content promotion or outreach, in the hope of gaining links from the webmasters.
On the contrary, black hat link building involves tactics specifically devised to generate backlinks for a site. Getting links from link farms, Public Blog Network (PBN), paid links, and others listed in Google’s link schemes guideline.
Black hat link building for SEO used to monopolize the search engine until Google launches its first Panda Update in 2012. Sites that have been manipulating the search results with Black Hat link building are penalized, with traffic wiped off overnight.
Besides being downgraded by the algorithm, black hat link building for SEO can result in a manual penalty. Manual penalties, causes the rank of a page to drop and sometimes, may even lead to removal from Google index.
It is not worth for your efforts to go down the drain, just because you are resorting to black hat tactics. If you are trying to link build, use White Hat techniques that adhere to Google’s policy.
Usually, link building for SEO is automatically understood to refer to the process of acquiring backlinks. However, there are two other forms of link building for SEO that will improve rankings. Here’s how each variation of link building works.
Inbound links are backlinks. They are links on external websites that point to your site. Backlinks are used by Google for crawling and determining the importance of your pages. They are still an important ranking signal on Google.
However, not all backlinks are created equal. you will want to avoid backlinks from low-quality sites or links built with Black Hat tactics. Instead, seek links from relevant and high authoritative sites.
Outbound links are links on your content that point to other websites. While they are not as powerful as inbound links, outbound links still influence SEO ranking.
When you place outbound links on the appropriate part and directs users to the source or other relevant content, you are offering more value. Besides, doing so also increases your site’s authoritativeness.
Internal links are links that connect between pages on your website. They are a significant factor in SEO.
Google crawler uses internal links to discover pages and understand the architecture of your site. If a site is well connected with internal links, Google can discover, index and update the content easier. This also leads to an improvement in search ranking.
Besides Google, users also find internal links helpful as they lead to other resources within the site easily. Remember that Google tends to rewards sites that offer good user experiences.
Occasionally, you will have broken links on your site. These are often reported in an SEO tool, Google Search Console or in some cases, you could be alerted by users.
You will need to fix the broken links as they can be detrimental to these factors:
If you’ve updated the conversion page’s URL but the internal links pointing to it remain unchanged, users couldn’t complete the transaction. Frustrated, some of the users may just exit your site and seek out a competitor.
Losing revenue over broken internal links isn’t worth it, considering how much you’ve spent into building the site and getting traffic.
You should not underestimate the patience of users visiting your site. If they keep bumping on broken links, they’ll leave the site for good in no time.
Eventually, broken links lead to an increased bounce rate. If you end up with relatively higher bounce rate than other competitors, Google may treat it as a signal that you are not satisfying the queries of the users.
It’s not surprising if the particular page suffers a drop in ranking after turning off many users.
Somehow you will need to update the broken links. If Google finds too many 404 errors that result from that, it may devalue your site as a whole.
Consequently, your website suffers a drop in ranking on the search results.
Backlinks, also known as incoming links and inbound links, are links from an external website pointing to your site.
They are used by Google PageRank algorithm, to determine the importance of a website or page.
A backlink to your site is similar to a vote of confidence. When the ‘vote’ comes from a site of high authority, the weight it carries is higher.
In modern SEO, backlinks remain one of the most important ranking signals for Google.
Different links carry different values. Some are good for SEO, while others may have little to no effects. In some cases, getting the wrong backlinks hurt ranking.
So, what are the factors that define a good backlink?
A backlink earned from a site with authority is more powerful than one from a fledgeling blog. For example, you will want to get a link from Entrepreneur.com than a 6-months old personal business blog.
In Google’s PageRank algorithm, Entrepreneur.com is an established site and therefore, convey more trust and credibility.
Google doesn’t disclose how it considers a website to be authoritative. However, it is agreed that authoritativeness is based on a few factors, like the brand, years since created, referring domains, content published and more.
3rd parties tools like Moz and Ahref has scores like DA and DR which is an indicative value of the site’s authority.
Entrepreneur.com has a DA of 92 on Moz, which is a far cry on a newly-established website. A newly-built website often has a DA less than 10.
Authority isn’t the sole justification of a good referring domain. you will also need to take relevancy into account.
If you have a website on digital marketing, you will want the referring link to come from a site that is somehow related and not one that focuses on body art.
Preferably, you will want a link from sites that are both authoritative and relevant.
Don’t dismiss sites that are relevant but lacking in authority. Building links on such sites may still provide positive results.
A former Googler hints that links from relevant sites could be as important, if not more, than those from authoritative sites.
You can have 100 links from a single domain or 1 each for different domains and both options will lead to different results.
If you are linking only from a single domain, there’s a limit of the boost you will get in SEO. Instead, spread over your link equities over a few unique domains.
For example, you don’t want to build only 100 links from Entrepreneur.com. Consider spreading the effort around sites like Forbes, Inc.com, and other similar sites.
The easier the links can be acquired, the less value it is. The lowest on the hierarchy are paid links or sponsored contents.
These are often ignored, or devalued by Google.
Guest posts, which are submitted by other publishers, may also contain backlinks. If they are not strictly regulated, the links may not offer much value.
The most valuable links are editorially-placed ones. These links are placed naturally by the editor when referring to a specific resource.
For backlinks to be more valuable, they need to be matched with relevant anchor texts. Relevant anchor texts don’t mean that you will need to place the links on keyword-matching texts.
Unnatural keyword anchor text can lead to link devaluations or penalties.
Rather, you will want to have the links on phrases that are related to the title or content of the destination page.
A link anchored on a generic term like ‘sources’, ‘read more’, or ‘click here’ will have little value.
Links are usually tagged with Do-follow and no-follow, which are indicative for search engine crawlers whether to take the links into account.
A do-follow tag tells Google crawler to evaluate the link.
The no-follow directive was originally by Google to ignore a link. However, Google revised its definition of the no-follow link in September 2019 and further introduced the ‘ugc’ and ‘sponsored’ tags.
Now, the no-follow tag is treated as a ‘hint’. It may be ignored by the crawler or has a minor effect on ranking.
Nevertheless, a do-follow link, with its clear implication is more powerful than a no-follow link.
Does this mean you will want to build only do-follow links?
It doesn’t hurt to have some no-follow links, particularly on authoritative sites. They are part of a healthy link-building profile, and you may benefit from Google’s recent change in evaluating no-follow links.
Still, getting do-follow links is a focus in your link-building strategies.
A successful link building campaign relies on good strategies and tactics. Link building for SEO strategies involved taking into account the requirements and niche of the business while tactics are executions to acquire the backlinks.
If you are solely relying on link building tactics, you may not achieve the desired results. For example, the approach of getting backlinks for a pest control business is different from a digital marketing firm.
Here are 15 tried-and-tested link building strategies.
It’s unoriginal but spying on your competitor’s backlinks is an efficient way to get linked from the same referring domains.
The logic is that if those sites are linking to your competitors, they are likely to link to your website through an outreach campaign.
But first, how do you find out where your competitors’ backlinks come from?
1. Search for the keyword that you want to rank for in Google. For example, the keyword ‘perfume for men’ brings out competitors that are ranking for it.
2. Use a backlink checker tool like Ahref to analyze the backlinks for one of the competitors. Copy the URL into Ahref Backlink Checker and check for backlinks to the domain and subdomains.
3. You will get a list of detailed results on the backlinks. Look for links that are ‘do-follow’, and ‘content’ type of referring page.
4. Make a list of the sites that are authoritative, relevant and linking to the competitor in their content.
5. Get the contact of the website’s editor and send an email pitching for a link. Here’s a template:
I was searching for resources on [subject] on the internet and I found your site.
[target site link].
I noticed that you are linking to [competitors URL] in your content.
I’ve published a more detailed content at [your URL], which may be a good addition for your audience.
Feel free to check it out.
Sometimes, links that have been built can be lost. The webmaster could have upgraded the content, moved the page or linked to an incorrect URL.
Regardless of the reasons, you are robbed of valuable links and you need to reclaim it.
In such cases, you will need to find out a list of lost links and Ahrefs Site Explorer has a handy feature to do that.
Go to Site Explorer, select your domain. Choose Backlinks → Lost. You will get a list of backlinks that are lost in the past. You will find that the report shows the reasons why the links are lost.
The lost links could be due to
If the links are removed or the pages redirected to a new URL, reach out to the webmaster with a suggestion of linking back to your resource.
If they’ve done so in the past, they’re likely to do so again.
Testimonial submission is an easy way to create backlinks for SEO. In your business, you would have dealt with some suppliers.
Some suppliers may have a section for a testimonial on their website, with do-follow links to the client.
Zoho, which offers a collection of business apps, has a testimonial section that links to its clients.
Reach out to your suppliers and offer a glowing review of their services or products. In return, you will have a backlink to your website.
If you want others to link to your site, you will need them a good reason. This means creating linkable assets.
Linkable assets are content that is helpful to users and also increases the perceived value of sites linking to it. They are, in other words, link magnets.
When creating linkable assets, you need to understand the psychology that drives people linking to your content. Generally, a content attracts link because
Here are some of the common ones.
A listicle often takes the form of ‘Top 10…’, “Best [product] ..’ and similar format. It is a round-up of products, services, or items that are deemed to be the best.
Listicles are popular because they are easy to read, and also commonly search by users. Once you’ve created a listicle, reach out to the brands or website mentioned in it.
Chances are, they will link to the listicle as it asserts their authority in the niche.
Here’s an article titled ‘The 11 Best Productivity Apps for 2020’ by CloudApp. It links to 11 other apps that are non-competitors but share the same audience. The article has 203 links built to it.
Humans are attracted by colourful visuals and this makes infographics a valuable asset for link building.
Infographics work well for some industries like marketing, health, designs, fashion and movies. This infographic from Heart.org attracts more than 3,300 backlinks.
As mentioned, infographics work great in certain industries but not so in others. Before you create one, you will want to ensure that it’s worth the effort.
Do a quick check on Google that competitors are creating infographics and people are linking to it.
1. Search ‘keyword’ + infographic on Google.
2. Navigate to the page that contains the infographic. Use MozBar to check the backlinks to the page.
People are constantly looking for solutions on the internet. If you can produce ‘how-to’ articles that satisfy their queries, it is likely to be shared around and attracts backlinks.
Take a look at these articles for “how to reduce weight”.
The first article has 19k+ links and the second, 10K+. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you will get thousands of links in your niche, it proves that ‘how-to’ content is very sharable.
If you are an expert in your industry, you ought to create ‘how-to’ content. Google is prioritizing E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) in the ranking, which means an industry expert is likely to rank higher besides attracting backlinks.
Include studies, data and professional opinion on your own to increase the credibility of the article. People aren’t going to link to a ‘me-too’ content.
An online tool embedded to your website is one of the best ways to attract natural link. If you are in the nutrition business, building a diet planning calculator can attract tons of links.
Here’s the proof.
This calorie calculator has more than 15,000 backlinks.
Numbers speak louder than words, at least when people are making a statement with data. If you have a systematic data in your business, you can turn them into statistics or case studies.
Another alternative is to compile individual statistics into a roundup.
Just check out how the number of backlinks gained by these roundups on Instagram Marketing Statistics.
The Skyscraper Technique was introduced by Brian Dean in 2015. It is a link-building technique that follows the 3-step approach:
1. Link-worthy content means an article that attracts a huge number of backlinks. You can use Ahrefs Content Explorer to identify content with many backlinks.
2. Improvise it by doing any of the following:
3. Once you’ve published the content, you need to share it with the audience. The right audience to target is those that are already linking to the existing article.
Use the backlink reverse engineering technique to reach out to the referring domains for the competitor.
Promote your skyscraper content. Chances are, you will get some links from them.
An ultimate guide covers practically any related topic that the users are searching. It is also the perfect link magnet.
With an ultimate guide, users do not need to navigate to other pages as all their questions are answered in a single content.
Ultimate guides usually have thousands of words. This affiliate marketing article by Neil Patel has more than 4,800 words.
What’s more important is that there are 8,722 backlinks to it. It’s also ranking on the top spot for ‘Affiliate Marketing Guide’.
If you are in the industry where competitors are focusing on single-topic short articles, you can outdo them by creating ultimate guides.
For example, there are no ultimate guides on Turtle Feeding. The topics covered are sporadic and this is an opportunity to develop a guide.
You can get ideas by studying the existing articles. Also, check out the ‘People Also Asks’ and ‘Searches Related’ sections.
By including these topics, there’s a chance of ranking for different keywords and getting tons of backlinks.
When you’ve been running a business for quite a while, there could be conversations regarding your brand on the internet.
These mentions are a great opportunity for link building for SEO if you could reach out to the editor or web owner.
But before you do that, you need to know where your brand is mentioned. Searching your brand on Google is an easy way to start.
Use search operator like the following, to exclude results from your websites and social media.
Now, you know these results have mentioned your brand but can’t be sure if they are linked to your site.
You will need to extract the results into a spreadsheet by using this SERP Scraper extension by Chris Ainsworth. The tool will return a list of URL and anchor text which can be copied into a spreadsheet.
Then, use ScrapeBox’s free link checker tool to determine if the pages contain links to your website. Remove those that are linking to your website and you will have a list of sites with unlinked brand mentions.
Reach out the editor of the websites and suggest that linking they are missing a link to your site. Mention how it adds value to their readers when the link is included.
You are likely to gain some backlinks in the process.
Someone else’s losses could be your gain with a technique called broken link building. Over time, publications in your niche may have linked to resources that have been removed.
Broken links are bad for user experiences and it’s an opportunity for you to reach out and pitch for a backlink.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Find pages that have lots of links. Usually, these are definitive guides, in-depth how-to articles or listicles.
2. Use Ahrefs to check for broken links.
3. Reach out to the webmaster, inform them about the broken link and mention how you have a better resource to link to.
If you have a link-worthy content, it’s almost a guaranteed success.
In 2014, Matt Cutts of Google gave off a chilling warning of guest posting.
Does that mean guest posting has stopped being a legit White Hat SEO technique?
Yes and no.
Low-quality guest posting, in which articles are submitted purely for the sake of acquiring backlinks, are considered a spammy practice.
Meanwhile, high-quality submission to authoritative or sites that are well-regulated, is still a legit link-building practice.
To guest post, you will need to find sites that accept submissions. You can do so by searching for the following variations on Google
Study the site on the types of articles published and brainstorm for topics that are likely to resonate with the readers.
Reach out to the editor to pitch your ideas. Avoid generic robot-like email. Make it personal by mentioning notable articles and offer your opinions.
Then, follow up with your pitch.
Read through guidelines and ensure outbound links to your site are allowed. Keep the links to 1-2 throughout the article. Link to other authoritative sources and pages within the site too.
Submit the finished article and wait for it to get published.
Relationships in business can prove to be handy in building backlinks. It is easier to ask a supplier or associate for a backlink than cold-emailing a stranger.
But first, you need to ensure that they have a well-designed website or at least, doesn’t appear to be low quality.
Look for opportunities to place a backlink without much hassle. For example, some suppliers may have a list of customer logos and you can request a link back from yours.
Mailchimp links back to clients that are using its service, from its homepage.
Or, you can find out if they have an active blog, and request a link from a relevant anchor text. For example, a pest removal company can reach out to a latex mattress company that it’s recommending to its client for a link back in a relevant blog article.
We’ve also covered testimonials submissions, which can be applied easily with a company you know.
Remember that relationship is about to give and take. If you are given a backlink, share their webpages on your social media.
Best of lists are a good option to get a backlink. They attract readers who are at the end of purchase cycle and getting listed in such articles increase your brand value.
It’s also easy to find out the best of lists in your industry. Just Google-search ‘best of’ + [service/product/keyword].
If you are offering SaaS productivity solution, you will want to get listed into articles like these:
These are high authority sites, which means backlinks gained from them are very valuable. Getting on the list also puts you on par with other huge brands in the industry.
To pitch for a backlink, reach out to the editor in email. Introduce your brand, its uniqueness and how it adds value to the readers.
You can also volunteer to write the description to make it hassle-free to include your brand.
Backlinks from best-of lists not only passes SEO ‘link juice’, but also increases referral traffic to your site.
Most forums ‘no-follow’ external links. But this should not stop you from linking from local forums.
Linkbuilding from local forums is more of community engagement. When done right, it increases the reputation of your company.
The key to forum link-building is to be helpful to the community. Always offer advice without expecting anything in return.
Do not drop links in every single conversation. The best ratio of placing a link is 1 in 20 comments or conversations. Even so, it must be part of an in-depth explanation like this:
Every forum has its own rules on dropping external links. Some only allow links to non-promotional content while other total ban outbound links.
Read the guidelines before placing any links.
If you can create a buzz around your products or services, there is a chance of gaining links from major publications.
The logic is if your brand is making news and going viral, everyone wants to talk about it.
There are a few ways to launch a PR campaign that results in backlinks.
Usually, you will get a few backlinks to your product page or homepage. Coming from a review page, they are valuable and natural.
If you’ve got a huge collection of data, it’s time to rope in a data analyst and discern trends from the numbers.
New original studies have always been a sure way to gain backlinks. Instead of publishing the research in an academic format, turn it into an engaging blog article.
Use visuals and infographic to better deliver the results. Reach out to websites and influencers in the industry, who may be interested in what you’ve discovered.
The result can be stunning, just like this research published by BuzzSumo, which has since attracted more than 3,300 backlinks.
Here’s a backlink strategy that doesn’t involve creating lengthy content. It’s as simple as finding resource pages and requesting for your website to be listed on.
A resource page is a webpage that is built like a directory and points to other relevant websites in the niche.
You can find resource pages by using search terms like:
Here’s a resource page for ‘meditation resources’.
Reach out to the editor and introduce about your product and how it’ll make a good addition to the resource page.
Scraping through the web for authority sites, broken links and such can be tedious. Thankfully, there are some tools that will cut short your efforts for link building for SEO
Ahref’s Site Explorer allows you to investigate the backlink profile of your competitors. It returns the number of backlinks earned by competing pages. Besides, you can use Site Explorer to sort out new, old and broken links.
The Content Explorer is also a helpful feature for identifying potential domains for link build. You can filter out authoritative sites or unlinked mentions to pitch your link building campaign.
URL Profiler is a simple but powerful application that retrieves metrics for URLs from tools like Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic and SEMRush. You can check the link metrics, social shares, perform link audit and more from the profiler.
Seranking focuses on two crucial parts of SEO, keywords and backlinks. Its backlink checker evaluates the backlink profile of competing sites based on 15 different factors. You can also use the backlink management feature to track, monitor and plan your budget accordingly.
Majestic is a professional SEO tool that is more focused on link analysis. It has a huge database of more than 8 trillion URLs where it can easily analyze backlink profiles for respective websites. Results are broken down into details like link context, trust-flow and the anchor texts.
Linkody is another link research tool that’s not only providing comprehensive results but also has a modern UI. You can track links’ status, DA, Spam Score, Alexa rank and more from a highly-visual table. It also has a disavow tool, which is helpful in mitigating spammy links.
With Pitchbox, you can run an outreach campaign by being pretty hands-off. It allows you to personalized email messages and finds the right influencers in your niche. No replies after a few days? Pitchbox will automatically send a follow-up.
Mailshake is a simple solution to start sending personalized emails to a list of contact. Outreach is made easier as the tool provides templates made specifically for link building. Make some changes and you are ready to send hundreds of emails effortlessly.
Target the right influencers and send personalized emails with Ninja Outreach. This popular tool uses a data-driven approach to pair you up with influencers and automates the process of sending outreach emails.
Like Ninja Outreach, Buzzstream offers a complete platform to manage your link building campaign. It connects you with influencers, follow-up on emails and allows your team to collaborate seamlessly on the platform.
Ontolo is strictly a prospecting tool. It gathers data from the web and social media to identify potential sites for link building. The tool provides insights into information like contact emails, social media accounts, and outbound links types.
There’s a theory that broken links are still helpful for SEO as it still contributes to the ‘domain authority score’ of the website.
The problem with this theory is Google doesn’t use scores like DA or DR in ranking websites. Google assess the sites based on numerous current factors, including backlinks to the page.
John Muller of Google confirms this in one of his Hangout discussions. Check out this video from 42 minutes.
Therefore, if you’ve built a backlink to a page and it’s now broken, the link is pretty much worthless.
Broken links don’t pass any ‘link juice’ to your site. These links no longer influence the ranking of your website.
If you’ve spent time and money to build the links, they are now nothing but a wasted effort.
Thankfully, you can find broken links using Ahrefs Site Explorer. Go to Reports Backlink Profile → Backlinks → Broken to see the list of broken links.
Then, you can do any of the following:
Link building for SEO can be intimidating because it’s easy to stray into Black Hat practices if you are not experienced with it.
In some cases, you are better off by hiring Heroes of Digital for your link building campaign in Singapore.
Our 10 years of experience and in-depth SEO knowledge proves to be useful in building high-quality, scalable backlinks that are relevant and authoritative.
We easily avoid pitfalls of building links that are against Google’s policy. Our strategies focus on creating high-quality content editorial links, which are published on authoritative publications.
Every business may need different strategies and we are used to devising customized link building campaigns.
Our efforts are proven to deliver results with other clients and that leads to us being a credible leader in the industry.
We also understand that businesses operate with a certain budget and we priced our link building packages competitively.
If you are still getting nowhere in link building for SEO, drop our Heroes a message. We will be on your case with our superpower.
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