- Backlinks play a major role in SEO as they signal that your website is valuable and trustworthy—they essentailly tell Google that others vouch for your content.
- As well as generating more referral traffic, trusted content also ranks higher on search results for certain keywords.
- If you're wondering how to get started with link building, we've put together four effective link building strategies you can start implementing today.
Here’s food for thought—backlinks are like customer reviews. Why?
They, too, improve reputation and make a site more credible and trustworthy. But instead of customers, they impress Google.
Choosing trusted websites to show in top results is tricky, so Google considers backlinks as trust signals. If a website accumulates enough backlinks from other trustworthy sites, chances are it’ll rank higher in SERP.
And when your website ranks high for keywords relevant to your business, then, well—you can fasten your seatbelts and get ready for tons of organic free traffic.
This guide will help those looking to know more about building links and improving their websites’ search visibility. I’ll give a quick intro to backlinks and share four proven strategies to get you started on the way to Google’s top 10.
What Are Backlinks and Why Are They Important?
A backlink is a link from one website to another. Backlinks are a significant ranking factor in SEO because they show search engines that a website is trustworthy and reputable.
Building backlinks is a must-have part of any effective SEO plan because they:
- Provide a “vote of confidence” from one site to another, signalling the website’s credibility to Google
- Improve the position of a website in search engine results (SERP)
- Refer readers (and bots) to relevant resources mentioned and linked to in a given article.
Consistent backlink building contributes both to a website’s ranking and business reputation. That’s because linking to a website doesn’t only send a signal to Google but also demonstrates quality content.
Does that mean that you should try to get as many backlinks as possible? Well, yeah, kind of, but—
There’s more to that.
White Hat vs Black Hat vs Gray Hat Link Building
“White hat SEO,” “black hat SEO,” and “grey hat SEO.”
What do those terms mean, exactly? Let me explain.
The “colour” indicates the level of commitment to following Google’s SEO guidelines (that includes backlink building, too):
- White hat link building—means following Google’s backlinking rules to word (writing relevant content, getting relevant backlinks from quality websites, etc).
That’s how you should be operating if you want to win the SEO game long-term.
- Grey hat link building—means respecting Google’s rules but sometimes violating them without malicious intent.
- Black hat link building—means deliberate manipulation of Google results to gain an unfair advantage, e.g. spam and paid backlinks.
A logical question:
Do these definitions mean that black hat link building is illegal?
The only governing body that’ll punish a website for using black hat practices is a search engine like Google (unless we’re talking serious stuff hacking, of course). Typical punishments include penalties like website ranking downgrades and delisting (a complete removal from SERPs).
It can be tempting to try and manipulate Google but don’t go down this road—Google’s algorithms are getting smarter each day, and playing by the rules is a solution that will serve you best in the long run.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the types of backlinks you need to build to have a so-called “healthy” backlink profile.
What Are the Different Types of Backlinks?
It might not be news to you, but—not all backlinks are created equal. Before you go ahead and work on getting them, you need to know what backlinks matter to Google.
So, on the fundamental level, there are two backlinks types you can get:
- “Follow” backlinks: These matter to Google as a content quality signal. The search engine “counts” it when defining a website’s rank. Google bots follow this link when crawling a page with a said backlink, and the link juice is sent to a page you linked to from your content.
- “No-follow” backlinks: In simple words, no-follow backlinks carry the “don’t count me in” information to Google bots. That means they won’t follow the link to its source, won’t pass PageRank, and will most likely not impact the search engine rankings.
How can you tell if the link is “follow” or “no-follow”?
A “no-follow” link has a specific HTML attribute (rel=”nofollow”) when published:
<a href=”https://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
Remember that the no-follow links aren’t completely useless, and it’s natural to have them as a part of your backlink profile. You can monitor your backlinks profile using SEO tools like Ahrefs or Monitor Backlinks.
The “follow” links have much more impact on improving Google ranking, and that’s why you should focus on them when executing your link-building strategy. But where can you get those links?
Here are the most common types of links along with sources:
- Editorial backlinks: These backlinks come from websites mentioning others in a piece of content (most commonly, referring to it as an information source).
- Guest post bio backlinks: Websites that accept guest publications allow including a link to your site in the author bio. It’s an opportunity to promote your website and showcase expertise.
- Business profile backlinks: Include links from business directories, listings, and social media business accounts.
- Free tool links: If a website creates a free tool (like the Flowchart maker from Visme or Timeline maker from Venngage), others could link to them in their content.
- Badge backlinks: Badge backlinks (not to be confused with trust badges that demonstrate a site is secure) are stamps of quality that a website gives to others to be published on them.
Now, let’s move on to the strategies to get these backlinks.
What Are the Best Link Building Strategies?
Today we will go through four common link-building strategies that work for most online businesses in all industries:
- Blogger outreach and guest blogging
- Broken link building
- Unlinked mentions
- Relationship-based link building
1. Blogger Outreach and Guest Blogging
This strategy involves reaching out to high-quality blogs and securing a guest posting spot. As an expert in your niche, you can offer them to write a post where you’d mention your website.
The SEO outreach process will look something like this:
- Research: Find a website and submit a guest post idea based on their guidelines
- Acceptance: The website accepts your idea, and you start writing, keeping in mind the topic relevancy and best SEO practices (keyword research, user intent, etc.)
- Submission: You submit the article and await approval—it takes anywhere from several days to weeks, depending on the website
- Approval and publication: The website approves the article and publishes it along with the link to your website.
Many popular blogs accept guest posts so that finding opportunities won’t be a problem. In fact, you can Google “Write for us” to see some of them.
Don't be discouraged if the editors won't reply to your first pitch. Keep trying and make sure to always send one or two follow-up emails. Remember that there are plenty of guest bloggers who want to publish their articles on those websites.
Also, don’t feel like you should submit your guest post ideas to any blog. The best websites are the ones your target audience reads and those that are already ranking for the keywords relevant to you.
Use “[keyword] intitle:"guest post" to find them, with “keyword” being related to your business. For example, if you’d like to write a piece about chatbots for eCommerce stores, try:
[Chatbots] intitle:"guest post"
2. Broken Link Building
This link building strategy is simple in its concept:
- Find a link on a website that redirects to deleted content
- Ask the website’s owner to link to your content on the same topic instead.
While this sounds like a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be. There are free tools like Broken Link Checker to find the “dead” links.
The best place to start is to check your competitors’ backlink profiles (for example, by using Ahrefs) and see if any websites are linking to their content that is outdated or redirected.
Don’t be discouraged if you find content to propose from your own website. If a “dead” source has, say, 30 backlinks, and you can invest in creating similar content and ask to link instead. Getting a few dozens of quality backlinks will be worth it.
3. Unlinked Mentions
The purpose of this strategy is to find websites that mention your website but don’t link to it. Sometimes websites don’t give a link back, but it’s unintentional in many cases. So, you can find these mentions and earn links.
But how to search for these unlinked mentions?
No worries, there’s no need to scan thousands of web pages manually. There are helpful tools like SEMrush, BuzzSumo, and Ahrefs Content Explorer to help you find them within minutes.
Try searching for:
- Your brand name + alternate spellings
- Branded products or tools
- Employee names (maybe your CEO quote was mentioned somewhere)
4. Relationship-Based Link Building
This strategy involves establishing relationships with people who will share and link to your content. Sometimes called “the purest form of link building,” it helps earn trust and goes beyond mere link exchange.
Benefits of relationship-based link building:
- Gets high-quality links from reputable websites
- Build a reputation as a reliable source of information
- It helps to get published faster
Having an image of a reliable source of information also builds your reputation as a trustworthy business. You’ll need some time to build relationships, but the long-term benefits are worth the effort.
To start relationship-based link building:
- Create and publish original, “link-worthy” content. Make sure people could use it to find answers related to your business’s niche.
- Build your web presence. Complete your profiles on your website and social media, engage with content creators, and stay active.
- Make your website trustworthy. Create quality content, links to reputable resources, and provide a fast browsing experience.
- Connect with reputable websites/thought leaders in your niche. Follow them on social media or subscribe to their blog and occasional reactions (comments, shares, etc.)
- Reach out. Friendly ask if they’re interested in adding a link (make it relevant!) to your “link-worthy” content.
Keep in mind that you’d have to be active on social media. Asking for a backlink and disappearing isn’t exactly “relationship building,” so you should invest time in commenting, responding and otherwise interacting with your partners’ content.
Backlinks are a major factor in how Google decides website ranking. That’s why obtaining them from other websites is an important strategy to secure your business’s spot in top search results.
Building links is a process that takes time. That’s why you need to adopt a long-term mindset to succeed. However, once you set up the right system in place and start building links consistently, you’ll start outranking your competition and seeing the results you were looking for.
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