Do you want to do link building but don’t know where to start?
This guide will tell you how to create backlinks for your website, with actionable tips updated for 2021.
- Chapter 1: Link Building Concepts
- Chapter 2: Link Quality Analysis
- Chapter 3: How to Create Links
- Chapter 4: Best Link Building Strategies
Chapter 1: Link Building Concepts
In this chapter, I will write about the fundamentals of link building, what it means and why it is important for the positioning of your website in search engines.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Link Building?
Link building consists of creating one-way hyperlinks (commonly called “backlinks”) to a website to improve visibility on search engines.
But not all links have the same value. With the update to Penguin’s algorithm, Google is now focusing on link quality (not just link quantity).
Link building includes several techniques, including content marketing, guest posts, email outreach, and others.
Why Is Link Building Important?
Link building is important because it is a fundamental factor used by Google to rank web pages.
Andrey Lipattsev (now Partner Development Manager for Google, but Search Quality Strategist before that) stated that links, content, and RankBrain are the top three ranking signals in Google’s popular search algorithm.
In the past, the search engines that dominated the market were Yahoo! and AltaVista. And they always ranked results only considering the content of web pages.
Then came Google with the PageRank Algorithm and changed the rules. Instead of only analyzing pages based on content, they also added how many websites are pointing to that page.
In a nutshell, the number of links is important, but you should also focus on quality, not quantity.
So, how can you determine the quality of a link?
Let’s see it right now.
Chapter 2: Link Quality Analysis
There are different link metrics you should know. They can help you verify the value of a link and judge whether you should commit to working for it.
Being aware of these metrics is also useful for analyzing the link profile of a website. In addition, several attributes change the value of the link itself in terms of ranking on search engines.
Considering that there are no exact statements from Google about the measurement of each link, here are some indications that prominent members of the SEO community use:
Verifying domain authority (DA) is one of the most popular ways to understand how strong a website is. This metric was introduced by Moz and ranges from 0 to 100, where 0 is the lowest value.
To calculate the domain authority, Moz uses several factors, such as the unique links pointing to the main domains and the total number of links.
In some cases, you will be able to acquire a link from a page that already exists on a website instead of being mentioned on a new page in the form of a blog post. As an example, think of a list of the best New York bakeries where you can include your business.
In this case, you will want to evaluate how strong the page in question is, to evaluate whether you should take your time to acquire that link.
Page Authority is another metric created by Moz (very similar to Domain Authority). It differs because it applies to a single page and not to the entire domain.
Similar to Moz, also Ahrefs and SemRush are using their metrics to evaluate a domain authority. While they can differ in specific factors they use, the concept is the same for all.
The authority of a website or web page is calculated based on the number of referring domains (quantity and quality) linking to it, together with other sub-metrics such as follow vs. no-follow links, referring IPs, and referring subnets.
So, if you could choose to get a link from a new blog recently opened by your friend or one from Forbes, which one would you choose? I think the answer is clear.
You want to get links from authority sites, but you also need to consider the topic’s relevance.
Consider an example. You have a blog about fitness, and you publish a review about the best exercise equipment. Thanks to this, two sites mention your new article in their content. One from their blog post “The Best Fitness Tools” and another from an article titled “10 Ways to Save Money in Your Business“.
Which of the two pages seems most relevant to your website, according to Google?
That’s right. That page will benefit your site more in terms of rankings.
Relevance is also considered at the website level. In fact, Google states:
Put simply, try to earn links from websites connected to your site instead of seizing every linking opportunity, whatever topic it is.
The position of a backlink you earned inside a specific web page matters.
Is it at the beginning of the content?
Or deep down, within the end of the page?
The higher it is, the better.
Of course, with white-hat link-building strategies, you don’t have control over the positioning of the backlink.
But if you do, for example, with guest posting, try to place your link within the first part of the content.
This strategy serves to increase the SEO value of that link and because you will have a better chance of receiving referral traffic.
When you can decide where your link goes, there are three possibilities. You can usually link to the:
- Homepage of your site
- Pillar posts of great value
- Pages that are monetized
It often happens that the latter are the most difficult to earn links.
The reason is simple. Webmasters want to link to pages useful to their users, not content that is focused on monetization.
So, the question is: “How to create links for those pages that make you money?”
Aside from the times when webmasters will allow you to use those certain “money pages,” the other solution is to use the power of internal linking.
Anchor text is the clickable part of a link that takes you to another web page.
Google’s original license uses several strategies to improve search quality, including anchor text:
If, for example, you earn an anchor text link: “fitness diet,” Google will think after seeing these words that that site must have “fitness” content.
So, how could you benefit from anchor text when building links?
You just don’t. The more you do, the higher the chance of getting penalized by Google.
If you think about it, you should in no way be able to control the anchor text used by webmasters who decide to link to your content because they consider it valuable.
Nofollow vs. Follow
Using the “no follow” attribute, you want to tell Google not to consider this link as an endorsement.
It looks like this:
Until September 2019, Google used not count no-follow links.
Then, they announced the introduction of new tags:
- rel = “sponsored”: to be used for sponsored content.
- rel = “ugc”: UGC stands for user-generated content, such as comments and forum posts.
Chapter 3: How to Create Links
There are many strategies that you can use to build links. Let’s categorize them as below.
When you are building links, you can:
Manually Add Links
This category includes all those sites where you can add your link alone and independently.
Take, for example:
These types of links tend to have a low value for Google, and be careful not to overdo it, as they can often be marked as SPAM.
It is clear that you have to pay attention, but it is also true that these links can create benefits in some cases.
Don’t rush to add your website to every business directory you find, just to earn another link.
Think about the known and recognized ones, which could bring you traffic and visitors interested in your business.
Local business directories are a good example to consider, and they can help you connect with business owners in your area.
Social Media Profiles
In general, you should always reserve the name of your business or brand on all major social media, such as:
Registering is quick and easy. Even if you don’t want to spend time on social media marketing, you should claim your name on these networks.
This way, you can avoid unpleasant surprises in the future (think of people who will want to steal your brand name once your business begins to take off).
Consider leaving comments on blogs as a way to build relationships with other webmasters and enthusiasts in your niche.
Don’t think of it as a way to build links. You would just automate it and end up leaving useless comments.
Ryan Biddulph is a master of blog comments. He always adds fresh, positive, informative thoughts when he comments on other blogs:
Try this practice. Enter the following query in Google:
“Your Keyword” + “Leave a Comment”
and you will find blog posts related to your keyword that allow commenting.
Try to leave helpful comments after actually reading the article. Try proposing to add a specific topic to the writer, or constructively correct any errors you think you have found.
This way, not only can you drive traffic to your site, but you can also build a relationship with new bloggers.
You can use relevant forums to share your knowledge, build an audience and share informative content from your site from time to time.
Plus, most of the forums allow a link in the bio or user section.
Add value to the discussion, report examples, and suggestions. Don’t spam links here and there. You just risk being penalized.
The same concept of forums also applies on Q&A sites, where you find users willing to ask questions about any topics.
Use these places to showcase your expertise, without spamming, but with the option to mention useful resources (like yours) from time to time.
Your content there can generate thousands of views over time.
Posting a job on the related site listing can be a way to get an easy link.
You can do this only if you are looking to hire someone. When your online business is starting to grow, you may need an accountant, a writer, a graphic designer, or an assistant who can help with tedious tasks such as social media marketing or email outreach.
Ask for Links
This strategy includes all the practices needed to contact the webmaster and convince him to add your link to their page.
The compelling reason is essential to succeed in your intent.
You should make sure your content is interesting enough to convince them to consider adding your link.
In short, here are some of the strategies you can use:
- Guest blogging. You are invited, or you ask to contribute with informative content on related websites.
- Email Outreach. Research for content that is in line with yours and ask to be included as a useful resource.
- Ego Bait. You mention someone in your content, and hopefully, you can get a link back.
- Broken Link Building. You find a broken link in a related web page, and you ask to replace it with your content.
- HARO. Subscribe to the journalist platform and receive daily emails indicating topics, ways, and how you can contribute and get a mention in upcoming articles, news, and posts.
- Image Link Attribution. Research the web about your images and ask to place a credit where it is not properly displayed.
Sometimes these practices lead to positive results, but you will often get negative, not very encouraging, or frustrating responses. You can offer something extra like social sharing on your popular accounts or a mention in your upcoming newsletter. Don’t fall into the temptation to give a link in exchange or even money because you risk falling into what is considered “Link Schemes” by Google:
The truth is that to increase your chances of success, you must create content of real quality, which is better than competitors and which gives value to readers.
You can earn links when webmasters naturally mention your site and link to your content.
This happens when you are an authority in your niche or when you manage to create beneficial, interesting, and informative content.
Here are some ideas you can use to achieve this:
- Visual Content. They can be images, infographics, diagrams, or any other media created with graphic software. Must be packed with data or interesting facts.
- Lists Posts. People like this type of article. They are digestible, quick to read, with practical information to use.
- Original Research. You can create this type of content with data or surveys that reveal something new in your industry.
- Pillar Articles. These are the best kind of content you can create. In-depth, informative, useful guides packed with a huge amount of information on a specific topic.
Google stated that the best way to get other sites to create quality links to your site is to create unique, relevant, informative content:
Important note: unless you are already known in your industry, the content you just posted needs to be promoted.
Here are some practical tips:
- Use Quora. Share your knowledge and build an audience in your target niche.
- Create a Video. Something related to your article or that adds an extra. Post it on YouTube or Vimeo and your web page.
- Use Social Media. Share your content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn.
- Create an Infographic. This visual content can go viral easily if it brings real value to your industry.
- Use On-page SEO optimization. The correct implementation of these strategies will bring traffic over time.
- Create an eBook. You can use your best content or write something new.
- Use advertising. Think of AdWords, Facebook Ads, or the advertising of a network where your audience is located.
Chapter 4: Best Link Building Strategies
In the previous chapter, you learned about different ways to create links.
Now, let’s see into detail a few specific, actionable link building strategies:
Writing a good guest post means following a set of rules that you should already follow every day for your blog.
It’s clear. You cannot afford mistakes. Here are a few things to keep in mind while creating the perfect guest post:
- Study the editorial calendar of the website to post on.
- Identify the style, the tone of voice, the topics that work.
- Propose a minimum of 3 titles.
- Read the rules imposed on guest bloggers.
- Deliver a complete, proofread, perfect text. Quality, remember.
- Add internal links. Send images, graphics, videos.
- Take care of formatting.
- Interact with commenters once the content has been published.
Do you want to write a guest post? You have to give your best. Contact the blog owner and agree on the title.
Enhance all aspects, from WordPress SEO optimization to the choice of images.
Treat the post as the best article you will publish on your blog, don’t skimp on the attention (even more if you are going to guest post at popular websites in your niche).
Finding blogs that accept guest posts isn’t hard. Just use the proper Google search operators to locate sites that publish articles.
For example, try searching for:
“guest post” + “your keyword”
“write for us” + “your keyword”
“submit guest post” + “your keyword”
Have you found some related websites? Now, study each one thoroughly, assess consistency with the topic and the general quality of the content. Keep these points in mind:
- Is there a lot of advertising? Better to avoid.
- Are you addressing the same topic?
- Are the updates constant?
- Does it have a lot of quality inbound links?
- Are there any noteworthy comments?
Once you think a website could work for your guest blogging campaign, it’s time to reach out.
Here’s a template you can use:
Hi [Website's Owner], I hope this message finds you well [or Different Greeting]. My name s [Your Name] and my blog is [Your Website]. I have just read [Post Title], after researching for [Keywords or Topic]. You have written a very interesting and informative article! I also write about [Keywords or Topic] and I think I could contribute to your website with a useful guest post for your readers. Here’s an example of my writing: [Your Best Post URL] What about any of these titles: [Title 1] [Title 2] [Title 3] Thanks for your time and consideration! I can’t wait to hear back from you. Best, [Your Name] [Your Website]
See? It’s pretty customizable.
Just copy the template and edit any section to fit your needs.
I have already mentioned some of these in the previous chapter.
The principle is to build a noteworthy resource, which people are going to mention and link.
In the form of content, this resource can be:
- A collection of data
- An eBook
- A video
- An infographic
- An image
- A useful and in-depth guide
By creating these resources, you target a specific audience to communicate something informative, interesting, or entertaining.
Once they become aware of your content asset, these people will be inclined to mention it whenever they create content related to the topic covered in your resource.
Here’s a practical example.
You can create a study in the blogging industry.
You can ask a sizeable number of bloggers the same question, then collect the data and publish it.
Think of interesting things, like how much they earn monthly with their websites or the main methods of income creation.
The more specific you are, the more interesting the search will become and worth mentioning by users in your niche market.
Unlinked Brand Mentions
When someone mentions your name or brand, but without linking to your website, it’s called an unlinked brand mention.
You can turn these mentions into links by contacting the webmaster and invite him to link to your pages.
You should know that Google still values brand mentions, even if without links. And when linked, they provide more value.
The first step of this strategy is research. You can use any of these tools to look for mentions of your brand:
- Moz Explorer
- Google Alerts
You can search for the exact brand name (or any variation of it) and for any service, product, or tools you are offering.
If you have found several mentions, try to list them based on website authority.
After you have searched for the contact information, approach the staff or webmaster, asking to add a link to the brand mention.
Of course, be gentle and kind. Remember to thank for the mention and then explain the reason a link addition will benefit their audience.
Broken Link Building
Many websites have broken links. Sometimes, you can find them on high-quality pages related to your niche market.
Through the practice of broken link building, you contact webmasters by informing them about the broken link and asking to replace it with yours.
It’s a win-win situation. You earn a link, and the webmaster can improve the user experience and SEO of his site.
Here are the practical steps.
First, download Check My Links Chrome extension:
Then, search for articles or resources pages based on your keywords.
Once you are on the page, you can check for broken links by clicking on the extension button.
Here’s an example of how it will look the result on the “search engine optimization” page on Wikipedia:
Once you have found a broken link on a specific page, you can contact the webmaster and ask to replace it with your awesome resource.
Here’s a script you can use:
Hi [Website's Owner], just checking if you are still updating your website! I have just read [Post Title], after researching for [Keywords or Topic]: [Post URL] You have written a very interesting and informative article! However, I noticed that this link is not working: [URL with Broken Link] I recently published: [Your Awesome Post URL] It may be a perfect replacement for the broken link. What do you think? :) Thanks for your time and consideration! And keep up the good work. Best, [Your Name] [Your Website]
You can edit each section as per your needs.
Just copy the script and add your information.
Now, Over to You
At this time, you should have learned a lot about link building.
Did you find this guide useful?
Have you discovered something new?
Would you like to recommend specific strategies?
Did you find an error in this post?
Please, let me have your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!