Links are websites’ gems. The more links they have, the more authoritative they are in the eyes of search engines, and the higher the chance of them moving up in search engine results (SERPs).
What about websites that have no links at all? You’ve probably not seen them because these websites don’t appear in the first 10 pages of search results and therefore remain invisible to users.
All of this highlights the importance of link building. To stay ahead of the curve and easily reach your target audience, it’s important to invest time and effort into building a strong link profile for your website. And luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we’ll uncover the most effective strategies and actionable tips for successful link building. Whether you’re new to SEO or a seasoned expert, implementing these practices will help you boost your website’s authority, visibility, and organic traffic. So, let’s not waste any more time and begin.
Why Link Building Is Important
To put it simply, backlinks are like votes of confidence from other websites. When a website links to you, it’s essentially vouching for its quality and relevance. Search engines view these links as a signal that your website is a valuable resource worth showing at the top of SERPs.
So, if your goal is to show up in Google’s top search results and not tail behind your rivals, having backlinks is important.
Backlinks Are Not a Panacea
It’s worth noting that links by themselves don’t guarantee great results. While you’d certainly need to have a strong backlink profile to compete with top websites, it’s also important to consider other factors that affect search engine rankings, such as:
- Content quality,
- On-page SEO (titles, headers, descriptions, and keyword usage),
- Technical SEO (website indexing, XML sitemaps, canonical tags, and structured data markup),
- Social media presence, among many others.
Only a comprehensive approach to SEO optimization can lead to significant improvements in your rankings and overall online success.
Let’s put it this way — a link building is the foundation of a house. However, it’s still important to have all other essential elements in place to make this house livable and appealing.
Link Building Strategies
Now, let’s take a look at the strategies and tactics link builders use to ramp up website profiles. By and large, they all fall into the following buckets:
- Asking links,
- Adding links,
- Buying links,
- Earning links.
More on each further on.
1. Asking Links
Yep, you guessed right. This is a strategy when link builders contact other webmasters directly asking for referencing. The strategy is downright simple yet workable. The tricky part is, it can be darn hard to stand out from many other SEOs who are doing exactly the same thing.
So, first and foremost, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:
- “Why would other websites want to link to you?”
- “What is so special about your resource that will tip the scale in your favor?”
By answering these questions, you’ll get to the core value of your offer and increase your chances of getting links.
Once you know you do have something valuable to offer other webmasters, you can proceed with other steps.
Here’s a roundup of the strategies that belong to this category.
- Blog posts,
- Ego bait,
- Skyscraper technique,
- Case studies and testimonials,
- Link exchanges,
- Broken link building,
- HARO requests,
- Image link building,
- Unlinked mentions.
Let’s briefly touch upon each of these tactics so you can get a better idea of which one meets your goals best.
This one is obvious. You need to create a piece of content that is engaging, credible, and relevant to the website that you want to get a link from. If they find it good enough, the deal is sealed.
There’s probably no one who doesn’t love their ego boosted sometimes, and the ego bait tactic is developed with this idea in mind. By posting content that flatters and praises the website or its owner on your own site, you’re increasing the chances of them linking back to you.
Perfection is hard to achieve, which is good. Otherwise, we’d live in a perfect world with no room for growth and improvement. And the skyscraper technique embodies this idea perfectly. All you need is to find existing content (ideally the one that a webmaster is linking to) that’s particularly popular among readers and create a better version of it.
Case Studies and Testimonials
Providing testimonials for products or services you’ve used is a win-win strategy. Companies appreciate the positive feedback and may link to your testimonial. On the same note, case studies written from real data and experiences can make your content highly linkable.
This tactic is effective but can be risky if not done right. Essentially, it works on a mutual agreement between websites that link to each other. The catch? If Google suspects that those links come unnaturally, it will mark your site down for using manipulative link schemes.
Broken Link Building
Another great strategy that can prove beneficial for both you and other webmasters is so-called broken link building. As the name suggests, this strategy involves finding broken links on other websites and then creating content that website owners would want to use as a replacement. It’s a helpful gesture and an opportunity to get a high-quality backlink.
The beauty of HARO link building is that it allows you to bring your expertise to the table and build long-term relationships with web content creators. Respond to relevant queries and provide valuable insights, and shortly after, you may find your expertise featured in high-authority publications such as Forbes, The New York Times, ABC, and others.
Image Link Building
Another simple but effective strategy worth giving a go is creating and sharing unique and visually appealing images. If other websites find them interesting and relevant to their own articles, they may choose to use them, giving you credit with a link back to your site.
If your website has already been in the industry for a while, it’s very likely that some companies are mentioning you. Use SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Brand24 to find mentions of your brand or content without links and reach out to website owners, asking them to include a link.
These strategies are all effective in acquiring links. However, it’d be a big lie to say that once you start implementing them, success will come overnight. The reasons for failure can be anything: your website design doesn’t look trustworthy, the reason for link exchange isn’t all that compelling, the message you send comes across as impersonal and blank, and many more.
At this stage, some link builders may be tempted to get into gray HAT SEO techniques, which involve:
- Offering money,
- Mentioning websites on social media,
- Providing free access to their service or products.
The danger of these practices is that they are manipulative, and if Google’s algorithms detect them, your website could be penalized. As a result, instead of increasing your search rankings, your website could experience a huge drop or even be removed from SERPs altogether.
So, just like we said earlier, before reaching out to anybody, it’s vitally important to prepare a good foundation by proving the value of your offer.
2. Adding Links
The second group embraces all practices of adding links to external websites, such as:
- Social media,
- Business directories.
Adding links to these websites is no rocket science. You won’t even need to persuade anyone to link to you, as the sole purpose of these platforms is link sharing.
Surely enough, because it’s so easy to add links, they don’t carry as much weight in the eyes of search engines as the links that have been hard-earned. They also hardly give you any competitive edge, and, in some cases, if you randomly add links under each post, can even do you a bad favor, sending wrong signals to Google.
That said, this doesn’t mean this tactic shouldn’t be used. Just as with any link building strategy, adding links requires a strategic and thoughtful approach and shouldn’t be done at scale.
For example, accommodation and hotel websites should place their links on business directories like TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and similar. Even though these links won’t add much to their search rankings, they will certainly help make their websites more visible to potential customers.
The same goes for forums and communities. By including links to platforms where your audience is most likely to be, you’ll increase the chance of being noticed by people who will be interested in visiting your site. As a result, your organic traffic will grow.
3. Buying Links
Now, it’s worth saying right from the beginning that buying links is akin to walking down a slippery road. One wrong step, and you risk falling into the dangerous territory of violating search engine guidelines and facing severe consequences.
That said, the fact is the fact. Many SEOs don’t shy away from buying links, and it’s only fair that you know this strategy exists. If you’re not afraid of putting the reputation of your site at risk or even end up penalized by Google, you can try this method, but we’d certainly recommend not to.
4. Earning Links
Of all, this strategy is the hardest. As the name implies, it actually implies earning links. And while you won’t see an influx of websites linking to you once you start, this strategy can bring substantial rewards and lasting benefits in the long run.
Take Statista, for example. Now that people know about this site, it is getting tons of backlinks without even asking. With its accurate stats, it offers a valuable source of information for researchers, content creators, journalists, and businesses alike.
Obviously, you don’t need to duplicate Statista, but the idea is clear. The more valuable and link-worthy your content is, the more likely it is to attract natural backlinks over time.
Some of the great examples of content that naturally attracts links are:
- How-to and guides,
- Controversy content,
- Breaking news,
- Educational materials,
- Fun content,
- Interactive maps, and so on.
In short, your content should be interesting, unique, and attention-grabbing.
In addition, some effort should be put into spreading the word about the existence of your content. Otherwise, all your hard work will be in vain. As with adding links to external platforms, it’s important to identify the channels that will have the most impact on your promotional efforts.
For example, if your prospects are mainly using social media, you can reach out to bloggers and influencers from the relevant niche who will amplify your message to their audience. In case your site is more business-oriented, it can be a good idea to partner with complementary businesses or organizations and mutually promote each other’s content.
Guest posting can be just as good a way of advertising your content as paid ads. By sharing your content through blog posts on reputable websites, you can tap into new audiences and earn valuable backlinks.
By and large, you can use any advertising methods that work best for you. What you can’t do is ignore this step.
Links Are Not Created Equal
As we’ve covered so many link building tactics, all tailored to capturing links, you might have got the impression that the more links, the better. While this isn’t entirely wrong, it’s important to note that in the world of SEO, not all backlinks carry the same value. What’s more, some of them can even harm your rankings. Therefore, quality should always come first.
Let’s take a closer look at which links in link building are considered high-quality, and which ones are best to steer clear of.
Right off the bat, it’s worth pointing out that nobody knows for sure what factors Google takes into account when evaluating links. Yet, there are several general guidelines that can help you sift through the low-quality ones.
Here they are:
- Anchor text,
- Nofollow & dofollow attributes,
Let’s discuss each in detail.
You don’t need to be a pro to understand that links from websites like .edu or .gov domains hold more authority than links from random bloggers (unless they are as famous as Perez Hilton). The mathematics here is simple — the higher the domain authority (DA) is, the more valuable the backlink is.
What’s more, the authority of each page within a website also matters. The most influential links come from the most-linked-to pages like the homepage, which have strong backlink profiles of their own.
While the folks behind Google don’t confirm the existence of a direct connection between link value and website DA, SEOs who’ve long been in the industry all say the same thing — it’s there and can’t be discounted.
With that in mind, when choosing websites to reach, make sure to check their DA. There are a vast number of SEO tools suitable for this purpose, from classic tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs to newer options like SEMrush and Majestic.
Aside from website authority, Google pays a lot of attention to the site’s relevance, which they’ve clearly told on their website explaining how search algorithms work.
Of course, when choosing between two sources, you might be tempted to opt for the one with the most followers, but Google isn’t easily fooled. Since the last update, it pays particular attention to the user experience and search intent.
This means that mentions from websites not related to you will be disregarded. What’s more, they can raise red flags, signaling to search engines that you’re trying to manipulate them. And this, as you already know, can lead to consequences — from a drop in your rankings to getting a penalty and disappearing from the search scene altogether.
To not encounter these kinds of issues, prioritize relevance and focus on ethical link-building practices.
It’s important to get a link from a page with a strong link profile, but if your link is placed somewhere near the footer, it will not be of much use.
One of the factors that Google considers when evaluating the quality of links is the probability of people clicking on them. If the link’s placed higher on the page, it ultimately gets higher scores.
And vice versa. Links that are not visible to visitors do not receive clicks and are therefore not considered valuable by search engines.
Of course, persuading other webmasters to prioritize links to your site can be quite a daunting task, but you could certainly use this tip when writing your own guest posts.
4. Anchor Text
Anchor text is the text in a hyperlink that users can click on to go to the linked page. Essentially, it acts as a descriptive label, helping both users and search engines determine what content they can expect to find.
Interestingly, not all SEOs bother optimizing them. “Click here”, “read more”, and “this website” are just a few examples of bad anchor texts you’ve probably seen a lot on the Internet.
Make sure not to repeat this mistake.
Along with the authority and relevance of a site, Google uses anchor texts as one of the key factors in understanding the context and subject of a linked page. Therefore, it’s important to create as accurate and descriptive texts as possible to appeal to search engines and add value to the user experience.
But what do you do with anchor texts created by other content creators? Well, you can’t do much, unless you’re mutually exchanging links. In the latter case, you can clearly specify the anchor text to be included.
However, in all other cases, when you have no direct control over the anchor text, it’s best to focus on building long-term relationships rather than nitpicking.
5. Nofollow & Dofollow Attributes
The quality of a link is also determined by its attribute. Nofollow links, as you can easily decipher from the name, tell search engine algorithms not to follow them. Most often, they are used by content creators when they don’t want to increase the rankings of a particular resource.
To find out if webmasters are using the nofollow attribute, just look at the code. If they do, you’ll see a rel=nofollow extension in front of your link.
However, don’t be discouraged if you encounter nofollow links. While they may not have the same SEO value as dofollow links, they are not useless. Moreover, since Google changed its rules in 2019, enough evidence has been gathered that these links have a positive impact on search engine rankings.
A case in point is Wikipedia. To discourage link spam, this website makes extensive use of nofollow links, giving no privileges to webmasters, no matter how good their content is. And yet, because search engines recognize the site’s authority, any links from Wikipedia are still considered valuable.
So, if you happen to get a nofollow link from a website with authority like Wikipedia, be sure to take it.
In addition, Google introduced two new attributes:
The former refers to links that were received as part of an advertisement, while the latter refers to links that were obtained as a result of user activities such as comments, blog posts, etc.
When it comes to their value, they don’t have as much weight as followed links, but they still play a role in shaping your link profile. Google interprets all links to understand the context and relationships between different websites, and skipping them won’t be right.
In the ideal world, however, you should strive to get dofollow links. Unlike all other attributes, they do not hint but directly tell search engines that your source is endorsed and deserves a higher ranking.
Finally, SEOs often face the challenge of getting a link to exactly the page they want. And while it’s relatively easy to get links to pages with informational content, there are a number of “boring” pages on any site that are hard to optimize.
There’s no particular scenario in this case. A lot depends on the page itself and all the other factors we mentioned earlier. However, if you go to any link building forum, you’ll find that all SEOs recommend starting with internal links first.
Internal links not only improve user navigation but also help search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your site, which will help rank important pages higher.
5 Best Backlink Building Strategies
Link building is an area where a number of strategies abound. And this isn’t surprising. Just as no website is the same, so is the approach to link building. Moreover, technology is constantly evolving, opening up new opportunities in the world of SEO. Despite this, some strategies remain evergreen while still being effective. These are the strategies we’re going to focus on.
Write Guest Posts
Guest posts are one of the oldest yet one of the most effective strategies for building links. It’s also one of the best ways of letting people discover your content. Even if you have a great piece of content that is doomed to go viral, you’d need to start with guest posting to spread the word about it first.
The difficulty is that publishing on external websites has become really hard, especially if we’re talking about websites with a domain rating of 80 and higher. Firstly, many SEOs submit their articles, which makes the competition quite tough. And secondly, webmasters themselves have become much pickier about the quality of content.
So, before emailing an authority website owner, make sure you do have something of value to offer.
Start by posting articles on lesser-known blogs. This will give you more confidence and make your source look more credible in the eyes of owners of websites with DR 80 and above. More importantly, it’ll give you some examples to showcase, helping further cement the deal.
Another thing to remember is that any webmaster, first and foremost, is interested in growing their own traffic. So if you want your articles to be published, your content should be created with their SEO guidelines in mind.
A good idea is to find an existing article on the owner’s website that doesn’t rank well and suggest a replacement. If you can prove that your changes will help increase its rankings, it’ll be much easier to persuade bloggers to publish it. As an added bonus, they’ll see your expertise and be more likely to partner with you in the future.
Create Linkable Assets
Creating linkable assets, also known as “linkbait”, is another great tactic used by SEOs to get quality links. When talking about Statista, we’ve mentioned all the popular forms of content that can be used as bait, from statistics and guides to interactive tools and fun polls. The only thing left for you to do is come up with an interesting content idea that best aligns with your topic.
The great thing about linkable assets is that they are not limited to any particular field. Even in such a seemingly boring industry like manufacturing, for example, a content piece describing the best world’s inventions could go viral in a blink. The main thing is — it should evoke emotions and tell a story that stays at the top of people’s minds.
If you’re short on ideas, there’s nothing wrong with taking a sneak peek at competitor websites. Many SEO tools have features that allow you to explore the best content by links. However, don’t just copy other people’s ideas. For a linkbait to work, it must be unique and fill a gap unmet by other players from your niche.
Watch for Broken Links
Broken link building is a workable tactic that helps a lot in the world of SEO. Nobody wants to send their readers to dead pages. Not only does it provide a poor user experience, but it also causes search engine rankings to drop. And yet, even some reputable websites like Forbes, TechCrunch, etc. can’t always keep track of the health of their links.
You can use it to your advantage. Conduct a website audit of the domain that you want to get a link from. If you find a page with a dead link, create a relevant article on your own website and offer the owner to replace their broken link with your piece. This helpful gesture will be highly appreciated and will allow you to get a valuable link.
Take Advantage of Images
This tactic isn’t known by many but it can help you secure high-quality and relevant backlinks. The concept is simple. Create an account on any photo-sharing website like Flickr, Pixabay, or Unsplash, and start uploading visually appealing and high-quality images related to your niche. Under each photo, ask for a link as a credit.
Next time when somebody finds your image and uses it on their website, they’ll most likely follow your instructions and provide a link to your site. This is a passive yet effective way to acquire backlinks without directly reaching out to website owners.
The beauty of this method is that the use of free images is not restricted by law, meaning you can upload as many images as you want without any repercussions. Alternatively, you can take advantage of AI tools to generate photos.
HARO Link Building
The advantage of HARO is that it can get you PR links from DR 80+ blogs without paying any money. Designed specifically for journalists and researchers, this platform brings together the best minds to share their expert insights and quotes.
SEOs and content creators can use this platform, too. The important thing is, you should be knowledgeable in the field you’re responding to and be quick. Quite often, journalists receive thousands of responses to each of their queries. As you can imagine, of all this lot, they can physically read only those that come first, so it’s important to respond as soon as possible.
However, if you stay committed and prove that you are an expert in the field, your efforts will pay off with high-quality backlinks and increased brand visibility. Just to give you the gist, the prevalent majority of queries published on HARO come from DR 50+ sources, and more than 50% of articles that get reference accrue dofollow links.
While not exactly a strategy, preserving links is still a very important part of link building. If you lose an important link, your site will also lose a vote of confidence. With that in mind, be sure to regularly run checks of the 404 pages with links. There are many backlink monitoring tools available that can alert you to any changes in your link profile, including:
- Moz Link Explorer,
- Monitor Backlinks,
- Google Search Console,
- Rank Signals, and many more.
If you notice that any of the backlinks go missing, reach out to the webmaster of the linking website and politely suggest a URL replacement. Even if you can’t save every link, try not to lose the most important ones.
To wrap up, link building is a time-taking process that entails a lot of work, commitment, and creativity. It’s not something you can do once and forget. Moreover, things are changing all the time, making it important to constantly keep an eye on industry trends and search engine algorithms.
Hopefully, with the insights we’ve shared in this guide, you’ve got an idea of why link building is so important and what strategies are best to implement to strengthen your link profile. Of course, we couldn’t cover everything in one article (it’d be a hell of a long article!), but we’ve tried to focus on the most important tactics that work and can make a significant impact on your SEO.