What if you could build brand awareness, increase your visibility online, climb to the top of search AND drive more traffic to your website — all at the same time?
Done right, effective link building is one of the most powerful weapons you have at your disposal to achieve exactly that.
It gets you seen, boosts your domain authority and ultimately drives more organic and referral traffic to your website to convert. Plus, the data proves that link building is STILL one of the most important ranking factors for any website.
But link building is a different ball game compared to ten, or even five years ago.
Effective link building is no longer about generating as many backlinks as possible, or conducting arduous email outreach that sees only a handful of replies.
Today, you need to be deliberate and focus on quality, not quantity, in order to bear fruit from your link building tactics.
And that’s precisely what we’re here to help you do.
We’re going to take you through:
What backlinks are, and why they’re crucial for search engine optimization
The role content plays in link building (spoiler: it’s more important than you think)
The different types of backlinks
10 killer strategies for link building that ACTUALLY work
Ready to build effective links pointing back to your website, boost your brand visibility and rise up above your competitors in search results?
What are backlinks?
Before we go into the why or how of link building, let’s go back to basics.
When we talk about links, we’re talking about the connection between one page and another page online.
There are three types of links: external links, internal links, and backlinks.
External links are any links from your website to a relevant external source, such as a news article or a product.
For example, if we’re writing about SEO in a blog post for OMG, we might link to Google’s How Search Works resource — that’s an external link.
Internal links are any links from a web page on your site to another web page on your site, such as a product or another blog post.
Backlinks or Inbound Links
On the other hand, backlinks or inbound links are links TO your website FROM another website.
There are plenty of examples of different backlinks.
If a digital publication links to your website in an article, that’s a backlink. Here’s an example from Forbes, with a link to Amazon’s Black Friday sales:
The same goes if an influencer, blogger or another business has links pointing back to your site, such as this link from health blogger Kath Eats:
You can also get a link through sponsorship, such as this example for the Sundance Film Festival:
Last but not least, you could receive a backlink from being cited as a resource, like this mention in HuffPost to a National Sleep Foundation study:
External links and internal links are used to build your on-page SEO, while link building is critical to off-page SEO.
Why backlinks are crucial for SEO?
As we touched on earlier, backlinks are one of THE most important search engine ranking factors out there.
To understand why, we need to take a look at how the algorithm for search engines work.
One of the key considerations that Google’s search engine takes into account to rank websites in search results is Page Rank.
Think of every link back to your website like a vote. The more websites that link back to your website, the better they perform in search engines.
In the SEO world, this is known as “link juice” and looks something like this:
Image source: WooRank
Every time a website links to you, Google sees your website as more of an authority on a specific topic. And, because the search engine is always trying to deliver the most relevant information to users, the authority of your website plays a BIG role in where you land in search results.
Adding to this, a study by Ahrefs showed that the number of unique websites (“referring domains”) linking back to a site was strongly correlated with the amount of organic traffic a website receives from search engines:
However, not all backlinks are equal in the eyes of search engines.
Quality matters just as much as quantity — if not more, after Google’s Penguin update.
The reason is simple: a backlink from The New York Times is FAR more valuable and credible than a backlink from a website with 100 visitors a month.
In other words, you could invest in link building across hundreds of small and unknown websites, but these won’t provide nearly as much link juice as a couple of quality links from a website like Forbes.
What’s worse, this type of spammy link building is considered as a “black hat” method by Google. If you get caught, it will send your website plummeting to the netherworld of search faster than you can say SEO.
That’s why your link building efforts NEED to be focused on quality if you want to get results.
So how can you distinguish different types of backlinks, and put your effort into building the right ones?
The different types of backlinks
As we touched on earlier, not all backlinks are created equal. And when it comes to link building strategies, you NEED to know the difference between different types of backlinks, so you can channel your energy into the links that will deliver the best results for your rankings and your visibility.
Here’s the deal: search engines care just as much about HOW you got your backlink, as they do about the backlink itself.
Back in the day, a lot of SEO experts were using black hat link building techniques to rake up thousands and thousands of backlinks. They would pay websites to add links, create dummy websites linking back to their main website, or guest blog for any website under the sun — all to generate more and more links.
When Google realized what was happening, it rolled out the Penguin update to its search algorithm. Lots of websites that had relied on spammy link building instantly dropped MASSIVELY in the rankings.
In doing this, Google sent a clear message: it’s all about good backlinks.
So what makes a good backlink?
Good backlinks are from quality sites, relevant, and natural. Google looks at a number of signals to gauge just how your link was earned, with the most important being:
1. Website authority
Website authority is all about having links from websites that people know and trust.
Remember link juice?
Domains with a higher ‘authority’ in Google’s eyes pass on their authority to your website when they include a backlink.
Think major publications, high-profile websites, .gov or .edu websites, and more.
That’s because search engines know it’s harder to get high-quality links from a well-known and respected website than it is to get a link from a random page from a website that nobody ever visits.
So how do you evaluate the authority of a website?
Pop in the referring domain, and check the domain authority score:
The higher the site’s authority out of 100, the better the backlink.
The same goes for page authority. If a page already ranks in position #1 in search results AND they link to you, that is far more valuable than a site that ranks on page 2 or lower.
That’s because these pages have already been vetted by search engines to be trustworthy, relevant, and high-quality pieces of content for users.
You can find this through the 'URL Rating' on a tool like Ahrefs:
2. Website relevance
Another thing that search engines look at is how relevant the link is to your site.
A link from an online poker website back to an organic baby products store is an instant warning signal to Google that the link isn’t genuine.
This is the case EVEN if a website has a high domain or page authority.
Quality links come from websites that are relevant to your site. Taking the organic baby products store as an example, a link from a popular parenting website like Parenting.com would be an example of a high authority, high relevance backlink.
3. Link position
Where your link is placed in the copy is almost as important as the act of link building itself.
Backlinks that are featured within the body of a piece of content are far more valuable than a backlink that’s buried in the footer or the sidebar of a page.
This is because search engines understand that a user is much, MUCH more likely to click on a link in a paragraph as opposed to scrolling all the way down to the footer. Having links tucked away in a hidden section of a web page is a surefire sign to Google that the backlink might be spammy.
4. Organic and editorial placement
Last but not least, link building efforts back to your page need to be organic and (when possible) editorial links.
What does this mean?
If another site is linking to your site because they’re citing you as a source, or including you in an editorial piece (such as a news round-up, review or article), that’s a natural link with organic placement.
Here’s an example:
On the flipside, if a link looks completely out of context on a page, or it looks like the website was created purely for the purposes of link building, that’s an unnatural link.
The same goes for anchor text.
Anchor text is the clickable text that’s hyperlinked to another page, like the text here in blue:
Black-hat link building techniques typically abuse anchor text by creating backlinks using the exact-match keyword.
For example, if a website is trying to rank for the keyword “buy shoes online”, they might pay a blogger to create a post and link that exact anchor text back to their website.
Search engines instantly see exact-match anchor text as a warning sign that the link is spammy. After all, very few website owners will know the EXACT keyword you want to rank for and organically hyperlink that anchor text without any prompt.
If you’re trying to build links back to your website, try to avoid exact-match anchor text. However, if it happens naturally from a well-known and authoritative website, take the win.
What makes a bad backlink?
Not all backlinks help your site.
In fact, when you build links from low-quality websites, this can hurt your website and trigger a penalty from search engines like Google.
So how do you distinguish low-quality links from high-quality links?
Bad backlinks are links that come from spammy or untrustworthy sites.
Some of these include:
Websites with an extremely low domain authority score (for example, a DA of 10).
Links from adult sites or gambling websites.
Websites with a history of spamming or malware.
Any websites that have been blacklisted by a search engine
Avoid bad backlinks at ALL costs. A few questionable links here and there could damage your ranking and undo months or years of hard work.
Do Follow vs. No-Follow
There are two types of linking that a website can choose to do if they’re linking to an external source: no-follow links and do-follow links.
No-follow links are backlinks that include a tag to instruct search engines “don’t follow this” or “don’t count this” link.
Do-follow links are the rest of the backlinks, which count as “votes” of trustworthiness for your site.
In the code, it looks like this:
- Do-follow: <a href="https://onlinemarketinggurus.com">hello there!</a>
- No-follow: <a href="https://onlinemarketinggurus.com" rel="nofollow">hello there</a>
One way to check this is with the Ahrefs backlink checker. If you have a no-follow link to your website, the tool will add a little "no follow" tag like so:
In an ideal world, all of your link building efforts would result in do-follow links. However, no-follow links can still help to build up your authority and credibility from a brand standpoint.
The role of content in creating backlinks and link building
Backlinks are a major ranking factor for search engines. High-quality content earns backlinks.
Think about it.
If you create a fantastic article, people naturally want to link to it and share it.
If you conduct research and provide valuable insights into your field, other websites will defer to you as the authority in your field — and link to you as a source.
If you create an infographic or other visual assets, other site owners might include this image in their content with a link and credit back to you.
However, not ALL content is equally as effective at link building.
When it comes to link building, some types of content work better than others. These are typically sharable pieces of content, such as:
Infographics, images, charts and diagrams
Original research or statistics
Press releases or news
The best way to approach this is to look at the type of content that other websites are creating.
You can also use a tool like Ahrefs, Moz or SEMRush to look at your competitors and how they’re earning their backlinks.
This will give you a good idea of the types of content that will pay off for link building.
How do I start building links?
Websites that rank for high-competition keywords have incredibly strong link profiles — often in the tens of thousands:
Image source: Backlinko
But HOW are you supposed to gain thousands of natural backlinks back to your website that are high-quality?
These 10 white hat link building strategies will help you build up a strong link profile by increasing the number of quality, relevant and natural links back to your site.
Link Building Strategy #1. Guest posting.
Guest posting involves writing content for other blogs or websites. However, this term has become a dirty phrase in SEO over the years.
See, black-hat link building techniques have employed guest posting as a way to generate thousands of low-quality links.
These typically involve paying bloggers and websites to host poorly written articles that include backlinks back to their website. These types of guest posts are low-quality and will fast-track your website to a Google penalty faster than you can say “search engine optimization”.
That’s NOT the type of guest posting that we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about making a genuine contribution to someone else’s website by sharing your opinion, trends, or insights within your industry.
Think of it more like an opinion piece in a media publication, than a guest blog.
Forbes is a great example of a website with high-quality guest blogs, such as this one from the CEO of Getting Smart:
This type of guest posting is a great way to build authority and credibility with your target audience, while expanding your brand awareness AND generating backlinks.
So how do you go about guest blogging on high-quality websites?
The first step is to find authoritative sites within your niche. These quick steps will help you find great sites to guest post on:
Ask your audience. Check in with your customers or clients and see which websites they get their information from. This is a great way to identify high-quality sources that will give you link juice AND help boost your brand awareness.
Google it. Run searches for topics and keywords related to your industry, and see which websites appear. If you find any blogs or media publications that provide high-quality information and have a strong social following, these are likely going to be very valuable from a link building standpoint.
Check out the competition. Have a peek at your competitors’ backlink profiles, and see which websites are linking back to them. Are any of these also relevant for your brand? If so, add them to the list.
After that, it’s time to nail your pitch.
Unfortunately, high-quality sites know their value — and they don’t just allow anyone to post anything.
High-profile websites receive countless requests from contributors who want to get their voice heard. A good pitch is crucial if you want to stand out from the crowd and secure a guest blog on your target websites.
Follow these steps to create a stellar guest blogging pitch:
Check the other content on the blog. This gives you a good idea of what types of content the website is interested in, who their contributors are and who their audience is. Use this as the foundation to brainstorm ideas for your pitch.
Prepare a solid idea (or multiple ideas). Blogs and publications are looking for unique and authoritative pieces of content that add value to their audience. Spend time researching industry trends or insights, then prepare a pitch with a clear angle that you believe will resonate with the website’s audience. The key here is to focus on how your content can benefit their website, rather than how the post can benefit you.
Review the pitch guidelines (if the website has them). Some websites (like Forbes and HuffPost) have specific contributor guidelines that you need to follow if you want your pitch to even get read, let alone considered. These can generally be found in the “Contributor Guidelines” or an “Editorial Inquiries” section.
Once the blogger has accepted your pitch, it’s time to get writing.
Quality is key here. Don’t knock out a quick piece and call it a day — most decent bloggers and site owners won’t be happy with that.
Instead, take time to research your content, write a draft, take on board any feedback, and proof-read your work.
After all, the piece is a reflection of your brand, as well as a link building opportunity. Give the piece the same care and attention that you’d give a piece on your own site.
One final word: don’t litter your guest post with keywords or links.
One or two strategically placed links and a mention of your brand in the byline is generally enough. Any more and the post starts to look spammy or like an advertorial.
Link Building Strategy #2. Unlinked brand mentions (Link reclamation).
The single best opportunity to gain new backlinks is to find articles that mention you but that do not link to you, and to request a link. - Syed Balkhi
Unlinked brand mentions are the low hanging fruit of link building.
You might think that when someone mentions your brand online, they instinctively link to your website.
However, this isn’t always the case.
Here’s an example of a Highsnobiety round-up on the best sportswear brands:
Notice how the website mentions ASICS but doesn’t link to the brand?
That’s an opportunity to turn an unlinked brand mention into a high-quality backlink.
If you come across any unlinked brand mentions online as part of your link building efforts, it’s worth reaching out to the website to see if they are willing to add a link to your site.
A great tool to use for this is BuzzSumo.
Simply hop onto the Monitoring tab and set up an alert for all brand mentions. If a website mentions your brand but doesn’t link to it, you’ll see a little “No link” tab like so:
Once you have these, it’s a matter of getting in touch with the site owner and asking for a link.
Link Building Strategy #3. Get your site or product into round-ups.
Round-ups are a great way to gain exposure and win a link to your site.
As the name suggests, round-ups contain a lot of useful links that are relevant to your particular industry or niche.
Here’s one example of a round-up by Influencer Marketing Hub on the best 12 food blogs of 2020:
These can also come in the form of product round-ups, like so:
If you can get your product or content into one of these round-ups, that’s another backlink to your website.
So how do you go about doing it?
Run a Google search. Type in a term like “keyword” + link roundup and “keyword” + best of into a search engine. This helps you identify existing link round-ups that you could potentially get your website added to AND gives you an idea of who the most authoritative roundup sites are in your industry.
Send an email to the writer with your pitch. Explain why you think it would be a good fit for the roundup, and ask if they’d consider adding it to the list.
Connect with round-up sites on Twitter. Twitter is another great avenue if you want to catch the eye of round-up writers. The approach here is to share your content regularly on Twitter with the right hashtags for your industry, while also engaging with their content on the platform. Over time, you’ll build a relationship with them, which makes it much easier for you to be considered for future round-ups.
Keep an eye out for round-up submission opportunities. Some websites might put a call out for submissions ahead of a big round-up, like “best gifts for Christmas” or “best content marketing articles for 2020”. If you can get your website in the running, you have a better shot of making it into the list.
Regardless of how you go about it, the key is to be polite and demonstrate why your product or content will add value to their round-up.
Link Building Strategy #4. Broken link building.
The concept behind this strategy is simple, but requires a little more sleuthing.
Broken link building involves finding broken links on other people’s sites, and offering your link as a replacement.
Here’s how it works.
Go to the site you want to put a link on. It might be one of the biggest thought leaders or influencers in your industry, or a complementary product or service company that has a solid content marketing game. The goal is to look for high-quality sites with a good domain authority.
Once you’re on the site, check for broken links using the Check My Links Google Chrome extension.
This tool sweeps web pages to find any broken links.
If you find a broken link, that’s a link building opportunity for you.
Get in touch with the site owner to let them know that there are broken links on their site, and offer your site as a replacement.
When doing this, make sure to explain WHY your website is a relevant replacement.
Let’s say you’re a florist. If a blogger has a broken link in a round-up article on 12 tips for floral arrangements from the experts, this is a perfect opportunity for you to offer up your expertise as a substitute.
On the other hand, if you find a broken link on an article on the best tips for planting trees, it doesn’t quite make sense to pitch your content.
It might seem like a no brainer, but explaining WHY your website is a good replacement gives you the best chance of sealing the deal — and getting that valuable link.
Link Building Strategy #5. Become a source.
Ever wondered how your competitors always seem to be featured in articles and round-ups?
That’s because they’ve established themselves as a go-to source for reporters, journalists and bloggers.
Being a source is a valuable way to build your credibility in your field, gain a backlink to your site AND establish a relationship with key players in your industry media.
But how do you get the inside scoop on when a reporter needs information?
Here’s the secret: use matchmaking sites designed for that very purpose.
Platforms like Help-a-Reporter-Out (HARO) connected bloggers and journalists who want information with individuals and businesses who are seeking links and exposure.
All you need to do is sign up on the website as a source:
Once that’s done, you’ll receive daily emails with requests from reporters and bloggers. They typically look like this:
You can also split your emails by industry, in order to get more tailored requests, like so:
HARO has a huge database of subscribers, so you need to be quick and diligent if you want to jump on an opportunity. However, with time and patience, this strategy will pay off in SPADES for your link building efforts.
Big media publications often use HARO to find sources, and a link from a website like Huffington Post or Reader’s Digest will work wonders for your rankings.
Link Building Strategy #6. Develop data-driven studies.
Content writers LOVE building content using data and statistics.
Any high-quality website worth its salt will always back up any claims or facts with a backlink to the source — so if you can BE that source, you’ll be building links like it’s nobody’s business.
Think about what information would be valuable in your industry, and the type of data that would be useful for journalists or bloggers. From this, you can begin to formulate a list of questions to ask your target audience.
There are two ways to go about this: conduct a survey of your own audience using a simple tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms, or pay a third-party agency to conduct a study for you.
After this, you can either share your findings through a press release or create an article on your website and seed it via social media (or both).
Another option is to scrape through your own original data, if you have enough.
For example, popular SEO website Backlinko conducted a survey analyzing the search results from 11.8 million Google searches. Over three years, the website accumulated a whopping 13,500 backlinks to that page alone — and counting.
If the former two aren’t quite up your alley, another option is to create an ultimate round-up of statistics in your industry, like what Hubspot have done:
This incredible resource has generated a whopping 59,145 backlinks (and counting), from over 13,660 domains:
Link Building Strategy #7. Link to others.
It might seem counterintuitive, but linking to others is one of the best ways to build links for yourself.
Remember those round-up posts we mentioned earlier?
The goal is to make one for your website.
These are fairly straightforward and easy to create, and are ideal if you want to give your link building efforts that little extra boost.
Here’s how to create your own round-up article:
Come up with a relevant topic in your industry. Think of a listicle-style post, such as “X tips from the experts” or “Best XX of 2020”.
Research some experts or businesses and contact them. Ask if you can feature a quote from them or their product on your website, with a link to their page.
Write a fantastic post that includes the names and social profile links for the experts. Get in touch with them
Once it’s published, invite the experts to share the post with their networks.
If you get this process right, it will lead to your round-up being noticed and linked to from high-quality sites.
What’s more, you’ll be on the radar of other sites who might decide to feature you on their website round-ups in the future.
Win and win.
Link Building Strategy #8. Create infographics
Infographics are a great tool for SEO, period. They’re great if you want to rank on Google Image search, they’re sharable AND they’re a backlink magnet.
See, bloggers, writers and businesses are always looking to add images into their content to make it more readable and scannable.
If you do the hard yards and design a well-presented infographic, they’ll be happy to share your image on their website with links pointing back to you.
And the best part?
Image source: Adobe Spark
Infographic submission sites are another valuable source of backlinks.
Websites like Visual.ly, Daily Infographic, Flickr and Pinterest allow you to upload your infographic online, along with a citation back to your site — giving you additional opportunities for link building for no cost and little effort.
Link Building Strategy #9. Collaborate with influencers.
Another great source for link building?
Every industry has influencers, or “Key Opinion Leaders” (KOLs). These are the bloggers, Instagrammers, thought leaders and experts that have a massive following.
They’re also an incredible avenue for building links if you can work out a collaboration deal with them.
The best and most straightforward way to work with an influencer is on a review basis. Simply send them a free sample of your product or invite them to try out your service for free, then ask them to provide an honest review on their website.
In most cases, they’ll link to your website as part of the review.
Depending on the type of influencer, you may need to pay for their time or content. Others are happy to do a contra deal, so it’s important to work with each influencer on a case-by-case basis.
Here’s a great example of this in action for Drybar, a chain of blow out salons in the US. Drybar invited a Buzzfeed influencer to review their service — and in exchange, building a link from one of the biggest media publications out there today:
Image source: Buzzfeed
Strategy #10. Testimonials and case studies.
Testimonials are fantastic assets for any website. They tell readers that real people have tried your product or service, and they love it.
Most website owners reach out to customers and clients to solicit testimonials for their own page.
However, if you want to build a strong backlink profile, it’s time to flip the script.
Instead of soliciting testimonials and case studies from your users, start creating them for brands that you’ve worked with.
Write a testimonial for any brand or service that you use and have good things to say about. Send it across to the company and they’ll usually want to put it on their site.
How does this help for backlinking?
Simple. A company that puts up a testimonial usually wants to show that it’s from a real customer…
...and they do this by adding a link to your website.
Have a look at this testimonial by Parkrun for Campaign Monitor:
By agreeing to be featured in a testimonial, Parkrun earned a valuable backlink to their website from one of the biggest CRM platforms in the world.
It should go without saying, but you should only leave testimonials for brands that you have personally used and can vouch for. After all, you’re attaching your name to a product or service and staking your reputation on it.
With that being said, this is a simple and quick way to win a new backlink without too much hassle.
The final word
Link building isn’t easy, and it isn't something that happens overnight.
Like all good things in SEO, the true measure of success is a sustained strategic effort over a long term period.
By earning (not buying) authority-building backlinks, you can outrank your competition, win more clicks, and build more trust.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
With that being said, there are some link building techniques that can help your website generate more high-quality links, faster — and ultimately outrank the competition.
If you want to improve your link building campaign and increase your search engine rankings, it’s time to bring in the experts. At Online Marketing Gurus, we’ve helped thousands of household names create and execute KILLER off-page SEO and link building strategies that have delivered genuine results for their top and bottom line.
If you want to learn more, simply click on the link below to request your FREE digital audit and six-month game plan. We’ll conduct a free audit of your current SEO and link building efforts, and pinpoint exactly what you need to do to improve your rankings and revenue. We’ll also give you a no-obligation six-month blueprint for online marketing success.