What is link building?
Two web pages can be connected to each other through hyperlinks (usually they’re just called links). You can use hyperlinks to refer your audience to other objects that are related to your content. They also help people as well as search engines to navigate on the internet.
Now link building describes the marketing activity of getting links from other websites to your website. Links that refer to your site from another domain are called backlinks or external links. Beside these external links, there is also the possibility of linking from one page to another of the same domain, these links are called internal links. From an SEO perspective these two kinds of links work very similar.
Why is link building important?
Before Google, search engines ranked results only based on content. Google then started to use the number of links that refer to a web page as a factor to determine its value. Since then, backlinks have remained one of the most important ranking factors as they are a very good way to measure the quality of a web page.
Today, Google not only counts how many links a page has that refers to it, but also the quality of those links. In fact, low quality links can even negatively affect your site. High quality backlinks instead will improve the domain authority of your own site. As more and more machine learning, and therefore user experience as a whole, is used to define search engine results, known on-page optimisation factors become less relevant. This fact makes link building even more important in 2020. Additionally to their effect on SEO, backlinks also serve as a valuable source of high quality traffic.
What requirements do backlinks have?
As already mentioned, Google focuses on the quality of a link that refers to your pages. This is because not all links that refer to other pages are equal. A link from a high authority domain that is related to your page topic, is worth way more than a link from a small random website. So if you are looking for websites from which you want to gain a link from, you should ensure that they meet these requirements.
Links should also always be editorial, which means websites have to implement your link naturally because they want to link to your site. Another requirement for links to be of high quality are relevant anchor texts, this will help Google to understand for which topic or keyword your page should be ranked.
Furthermore, there are two different kind of backlinks, dofollow and nofollow. Nofollow links are ignored by search engines and therefore do not affect the ranking of the page that they link to. For a nofollow link to be changed into a dofollow link you have to contact the site owner on which this link is placed and try to convince them to change it. Although you should know that for some links it’s common to be nofollow. It’s also healthy to have some nofollow links in your link profile as Google will classify your site as suspicious if you have only dofollow links in it.
8 easy methods that will help you building links
How to get links by reaching out to other people
One way to receive backlinks from other websites is by reaching out to the owner and provide them something valuable that makes them want to link to you.
1. Linkable assets
A very effective outreach tactic is contacting people in your niche or industry and introducing them to your content or something else that could be useful to them.
These so called linkable assets (content that is likely to be linked to) can have different formats, here is a list of the ones that work best:
Graphics – Especially infographics are highly linkable, because they break down a complicated topic into a few steps that make it understandable to everyone. But there are also other kinds of graphics that can be a good fit for some specific topics like GIFographics or Maps.
Original research – For some industries data and proven facts play a significant role. This offers a good opportunity to get backlinks if you are able to deliver this information. Make sure that what you research is something unique, this will not only generate lots of backlinks for you but also make you an authority in this industry.
Tools – A free tool that solves the problem of a specific target group is something that can bring you a lot of links. At the same time it will also raise awareness of your brand. But you should also be aware of the cost that come with the creation of such a tool.
Guides – A guide or tutorial that covers everything of a complex topic is very attractive to be linked to, as it provides everything an audience everything they would want to know in one source.
Generally, if your goal is to generate backlinks, there are certain kinds of content that tend to generate more backlinks than others. Therefore you should choose carefully which content you are going to create. Additionally to the ones mentioned above here are some other highly linkable content formats:
Visual content – All kinds of visual content are famous for generating lots of backlinks.
This includes things like:
The reason for this is because visuals are very popular to be shared and shares also generate a lot of backlinks.
Written content – Of written content list posts are the ones which get the most backlinks. A study from BuzzSumo shows that list posts are even generating more backlinks than infographics, which are normally said to generate the most backlinks. Other types of written content that generates a lot of backlinks are “How to” posts.
An asset that is linkable for another website, fulfills at least one of the following points:
- It attracts the interest of the audience of the website you are aiming to get a link from
- It complements or confirms something that the website talks about
- It provides a solution to a problem that the website’s audience deals with
- It offers something unique to a specific topic the website provides information about
2. Resource pages
Resource pages are pages on websites that link out to content about a specific topic. In resource page link building your job is to find a resource page in your niche and let them know about your content. Before you reach out to them, you should first verify if this resource page is the right one for you, therefore you have to make sure that your content really fits to what is already offered on the page. Secondly, you also need to check the quality of the page, you can do this by taking a look at the page authority and the domain authority.
The following search strings will help you to find resource pages of your niche on Google:
“Keyword” + inurl:links
“Keyword” + links
“Keyword” + useful links
“Keyword” + helpful resources
“Keyword” + useful resources
3. Broken Links
The broken link strategy is a nice one because instead of just asking someone to get a link from them, you can directly add value to their website.
The first step in this strategy is to find broken links. For this you have to find sites in your niche with lots of backlinks. Ahrefs’ Site Explorer can help you with this, it gives you also the opportunity to add a filter on “404 not found” which immediately shows you all broken links on a specific site.
In the second step you have to find a solution to replace the content that the broken link referred to. If you already have created something that is a good fit, that’s great, if not, you have to create something new.
In the third and final step, contact the people who run the site, let them know about the broken link and introduce them to your content as a replacement.
Top Tip: Once you have successfully replaced a link on a website with your content, you can leverage the work you have done by using Ahref’s site explorer to find all domains that link to this broken URL. There is a high chance that these people also want to replace their broken link with a working one.
How to get links with link reclamation
Slightly different to link building by outreach is link reclamation, here you try to fix or replace links that once linked to your site or do link to your site but aren’t giving any SEO value to your site.
4. Unlinked mentions and images
Sometimes it happens that a website mentions you or your content without linking to it. This gives you an easy way to earn a link as the person mentioning you already knows about your business and therefore is likely to change the mention into a link. The same thing also happens often with pictures.
You can find your mentions with Ahrefs’ content explorer which helps you to filter results for one page per domain. Additionally, you can use the “highlight unlinked domains” function to see which sites haven’t linked to you yet.
To find websites that have posted your images you can use for example Google’s Image Search.
5. 404 errors
If there are links from other sites to your page that no longer work, you can fix these links or ask the owner of the site to replace it with a new one. The site explorer of Ahrefs can help you identify these “broken links”.
6. How to get links with guest blogging
Writing guest posts is one of the most common methods to get backlinks. You look for an opportunity to write an article for somebody else’s website in your industry or niche. You then place a link to your own website in that article.
To find the right website to propose a guest post you can use Ahrefs Content Explorer to search for content that you are interested in. By showing you the domain authority of these sites, the tool also helps you to estimate your chances to actually convince the site owners to write for them.
7. How to get link buying right
Buying links does not have a good reputation, especially as Google looks at it as a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines and therefore will penalise it. But not all paid links are harmful to SEO. When done correctly you can also implement paid links into your SEO strategy without getting punished.
If you plan to implement paid links in your SEO strategy, stick to the following points:
- Set up a proper overall SEO strategy which includes a solid amount of relevant and high quality content as well as a healthy link profile which consists of diverse high-quality links that make it look natural.
- Carefully analyse the websites that you consider buying links from. Look for things like domain authority, PageRank and a suspicious amount of spammy outbound links.
- Do not buy too many links at once and always try to retain a healthy, diverse link profile.
- Use diverse anchor text on every domain. Anchor text diversity is something very important in SEO.
8. How to use relationships to get links
You can also use your real world relationships with other companies in your industry, your customers or your partners to build links. Some of the most common methods to leverage relationships to generate links are the following:
Smart link exchange
One method to generate links that is related to relationships is when two websites make an agreement to exchange links to improve their SEO. Like buying links, link exchange is also something that is often viewed very critically. This is mostly due to the bad practices of link exchange but if you do it right, exchanging links will do no harm to your site.
It’s very important that you keep your focus on the customer experience of your site, this is what counts at the end.
Like with every other link building method, you should always make sure that a link is actually improving the user experience of your site because this is what Google and other search engines want you to do at the end. Therefore, you have to focus that a potential website for a link exchange has content that your visitors find useful and if you are able to link to it in a relevant way. Don’t just look for sites that want to exchange links.
Something to keep in mind if you are going to exchange links is that you should both use the same two pages to link to each other.
How to look for link opportunities
A good way to search for link opportunities generally is to use Ahrefs to search for competing domains and then check their backlinks. This gives you an overview about which sites in your industry are likely to want to link to your site as well. Additionally, you can use the intersect report in Ahrefs to simplify your search by reducing the links shown only to the domains that don’t link to you so far.
What are the don’ts in link building
As links became a main SEO factor people began to find ways for how they can build them artificially and therefore trick search engines. This may have worked back then but not today, Google’s algorithms are smart enough now to recognise these kind of links. To avoid getting punished by search engines, don’t use black hat link building methods like buying links from link selling services or “backlink packages”. Also do not exchange links with link and article farms or in general with unrelated sites.
You also might receive link offers via email which will mostly provide you with spam links. These are not the kind of links that you want in your link profile. Below you can see one example form an offer that was sent to us.