Links are (and have always been) one of the primary ranking factors for Google as well as other major search engines. What does this mean for you? If you want to rank in search, you need to build links.
There are tons of information on link building on the Internet. Some articles are really good, the others are rubbish. But if you don’t know much about link building, it is pretty hard for you to separate the wheat from the chaff. So, this blog post is aimed at showing you how to build links the right way in a noob-friendly manner.
We’ll start with the basics, say, from the link building definition.
The Definition of Link Building
Marketers call the process of acquiring new inbound links or backlinks to a website from external sites link building.
Most of the link building campaigns are targeted at increasing of search traffic from Google as well as popular sites.
The research carried out by Ahrefs has proven that link popularity, which, in other words, is the number of inbound links to a site/page, has a high correlation with Google rankings.
The above is illustrated in the chart below. It is taken from our study of over 2 million keywords and demonstrates that link signals have a much higher correlation score than individual on-page factors like meta tags, keyword usage etc.
Working Strategies for Link Building
Now we are going to take a closer look at some of the link building strategies I would recommend to apply because they have proven to be effective.
Create a link bait
To put it simple, if you want to create link bait, you need to generate unique, high-value content that attracts links naturally. By the way, links are considered ‘earned’ rather than ‘built’. If you think that link bait content does not require promotion, you are mistaken. It does.
Where could the value of your content come from?
- You may do an in-depth research
- Feature unique data
- Conduct a survey
- Design attractive/unique graphics
- Present a free tool
Link bait can be called a white hat technique in its purest form. This is a return to the way Google originally supposed links to ‘vote’ the best content to the top.
So, what do you need for the bait? A high-quality resource, an engaging piece of content that is likely to be widely shared and deserving to rank in search.
The second point of our link building tactics list also falls under the link bait category.
2. Address to people’s ego
It’s often difficult for newbies to try the luck and reach out to industry influencers. However, most of them are marketers just like you and me and being featured, quoted, or mentioned makes them happy.
Some examples of effective ego-bait tactics:
- Post an interview with an influencer on your site
- Include an influencer in an expert roundup
- Quote an influencer in your content or link to their site
- Include an influencer in a top 10 list
A lot of influencers will be eager to at least share content that contributes to their authority. The tactics will amplify the reach of your content and lead to links.
3. Use broken links
You surely noticed that as time passes by many of the previously popular web pages simply disappear from the web. This may happen because the company behind the site is out of business at the moment or the site is no longer actively maintained.
You can take this situation as a link building opportunity.
What you can do is create a similar resource on your own site, contact webmasters of the sites having broken links and offer them your content. This practice can be really successful. Most of the site owners will eagerly fix errors on their site.
4. Reclamation of links
Link reclamation strategy can be broken into 3 sub-strategies. They are:
- Fixing broken links pointing to your site & internal broken links
- Finding and monitoring for unlinked brand mentions
- Identifying the uncredited use of copyrighted material like proprietary images or video
Now we are going to make a quick overview of each of the above:
- How to fix broken links pointing to your site
Why should you fix broken links pointing to 404 pages on your site? Because you are losing precious link juice.
Here’s how we cope with the issue at Ahrefs. We use our Site Explorer tool and a free WordPress Redirection plugin.
Firstly we run the Broken Link Checker report in Ahrefs Site Explorer to get a list of all broken backlinks. Then create a 301 redirect for each broken link with the help of “Redirection” plugin.
- How to deal with unlinked brand mentions
If you find out that someone mentions your brand on the web, it’s clear that they have already engaged with your business in some way or another. But if the writer didn’t include a link back to your site, you need to reach out to the site, thank them for the mention, and ask to add a link.
- What to do with the uncredited use of copyrighted material
If someone uses your copyrighted material on their site, it may be a photo, for example, you have two options. You can either ask them to remove it or put a credit. So simple… That’s all you need to get one more link.
Do you know how to find sites using your copyrighted images? Use Google’s reverse image search.
5. Getting into the news
The newsjacking technique refers to getting into the stream of hot news and interweaving your brand or ideas into the story.
It will be cool if you manage to grab some high-quality links from big publications.
However, time is crucial in this tactic. Journalists are thirsty for more info only when the event has just happened. They are ready to highlight it from different angles and gather quotes from experts who are able to contribute. But you have to act fast if you want to catch this news train because nobody will be interested in today’s news tomorrow.
6. Do some guest blogging
Guest blogging is still an effective way to present your brand to the new audiences and build links that boost authority.
Please note that low-quality guest blogging doesn’t work anymore as Google has edged it out. Nevertheless, high-quality guest blogging stays a preferred method of earning white hat links.
In most niches, you should be targeting top quality, tier 1 blogs that accept guest posts.
7. Post interviews
Modern link building resembles traditional PR in some moments. Building links interviewing industry celebrities and posting them on your blog is an example of such intersection.
Interviews include the following forms:
- Blog interviews
- Participating in ’expert roundup’ posts
No matter which form you choose, the goal is to grow the profile in your niche as well as gather quality links along the way.
8. Draw infographics
Creating infographics is not a new link building strategy. The tendency has been down for some time, but now it’s back again.
There is a reason why infographics remain particularly efficient for enhancing return for your outreach efforts.
Outreach is always more successful when you make a value proposition to the host site, like offering to provide a high-quality infographic with a customized introduction. This is one of the examples of value exchange. The host site gets awesome content and you get the deserved backlink.
9. Syndicate your content
I don’t advise you to syndicate your content everywhere. But choosing quality sites (don’t forget about link attribution) can lead to traffic and rankings growth.
Here are a few examples of quality sites to syndicate your content to:
- Linkedin Pulse
- Business 2 Community
Write a custom title and introduction for each platform to get the most out of your syndication.
10. Content Repurposing
How can you benefit from content repurposing? It can help you squeeze more value out of your content and acquire high-quality links.
What could a blog post be repurposed to:
- A video
- An infographic
- An eBook
- A slideshare presentation, to mention just a few examples.
Then you can share each of these pieces of content separately on the relevant channels as many of them offer the opportunity for a backlink.
It goes without saying that any repurposed content should be of the highest quality and capable of standing alone.
11. Build links with images
Here are some examples of ways to take the utmost advantage of custom images and acquire backlinks to your site. They are:
- Creating charts for data visualization
- Creating memes that are specific to your niche
- Creating images with quotes from famous bloggers or celebrities in your niche
- Creating pinnable images for your blog posts
- Providing stock images for use with attribution
Furthermore, adding ‘swipeable’ images, charts, and graphs to your blog posts are really effective. They encourage the readers to download and share them on their own sites, which can be a great way to pick up links.
12. Submissions to directories
The days of mass directory submissions have gone, but you can still get some SEO value if you manage to acquire links from quality or niche specific directories.
How to determine a directory’s strength? Pagerank metric is generally used for that, but it is not updated frequently and is open to manipulation. Therefore, I would recommend you consider the following to determine the quality of a directory:
- Make sure that all links added to the directory go through a human review before they go live.
- Check the quality of the sites included in the directory. Don’t forget about obvious manipulated anchor text links from the directory pages.
- Make sure that the directory has been existing in the form you see now for some time already. Use archive.org for that.
- Use Ahrefs or any other SEO tool of your choice to make sure that the site’s backlink profile is relatively clean and has not been building spammy links.
- Ensure that the page where your link would be placed is cached by Google. You can use this command cache:thedirectory.com/theurl
Notwithstanding everything said above you must understand that directory submissions should be only a small part of your overall link building strategy (or you may not use them at all).
13. Distribution of press releases
Just like in the case with directories, mass press release distribution brings no significant value today and may be a sign of manipulative link building.
But there is always at least one exception to the common rule. So, if you use the tactic aiming to attract genuine press, it becomes quite legitimate.
Do you have anything really newsworthy? It may be a site launch, for instance. Then, choose one channel to distribute your press release and make sure it is of decent quality and written in the third party.
This increases its chances to be picked up and possibly lead to more links.
Please keep in mind that it is recommended to use branded links in press releases and not to use anchor text links.
14. Building citations on local business directories and portals
Сitations on local business directories and portals can be considered an effective tactic for boosting local SEO.
The point is that business directories, as a rule, have higher acceptance standards than general web directories and list only legitimate businesses. Therefore, they look more trustworthy to Google.
You should be ready that not all business directories include links back to the sites they feature. But SEOs believe that a mention from a trusted resource may pass for ‘inferred link’ in Google and raise the rankings.
15. Commenting on blogs
Leaving comments to blog posts is perhaps one of the easiest ways to get backlinks to your website.
Google likes people who actively participate in their niche and commenting on blogs is a good way to show the engine that you are an engaged community member.
But that’s not all. Blog commenting is also useful for building relationships with other bloggers. Why should you make friends with other bloggers? Because this will help you with future outreach. Just agree that it is much easier to contact somebody you already know.
As always, mass commenting will not work here. Only insightful additions to the selected blogs may help with rankings.
Smart comments, which contribute to the article and demonstrate your expertise can also drive traffic to your site and help to grow your audience. The process could be classified as an indirect ranking factor.
16. Contributing to niche forums
SEOs know that they should follow their audience. It’s not hard as almost all niches have at least one forum where your potential customers hang out.
If you are an active forum participant it won’t be complicated to drop an occasional link back to your site if it adds value or answers a question, of course.
Such links are good both for traffic and conversions. Participate in forums, show your expertise. This will help you build trust in the community and users browsing your site will be already semi-qualified.
17. Participating in niche community sites like Reddit
There is a subreddit for pretty much everything, from content creation to home remodeling.
Find subreddits related to your niche, participate in them, and share interesting relevant content from your own site from time to time. This is one more legitimate way to build links that drive traffic.
Did you know that when submissions reach a certain number of upvotes, which varies from subreddit to subreddit, they become dofollow? This surely increases their SEO value.
A lot of curation sites use Reddit to source their content, which means that a popular Reddit submission may also bring you additional editorial links.
By the way, Reddit is not the only one industry-specific community site out there. If you are a marketer, you can visit inbound.org, for instance. I’ll say it again – active participation in niche community site will present an opportunity for building both links and relationships.
18. Answering questions on sites like Quora, Yahoo etc.
SEOs put the direct SEO value under question, but links from question and answer style sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers are undoubtedly a good way to drive traffic to your site and build/improve your authority in a niche.
You can also track the trending topics in the niche there.
Supposing you notice that some question is being asked frequently. Don’t miss your chance here! Because if people post one and the same question every now and again, they failed to find the answer in Google. Create content on your own site and fill that information gap. The technique is a potential opportunity for both bringing in search traffic and link building.
19. Sponsorships & participating in charity events
Most of the charity organizations list their sponsors and link back to the sponsor’s site. Charity websites are trustworthy by nature, they often have high domain authority, so such links may be beneficial for rankings.
Technically these are paid links, but they are not too risky on the link buying scale.
Here is another tactic which can be effective. Offer your services in exchange for a publication on the charity site. For instance, if you are a photographer or a videographer you could offer to shoot some charity event for free provided that the charity website includes some of the images/videos on their site with link attribution.
I hope this article was informative and you are ready to share your thoughts on it. Which tactics do you consider the most efficient for the time being? What changes in link building techniques do you expect to see in the future?
If you have any further questions, please leave them in the comments.
I wish you best of luck with your link building campaigns!
About the author
Helga Moreno is a passionate content creator and marketer at Ahrefs bold enough to believe that if there’s a book that she wants to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then she must write it herself.