Link Building in SEO: The complete guide (for 2021) 

Link Building In SEO will form a crucial part of your digital marketing or content marketing campaign. But how does this work and what do you need to get right? Read on to discover all the answers you need.  

link building in seo

What Is Link Building?

If you are running an SEO campaign for your brand, we guarantee link building will be part of the plan. Simply put, good link building refers to the process of getting other websites to link to your site online.

Getting high quality links - we’ll come back to this idea - will ensure that you can compete against your rivals online and build up your ranking. If you don’t build links, you’re going to struggle to get the support from the search engines or the interest you need to succeed online. It can even give you a competitive advantage. According to Ahrefs, more than 66% of pages have no backlinks at all.  

backlink

What Is A Backlink?

A backlink is the result that you gain from link building. Also known as a hyperlink, it connects one website to another. Backlinks can appear anywhere on a website but will usually be found within the main content web pages or article as link from a word or phrase (known as ‘anchor text’). The idea is that they fit seamlessly as part of the great content.

One of the easiest ways to think about backlinks would be as conversations between websites. For instance, a blogger might create an article about movie news. Another blogger could have a different perspective and link to the first blogger’s work to provide more context to her ideas. This forms a backlink.

If the blog is well researched and popular, numerous other blogs are going to link back to it as well. The number of links to your website is important. But, not all external links are equal, as you’ll see.  

Why Is It Important For SEO? The Benefits Of Link Building

While the variables in a search engine’s algorithm that determine search rankings or pagerank are constantly changing, link building remains a fundamental ranking factor. More backlinks from high quality sources will typically result in big boosts to your site ranking.

Link building is crucial for a few reasons:

  1. Credibility - Backlinks show that your site is credible. They act as indicators that your site is trusted by other resources online, increasing your level of domain authority. Since Google and other search engines aim to provide users with the most relevant results, this becomes essential. This is also why you should always aim to only build links back from authoritative sites. 
  2. Ranking - As mentioned link building is important to build up the rank of your site. Many experts argue it’s impossible to rank without this strategy in place. To rank, you’ll need more backlinks than your competitors and beat them in terms of quality. Google claims that backlinks are one of the top 3 ranking factors.
  3. Web Traffic - Link building is a great way to attract audience members of industry authority sites. This improves traffic from external sources. Web traffic is a strong indicator of a healthy site. 
  4. Bounce rates - Quality backlinks are ‘linked’ to lower bounce rates. A bounce rate is defined as the ‘number of one page sessions.’ Or the amount of people who only viewed one page before leaving your site. You want this number to be as low as possible.
  5. Referral Traffic - After you have established a link with an authority site, this should provide you with regular traffic. This is more beneficial than typical ads. Once an ad is finished, it no longer provides traffic. As such, link building can be a long term strategy for marketing success.

The Types Of Link Building In SEO

There are numerous different types of link building. It’s important to ensure that you choose the right type. The wrong option here can lead to problems. Google hates spammy links or links of low quality. Using these will always risk the integrity of your brand and your marketing campaign.
It could even earn you a penguin penalty, causing your ranking to drop through the floor and that’s the last thing you want. Here are some of the different types of options to build links that you can explore.

  1. Editorial Links - These natural links are ideal for SEO purposes. You don’t ask for these links. Instead, they are provided by other website owners. Generating these types of new links can take time. Content creation is the focus here. You must produce an exceptional piece of content which attracts interest from bloggers and influencers alike. 
  2. Outreach Link Building - This is the most typical form of link building. Here, you’ll need to contact website owners or webmasters and ask them to link to your site. Similar to editorial relevant links, there needs to be a reason for them to do this. You must provide a mutually beneficial relationship. You should also contact sites that are relevant to your website.
  3. Self-Created Links - This type of link building should be avoided. It’s often considered a ‘black hat seo’ practice that will earn you a Google penalty. Links are often devalued too. There are countless examples of self-created links including article directories, press releases, blog comments on unmoderated sections of the web, guest post signatures and much more. These will still work for certain types of websites. However, using them will always be risky. Instead, you should focus on ‘white hat’, editorially given links. The type of links will also depend on the value provided to your own site or business.
internal links

Don’t forget internal links, either.

Linking from relevant page to relevant page within your own site is important work to do. It helps Google search your website more easily, and it helps add context to your visitors too.

You should also understand the difference between ‘follow’ links and ‘nofollow’ links. Not all backlinks give you a benefit to gain you a benefit in the SERPs (search engine results pages). A nofollow link to your site is something you won’t notice on the page. It’s a written into the HTML of the page to tell search engines to ignore the link to your website.

It’s a good thing to have a mix of ‘follow’ and ‘nofollow’ links to your page. It’s natural and looks natural to search engines. These links benefit readers who click a ‘nofollow’ link to your website. This type of link, however, does not gain you any ‘SEO power’ from the page linking to your website. 

good and bad links

How To Tell Between Good And Bad Backlinks

We’ve mentioned the idea of a quality backlink quite a lot already. So, what does this mean? High quality links are from websites that switch strong levels of authority that will help you rank higher.

It’s important to be able to recognise these when building your link profile. These are some of the factors that determine whether a link is good or bad:

  1. Relevancy - It’s absolutely crucial the backlink is relevant to your business. If it’s not, Google will devalue it. For instance, if a site provides marketing services, a backlink from a page that provides tyre repairs won’t help. You need to be in the same niche.
  2. TLDs - Relevance can also be impacted by the TLD (Top-level domain) of a site. If a site is relevant it will probably use the same or a similar domain extension. This is why many website owners try to get links from local sites. 
  3. Freshness - Think about how often new content is published on the site. This will determine whether it’s active. Nothing new for months or even years suggests the site has been abandoned. This could be due to one of those pesky penguin penalties.
  4.  Penalties - Even if the site is still delivering fresh content it could still have a penalty. You need to check that a website is indexed. The easiest way is to type this “site:thesitename.com” in Google. There are also services, such as Monitor Backlinks, that will allow you to check for issues here too. Be aware a site can be indexed and still have a penalty. That’s why you need to check its ranking too.
  5. Domain Authority - Domain authority is one of the most important factors that determine whether a backlink is good or bad. Ideally, you need to make sure that you aim for backlinks from sites with a domain authority of more than 50. Getting started, you should aim for sites 30 or above. You can check this using domain authority tools such as Google’s own SEO Site Tools. 
  6. Engagement - You should check the level of engagement that a website receives. Ideally, you should find websites with high levels of engagement. Evidence of this would include a high number of comments on different posts or fan engagement through social media. More user engagement will typically result in high quality links.

Some Link Building Examples

The best way to understand the benefit of link building in SEO is by exploring real case studies.

statistics and data

Ahrefs and SEO stats

For instance, ahrefs created a complete list of SEO statistics. This was sent to more than 515 emails and received 36 backlinks from 32 websites. The campaign was a success as the page currently ranks at number 1 in Google for the keyword “SEO stats.” 

The statistic page was chosen for a backlink strategy because articles like this tend to have numerous links. They also often generate countless external links.

Ahrefs used these factors to create a stat article around a winning topic and then explored link prospects.

They then explored the stats that were the most popular for backlinks on other pages and ones where there was a reason for websites to use the new page rather than the older one that they were linked to.

The team started with more than 1900 potential sites for backlink opportunities and quickly narrowed these down to a number that was more manageable. They focused on websites that achieved high volumes of traffic.  

After sending out emails to site owners, 473 delivered and 42 bounced. Conversion rates were at 5.7% and the company received links from sites that they hadn’t contacted.

Some websites also linked to the page more than once. In terms of the quality of the backlinks, 9 of the 32 domains had the authority of more than 17 while 12 had an authority of between 40 and 69.

The business also noted in their case study that they could have achieved better results if they had chosen to negotiate with potential prospects and send follow-up emails.

Based on Authority Hacker’s study which included 600,000 emails, sending three follow up emails will double the results.  

editorial links

An editorial links strategy

Another example would be the results achieved by Sure Oak SEO for Responsify.

Inbound marketers, Responsify were interested in building up their level of authority with a link building campaign.

After completing a technical audit of the site and completing keyword research, several link building strategies were chosen.

The main focus was on strong editorial links.

They used guest posting on high authority websites to help boost awareness with key audience groups.

A scholarship campaign was also established to acquire more than 80 .edu links. This helped ensure that the level of domain authority did increase significantly.

The domain authority of Responsify’s site was raised to 30 and more than 345 linking domains were achieved.

This was an increase of more than 87%. Organic monthly traffic increased by 582% against the previous year and the website also witnessed an 810% surge in organic monthly users.  

content without backlinks

Content without links?

Other companies including The Upper Ranks have explored just how important link building is for an SEO campaign.

To do this, the company set up a site purely for SEO experiments.

The business published 26 high quality pieces of content for the site with no promotion at all.

After 12 months, there was virtually no traffic to the site. Over the next 6 months, the company completed outreach and sent about 1000 emails. This results in 103 links.

The average domain rating for these links was 38 while 27 links had a DR of more than 50. 96 were also from an educational resource and this does make them significantly more valuable.

Overall, the results showed that link building resulted in a 2000% increase in organic traffic to the website. The website is also ranking for more than 9000 keywords and over 2000 of these are on page one.

This is perhaps the clearest evidence right now that link building is important. You just need to approach it the right way.  

how to check for backlinks

How To Check How Many Backlinks You Have To Your Website

Now, you might be wondering whether you already have backlinks to your website. Unless your site is brand new, you probably already have a few.

But if you haven’t engaged in link building, then it’s unlikely these are going to be high quality backlinks or of much use to you.

There are numerous tools online that you can use to check how many backlinks you have. For instance, MOZ has a Link Explorer which is a great backlink checker. You can use this for any site online as well as you own. So, it’s great if you’re completing research to find out which sites you should be targeting.

The tools provides key information including: 

- Page authority
- Domain authority
- Spam score

A lot of the tools available are free. However, you can also think about investing in the pro version for more capabilities. Using the tool is easy as you just need to enter the URL for your site or any site that you are interested in.

From the results, you can then click on the inbound links tab. You can also export the data and sort it by page authority. This is a great choice if you are looking for key pages that you want to target. It should provide you a solid picture of your backlink profile and the goals that need to be part of your link building strategy.

What Is A Link Building Strategy?

Once you have explored how many backlinks your site has, you will need to ensure that you set up the right link building strategy. A link building strategy is a process you take to gain the links you need from other sites online.

As mentioned, this is going to help ensure that you can grow the audience for your website and ensure that there are traffic increases too. There are numerous different elements to a link building strategy:

Understand Your Audience

Understand Your Audience

Understanding your audience will help you recognize who your site is for and what other sites you should be targeting.

Link building strategies will often result in website owners seeking out new audiences too. As such, you need to understand who your audience is as well as the traits of your ideal target audience.

This is going to help you establish the right link building strategy. It will also help ensure that you build up content that is going to be appealing to the new audience.

Write A Website List

In each of the case studies explored above, the businesses created a list of websites that could be useful or relevant for them.

Remember, this should be focused on sites that have a high domain authority and will help you reach your new audience.

You should explore some of the key factors for finding good quality links to do this that we mentioned above.

Outreach

Outreach

When you have a list of websites that you want to connect with, it’s time to put together an outreach strategy in place.

If you have high quality content and you make an effort to find relevant businesses, then you shouldn’t have any trouble finding sites that want to link to yours.

You just need to provide the right information and approach this the right way. We’ll explore this a little further down.

You can reach out through a number of different resources including email and social media.

Social media can be a great option for link outreach because you will be able to highlight blog posts and send it directly to people who would be interested.  

5 Link Building Tactics You Can Use

There are numerous link building strategies that you can explore. The right choice will depend on your goals as well as your current link profile:

  1. Skyscraper Technique - This was created by Brian Dean from Backlinko. It’s a way to create engaging content that produces high quality linkable editorial. The first step is to find content that is popular on other sites. You then need to create content that is better than this and promote it to the right target audience to let them know it actually exists. This can be as simple as a stats page with more up to date statistics.
  2. Scholarship campaign - As the name suggests, with a scholarship link building strategy you need to make sure that you reach out to places like schools, universities, and educational institutions. When doing this, it’s vital that your campaign stands out from the rest. A lot of marketers do send out cold emails to educational organizations for this purpose. When you send out emails to educational organizations, they will tend to fire back questions. Don’t send out all your emails at once. Stagger your campaign so you can make the necessary quick changes. 
  3. The Broken Link Technique - One of the easiest ways to gain backlinks is with the broken link strategy. First, you need to find a few relevant sites with high authority. You can then explore their backlink profile using one of the tools. Find a link that matches the content on your site that is broken. There are more tools online that will allow you to do this quickly and easily. Once you find a broken link, send a polite email to the site owner. Notify them of the issue and offer your page as a potential replacement. Usually, if you provide high quality content, they will accept this offer.
  4. Guest Blogging - Hubspot suggests that the average blog generates about 97% more inbound links and a 55% increase in site visitors. Guest blogs are great as well as a chance to build a backlink, you can also reach an entirely new audience for your business. To get the right impact with guest blogging, you need to make sure that you are studying the audience of the blog and the type of posts that are most popular. You should also look at the user experience to understand who you are writing for and what exactly they expect from the content that you create. Many businesses are able to build an entire marketing campaign around the process of guest blogging.
  5. Use Resource Pages - Alternatively, you can think about resource page link building. This can be an effective choice resource pages are created for the sole purpose of linking out. As such, it makes sense to use them as link building targets. First, you need to make sure that you find resource pages. You can then size up the page as quickly as possible to find out whether it’s worth your focus. Domain rating is a key aspect to consider here. You can then contact the owner of the page to check whether they will be interested in linking out to your resource.

The Impact Of Good Content On Your Success

It’s clear that there are numerous factors that will term whether your link building strategy is a success.

For instance, you do need to think about your outreach plan and the business sites that you are targeting.

As mentioned, these need to be relevant to your business. However, a fundamental part of whether your outreach plan will be a success will depend on your content creation.

content creation

You need to make sure that there is a wealth of high quality content on your site. Let’s say you decide to use the broken link building method to build up links.

This is only going to work if the site owner is willing to connect to the new page. They won’t if the content doesn’t provide the level of quality that they want.

So content is definitely key for your link building campaign. However, it needs to be the right content. Certain types of content are more likely to generate links. This includes:

  • Visual assets - That includes images, infographics, and diagrams. Anytime someone shares info like this, you’ll get a link. You can’t access this type of relationship with typical pieces of content. 
  • List posts - List posts can be anything. Whether it’s a list of techniques, myths, or reasons, you’ll get backlinks. Indeed, high quality list post generates more backlinks than most other choices, According to BuzzSumo. They found this out after researching a million different sites.
  • Original Data - New data means fresh information that is relevant and interesting to site owners as well as their audience. When data like this is cited, a business is always going to add a reference to your site. These links are quickly going to build up and provide the numbers of high quality backlinks that you need.
  • Ultimate Guides - Guides that are in depth are definitely going to boost backlink numbers. A guide like this should provide everything that you need to know about a particular topic. You will often find this on marketing sites and if you think that this article is an example of this type of content, you’d be right.

Aside from the type of content that you focus on, there are certain little details that you need to get right. For instance, you need to make sure that there are no spelling or grammar issues throughout the article.

Any statistics or facts that you give should be correctly cited too. In terms of the content itself, you must make sure that it does provide useful, interesting, or appealing information that matches the interests of your target audience.

If you are using links through the content, and you should be, make sure that they are relevant and fit seamlessly, providing more content to the information that you are offering readers.

You should work on levels of engagement too. Higher levels of engagement will attract more backlinks for your business. So, do make sure that you share the content on social media.

How To Do Your Own Backlinks

Now you know all the important details about backlinks and why they matter, you have a vital question to answer. Are you going to use a professional service or build up your own backlink profile?

If you are building up your own backlinks, then there are a few key steps that you need to take.

SEO goals

Set your goals

First, you need to think about what your goal is for your site and your brand.

Remember, it’s not always about building up the ranking. A lot of business owners are more interested in increasing the domain authority and this can be incredibly useful.

For that, you will need a lot of links. Once you have decided on your goals, you can move onto your content.

appealing content

Appealing content

To gain the interest from business owners and website owners, the content must be appealing.

Make sure that you do spend a few months building up content for your site.

Remember, in one of the case studies the business spent six months building up content before they even considered reaching out to different clients.

This is a smart way of tackling the issue.  

outreach

Focusing on outreach

Once you have done this, you can focus on outreach.

It’s important to complete the right research and find the sites that are going to provide the high quality backlinks that you need.

There are lots of tools that can help you do this. These are the same tools that a marketing company would use too.  

Remember, when you use tools like this, it’s important to check the backlink profile and various other metrics.

You need to gather as much information as you can to make sure that you have found a high quality site.  

After that you have gathered a solid list of prospects - the more you have the more chances of success you’ll give yourself - you can start the outreach process. As noted, there are numerous ways that you can tackle this possibility.  

outreach emails

Outreach emails

However, you should think about writing an email.

For this, you need to perfect your email script. You’ll find countless examples online.

The trick is to keep these outreach emails polite and ensure that they are straight to the point. Pay close attention to the subject of the email.

This is what you need to get right to ensure a good open rate stat.

Remember, popular sites will get countless emails like this every week. You need to make sure that you seem likeable and that your request stands out from the rest.

The trick there is to hone in on why it’s going to be beneficial for them. This could be as simple as replacing a link that they already have or improving a link.

Don’t forget, some will want to negotiate and there’s nothing wrong with providing a favour in return for a link.

You do want to avoid paying for them for them though. This is a black hat practice that must be avoided at all costs. If you pay for links, they will be devalued.  

results through backlinks

Get the results you want

Understanding how link building works and why it could be a benefit for your business is going to provide a massive boost to your marketing campaign.

Using this tutorial guide, you will be able to beat the competition and gain the results you want.  

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