What is Link Building?
In simple terms, link building is all the activities you do for other websites to link back to you. Webmasters, marketers and businesses run link building and outreach campaigns to drive referral traffic.
Think of links as the street between pages. It shows search engines how websites are related and which ones to rank higher. Search engines use links to crawl the internet and to rate the popularity and importance of your website.
Google algorithms are always evolving. Yet, backlinks have stood the test of time as one of the most important factors for determining rankings for specific keywords.
A link building campaign is where you actively seek to increase inbound links to your website with a higher goal in sight. It involves the use of assets ranging from content, products and services to get links.
Successful link building campaigns are hinged on the combination of available assets and resources. As with other types of online marketing campaigns, it all begins with setting goals to ensure the best chance of success.
The key in a link building campaign is to find the right link targets. You need to contact people who are interested in your content. This includes websites with high engagement. Random messages lead to low response rate and a bad website reputation.
Your content is the hook that gets them to care. You have to work on it from the inception of your website if you plan to outreach. Think of the angle while creating content and your outreach will be easier.
Interesting hooks to consider include news, competition, long-form content, controversial pieces and data visualisation. Do your homework. Analyse the types of links people share on social media. Establish a pattern and find out why they share such content.
Why is Link Building Important?
A link is a vote of confidence from a website with authority to another website. Links are positive connections that develop relationships between websites in similar niches.
Easier to navigate the web
Google cannot crawl the web without links. You access a webpage by clicking a link, bookmarking the page or entering the URL in your browser. Most people online access your website through links from social media, backlinks or sites such as Reddit and Quora.
Links power the internet. They are vital to user experience, human accessibility and website architecture.
Increased brand awareness
A good link building strategy promotes your brand. It shows your authority in your field through high-quality content. It also establishes your brand as a top provider of goods or services in your niche.
Increased traffic is the major reason why websites hunt for backlinks. Quality links from a website with a high domain authority will get more referrals. You will have a high ranking on Google if you consistently create great content that drives links from reputable sites.
Referrals tell Google that your customers are pleased with your products and services. It also improves your online reputation and increases sales.
Build relationships with websites in your niche
You need an outreach campaign to build links with other businesses. You can leverage your relationship to spread the word about a new promotion you’re holding or relay information that might benefit their audience.
When larger brands associate with you, it tells their customers and yours that you’re someone they can trust. You’re exposed to potential clients that grow your business.
Accelerated website indexing
Site indexing is the processing of information Google bots have collected from your website and how it is indexed on their search engine. Your website will have a higher ranking if the collated information links to reputable websites and is of high-quality.
Domain and page authority
One of the major factors Google considers when ranking a page for a keyword or query is the quality and quantity of inbound links to the page. You’ll likely rank higher for a search query if you have a high domain authority. The number of high quality and relevant links pointing to your website is a primary determinant of domain authority.
Influencers are highly respected individuals in their industries. They have a massive following you can leverage for traffic. LinkedIn is a great platform to build relationships with influencers in your niche. Once you’re on good standing with them, ask if they’ll be willing to retweet your post with a brief note encouraging their followers to read your article. If they do a weekly roundup, they could also include your post in the roundup.
You cannot mask or hide a link. It is public once the content is published. With tools like Open Site Explorer, you can view your entire link profile and see where your links point. Target those sources to acquire more links for higher rankings.
This is Google’s rule: Rank higher with more quality backlinks. You’re playing the search game so you have to follow Google rules. It’s not just about the number of links you’re getting. It is the quality of links.
For instance, one link from a website in the top 20 domain authority ranking is worth more than 50 links from websites outside of the top 1,000. I’m not saying don’t push for those high numbers. Sure, in the early days, go for small fishes and build your way up.
Remember the saying, nothing good comes easy. It also applies to link building. People will link to you if they find value in your offer. If websites don’t link to you, you won’t rank high on search engines, even with great content. Search engines are algorithms. They see through links.
While many have asked the question, is link building dead? The truth is that you cannot win on the internet without links. According to Google’s John Mueller, it does more harm than good when executed poorly.
Google’s Penguin update emphasised the importance of link building in SEO by including it as the top ranking factor, second only to content.
Google extracts the content and adds it to its index after crawling the pages on the web. When deciding relevance to search query, Google bots look at the number and quality of external links to that page. This means your ranking improves if the content is top quality and has backlinks from high domain authority sites.
You have to be wary of artificial links such as spammy comments on blogs and forums. Other sources include guestbooks, article directories, social bookmarking and social media profiles. Sometimes it takes a while for Google to identify the artificial link but when they do, they penalize the website.
That’s why many websites use the nofollow attribute to tell Google not to give any PageRank to such links. These websites cannot moderate all comment from each post. They deter spammers by applying the nofollow attribute to all links posted by guests and other users.
Natural editorial links
Known as the most important links in SEO, these are links given by other website owners. It is the most effective link because it is naturally given. You have to motivate the editor to give a natural link.
Perhaps you conducted a survey and the results could impact how businesses in your niche operate. Google holds these types of links as the gold standard. They are valuable and will remain relevant for a long time to come.
Links from high ranking pages
High ranking pages are trusted by Google. They get regular traffic through search and drive some of that traffic back to linking pages. Subsequently, they increase the search ranking of the linked page. The relevance of the content is a crucial factor in attracting leads. Hence, a high ranking page can generate leads for you.
A few ways to get this type of link
Join forum discussions within your niche. Communities such as Reddit, News Hacker and Quora are good starting points. Quality contributions to these platforms entice visitors to check your website or webpage.
Share your content on sites like Pinterest, Slideshare and YouTube. They have a strong domain authority and increase the visibility of your content. They also improve your brand awareness and drives traffic to your website.
Create a guest posting strategy. Use the targeted keywords for your website to get the most value from your guest posts.
Links from reviews
One positive online review opens the way for a stream of new customers. Authentic reviews from customers validate and strengthen your business. They improve your overall search ranking and maintain your site reputation.
Actively collect reviews from your customers. Entice them with a referral bonus or discount. An affiliate program with referral commission going back to the blogger could increase the perceived value of your service or product.
Outbound links point out. You’re linking to relevant web pages in your niche that provide additional information on your content. This is an example of an outbound link. I usually link to the top 10 SERP result and a few others that beef up my content.
Perhaps just as important as inbound links are internal links. These are links between your web pages. They take audiences to other web pages on your website that offer more information on the content they’re reading. You’ll probably have noticed a few in this piece.
At $79.99 a month, Majestic is an expensive tool. But it’s worth it. There are hundreds of links for each topic. Thousands if you want. Use the topics section to identify sites to generate links from. Check the trust flow distribution of a referring domain and the number of unique domains to focus on.
Ahrefs is priced at $99 a month. It is the best SEO tool in the market. Here are a few things you can do with Ahrefs
Use the Best by Links report to find competing domain that help you build links and influence your content strategy. You will also find sites that create similar content.
The Best by Link Growth report shows content that generates links over 30 days. You can make your content more robust to outrank them in SERPs.
Best Pages by Backlinks report shows all the backlinks pointing to a page. It helps you build links for pages.
Guest blogging is not an easy process. Managing a campaign that includes guest posting to hundreds of website could be tedious. Guest Post Tracker helps you manage your link building campaign. It shows a list of over 1,500 sites that accept blog posts. Filter the result by category, domain authority and cost.
Blogger outreach is an integral part of your link building strategy. You need to master it for backlinks. The first step is finding bloggers in your industry. They always need authoritative pieces.
GroupHigh claims to be the largest blog search engine in the world. With good reason. This search by Brain Dean for “baking blogs” revealed over 33,000 results. You have easy access to relevant blogs in your niche plus a built-in tool for sending outreach emails.
This tool automates redundant tasks in relationship building. It is one of the best tools for relationship management, link detection and suggestions.
A few things BuzzStream will do
- Track Twitter and email
- Get contact info and delegate contacts
- Monitor backlinks from nofollows, anchor text, banned words and outbound links.
- Manage link prospects
- Split prospecting from outreach efforts
The basic search feature allows you to check the number of different domains linking to a page and the number of inbound links. Pages are ranked based on the domain authority, quality and number of inbound links.
The premium version allows you to judge the quantity and quality to their specific web pages and competitors. You also compare the number of domains, number of links and number of websites competing for domain rankings.
SEMrush is one of the best link building tools. For bloggers who are just starting out, it allows you to build links that work. Check your competitor’s backlink profile and use it to create your own link building profile.
It’s a valuable tool for keyword research and comprehensive site audits. There are also detailed data on the anchor text and index times for backlinks.
This is my favourite SEO tool because it’s easy to use. You can research backlink profiles of your competitors, find link building strategies and damaging links.
The top part of the page shows general information such as SPAM score, domain authority, established links and page authority. Further down the page, you’ll find the various titles and URL of linking pages plus its link anchor text.
Link building tips for local SEO
A local link is a link for a local business. It is most relevant to small and medium-sized companies. They are done to improve the relevance of a website for its local area. It includes hyperlocal content, a list of citations, correcting NAP and building links.
Your audience is in a specified area. A link from a local blog with high viewership is worth more than a link from Huffington Post or Forbes. For instance, a bar in Wuse would only be interested in links within Abuja. A link from Lagos wouldn’t do them any good.
How to get local links
Citations offer the opportunity to place your Name, Address and Phone information on online directories and blogs. The goal is to get the business name in as many places as possible. Tools that help include Moz Local, Citation Labs Link Prospector and Yext. Simply enter your location and search for local directories and blogs.
Google My Business
If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing, please do it right now. It allows your business show up on Google Maps. You also show up on search results when people look for local businesses in your area.
It’s the easiest backlink you’ll get from a top brand like Google. You can respond to customer reviews, create updates and answer questions prospects are asking about your business.
Use your competitors’ local backlinks
SEO SpyGlass gets this task completed for you. Spying at your competitor provides insight into what you’re doing right and tactics you need to change. You’ll also find backlink opportunities that increase your SERP rankings.
Was an article published in a local news site with your name or brand? Ask them for a link. Most editors will be happy to link to your brand. If the editor’s email isn’t listed on the site, get hunter.io to find their contact details. Remember, editors aren’t obligated to link to you. Be nice and courteous.
Write an e-book
E-books are a good way to establish your industry authority. You know the pain points of your audience. Create a long, detailed e-book that tackles the issue. Plan each chapter like a stand-alone blog post that you’ll compile into an e-book later on.
Design the cover and table of content once the copy is complete. Sites like openlibrary will list your e-book if it’s free. Use it to attract leads or list it on Amazon for a small fee.
Sponsorships and scholarships
Many local businesses offer sponsorships. You can post your logo and it’ll link back to your website. The traffic will be valuable for sales and conversion. If your business is doing well, you could offer scholarships to deserving students. The school and other news sites who publish it will link and mention your website.
Influencer and blogger outreach
You can get links from influencers and local bloggers in your niche. Search “Location + keyword”, “keyword + reviews” and “keyword + blogger”. Offer the blogger a free service or discount (but never offer cash) in exchange for a mention or an honest review of your business.
Industry events are a great way to meet influencers. Talk to them in person about your services or product. Personalised conversation tends to go farther than email exchanges.
How to write a pitch email for guest post opportunities
Guest posting is a proven way to get a backlink. You have the tools and you know the bloggers or editors you want to pitch your guest post to. How do you send a pitch email that gets accepted?
Post regularly on your blog
Before sending an email, make sure you’ve populated your website, especially your blog with content. The first thing an editor does when considering your guest post is to visit your website. They won’t give you a backlink if you don’t have valuable content that helps their audience.
Research the editor’s site
Look through the influencer’s site. What type of content do they accept? What is the tone of the copy? Which posts have the most likes? Is there a post that could benefit from a follow-up piece? Alternatively, think of a unique topic or fresh idea that hasn’t been published.
Find an idea they love
Great! You’ve done the research and you know what their audience needs. How do you align it with your type of content? I want to tell you to be selfless and only think of their audience but you can serve their audience and your own interest concurrently.
How? Choose a topic where you have vast knowledge. Find a unique angle that is different from anything on the website. It works better if its’ a time-sensitive topic or trending topic.
Write the email
Your pitch email must convey value to the reader. Tell the editor the exact benefits their audience will gain from your piece. Start with a catchy subject line, introduce your unique angle, explain the topics and show your proposed format. Will the content be a list, how to, feature or guide format?
Don’t be cocky or arrogant. You need them, not the other way around. Your subject line shouldn’t be generic or it will get trashed. Don’t say “Guest Blog Request”. If I was pitching to a cooking blog, I would say “This is the fastest way to cook delicious Thanksgiving dinner.” “The secret ingredient that makes Spaghetti Bolognaise taste better.”
Editors are busy. But even the busiest editor is curious. Hook their interest and your foot is in the door.
The next step is your introduction. The first angle I look at is how to solve a problem. Alternatively, I answer a question their audience is asking. Dig into the meat in the body of the email. Don’t make them guess.
Tell them how you’re going to solve the problem and the benefits to the reader. You can include one external link to show you’ve done the research before contacting the editor.
An example of a guest post pitch from Fire Nation
However, this is a follow up to an introduction email. Mine would be
Hello Babatunde. I’ve followed your blog for three years. I love your content. The post on 15 tips for writing better emails helped me to improve conversion. You always have a message I can apply in my writing.
I would love to guest post on your blog. Zenith Copy is a high ranking copywriting agency in Abuja. We share valuable resources on our blog to help people become better writers, improve their SEO and execute successful content marketing campaigns.
Here are a few topics to look at. They will add value to your audience and solve problems they face.
I list three topics, summarise the content and conclude with…
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to consider my pitch. I will edit the content, include two links to previous posts on your site and outbound links. I will also format it properly. You only have to upload it directly into WordPress.
The email should be personalised. Show them you have the experience required to write the piece. Attach a sample to help the editor access your writing skill. Be confident. Keep it short. Avoid grammar errors.
Building links to worthless content
You’ve sent in the pitch and you got accepted. Hurray! You write a banging blog post on a top site like Entrepreneur. But where is it linking to? A 300-word article on your site. Waste of effort.
If you’re asking editors or influencers to give you a link. It should be a problem-solving content that is high-quality and valuable to the audience. It must be comprehensive. Ideal length ranges from 1,500 to over 2,500 words.
Add visuals to help people learn faster. Researched and data-backed arguments are also required. An SEO Powersuite study revealed that it’s the best type of content for backlinks.
Links from pages that cannot be crawled
Have you reached out to a competing website in your niche and asked for a link exchange? You fulfil your end of the deal by including a link in your content but they don’t do the same. If your link is placed on a dynamic page that Google can’t index, you won’t receive any backlink. Ensure your links are placed in accessible pages that readers can see.
Buying and selling links
I know it’s tempting. You’re starting out as a new blogger. You needed backlinks yesterday but nothing is happening. In your weak moment, you reach out to a shady blogger or editor and pay for a backlink. When Google finds out, they’ll send your site so far down SERP results, no one will ever find you.
Building only dofollow links
It’s true, nofollow links do not have SEO value. They don’t send link juice to your website or keywords. However, a good mix of nofollow links and dofollow links from multiple sites could boost your SEO.
Give importance to creating both nofollow and dofollow links. Use blog comments to build nofollow links and guest posting/influencer outreach for dofollow links.
Links from pages with weak social shares
Google algorithms use social engagement to rate the quality of your post. A content that has over 5000 combined shares will perform better than other articles on the same topic with fewer shares. Creating quality content takes time. If the website isn’t actively trying to promote your content, you’ll lose out on SEO value.
Links from sites with a bad reputation
Many bloggers who are desperate to improve their SERP ranking go for backlink quantity instead of quality. Search engines frown on links from spam blogs, gambling and porn websites. Links from such websites could lead to de-indexing of your website. Always research a website before approaching them for a link.
Building links without targeted keywords in the anchor text
You have a better chance of ranking high when you use your targeted keyword for the anchor text instead of your website name or your name. It’s a win-win. You’re getting a backlink from a high domain website and ranking for your relevant keyword.
Building links too quickly
In a hurry to build links? Slow your roll tiger. Google might see your efforts as spam or link farm. They could remove your website from indexing. The goal is to provide valuable content for your audience. You begin with a few backlinks and grow alongside your readership. That’s’ how you improve organic ranking.
There is no magic number. SEO experts have different opinions. But most agree that 3 backlinks a week would appear natural to Google.
Focusing all your attention on third-party metric
On its own, third-party metrics won’t help your link building campaign. Obsessing over them leads to a lopsided link profile and failure to plant seeds for the future. You won’t convert all your link prospects. Even Domain Authority can be gamed. Plant your seeds on good websites. Your links are your lifeline. Some will carry for a long time, others not so much.
Create a plan
Every successful campaign begins with a plan. Write down the objectives of the campaign. How do you intend to execute the plan? What are the metrics of success? When you have a plan, you have a clear vision of the type of links you want.
Run your site through link building tools such as SEMrush and Majestic. The link analysis report offers more insight on your niche, the types of sites linking to you and the type of links you should pursue.
Know your audience
Understanding the core needs of your target audience is crucial to success. Your links must align with the preferences of your audience or it won’t generate traffic. Comprehensive market research is essential. What types of links get the most engagement? Focus on those.
Match content to websites
I’m going to assume that you know how to write amazing content that appeals to your readers. Once you’ve written a great blog post, identify sites that could link to the article. It should be websites that fit the topic of the blog post. They are more likely to link to your content. Subsequently, visitors will readily visit your webpage because they are interested in your content.
Reach out to sites in your niche publishing similar content. Include relevant links from their content in your post. But do it in moderation. Continuously make efforts to increase your circle of partnership. You can collaborate to write a joint post or conduct a study.
In all your link building efforts, do not pay for a link. It is a death sentence for your website if you’re caught. Our guide should help you get started or improve your link building efforts. You can also contact me via email or phone call and I’ll be happy to guide you through the process.