When your website has links pointing to it, whether those are internal or external links, your organic traffic is likely to improve. Both from users clicking those links on external sites, and from search engines “crawling” the web and finding your content. Using various SEO link building strategies can improve your site’s visibility, rank in search engine results, and overall traffic generation.
Why Bother with SEO Link Building?
Some links are created by you; those are primarily internal links. But some links are created by others. These are called backlinks, and they’re a huge part of a solid SEO campaign. For example, maybe another blogger loves your content and puts a link to it on their website. Their users then click it and head to your site because that other site is essentially saying “this content is good and worthwhile.”
Because of that, you can encourage backlinks by improving the quality of your content to make it more link-worthy.
In addition to the human element, search engines look at the content of the page when deciding how highly it should rank. The search engine’s crawlers will also determine if it’s relevant to the keywords it shows up for. And since Google’s very first algorithm, how many other websites have linked to it and the quality of those sites is taken into account, too. That’s why you should bother with an SEO link building strategy.
As Google has tweaked its algorithm and approach, link-building strategies have changed, too. For example, in the past, a standard and even suggested practice was submitting your site to web directories for a backlink. However, as this became overused, Google stopped valuing those links as much. And today, sites with links from those sorts of directories are penalized by Google.
That’s okay, though. Black hat SEO strategies might be out, but there are plenty of white hat SEO tips and strategies to take advantage of. Let’s go over the best ones.
1. Set Goals for Your SEO Link Building Campaign
It’s pretty difficult to achieve your SEO goals if you don’t know what they are in the first place. What do you want to get out of your link-building campaign? Don’t be vague, and don’t be unrealistic, either. Goals should be SMART:
“Get more links” is too general to be helpful, but “get 3 links from DA 90+ sites by June” meets each and every one of the SMART criteria.
Knowing what you’re aiming for will help you create the right strategy and make decisions in honor of it. Also, think of how the goal of the campaign relates to the goal of your business — they should be connected. Oh, and don’t forget this tip: When you’re planning your link-building campaign, note your current rank for your target keywords so you can track if and how the rank improves.
2. Create Plenty of Quality Content
It’s nearly impossible to get others to link to your content if you’re not creating something of quality to begin with. When creating new content, focus on quality. You can also update older content to have more value. While it is impossible to guarantee what content will get backlinks, certain types encourage backlinks over others:
- Data visualizations
- How-to guides
- Image galleries
- Reports or studies
- White papers
The key is that the user shouldn’t find it difficult to use the content to their advantage. For example, data visualization should be easy to understand. An infographic should be colorful and easy to read on any size screen. A how-to guide should be broken up into sections and individual steps.
Engaging Content vs Forgettable
What’s the difference between excellent content and content that’s easy to ignore? Unique resources do something special to engage the reader in a number of ways:
- Elicit a strong emotion, like anger or happiness
- Communicate something new or communicate something in a new way
- Have visual appeal
- Address an interest or need that’s timely
- Approach a location-specific need
It’s also good practice for SEO link building to regularly update your content so it will continue to gain backlinks instead of becoming outdated. And if you have a piece of content that’s performing well, consider reworking it for another platform. For example, you can take a how-to guide on your website and turn it into a video for YouTube, a series of Stories for Instagram, or a Q&A session kickoff on Reddit. Even a great featured image or photo could drive traffic and engagement from Pinterest. All of these will get you unique backlinks you wouldn’t have otherwise gained.
3. Guest Post on Other Sites
Guest blogging is when you provide content for another website in your niche. For this to work in a backlink strategy, you need to make sure you’re not ghostwriting. Your byline and a link to your website should be included at the end of the article. The key here is to focus on quality when it comes to the outlets you choose to guest blog for and the content you write for them. Otherwise, you could actually hurt your rank instead of helping it.
Newsletters from platforms such as Substack and Revue also generate backlinks, as all the content is also listed online and not just in subscribers’ inboxes. Many newsletters will respond favorably to guest posts, and since they email based, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to shoot the author a quick message about partnering somehow.
4. Focus on Building Relationships
When you contact industry blogs and websites to promote something you just made, like an informative article or a case study, you may get a link out of it. However, your long-term goal should be to nurture an ongoing relationship, whether or not a backlink shows up right now. In the future, that brand may keep an eye on what you’re doing, talk about your business with others, ask you for an interview, request that you write a guest post, etc.
Also, in addition to building relationships with other professionals in your niche, interact and engage with your audience. This tactic isn’t going to work overnight, but you can certainly begin today by making introductions via email, connecting with people on social media, and leaving genuine comments on content that others produce. There is a very high chance that people in your network will link to your content because of that personal connection, mutual respect, and appreciation your content.
5. Tap Into Your Partnerships and Connections
Partners you regularly work with or customers who you know love your brand provide excellent opportunities for backlinking. Send a partner or brand ambassador a badge (i.e., a graphic icon) they can use on their site with a link back to yours. You can also get brownie points — and probably backlinks, too — if you write a heartfelt testimonial of their product or service. Better yet, publish a more in-depth review on your site, or pitch one as a guest post on their site.
6. Seek Out Non-Linked Mentions of Your Brand
Link reclamation is when you find mentions of your brand that aren’t linking back to your site. There are a number of tools that will help you with this, like BuzzSumo. To stay on top of mentions moving forward, you can use something as basic (and free) as Google Alerts. When you find a mention that’s not hyperlinked, reach out to the website owner to request a link. If the mention is a negative one or something that’s not actually relevant — like a link to one of your blog posts on a page that has nothing to do with the topic — ask that it be removed.
In the case of negative links that you don’t want to be associated with your brand, you can also disavow backlinks with Google’s tools. By doing so, you increase the ratio of positive to negative links which essentially is the same as building a new link.
7. Get Competitive for an SEO Link Building Edge!
There are a number of ways to check out what your competition is doing and get a leg up on them. Here are a few options:
- Ask for inclusion in link roundups, which are articles that gather a bunch of resources to help readers who want to keep exploring a topic. Simply Google “[keyword] + link roundup” and get in touch with the author.
- Look at where your competitors’ backlinks are coming from for content similar to yours, especially when it comes to target keywords. Use the Link Explorer from Moz to analyze high-performing pages of your competitors for backlinks.
- Found an out-of-date article on a topic you cover? Use a backlink checker to find the sites that are linking to it, then write the owners of those sites to see if they’ll consider using your much more relevant and up-to-date resource instead.
- Similar to the above tip, you can find pages with 404 errors and contact the site owner to see if they’ll replace the broken link with a backlink to your content. Search for resource pages on your topic (Google “[keyword] + resources”) then use the Check My Links Chrome extension to easily spot the error pages.
While you’re at it, clean up your own links! Check out our article about finding and fixing broken links in WordPress. The more healthy links you have on your site, the more content others can link back to.
8. Avoid Cheap Methods of Attaining Backlinks
By “cheap,” we mean cheap in value, not cost — because some methods are pricey even if they’re considered a black hat SEO tactic. Never buy links. Even if you pay for advertising, that’s not the same as purchasing backlinks. Paying for advertising has additional benefits on top of backlinks, and Google is able to tell the difference between a paid ad and a link-building scheme. (There’s even Schema for sponsored content.)
On the same note, don’t do largescale link exchanges. It’s fine to trade backlinks with a business partner, but otherwise, major link-exchange campaigns are frowned upon by search engines. A sudden influx of links to and from the same sites is a major red flat for Google and other search engines.
Final Thoughts About SEO Link Building
Maybe most importantly, you have to be patient. Even a solid SEO link building campaign can take time to show you results.
How competitive your niche is and your target keywords heavily influence the time it takes to see results. As does how actively your competitors are at building links, the types of links you’re focusing on, and how long your domain has been around will each impact when you start ranking higher. You may be lucky enough to see a change in a few days, but you may also have to wait a few months. Set your expectations so you can stay the course while you’re waiting for the payoff.
One more thing: SEO link building should improve your traffic, but it’s not the only important factor in running a website. You also need to create stellar content, provide reliable customer service, be active on social media, etc. Link building is only part of an overall SEO strategy, and an SEO strategy is only part of running a successful website or business.
What has been your #1 best tip for SEO link building? Let’s talk shop in the comments!
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