The Ultimate Guide to Building Backlinks

If you’ve got a site, and want to help boost it by building backlinks, then this ultimate guide is just for you! Detailing the best backlink basics through to more advanced backlinking tactics, you’ll easily be able to get a head start with these top tips!

Organised into 6 easy-to-follow sections (you can thank us later), we’ll deal with the basics of backlinking, ways to build effective and functional backlinks, link magnet creation, turning top content into backlinks, tried and tested backlink building methods, and a must-read extra tips section.

So, sit back, relax and get ready to learn about everything backlink related!

The Basics of Backlinking

If you’re still unsure when it comes to backlink basics, you will really struggle to build effective backlinks. So, first things first, before you go all guns blazing with your first backlink idea, you’ll need to have a strong understanding of what a backlink really is and why it’s so important in SEO (search engine optimisation).

So just what are backlinks? Sometimes called external links or inbound links, backlinks are links from other websites that lead to your website. In the eyes of the search engines, these backlinks are considered like points for your website and its content, and therefore can really impact your site’s ranking in search results. They’re called backlinks, simply because another website is linking back to yours.

Considering the fact that backlinks are viewed as points in your website’s favour from other sites, backlinks are needed to rank since they are an obvious way of telling search engines like Google that your content is worth looking at!

So the more backlinks your site has, then the more valued it will receive by the search engines, and thus it’ll rank higher in search results.

Given that backlinks are so important for your site’s ranking, just how many backlinks should you be aiming for?

We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but there is no exact answer to this question… however since the early days of Google, backlinks have been integral to their original PageRank algorithm. And even though there have been numerous alterations to this algorithm since then, one thing remains the same – backlinks are still a key ranking signal.  

For search engines, backlinks remain one of the top 3 most important ranking factors.

This leads us to the question of just how exactly do you build backlinks.

Not all backlinks are made equal – some can make a huge difference to your site, whereas others can sometimes negatively impact your rankings. So, just how easy is it to spot a winning backlink?

Obviously, the thing to do is focus on building good quality backlinks, which are going to help you rank better in Google and other search engines.

Consider it in this way – one top quality backlink can be far more impactful than thousands of low quality ones!

So just how to you determine which backlinks are high quality, and which aren’t?

Fortunately, high quality backlinks all tend to boast the same set of features which you can learn to spot.


  1.       The backlink is from a trusted, reputable website.


The more useful, trusted and authoritative a website is, the better its domain authority will be, which is how search engines judge the value of a site. This means the better the domain authority of the site that’s backlinking to you, the more authority and trust it can then pass onto your site.

If you get a backlink from a well-trusted site with a good domain authority, Google is going to value it more, and this in turn can help your site rise though the search engine rankings.

Although this type of backlink is far more elusive these days, it is definitely worth pursuing. (You can find out more about this type of backlink and how to get it in our next section.)


  1.       The link’s anchor text includes your target keyword


Generally speaking, when it comes to backlinks, you want them to have anchor text that uses your target keyword.

There are a number of industry studies that show a correlation with relevant keyword rich anchor text and higher rankings for that particular keyword that’s been used.

As a reminder, anchor text is simply the visible text part of the backlink. Therefore, anchor links are backlinks that use anchor text with a keyword you are currently targeting. Since the right anchor text with target keywords is going to be really relevant to your site, it also means that the link can be really powerful.

One thing to remember though is that you don’t want to over-do it with keyword rich anchor text, since Google actually has an algorithm filter called Penguin to deal with this.

Google Penguin basically filters out websites that use shady strategies (black hat SEO)  in terms of link building, and it’s designed to flag up and penalise sites that feature a lot of exact match anchor text links.

This means for example that if you are writing a guest or featured post, that you don’t want the anchor text to seem like spam in the eyes of Google.

So for backlinks with anchor text containing your target keyword, don’t go to too much trouble building them, since it can be a bit of risk.

On the plus side, when you do manage to achieve a backlink with that golden anchor text, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!


  1.      The site linking to you is relative to your niche


This is a really important point, since Google (as well as other search engines), want to see links that are coming from other websites that are relative to yours.

This is really just common sense, since of course Google is going to value sites that boast relevant content to yours. For example, if you write an article about skiing, Google will put more value on backlinks coming from sites about winter sports and outdoor pursuits than from sites about interior décor and cooking…

The result of this is that you want to build links from relative sites within your industry and within the same context.


  1.      It’s a dofollow link


There is a big difference between a dofollow link and a link with a nofollow tag. Any link with a nofollow tag attached to it is an indication for Google and other search engine’s to simply ignore it, which in turn means these links won’t be counted by the ranking algorithm.

On the web, the majority of links are fortunately dofollow links, and those that feature the nofollow tag tend to be pretty low value anyway. Sources that generally have a nofollow tag include blog comments, profile links and paid advertisements for example, which aren’t exactly the most helpful in terms of SEO anyway.

You don’t need to worry about nofollow links as long as you are using non-shady SEO tactics (white hat SEO). However since dofollow links are the only ones that count for search engines, you will want to get as many quality ones as you can.

The result of this is that you want to build links from relative sites within your industry and within the same context.


  1.     It’s the first time a domain is linking to you


A link from a site that has never linked to you before is always going to be more valued than one from a site that has linked to you over and over again. The ensuing links will not be viewed as powerful as the very first one.

Basically, repeated links from the same site will have less and less value.

View it in this way – it is better for your site to get fewer links but from all different websites, than more links all coming from the same one. The bigger the number of different referring domains linking to you, the more Google will like it. (Brownie points for you!)

These points all contribute in making powerful backlinks that are favourably viewed by search engines.

People aren’t going to link back to your site unless you have something of value to link to. Known in the industry as link magnets, this type of top quality content can be a video, a quiz, an article or more. Basically just anything worthy that people can then link to and want to be seen sharing

Usually, a link magnet will be some content, but just how do you go about creating it?

There are a few things to consider, and key amongst them is that you want your content, whatever it is, to be original, useful, and extremely relevant to your niche.

This type of content is going to take an investment in time and research, but if you can provide information that isn’t available elsewhere, then your content is definitely going to be seen as shareable.

The more helpful and original your content is, the more likely it will to be linked to, but remember that quality is better than quantity in terms of backlinks. So make your content top quality and the backlinks should reflect this.

Just how can you transform the quality link magnet you’ve just created into good quality backlinks though?

In order to build quality and reputable backlinks, you are going to need fantastic quality content on your site, and this content will obviously act as your link magnets. And good news for you, there are a few ways that you can try and get your content out there and linked to.

The first is to have a go at searching for link roundups within your niche. Link roundups are blog posts with the aim of linking to good quality and relative content, like yours. They tend to be published regularly such as weekly or monthly, and can be a great way to get your content to a wider audience, and getting linked to.

Search for link roundups within your area of expertise using search terms like keyword + link roundup, and keyword + roundup.

Having found a relevant and high-quality roundup, the next thing to do is to pitch your content to the site owner, detailing just why it deserves to be on that list. Send an email which includes the site owner’s name (take the time to find it out!), why you like their roundup, and just why your content could be a good fit for it. Make it personal and light, and non-pressuring, and you might just get a backlink.

Another method is a simple yet effective one that requires just a little bit of effort on your side.
It’s basically just having a snoop round out of date or rebranded web pages or businesses, and finding out any sites using these outdated resources to link back to them.

You can them email the relevant people, charitably letting them know that they have links to out of date content. At the same time, you can subtly hint that your new and better content is going to be the perfect fit to replace the old broken link. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

One other method that resembles the out of date linking investigation is broken link building, the key difference being that you’re just looking for pages that return a 404 error.

When it comes to finding these particular 404 links, focus on resource pages within your niche. Good search terms to start with are keyword + resource page, keyword + resources, and keyword + links for example.

Once you have found a 404 on site, then be friendly and give the site owner a head’s up, without begging for a link. It’s easy enough to find these broken links on a page just by using a Chrome Extension.

Once you’ve sent off your kind email to the site owner, they are at least going to view you and your site more favourably since you’ve done something helpful for them, and you could just get a backlink in return.

Back to the whole business of some sites being viewed by search engines as having more weight and authority behind their backlinks, bear in mind that academic websites with a .edu address are gold standard and really powerful.

Given that they are so powerful, they are also extremely discriminating about what it is they are linking to.

On the majority of university sites there are resource pages which contain links to helpful web pages that will be useful for both students and faculty. You can find these pages by using search terms such as edu + keyword, and edu +keyword + resources.

When reaching out to a .edu site, bear in mind that only a small proportion will then post your link, or consider posting it. However since these sites are so powerful, even just a small handful of these links can make a huge difference in search engine ranking.

Although it can at times suffer from a bad reputation, guest posting can still be a great way to get your content out there and backlinks pointing to your site. And actually especially if you are just new and starting out with your site, guest blogging can be a fantastic way to get more backlinks.

If you are willing to be super productive and crank out great quality guest posts, then this can be the perfect method to give your organic traffic a much needed lift.

You do need to remember to be picky about where you are writing those guest posts though. The sites should fit your niche and be of a decent quality – avoid spam at all costs!

And the more great quality guest posts you write, then the more you can get your site out there, and those sweet backlinks coming in.

You don’t always have to write reams of content when it comes to link building, and happily there are a few tried and tested ways to get backlinks that are relatively quick and easy to do.

Blogger reviews, for example, are going to be perfect for you if you actually sell a physical product like a piece of software, or offer some kind of consulting service for example.


What is Blogger Outreach and How Do I Get Influencer’s Attention?


These days, social media mavens and content creators have become the dominant tastemakers both online and offline.  One of the main questions you may be asking yourself is how to approach and collaborate with key influencers in your niche.

Over the last decade, social media marketing has evolved and is almost unrecognisable since it first became mainstream.  Now, more than ever, blogger outreach should be primarily focused on cultivating and building lasting relationships.


The Rise of Blogging and the Dominance Social Media


As social media and blogging became more prolific, old-fashioned link exchanges fell by the wayside and influencer marketing or blogger outreach campaigns were born.

The main idea behind a successful blogger outreach campaign (where you will be able to attain a lot of backlinks) is that a brand who is seeking exposure for a specific service or product, leverages influencers who have a strong following and asks them to write about it either for free or in exchange for a fee.


How to Get an Influencer’s Attention?


When it comes to blogger outreach it can sometimes be difficult to find the right people for for your niche.  For me, a personal approach is always best. Here are a few top tips to takeaway and use next time you’re looking to build relationships with content creators.

1)    Study the Writer – You may ask, but unless you take the time to research the writer and know exactly what their favourite topics are, then you’re wasting your time. This is worth remembering when it comes to which people to target.

For example, if you’re looking to gain exposure for a new and healthy food product, don’t limit yourself by simply contacting big-time food bloggers. Instead, compile a list of bloggers who will primarily focus on related topics such as home cooking, healthy eating and healthy food choices. This way you can contact with a much wider selection of content creators. 

2)    Keep Your Correspondence Simple – When you are ready to get in touch with new creators, it’s important to keep your message short and sweet.  Simple is best when it comes to this type of email. Just think, your busy, they’re busy…an overload of information is likely to put these people off responding to you.

3)    Flex Your Creative Wings – We all know creativity is key in this digital age.  If you’re working with a breakthrough product, amazing! However, chances are you will be looking to get exposure for a more generic product.

This is why it’s important to make sure the creative juices are flowing. Presenting your outreach campaign with creative flair or offering useful content initiatives can really help you to get some fantastic bloggers on board.

4)    Be Passionate about What You are Pitching – In today’s saturated brandscape it is more important than ever to be passionate about what you are pitching. Your enthusiasm for the service or product you are asking people to write about can often help seal the deal.

Make sure your enthusiasm comes through in any outreach emails you craft.  More often than not, a content creator will appreciate an emotional pitch as it shows you have spend time considering why they would be a great fit for your campaign.

5)    Establish Trust from the Get-go – When it comes to outreach it’s all about relationships and establishing trust! Either you already have a pre-existing relationship that you have spent time growing and cultivating, or you need to be prepared to work really hard to befriend them.

Get ready to comment on their blog, follow them on social channels and wine and dine them…you get the gist.  But just remember, it’s easy to kill a relationship as quickly as you start it! If you end up wasting people’s time and don’t follow through with campaigns and collaboration opportunities don’t be surprised if it’s only radio silence you receive next time you get in touch.

Regardless of whether you’re an in-house marketer or a PR person by trade, just remember that the key to blogger outreach is building lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

Link Reclamation Opportunities

For yet another simple tip, why not try out link reclamation, which is where, using an extension, you hunt for mentions of your company that aren’t actually linking back to your site.

All you have to is email the site owner with a friendly note reminding them to add your link in. It really is as simple as that, yet it can be really effective.

So be a bit proactive and give it a go – chances are they already like your service and site if they are mentioning it!

You can use tools and extensions to swiftly find out mentions of your brand. From there you can determine which ones aren’t linking, and then get in touch.

Simple, effective, and quick to do, these are some great ways to boost your backlinks.

Extra Tips

This guide has got plenty of ideas for strategies on how to build backlinks, but one more thing to consider is the fact that link building opportunities vary from industry to industry.

And one way to find them out and start making use of them is to spend a little time reverse engineering what your competition is doing. In this way it’s easy to find relevant link opportunities.

For example, if you run a winter sports blog, you can use a backlink checker to have a look at a top competitor’s backlinks. You then notice that a lot of these links come from podcasts, which you can then begin to target and reach out to.

Using this method, you can rapidly find out a whole plethora of link opportunities, just by checking out who is linking to your competitors.

Another thing to take into account is how to get links to your created content, which is obviously so important.

This content has to be well-written by someone that knows what they are talking about, evergreen so that it remains relevant for a long time, original and different from other previously written articles, and with useful information.

High quality content can result in high quality backlinks, which is something to always remember.

And finally a way to find out guest posting opportunities is simply by performing a reverse image search. Nobody enjoys trawling for good places to guest post, but with this trick, you can quickly sniff out some great opportunities.

The first thing to do is find a reputable member of your industry who is a prolific writer of guest posts. The next thing is to find one of these guest posts and copy the headshot they’ve used in their author bio. Then just use the URL of that headshot in Google reverse image search to find out the list of sites they’ve done guest posts for.

You can then use this list to get in touch with relevant sites that might well be ready to receive your guest post!

With our guide, you can see that there is no one way to build backlinks, but rather a whole variety of methods that you could and should be employing.

Everybody knows not to put all of their eggs in one basket, and the same applies to backlinking. So make sure to use a good selection of tactics to help boost your backlink profile.

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