When an external website links to a page from your website, they are giving you what’s called a backlink. Backlinks are used by search engines to help quantify the value of a given site. Theoretically, with all other things remaining equal, sites with more backlinks will be given priority in search rankings over those with fewer. Think of each backlink like a vote from one website to another.
That said, all backlinks aren’t the same and it’s not just a numbers game of who has the most backlinks. When building backlinks, relevance is essential.
Always Aim for High-Quality Backlinks
Remember, it’s always quality over quantity. To understand why high-quality backlinks are so valuable, it’s helpful to learn the reason backlinks are used by search engines like Google in establishing search ranking. The rationale goes that websites link to content they think their readers will find valuable. Therefore, the more sites that link to a specific piece of content, the more valuable that content must be.
Search engines place a higher value on backlinks from websites considered authoritative because it’s assumed that those sites will only link to other high-quality content. Thus, the value of a backlink is generally considered higher when it comes from a more authoritative site. However, I believe any relevant reference from any quality website is good and if you’re starting out, you’ll need to aim for what you can get.
One high-quality backlink is better than hundreds of poor quality links. Which brings us to the difference between white hat and black hat SEO.
Importance of White Hat vs. Black Hat
Black hat SEO strategies are essentially cheats – usually the easy way with the least amount of work. As you can guess, they typically result in spammy, low quality backlinks. Black hat is generally frowned upon and some black hat techniques can be downright unethical.
Typical examples of black hat strategies include link farming, link bait-and-switch, buying dofollow backlinks directly from other sites, blog comment spamming, sneaky redirects, and more. Here’s the official list of no no’s directly from Google. These techniques can generate a large number of backlinks, which is why websites (particularly those just starting out) are often tempted to use them. But ultimately, they’re spammy and result in low quality.
Search engines are aware of these cheats and they eventually catch on. When they do, your website will be severely punished in the search rankings, and it will likely be extremely difficult to recover. Not good. Therefore, stick with white hat link building strategies (which I’ll get to below) which are the only way to build long term value.
You Can’t Rush Quality
White hat works, but it isn’t fast. It’s a process that takes dedication. Results will be slow, and it can cost a lot of time and money (if you hire someone to help you).
So now without further ado, here’s some techniques to help you get started with your link building!
How to Build Backlinks When You’re Just Starting Out
Building backlinks can be difficult when your website is new because no one knows you exist. In order to get the ball rolling, you need to start introducing your site to people, providing them useful, relevant information that they’ll want to link to.
1. It All Starts With Great Content
Before you can start executing the strategies detailed in this article, you need to begin generating content. After all, you can’t get a backlink if you have nothing for websites to link to!
High-quality, engaging, authoritative content is what you’re after. You need to get people excited and motivate them to share your content through a link. Fluff content that’s light on value will be ignored. You want to be THE source for information in your industry.
It’s important to make sure your content is clear, easy-to-read, and formatted well. Using bullet points, quotes, tables, graphics, and infographics can help convey a lot of useful information in a digestible manner. Creating dynamic content is step one. Once you’ve established a decent collection you can start chasing backlinks.
2. Ask People You Know
At the very beginning of your backlink journey, you’ll have very little clout, and links will be hard to come by. So, start with your warm market.
Ask business partners, friends with established websites, and other connected acquaintances you might know if they’ll link to some of your content. Send them links to content you’ve created that’s relevant to what they do in some way.
3. Work on Building Relationships
Your warm market will only get you so far. Eventually, you’ll need to expand your pool of candidates.
A great way to do this is to establish an active social media presence or an email newsletter. Interact with people in your industry and related industries. Start building a community and create an email list to keep in touch. Constant Contact is a great tool for this. By sharing your content, accompanied by friendly banter, you’ll establish yourself as an approachable authority on your subject. You’ll become well-known, and people will naturally begin linking to you.
You can also start commenting on other people’s content. This further establishes you among your peers and helps introduce you to the people that can ultimately give you backlinks. You can also sneak a backlink of your own into a comment occasionally. Don’t do this frequently however, as it can damage the relationships you’re trying to build.
Relationships are also very useful for generating guest blogging opportunities.
4. Start Guest Blogging
Contributing an article on someone else’s website is a great way to build high-quality backlinks and is also mutually beneficial since the blog you’re writing for gets free content. When guest blogging, you should always contribute an authentic article sharing your personal insights and experience on whatever topic you specialize in. This will also serve as a great way to build authority.
Acquiring guest blogging opportunities are difficult though, especially if you’re new and unknown. You’ll have to outreach to numerous websites and you’ll often find yourself getting rejected. Link-able is a powerful platform that helps websites with great content build quality backlinks by hiring established authors who can outreach and guest blog for you. It’s not cheapest route but can give you an immediate edge in quality link building.
5. Create an Original Study
Writers frequently try to bolster the authority of their content with relevant statistics pulled from a well-designed study. If you have useful information, you can publish your own study and get quantities of premium backlinks. This sounds daunting, and it is time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. And the payoff can be well worth the investment.
The simplest way to design a study is to create a survey using a tool like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey. Fill it with questions designed to elicit the data you’re looking for, and then send it out to a sampling of relevant people. Once you get a sufficient number of responses back you can look for patterns in the data and then publish your results.
6. Design Infographics
Infographics are immensely popular. People respond to information published in this format because it can make even complex data easy to understand. They’re entertaining, snackable content, and they get shared on social media in huge numbers.
You can generate backlinks by publishing your infographic on your website along with a supporting article. Include an embed code so that people can easily share your infographic on their websites. This gives you an instant attribution and backlink.
Then promote the graphic on your social media sites, Reddit, and through various infographic submission sites, like graphs.net and visual.ly. The more you can get it shared, the larger your backlink pool will grow.
7. Give a Backlink, Get a Backlink
You can generate a lot of quality backlinks by finding relevant content on other sites, linking to it, and then reaching out to the publisher to let them know. You can thank them for the content and tell them that you enjoyed it so much, you linked to it on your site.
Don’t ask for a backlink in return. Approaching this as a quid pro quo won’t get you very far. Instead, use this as a way to build a relationship and just make them aware of your website. Over time you’ll become known to the publishers of the content that you’re linking to and as long as your publishing useful content of your own, those people may start linking back to you.
8. Research Who’s Linking to Your Competitors
Using a tool like Ahref’s Link Intersect tool you can look for websites that are currently providing backlinks to your competitor’s sites. The fact that they’re linking to sites similar to yours can be a good indication that they’d be willing to link to your content as well. This research creates a list of strong backlink candidates that you should pursue.
9. Find Broken Links and Replace the Content
This is another creative strategy that, when implemented properly, can gain you a number of high-quality backlinks in a very short period of time. Here’s how it works.
Content on the internet disappears frequently. Companies can go out of business and take down their sites. Blogs are abandoned. Content is retired. When this happens, any website that’s linking to it will end up with a broken link that goes nowhere. Site owners don’t like this because it’s a drag on the user experience.
You can alleviate this problem for them by recreating the content they were linking to on your own website and then providing them a new URL to replace the broken link. If you contact all of the sites that were linking to the original content, you’ll instantly get backlinks from them. To find broken links, you can use Ahref’s Broken Link Checker tool.
10. Answer Questions on Q&A Sites
Sites like Quora allow people to ask questions and solicit answers. You can build backlinks by providing accurate, thorough answers to any questions that are relevant to your industry or subject and then include a link to get more information.
It should be clear now just how important quality backlinks are when link building. Accumulating them requires a significant investment of time and effort. However, the payoff can be substantial. Over time your site can rise through the search ranks and eventually become one of the authoritative sites prized by others for the quality backlinks you provide.
You just need to start!
Jay Douglas is an entrepreneur & digital marketer with over a decade of experience. He is founder of Link-able, a unique platform that connects businesses with elite authors who can build relevant backlinks for SEO and PR. He is also founder of How To Get Online, an educational resource for helping small businesses learn about making websites and getting their business online. Jay loves learning and he loves teaching. That’s what the Web is all about for him!