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A Guide to Link Building for SEO

3D render - backlinking

Link building is one of the most important SEO techniques today. You might even say it’s nearly inescapable.

But what is link building?

At its simplest, it’s the process of building or getting backlinks for your website.

What are backlinks? They’re hyperlinks, like this one leading to Wikipedia’s “Backlink” page, that lead to a website from another one.

That example would be a backlink for Wikipedia. In link building, you want to build backlinks leading from other websites to yours. You want backlinks for you.

Now, there are all sorts of ways to get or build backlinks. Before we get to those, though, let’s go over why any of this matters.

Why is it (link building) important?

Close up of computer screen with cursor hovering over 'click here' link

In a nutshell, a good set of backlinks – which we’ll call your link profile – can do a lot for your SEO.

Search engines like Google care about link profiles. It’s one of the ways they evaluate a site’s relevance and value to people searching for things online.

The idea is that a link profile with a lot of backlinks coming from trustworthy websites to yours indicates that you’re trustworthy too.

After all, why would other expert or authoritative sites refer to you so often if you weren’t?

So, strong backlinks are votes of confidence for your site. They help search engines like Google figure out if you’re worth putting higher up in search results pages.

This makes link building a great supplement to a lot of SEO strategies. It also makes it indispensable in certain situations.

For example, you may have great content but also have a fairly new site that hasn’t had much time to earn authority yet. That’s when link building could help you get a head start.

How does link building work?

There are a tonne of ways to do link building. Here are a few examples:

Guest blogging

Some website owners will allow you to insert a link in a guest blog (to be published on their site) that leads back to your own website.

Manual outreach

You can look for websites whose topics are related to your own and whose content can use yours as a reference, then contact their webmasters to invite them to link to you in that content.

Social media promotion

A lot of things are possible here, but a common way of doing it is to sponsor a media event that has local bloggers writing about and linking to you.

These are just some of the preferred options. You can also try things like purchasing links (paying other sites’ owners for backlinks to yours), honestly, but it’s not advised.

If you’re wondering why, just consider this: if a site’s backlinks can be paid for, what are the odds of it being a high-quality site?

Bear in mind that the websites you link to are also considered in SEO. That’s why any site that sells outbound links often should be suspect, as it could very well link to low-quality or topically irrelevant websites for a high enough fee.

Google will note that and will likely consider it a mark against that site’s authority.

So, that website may not even have enough authority to pass on to you (or any other site buying backlinks from it).

Hence, it’s usually better to go for organic links, i.e. ones that have not been bought.

Is every link leading to your site a backlink?

Easel with no entry symbol

Not necessarily.

You see, it’s possible for a link to be a nofollow link.

A nofollow link is one that Google doesn’t consider when assessing link profiles. It’s designated by a site’s webmaster using a special tag in the site’s code.

This tag means the webmaster doesn’t want Google to pass any PageRank (read this as “authority”) to the website the link leads to.

There could be any number of reasons for that.

Maybe they’re only linking to it to illustrate something but not to refer to it as a trusted resource.

Or they think it’s not the type of site they’d like to endorse even if they have to link to it for some reason or another.

Either way, a nofollow link doesn’t really contribute to your link profile due to this.

Incidentally, user-generated links are also not counted by Google in link profiles. This refers to links to your website that come from things like these:

  • Users’ comments on a blog post

  • Social media user profiles

  • An advertisement

  • Forum posts

  • Web directories (they’re usually nofollowed now, anyway)

It’s easy to see why they’re not counted. They’re all too easy to manipulate sans any concession to quality control or actual authority checks.

This is also why Google tends to ignore backlinks from press releases published on a newswire. They know companies add the backlinks themselves to those press releases.

That being said, we’re not saying they’re useless for marketing. Backlinks in all of these places can still contribute to brand awareness… just not so much PageRank, at least mechanically.

Tips for Successful Link Building

With all this, what can you do to increase your chances of building a strong link profile? Here are some of our favourite tips for that!

1. Create resources people can link to

Animated graphic representing online resources

This is easily one of the best ways to get backlinks organically.

Have a tonne of amazing videos on your website? Helpful guides unequalled on the Internet? Eye-popping and useful infographics about highly popular topics?

All of those are linkable resources. They’re things others want and would be willing to link to you for.

2. Seek out brand mentions

Animated graphic of megaphone on computer screen

It’s actually fairly common for people to mention businesses or brands online without linking to their websites. That’s where seeking these brand mentions comes in.

Tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush let you find these and can even get you the ones that don’t have links to you yet.

From there, you can contact the webmasters or owners of those websites and ask politely if they would be willing to link to your site in that mention.

Be sure to thank them too for mentioning you at all, by the way, whether they agree to the backlink or not!

Incidentally, note that we didn’t link to either the Ahrefs or SEMRush site a few paragraphs above. Either of those businesses could now theoretically ask us to add links to this page as part of their backlink strategy.

3. Post your stuff / link to it on social media

Animated graphic of different social media icons flashing on phone screen

The idea here is to make sure more people see your linkable resources. Promote them on social media for that.

If more people know that you have assets worth linking to, you’re more likely to get organic links!

4. Reverse-engineer competitors’ link profiles

Animated graphic of a bar chart with magnifying glass over it

This isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The idea is that what worked for them will very likely work for you.

So, use one of the tools we mentioned earlier to look at your competitors’ backlinks. Filter results to the backlinks from sites that haven’t linked to you yet.

Now, study those backlinks. Among other things, you can try to figure out what your competitor did to get those backlinks.

For instance, do you see a lot of backlinks to pages with heavily researched white papers?

Are the backlinks mostly to infographics about a specific topic? Or to a video explaining some concept?

That tells you some of the things that work when trying to get people to refer to your website in this niche.

You can replicate those same strategies by producing similar assets… and after checking out your competition, even try to outdo it.

After that, you can try to offer your asset as an updated and improved replacement to your competitor’s asset, potentially switching all those backlinks over to you.

5. Do broken link building

Animated graphic of a broken chain getting fixed

Broken link building is a strategy that involves looking for broken links on a webpage, then offering a webmaster a link to replace them.

Broken links usually happen because the resource or webpage that a backlink used to lead to no longer exists. This happens fairly often on the Web.

The trick here is to look for websites that are in the same niche as you. Then, using a broken backlink checking tool – pick your poison, as there are a lot online – find broken backlinks on it.

After that, look at the backlinks to find at least one that could potentially link to one of your existing assets or webpages.

You can also pick broken backlinks leading to missing resources that you think you can replicate or replace easily with new content.

From there, simply contact the site’s webmaster to let him know that you found broken backlinks on his site and offer your replacement link to fix those.

This technique works because it offers people something: you help them find an issue on their site and even offer a solution for it too!

Begin your own link building for SEO

Small network connected to a larger network. Web of red, orange and yellow wires on white background.

As you can see, link building for SEO can take many shapes. It also involves quite a few rules of thumb.

On the whole, a mix of both passive and active link building is best. You should be generating assets to entice people into linking to you while also reaching out to them with invitations to do so.

If you’re uncertain of how to go about this and what to look out for, we can help. Link building is one of our strengths, as many of our clients request it.

Simply talk to us and we’ll go over what might be the best course of action for you. Contact us now for your digital marketing needs!

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