Link building is an essential subcategory of search engine optimization (SEO) that helps a website generate a larger readership and increase engagement. Since the connectedness of the entire internet is based on links from one website to another, engaging with this infrastructure is a crucial component of developing a successful website or platform.
Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are a foundational piece of SEO strategy. These links, which direct back to your website from other websites, act as a point of recognition of the validity of your site, showing search engines that your content is worth linking to. This boosts your site’s search ranking, visibility, and outreach. Every time your page is linked by another site, search engines view it as a vote in favor of the quality of your site — a vote they reward with a higher organic ranking.
Successful backlinking is an important component of any SEO strategy. These links are a key factor in the algorithms used by major search engines like Google to determine search result rankings. In this process, backlinks serve several purposes:
Every time a website links to your content, search engines register this as a vote of confidence. The more credibility your website builds, the more organic reach your site will attain.
When other sites link back to yours, it tells Google you are a point of authority within your niche and may be a platform more people want to see — this will boost your rankings within the algorithm.
As one of the original ways the Google algorithm determines website quality and reach, backlinks are one of Google’s top three points of consideration when determining a website’s relevance and importance within the algorithm. Like a restaurant with five-star reviews, a website that is frequently linked to shows social proof of that content’s value.
These are links within your website that link to other areas of your website — think a link that says ‘Contact Us’ and brings visitors to the contact page, or embedded links on your blog posts that link to previous blogs. Internal links guide visitors through your site, keeping them on the site longer and helping them discover more about your platform, business, or service. Linking throughout your website also gives search engines a better understanding of how your site works, which pieces of information are connected, and how users may use your platform, helping you increase the SEO performance of your site.
External links direct people to websites other than your own, such as a blog post linking to a data source or an About Us page linking to the websites of your business partners, these links embed your website within a network of other websites. Linking to reputable, high-quality sources will benefit your SEO, but be warned — linking to low-quality sites and domains can actually hurt your website’s SEO.
Knowing that backlinks will boost their website’s SEO ratings, some people have attempted to exploit this setup by linking back to their own websites in the comments sections of larger, reputable platforms so search engines would interpret these backlinks—known as ‘dofollow links’—as points towards the credibility of these target sites. To prevent people from spamming the backlinking algorithm, search engines developed a ‘nofollow’ link setting that could be embedded from the point of view of the overall site administrator, excluding any hyperlinks posted to their site from this SEO crawling. A good dofollow link would be if a reputable company commented on your blog post and linked their product as a related item within your topic. A nofollow link would be put into place by default to ensure that spam sales links and other unwanted content do not affect your site’s SEO.
In general, domain authority is a metric that determines the strength of a particular domain name and the likelihood that it will rank well in search engine result pages (SERPs). Several factors play into a website’s domain authority, including the age of the site, its popularity, its size, and total number of links. Ranked on a score of 0-100 points, sites with a higher score will rank higher in SERPs and have more success when it comes to web traffic.
Tip: Focus on quality over quantity
Like anything, the value added from your linking strategy is more important than the quantity of links you include. While quantity of links is important, search engines favor a few high-quality links over a large number of low-quality links. Linking to reputable sources will add value and credibility to your site in the eyes of search engines, while links to poor-quality sources will quickly diminish your site’s value.
A firm understanding of linking strategy will help you boost your SEO to increase your site’s reach and credibility. However, linking can be a tedious and time-consuming process, so it’s important to get it right. In this section, we’ll explain how to build backlinks that deliver consistent, reliable results.
Now that you know how important it is for other sites to link back to yours, apply this knowledge to your content strategy — you need to develop content that others will want to link to in the first place. Content pieces that add value and information to their industry, niche, or audience (also known as “linkable assets”) will encourage other sites to link back to your site and your articles. Without producing this type of content, you are unlikely to draw attention from other sites and therefore unlikely to receive many backlinks.
Even better, creating interesting and linkable content will help establish your business or platform as a leader or subject expert in its given niche, making it even more likely that readers will keep coming back to your site and creating additional backlinks moving forward. So, start by choosing interesting, relevant topics in your area and creating content in the form of blogs, images, or articles that people will genuinely want to share.
Once you’re creating high-quality content, you will be able to generate growth and outreach by leveraging your social media channels and online community. Many backlinks occur when people within your network share your content because it is relevant to them and their following. If you publish a new blog, share it to your social media channels to gain organic reach and distribution. If it’s the type of content your audience likes to see, people will link to it, boosting your backlinking statistics through organic reach. Whether you use Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, or TikTok, you can link to your content in your bio to increase your reach on multiple platforms.
While a linking strategy may feel purely technical, it is largely based on community, network, and relationships. The best way to develop a strong linking strategy is to become an active member in the online community of your niche or industry. Take the time to build online relationships with fellow business owners, entrepreneurs, or professionals until you develop a network of individuals who find your content valuable and share it with their own audience — you can also return the favor. Link building isn’t a quick fix; it’s actually a long-term project that takes time, strong relationships, and dedication to your field. Superficially arranging for fast linking may reduce the value of your site’s SEO, but links from your peers are almost guaranteed to be higher in quality. Furthermore, by embedding yourself within the industry, you’ll create more opportunities for backlinks in the future.
High-authority sites are those with a domain authority score higher than 70. These sites are trusted by industry experts, users, and search engines alike — think major news outlets like CNBC or Bloomberg, large corporations like McKinsey or Nielson, branded companies like Nike or Apple, or other reputable industry organizations like universities, industry-expert blogs, nonprofits, or think tanks. When you’re looking for backlinks, try to target sites with relative authority in your field compared to your site. Conduct outreach to ensure that you include links to their sites, and use their articles as links to prove that your content is trustworthy and authoritative.
By setting up a guest-posting system where individuals from other businesses in your network write content for your site, you create a myriad of opportunities for mutually beneficial backlinking. Not only can guest posters link back to their website, but they can also cross-publish the piece on their site and link back to yours. Beyond the backlinking benefits, guest posting positions your platform as a central hub of expertise in your field and allows you to engage the guest poster’s audience in addition to your own. Plus, by cross-linking on each other’s sites, you will generate additional traffic to both sites, cementing a digital community and increasing your overall reputability in the eyes of readers and search engine algorithms alike.
Engaging with guest posters and drawing a larger audience into your network requires an intentional and systematic outreach strategy. A strong outreach method might consist of personalized, thoughtful emails that take a professional tone and are carefully tailored to each recipient — it’s important that your outreach doesn’t come across as generic, templatized, or spammy. Be sure to provide the following details within each message to give the recipient an idea of what to expect:
During this initial outreach, it’s a good idea to share examples of other guest posts you have featured and provide some potential topic ideas of topics so they feel supported and understand exactly what is expected of them.
Generate a list of individuals who you hope to feature, source their contact info from LinkedIn, their websites, or social media, and systematically reach out to compile a pipeline of potential guests within your network.
In order to build an effective strategy, it’s important to track your progress over an extended period of time and continuously monitor the backlinking tactics you use on your site. Because effective backlinking requires long-term relationship building, it’s essential to monitor and analyze your progress so you can make any necessary adjustments to your approach. How can you tell if your link building strategy is working?
We’ve learned that good links can yield real results for your SEO and web traffic, but what about bad links? After all, these links can counteract all of the effort you put into your backlinking strategies and ruin your website’s SERP. Keeping that in mind, it’s essential to monitor your website’s links to make sure there are no toxic links bringing down your entire marketing strategy. Here’s how you can manage your links, check for bad ones, and remove them.
Programs like Google Search Console, Moz, and Ahrefs will allow you to view bad links as well as their sources, streamlining your link audit so you can root out the bad seeds.
In order to get bad links removed, you usually have to contact the site or webmaster of the platform that linked your article and ask them to remove the links. Other apps like cognitiveSEO allow you to disavow bad links.
When it comes to outbound links on your own site, you should continuously test them to ensure no links are broken. Having links that don’t go anywhere or connect to a disabled site is bad for your SEO, and search engine crawlers will observe this data when they audit your site. To complete this task, either sift through links manually or use a Google Chrome extension like Check My Links, which will sift through the information for you and provide a detailed report.
Beyond the SEO downsides, broken links are bad for user experience and can cause site visitors to avoid your site in the future if they see that it is not properly maintained. With bad user experience comes a decline in organic traffic — this harms your SEO, derails your marketing efforts, and undermines your backlinking strategy to begin with. When you find bad links on your site, either update the link, remove it altogether, or find a valuable substitute.
Developing your backlink strategy goes hand in hand with any marketing and outreach strategy — in fact, the two will often grow simultaneously. Generally speaking, a consistent outreach strategy will help you build a strong brand, following, or customer base.
At the heart of every marketing strategy is one core question: Is your brand or platform adding value to the market? The key to adding value is creating content that is interesting and relevant to your audience. This content will inevitably also be relevant to potential partners who can offer backlinks. Check what other companies backlink to, and develop a pipeline of individuals or brands in your network that you would want to link to your site. Develop content, share it with them, and encourage them to share it on their platforms as well. Consistently develop your network, and your linking success will follow suit.
When it comes to brand reach, engagement, and awareness, SEO is an essential tool to gain access to millions of web users. Since link building is a foundational part of any SEO strategy, it should be a critical piece of your overall marketing plan. There are numerous layers of nuance and detail to consider here, but the most important takeaway is simple: Quality is better than quantity.
Why? Low-quality links have the potential to damage your site’s reputation and hurt its credibility within search engine algorithms. Rather than packing your site full of dozens of links to random websites, spam sites, or irrelevant content, focus on adding links to reliable, high-quality sources like major institutions, organizations, companies, brands, or platforms. This will increase your website’s SEO, giving it a valuable ‘vote of confidence’ within the algorithms.
Beyond linking to other sites, it’s also important to make sure reputable sites are linking back to you. How? It’s simple — develop quality content that is relevant and engaging for others in your niche, reach out to people in your network, collaborate on posts and cross-link, and continuously audit the links that point to your website. Linking is a long game, but the results are certainly worth the effort!
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