Link building is a practiced art that has evolved over the years. There are dozens of methods to acquire links, yet they all revolve around universal ideas and principles that are necessary to make link building effective. At the core of every good backlink, you will find relevance and authority.
If we look back 20 years ago, when Google was just getting started, we see that links have always been a major part of Google’s algorithm. Larry Page and Sergey Brin may not have invented the concept, but in theory, it makes sense to rank web properties with the most relevant backlinks because it indicates the popularity of the site.
This concept remains important today however, in order for a link to be a “quality link” there needs to be a very clear reason for why the link exists. The relevance a link has from one site to another has a direct correlation in how much it benefits a website.
With search engines reaching new heights of understanding, relevance is equally, if not more important than the PageRank of a linking website. This was noted back when Google stopped updating PageRank publicly in 2013.
In an interview with James Norquay, Andre Weyher, a former Google employee who worked with Matt Cutts, was officially quoted saying “Relevance is the new PageRank.”
There are dozens of ways to improve your on-page SEO, but backlinks are one of the three largest ranking factors. If you’re no stranger to SEO, you’ll appreciate our experts’ advice on the backlinking tactics they’re using to move the needle in 2020.
Keep in mind that the rules of SEO constantly change with every update that Google makes. The small adjustments that you make in your own link building campaigns could mean the difference between achieving a mediocre result and having an incredibly successful campaign.
The following is a collection of expert advice from professionals who have proven themselves in their industry and achieved a high level of success in their own link building efforts.
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Target high domain authority websites within your industry
If you’re starting a link building campaign, set your sites on the top performers in your target industry and the verticals that are directly related to it.
Relevance is no longer a question at this point but a necessity.
Combine the two qualities you know to make a significant impact on your link building efforts: relevance and authority.
Adam Franklin from Bluewire Media states “Link building from high authority sites is still the activity that will move the needle the most when it comes to getting better rankings on Google.”
~ Adam Franklin, Bluewire Media
Adam’s not alone in his perspective about linking from high authority sites. Jeremey Moser, author at Search Engine Journal and co-founder of uSERP explains:
“Link building is both a numbers and quality game. While links from Forbes are incredibly valuable and therefore highly desired, acquiring them is nearly impossible.
When qualifying link targets, set your sites on the biggest bang for your outreach buck: domain ratings of 50-75. These sites are far more likely to accept guest content and build link partnerships with you, even if your brand awareness isn’t that of HubSpot yet.
Not only will your response and success rates rise, but these connections and subsequent links will also open future doors at even larger publications, compounding your link building opportunities exponentially.”
~ Jeremy Moser, uSERP
Offer value in your outreach campaigns
Reaching out to prospects for a link is becoming increasingly more difficult. Site owners aren’t exactly thrilled at the opportunity to add your link to their existing content unless there’s real value in doing so.
In fact, outreach typically gets abysmal success rates. Approximately 90% of outreach emails go unanswered. That makes a highly successful conversion on a cold outreach campaign somewhere around 8%.
When asked what his expert advice was on this particular aspect of link building, Brian Dean from Backlinko stated:
“I recommend focusing almost 100% of your outreach on broken links.
Or other creative ways to make someone’s page better.
Reaching out to ask someone to add your link can still work. But it’s tough. Pitching your link as a replacement for a dead link has a much higher success rate right now.
In fact, I recently ran a broken link building campaign that converted at nearly 10%. And it’s all because replacing the dead link with a working link to my site made that page better.”
~ Brian Dean, Backlinko
Alistair Dodds from Ever Increasing Circles expanded on this tactic:
“We continue to get great results from recovering dead links for clients. Using Ahrefs we’re able to find links on target publishers sites pointing to 404 pages.
We then use archive.org to see what the content on the 404 pages used to look like.
We’ll then create a new piece of content that is contextually relevant to the old piece of content that was on the 404 page.
We’ll then reach out to each publisher to explain that they are linking to a 404 page and advise the URL of our updated piece of content.
With a refined outreach template, we’ve been able to get great results and quality new links via this technique.”
~ Allistair Dodds, Ever Increasing Circles
Take a link from those who are asking for links
If you’re just getting up to speed on the whole quality content thing, it may come as a surprise that some of the best ways to build links are using content marketing strategies.
That being said, great content writers also happen to be great link builders. When asked for her advice, Lesley Vos, Content Strategist at Bid 4 Papers shared valuable insights on link building:
“My tactic will work for you if: – you are an active guest blogger; – you get tons of emails asking for backlinks, a la “We saw your article, it’s great, could you please add our link there?” or “Here goes our article, please backlink to it from your content.”
I call it “Take links from those asking for links.”
It’s simple: Examine those askers’ websites to see if their niche, traffic, and other significant metrics could be a potential fit for your link building endeavors.
If relevant, agree to backlink to them from your upcoming content (if appropriate) but ask to return the favor:
You’ll write a guest post for them, or they will backlink to your relevant content from their website.
This tactic takes time and energy, but it always works for me.
It’s all about psychology: Those pitchers were first to ask, so they just can’t say no and lose the opportunity when they are so close to getting what they want.”
~ Lesley Vos, Bid 4 Papers.
Build mutually beneficial co-marketing partnerships
Who wouldn’t want more people helping to get their business more mentions? When you think of the amount of work that goes into producing content for your website-both onsite and off, why not make those efforts work two, three or five times as hard for you?
Sara McGuire, the content marketing manager at Venngage understands this concept and alludes to establishing a personal influencer network to expand your outreach efforts exponentially.
“If you want your content distribution efforts to be sustainable, don’t burn through contacts with lazy outreach. Approach link building as the beginning of a partnership, rather than a one-off exchange.
First, identify potential partners and test the waters by asking if they would reference your content or recommend your product. Then, look for ways to extend that relationship into a more long-term co-marketing partnership.
The better you understand each other’s products and areas of expertise, the easier it will be to find opportunities to mention each other in your content moving forward. Plus, you will create the opportunity to carry those relationships with you to different roles and in different companies.”
~ Sara McGuire, Venngage
Leverage a client’s network within their industry
Link building requires both creativity as well as rational thinking. Combining both perspectives can be a huge asset when determining a link building strategy.
When asked for her insight, Britney Muller, SEO strategist at Moz said that “Leveraging a client’s current network (both within industry & locally) is one of the easiest and most overlooked ways to build links.”
~ Britney Muller, Moz
“The typical link-building advice from experts is often not very actionable for small businesses.
They say stuff like “build great content and you’ll get links naturally.”
That’s just not realistic for your average brick and mortar shop, and they need links too.
A more practical local link-building tip for those businesses is to leverage the local relationships they already have.
For example, if you’re a plumber you probably work with electricians, painters, and a variety of other contractors.
Create a local coalition with businesses in your community that serve the same audience and you’ve got some valuable links built up pretty quickly.”
~ Patrick Leonard, Brighter Digital
Jeffrey Michael, from J. Moriarty Marketing, adds, “Our company works with most eCommerce websites. One of the best ways we go about building our first high authority links is working with the manufacturers of our client’s products.
Most manufacturers list their retailers on their websites with a direct link. This is something most companies don’t go after, but we do. It’s one of the easiest ways to jump-start a link building campaign with some great links.
We normally go through all of our products on our client’s website, put a list together of the manufacturers, and then research their websites.
This gives us a complete list of the sites that do have “Retailer” pages where links are available.
We then reach out to get the client listed. We are 90% successful with this.”
~ Jeff Michael, J. Moriarty Marketing
Be consistent in applying your strengths
There are quite a few link building tactics that are effective, yet there is no universal answer that will solve the problems of every website. Your efficiency multiplies when you apply the methods in which you have developed the most skill.
Nate Shivar from Shivar Web eloquently explains, “I think sticking to a strategy that works for your team is best. There is no silver bullet or magic strategy.
Consistency over the course of months or years matters more. If you have a good writer, lean into text content.
If you have a good technical SEO, lean into broken link building, if you do images well, lean into image link building etc.
Stay consistent with your own team’s strengths.”
~ Nate Shivar, Shivar Web
Experiment with different types of link building
Oksana from Albacross really takes this message home by stating “When it comes to link building, I’ve tried tons of strategies. And I can tell that all the strategies that could be found all over the Internet are workable but not always 100% efficient.
The effectiveness of every single link building strategy depends on your goals, your business type, and your niche. With the right strategy in place, link building can help boost your ranking, drive traffic, and establish yourself as an industry expert.
Every business is unique and has its own peculiarities, which lead to the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And what works for one business might work for you but it also might not.
That’s why I strongly believe that experimenting with different types of link building strategies could bring more value for your type of business than you expected.”
~ Oksana Chyketa, Albacross
Focus on editorial links and do not over-optimize anchor texts
“Guest posting has proved its weight in gold and can still be used to acquire high-powered links.
Take advantage of the ability to add contextual links to your website and to your linking partner sites.
Even if your links are no-followed when publishing on the top sites you can still earn a reputation for your brand and drive relevant traffic to your site.
~ Maria Fox, Branex Inc.
“Links inside the body of the content of a page have more weight than any location on the page such as navigation bars and footers. The best way to get editorial links is to publish great content on your own website and reach out to other webmasters.
One of the most common mistakes SEOs make is when they want a certain page to rank for a specific keyword, they’ll try to build as many links as possible with the same anchor text as the specific keyword you are targeting. This can be too spammy from Google’s view and it looks too unnatural.
Adjust the anchor text of your links depending on the flow of the content. Do not force the keyword as the anchor text just for the sake of it. Try different variations of the keyword and make sure it fits the context of the content.”
~ Sean Si, SEO-Hacker
Automate your efforts
As you scale up your efforts automation will play an important role in being able to consistently provide quality. Shane Barker sheds more light on this aspect of link building:
“I think all of us understand how important link building is for SEO. And you’ll also agree that manual link building can be a very time-consuming task. Plus, it’s prone to human errors.
That’s why I prefer using automated link-building tools to streamline the process from start to finish.
There are many data collection tools that can help you spot potential sites from where you can earn backlinks. Using them can help you uncover opportunities that you never knew existed.
Then, there are backlink audit tools that can help you inspect complex backlink profiles and remove spammy links. You can create a strong inbound link profile using them.
You can also leverage email automation tools to create and send personalized emails, requesting editors to add or update your link in their blog posts. You can set a follow-up schedule so that you don’t miss getting back to them.
All of these link building tools can help you boost the efficiency and productivity of your SEO team, just like they help boost mine.”
~ Shane Barker, Shane Barker
Expert link building advice
The influence backlinks have on the ranking of a website demands that you implement every link building campaign with a well-researched strategy.
No matter how much you read, you will find the deepest truths and greatest insights from the methods you use personally and the tactics you experiment with the most.
Put together your greatest link building campaign by applying a little creativity, rational thinking and some helpful advice from the experts.
Guest author: Christian Carere is an SEO specialist and the founder of Digital Ducats Inc. Christian enjoys contributing to the digital marketing community and is an avid social media enthusiast.