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What is link building?
In: SEO Guides, Link Building

For about 20 years now, Google has been using links to determine the quality of websites, making link building one of the longest and best SEO tactics to ranking websites on its search engine.

Google uses links to your site as signals to determine the AUTHORITY, which in turn determines the relevancy of your site.

If you’re looking to learn about link building and its strategies, you’re in the right place!

Link Building: The Free SEO Beginner's Guide - seonaijaninja.com
credit Moz

In this post, you’ll learn what link building is, and if you follow my link building tutorials step-by-step, you’ll understand the strategies – including how to acquire links to rank your websites.

What is Link Building?

Link building is simply a process of acquiring a hyperlink from another website to your site.

SEO Link Building – Your Ultimate Guide To Understanding Its Importance - seonaijaninja.com

When someone agrees to link back to your site from his website, you build a link to your site. That link to your site is called backlinks or inbound links.

Link building also includes links within your pages that point to other relevant pages on the site. In this case, we refer to it as an internal link building, which we’ll discuss later on.

This backlink serves as a vote of trust and improves your site’s visibility on search engines.

Think of this vote as an endorsement.

Suppose a high-authority site endorses your website by linking to one of your web pages. In that case, you’re likely going to see a boost in organic traffic compared to when a low-authority website endorses you.

Why Link Building is Important for Your Website

For a robot to discover your website – and crawl, you’ll need at least a hyperlink from an already indexed website to your site because links are what search engines follow.

Although, without a link, search engines can still discover and index your site by submitting a sitemap. 

An On-page SEO can give you good SEO scores, but itself alone cannot give you a competitive edge in the search engine results page (SERP).

This is why you need to include link building in your SEO strategy.

When you combine on-page SEO with quality link building to your site, the result can 4X your traffic in less than a month.

How?

  • Link building improves the authority and relevance of your pages and the entire website.
  • Strong links improve the rankings and thus attracts more relevant traffic to your site.
  • Link building helps index your ophan pages or isolated pages and less link-able pages on your site.
  • Link building helps increase your site exposure on search engines.
  • The quality of resources you link to from your site helps search engines determine your content’s quality.
  • Link building is a referral strategy that can help bring more people to your site.
  • Backlinks improve the rankings for relevant keywords you have on your web pages.
  • Link building helps build a solid relationship with other businesses when you reach out to them for links back to your site.

Internal Link vs. External Link Building

Link building is not restricted to only inbound links. There is also internal link building which is also a signal to how search engines perceive the content and how important one page is to the other on your website.

Internal Links: are links that you build within your site; they’re links that point from one page to the other relevant page of your site.

External Links: These are links pointing from your website to another website.

Note, in this case, the link is pointing to another domain. 

Source domain and link-target domain are different.

If you have two or more websites personally, and you link from one domain to another, that link is external. 

Likewise, if you’re linking to another domain that’s not yours, it’s still an external link, and the process is external link building.

An external link is still a backlink because a third-party website is linking to your site.

Link Quality vs. Quantity

In 1998, Google introduced the concept of backlinks as a means to determine quality content. 

The idea, which still holds today, is that quality content will always attract links to itself. When people find the content useful, they link to it by citing it as a reference in their article posts.

That link quality was more of using numbers – the number of links to a particular website. 

But, as time went on, Google advanced and updated its algorithm with better quality-measuring signals other than the number of links.

This development brought a change such that…

It’s no longer the higher number of links you have – but the quality of links you’ve got.

And when the Penguin algorithm was released in 2012 to combat low-quality links, many websites were flagged.

Saying all links are equal – and that it doesn’t matter where the link is coming from (just get one anywhere) is a MYTh. 

Some links are worth more than others and give different ‘weight’ of votes. 

For instance,

10 links from a high authority website within my niche are worth more than 100 links from low authority sites.

Here’s what I mean…

If SEMrush or searchenginejournal.com finds this article useful and decides to link to it, that’ll give this web page a much more vote of trust than when a site with no direct content relationship links to me.

This is because:

  • SEMrush and SEJ are high profile websites
  • Publish only quality content 
  • They’re authority sites
  • Google and trust them
  • They’re within my niche – SEO/digital marketing.

This also means that a link from CNN or BBC to your site is way higher in terms of the vote of trust than a link from my blog to you. But, since my site is spam-free and contains quality content, it’s worth adding to your link profile.

Now, getting links from these highly-coveted, authority websites is a lot difficult, but you can get them with the right strategy in place.

What you need to know at this point is that 100 high-quality links are better than 10,000 low-quality links.

Factors that Determine the Quality of a Link

Links are not equal, and the quality signals that search engines use depends on the factors listed below:

1. Relevancy

The more relevant and closely related the topic you’ve written about to the content you’re linking to, the better.

According to an ex-Googler…

“Getting a link from a high PageRank page always used to be valuable, today it’s more the relevance of the site’s theme in regards to yours; relevance is the new PageRank.”

2. Domain authority (DA)

DA directly relates to the strength of a website. DA has a score range of 0 to 100, with 100 correspondings to the highest strength and 0 to the lowest strength. 

The DA determines the ability of a site to rank on search engines. And so, linking from a high DA to your site means greater visibility and higher rankings on search engines.

3. Page Authority (PA)

Page Authority (created by Moz) predicts how important and authoritative a particular web page is and how well it can perform on SERP. 

Page authority can be correlated with Google’s PageRank. The higher the page authority, the more the link juice will flow from that page to your site when you link to it. 

Like DA, it also ranges from 0 to 100 with 100 – the greatest ability to rank.

4. Anchor Text

The anchor text is the link text you click on in a piece of content. The more relevant the text is to the topic of discussion, the better your backlink profile boost.

E.g., if I want you to link to this article (the one you’re reading now) from a post titled “6 link building tactics you need to know” that you published on your website, the best anchor text would contain “….link building”.

Link Building Best Strategies

Off-Site SEO: Link Building - Inbound Links to Your Website seonaijaninja.com
credit: Katalyst creative group

1. Link Reclamation

Link reclamation is the process of reclaiming a backlink to your site. It’s the easiest way to acquire links. 

Link reclamation has three sub-strategies – meaning there are three different ways you can reclaim a lost link:

1. Finding and fixing broken links on your site.

2. Finding and monitoring unlinked brand mentions.

3. Identify your copyrighted materials from the web that are not credited to you as the owner.

Let me give you an overview of these three sub-strategies

1. Finding and fixing broken links on your site.

Broken links will always return a 404 error when both users and search engines follow the links. A link pointing to 404 pages will stop the flow of link juice.

How to fix

Go to the Ahrefs and under Site Explorer, enter your domain and click on “Broken” under Backlinks profile. This will show you all the broken links on your site – both internal and external links that should pass link juice and boost your overall SEO performance on search engines.

Step 2: Use this Redirection plugin to create a 301 redirect for all the broken links.

2. Finding and monitoring unlinked brand mentions

Sometimes, your brand may be mentioned in an article, post, or even case study, but the writer may not include a link back to your site. 

This is a link opportunity for you. 

All you need to do is reach out to them in a friendly email, appreciate them for such mention and ask them to consider placing a link on such mention back to your site.

Tools like Moz Fresh Web Explorer and Awario can help you to find any unlinked mentions on the web.

3. Identifying your copyrighted materials from the web that’s not credited to you as the owner.

If you find out that someone is using your copyrighted materials such as images on the web without actually crediting you, instead of asking him or her to remove it – simply ask for accreditation. 

This way, you can earn a link back to your site.

My recommended tool to do this is Google’s reverse image search tool.

Further Reading: The Best Image Search Engine

2. Broken Link Building

If you’re a small business operating a small website, chances are – you may not even get a mention on the internet for a whole year. 

And, you wouldn’t stand waiting until someone mentions your brand or uses your copyrighted materials.

One of the quickest ways to earn backlinks for yourself is broken link building.

Broken Links are everywhere on the internet.

We see website links broken down as a result of:

  • Poor maintenance
  • Site owners deleting pages/posts
  • Resources disappearing during migrations
  • Websites shut down temporarily for a long time or permanently.

This presents an opportunity to find those links in your niche, know the topic that the content was linked to – and create similar content and publish it on your site. 

And then, reach out to the site with the broken link. 

Inform them that the site they link to is now broken… but you’ve created and published similar content – and that they can now link to it.

This is a simple direct tactic. 

It works well because a broken link signals a bad user experience (UX), and most webmasters will not hesitate to fix it immediately – once they find out the link is truly broken. 

But to find the goldmine of broken links, you’ll need to do some topic research using SEMrush or Ahrefs. For this example, we’ll use Ahrefs.

Type in a keyword related to your industry and use search operators to find the most popular blogs or content publishers in that niche. 

For example, you can use sites like Quicksprout and Moz for the SEO industry.

There are many tools you can use to find this golden opportunity. 

Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Link Assistant will let you easily harness broken link building opportunities for your site.

But for this example, we’ll use Ahrefs (get Ahrefs 7-days trial for $7 here)

Step 1: Start by entering the domain you want to check into Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Step 2: Go to the Pages tab in the left column and click “Best by Links”

Step 3: Filter by 404, then Click on Dofollow Links and analyze the list of pages linking back to that page that’s returning 404.

Pro tip: Use the web archive tool to look at the content of the broken page and why it was linked to it in the first place.

For more on broken link building strategy

3: Reverse engineered competitor link building strategy

Another “smart way” to build links is to “steal” your competitor’s backlinks data and leverage it to get backlinks from the same people that linked to them.

These are links your competitors worked so hard and paid so much to get. You can do the same! 

But why do it the hard way – when you can act smart and go behind the doors to “steal” them?

Link builders use this method to turn competitors’ link data into opportunities. The idea is if a particular site is linked to competitors A and B, then they’re likely to link back to you.

When you analyze your competitors and find the domains linking to them, you can check the page they link to and create better content than theirs (skyscraper content). 

And reach out to the referring domains …asking them to link to your page.

You can also look for dead links or redirected pages on your competitors’ site, and once you find one, reach out to the Webmasters and tell them they’re linking to a dead page. 

Go ahead and offer them a relevant page on your site that they can link to. 

This technique is simple, but you need to be creative to explore all of the opportunities.

Further Reading…

4. Linkbait 

Linkbait strategy can take any form and can also be a sub-strategy in some of the main strategies discussed in this article.

It involves creating top-notch, skyscraper content that can naturally attract backlinks to itself. The bait is the value or the unique proposition embedded in the content to make people share and link back without asking for it.

Such a bait must be attractive, informative, engaging, and useful.

Linkbait can take the form of:

  • Survey analysis
  • In-depth research
  • Attractive and highly informative infographics
  • Free useful tools and widgets

5. Ego Bait

Getting influencers in your niche to promote your products and services can sometimes be difficult. But you can leverage the law of reciprocity…

“In my mind, Ego Bait is just about attempting to engage influencers to amplify your work further and build links. It’s a very basic marketing/psychology principle — the element of reciprocity. If you positively feature another person, they’re more likely to return the favour”.

Jesse Stoler at upspringseo.com

Most influencers will be happy to see their names mentioned or featured or quoted in an article, and when you ask for a favour, they’ll be glad to do – by sharing your content to their followers – which in turn attracts links back to your site.

While your goal is to earn a link, you must first offer value, encourage interaction and build relationships.

6. Guest Posting

Guest blogging/posting is a strategy that’ll not just get you backlinks but also position your brand to a much larger audience.

Guest posting is no longer what it used to be a few years ago. 

Some site owners will turn your mail down with a “sorry reply,” and most people that accept will only do it at an agreed fee.

…and because of this, Google has advised that all guest post links should be sponsored/nofollow.

So, what should you do?

Guest Posting builds authority. 

But to have your article published on a high authority site is difficult. 

To make this simple, here’s what you can do:

  • Listen with Google alert or set alerts in Awario or use Ahrefs alert for trending news and topic
  • Create evergreen content, preferably infographics.
  • Use Keyword + “Submit Guest Post” to find sites that accept guest posts.
  • Outreach and build relationships. 

I still believe no one will turn down evergreen content beautifully displayed in an infographic. 

If that content benefits their audience, they’ll gladly accept with little or zero payment.

As someone that’s sent thousands of link request emails, I can tell you that there’s a simple link building formula that works every time: Great Content + Targeted Outreach + Added Value = Links.”

Brian Dean backlinko.com

7. Local Citations

Local business directories and portals are effective platforms to get local citations. 

Citations help users to find local businesses easily and also boost local SEO rankings. 

Unlike general web directories, local business directories or listings are more trusted to include only legitimate businesses. 

And when it comes to link building, not all directories will include a link to your site, but a mention from trusted resources may be considered an “inferred link” by Google.

To list your business and build citations, Google search to find local business directories within your area.

8. Sponsoring events

You can sponsor events around you or even on the internet. 

Event organizers tend to add a link to any sponsorship they receive. And apart from the link, it’s a great way for you to build a solid relationship with people who, unknown to you – may be influencers with many followers.

To find an event you can sponsor, first check the events that are within your niche – it could be a workshop, seminar, or conference. 

Know the location of the event – this may be either online or offline. 

You can easily find upcoming events online at:

To perform a quick search on Google, you can use the following search operators with the website URL of the event host website.

Any of these operators will return a link to “become a sponsor” or “donation.” This way, you’ll know if the event is open for sponsorship:

site:[website URL] +“sponsors”

site:[website URL] + “donation”

site:[website URL] + “become a sponsor”

site:[website URL] -inurl:support -inurl:blog +“link to your website”

You can also host events and let third-party websites link to you.

9. Blog Commenting

Blog commenting has proven to be one of the easiest strategies to gain backlinks. 

When combined with niche forums, it works effectively for those who understand how commenting should be done.

Regardless of your ultimate opinion on the SEO benefit of blog commenting, you cannot dispute the branding and awareness benefits of a solid blog commenting strategy.”

Ryan Malone (smartbugmedia.com)

Comments like…

  • Mass commenting to spam the comment ‘box.’
  • “Great post!” And then you drop a link back to your site.

Don’t work. It is not an ideal way to comment.

Comment sections are for adding insightful contributions to post… building relationships with the site owner (don’t forget you may need to pitch them one day).

Quality comments add insight and can show your expertise. 

Plus, the blogger knows you as a good regular commenter. This will, in turn, boost your rankings – as Google likes to see active participation in forums and blog comments.

10. Participating in Niche Forums and Community Sites

“A forum link has the potential to send decent, qualified referral traffic your way. But more importantly, building a forum link still leads to exposure to a niche audience. It’s relationship building. And the power of relationship-building is that a good relationship can build your next link”.

Jesse Stoler (upspringseo.com)

A niche forum is a go-to whenever you want to engage with a segment of the population of internet users.

This is where your audience is; participating, sharing useful content, and adding a link back to your site is a legitimate way to build links that’ll bring more people to your site.

For example,

Identifying subreddit related to your niche and making submissions can also bring editorial links back to your site as many people source Reddit for content curations.

11. Newsjacking

Hijacking news events can be an effective way to build high-quality links from major publications.

Newsjacking is not taking advantage of a popular and trending topic from the news and using it to create and promote your content.

This tactic saves you tons of time and effort. 

Instead of planning on creating content that people would like, you can take advantage of what is trending and that people are talking about already as an inspiration and content idea.

In newsjacking, time = money

… today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper.

How to Newsjack Trending News

Step 1: Use Google Trend to research and find what people are talking about.

Step 2: Select popular topics and brainstorm content ideas. Your content should relate to the trending topic.

Step 3: Pick from your content idea and start creating content. 

Step 4: promote your published work. Reach out to people within and outside your industry. Promote it on social media, forums, and community sites.

Best Tools for Link Building

Many link-building tools in the market make the experience of building links easy and smooth. 

But I’m going to select a few of the best tools and group them under four categories:

  • Backlink Checkers
  • Content Research tools
  • Online Monitoring tools
  • Outreach Tools

These tools are all you need to build successful links to your website.

Backlink checkers

Backlink checkers are tools you can use to “steal” your competitor’s information. These tools give you insight into their backlink profiles and the strategies they’re using. 

Knowing what works for them…will give you a head start. And improve on it.

Steal your competitor’s backlinks strategies with these tools:

SEO SpyGlass

SEO SpyGlass is a powerful backlink checker out of the all-in-one SEOpowersuite solution.

I personally use this tool for myself and my clients. 

The latest version allows you to pull links directly from Google Analytics and Google Search Console and lets you import and analyze the backlinks you have from any other sources via CSV.

This is an integration that you can’t find in other backlink tools.

SEO SpyGlass offers you unlimited data: 

  • unlimited websites & campaigns, unlimited backlinks, and 
  • unlimited exports 

This tool is 12 times cheaper than any other backlink checker out there.

Ahrefs Site Explorer

Ahrefs Site Explorer is one of the best tools you can use to perform your backlink research. They have one of the largest backlink indexes in the market.

Online Monitoring Tools

Online monitoring tools allow you to track mentions of your brand – including your name, products, or services across the web. And turn it to link opportunities if such mentions do not include a link back to you.

Here are the best tools to monitor and track the web for mentions:

Awario

One of the awesome tools you can rely on is Awario. If you need to build a listening portal for yourself and track every mention of your brand, this tool won’t let you down.

Once you set the keywords, you’ll start receiving instant alerts of mentions, which you can turn to link-building opportunities.

Awario is one of the cheapest monitoring tools and gives you 14 days free trial. 

Ahrefs Alerts

Want to receive email alerts for your keywords and brand mentions? Ahrefs alert gives you just that.

Plus, it allows you to know when your competitors acquire backlinks and where the backlink is coming from.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free tool from Google that can be set to send you an email when they index new content with your chosen Keyword.

If you’ve never set up a Google alert, I recommend you do so now.

You can set as many keywords within your niche, and whenever any content is indexed, Google sends you an email notification of those content.

Does Google charge for this?

Not at all. It’s completely FREE!

Content Research Tools

Creating sharable and link-worthy content can be a difficult task. But content research tools can make the experience a lot easier.

You can easily find relevant content that you can improve on. Or find and analyze best performing content for a specific topic, Keyword, or competitor. Tools like Website Auditor, SEMrush, Ahrefs and Surfer SEO allows you to analyze and easily create content for your marketing promotions.

Link Outreach Tools

Find and pitch your prospects with this set of tools.

Build and manage a large database of prospects’ contacts, reach out to them, and follow up your emails with a great collection of templates.

Here are some of the best tools for next Outreaching:

Ninja Outreach

Finding outreach prospects becomes a lot easier with this tool. They have a set of the best email templates for all types of link-building outreach campaigns you want to execute.

Ninja Outreach is an automatic email outreach that lets you track email statistics. 

Link Assistant tool

A great tool that lets you select link-building techniques and then find prospects.

This tool offers much more out of the box. You can make a good guess from the name. It can be all you’ll need when it comes to acquiring links.

The built-in:

link prospecting;

Email client; and

email outreach template;

allows you to find contacts of prospects and edit or customize the email template to reach out to them.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo doesn’t stop at finding the top-performing content in a particular niche. It allows you to reach out to the appropriate party and make your pitch.

Pitchbox

Web-based software allows you to create outreach campaigns, build prospect lists, create email templates, track correspondence, and more.

Creating a link outreach program with Pitchbox can help you to automate all the difficult tasks. 

Finding targeted opportunities in your niche to getting contact information, pitch box can be an all-in-one tool for your next outreach program.

It has a great collection of templates to be personalized to increase response rates and automate follow-up for your prospects. 

You also get performance reporting out of the box.

Summing up Link Building for Beginners…

Link building is an integral part of SEO and should form part of your strategy.

Link building is not limited to only external links but also includes internal links (i.e., links within your site).

Now that you know what link building is and why it is important let’s look at each strategy.

Got a question? Ask right away!

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