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Link Building for Beginners

Did you know that backlinks are one of Google’s “top 3” ranking signals?  

Building links can be a challenge if you don’t know where to start. That’s why many people skip this part of SEO checklists. But, the fact remains; 

To rank at the top of search engine results, link building is a must. 

In this blog post, I’ll show you how to do it. In this beginner’s guide, we will cover the basics of backlinks to give you a better understanding of the do’s and don’ts of link building.

If you decide to hire a link building agency to take over your backlinking strategy, you can make a well informed and educated decisions about who to hire. A knowledgeable SEO agency has experience with link building to position websites well on search engines, especially Google. Link building is a critical positioning factor, just like quality and keyword structure. An SEO agency often knows how to build the best long-term strategy for link building.

Now let’s get started!

In case you’re not familiar with backlinks, let’s start with the basics. According to SEO mastermind Neil Patel

“Backlinks are links that travel from another website to your website. They can come from social media sites and directories, but they most often come from blog posts and the content of other websites.

Ideally, those links come from other relevant websites within your niche and industry.“ 

Link building is the art of proactively obtaining those links.

Backlinks are all over the internet. Each link you collect is a vote telling Google someone recommends, or likes your content. For example, the hyperlink in the first sentence of this blog post includes a backlink from me to SearchEngineLand. Why? Because I recommend their article on Google’s top 3 ranking factors. Similarly, where I’ve linked out to Neil Patel’s blog post, his SEO blog is awarded a backlink from the Namecheap blog. 

On-Page vs. Off-Page Optimization

Now we know what backlinks are, let’s establish their role in search engine optimization. 

  • On-page SEO is everything you do to your web pages to make them “search engine friendly.” 
  • Off-page optimization is everything that happens off your site, but around your brand— a large part of that is through backlinks (because they point back to your site). 

Study after study tells us that the leading spots in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are the most-linked-to websites on that particular topic.

What does that tell us? It doesn’t matter if you have the best content, with the best on-page optimization strategy — If your link profile sucks, your site won’t rank well.

Why? If you write similar content to your competition, there is no guarantee that you will beat them, unless you have both sides of SEO down. Simply put, you must build more links than them. 

So, although you still need to understand on-page optimization, you must not ignore linking. It might come as a surprise that good SEO means spending as much time on your backlinking strategy as developing your content.

Looking for links from different kind of content

First things first, how do you land backlinks? There are several ways to score them, there are several more ways not to. Let’s start with the most legitimate ways to draw links to your webpages:

  • Editorial links

These are the most valuable types of links you can get and have the potential to catapult your site up the SERPs. These come from credible sites driving a good volume of traffic such as CNN or the Washington Post. 

Editorial links are given naturally by sites or pages that link to your content, pages, and products. To get these links, you need good quality content on your site and connect with contributors on websites to create awareness about it.

  • Manual links

This category of link building is often referred to as outreach building. To get your hands on manual links, you need to establish relationships with bloggers, and editors, then request that they link to your pages or products. 

Successful link outreach involves some negotiating. You need to make a proposition that lets someone know why creating a backlink for you is in their best interest.

  • Self-created links/ Random links from around the web

This vague category of links encompasses everything from Wiki Links, directory links, user profiles, forum signature, video links, and any other miscellaneous you collect along the way. Users simply submit their site to be publicly displayed. 

These low-value links illustrate that the easier it is to get a backlink, the lower the value it is likely to have. Too many of these will make your site look ‘spammy.’ Low- quality SEO services tend to exaggerate their importance.

Now that you know what backlinks are and why they matter, let’s focus on building your website’s backlink profile. To achieve better positions in search engines, you need to apply tactics that draw in web links to your site.

The following link-building strategies are the best ways to do that.

As a link building beginner, you might be feeling overwhelmed. To help you stay focused, I recommend starting with some easy wins — specifically, free backlinks from online business directories.

List your site in a specialized business directory and earn a backlink, it’s that simple. 

To find specialized directories in your niche, do a Google search for “[your niche] directory.” For example, “SEO agency directory,” “accountant directory,” etc.

2. Create Linkable Content

There’s no great mystery to link building: if you publish valuable content, it’s more likely that people want to link to it. If you’re new to content creation; these are the steps to create that:

  • Research your niche – You want to make content that helps your target consumers get the information they need or their job done. Try answering something that your target audience wants to know. For help with this, type a keyword in to Answer the Public. Then, create useful content that helps them.
  • Study your competitors – You don’t want to steal content from your competition, BUT you can take inspiration from the content that’s attracting backlinks for them. The best way to find out what’s working for a rival is through SEO competitor analysis. 
  • Publish high-quality content to your website – When you understand what your visitors are searching for, and what’s drawing links for your competitors, it’s time to create some homegrown share-worthy content.

3. Promote your Content with Outreach

If you want traffic from search engines, you need to earn good links to your website consistently. To get those links, you can’t just rely on people stumbling across your site and deciding to link to it. For these reasons, once your snappy new content is available for the web to see, you need to get in touch with the right people to link to it.

In the industry, this is known as outreach; the act of reaching out to people to ask for backlinks. 

The best way is to contact a site owner via email, using their name. Write a short message, introduce yourself, and the value of your link. End your email with a short, direct, and straightforward request. For example: “Can you include a link to our article in your list of SEO resources?”

  • Check Your Network – Begin with looking at your followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other appropriate contacts online. Who is already interested in your content, and who might find it helpful? Then send them a brief email explaining your content and ask whether they are interested in linking to it.
  • Approach People  – Reach out to people who are linking to similar content, and suggest that they take a look at your superior content. Small businesses and blogs that link to content similar to yours could benefit from linking to yours too. Find them by searching Google for a keyword that’s relevant to your content. Then, go through the results, review the content, and make contact.

Guest posting is a straightforward way to get yourself some backlinks.

Follow the rules for producing linkable content, though this time, propose to write for someone else. Make sure you reach out to respected sites in your industry; only these sites can send useful, targeted traffic. To benefit from guest posting, this straightforward guide from SemRush is all you need to get started.

An important factor to remember is whether or not the readership of the external site is a good match for your content. For example, a cooking website isn’t a great fit for a guest post about snowmobiles. Fortunately, there are helpful lists of sites that accept guest posts to get you started.

If something is working for your competitor, there’s every chance it will work for you. Why not hit the ground running, and copy your competitor’s link sources?

The simplest way is with a free link analysis tool like Ahrefs. Another option is Link Explorer from Moz, an affordable, premium tool that gets the job done.  

Regardless of which tool you go with, the steps are the same; grab your competitor’s URL and paste it into the tool. Take the links and reach out to who’s been handing out backlinks.

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Guidelines for Outsourcing Backlinking

Before you dive headfirst into paying an SEO to handle your backlinks, I recommend some buyer caution. Low-quality links can be harmful to your site. Whatsmore, undoing a bad backlinking job can be more costly than the initial poor service received. 

If you’re leaning towards outsourcing backlinks, make sure you vet potential candidates. To help with that, ask them the following questions:

  • How long will it take to see results?
    This simple question will weed out the charlatans. There is no guaranteed time to build up a stable and high-quality backlink network. If someone promises instant results, stay far far away.
  • Can I see examples of your work?
    Ask for an example of their link-building profile. If you can see any tangible proof of their claims, such as testimonials, the links they’ve earned for clients, or an increase in their bottom line, whether that’s traffic, earnings or rankings as a direct result of their link-building strategy. A reliable link-building agency won’t hide their previous work and will be more than willing to share it with you.
  • Which tools do you use?
    Automated tools, such as article spinners, are a red flag and can put your site in danger of a Google penalty.
  • What’s your fee?
    Ideally, tasks are broken down into individual services. While it’s difficult to put an exact price on this sector of SEO, super low quotes of $100 or less are a sure-fire “too good to be true” signal.

To achieve long-term results, you need to know about the dangers of bad link building. Collecting backlinks from any place you can get your hands on, especially if it’s not relevant, won’t do you any favors. It could have the opposite effect — and see you penalized by Google.

Be wary of hyperlinks originating from web link farms, spam websites, websites recognized to offer links, or low-quality content (such as web pages with lists of random web links as well as no text). All of these will land you in hot water.

As you can see, there are many facets to link building. For the best chance of seeing your site rank high on search engine result pages, be sure to employ all the strategies we’ve discussed. It won’t be long before you notice some positive results. 

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Isobel Weston avatar

Isobel Weston

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