Let me be real with you guys for a second:
LINK BUILDING SUCK.
There – I said it!
I hate the fact that you can’t build just any link to your site to increase your search position on organic search for your keyword. I hate that you need to research and create a sustainable strategy to continuously generate backlinks to your site.
That said, link building is the most necessary SEO task to get right if you want your website to succeed.
It doesn’t matter if I, or you for that matter, hate link building. Guess what? You still need to do it.
In this post, I will share with you how to get quality backlinks for your site, starting with what counts as a “quality” backlinks. Once we’ve established these grounds, you can proceed with the different effective tactics to help your website acquire backlinks that will move the needle.
- Trust and the top of organic search results
- Why backlinks?
- How to get quality backlinks: Factors to consider
- Target keyword
- Exact match or not?
- Link relevance to content
- A note on dofollow links
- Quality of content where the link is placed
- Quality of site
- Best ways how to get quality backlinks on your site
- Find broken links
- Guest blogging
- Answer Quora and Yahoo questions
- Link reclamation
- Social bookmarking sites
- Forum posting and content syndication
Trust and the top of organic search results
It is becoming harder to trust people online.
With fake news and false news running rampant on all online channels as of late, you’re no longer sure of who to trust.
The ones whom you can rely on brands with a proven track record for years. You can be sure to trust the information they spread as legitimate and trustworthy.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about small businesses who are merely starting out.
Despite your earnest attempt to provide value to your target audience through your site, you will always be looked on with skepticism by people. And you can’t blame them, as doubt from your audience factors as part of your entry into the online business.
If you fancy yourself as a small business owner, then you need to dissuade skeptics by earning their trust. One way of doing this is to rank on top of Google.
As of writing, there are over 40,000 search queries performed on Google every second, which is approximately 4 billion searches a year. That’s a lot of searches, but it doesn’t mean squat if you don’t rank on top of the pile.
According to latest studies over at AWR, the top spot in Google’s organic search rankings gets roughly 30% on desktop (25% on mobile) of all clicks from users.
For comparison, the second and third results clock in between 15% and 10% on desktop and mobile on average, respectively. This goes to show the importance of ranking on top of organic search because of the gap that exists between the first result and the rest.
By ranking on top of Google’s organic search, you have earned the trust of the biggest search engine in the world, not to mention all the clicks from users.
So you might be asking yourself, “What should I do to get on top of the rankings?”
The answer is simple: backlinks.
While there are lots of factors that Google considers when ranking websites on organic search (site speed being one of them), arguably the biggest variable is your link profile. That’s why people are always asking how to get quality backlinks.
According to a study conducted by SEMrush in a post at the Hallam Blog, websites that rank on the first page of Google search for keywords with more than 1,000 search volume have 10x more backlinks compared to keywords with fewer search volume.
The study goes to show the importance of backlinks to this very day, especially if you’re targetting competitive keywords!
The value that each link puts to the table defines the trust that Google and audience should invest in your site.
Think of them as positive recommendations for your site. If someone puts in a good word for you online, their natural tendency is to link to your site so others can check it out. In principle, the more backlinks or “recommendations” your site can acquire, the better it is for your site.
If you have accrued lots of backlinks over time, then Google will consider your site as well-liked, which could lead to an increase in its organic search ranking. Of course, once you rank on top, you can enjoy the most clicks from Google users and drive the most organic traffic to your site.
However, building a link profile isn’t as simple as it sounds. You can’t go to every site, ask them to link back to yours, and expect them actually to do it. Conversely, not all links have equal value. Some are much more valuable than others due to different factors that govern the quality of each site.
If you want to develop a link profile that allows you to boost your search ranking on Google, then below are variables that you need to consider to help you find the best links for your site.
At the heart of every site that has successfully ranked on top of Google organic search is keyword research.
Since every search query is driven by specific keywords entered by users, you as an online business owner need to understand which keywords you need to target on to boost your rankings. That said, you need to narrow down your search for keywords within your niche as well as the pages you have on your site.
To get a better understanding of how to choose the best target keywords for your link building campaign, please refer to my post about keyword research.
The goal of SEO is to make your site easier to find on Google. So if you’re running an SEO company or if you have a post about SEO tips, then you want to rank on top of Google search for the aforementioned keywords.
While it sounds simple enough, the tricky part here is that it isn’t.
There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to SEO keyword research and you need to be aware of those factors in order to find out the best keywords for your business.
When choosing keywords to rank for your site, you need to understand the two concepts below.
Determining the keyword intent allows you to drill down what your users wish to achieve by typing in the search query.
Intent can be divided into two purposes: informational and transactional. The former relates to a keyword phrase with the idea of supplying users data and facts about a subject for their personal use. The latter is meant to bring users down your sales funnel because they express an interest in purchasing a product or service. Most of the transactional keywords start with “buy,” i.e. “buy basketball shoes,” “buy gaming chair,” and so on.
It is also possible that a keyword can be informational and transactional. A keyword example that covers both grounds are search phrases that start with “best,” i.e. “best basketball shoes.” Users want to know the best basketball shoes on the market so they can find out which on the list to purchase.
Finding out the intent of keywords allow you to identify the ones you should use for your site. If you are not using your site as a platform to sell something, then you need to focus on informational keywords. If you are running an eCommerce site, then your efforts must be dedicated to finding transactional keywords.
For more about keyword intent, click here to read more!
There will be keywords that will be hard to penetrate due to stiff competition. Some of the pages that rank on top of your chosen keywords have the luxury of existing years ago. We could also assume that they have build links along the way, which further puts you at a disadvantage.
However, instead of fighting an uphill battle, you can find low-hanging fruit keywords that have the least competition and therefore are much easier to rank for. The pages you will see in search results on these types of keywords may have substandard content. That’s already a gap that you can capitalize on with your content.
Instead of manually searching for each keyword or Google and analyzing the top pages, you can simply run LongTailPro to help provide you with an aggregated score for the keyword difficulty. The higher the score, the more difficult it is to rank for the keyword.
Exact match or not?
Once you have chosen your keywords, you want to use them as anchor texts to all your backlinks. This signals Google to rank your site for the anchor text. Therefore, when a user searches for your keyword, which is what you used as your anchor text, then you increase your chances of ranking on top of the organic search pile.
Caveats in place, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that keyword prevalence in anchor text is almost certainly still a ranking factor, and perhaps a bigger one than Google would like us to believe. It’s what the data tells us.
So, if you’re building links (or someone is building links for you) then you probably don’t need to be too sensitive about anchor text, and a few keyword rich links as part of a diverse profile should help you rank.
David McSweeney, “A Data Driven Guide To Anchor Text (And Its Impact On SEO)”
However, it is no longer the best practice to target on exact match keywords as your anchor text. This type of link building tactics not only disrupts the flow of the content where it is displayed, but it is also manipulative on your part since your main purpose is to increase your search ranking and not provide your audience a seamless experience. Therefore, you need to diversify your anchor text by using your brand name, partial matches, and generic terms, to name a few.
Link relevance to content
When building links, you need to target sites that are related to your niche. For example, you can’t link your basketball shoes site to one about fishing. Instead, you need to find sites that are connected to basketball, i.e. urban lifestyle blogs, hip-hop music, and others.
At the very least, for your link to build levity, you need to make sure that it has at least a link to page relevance. What this means is that your link offers contextual value.
A great example of a link to page relevance is Jeff Deutsch’s “Confessions of a Google Spammer” post. It’s a compelling recollection about a black hat SEO practitioner who admits to the error of his ways and has now embraced inbound marketing.
However, one thing about his post is the not-so-subtle mentions of the companies he works with.
You could look at this as the author’s way to pass some valuable link juice back to the sites since Inbound.org is an authoritative and vibrant marketing community. However, after reading the post, you can easily make a case for those links to be included in the post because they are contextually consistent with the tone of the post. Because if it didn’t, then Inbound.org could have easily taken them down.
Again, it all boils down to providing users value to your content. If you want to Google to rank your site, then you need to play by the rules by offering useful, actionable, and unobtrusive content. That’s how to get quality backlinks. Site owners whom you plan on acquiring a link from will feel the same way, even if it means rejecting your link from its content.
It is important to determine whether a link on a site is dofollow or nofollow. But first, you need to understand the concept of link juice.
Authoritative sites have lots of link juice that have accumulated through an effective link building strategy. What you want is to draw some of that link juice down to your site by acquiring backlinks from them. By successfully getting links from authoritative sites, you can eventually become just as reliable as they are.
However, not all authoritative sites pass link juice. There are others that set all their outbound links to “nofollow,” which allows them to keep all their link juice, so those with backlinks on the site will not benefit from it. Some of the reasons why websites decide to set links to “nofollow” are to reduce spam and avoid search engine penalties.
Initially, you want to target sites with dofollow tags on all their links so you can funnel down its link juice to your site. Acquiring links from nofollow sites can have their benefits as well, but not from an SEO perspective.
[A] nofollow link isn’t the end of the world, either for you or for a client. These links are valuable, and important for anyone trying to build their brand online.
Instead of focusing on whether or not a link is followed, we should do our best to get those links in front of the right people at the right time, crafting content beyond the link that motivates conversions. As it is for everything in SEO, obtaining links is all about balance: the balance between followed and not followed, “juicy” links and dry ones.
Nicole Kohler, “The Hidden Power of Nofollow Links”
However, if you have no link profile to show for, then targeting both types of links allows you to generate a natural and organic backlink data. Once you have diversified your link profile with an equal mix of nofollow and dofollow links, you can then focus your energies on getting more dofollow links moving forward,
If you want to build quality links to your site, then you need to ensure that it is mentioned or featured on quality content as well. This can be done by referring to the best on-page SEO practices detailed in one of my posts!.
Below are some of the more important concepts that you need to take away from the resource page:
- More words, better content– Assuming that the site you plan on linking to are determined to provide the best and most useful content in their niche, then you should look for a way to get featured there. The minimum word count for quality is 800 words, but why do the minimum if they can take it to the next level of 2,000 words? In fact, all of the pages that rank on the first page have at least 2,000 words in their content.
- Cutting edge design– Having a responsive site design that adjusts to the user’s screen resolution and a fast-loading site is critical to a site’s SEO success. The sites that you should target must observe the practices mentioned above so you can have a better chance of reaching your target audience. Also, the site design should have a unique theme and layout that separates itself from the rest and not generic and bland ones you see from others.
- Proven track record of excellent content– People are compelled towards a site that provides the best value for their business. If the site has lots of social shares and interaction with its readers from its past blog posts, then it’s a sure shot that getting your link mentioned to these pages will greatly help expose your site to lots of people, thus increasing your chances at drawing more traffic.
Keep these in mind when choosing where to acquire links for your site, so you not only maximize your chances of getting seen by your potential clients but also increase your ranking in organic search. Again, that’s how to get quality backlinks.
Quality of site
When prospective for link partners, you need to consider the quality of the site in general. While the content published by sites is a great indicator in itself of determining the link equity you can draw, there are other factors that you need to consider when scouting for link prospects.
Aside from on-page SEO practices discussed above, the site also needs to practice white hat off-page optimization strategies. In other words, the site must have an impressive link profile with links from equally authoritative sites. Neil Patel goes in depth with off-page SEO in this post.
Of course, you simply cannot harvest all these information yourself since that would take more than enough time and effort on your end. However, you can rely on two tools to help you determine whether you should link to a particular site or not.
Moz’s Open Site Explorer is a place where you can extract a site’s Domain Authority (DA), which is the aggregate score that Moz provides for determining a site’s level of importance. The higher the DA, the more reason you should link to that particular site.
If you signed up for its premium subscription tool, it also gives you an overview of the site’s backlink profile. You can use the information seen here to help you perform competitive analysis so you can poach links from your competitors.
Another set of factors to look into is Majestic’s Flow Metrics – the Citation Flow (CF) and Trust Flow (TF). The former provides a score of a page’s influence.
The latter gives the figure of a page’s trustworthiness based on the quantity of how reliable the sites linking to it are. To calculate a site’s Trust Ratio (TR), you need to divide TF over CF. A site will close 1 TR is considered a good site to link to.
Gathering both indices for a site allows you to determine which sites to reach out and target. This ensures that you will be able to link to high-quality sites that can make a positive impact on your organic search rankings.
Now, onto the good stuff!
The first place is to establish the groundwork on how to get quality backlinks.
We can’t dive into the different tactics if you don’t know what entails a “quality” backlink in the first place!
That said, here are some tips on how to get quality backlinks. While these are not the only strategies out there, these should help you get your campaign rolling.
Find broken links on articles and contact the site administrator. The idea is to replace broken links with articles from your site. Of course, you would need to make sure that your page is relevant to the topic. The administrators hate broken links. Use this opportunity to have your articles inserted into posts.
This method may be time-consuming but the rewards are worth the trouble. There are tools you could use to ease the burden. CheckMyLinks, for example, can help you scan any page for 404 errors.
For the complete process of conducting a broken link building campaign, read this post I wrote that details the exact process of how to do it the right way.
Here’s another way how to get quality backlinks to your site. Guest blogging is still a popular way of getting backlinks. Site owners are always looking for new content. Help them out by submitting a request to write one for them. You can include links in the copy itself or on the author bio just below the post.
One thing to remember with guest posting is that you need to send quality stuff to other blogs.
Just because you’re publishing content on another site, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put all your effort into developing the best guest post you can write.
In fact, crap content is what got guest posting as an SEO tactic in trouble in the first place!
However, Google’s final warning seems to have encouraged content creators to up their game and write killer guest posts to rise above the pack, which is something that you should also do when taking up this tactic.
Despite Google’s memo about how guest blogging will no longer be a viable tactic for growing your SEO, it must be taken within the right context. This was one of the final warnings of many from Google about making sure not to post your content on low quality websites to gain spammy links, which many spammers have been continually doing at scale to rank their websites. In many cases it worked, but defeats the purpose of guest blogging entirely by not delivering quality content to a new audience. This spammy tactic will no longer work to game the search engines.
Brian Honigman, “Guest Blogging for SEO. How to Build Traffic and Not Overdo It?”
Is it worth writing a post for someone else? That would depend on site authority. If you’re writing for a site that receives lots of views, we’d say it’s worth it. Guest blogging also helps build rapport between site owners which could lead to more opportunities down the road.
Read my post about developing a guest blogging strategy to help you structure your guest posts so they all pass link juice to your site using the “tiered” structured.
HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. This site is a hub for journalists who need quotes from resource persons for stories they’re drafting. By subscribing to the site, you can offer answers and have your links published when the story goes live.
The great things about this are that getting published on legitimate news sites gives the link more power. It makes your site seem more credible which Google acknowledges. Spend some time working on HARO. A couple of hours a week will do wonders.
Answer Quora and Yahoo questions
There are tons of opportunities for backlinks on Quora and Yahoo! People are always searching for answers. Allot some time for replying to questions and drop those links in the posts. Both sites offer ways for you to search by topic so you only see queries that are relevant to your industry. Some people may even link back to you on their own sites.
Quora is arguably the king of Q&A sites. It makes sense to focus on this site to spread the good word about your content in the hopes of attracting more links. If you want to learn how to do it, read this post I made about Quora marketing.
You can use Buzzsumo or Mention.net to find articles that refer to you and your posts. See if these sites link back to your site. If they haven’t, send the site owner a message and ask them to kindly link back. Most of these owners wouldn’t mind updating their posts to include a link.
This strategy may not be for everyone but it’s worth noting since it also answers the question “how to get quality backlinks to your site?”
For the complete process of reclaiming links from quality sites, click here to read the guide I wrote about it.
Have you worked with other companies and have liked their services? Why not leave a review on their site? Contact the company and offer to write a review they could put on their site. Use this chance to add a link going back to your own site.
Testimonials serve as social proof that help provides your target audience a better idea of your business in the eyes of others. The trend of user-generated content will help complement your SEO efforts and it starts by writing a review that they can publish on their site.
Whether it’s adding content sharing and voting features, enabling product reviews or launching contests to promote user created media such as videos or photos, meeting consumer demands beyond search and information retrieval through interaction is what will characterize successful web sites in the near future.
Lee Odden, “User Generated Content for SEO”
Many businesses welcome positive feedback. They’ll be more than happy to have yours on their site.
User-generated content also goes the other way. You can generate social proof such as testimonials and user reviews from your site that can impact your SEO for the better. If you want to build more UGC for your site, click here.
Social bookmarking sites
Social bookmarking sites let users add, comment, edit, and share bookmarks of online content. Using these services makes it easier for users to save your content online instead of bookmarking them on their PCs or on their phones. Reddit and Digg are excellent examples of social bookmarking sites.
Submit your content of social bookmarking sites. They’re mostly free and Google does like it when they find your content there.
Creating infographics is a powerful way to generate quality backlinks to your site.
Infographics are highly shareable. Which is why they generate a ton of backlinks for the original poster. People not only share them on websites, they post them on social media as well. Not only are they great for backlinks, they can increase your site traffic too.
Infographics draw attention, generate a ton of social love, attract links, and push traffic to your website. Sounds like a winning result, right?
Jonathan Long, “Why Visual Content Marketing Delivers Results [Infographic]
A lot goes into creating an infographic. You shouldn’t create one on a whim. Every element added should be deliberate and well-executed. It should be filled with relevant, useful data. It needs to have a beautiful design to work. You may need to hire a graphic designer. Especially if you have no knowledge of graphic design.
But it will all be worth it in the end especially when you see those backlinks pointing back to your site.
Your infographic needs 3 key things for it to be effective:
- Gorgeous design – It’s all about the visuals. It’s in your best interest to have powerful graphics that would grab your reader’s attention.
- Accurate data – Infographics are useful for people who do research. They will count on your research to be 100% legitimate. Having incorrect data will also do your brand damage if found out.
- Promotion – You need to properly promote your infographic. No matter how amazing your content is, if people can’t find it then it would all be for nothing. Post your infographic on social media and other places it could gain some traction in.
So where do you start with your infographic?
Use services like Buzzsumo to see what infographics are currently trending and draw inspiration from them. Pinterest can also be a great resource. Looking at pinned infographics will guide you towards focusing on the right topics.
Once you have your list of topics, you need to think about a unique angle. If you want to create an infographic about computers, it would be boring to create one that covers all the basic specs. There are already plenty of resources for that. But if you focus on one unique aspect, like “what’s the right RAM speed for you” or something similar, you now have a different take.
Next comes creating your very own infographic. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to work with an experienced graphic designer. These sites are great places to start:
These are just some of the tools and services you can use to design and create your infographics. However, a beautiful and stunning infographic filled with relevant data won’t promote itself. At the same time, no one will link to it if they don’t it exist. Therefore, it is equally important to promote the infographic to attract the right people and generate the best links possible.
To do this, you must read this post I wrote about infographic link building. I shared with you the exact process on how to promote your infographic so you can garner backlinks along the way.
Okay, so we’re probably scraping the bottom of the barrel here.
But let me remind you: it’s not the tactic that makes your links bad, it’s the person who implements them!
In that case, there is still value in posting on forum boards and syndicating your content on different sites.
Forums provide a platform for users to talk and post questions. Join forums and add to the conversation. Find forums that you could be a part of and links to your site whenever you post anything. When you do join forums, you’d want to make sure that they allow do-follow attributes.
Content syndication offers a trickier proposition. You need to find sites with lots of traffic and social followers to republish your content on their blog. The site needs to accept syndicated content for this tactic to work. Sites that will publish your post normally include links to your site in the byline or author bio and the post where the syndicated content was originally published.
To make the most out of content syndication, please read this post I wrote about this topic. It will help you understand what you need to do before applying this tactic as part of your link building strategy.
The process of building a link profile can be long-winded and complicated. However, you need to keep this word in mind to be able to get links from authoritative sites: trust.
By presenting your site as trustworthy and legitimate through the creation of link bait and evergreen content that your audience will love, you can be sure that authoritative sites will link to your site as well. The process is two-fold: give them a reason why they should link to your site and they will. Once you put trust in the forefront of your site, then you can a link profile that will help raise your organic search rankings on Google.
All these tips show how to get quality backlinks. Follow these tips and you’ll get sites to link back to you.