If you’re struggling to grow your business in a competitive industry and haven’t heard of link building, you’re in for a treat.
Link building is a cornerstone of any successful SEO (search engine optimization) strategy.
And a successful SEO strategy is of the utmost value when it comes to increasing your web traffic.
This article will give you all the background information you need to know before considering a link building strategy of your own.
What is Link Building?
Generally speaking, link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks or backlinks (which we’ll just call links) from other websites to your own site or content.
Web users and search engines alike use links to navigate and crawl the web.
The more external links you have pointing to your site, the higher visibility your site will have on SERPs (search engine results pages).
This is because a site with a lot of backlinks is seen as authoritative through the eyes of search engines: the site must have gained those links by being reputable and legitimate.
There are exceptions, of course.
Some sites have a lot of backlinks because the site owner purchased them.
If this is the case, search engines can usually tell because the backlinks come from spammy sites that aren’t legitimate themselves.
To execute a good link building strategy, you want to gain links from reputable websites.
How do you do this?
It starts with having link-worthy content.
Links are fairly easy to build if you have a genius, first-of-its-kind product, and successful promotion.
But if you’re working in a competitive industry, you’ll need some link building strategy to give your business the boost you desire.
From there, you can venture into tactics and strategies and tactics like broken link building.
Note: internal links are also great for SEO and are an often underrated way to build links.
Internal links help search engines to index your site, getting a better idea of how things run.
Internal links are links from one page on your site to another. Don’t overlook the importance of internal links!
Alright, now that we’ve made that note, back to strategy.
Just kidding, grasshopper! We’ll get there. For now, let’s keep learning what link building actually is.
Why Is Link Building Important to Search Engines?
Maybe you’ve heard of link building and its popular strategies, like broken link building and finding unlinked mentions.
But how does it work?
Search engines use links for two main purposes.
Firstly, they scan links to discover new websites to show in their search results.
Secondly, the links help search engines know where to rank web pages within those search results.
Keep in mind: SEO tactics like keyword use and link building can help grab the attention of search engines, but the content of the page is also super important.
Search engines only highly rank web pages that meet a certain level of quality.
So, when scanning your web page for links, Google will also look at the quality of the web pages linking to yours.
If you’re linked often by high-quality websites, your site appears high quality.
High quality links =a high quality site, at least when it comes to SEO.
Google’s rankings are determined by a system called PageRank, which was invented by Larry Page in the 1990s.
Links became an important part of page ranking because they’re equivalent to an endorsement from another site.
Today, Google regularly updates the PageRank system to target low-quality sites trying to rank by building spam links.
While the full algorithm behind Google’s search results isn’t public knowledge, their WebMaster Guidelines make it clear that excessively manipulating site ranking with SEO (known as over-optimization) can only do damage.
One instance of this would be a service that offers to build links without diversifying them.
This would give your site potentially hundreds of links, but they’d all be rendered low-quality due to being from one source.
If you take the time to build links correctly, you’ll have a variety of links from different sources that can help boost your link profile and make you look more trustworthy in the eyes of search engines.
The best-ranking sites on Google have a lot of organically-produced links. Not ones that purchased links for sale.
These are sites that offer quality content, whether that means thoroughly-researched and factual information, a great product, or anything else in between.
The benefits of proper link building build on themselves.
What Are the Benefits of Link Building?
Link building, when done correctly, can help you ensure that your website is seen as an authority in the eyes of search engines.
This is a step onto the fast track to a high ranking on SERPs, which means a lot of organic traffic.
Here’s the gist of what we’re trying to say: link building helps you get the attention you want your business to attract. It helps a lot.
If you’re able to secure backlinks from the big players in your industry, link building can help you gain even more visibility and trust.
In addition to organic search engine benefits, link building can also help with referral traffic.
When other sites link to yours, it’s like a form of word-of-mouth advertising — these links will be seen by the website’s visitors, some of which may be interested in what you have to offer and click through to your site.
Here are the concrete benefits you’ll gain with proper link building, which will then lead you to a more successful and robust business.
Improved Domain Rating
A domain rating (DR) is a metric established to predict the likeliness of a web page or site to rank on SERPs.
Some of the main domain rating systems are Ahrefs’s Domain Rating, PageRank, and Alexa Rank.
The domain rating scale has a score range from 1-100, with 1 being a brand-new website and 100 being a super successful one, like Wikipedia.
- Domain scores below 40: Either new websites or sites with minimal content
- Domain scores between 40-50: Average
- Domain scores between 50-60: Decent
- Domain scores 60+: Great
The domain rating system is similar to Google’s PageRank but can be used to measure the search engine optimization of your own website.
A high domain rating is a good indicator that your website will rank.
You can achieve a high score by optimizing for search engines, using keywords and headings, and link building.
See where this is going?
High-quality inbound links can greatly increase your domain rating, rendering your website much more likely to rank high on SERPs.
What happens once you rank, though?
More Natural Links
The more organic traffic and page rankings your site receives, the more well-known it becomes.
And if you’re offering quality content on your site, it’ll likely continue getting recognized.
This recognition can be indicated through links.
There’s a domino effect that happens with content getting enough recognition to be reshared. This effect can often end with media going viral.
The point here is, links don’t plateau at your site gaining authority.
From there, they’ll probably go up even more.
And at that point, you won’t really need a link building strategy.
With effective strategies, readers and consumers in your niche are more likely to get exposed to your web page.
Thus, you’ll be increasing brand recognition by the simple fact of making more people aware of your brand.
This includes your brand’s characteristics, also established with strategic link building: credibility, quality, and legitimacy.
If you’re selling an actual product, link building can help you gain traffic to establish a product reputation.
This reputation can then lead to you being matched with influencers and other public figures to promote your product on social media.
How to Find Keywords for Link Building
By now, you should have a solid understanding of link building and what it can accomplish for your website.
But where do you start in actually building links?
The most important step in building links is finding the right keywords for your pages.
By researching which key terms potential customers are using that might help them find your business, you can ensure efforts to build links are more successful.
The right keywords also earn you some points when it comes to PageRank.
You want to use hyper-specific keywords for your niche, but you also don’t want to use too many words.
That way, when people search for those words on Google, your site will come up.
Keywords are also majorly beneficial in anchor text.
Anchor text is how your hyperlink appears embedded in the text, an example of which is this link to the definition of backlink: This is a backlink.
In HTML code, links are embedded in anchor elements.
An anchor element looks like this:
Here are the different components:
- <a: the opening to the link tag. A = Anchor
- href=”[insert link]”: href, which stands for hypertext reference, is an attribute that tells the software that a link is at play.
- >: the ending of the opening anchor element.
- [insert anchor text, aka This is a backlink.]: the anchor text is how the link appears on the webpage, underlined and in blue to indicate that it’s a link.
- </a>: closing to the link tag.
Having keywords in your anchor text grounds your links in good SEO practice.
There are many keyword search tools available online that will provide you with a list of relevant search terms.
They’ll show terms that are often used, as well as their monthly search volume.
Here’s how to start narrowing down your keyword search for building links.
Do a Full Audit of Your Current Website
You might be tempted to skip over this step, but we include it because taking the time to audit your current website will pay off.
This step will help you quickly find keywords already relevant to your site, with the highest potential for a good ranking.
An audit includes:
- Evaluating your web content as it is
- Analyzing how to improve your web content
- Brainstorming how to reuse and improve already-existing content
We know, this might sound like a lot to take on, especially if you’re just learning what link building is.
Don’t fear — there are tools to help you!
Semrush and Moz have site-auditing services that do the crawling and analysis for you, then let you know the results and where to go from there with recommended keywords and changes.
While these tools can be pricey, we can’t emphasize how helpful they are, especially if you’re new to SEO.
While auditing and starting to improve your website, always remember to keep your niche in mind.
This focus will help you stay committed to the genuinely-best keywords for your purposes.
Scope Out Your Competition
This is another instance where keeping your niche in mind will be helpful.
Check out other competitors in your niche and scan for which keywords they use.
Then, check out how their pages rank in comparison to your own.
Semrush and Ahrefs have other tools you can use to analyze competitor sites, including their backlinks.
Take ideas from your competitors and improve upon them with your own spin related to your content.
The plain old Google search page can be your best friend when it comes to link building and finding keywords.
Type in relevant words related to your niche and see what comes up.
Pay attention to the kind of content that shows up on the first page.
The autocomplete feature also contains a lot of information about what people are searching for within your niche.
Finally, a hidden secret: at the bottom of most Google search pages is a list of similar questions asked to the one you searched for.
This is also a goldmine for honing in on your niche and developing even more keywords.
Ahrefs’ keyword explorer contains a wealth of information for link building and SEO.
Not only does it provide you with data on monthly search volume, but also which keywords are trending in your niche and how competitive each is.
You can also use the keyword difficulty score to determine if the term is worth your time.
It grades the term on a scale of 1-100, with higher numbers being more difficult to rank for.
Ahrefs is a bit pricier than some search tools but has additional functions like link building analysis and SERP tracking that make it worth the cost.
Link Building Strategies
Now that you know what to include in your links, you can start thinking about how to actually develop them.
This is known as a link building strategy.
Link building strategies are made up of link building tactics.
There are several ways to execute your strategy, but here are some of the major ones to use when you’re just getting started.
Guest posting, also known as guest blogging, is a form of link building outreach that can really help your company.
With guest posting, you’re ideally building both links and connections with other site owners.
Have you ever seen blog sites advertising that they’re taking writing submissions? Those are examples of guest posting opportunities.
However, those opportunities are often saturated with people wanting to guest post, so our advice would be to pitch your content somewhere relevant.
Often, sites are accepting guest posts even without advertisement.
By offering a guest post, you’re offering to create content for a different site in exchange for a link back to your own.
Enough guest posts, or one very successful guest post, and that link building domino effect gets even closer.
One widely-read blog post can do quite a bit of heavy lifting.
Writing Good Content
What’s the point of trying to gain backlinks if your content isn’t enough to hook your site’s visitors?
Seriously, this one should be self-explanatory.
Link building and SEO may get people to visit your site, but good content will make them stay and explore.
Here’s an idea of how to improve upon the good content you already have.
Finally, a fun and playful way to gain links!
Link bait is content designed to grab people’s attention and link back to your website.
Bait and hook ’em.
This could be in the form of a funny meme, or an informative article, both of which can potentially link back to your website.
Think about types of content that would make you link from one page to another – what would need to be there for you to click?
Make sure your link bait is good quality and links back to a relevant page on your site.
With link bait, you can increase the number of links pointing back to your website without having to do too much work.
Broken Link Building
Building from broken links is a dependable way to boost your traffic.
A broken link is a link on a page that no longer exists or works.
Usually, this is because a site is removed.
A dead link will send you to an error page instead of an actual source.
If you come across a dead link in your niche, it’s a great opportunity to provide a replacement link.
It’s also not a waste of time to fill just one link: if it’s been linked on one site, it probably has on others.
Try using a broken link checker to help you find each domain hosting the specific link.
Then, just reach out to the site owner and offer content on your own site instead.
This may require new content creation, but it’s worth it for the number of backlinks you could potentially acquire.
Use a Link Building Service
“Link building service” has a negative connotation due to the ones that would create backlinks from spam sites.
But that connotation is super limiting.
There are a bunch of great link building services that essentially allow you to hire SEO experts to do all of this link building work, including keyword research, the aforementioned strategies, and more.
The ones who promise quality link building will grow your link base only from high-authority domains.
This will free up your time to improve your business in other ways, like product development or sharpening your content.
How to Spot a Good Link
So, how do you know from where you should be getting your links?
It’s tempting to think it shouldn’t matter which websites link to your site, but that’s not always the case.
A good link comes from a reputable, high authority site.
But what does this mean?
And how can you measure the authority of a website?
A high-quality link, coming from a high-quality site, is made of a few essential factors that are necessary for it to be a valuable link building asset.
High Domain Rating
High domain ratings aren’t make-or-break for building links, but they can definitely help.
The domain rating shows how strong the link is in comparison to other websites.
This “strength” is an indication of the site’s authority within its niche.
This a good metric for whether or not a link from them might be valuable.
High-authority sites are favorable for SEO, so their high rankings will offer benefits to your sites as well.
Relevant Content to Yours
It’s also helpful to gain links from sites that offer relevant content.
These are sites within your general niche.
So, for example, if you run a comprehensive skincare blog, it could be really helpful to gain a link from a high-authority beauty influencer recommending you as her source of skincare information.
This would be a good link because her audience could easily find value in your content — not to mention the popularity factor in SEO.
When it comes to content relevance, though, you’re really just looking for links from sites that have a similar audience to yours.
If you know the audience could be interested and more likely to stick around, the link is probably more helpful for your purposes.
Not a Competitor
While you want links from relevant sources, a link from a competitor might be too close for comfort.
To go back to our example, say you ran a skincare blog and posted a world-rocking tip.
Another skincare blog sharing this tip wouldn’t necessarily be helpful when it comes to SEO.
This is because your niches are so directly overlapping, you’ll probably drown each other out on SERPs.
If you both run skincare guide blogs, their audience likely already has their niche filled, so won’t be leaving their current guide for you.
A link from a competitor won’t necessarily hurt you, but it’s not nearly as good as a link that might introduce you to a whole other audience.
Low Spam Score
Good links come from websites with low spam scores.
Spam scores measure the “spammy” nature of a link, and it’s important to link from sites that have good reputations.
Spammy links are usually detected and filtered out by PageRank, so they probably won’t even show up on SERPs.
You can calculate spam scores by using tools Moz and Ahrefs offer.
Spam scores don’t necessarily mean a site is full of spam.
There are several different non-spam reasons a site could get a high score.
But because appeasing PageRank is key, it’s best to stay away from them altogether and make sure your own site has a low score.
Lots of Opportunites for Link Insertion
An easy way to gain links on a quality site is if it has open opportunities for you.
This could mean something broad like guest posting, but it could also have to do with the nature of the site.
Other websites that have blogs are a good way to get linked, whether you have a brand, product, or blog yourself.
This is because blogs share information, and information often requires citations or source sharing.
Check out sites in your niche that offer content that seems meant to engage audiences.
That way, you’ll know the content is actually getting read.
Then, you can find opportunities to offer your own content to enrich the site owner’s.
Just a little humble outreach could go a long way!
Remember: if your content is link-worthy, a link on their site will be mutually beneficial.
Link Building Metrics
To ensure your link building strategies are working, there are certain metrics you can evaluate on your own site.
Remember: these metrics can be applied to your own site as well as others when you need inspiration or an idea of how popular sites are ranked.
Check your domain rating regularly to see if it’s increasing with your newfound link building strategies.
It’s a great indicator of your site’s success and legitimacy in the eyes of PageRank.
It’s also a good way to know if concrete actions are working, or if you should try tactics other than link building.
Similar to domain rating for a whole site, page rating measures the linkworthiness of a single page.
Depending on your link building goals, you can use this metric to determine which pages are getting the most attention from link builders and which ones aren’t.
Check out the specific qualities of successful pages, identify the strategies, and then apply them across your site.
Relevance of The Website Providing the Link
Link building is all about finding link opportunities from sites that are relevant to your niche.
Make sure to always analyze the site’s relevancy when it comes to finding compatible link building opportunities.
That way, you won’t be trying to link to people who already have the same information as you.
To gauge relevance, check out their link profile and see which sites they frequently link out to.
You can also take a look at their content to see if they talk about topics or link out to sites that are similar to yours.
Keep your spam score on tabs to make sure it’s not accidentally getting filtered out by PageRank.
Moz has a tool that can help you understand your spam score, and what’s contributing to it.
You definitely want to keep your score below 60% at the absolute most, but your best bet is a score below 30% if you ever want to rank well on SERPs.
- 1%-30%: Low Spam Score
- 31%-60%: Medium Spam Score
- 61%-100% High Spam Score
Number of Links
Here’s an interesting question: how many links should you have?
The answer is unclear. Of course, Google knows, but we don’t!
There are a lot of factors that go into how many links one needs to rank.
And some of these factors are part of Google’s secret sauce.
As long as your links are coming from quality sites, you should take any links you get your hands on.
As far as we can tell, you can’t have too many high-quality links.
But you can definitely have too many low-quality links because then your site will look spammy.
How Does Link Building Grow Search Traffic?
When done correctly, link building creates a repertoire of quality sites recommending your site.
This is known as having high referral traffic.
This boosts your site’s authority in systems like PageRank and can help land you on the front pages of SERPs.
Link building is an important part of SEO, and it can help you grow your search engine visibility.
Each link is like a vote of confidence from the site linking you.
And different votes carry different weights — so stick to building with quality sites by monitoring link building metrics.
Should You Use a Link Building Service?
Link building services can be great options if you want to grow your website without doing all of the grunt work yourself.
Most SEO link building services are designed to get you the high-quality links and prestige you desire.
But be careful, because some of them can be scammy.
Especially the ones that promise overnight results — remember, link building takes time.
If you’re thinking about hiring a link building service, consider these pros and cons.
Link Building Service Pros
- Perform outreach for you
- Conduct research to help you expand
- They often know where to reach out in your niche
- These are great for agencies that have to link build for a variety of clients
- Personalized service with expertly-trained builders can help you start link building if you have no idea where to begin
Link Building Service Cons
- You may be required to pay for content creation due to pricing packages — consider services that offer customizable packages
- Quality is subjective — there’s no way to guarantee the outcome, but you’re closest if you’re doing it yourself
- These services can be super expensive, due to the time it takes to build links
What Else Would You Like to Know?
This beginner’s introduction to link building covered some basics, but there’s a wide range of information yet to come.
There are quite a few strategies we didn’t have time to cover, as well as tailored advice for different sects of business.
But link building is a crucial part of any successful online marketing strategy and so it’s worth taking the time to learn more.
There are dozens of articles on this SEO practice that are worth looking into.
Link building doesn’t have to be a daunting task – with just a little bit of understanding and effort, you’ll be able to build quality links in no time!
So don’t be afraid to dive in – you won’t regret it.
If you have more questions about link building or SEO in general, leave a reply below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Link building is an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy that can help boost web pages to the top of search results.
It involves gaining backlinks from other websites, which function almost like a recommendation.
Link building increases traffic to sites and helps business owners, bloggers, and more attract attention to their content.
The average yearly salary for a link builder in the United States is $45,926/year or $22.08/hour.
Services to build links can cost hundreds of dollars or around $35/link.
The price varies, but it can be a fairly lucrative long-term career.
It helps establish a website’s authority within a given niche, which will then lead that website to rank highly in search results, creating more organic traffic and clicks.
Link building is the process of gaining backlinks to your site.
Backlinks are simply links to your website from another site.
This is a backlink, and with its creation, the linked site now has another link in its repertoire.
Services like Ahrefs and Moz have all kinds of great tools to use for link building, from Keyword Research to Content Exploration.
But there are also other link building tools, such as Pitchbox and BuzzStream, that allow you to find link prospects, manage your link outreach campaigns, and analyze the performance of your link building efforts.
If you’re looking to build quality backlinks to your website, finding the right link building software is essential.
Good link building is about acquiring links from reputable websites with lots of traffic.
There are a plethora of link building strategies to do this.
It might be easier to say what bad link building is: purchasing spam links to try to trick PageRank into thinking your site is highly recommended.