Links are what make the online landscape what it is. People click on links to get to a destination, hoping to reach their end goal. And how helpful those links are ultimately shapes the user experience. A proper linking strategy plays a critical role in your SEO performance. Yes, we’re talking search engine visibility and rankings.
As important as it is to offer users effective internal links throughout your site, it’s also essential that other sites—credible and authoritative ones—link to yours:
- SEO experts say external linking or backlinking is the third most important factor for SEO.
- 51% of marketers say link building tactics reap positive benefits within 1–3 months of execution.
So, how are your links performing? How many authoritative sites link to yours? What does your link building strategy look like? The Big Leap team is here to ensure you’re in good shape wherever you stand.
Here, we dive into what link building is and nine actionable methods of how to build links in 2023. The result? Understanding exactly what you need to do to have sites and brands vouch for your content.
What Is Link Building?
Link building is an SEO technique that earns one-way links to a site (hopefully yours!). The goal of link building is to improve the following:
- Search engine rankings/visibility
- Brand credibility and authority
- Site traffic and conversions
Search engines see quality and relevant links pointing back to your site (also referred to as backlinks) as votes of confidence. The more you have, the more you’ll be rewarded with better online rankings and visibility.
A Snapshot of Link Building History
So why link building? We decided to ask Google itself, and here’s what we found:
- In the early days of Google, link volume was crucial in determining a web page’s quality and ranking. Though volume and quantity were helpful indicators, this analysis ultimately overlooked quality. So some low-quality pages ranked higher than they deserved.
- In 2005, Google overlords invented the rel=”nofollow” attribute. This innovation allowed site owners to add this anywhere users could add spammy links (e.g., comment section, trackbacks, and referrer lists). This attribute was a way for site owners to tell Google they don’t endorse the link and shouldn’t consider it part of the ranking assessment.
- In 2012, Google introduced the Penguin and Panda algorithms. These updates were a means to take a more vigilant approach to manipulative and spammy link building practices. Rather than simply looking at the number of backlinks a site had, Penguin considered the type of links they were. In other words, the algorithm ensured the links were credible, relevant, and authoritative.
- In 2016, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev confirmed backlinks were one of Google’s strongest ranking factors.
- Today, when you look at Google’s How Search Works page, you’ll find prominent backlinks play a pivotal role in helping the search engine determine the quality of your page.
Why Is Link Building Important?
When done right, link building boosts your SEO potential. As outlined above, Google uses backlinks as one of its key indicators to assess the quality and quantity of web pages.
Think of backlinks as votes of confidence; quality backlinks mean your site page offers valuable information. Other brands are trusting you as the resource for a given topic.
And don’t forget: links from authoritative pages pass more authority to your site. This Google algorithm is known as PageRank (PR).
What Makes a Link Good or Bad?
There are good and bad things in life—this includes links. In the search engine world, you can separate good and bad links into two buckets: white-hat link building and black-hat link building.
White-Hat Link Building—Employ These Whenever Possible
White-hat link building is ethical link building. It takes a conscientious approach to the user experience (e.g., fast site speed and quality content). The best links are earned naturally without you even having to ask.
White-hat strategies may include:
- Elevating the quality of your content (via content marketing tactics) to become an authority in your space and encourage sites to link to your page
- Conducting and publishing research and making data-driven decisions
- Guest blogging for relevant sites in your industry
- And more (we’ll go into greater detail later)
Overall, white-hat tactics stay centered on the following to ensure backlinks are well-deserved and legit:
- EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness): EAT principles should be the foundation of your content for which you want backlinks.
- Relevancy: Your backlink should be relevant to your brand and topic; it shouldn’t be a random site.
Black-Hat Link Building—Avoid These at All Costs
The opposite of white-hat link building, black-hat link building uses unethical tactics. These tricks fail to look after the user experience, favoring higher rankings and traffic. The site owner looks for shortcuts or loopholes to be ranked higher on SERPs.
In the link building world, black-hat strategies might look like this:
- Buying/selling links for ranking purposes (exchanging money, goods, or services for links)
- Creating partner pages exclusively for cross-linking
- Putting more emphasis on quantity rather than quality
- Guest posting for irrelevant sites or sites that don’t serve any other purpose than link building
You should avoid these strategies because Google will recognize them and penalize your site. And frankly, you should know better than to practice unethical link building!
Learn more about Google’s link spam policy to ensure you’re doing link building legally.
9 Actionable Link Building Strategies
Ready to implement white-hat techniques? Here are nine actionable, white-hat link building strategies to start using today.
Each tactic comes with specific tips on how to execute it. If you have any questions along the way, reach out to our team of digital marketers.
1. Create Compelling Resources
Valuable content is key to gaining high-quality backlinks. You don’t have to beg for a backlink when you’ve got stellar content.
Here are some excellent examples of compelling resources:
According to research, infographics can:
A great way to create infographics is by repurposing a top-performing blog post into one. Let infographics work for you by following these guidelines:
- Keep the word count as low as possible—the average infographic word count is 150–400 words. Less is more.
- Strike a balance of copy and image that is visually and aesthetically pleasing. In other words, let the graphics do the talking.
- Have inspirational visuals on hand to help navigate the writing process. Pinterest and Google Images are great places to look.
- Keep each copy section of the infographic consistent in the word count. That way, from a visual/design perspective, infographic sections align with one another.
Infographics have become more common over the years, which is why some have dipped in quality. They should be unique and centered on data to provide real value to your audience.
Tool kits and Checklists
Tool kit and checklist resources offer users tangible assets they can use right away. The key is to make these resources simple, clear, and accessible.
For example, Big Leap has provided our readers with the following:
- DIY Competitor Analysis Checklist: Users can use this checklist tool to execute their own competitor analysis.
- Free Digital Marketing Toolkit: This guide offers digital marketing software/tools both budding and seasoned marketers can use to carry out their online strategy. The tools fall into three tiers: free, affordable, and expert.
Making data-driven decisions is key to helping people and businesses elevate their strategy. So why not give them those statistics directly?
Data-backed resources provide readers with hard numbers they can use right away. The research has already been done, and users appreciate that.
A couple of data-backed resource examples include:
When scoping out statistics, ensure the resources you’re seeing are valid and authoritative. That way, you can provide readers with legitimate, data-backed resources they can trust.
2. Partner with Thought Leaders and Influencers
Who are the thought leaders or influencers in your industry? An influencer has built a reputation for knowledge and expertise on a specific subject.
Influencer marketing can be a great way to boost your authority and bottom line—89% of marketers believe ROI from this strategy is similar to (or better) than other marketing channels.
Find influencers via online research. Your research might include the following:
- Reaching out to those in your network via LinkedIn or other social platforms to see if anyone can connect you.
- Looking up hashtags (those relevant to your industry/topic) on social media. Using hashtags can be a gateway to discovering the right influencers.
Be authentic, specific, and personal when reaching out to your influencer. Try to connect with them through social messaging, comments, and offline methods. Email has become quite saturated and noisy, so finding more personal ways to foster connections is vital.
Here’s an example of a message you can send via social messaging platforms:
My name is [Your Name], and I work on the marketing team at [Company Name]. We’ve been following your account on Instagram and LOVE your content. We especially loved your latest post with your family on the beach—very cute, and it resonates with our brand values of self-care and optimism!
We would like to partner with you on a collaboration with [Company Name]. Whether it be a link to your blog, a product exchange, or another idea we come up with together, we hope you’re interested in working with us!
Please let me know your thoughts, and we can discuss the next steps!
3. Conduct a Competitor Backlink Analysis
Reverse-engineer your competitor’s backlinks. The aim is to build the same or similar links to build a more reputable online position.
- Identify your competitors. Tap into tools such as Moz’s Competitive Analysis Tool and SEMRush’s Competitive Analysis.
- Browse through competitor backlinks using tools like the SEMRush Backlink Gap Analysis tool. This tool compares a domain with its competitors and identifies backlink gaps. It also identifies the types of backlinks to pursue (e.g., guest blog posts, citations, local links, resource links).
- Examine the sites from where those backlinks are coming.
- Reach out to relevant backlink sites to earn a backlink from them.
4. Guest Blog
Have you ever thought about guest blogging? It can enhance brand awareness and credibility…and offer an excellent opportunity to earn quality backlinks.
- Guest blogging offers 5x more authoritative backlinks, which can boost rankings.
- Guest blogging reels in around 80% growth in organic and referral traffic.
- When Best Vinyl guest blogged for businesses in the home improvement and gardening industries, this helped our client in the following ways:
- Answer box results secured
- Boosted organic traffic by 58.72%
- 3,965 more lead conversions
To get started, research sites or brands aligned with your industry and topic of interest. Remember, Google algorithms inspect the relevancy of your backlinks.
Keep in mind:
- Finding quality guest blogging opportunities is similar to connecting with influencers. To build real connections, you need to identify high-quality and relevant sites (leaning on your competitor analysis can help with this). When relationships are formed, you can then pitch your guest blog idea.
- Cold guest blog pitches aren’t as effective these days. Outreach is fine, but there needs to be a good level of strategy involved to ensure who you reach out to is well-aligned with your brand, vision, and goal.
- Sites that advertise guest posting tend to be spammy and low quality. So typing in [keyword/topic] “submit a guest post” into the Google search bar isn’t necessarily going to get you the right results. Again, relevancy and authenticity are key to earning the beneficial backlinks offer.
5. Engage in Community Link Building
Community link building taps into online forums to acquire relevant and legitimate backlinks. Leveraging forums does two things:
- It allows you to connect with a community and establish yourself as a thought leader. You can provide valuable insight on a given topic and share resources readers might find useful.
- It provides exposure for a given content piece. People who see and love it may be inclined to share it on their site for others to enjoy.
The goal of participating in online forums isn’t to spam users—it’s to be a regular contributor and add value to conversations. You should only drop a link to your site when it’s especially helpful and applicable to a conversation.
For reference, here are a few online forums our digital marketing team uses:
- Reddit Big SEO: Reddit offers a wide network of varied communities. Each community focuses on a particular interest, hobby, or passion. In this case, the Big Leap team taps into SEO communities to gain and share insights.
- Moz Community: For SEO and backlinking assistance, the Moz Community offers a great community of online marketers to exchange valuable information.
- Google Business Profile Help Community: Those with a Google My Business (GMB) profile use this forum to raise issues and ask for help within the GMB community.
What community platform you use depends on your industry and where your audience hangs out at. Use these areas to guide you to an apt forum.
6. Scope Out HARO Opportunities
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a resource journalists and other reporters use to find sources for fresh articles. They report on popular trends and happenings, so they’re a good place from which to earn backlinks.
When you sign up for HARO, you’ll receive up to three emails daily from reporters looking for sources. If any topics/requests reflect your expertise, just send your credentials, website, and a quote.
Check out some HARO success stories to see what the platform can do for you.
7. Leverage 404/Broken Link Building
Broken link building is a strategy that leverages broken pages on your site. It entails:
- Identifying dead pages that have backlinks.
- Asking the site to swap those links to a working or new page on your site.
The broken link method can be a practical and efficient way to gain backlinks because:
- It adds value to your site and someone else’s site as well—people don’t want to send their site visitors to a dead resource.
- Broken pages and links are low-quality signs to search engines, which drop rankings. Helping a site identify broken links and replace them is a big win for you and them.
Broken link building requires two things: research and outreach.
There are four steps to broken link building:
- Identify relevant competitors.
- Export a rundown of competitors’ broken backlinks. Tools like Ahrefs’ Broken Link Checker and SEMRush Backlink Analytics Tool do this.
- Identify relevant content pieces you have that pertain to specific backlinks.
- Email website owners of relevant links. Kindly let them know they have a broken link and ask them to update their site.
Subject Line Examples:
- Hey, forget something?
- There’s something wrong with your site 🙁
- Found a broken link on your site
Email Draft Example:
I was browsing your blog after finding it on [Google/Social Media Channel/Other]. I love what you’re posting—especially your [Article Title with Broken Link] article.
However, I spotted a broken link that leads to an error page over the anchor text “[Anchor Text].”
I actually created a resource on this topic, which might be interesting for your readers if they’re looking for further information on this topic.
You can view the link here: [URL]
What do you think?
8. Look for Brand Mentions
With the help of brand mentioning tools, you can discover pages/sites that mention your brand or a specific keyword.
For example, if you find an article mentioning your brand name or your products/services, kindly reach out to them requesting they add a link to your relevant site page. It’s a quick update on their end!
Here are a few vetted brand-mentioning tools to consider:
Once you find a page or site that mentions your brand, reach out to the site owner using the following examples below.
Subject Line Examples:
- Thanks for mentioning [Company/Brand Name]!
- Invitation from [Company/Brand Name]
Email Draft Example:
Hi [Their Name],
I noticed that you mentioned [Brand Name] on your page here: [URL]
I work as a digital partner with [Client Website] and thought your users might find value in having a link to our [Page Name]: [URL]
Would you be willing to add this link?
9. Earn Local Links
If you’re a local brick-and-mortar business—or a company providing services in a geographic location—earning local links must be on your list.
For example, when our Roofing Contractor Client created new local citations on directories, this strategy earned the business more backlinks, which contributed to the following:
- 301% boost in new organic users
- 192% increase in organic sessions
Earning local links involves:
- Building or optimizing your local citations. Information like your name, address, and phone should be accurate and updated. Local citation tools and platforms such as Google Business Profile (previously known as GMB), Brightlocal, and local chambers of commerce (you’ll find a site for each major city) are great ones to leverage.
- Connecting with—and gaining backlinks from—local sites and community members, including:
- Local directories and review websites.
- Local bloggers who write about your geographic area.
- Local businesses open to partnering with you and featuring you on their sites (e.g., “Business We Love,” “Local Partners,” or “Our Sponsors” sections).
For example, one of our clients is a lawyer in San Diego who sponsors local baseball teams in their area. We paid a fee to get a banner in the stadium and earned backlinks from their local sponsors with the help of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Personalize Outreach Messages
Whether you’re reaching out to influencers or sites, an effective message is crucial. Do your due diligence in understanding their website and vision to garner trust.
Be sure to hit these three points when crafting your message:
- Personalized: The message should be specific to the recipient. Mention the person by their first name, comment on an article they’ve written, or discuss pain points they’re experiencing.
- Positioned: What’s in it for the recipient and their readers? How can you help them reach their goals and address their pain points? Move the recipient emotionally.
- Persuasive: Social proof (e.g., client testimonials, customer base size), case studies, and examples of high-quality content are all great ways to persuade your contact. These compelling materials foster trust.
If you don’t receive a response, follow up. It’s typical to reach out 2–3 times before establishing a relationship. A follow-up message can lead to 65.8% more replies.
Link Building Tools to Consider
Here are some great link building tools Big Leap’s digital marketers recommend. Use these to start crafting the right backlinking strategy:
- Ahrefs: “Ahrefs is excellent for link research/finding opportunities.” –Tyler Brown, Digital Marketing Director
- Advanced Google Search Operators: “Using Google with advanced search operators can be a game changer, too.” –Tyler Brown, Digital Marketing Director
- Buzzstream: “Buzzstream can help you stay organized and send outreach emails!” –Lindsey Parris, Senior Digital Marketing Specialist
- Web 2.0 Ranker: “I really enjoyed the Niche Link Building Service for local locations. It can get non-scam links pretty quickly.” –Noah Cisneros, Client Success Executive
- Hunter: “Hunter is a game changer. I know there are a ton of different uses for it, but I like using it to find different contacts, which gives us a better chance at getting a message to the right person.” –Caden Cook, SEO Manager
Elevate Your SEO Link Building Strategy in 2023
Are you ready to elevate your link building strategy in 2023? If you’re looking for a sounding board or need a hand, reach out to Big Leap. Our SEO specialists take the time to understand your specific backlink and online goals in order to craft the right strategy for you.
The time to boost your authority is now.