Backlinks, also called “inbound” or “incoming links,” are links from one website to another page. They’re super important for SEO because they’re like votes of confidence, showing that a page is relevant and authoritative. Pages with lots of good backlinks usually show up higher in search engine results. Because that link goes straight to a page on my website, it’s called a “backlink.”
Why Are Backlinks Important?
Think of backlinks as votes from other websites. Each vote tells search engines, “This content is valuable, credible, and useful.” So, the more of these “votes” you have, the higher your site will show up in Google and other search engines.
Using links in a search engine algorithm isn’t a new idea. In fact, backlinks were a crucial part of Google’s first algorithm, known as “PageRank.” Even though Google has made many changes to its algorithm over time, backlinks are still really important for how pages get ranked.
For instance, a study we did in the industry showed that links are still the main ranking signal for Google. And Google itself has said that backlinks are one of the top three things that decide how pages rank in search engines.
What Types of Backlinks are Valuable?
All backlinks aren’t the same.
To rank better in search results, aim for quality backlinks.
To put it simply:
One high-quality backlink can be more effective than 1,000 low-quality ones.
And, interestingly, top-notch backlinks usually have similar important qualities.
1: They Come From Trusted, Authoritative Websites
Imagine getting a link from Harvard compared to a link from some random person’s website. Which one sounds better to you?
Well, Google thinks the same way.
This idea is called “Domain Authority.” In simple terms, if a website has more authority, it can pass on more authority to your site through a link. For instance, I got a link from TechCrunch, which Semrush says is a really authoritative domain.
Because it’s from a trusted site, Google gives it a lot of importance. I even saw a boost in my search engine traffic after TechCrunch linked to me.
Are these kinds of links hard to get? Definitely.
Are they worth the effort? Absolutely.
2: They Include Your Target Keyword In The Link’s Anchor Text
Just a reminder, anchor text is the visible text part of a link. In general, it’s good if your links have anchor text that includes your target keyword.
A recent study in the industry found a connection between anchor text rich in keywords and higher rankings for that keyword.
But a quick heads-up:
Don’t go too crazy with keyword-rich anchor text. Google has a filter in their algorithm called “Google Penguin.”
This filter looks out for websites using tricky link-building strategies. It especially targets sites that build backlinks with anchor text exactly matching the keyword.
3: The Site (and Page) Linking to You Is Topically Related To Your Site
When one website links to another, Google likes it when the two sites are related.
Think about it:
If you wrote an article about running a marathon, Google would give more importance to links from sites about marathons, running, and fitness compared to sites about fishing, unicycles, or digital marketing. It just makes more sense.
4: The Link Is a “Dofollow” Link
Google and other search engines don’t pay attention to links with the “nofollow” tag. (In simple terms, nofollow links don’t affect search engine rankings).
Luckily, most links on the web are “dofollow” links.
And usually, links with the nofollow tag aren’t very valuable. For instance, links from sources like blog comments, press releases, or paid advertisements are often nofollow.
But these links aren’t super useful for SEO anyway, so it’s not a big deal that they’re nofollow.
5: The Link Is From a Domain That Hasn’t Linked to You Before
Imagine you get a link from Website A. Cool, right?
Now, let’s say Website A links to you again. And again. And again.
Are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th links as strong as the first one?
Turns out, links from the same website become less powerful over time.
Or to put it differently:
It’s usually better to get 100 links from 100 different websites than 1,000 links from the same website.
Our study on search engine rankings found that the number of different sites linking to you (not the total number of backlinks) has a bigger impact on Google rankings than anything else.
Now that you know what types of backlinks work best for Google rankings, let’s dive into how to start building them.
Create Linkable Assets
To get people to link to your website, you need something on your site that’s worth linking to – this is called a “Linkable Asset.”
A Linkable Asset can be a blog post, a video, a piece of software, a quiz, a survey, or basically anything that people would want to link to.
Usually, your linkable asset will be a fantastic piece of content, which is why search engine optimization and content marketing go hand in hand.
For instance, when I started my blog, I wrote a list of 200+ Google ranking factors. I got curious about the 200 signals Google uses, so I compiled statements from Google and online patents. It was time-consuming, taking over 2 weeks, but in the end, this single piece of content got over 25,800 backlinks from 5,870 domains.
Here’s another example:
One of my most successful posts is my ultimate guide to YouTube SEO. When I began, I was having some success with YouTube marketing, so I decided to share what I learned in the form of a comprehensive guide, including many examples. Even though it hasn’t generated as many links as my Google Ranking Factors post, it’s still earned quite a few backlinks.
Build Backlinks from Link Roundups
Imagine if people wrote blog posts specifically to link to excellent content, like what you already have on your site. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, that’s a real thing, and they’re called link roundups.
Here’s how it works:
Link roundups are blog posts published daily, weekly, or monthly that link to outstanding content. Let me show you an example of a backlink I recently got from a roundup:
Now, here’s the step-by-step process:
- Find Link Roundups In Your Niche: Use Google search with specific terms like ““Keyword” + “link roundup”.
- Pitch Your Resource: Politely suggest including your linkable asset in their roundup.
- If your post fits well, you’ll get a high-quality link. They might even share your content on social media.
It’s a cool way to get your content noticed and linked to by others in your industry.
Use The Moving Man Method
Let me break down the 3-step process for you:
- Find Outdated Resources: Look for web pages, resources, or businesses that are outdated, rebranded, or recently changed names.
- Identify Linking Sites: Find the websites that are still linking to these outdated resources.
- Reach Out Via Email: Email the people linking to the outdated content, informing them of the change and suggesting your up-to-date content as a replacement.
Here’s a real-life example:
I came across news that a big SEO agency’s website had suddenly shut down. This meant many pages on their site were no longer working, pages that people were still linking to. One of those was an infographic about SEO.
So, I took the next step and used Semrush to find all the websites linking to that infographic:
Finally, I emailed each of those websites, letting them know the infographic they linked to was no longer available and suggesting my own infographic as a suitable replacement. It’s a proactive way to get your content in front of the right audience.
Broken Link Building
This strategy is quite similar to the Moving Man Method we just discussed. The key difference is that, with broken link building, you’re specifically targeting pages that have 404 errors.
To locate and address broken links, especially the 404 ones, concentrate on resource pages within your niche. For example, if you’re in the fitness niche, you can use search strings like these in Google:
- “fitness” + “resource page”
- “fitness” + “resources”
- “fitness” + “recommended sites”
- “fitness” + “links”
These searches will help you find pages with broken links related to your niche, giving you an opportunity to reach out and suggest your content as a replacement. It’s an effective way to enhance your website’s link profile.
Now, you could send an email to the site owner and ask for a link. However, I’ve discovered that simply begging doesn’t work very well.
Here’s a more effective approach: inform the site owner about any broken links you find.
You can easily spot broken links on any page using the handy Check My Links Chrome Extension. This tool swiftly identifies any broken links on a page and highlights them in red, making them easy to spot:
The final step is to send an email to the site owner, letting them know about the dead link you found. This way, you’re offering a helpful solution rather than just asking for a favor.
Is guest posting still effective? Absolutely.
Especially when you’re just starting, guest blogging is one of the BEST ways to get links to your site.
When I kicked off Backlinko, I wrote over 50 guest posts and interviews in the first 12 months! The links from these guest posts significantly boosted my organic traffic.
However, it’s crucial to be strategic. I made sure to only contribute to quality sites in my niche. If your site is about the Paleo Diet, writing a guest post for an iPhone-focused site might seem spammy to Google.
But when you craft outstanding guest posts for reputable websites in your industry, those links truly make a difference.
The challenge is finding places to guest post, and that can be a bit of a hassle.
Here’s an easier approach:
- Identify someone in your industry who writes many guest posts.
- Go to one of their published guest posts and grab the headshot they use in their author bio.
- Finally, paste the URL of that screenshot into Google’s reverse image search.
- This will generate a list of places that have published guest posts.
Infographics and Other Visual Assets
Do infographics still work as well as they used to? Probably not, but they remain an effective link-building strategy.
When we examined which types of content attract the most links, infographics were still near the top of the list.
For instance, one of the first infographics I created took only a few hours to put together (I also hired a professional designer to make it look polished).
Even though this infographic didn’t go viral, it resulted in some solid backlinks:
To be clear: I didn’t just publish my infographic and hope for the best.
Like any piece of content you publish, you need to strategically promote your infographic. To do that, I recommend using a strategy called “Guestographics,” which I explain in detail in this post.
Companies, whether big or small, love showcasing customer testimonials.
If you’re using a product or service that you genuinely enjoy (or at least like), consider sending them a testimonial.
Many times, to show that you’re a real person, they’ll include a link to your website without you even having to ask. It’s a simple way to get a link while sharing your positive experience with others.
If you have a valuable product such as software, a physical product, or a consulting service that you sell, you can easily acquire numerous high-quality backlinks.
- Find bloggers in your niche who might be interested in your offering. For instance, if you sell an information product on making soap at home, you’d search phrases like “soap making,” “make soap at home,” etc.
- Filter out results from how-to sites or news sites, leaving you with a solid list of bloggers interested in your offer.
- Reach out to them using this email script.
However, be cautious about the language you use. Notice that you don’t offer your product in exchange for a link or review, as that would violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Instead, send them the product and let them decide if it’s worth a mention on their blog. It’s a subtle and effective way to potentially gain backlinks from bloggers in your niche.
Link reclamation is straightforward:
- First, find mentions of your company that don’t link to your site.
- Check to see whether the person who mentioned you also linked back to your site (either your homepage or an internal page). If they linked to your site, you’re all set. If not, move on to step #3…
- Send them this friendly email:
I just wanted to reach out and say “thanks” for mentioning [Your Brand] in your excellent article yesterday.
We really, really appreciate it.
I’m reaching out today to ask if you could add a link back to our site. That way, people can easily find us while reading your article.
Either way, thanks for the shout-out and keep up the great work!
Building backlinks is a crucial aspect of improving your website’s visibility in search engine results. Understanding the types of valuable backlinks and implementing effective strategies, such as creating linkable assets, guest posting, and utilizing visual content like infographics, can significantly enhance your site’s authority. Leveraging opportunities like testimonials, blogger reviews, and link reclamation further contribute to a robust link profile. By following these best practices, you can enhance your SEO efforts and climb higher in search engine rankings.