Updated: July 27, 2020
It doesn't come as a surprise — the time of indiscriminate link baiting all over the web is gone. With Google constantly improving its algorithms, SEOs try to keep their wits about them, revising link building strategies. So, how to earn valuable backlinks? Is it possible to promote a website as fast as it could be done several years ago? What are successful link building tactics to keep your site afloat?
This guide to building links outlines a few SEO techniques that are still worth the effort in 2020.
Are links important for website ranking?
Link building largely means winning links from other pages to raise your site's authority. But why do SEOs focus on it so much?
According to the research we conducted in 2017, about 70% of SEOs consider backlinks a significant ranking factor. And 24% of respondents also agree that backlinks are quite important alongside with other ranking factors. Furthermore, from the words of a Google executive handling search quality, content and links are still the two most important things that affect ranks. And this has stayed the cornerstone of SEO and link building in 2020.
No matter what's your starting point, consider three pillars of modern-day link building:
- Links are not equal. You should aim to build backlinks from authoritative sources.
- No cheating. You've got to work on your content and target the right audience to achieve good results.
- Care for your audience. Effective link building is a way to build your reputation and create new ties within your industry.
Thus, the effective link building campaign means building high-quality links that would drive traffic to you because of the high value of its content. That is why you need to think of what your target audience is most likely to share on the web. Look at your content from the perspective of your readers and decide whether it deserves a link or not.
So, go ahead and create link-worthy content to leave your audience no other option but to "shout about it from every street corner", for example, in the form of social media shares :-)
Link building tactics for better outreach
In this guide, we've summarized the most popular link building tips. Those are content-oriented link building techniques that are suitable for any type of platform, whether a small starting blog or a developing site. As for old-school black hat SEO techniques, we highly recommend abandoning them.
Exploit ego baiting
Ego bait focuses on creating content that aims to appeal to someone's ego. This is a win-win strategy for both sides: you boost their public authority and earn a link in return. As a rule, it targets a celebrity or an industry authority. The point is to make them share your post with their own audiences.
By using these link building techniques, you will definitely expand your outreach, raising both traffic and your post's authority. Here are some of the ways you can include influencers in your content:
- A mention
- An interview
- A round-up list
You can simply quote influencers, link them, or place their photos in your post. The more prominently they are featured, the higher is the chance they will share your content. Produce some hilarious content — laughter amplifies outreach in a wink of an eye. Most importantly, don't forget to inform them about the prepared material either by messaging them directly or by tagging them on social media.
You can compile round-ups, listicles, and directories with an influencer included. Better yet, ask a bunch of experts to contribute, let's say, one item to your chart. Accompany this item with the name of the respondent and some suitable comments. Readers would love it, as will search engines.
Find unlinked mentions
The tactic is to find unlinked mentions of your website on social platforms, forums, and blogs, and turn them into backlinks.
When dealing with Google alone, you can search for intext:your site/brand to check what's there on the web about you. Or set up Google Alerts to get notified whenever your brand is mentioned somewhere.
If you want to expand your monitoring to social platforms, you will definitely need some kind of a social listening tool. This is where the Awario web app could be of great help.
Set up a project by entering your domain, topics, and competitors. The tool will soon collect mentions across the indicated sources, like Twitter, Facebook, news/blogs, etc.
If you want to spot unlinked mentions of your brand or topic from the social buzz, use the Boolean search feature, under the Alert Settings.
Create the Boolean query that will search for the name of your brand, but exclude links.
You'll get the list of unlinked mentions where people are already talking about your brand or topic, so convincing them to add a link shouldn't be a problem.
Awario creates social cards about the source, including a brief bio, traffic stats, and InLink Rank, so that you can decide if the source is worth your effort.
The tool picks up authors' profiles on social networks and finds their email, if available. You can quickly proceed to read the full article on the web or respond to the post on the respective social network. Your interactions with the target author will appear right below the author's card.
Furthermore, you can mark the sentiment of the mention, tag it with a label, highlight with a star, blacklist or delete, or mark as done — a great organizer to collect and monitor mentions!
Repurpose your content
Review your content: if your site has existed for a while, you are sure to have some old, but still relevant content that's just sitting there without getting any traffic. It's about time you dust it off, update it with some fresh information, and give it a second chance with your audience. Here are some of the ways you can refresh an old piece of content:
Find the latest facts
You can give a fresh update to great stories that crawled off the front page but are still relevant. Has anything important happened recently in your field? Check out Google Trends and Google Suggestion tools to find hot current topics. Dig through recent news and bring in the facts in your post using the latest information. If there were any significant developments, you might be able to spark some interest with your audience.
Tip: Adapt the long-tail keyword approach to rework your texts and target larger audiences. Check out Google suggestions on your main keywords to see what's trending right now. This will also serve as a growth strategy: you increase organic traffic - and get more link opportunities as well.
Add a video
Recent surveys among marketers show that video has been growing into one of the most popular marketing tools. Eight out of 10 people have watched an online demo before deciding to buy an app. An average Internet user watches almost seven hours of online videos weekly. And this May's update of Instagram to share live videos straight to IGTV was pretty welcomed by bloggers. It looks like even longer, on-the-spot movies are actionable and are increasingly used by businesses.
Of course, producing a successful video takes time and effort, which is where your old content may come in handy. Adapt your old articles to become video scripts and it will take care of the large chunk of work. Pay special attention to the educational types of content, like tutorials and walkthroughs — those make especially popular videos in search, sometimes even earning the position of a featured snippet.
Like, for example, this video about keyword research comes in top search results for both Google and YouTube.
Shoot just one good brief video (that will grasp viewers' attention in the first 2 seconds), post it on your YouTube channel with the required links attached in the description and spread the word on social platforms.
Create insightful infographics
People love data. Sometimes it's presented in an indigestible way — but that's until infographic breaks in. Figures put into plain images are persuasive and memorable. It takes only a few seconds to understand what's it about, and a few more seconds to get the impulse to share the message with other people. And research shows that in three days people recall only 10% of what they heard vs 65% of what they heard, accompanied by some visual support.
Below is an example of simple visuals about the banana equivalent dose — this is how scientists informally measure radiation exposure in bananas (though sceptics remark you should take this information with a pinch of salt).
Didn't you feel like learning more about it?
So, put some time into creating infographics: find compelling data, develop your unique style. There are plenty of intuitive tools to experiment, like Infogram or Canva.
Tip: Use guestographic as a strategy. Publish your data with infographics, then reach out to other websites in your niche that might be interested in such content. Leave the code to embed your data on other sites, and spread the pics on social networks. Think of some infographic directories where you can post it, such as Mashable or Slideshare.
Write a guest post
Guest posting still remains one of the most popular link building strategies. It allows not only earning more backlinks but also gaining new audiences as well as boosting the website's traffic, which is by no means less important for SEO. Just remember that these days you have to put real effort into your guest posts — try to push thin content and Google will consider it spam.
So, if you've considered all the pros and cons and made a decision in favor of guest posting, try finding those blogs where your content will fit in. Some guest blogs are open, inviting you to offer them your content. Others may take some negotiating.
The fastest way to find places to guest-post is by using the respective search method in LinkAssistant.
- Launch the tool and create a new project for your site.
- Hit Look for Prospects in the left corner (the binoculars icon) and choose Guest Posting as a research method.
- Now enter some keywords. Stick to industry-specific keywords rather than your branded ones.
- Once all the keywords are specified, go grab yourself a coffee, because by the time you finish it, the whole list of guest blogging opportunities together with contact emails will be there.
- In the end, you'll have hundreds of link building opportunities with guest blogs. Filter the results to eliminate those containing invalid names, contacts, or themes.
You can filter the results by authority (DomainInLink Rank, Alexa Rank), domain age, indexing on search engines, and social media popularity of a domain (or all of them in bulk).
Mention your brand in a relevant context
Among prospect opportunities, find sites that deal in your field of expertise and introduce yourself. However, make sure to pick authority domains and build in contextual links. Below are a few examples of where to find such pages.
In the past, blog commenting was used extensively to raise sites' authority and improve a brand's visibility, and drive new links and traffic, of course. Over the years, spam commenting practices have turned into a nuisance for webmasters. Popular blogs started to close all comments with the “nofollow” attribute, which made user-generated content useless for boosting PageRank.
However, the tactic is still respected for bringing traffic and raising awareness of the brand. Today there is the rel=”ugc” attribute for user-generated content, and lots of blogging platforms, such as Blogger, add it automatically to all comments.
In other words, blog commenting is a great thing when done right. What you need to check twice is that you have these comments under relevant blogs, so that it adds value to users and to the topics discussed. And when it comes to finding those conversations where you might have something to add, there is nothing better than a little help from Link Assistant.
- Hit Look for prospects and specify Commenting as your research method.
- Now you need to decide on the keywords. If you're on a hunt for thematically relevant websites, use your seed keywords, related to your topic broadly.
- However, if you want to find some exact-match articles or blog posts, your keyword choice should be determined by the topic of this very article. So, you need to Enable expert options.
- Then hit Get exact URLs to make the tool spot the URLs of individual pages rather than domains' URLs. You can also uncheck Try to acquire contact information because you don't need to contact webmasters via email, and that would also make the search faster.
- Now LinkAssistant is taking some time to search for relevant pages and will very soon supply you with a list of link building opportunities for blog commenting.
- With the help of LinkAssistant's in-built browser, you can start writing comments right there in the tool! Hit the arrow next to the link and select Open with the internal browser.
And add the comment!
It's still somewhat acceptable to make helpful contributions to forum discussions, enticing users to visit external links you are promoting. Being an active forum participant will not only drive traffic to your site but also help you become an expert in your industry. And who doesn't want that?
However, this is not about leaving spam links all across forums. They need to be niche-specific, and your comments should add value or answer some questions. The first place that comes to mind is to refer to popular ask-and-answer platforms, like Quora.
To unearth the plethora of suitable forums quicker, let's again request the help of Link-Assistant.
Again, hit the Look for Prospects button and pick Forums as a search method.
At the keyword entering step, pick category-related ones, as they can broadly describe your targeted niches. Also, make sure to press Enable expert options after entering the keywords. Then, at the 4th step, enable Get exact URLs, disable Try to acquire contact information, and enjoy the results with a full list of forums for you to go through.
Business directory submission
Although directory submission tends to influence ranking algorithms a bit less lately, it can still work to your advantage. Actually, this is the first place where you go to promote a new website. To make directory submission effective, get links only from quality and niche-specific directories. On top of that, make sure those directories are editorial and check the quality of sites the directory includes.
Again, hit the Prospects button and pick the Directories search method. Enable expert options and, unlike in the previous steps, set in the preferences Automatically acquire title and description only.
When the list of directories is ready, go through it, because it's quality what we are searching for, not quantity. Remember that low-quality directories can do you more harm than good.
Organize contests and giveaways
This goes broader than just squeezing more link juice from the web. Stage something special to lure new audiences. This can be a writing contest, a survey about a burning issue, a quiz, or a seasonal giveaway. Collaborate with those platforms that your audiences overlap with. The point is to organize something that will be highly viral and that will encourage users to learn more about the product behind promotion.
For this goal, use Reviews and Giveaway search methods the same way as above. Again, the tool will collect a plethora of resources from which you'll handpick only a few, but they should be the best.
Use, but don't abuse it. It's not about “I know this good guy, the first 10 subscribers from my link will get a T-shirt”. A well-meditated and targeted link building campaign will increase brands' visibility and followers' count. The purpose is to extend outreach to those users who will want to come and stay with you. The link building effect of such campaigns is limited, but among positive results, you will gain more traffic and liven up your audience.
Don't forget old good PR
Don't be shy to inform others about something important you've done. Offer your own ready-tailored content (in as many possible formats as possible: texts, video, posters) about the activities you are arranging. Not necessarily they will be shared, but can be noticed by local media or interest groups if the content is outstanding. And when you deliver a great product or service, people will want to give you a shout out anyway!
Research your competitors' link building tactics
One more technique to win backlinks is to research your competitors' linking tactics and to include the sources that you've missed.
Use SEO Spyglass' Domain Competitor module. Launch the tool and create the project. Enter several competitors' domains for comparison.
You will get the link intersection percentage alongside with prospective domains percentage.
Tip: use filters to find those domains that link to several competitors, but not to you. This is surely a good backlink source. Reach out to them with an email, inviting to link to some of your content as well.
Carry out broken link building
This is a scalable, white-hat approach, though the success rate of broken link building is about 10% at best.
The scheme is simple: check out 404 pages on your competitors' sites, inspect what kind of content is missing, find or create a substitute and write to the linking domain's owner, inviting them to link to your resource instead of the broken pages.
Use SEO SpyGlass to deal with broken link building.
- Launch the tool and create a project. Analyze your competitors' domains.
- Check the results under the Backlink Profile> Backlinks > Linked Pages, Linked Pages Status Code. Review pages with 4xx codes.
Reach out to the domains that link to broken pages and invite them to link to your content instead.
Reclaim your links
The opposite side of the broken link building is finding lost links. You can quickly check what backlinks disappeared and get them back with SEO Spyglass' Historical Data submodule.
Inspect the lost links and find out who stopped linking to you: probably, the linking page stopped existing or they just revamped their content, losing your precious link. The latter is a good reason to reach out to your linking source, in a most personal way, asking them to set a link to your new material.
Link building tactics to avoid (or use with caution)
The below strategies and tactics used to be easy tweaks to promote a website overnight from zero. However, they no longer help this way.
The tactics of buying links might probably work for some fields, but there are frightful beasts called Penguin and Panda to keep in mind. PBNs, i.e. private blog networks aimed to manipulate PageRank, are a great way to get your site penalized. Back in 2012, it worked well to buy cheap links from some guys and make your ranking skyrocket. But even then such SEO techniques raised disapproval once the trickster was caught (and which actually pushed Google to invent the algorithms that ruthlessly devalue or ban such measures).
By the way, back in 2019 Google introduced the "sponsored" attribute for paid links. According to Google guidelines on link schemes, a website will be penalized if paid links are not marked appropriately. So, you'd better focus on finding affiliates in your niche or appropriate media to land your sponsored materials. These should be high-quality full reads, natural, and relevant to real audiences.
There used to be tons of automatic link building tools like Instant Article Submitter etc. Such software allows mass automatic article submission to article syndication sites, like EzineArticles. The tools usually include intelligent article spinning, which is an automatic rewriting of texts that ensures uniqueness for search engines. However, SEOs of reputable brands tell us that such SEO techniques do not work anymore — Google doesn't like it.
If you want to promote a recently launched resource, try to extend outreach for free, through social networks, content sharing platforms, and with the methods mentioned above. Then with growth, you can invest in sponsored and advertising campaigns, with the help of Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.
Tiered link building
If a website removed a link to you and they don't feel like returning it back, offer to add a second-tier link: recommend a page that links to you as a replacement. For example, you can recommend that they link to a guest post that you've published. The aim here is to enhance the credibility of your already built links.
Simply put, tiered link building is creating backlinks to your backlinks. Such black-hat tactics were used to create the second-tier links from user-generated content, and the third-tier links were automated with spammy sites. No surprise, Google has made it less effective.
Still, there is a possibility to consider tiered link building as a white-hat tactic: rather than creating thin content with spammy sites, find relevant blogs that badly need quality content, prepare it and make sure to insert the needed contextual links to your first-tier linking sites. Altogether, they will boost your ranking profile.
Revise your backlinks profile
Another important aspect of your link building strategy should be reviewing your backlink profile on a regular basis. The best way to keep your PageRank safe is to analyze backlink pages, paying attention to:
- Pages with highly irrelevant titles
- Pages with hundreds of external links and little content
- Domains with little traffic
Check for penalty risks
How to evaluate your backlinks effectively? SEO SpyGlass tool is great for finding your site's backlinks. The software automatically updates the backlink page and domain value, delivering stats for over 40 SEO factors — the verified data you can rely on. Check the linking domains' and pages' InLink Rank, Alexa Rank, authority, and penalty risks.
Check the referral traffic
If most of your backlinks are not clicked on by real visitors, that's a red flag for your page, since it implies these backlinks seem to be irrelevant, not interesting and useless to users. So, find out how many visits each of these backlinks brings.
This is how you can do it with SEO SpyGlass — simply choose Google Analytics as a backlink source and the tool will reveal the exact links that bring real visitors to your website.
And show the exact number of visits a specific backlink page brings:
You will get a list of domains and backlinks that might be harmful to your website's PageRank. Your next step is to remove the links: reach out to the webmaster or the domain owner with an email, asking them to remove the bad backlinks. And if your requests are ignored, you can exclude such bad links from crawlers with the help of Google disavow file.
Measure the social value of backlinks
An important factor correlating with websites' authority is the amount and strength of social signals — tweets and retweets, Facebook likes, shares, mentions, etc. Analyze social signals for your backlink domains — which ones get the most buzz from users? Highlight these sites and work more to get backlinks from there.
You can quickly check the social data in SEO SpyGlass, choosing the social media factors that are most important for your niche. Then press the Update button to get this data for your backlinks:
Google has clearly shown that stuffing anchor texts with keywords in order to game search engines is a risky activity. As of now, there's no 100% correct formula for the anchor text. The more natural it looks — the better. Backlinks with promotional anchor texts and commercial keywords can bring you on the radar for Google.
To quickly have a look at your existing backlink anchors, you've got SEO SpyGlass at hand. Let the tool collect the data for you, including all of your anchor texts. Just click the respective module and get all the stats:
If you find your existing anchors quite uniform, here are the three types of anchors to focus on when building new links:
- Hybrid branded anchors ("Brand name + keyword variations")
- Universal anchors ("here's the keyword link", etc.)
- Naked URLs ("www.site.com")
Notice that exact match anchor text is NOT prohibited, you can (and should) have some links with your best key phrases. It's recommended not to use ONLY exact match anchor texts to avoid keyword overstuffing.
Link building strategy stays a priority for SEO
To sum up, successful link baiting goes hand in hand with content creation. The key to success is building high-quality links using white-hat tactics and strategies. A wise approach is not to put all eggs into one basket, but to use the whole bunch of link building techniques.
Have you got any proven link building tips of your own? Please, share them with us in the comments below!