Backlinks are incoming links to one website from another. A website with a lot of good backlinks usually outranks their competition on all major search engines. There are a variety of ways to build backlinks—but some are more ethical, efficient, and effective than others. And if you’ve ever tried on your own then you know how hard it is to get backlinks… at least good ones. So, what do SEO companies do and how do they tackle such a hard part of SEO? We asked.
Backlinks through content
The best way to build quality backlinks is to create high quality content. A great piece of content has a compelling title, is informative and well written, and contains engaging elements like images and videos.
When you publish a genuinely valuable piece of content, people will link back to it often and organically. That’s why this is the best long term strategy. It’s worthwhile to produce less content and instead focus on making the post valuable, informative, creative, and unique. For example, “Ultimate Guides” have proven success, but require a little more time and effort.
Another great strategy is to establish a relationship to other content creators. Share their content, comment on their posts, and create a connection. After doing this, they will be much more willing to link back to you and you can avoid wasting your time on unsuccessful cold emails asking for backlinks.
Look at the big picture
Before a single link is built, we step back and look at the big picture. That is, what are the business goals? More often than not, we will analyze the industry vertical using Ahrefs to see the backlink profiles of competitors. This gives us a list of initial targets for outreach. Then it is a matter of finding contacts and offering value in return for a URL mention. Once we have exhausted the initial list, our outreach efforts will turn to relevant media publications and blogs. Some quick wins include hitting up previous contacts where we have successfully landed guest posts and pitching them a new and engaging piece of content.
To gain more backlinks, a company should be trying to get their website linked on as many other websites as possible. The easiest and most conventional way of doing this is by guest blogging on high-quality publications. The higher the other website is ranked on Google, the more SEO power that backlink has, so it’s important to try to guest blog for high-quality, and high-traffic publications. This can be difficult to do starting out, but once an individual/company starts to guest blog, other publications will be more open to the idea of having you write on their website.
Building backlinks for SEO is not something that happens overnight; it takes time to build these quality backlinks and have them affect your SEO.
They don’t. All the agencies I’ve worked with either buy links or they build blackhat (private blog network) links. Some agencies even build PBN links and disguise them as guest posts to clients. Really shady stuff. The legit agencies that build whitehat links will cost a pretty penny because link building is an extremely time consuming task, and you can expect to pay several hundred for a single link.
For our agency, our main method of link building is through PR. 60% PR, 30% guest posting and 10% others. PR is the best way to gain legitimate, whitehat backlinks from large publications.
We build links a few different ways. We build links doing a guest post and blog post, then sharing the blog post to social media and email lists. We found sharing a high-quality article gains enough traction that it might go viral and produce great links.
Dozens of ways
There are over dozens of ways but a few highlights I would point out are:
Social media websites
For example, a realtor can create a profile on Zillow and link back to their site. Highly relevant from the real estate niche!
This is more for local businesses, but they should be found on places like Google My Business, Bing Places, Apple Maps, and more.
Similar to social media, forums were the original place where people would ask for help. In the real estate space again, Bigger Pockets would be a great place to create a profile, answer questions to help other people, and build links at the same time.
Covering industry news
A tactic I’ve seen success in is covering industry news or statistics in an effort to earn reference links from blog posts. For instance, we wrote a really comprehensive post on digital marketing statistics that ranks well for related terms. As others in the digital marketing industry need statistics to back up points they make in posts, they often find and link to our post.
All sorts of ways
SEO agencies build links in all sorts of ways. Most link-building we have done follows a two-step process (which is actually composed of dozens of smaller steps).
First, we create amazing content. So much folds into this step, including deciding what topics are of interest and what angle would resonate. We also try to find some sort of fresh approach or hook. We generally do written content, but we also put a lot of effort into coming up with visuals that will attract attention on social media.
And that brings us to the second part. Great content doesn’t build links on its own. It needs an audience. It needs people to say: “I love it!” Or: “That’s what I’m talking about.” It needs people to want to share that content in their blogs and in their articles and elsewhere. It needs people to want to link to it.
Sure, you can do all sorts of sneaky things to build links, but we’ve found that content marketing is the best way to reach both humans and the search engine robots.
Corina Burri, Marketing Lead of Ofri, a four-headed team running an online service provider directory based in Zürich, Switzerland.
Help a Reporter Out
With only 4 people in [our] company, our resources are limited and all our actions need to be effective. With link-building we’ve tried several tactics like direct outreach, press releases, and pitching content articles to sites with similar content. But what actually now is working is HARO. I scan through the HARO (Help a Reporter Out) mail and when I have something relevant to share, I approach the journalists. I spend half an hour per day, and we even got into Forbes.
Two things first
I think there are 2 things to do when you are doing linkbuilding for a client.
Educate the client about the importance of backlinks and how to actively pursue them. This helps them to be aware so that if there is a new PR publication they can build a link, or let you know in advance for you to check the PR article.
Do it yourself
There are many different situations with websites. For example, I had a client who left a big group, and they didn’t want to redirect their old landing pages to their new site. So the idea was to reach out to the old backlinks, asking for a link because we changed the site domain. In that vein, one tactic I use is to look in MOZ’s Link Explorer tool for “top pages” and look for pages that are 404. Those are old pages that had backlinks pointing to them. You can redirect those pages to the active pages to increase backlink to the active pages. Of course, the usual tactic is to work with the client and local bloggers and journalists for backlinks. Manually, you can look at building up citations for local SEO yourself.
SEO agencies or consultants can help clients build links in multiple ways. Most of the time, backlinks are built through blog posts on a client’s own site or on a guest blog. There are many blogs in practically every industry seeking valuable insights from other businesses or writers.
Backlinks can also be built through features or interviews with online sources. Using a program like HARO, SEO experts can find opportunities to be featured in articles across the web.
Finally, backlinks can be built through press releases. Press releases are great for SEO because they help keep fresh content on the web and also help generate backlinks. There are free and paid press release services that work well for these purposes, including PRLog and EINPresswire.
As an agency, one advantage that we can deliver to clients is matching them with bloggers and reporters via HARO. We find that most clients love contributing to the field of their expertise. When their contribution is published they get excited to be a part of the common goals of increased exposure.
We use a variety of different methods to acquire links to our website. One tactic we have been focused on this year is guest posting on a variety of different websites, which helps not only get us a link to our site, but also shows that we have authority in our industry.
The same way anyone else would
SEO agencies build links the same way any other online business would – through the use of local business directories. Most SEO agencies cater to local businesses and therefore want to ensure that their own agency is found in local searches. Backlink building using local directories starts with the most popular sites, such as Google My Business, Bing Places, Yelp, CitySearch, YellowPages and Foursquare. Reputation and trust are crucial for SEO agencies, so creating profiles on directories with high domain authority help build this trust and positive reputation in both the eyes of search engines and users.
Aside from building links via local listing directories, SEO agencies will often have a robust PR campaign in order to publish company news to prominent local and national online news publications. Backlinks from news sites are always well received by search engines and users alike and help increase brand awareness.
Reputation is key
Local SEO can help in a number of niche markets. Many client companies have a physical presence, so creating local listings is beneficial. Adding listings on authoritative business directories in your niche and related sectors also gives advantage.
Company profiles and listings on B2B ratings websites also help. Publishing informative and how-to articles and posts that capture user intent, present insights, offer actionable advice and answer user queries is necessary.
Reputation management is key nowadays to garner positive reviews. You should reply with strong problem solving to negative feedback.
Include customer testimonials on your website–these can bring qualified leads. One-on-one interactions on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) and insightful updates also help get valuable traction.
In this “modern” era of SEO, there’s no shortcut to getting backlinks besides actually publishing high-quality, relevant content where people will link your site. So, there are three main factors to consider here:
• The target keyword: high enough search volume yet manageable competition, and whether this keyword can be expanded into topics, and thus, actual valuable content.
• Content development: optimized for the target keywords naturally, but the main focus is to provide value for the human readers.
• Content promotion: There are two main focuses here: getting organic traffic and getting backlinks in the process. For example, when we post our content on social media, some people might consume it, and some others might share it so we get valuable backlinks.
The idea is, treat each piece of content as a landing page, and optimize each of them by getting relevant, high-quality backlinks according to the topic.
Matthew Keats, SEO and Content Marketing Specialist with Prosperity Media.
We have found a lot of success in building high quality, long-form content assets that attract backlinks. These content assets must provide value and use relevant data. The more interesting and unique angle you can create, the easier it will be to build backlinks.
When creating your content piece, think about the audience, but also think about what sites you want to attract backlinks from.
Hard not to find ways
There are so many websites on the internet that it is hard not to find ways to build inbound links. Within your local community, there are always business groups, local directories and chambers of commerce to get a start with both in-person network and link building.
From there, if you are a service provider of products you can look toward your suppliers or distributors for links to your websites.
If you don’t resell products, you can look toward social media to help build awareness which might lead you toward linking opportunities further down the road. For instance, we once helped a customer find a Facebook group through social media networking that opened up the door to helping with a large non-profit organization that provided several back links for charitable donations of time.
To go even further, a small business can try finding message boards where people ask questions relevant to their business industry, then offer answers within the new threads that include signatures with a single link back to their own website.
It is also a great idea to go through several dozen of the most popular social media networks, map listings and directory websites to create your own profile. You don’t want to just pay a company to list the same information across hundreds of websites, which will instantly disappear the first time you stop paying the subscription fee. Along the same path, you can look toward referral and trust networks such as Clutch to help build references with customers.
It is also well known that blogs are everywhere, so reaching out to relevant blog owners and offering to write opinion pieces can be great. We have a large client in the pet industry which we do this for routinely – the client has a significant footprint in the pet industry and commonly provides statistics, opinions and past experiences to blog owners in exchange for an inbound link. There are numerous ways to build inbound links, but the best quality links come from building relationships with people and organizations that want to help you thrive as a business.
If you want sustained and compounding value from your link-building efforts, it is best to build them collaboratively with the website owner (or his or her designate). Joint link building yields higher quality results because the SEO has the tools and expertise to surface link building opportunities, whereas the business owner is best able to vet them for quality and fit.
I typically create a short list of opportunities each month including the link source, type, domain authority or rating, and recommended next steps. The list is reviewed with the client, and we jointly decide which ones to move forward with.
The client can rest assured that link-building efforts are “approved by Google” and follow industry best practices. The SEO company can be transparent about their practices and earn the trust and support of the client.
Earn them, don’t buy them
First and foremost, any SEO agency worth a grain of salt takes a white hat approach to building links. This means links are earned and not bought. Earning links is at times a slow process, yet it is much more effective in the long-run. The more high-quality domains linking to your website the better.
Below are several steps One Epiphany takes to achieve this goal:
Write great content that offers value to your intended audience.
Look at your competitors backlinks and see if you can get links from them, too.
Contact the top influencers/journalists/bloggers in your specific niche or industry and “pitch” them your content.
If the content resonates with the influencer/journalist/blogger, you will get a mention of your brand and typically you’ll earn a link too
Find “dead” links
Fix and reclaim links with 404 errors with a 301 redirect or request the referring domain to change the link on its page
SEO companies typically use a variety of methods to gain links. These methods can be categorized as White, Gray, or Black Hat with White Hat links being “proper,” “as recommended by Google” and Black Hat being manipulative of Google’s algorithms.
Which “hat” a method of link-building falls under is often subject to opinion, since Google doesn’t give a lot of information about what “works.” That being said, they do often concede the actions that could get you penalized when caught. The most popular methods for getting backlinks are:
This is where an SEO agency will go out and list the business in online directories. There are thousands of directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare and so on. Each of these provides links, as well as reinforcing NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) consistency. Links are often nofollow, but quite often dofollow – it’s about 50/50.
Outreach to other websites for links
This can be done in so many different ways, but most commonly SEO agencies will write content, a blog post, or have a product which they feel is better than their competitors’, provides a unique angle or is simply supplementary to their target’s content. They will then reach out to the target website and request a link.
Guest posts/sponsored posts
This is where an SEO will write a blog post to be featured on another website, which contains a link back to the client site. Sponsored posts are similar, but Google’s stance is strictly that you cannot pay for links and so links within sponsored posts should be “nofollow.”
Similar to a guest post, but often written by a trusted third party and posted on a large news site that most people would not have access to contribute to.
Sites like HARO
SEOs can offer insight on a subject and request a link back to their own content for reference.
PBNs (Private Blog Networks)
This is extremely Black Hat, but we still see it every single day from large SEO companies. Essentially, a company will buy up old “powerful” expired domain names and place a blog at that domain name. They create a controlled network of blogs which they interlink and then use to provide links to their client sites. Obviously this is manipulative of Google’s system, and it’s only a matter of time for most of these PBNs before their client sites are banished from the search results pages.
This is an older method and is considered very spammy, but I thought I’d mention it since I still see so many people trying it. Basically SEOs will go and comment on forums and blogs in hopes of getting a link back to their website. This is obvious to Google, and these links aren’t worth anything.
One technique to get a fair amount of links is contacting the manufacturers of the products retailers sell. Most manufacturers have pages right on their website that list all of the retailers where customers can purchase their products. Contact that manufacturer and ask for a link to the retailer’s website, and see a 50% or more success rate at getting a clean link back.
Our top link-building strategy is an Experts Roundup. An Experts Roundup is an article of crowd sourced answers from experts on a given topic. We pick a topic to base the article around, such as “What you listen to when you drive.”
We reach out to relevant bloggers, such as lifestyle and car bloggers, for this topic. We make it clear that in return for their answer, we’ll supply a link to their site on the roundup, and we’ll ask them if it’s possible to have a link to the roundup from their website— usually a press page or an existing articles page.
Generally, bloggers are very happy to get involved and link to their contribution. It’s a great link-for-link tactic without swapping links directly. It’s a win win!
A numbers game
The volume of outreach is directly related to the number of backlinks you can get. While that’s an obvious statement, ideally you also need to be keeping strict quality control over the target domains. Pursuing quality domains will always trump quantity so don’t waste time gathering hundreds of emails. What’s more, build a rapport with the recipients; this is likely to lead to future collaborations.
• Buying Links (most do so, but it should be avoided)
• Guest Posts
• Requesting influencers in the domain to link to their sites
• Link RoundUps
• Find sites that have broken links. Write them an email and inform them about the problem
• Mention that you have better content or a replacement
• I have seen some agencies that have garnered links using podcasts
The most popular methods are creating blog content that people want to link to, manual e-mail outreach to sites asking for links, business development deals that require link backs, guest posting on other sites in exchange for a link, and paying other sites to link to you (note: this is against Google’s guidelines and I wouldn’t recommend it).
Here are my tips for link building:
Use HARO for link building.
Set up alerts in your email (I use Google folders) to siphon various keywords or categories that you want to rank for. Check your email once a day (I recommend anytime around 12p-3p PST to give you ample time to respond to East Coast inquiries) and respond to those queries that are relevant to you.
Offer guest posting on websites with a focus that is related to your own. Establish yourself as the expert and offer advice and how-tos to help solve reader problems. Make sure your response is based on experience and offers a call to action (something a reader can do right now to solve a problem they have). Also, offer up your services while you’re in touch with the reporter/content writer.
Have a blog on your business website. Offer helpful tips and how-tos on your own site to drive traffic to your business. I love writing about top funnel and specific content. Have a good mix of both topics so that you can bring in people who may want to become your potential clients. You can use this blog to outreach and find placements on other websites to create backlinks.
Determine where you need links
If you are working in a particular area of the world, it is best to focus on local SEO and link building so that people who can physically visit your business will actually take advantage of your services. For example, if your business is in Canada, getting a link in India will not benefit you because the person your content reaches in India will most likely not be inclined to pay for a flight to become a patron of your services in CA.
Gone are the days
Gone are the days when the SEO agencies used to focus more on building excessive links irrespective of their relevancy and domain score. Now, everything has changed. Currently, they are not focusing on the quantity but the quality. They are following smarter approaches for building links:
1. Checking the competitor’s backlinks.
2. Checking PA, DA, relevancy, and traffic estimation of the website on which the backlink is to be created.
3. Focusing on building links through content marketing techniques like third-party blog submissions, guest blogging, forum posting, quora posting, infographics submissions, image sharing, video, PPT, and e-book submissions, etc.
4. Using influencer marketing technique for building backlinks.
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