Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors for SEO. Backlinks are incoming links from other websites to your site. Search engines like Google use backlinks as votes of confidence for your website. Websites with more quality backlinks tend to rank higher in search results.
For business owners just starting out with SEO and link building, it can seem overwhelming. Where do you begin? How do you build links safely and effectively? This guide will walk you through backlink basics and provide actionable tips for link building.
Before diving into backlink-building strategies, let’s go over some backlink fundamentals.
What is a Backlink?
A backlink is a link from an external website pointing to a page on your own website. Backlinks pass authority and ranking power to your site. As Google crawls the web, it logs where sites are getting links from. The more quality backlinks your site has, the higher it will rank in search results.
Backlinks serve as votes of confidence from other websites. If Site A links to Site B, it’s essentially saying that Site B has valuable content worth linking to. Google sees these backlinks as recommendations and uses them as ranking signals.
Why are Backlinks Important for SEO?
Backlinks are arguably the most powerful SEO signal. The quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to your website directly correlate with higher rankings and more organic traffic.
Backlinks indicate authority and trust. Websites like the New York Times or Wikipedia have tons of backlinks from high authority sites. This helps boost their search visibility.
More backlinks also tend to increase your website’s topical relevance for keyword phrases. If your site has lots of backlinks around “content marketing”, Google sees your site as more authoritative on that topic.
Simply put, backlinks act as endorsements. Getting backlinks should be a core part of your SEO strategy.
How Does Google Evaluate Backlinks?
Not all backlinks are created equal in the eyes of Google. The search engine uses both quantitative and qualitative factors to assess backlinks, including:
- Total number of backlinks – More backlinks are better, but you also want link diversity.
- Relevance – Backlinks from sites in your niche are ideal. Irrelevant links get discounted.
- Anchor text – Natural anchor text is best. Over-optimized anchors appear spammy.
- Authority – Links from high authority sites pass more equity.
- Trust – Links from trusted domains have more weight.
- Link velocity – Natural link building takes time. Rapid spikes may trigger penalties.
- Link neighborhood – The context around a link matters. Links surrounded by spam may get devalued.
Evaluating backlink quality is complex. Focus on earning natural links from relevant sites at a natural pace. Quality over quantity.
Beginner Link Building Strategies Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are some beginner-friendly tactics for getting your first links.
Create Link-Worthy Content
The best way to earn links as a beginner is to create awesome content that people want to share and reference. Promote your content and make it easy for others to link to you.
Aim for in-depth, expert content on topics your audience cares about. Tutorials, case studies, guides, and data-driven content make great linkbait.
Make sure other sites can easily discover and access your content. Host your content on your main site rather than an obscured blog subdomain. Include share buttons, outbound links, and links to related resources to encourage natural links. Try to link your posts and articles together within your own blog, too.
Reach Out to Related Sites
The most direct way to build links is to personally reach out to other webmasters. This is known as manual outreach.
Start by identifying websites in your niche that might be interested in referencing your content. Target sites with an overlapping audience and complementary content.
Find out how to contact authors on these sites. Many list their contact details like email in their site bio or “About” page. If not, use tools like Hunter.io to find contact info.
Send personalized emails pitching your content and explaining why you think it would be valuable to their audience. Offer to contribute free guest posts as well. Follow up politely if you don’t get an initial response.
Guest Post Outreach
Guest posting is a great link-building tactic for new sites. By contributing posts to Authority Sites (sites that Google already loves and feature comprehensive content) in your space, you can earn high-value backlinks and exposure.
Start by making a list of reputable sites that accept contributor submissions in your niche. Look for guest posting guidelines on their site to find out how to pitch ideas or submit posts.
Craft a detailed pitch that hooks the editor and convinces them to publish your post. Make sure to customize each pitch and explain why your post would appeal to their audience.
Write compelling guest posts around your main keywords, linked to resources on your own site. Include a brief author bio with links back as well. Guest blogging is a numbers game, so don’t get discouraged by rejections. Persistently reach out to sites and provide value through your contributions.
Get Links from Directories
Link directories used to be common in SEO, but most are now lower quality. However, there are still some reputable directories worth getting links from as a beginner site.
Focus on high authority niche directories closely aligned with your industry or location. For local SEO, chambers of commerce directories and regional business directories are great options.
Some top vertical directories include:
- General: DMOZ, Best of the Web, Yahoo Directory
- Business: Yelp, BBB, Manta
- Tech: CNET, DZone
- Education: ERIC, LearnHowToBecome
Complete your business profiles on these directories to score backlinks. Make sure to use consistent NAP info across directories. While web directories pass minimal equity these days, they can still accumulate and boost perceived trust and authority.
Leverage Social Media
Social platforms like LinkedIn, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are opportunities to score backlinks to your website.
Profiles – Fill out your bio and links across social platforms.
Sharing – Share your new content posts and ask your followers to share.
Engaging – Participate in relevant conversations and engage with influencers.
Groups – Join related groups and share your content when appropriate.
Hashtags – Use trending hashtags and participate in viral social conversations.
Contests – Run social contests and campaigns with links back to your site.
Utilize social media to expand your reach and get more eyes on your brand and content. This can lead to visitors naturally linking to your site across the social web.
Build Links on Q&A Websites
Q&A sites like Quora and Stack Exchange are great for scoring quick backlinks from authoritative domains.
Start by identifying popular questions related to your niche on these platforms. Provide helpful, detailed answers with a link back to supporting resources on your site.
Make sure your answers actually add value. Don’t spam or overly self-promote. Offer useful expertise that earns you upvotes and shows your credibility.
You can also post your own expert questions and reference your content in the detailed answers. Monitor your questions for ongoing engagement opportunities.
Claim and Optimize Your Business Listings
Ensuring consistent, accurate business listings on major directories is a quick win for beginner local SEO and backlinks.
Key listings to optimize include:
- Google My Business
- Apple Maps
- Bing Places
- Facebook Business Page
- Local industry directories
Complete your business info and keep NAP (name, address, phone) data consistent across listings. Add photos, descriptions, services, and other details that help your listings stand out.
Optimized listings count as backlinks while also driving foot traffic, phone calls, and local brand visibility.
Broken Link Building
One smart link-building tactic is capitalizing on 404 broken links. These are dead links on other sites that lead to 404 error pages.
Start by using a tool like Ahrefs Site Explorer to analyze backlinks pointing to competitors. Filter to only view broken links. You can also search “site:example.com” on Google to manually find broken pages.
Determine which broken links are on authority sites closely related to your niche. Reach out to the site owner and offer to replace the broken content with one of your own articles. Provide the exact redirection code to make it easy. While this takes effort, broken link building can achieve high authority placements and help webmasters fix their sites.
Get Featured as an Industry Expert
Leverage your expertise to get featured as a guest expert and score backlinks.
Identify reporters, bloggers, podcasters, and other media outlets covering your niche. Follow them on social media and interact to get on their radar.
Send cold emails to pitch yourself as an expert source they can feature or interview. Make sure to provide social proof of your credentials.
Journalists are constantly creating content and looking for specialists. With persistence and value, you can get featured on Authority Sites and include bio links back to your website. Sites like HARO are good for this tactic.
Beginner Link Building Mistakes to Avoid
If you’re an SEO novice, it’s crucial to steer clear of tactics that may do more harm than good. Here are some common link-building mistakes:
Buying Links or Advertorials
Stay away from paid links and advertorials. Buying these expedites links, but they sometimes violate Google’s guidelines and pose major penalties if caught. Anytime you pay a website to feature a link to your own site, it’s a violation. Paying someone, like an agency, to build links is fine so long as they don’t ask web owners to sell them link space. However, for a beginner, you should focus instead on earning links organically.
Over-Optimizing Anchor Text
Refrain from overloading anchor text with your target keywords. This looks extremely spammy to Google. Use natural variation including your brand, URL, and descriptive phrases.
Only seek links from websites closely related to your niche and content. Irrelevant links get heavily discounted by Google. Stay laser-focused on getting placements that contextually make sense.
Spam Link Networks
Private blog networks (PBNs) and other artificial link circles should be avoided. Google frowns upon these spammy tactics and may manually penalize sites abusing them.
Avoid carpet bombing outreach to any and every site you find. This wastes time and harms your sender reputation. Be selective in who you pitch for links and personalize every request.
Over-Optimized Guest Posts
When writing guest posts, make sure they provide real value vs just functioning as promotional vehicles. Stuffing unnatural links and keywords will turn off publishers and readers.
Links from Bad Neighborhoods
Even one link from a “bad neighborhood” spam site can undo all your hard work. Using tools like Ahrefs to monitor backlinks and disavowing toxic ones is key.
Link Building Tools
Leveraging tools can make link prospecting and outreach far more efficient. Here are the top software options:
- Ahrefs – Backlink analysis, broken link building, site explorer.
- Semrush – Backlink audits, competitor link profiling, rank tracking.
- BuzzStream – Link prospecting, outreach tracking, and reporting.
- Pitchbox – Email tracking and automation for outreach campaigns.
- GroupHigh – Identify link prospects based on existing links.
- Backlinko – Track and audit backlinks with custom reporting.
- Majestic – Historical link data and trust metrics.
- Linkody – Automated guest post and broken link outreach.
- Google Search Console – Monitor incoming links and manual penalties.
As a beginner focus first on mastering manual outreach. Then look into tools like BuzzStream and Pitchbox to increase efficiency.
Link Building Tips for Beginners
- Take it slow. Safe, steady link growth looks natural to Google. No shortcuts.
- Master your outreach pitch. Make irresistible offers tailored to each site.
- Produce truly useful, epic content worth linking to. Promote it aggressively.
- Explore co-marketing partnerships. Joint content campaigns, link swaps, etc can align incentives.
- Monitor new links for relevance and quality. Disavow toxic backlinks.
- Don’t buy links! Stay patient and persistent with outreach.
- Prioritize relationships over one-off placements. Provide value to partners.
- Study analytics to identify referral sources. Reach out to thank and encourage more links.
- Diversify anchor text, linking domains, and placement types.
- Weigh link equity, but also consider branding wins. Context matters.
Getting powerful backlinks is critical for businesses aiming to rank higher in SEO. While it takes effort, you can earn amazing links through smart outreach and creating irresistible content.
Focus on building genuine relationships with webmasters in your space. Become an authority they want to reference. Avoid spammy shortcuts that may put your site at risk.
Link building is an ongoing journey. Use this guide to kickstart your efforts. Stick to white hat tactics and you’ll see your organic growth and conversions steadily rise.
If, as a business owner, you don’t have the time or resources internally to do this important work, consider a local marketing agency that can help.
Stay tuned for more updates and tips on navigating digital transformations in your business. If you have any questions or need assistance with migrating your website, feel free to reach out to Lead Nurture Close for expert guidance and support.