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What Are Backlinks & Why Are They Important?

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When it comes to SEO, conversations always spin around backlinks. So, what are backlinks, why are they important for SEO, and how do you get backlinks to your website? We decided not to test your patience and answer these questions right now.

Read on to learn how building a strong backlink profile can help you boost your online business and increase conversions.

What are Backlinks?

This one is easy. Backlinks are links on other websites that lead back to your site. You can also encounter them as “incoming links” or “inbound links,” so don’t worry, they’re all the same thing.

No matter what, SEO and backlinks stick together like best friends. On their own, they’re weak. That’s why it’s nearly impossible to advance your site’s SEO without having quality backlinks.

Why are Backlinks Important?

You might wonder how this tiny detail can play such a significant role in SEO and even make or break your whole business. In fact, backlinks have never been a minor thing.

In the early times of search engines, Google’s ranking algorithm mostly relied on your site’s backlink profile. However, after a lot of companies started using black hat SEO techniques to manipulate search engine algorithms, they became much more sophisticated.

Now, spammy backlinks can hurt your online business as much as quality ones can benefit it. Even though you have to pay attention to a lot of aspects to rank high, SEO backlinks are still a driving force behind getting on page ONE of Google search results.

Consider SEO as your branding strategy, it doesn’t work overnight, but it does appreciate your efforts over time.

Backlinks are vital references that help you advance your brand awareness. Earning Google’s trust is like proving your new employer you’re qualified for the job — the more people (in our case websites) are vouching for you, the better chances you have.

How to Measure Backlink Quality?

Now that you know what backlinks are and which ones can improve your ranking, you also have to learn how to check backlink quality.

Thanks to all the SEO tools, you don’t really need to do much. Just choose one of them (e.g., we use Ahrefs), open your backlink profile, and filter them by these criteria:

  • Domain Authority (DA) – to know how likely the linking domain is to rank high. Tip: you’d want to get more backlinks from websites with DA 40+ (only go for the sites with lower DA if they’re directly related to your niche.)
  • Page Authority (PA) – to learn how likely the linking page is to rank high. Tip: aim at getting backlinks from pages with PA 30+.
  • Spam Score – to know how spammy the linking website is (should be a score of 3 or less.)

If you keep on filling your backlink profile with trustworthy and quality backlinks, you are very likely to reap SEO reward. Not sure where to start? Check out our Affordable SEO Management Services to learn how we can help jumpstart your online business.

What Is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score with the highest mark of 100. It was developed by MOZ to predict how well a website will perform in SERPs (search engine result pages.)

DA score is defined by several factors, including the total amount of backlinks and linking root domains. You can use the MOZ DA Checker to find out the Domain Authority of any website or Page Authority of a separate page to measure how strong it is.

DISCLAIMER: Domain Authority only predicts how well a website will rank, it doesn’t affect the SERPs, and it’s not a Google metric.

I think you got the point: the more websites with a high DA link to your site, the better your chances are to improve your own DA and potentially rank better in SERPs.

Different Types of Backlinks

Before you start working on accumulating backlinks to your website, it’s essential to know which ones can help you and which ones can hurt you.

Firstly, there are two main types of backlinks in SEO:

  • Follow backlinks contribute to your site’s domain and page authorities as well as strengthen its position in search engines.
  • Nofollow backlinks do not affect your site’s strength directly; however, they still help visitors find your website.

Now, it’s time for the most critical part about backlinks.

REMEMBER: NOT ALL BACKLINKS WILL BE GOOD FOR YOU!

As we mentioned earlier, search engines’ algorithms are quite complex now. If you want to earn Google’s trust, you need to strive for maintaining a ‘natural’ backlink profile (a.k.a. a mix of follow and nofollow backlinks.)

Plus, the more backlinks from trustworthy websites with high DA your site gets, the sooner you can climb up the SERPs ladder.

However, you still have to avoid backlinks that can harm your website’s online reputation.

Paid links

Should you buy backlinks? If you don’t want to get into Google’s blacklist, avoid this technique by all costs. If someone is selling you backlinks, they’re most likely doing it to others too.

Google’s algorithm is no fool, it identifies paid links, and you can be banned before you know it. That’s why we recommend following the Google Webmaster Guidelines to avoid penalties.

Do you want your website to receive organic backlinks? Write unique, high-quality, and SEO-friendly content that draws attention.

Links from spammy websites

Have you ever looked through your spam inbox and tried to count all the nonsense in there? Whether you did it or not, we know for sure you wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

When it comes to backlinks, morale doesn’t change. Everyone hates spam, and so does Google.

It means that you don’t want spammy websites to link back to your site. Never. Unless you want Google to think you’re involved in black hat SEO schemes.

Irrelevant links

Having backlinks from irrelevant websites is even worse than not having them at all.
Why? Think about it.

You’re a typical cat lover. You want to buy your favorite pet a new toy. Reminder: you love cats A LOT.

So, firstly, you want to read some articles about the best cat toys on the market and which ones your pet would enjoy the most. You go to a website that sells exactly what you’re looking for. Then you start reading various blog posts (naturally, eh?)

What do you expect to see there? Logically, everything that relates to cats and toys (like this website has, for example.) But what if you noticed that hyperlinks lead you to some sites with the info you have no idea about or not interested at all (e.g., hadron colliders.)

If I were in your place, I’d get annoyed and leave that website straight away. Google’s algorithms flag backlinks from irrelevant websites. So, try avoiding getting backlinks from sites that have nothing to do with your business.

Fill your website with quality content that targets your desired audience. Then you’ll notice your backlink profile growing without getting your online business penalized by Google.

How do You Get Backlinks to Your Website?

Okay, knowing the theory of backlinks is good, but knowing how to start building a strong backlink profile is much better. So, we decided to share the most useful backlink building strategies and tips from various digital marketing experts.

Want to learn how to build backlinks to your website like a pro? Here are the best ways to do it right.

Top 17 Link Building Strategies/Techniques

1. Writing high-quality content

The most successful link building strategy we have employed is an oldie but a goodie. We try to produce really high-quality pieces of content and then put them in front of audiences for which the content would be highly relevant. When the content is not relevant or is only mildly relevant to the publisher, we see a much lower success rate.

2. Finding a unique spin on resource page link building

We find resource pages that apply to our project / URL that we’re trying to build links to. Then we reach out to THOSE sites to see if they would be interested in some mutually beneficial type of linking. It could be a relevant three-way reciprocal, contributing a guest post, etc. The advantage here is that these sites have all shown willingness to link, as well as to pursue link building in their SEO efforts in general. In theory, this makes for a very qualified prospect list as long as they are quality websites and aren’t engaging in anything shady.

3. Broken link building

Finding broken links on sites by using a broken link checker (I use the one on Ahrefs). It’s an opportunity gold mine if used correctly. Search for relevant sites that you could provide great content for. Find that broken link and send an email explaining you came across a broken page. Then attach some high-quality content of your own and suggest that you have a great replacement. If the content is quality, they won’t think twice about it.

4. Networking

Through networking, I have been able to gather enough backlinks to increase my domain authority from 26 to 34 over the last five months. Since my niche is personal finance, I joined several mastermind groups for personal finance bloggers. In a private FB group, some freelance writers would create posts asking for quotes. Besides, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in other blogger’s interview series; therefore, securing more backlinks in the process.

5. Take advantage of HARO (Help A Reporter Out)

My favorite method of acquiring backlinks is to consistently check HARO and respond to as many relevant queries as possible. I review every single HARO email that makes its way into my inbox, and I assess which queries would be valuable for me to respond to. I find that HARO offers a diverse range of ways to acquire backlinks, and that’s why it’s my favorite method to do so.

6. Creating infographics

Infographics are an excellent way to gain backlinks. I typically build a high-quality and heavily researched infographic that contains valuable information. Then, I perform strategic outreach to websites that have posted similar information. Infographics are essentially free content for other bloggers and website owners. Since they are images, any number of websites can repost them without being flagged like they would be when posting the same article as someone else. It means many more websites will be interested in posting your infographic on their website, compared to a link that needs to be infused in content. You actually have something to offer!

7. Providing testimonials

One backlink strategy I’ve used that has worked quite well is to provide testimonials on products related to my niche sites. I am always trying out new tools or products related to my niche websites – either to write a review or perhaps produce a video tutorial. If I’ve had a positive experience with the product, I will do outreach email to the creator and ask them if they would like a testimonial on their product. Most website owners love testimonials, which they prominently publish on their website linking to the source – a great way for the reviewer to earn a high-quality backlink. It’s especially effective when the product creator knows you have a published review of their product. This reassures them you’re legitimate and elicits a positive response to your outreach emails.

8. Leveraging PR skills and techniques

I’ve found that leveraging PR skills and techniques is the best form of link-building out there, as it results in inbound links from high domain authority websites. The good news is that this strategy works well for new sites, as there is more newsiness to anything new.

9. Resource page link building

A resource page is a page on a site that links to great resources on other websites; it’s essentially a compilation of informative articles. If you want to find resource pages, search strings such as best (keyword) blog posts can be used on Google. Once you’ve found relevant resource pages, reach out, and pitch your article to be included. The key is to compliment their page first, then mention your article and kindly request to be included. It’s also important to find the right person to contact – someone who has the authority to add your link to the page.

10. Relationship guest posting

The way this works is you build a real relationship with the site you’re pitching guest posts to and get links for your website. Most sites that accept guest posts get hundreds of pitches. Other than content for them, what’s the benefit?

That’s where relationship building comes in. I pitch sites and offer them to build a link on another guest post I am doing, or promote their site on the dozens of Facebook groups I am a part of, or better still create a free content upgrade for their most popular post that can drive their leads up.

I am skilled at Facebook ads and offer to run their campaigns for a week for much lower costs.

When you approach guest posts with this angle, more often than not, you get a yes and multiple opportunities to post on their site. You also get opportunities you may not have thought of before, for example, being allowed to post on their sister sites. In some cases, I include a link to an influencer in my guest posts first and then mail them you have got a new link. This gets the conversation flowing on a positive note.

11. Interviewing experts

First, look for leading companies and experts of your respective field, and their official websites, which are usually high domain authority sites. Then, try to contact the expert or the CEO of the company, and request them for an interview over a topic of your field, which you will publish as a blog post on your platform. Many of them will accept your request, as it allows them to get more exposure.

Now, most of these leading companies and CEO maintain a press release section on their website (you must shortlist such prospects at the beginning of this strategy.) And when you publish the interview as a blog post, you are bound to get a link, as these leading experts or companies do share them in their press release section.

12. Using Reverse Image Search

If your site publishes visual assets such as infographics and charts, perform a Google reverse image search to find people that are using your images without a link. It’s still very common for site owners to use images without proper attribution, but this can present opportunities for link building. Head to images.google.com and click on the camera icon on the search bar. From there, you can paste an image’s URL or upload an image. Hit search to find out where your image appears on the web. The link results are the ones you should focus on, as these are all the sites where your asset appears. Look for sites that have either mentioned the image source as text or failed to mention it altogether. Often all it takes is a friendly email to the site owner to get both credit and a backlink.

Alice Bedward | Online Marketer at Flyparks

13. Social outreach

This can be boiled down to simply trying to be featured in as many outlets as possible. Using services like HARO, SourceBottle, MuckRack, and LinkProspector can make the whole thing much easier. Social outreach is basically a guest posting on steroids. That’s because, with link building, you simply focus on the number of high-quality, unique links you can get. If, at the same time, you want to get a lot of traffic, then guest posting will probably work better. Through engaging with journalists and writing my quotes for them, I acquired a ton of high DA/DR links that have helped us rank higher over time. And, honestly, that seems to be the best source of top-notch links.

Jakub Kliszczak | Marketing Specialist at CrazyCall

14. Link reclamation

The first thing you need to do is to go online and find unlinked mentions of your brand. Search brand, domain and company spokespeople’s queries separately and group together, but to save time, you need to exclude your website from these queries.

The next thing you need to do is to filter out websites that already link to your site. Use Screaming Frog (paying option) or ScrapeBox (free option) for this step. Do a manual qualification of remaining websites and identify the ones with the most value for you – websites with good rating and traffic that mention your brand in the body copy, image citation, or author bio. Don’t contact publications that already link to your brand regularly, because it could potentially harm your existing relationships. The focus is on building new, ongoing relationships.

The next step is to find the proper contact person and go for content managers, site owners, and editors. To find the proper email, I go to the author page, do a simple Google search, or use tools like Hunter, Skrapp, and Allmytweets.

The final step is to make contact. There are a lot of outreach templates out there, and I would recommend for you to try different approaches to see what works best for you. You need to adapt the tone of voice for each template, to ensure the communication is authentic.

15. Building your own free stock image library

If you’ve had a set of professionally themed (but unbranded) photos taken for your business, or happen to be a semi-decent photographer, you should build your own free stock image library. You can set this up in less than an hour with Flickr. You set the default image license as ‘Attribution CC by’ under creative commons and your images instantly syndicate across multiple search engines for pickup by blogs, businesses, and online newspapers. Import your Flickr photo library into the Pixsy (image recognition) platform. Once a month, log in and find all of the image matches and then reclaim any unlinked photo usage. It’s the most passive link building that you can do often netting 4-8 links/month while you sleep. After assessing which images are getting the most reposts, you can then replicate that success and truly scale up this tactic.

16. Creating statistics articles

Statistic articles are a piece of content that rounds up all the stats on a specific subject – like customer reviews statistics. These pieces of content are amazing link drivers because it’s easier to pitch a statistic to be added to another article during blogger outreach. Plus, these articles will have organic links built to them from other bloggers writing on the topic and needing statistic sources for their piece.

17. Video link building

We find content online that would make a good video (yet doesn’t have one). We reach out to the content creator and offer to make a video based on their content for free. This strategy is only worth it if a) the content is popular, and b) the link is worth it.

Josh Matteson| Online Marketing Manager at Lula

12 Link Building Tips to Keep in Mind

1. Try reverse guest posting

Invite experts to guest post or collaborate on content for your vertical. They’ll get backlinks to their site without having to pitch anything. Once the post is live, you can ask them to link to it from their press page or their blog. Your design team could even create contributor badges to send out to use as links to the article.

2. Invest in Technical SEO

Investing time into Technical SEO ensures that Google and other search engines can crawl your site and see the value in it. If your website has technical SEO issues, there will be a significant drop in website performance that no degree of link building can repair. Link building is useless if search engines or users can’t effectively crawl your website. My advice is to perform a Technical SEO audit before starting a link building campaign to ensure that on-site issues with schema, speed, sitemaps, robots.txt., or redirect errors are all fixed. Technical SEO will help you get the maximum performance out of your link building strategy.

Lexi Grafe | Data Strategy & Analytics Consultant at Elementive

3. Keep your link building relevant

Relevancy and locality are super important. There is absolutely no point trying to get links from websites that have no connection with your business, product, or service or location. When conducting outreach for links, it’s important to create real relationships. You can’t just email out of the blue and say “hey link to me.” A few emails back and forth can form a connection. Give the website owner a reason they would want to link to you. For example, if you are offering to guest post, then tell them what you want to write and why you want to write it. How will it enhance their site and provide value to their readers? In my experience, I have found webmasters are so much more open to linking when you are actually genuine, not just after a link!

4. Maintain a proper backlink strategy

Having a proper link building strategy is like having a Waze’s route catered to your website’s needs. You have to know where you are going to be able to track your progress. Set goals/ checkpoints:
- How many links per month?
- Link diversity: how many of which types of links (guest posting, skyscraper method, relevancy, etc.)
- Target adjacent industries when seeking link building opportunities.
- What domain authority (DA) are you trying to reach?

5. Contact and build relationships with marketing/SEO agencies

They write content both for themselves and their client websites and can link to your pages naturally throughout those posts. When it’s your turn to do something, you can link to their or their client’s website (depending on relevancy). It’s beneficial for both parties. And the best part is that these relations can be long-term. For example, if you are a SaaS company, SaaS marketing agencies can be a good fit for you.

Aida Grigoryan | Content Strategist at Incredo

6. Do your research

Coming up with new data naturally attracts links and mentions. Doing your research takes a lot of time, but it has a significant long-term positive impact. It’s been years since we published our first report, and it still gets links and mentions.

7. Use already warm relationships to build links

Firstly, we’ll look at all the people we’ve mentioned throughout the site, no matter how big or small and use this as a basis for who we’ll reach out to. We’ll then send them a hyper-personalized email discussing how we mentioned them, why we mentioned them, and any user feedback we came across in places such as our comment section.

We’ll then open a dialogue with them and see if they’ll link to some of our work. We don’t stop there, though. We’re trying to use this as an opportunity to build a closer relationship with them. Sometimes this can lead to great things such as podcast invitations, guest blog posts and more. The beauty of this, however, is that because we’ve already mentioned them on our site, they’re already a warm target, and the whole exchange feels much more organic and natural!

8. Automate the outreach

The most tedious part of the link building is the contacting part. If you do it manually, it ends up being a very tiresome process. Luckily there are tools available for automating certain parts of the link building. The easiest way to start automating your link building is to start automating certain aspects of it. So, I decided to automate the cold emailing. The easiest (and the cheapest) tool for email automation was Mailshake. Mailshake is a very beginner-friendly tool. You can create your outreach templates, where you can customize the wording of each mail. You can also schedule emails to be sent out in intervals. I also run Scrapebox on a VPS. Scrapebox finds email addresses from websites that I want to outreach. I export the list from Scrapebox in a CSV format, and then I can import that file to Mailshake. It is a very scalable way of doing outreach. You can maximize your outreach efforts by automating the most mechanical parts of the link building process.

9. Test the water before pitching your guest posts

The latest trend in link-building is to test the water with contacts before even drafting your content. Whilst this is useful because it saves you working on content that (potentially) no-one is interested in sharing or linking to, it can sometimes be impossible to capture people’s interest in your idea without having given some serious thought to how your idea will be unique and worth their time. That’s why it’s good to take the time to create a strategy based upon your unique offering and skill-set.

Alice Gerwat | Senior Content Editor & Social Media at Magic Freebies

10. Try to get a backlink in the main content rather than in the footer

The link in the main content is considered more useful by Google and given a higher weightage. Also, try to guest post on websites that have content on similar topics as your own website to establish relevance for the incoming link(s).

11. Try Authority Sculpting

The Authority Sculpting basically refers to transferring the authority of one page with high page rank to the page with low/no page rank. It will help to draw attention to the targeted page, which has been missed out by the audience and also by the search engine. In this method, the marketing person, give the internal linking from the most viewed pages to the page with fewer sessions. Thus, the page with fewer sessions also gets some link juice/authority from the high authority page.

12. Create a list of partners who can help you out

We do a lot of guest posting, and we have five companies that partner with us. Every time we write a guest post, we include links to our partners, so that we get more links for the price (and effort) of one. At the same time, our partners include us in their guest posts, as well. That way, we can get 4-5 times more backlinks in a month than we would if we just did guest posts on our own. It’s efficient, cheap, and most important of all, it’s a white hat tactic that you can use to build good links.

Bonus Tip

One of the best backlink building tips I can offer fellow SEO Managers is to keep detailed, organized outreach notes – especially when prospecting for new connections. I organize all of my outreach efforts in a list within Google Sheets, with separate columns for:
- The websites’ URLs I’m interested in contacting
- The websites’ domain authorities (the higher the better) The specific person I reached out to, and the platform (ex: Mike / LinkedIn)
- The details on why I think they might be interested in connecting & backlinking to my site (ex: ‘I recently wrote a post about XYZ that your audience might find helpful…’)
- The date I reached out, and the outcome (Reached out to Mike on X date, and received a positive response on x date)

Backlink Building FAQs

If you’re not ready to opt for paid tools, we recommend trying a free SEMrush backlink checker. All you need to do is enter your domain name → click ‘Domain Analytics’ → then go to ‘Overview. Now that you have a complete overview of your website, press “Backlinks” under the “Overview” menu to see your full backlink profile.

If you noticed your website has a lot of spammy, low-quality, artificial, or unwanted backlinks that you cannot remove, you have to use the Google Disavow Tool to get rid of them. Find a step-by-step guide on how to properly disavow backlinks here.

Once you’ve built a strong profile of quality backlinks, you can expect more traffic coming to your website. However, remember that only one backlink won’t bring you much traffic (unless it is from a website with a very high DA). That’s why you should try getting lots of high-quality backlinks to start seeing your traffic grow.

Final Words

Building a strong backlink profile for your website takes a lot of time and effort. However, if you continually invest in it, your online business will be on a proven path to reach that #1 SERP result.

Even though it’s not rocket science, SEO link building comes with a few main challenges. Firstly, you need to pay attention to the type of backlinks you’re aiming for so as not to harm your brand and avoid search engine bans. Secondly, you should know how to check backlink quality to ensure you’re getting the most out of them.

Now, you can use the advanced link building strategies and tips we mentioned earlier to start getting high-quality backlinks and improving your website’s position in search engine page results.

Don’t have enough time to work on your backlink strategy? We’ve got your back. Check out our Influencer Marketing services to strengthen your backlink profile and draw more attention to your brand.

P.S. Have you noticed which link building strategy we used the most when creating this blog post? Share your guesses below!

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Michael Zima
Michael Zima
Mike is the co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Zima Media, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO and paid advertising. He’s also a founder of a TEN campaign that focuses on helping nonprofits access services required in the modern online marketing world for free.
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