Link building: the ultimate guide to SEO backlinks

How to get backlinks to your website and improve SEO with link-building

If you’re not sure where to start with link building, you probably aren’t reaching your full SEO potential. But today we’re going to talk about how you can fix that through simple link building strategies.

Today, I wanted to help you think of ways to get backlinks that maybe you’ve haven’t before. It can be discouraging to send a blast of emails requesting a backlink, only to hear crickets. Not only is it discouraging, it’s not the most effective link-building strategy. With the number of blogs out there, these same people are getting dozens of emails like yours and it’s almost impossible to stand out.

So here are some tips that will help you with link building, right away!

What is link building and why does it improve SEO?

Put simply, backlinks are exactly what they sound like: links back to your website. They improve your SEO because search engines can use them to measure how popular your content is. 

How does link building improve SEO/search engine ranking?

Think about it: if you’re writing a blog post and want to link your readers to an article for further reading, you’re not going to send them to a total piece of trash. Instead, you’re going to link to the best resource you can find so that your readers get the best experience. Search engines like Google and Bing know this. They also know that this is going to improve your visitors’ user experience and that’s a huge factor in SEO.

User experience is important for search engines because they’re in competition with one another. If a user isn’t happy with what they get from Google results, they’ll go to Bing, and vice-versa. So each search engine wants to give its users exactly what they’re looking for. But because the web is so vast, much of what they’re indexing is done automatically by robots. So you see the problem here, I’m sure…

…how do you train a robot to understand a human’s experience on a website?

One of the main ways search engines get around this is backlinks. If we assume that people don’t link to garbage, it’s likely that the content getting tons of links is popular. Backlinks are a simple way for robots to interpret how well a web page is serving its readers.

Why are some backlinks better than others?

Some backlinks are definitely better than others. I’m about to take you through it all so that you can make informed decisions throughout the link-building process.

Imagine you have a brand new blog, and your 10 friends have a brand new blog. You all make 100 blog posts, and you all link to each other in each blog post. This means you each get 1000 backlinks. Sweet!!

Except…not really. You see, lots of people have tried to cheat the system this way, so search engines have gotten wise to it. Yes, they care about the number of backlinks, but the quality of your link building is more important.

Imagine now that instead of getting your 10 friends who have no established reputation to link to you, you get some huge site like the Huffington Post to give you one backlink. Just one. That will do way  more for your reputation with search engines than those 1000 links your friends’ brand new blogs gave you. And that’s because when the Google robot sees that the Huffington Post linked to your blog, it’s like, “Well, if HuffPo is linking to it, it must be good!” They have a reputation. They also have wildly successful search performance. And that link will help you piggyback on that a little bit.

So basically: if the links are coming from websites that already have great search engine performance, they will count a whole lot more. So try to find a balance between quality and quantity!

Before you begin: have link-worthy content!

It should be a no-brainer that if you want to build links, you need to have high-quality content to link to! Create content that answers questions and solves problems for the people who would get the most out of your website and/or business. That way your link building will have the most impact.

Articles that have action-oriented titles and that start with numbers do best on search engines. So for example, instead of writing an article named These services provide keyword research, I wrote one called 17 free SEO keyword research tools and it did way better. See the difference?

How long should my blog post be?

Generally for SEO purposes, you want each blog post to be at least a few hundred words. It will all depend on what you’re hoping to achieve with the post, however. If you’re just doing a quick thought piece intended to inspire your readers, it might be a bit shorter than your Ultimate guide to social media marketing article. The former just needs to tell a story, while the latter should be detailed enough that readers know how to successfully get started.

There’s something called cornerstone content in SEO. Cornerstone content is, as the name suggests, substantial and thorough. It’s a highly useful and educational post that’s closely related to your niche. Take this blog post, for example. This could count as cornerstone content, because it’s detailed and educational, and it’s right in my niche. If you compare it to some of the quicker blogs I’ve written (like my top 3 SEO tips for beginners), it’s much more substantial. In fact, it’s a good link-building strategy to link to your own cornerstone content from your shorter posts, because this also communicates to search engines that all roads lead to that page on your blog, and it’ll flag it as more important. This is exactly the kind of content that will create good link-building opportunities for you.

What is evergreen content?

Evergreen content is always relevant. The opposite of evergreen content is obsolete content, or time-sensitive content. A blog post all about the amazing things that visitors can look forward to at your conference next week is not evergreen, because a year from now it’s irrelevant because the conference is over. However, the blog post you wrote about the amazing, life-changing organization skills you learned from a conference workshop might be evergreen if you can effectively teach the skills to your readers. It’ll be just as relevant next year as it is today. See the difference?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to revisit your popular content at least once a year and make sure it’s as up-to-date and useful as it can be. If you have a post, for instance, that discusses best practices on Facebook page management, be sure that you’re still providing accurate dimensions of the cover photo area on Facebook pages. If you’re writing about which places sell the great vegan gummies you’ve just found, be sure that the retailers are still carrying those gummies and that they’re still vegan. These small details make a huge difference! Imagine how it sets you apart when people have been searching for hours to find the new Facebook dimensions and you’re the only one that has taken the time to update them! It’s link-building gold.

How can I improve my writing style?

Ah, the age-old how to be a better writer? question. There are so many people who struggle with this that there are apps for it. (Grammarly is pretty good, I have to say, if you’re looking for one.) Please don’t publish blog posts with a bunch of grammar and spelling mistakes! It shouldn’t necessarily take away from your message but unfortunately it often does, and I want your blog to be adored! If you’re on a tight budget, you can always ask a friend to look over it for you.

The grammar is only the first step, though. I’ve read blog posts with impeccable grammar that were as boring as heck. They were impossible to read because they were putting me to sleep. And that’s the exact opposite of what you want! Engage your reader! Tell a story! Add a little something extra to really connect with them and make them feel something! I usually do this through humour—like when I went on for an inordinate amount of time about my dry skin—and it works for me because I have a pretty goofy personality. But maybe you’re super creative or super nerdy or super [insert totally different adjective here]! Use your skills to infuse a little interest and personality into your writing, and your readers will thank you for it.

Choosing who to build links with

If you’re not sure who to approach for a potential backlink, you’re not alone. Here are some tips to get you started!

Start link building with the low-hanging fruit first

I had never heard of this concept of low-hanging fruit until I got into sales and marketing. Basically, it’s what you call people who are easy to reach, already well-qualified and most likely to be sympathetic to what you’re doing. In other words, if you’re running an event to help raise money for a women’s shelter and you need an organization to partner with, the women’s centre is pretty low-hanging fruit because it’s already right up their alley. On the other hand, you might have a harder time convincing the chess club because it has absolutely nothing to do with their mandate.

In terms of link building, the low-hanging fruit is the people you already have a relationship with, so that part is done for you. Approach people who are already in your professional network, who are working on things like you are. Ask them to link to a blog post you’ve written that is relevant to things that they’re writing about. And if you don’t have such a thing, there is no harm in creating content that is tailored to a specific contact, so that you can get that backlink.

Another thing that is sometimes overlooked is putting your link on other websites you run! If you have two different projects with two different websites, that’s automatically one backlink for each of your projects right there! From there, you can start approaching people you know and build your links further.

Try to get your first 5 backlinks this way, and you’ll be off to a good start!

Relationships and link building

The internet is just bursting with people who have something to share with the world! Find where people in your niche hang out. Chances are, there will be a Facebook group where you can connect with fellow professionals or entrepreneurs in your field, and if there isn’t, try checking LinkedIn or even online platforms like Quora for like-minded individuals. If you’re a self-employed boss babe, we’d be happy to have you in the Boss Business Babes Unite Facebook group, for starters!

Boss Business Babes Unite Facebook group for business women

Once you’re in these spaces, you will see that there are tons of opportunities for partnerships! If you see people who have a problem that needs solving or want to collaborate, it might be a good relationship to nurture for link-building opportunities.

Choose a few high-profile platforms

If you want to balance quality and quantity, which I highly recommend, you’re going to have to get some backlinks that are more competitive. (Remember that Huffington Post example?)

You really want to make sure that you have great content for them and that it will fit into how they’re already using links. For example, some blogs or platforms will use backlinks almost like a footnote. (This is true of Wikipedia, for example.) If that’s the case, make sure that you have all the information available to them that they’ll need to format your reference like the others. Other places might just prefer to use in-line links with interesting titles, so your headline is everything. These are all things to consider when you’re looking for “big fish” to approach for backlinks.

Requesting backlinks from colleagues

If you’ve done your work in building relationships with like-minded people, it’s not too difficult to get a backlink most of the time. However, you have to offer them something. They’re not going to link to you just because you’re their buddy if they don’t like your blog. They also aren’t going to want to link to something that’s totally irrelevant to their readers!

There’s an endless number of things you can offer them, and below are a few specific ideas!

Ask to collaborate

Collaborations can take a number of forms, but contests and partnerships are a good starting point. If you have someone who does similar work, ask them if they want to partner up for a giveaway or contest. Or ask them if they’re interested in working together on producing an amazing video tutorial or download. You can also ask them if they’d be interested in participating in your latest podcast as a special guest. The possibilities truly are endless! The only limit is your imagination, and with collaborations, you always want to mention the collaboration in a blog post (and ask them to do the same!). Then it’s really simple for you to link each other.

Exchange guest blog posts

If you have somebody in mind who has a little overlap in their work, you can exchange guest blogs easily and it’s great for link building! If you’re in different niches, you may need to get creative, but you can usually find something you know lots about that would be beneficial to their readers, and vice-versa. And it would just be rude not to link to the author! It makes it really simple to get a backlink, especially if you include a link to your website in the actual article you write.

Bloggers are sometimes stretched really thin, in terms of thinking of content. Often they’ll be really glad to have a guest post. It gives them a break and helps your link building all at once, so it’s a win-win!

Offer them something they’re missing

Since you’re already on good terms with these folks, if you have something they need, they’ll usually prioritize you. Why support a total stranger when you can support someone in your own back yard? After all, with strangers, they have to find them, and they don’t even know if they like them!

Check out your friends’ blog posts for information that might be missing. For example, they’re giving tips on time management and you specialize in social media. Maybe suggest that they add a link to a post you wrote on doing social media more efficiently. You get a backlink and their readers get an extra tip. Again, everyone wins!

How to get high-quality backlinks

The really coveted backlinks are the ones that come from websites that are already well-established. You’ll get more bang for your link-building buck if you focus on getting a couple of these “influencer” backlinks. Again, try to combine quality and quantity: scads of backlinks from brand-new websites aren’t helpful, but only looking to be featured on well-established websites isn’t realistic, either, when you’re starting out.

Here are some ways to strike that balance and get the high-quality backlinks, so you can then focus on smaller fish!

Set yourself up on social

While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter don’t really help your link-building numbers for SEO, they’re still a good place to list your website. This helps round out your brand and give you authority. And once you cover the basics, like Instagram and Pinterest, have you considered broadening your concept of social media? Have you got content you can post on Medium, for example? Have you checked out sites like Vocal? These websites, while not exactly the Facebooks of the world, are still high-ranking websites that collect great content. Why on earth shouldn’t you be on them? The only thing you have to lose is search rankings!

Help people update their blogs

Sometimes people write great blog posts with links to awesome content that adds to the experience. But guess what? Blogs close down. Websites cease to exist. What happens to all the blogs that are linking to them? They’ve now got a broken link. Not ideal, to say the least!

If you know of a competitor that recently went out of business or closed their website, that’s a huge link-building opportunity! Draft high-quality content that fills the gaps your competitor left behind. Then, reach out to the people who were linking to your competitor’s article and let them know yours could offer a great alternative. Usually, folks hate having broken links on their website. Not only are you letting them know about a broken link so they don’t have to dig through all their content, you’re also making it easy for them to fix it. They’ll thank you, trust me!

Create unique images that people will want to use

When you post something that involves data, why not create an infographic? Infographics are great because you can represent data visually, meaning it’s way easier for people to understand. If you create something unique and useful, why wouldn’t people want to redistribute it?

If you have custom graphics on your website, it’s reasonable to ask for a credit link. Use Google’s reverse image search function to find your image. (Hint: click the little camera icon and upload your image and it’ll find matches!) Then contact everyone who’s using it and request credit (ie. a link!). If their SEO is good enough that their images are on Google, chances are that their link will reflect well on your SEO!

Use Google reverse image search to request credit and improve your SEO (link-building)

Be present in their comments section—consistently

I don’t mean leaving comments like “great article” or “thanks for the great tips”. I mean actually adding value to the existing content on their website. For example, if you see a way that you can expand on the article, write a thoughtful and detailed comment. Thank them for the informative article, and add that you have learned [additional thing that you would like to share with readers] as well.

If you consistently add informative content to the comments section, people will start noticing you as an industry leader. This attention will work in your favour if you, say, apply to write an article for them in the future.

Try reaching out with a unique idea

Another way to stand out is to present a unique idea. If someone approached me in the same way everyone else did, they’d never get a backlink from me. But if they had some kookie idea, I’d probably at least give it some serious thought. I mean, why not? Part of the battle is grabbing their attention, and thinking outside the box does that.

Once you have your great idea, there’s no harm in just going for it. Sure, they might say no, but then they also might say yes!

Some final thoughts

Keep in mind: SEO is a long-term strategy, and your link-building techniques are no different. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. They will come!

With time, you may find that other tactics for link building are even more successful for you. For example, once you establish your brand, people may mention you by name but not link to your website. In these cases, it’s really quite easy to contact them and turn that mention into a backlink. So keep an eye open for ways to develop your SEO better over time as your web presence grows!

Where did you get your very first backlink? Tell us in the comments!

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How to get backlinks to your website and improve SEO with link-building
This guide to link-building will help you get backlinks even if you\'re just starting out. Click through for an in-depth resource to improve your SEO! Backlinks are a simple way for robots to know how well your website is serving its readers, so if link-building isn\'t part of your SEO strategy, you\'re going to get left behind!

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