11 Powerful Link Building Strategies (And 5 Tactics To Avoid)

by Mark Whitman

There are many ways to do link building. 

In this article I share my secrets on 11 powerful link building strategies that will help you grow your website’s traffic, rank higher in search engines and generate more business.

I also share 5 link building tactics to avoid.

SEO Link Building Strategies (that work)

1. Guest Blogging

link building guest posting

Good old guest blogging is still my #1 link building method.

It's one of the best methods to earn high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites.

There are two main guest blogging methods - a white-hat approach where you build genuine relationships with a blogger, and a grey-hat method that is more transactional as you're paying for guest posts.

The white-hat method is time-consuming and requires adding a lot of value to a publisher, but if done correctly you can score super high authority links.

For example, I recently developed a connection with the CEO of Flippa, and over time I managed to get him to agree to a guest post.

It took a lot of time and effort to get this link, but it was totally worth it (Flippa is a DR 81 website) - here's the guest post if you're interested.

The grey-hat method for guest posting is much easier and faster, but does come with some risks as it is not inline with Google's webmaster guidelines (Google doesn't like publisher's paying for links).

To scale your guest posting efforts, check out our guest post guide our see our link building service.

2. Linkable Content

My #2 favourite link building method is creating linkable content.

Linkable content is so good that it inevitably attracts links. In other words, it's content that is too good to ignore.

Linkable content is by far the most time-consuming link building method as it is difficult to create content that is uniquely valuable. Often you will need to do primary research or come up with a novel idea to really stand out. Unique imagery and data are often a must.

Rehashing what is already on the internet will not work.

Here's a great example for linkable content from NoobNorm. He created an article on how much Tiger Woods has won in each state in the USA. He put the data on a cool map and shared it with thought leaders and journalists in the golf niche.

linkable content

As Tiger had just won the Masters tournament, the content was incredibly relevant and got picked up by major site's across the globe. Bingo!

Here are some of the things NoobNorm did to create his linkable content:

  • Identify what's trending in your niche? Can you provide some unique insight on this trend? In the case of NoobNorm, he recognised Tiger had just won a major tournament and was trending.
  • Do you have access to proprietary data or third-party data? Can you share this in a unique way? NoobNorm used 3rd party data on Tiger's career earnings from PGA tour website.
  • Do you have proprietary images or a way to illustrate your content? NoobNorm used a cool map to bring the data to life. Maps and infographics are very sharable and help content spread faster.  

Think about your niche and what unique insights you can deliver, then create linkable content and send it to journalists and thought-leaders in your niche 

3. Link Insertions / Niche Edits

Link insertions or niche edits are when you include links to your site in other people's content, typically as a reference or source.

I really like using link insertions when I'm doing surgically targeted link building. 

For example, if I'm trying to promote a specific product or service, I will find bloggers who have create "Best Of" round-ups and approach them for an inclusion in their article.

Often I will provide free access to the service I'm promoting or send them a product for free. Whatever it takes to get inserted into their article.

I used this methods 100s of times. Here's a recent example from a campaign I did for our SERP API service, SerpsBot. We managed to get included in a number of Best SERP API rounds - like this one.

link insertions for link building

See our guide on link insertions and niche edits.

4. Citations

Ignore citations at your peril!

Most businesses have directory listings on websites like Yelp, Google My Business and Bing Places. 

So why don't you? 

Sure, the links you get here are nofollow, but they provide a great link foundation for a website, and demonstrate to Google you are a serious business.

I call my citation strategy the "Be Everywhere" strategy.

Make a list of 50-100 sites that you should have a listing on. These should include social citations like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; directory sites like Yelp and local directories; review platforms like Trustpilot, Capterra and G2; and search directories like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

citations link buillding

Make sure you use the same information on every site: same email, postal address, contact numbers, logo and description. This helps Google build a knowledge graph for your business.

5. HARO

I love HARO for link building. 

HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. The platform connects journalists with sources. When you pitch to requests on HARO you stand a good chance of getting highly authoritative references - like Forbes, The Washington Post and Business Insider.

I shit you not. We've scored links on all these publications and more for our clients. See our HARO case study - below is one I scored on The Washington Post (DR 92) for my travel company, Mountain IQ.

Washington-Post-HARO

To be successful on HARO you need to get really good at pitching and you need to be consistent. We work on a 3% conversion rate at our agency, which means we assume we need to send 30 pitches to get 1 link. 

It sounds time-consuming and it is, but the pay-off can be huge. 

If you want to outsource it, check out our HARO outreach service.

HARO has become saturated in the last few years, so I also recommend looking at HARO alternatives.

6. Broken Link Building

Broken link building involves finding broken links on other websites and suggesting replacements - obviously to a piece of content on your website.

Broken link building can be very hit-and-miss, and time-consuming, but it can also be very effective in building high-quality links.

The first step when doing broken link building is finding websites that are relevant to your industry and have a lot of links. You can use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to find these websites.

Next, run a scan of their website for broken links. Both tools above offer this or you can use free tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider or Dead Link Checker.

Once you have a list of broken links, reach out to the website owner and suggest replacing the broken link with a link to your own website.

dead link checker

You can see the exact step-by-step process I follow in our broken link building guide

7. Skyscraper Technique

The Skyscraper Technique is a link-building tactic that was developed by Brian Dean of Backlinko.com and has been used by SEOs worldwide to improve their search engine rankings.

The technique involves finding a very well referenced resource and then creating a piece of content that is even better (i.e. a skyscraper that is even higher). 

skyscaper technique

Once you have your killer skyscraper content sorted, you then reach out to sites that are already referencing the content of the other site, and request that they instead link to your better resource.

Again, the skyscraper technique is a time-consuming process, but it can deliver results. And the worst case is you get an awesome piece of content published on your site. 

You can see how Brian uses the technique here.

8. Free Tools / Calculators

Depending on your niche, creating free tools and calculators for your users can also be a great link building method.

Who doesn't like quality free tools. And if your free tool is good, it can be a link magnet. 

Free tools work a charm for SaaS companies, agencies and content websites alike.

And they can be relatively affordable to create.

First, figure out what type of free tools people are looking for. Popular tools include, free SEO tools like a rank tracker, keyword research tool or audit tool; calculators for compound returns, ROI, tax or VAT; and novel tools like egg timers and chrome extensions.

free tools for link building

Next, find a micro SaaS developer on Upwork with a proven track record of building micro tools like the one you want.

Once built you will need to do extensive outreach to share the good word about your tool.

Then watch the links come in!

9. Press Releases

Press releases are still a great link building strategy. 

But not all press release services are created equal. In general, you pay for what you get. If the service is very cheap it's likely the publications for your press release will be shite. 

I'm a big fan of the following services: 

  • SiteTrail
  • EIN Presswire
  • eReleases
  • PRWeb
  • Newswire

When creating a press release make sure to share something that is genuinely press worthy. This increases your chances of getting picked up by big news publications. 

press releases for links

If your story is weak, I'm afraid your press release will fall short. 

Another key tip is to work out if your press release has local, national or international relevance. Don't try get onto international publications if your news is very local. Focus your press release to reach the right audience. 

Finally, get a professional to write your press release. There is an art to PR and it's worth paying someone who understands this to craft your story in the best way possible. I've found some great PR professionals on Fiverr.

10. Infographics and Images

Infographics, like linkable content, is a great way to build links.

Infographics are graphics that present information or data in an interesting and engaging way, typically using visual representations such as charts, graphs, maps, photographs and illustrations.

I've used infographics for years, and I've got some awesome results.

Here's one I recently created for a site I own in the Kilimanjaro hiking niche.

infographics

The steps I follow when doing infographic link building are: 

  1. Find great public data on a topic
  2. Engage a good designer to turn data into an infographic (there are some amazing infographic designers on Fiverr)
  3. Write some narrative to go along with your infographic
  4. Share on Pinterest and other social networks to generate buzz
  5. Share with thought-leaders in your niche (use both email and Twitter for this)

11. Forum Posting

Forums are often scoffed upon by link builders, but I dig them.

I can understand why people don't like them as the links are nofollow, but I use forums in the same way that I use citations - I want to "Be Everywhere".

Forums are often also great for referral traffic. Many people discover content and thought-leaders via sites like Reddit and Quora.

forums for links

When doing forum posting, you need to make sure that you are posting in the right forums and that your posts are of high quality.

When posting in forums, it is important to remember that you are representing your site. Your posts should be well written and informative. You should also make sure that you are adding value to the forum by providing helpful information and engaging in discussions.

If you can do this, you will likely find that people will start linking to your posts and even your site.

I usually combine forum posting with publishing on major content platforms like Medium, Hackernoon and Indie Hackers. I've had amazing results from these platforms in terms of driving referral traffic. Not to mention the links add a great nofollow base to a website.

Link Building Strategies To Avoid

1. Link Farms

One of the most common mistakes I see link builders and link building companies make is engaging link farms for guest posts.

Nowadays there are literally 10,000s of sites that exist for the sole purpose of selling guest posts. 

To the untrained eye, these sites look genuine, but in fact they are really just link farms.

The easiest way to spot them are: 

  1. High DRs with little to no traffic
  2. Very poor editorial control with very broad topic categories
  3. Inflated DRs, most likely due to repurposed aged domains
  4. Wild traffic spikes with huge drop-offs, indicating a penalty

I highly recommend avoiding these sites as they are toxic and can have a negative SEO impact. 

2. PBNs

PBNs, or Private Blog Networks, are even worse than link farms. 

These sites are setup for the sole purposes of link building. 

PBNs in their purist sense should be totally private (i.e. only used for links to money sites from those who own the PBN).

But most PBNs I know sell links to whoever is willing to pay.

PBNs are a very shady link building method that may get you results in the short-term, but are ultimately unsustainable and may cost you dearly.

Avoid!  

3. GSA Links

GSA links and other automated software backlink tools are a definite no-no for me. 

These types of backlinks are very spammy and squarely fall within the black-hat SEO world.

Essentially these tools automate the link building process by inserting mass links to social platforms and blogs, predominately as comments.

Many SEOs use these types of links to power up tier 2 and tier 3 links - like those built using guest posts or link insertions, but whether this is a useful tactic is hard to say.

Either way, this form of link building is incredibly spammy and I would avoid it.

4. Link Exchanges

Link exchanges have been around since the beginning of SEO. The premise is pretty simple - I'll link to you if you link to me. 

Done on a small scale this is relatively undetectable.

But if you scale this methodology, you will leave a very unnatural link profile - i.e. every site you link to links back to you.

I therefore don't recommend it unless you are doing it on a very small scale or you have multiple sites so that you can offer reciprocal links from sites that haven't received the link exchange.

For example, if you have two sites, A and B, and another publisher (Site C) offers a link exchange to site A. You could reciprocate with a link back to them from Site B.

This way the footprint of the link exchange is broken, and there is less risk that Google will pick it up.

5. Blog Commenting 

Most people think that blog commenting is a waste of time.

And to be honest I agree. 

Firstly, the links you get are nofollow. And secondly, as they are placed as blog comments they count less than contextual links. 

That being said, I have used blog commenting as a method to build rapport with a blogger. Commenting can be a great way to engage bloggers, show them you appreciate their work and build a relationship. Then when the time is right you can reach out to them and request a guest post.

Link Building FAQ

What Is Link Building? 

Link building is the process of earning links to your website from other websites. This is done in an effort to improve the rank of your website in the search engines and increase traffic. There are several methods for achieving this, but the most common are guest posting, link insertions, link exchanges and broken link prospecting.

What Are The Benefits Of Link Building? 

There are several benefits of link building, including:

  • improved ranking in the search engines
  • increased traffic to your website
  • increased visibility and exposure for your brand or business
  • increased trust and authority with Google and other search engines
  • increased link juice traveling through your website
  • increased sales and profits from your website

What Are White Hat Link Building Techniques? 

White hat link building techniques are a healthy, long term way to earn trust signals from Google. This is accomplished by earning quality links (as opposed to paying for links) from relevant sources with trustworthy content.

What Is The Difference Between White Hat And Grey Hat Link Building Techniques?

White hat vs grey hat link building is a heated area of debate. The key difference is white hat methods focus on earning link through quality content. White hat link building follows Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to the letter. Grey hat link building techniques typically involve paying for links via guest posts, link insertions or niche edits.

Should I Use Black Hat Link Building Techniques?  

It is always better to avoid black hat link building, like automated link insertions, link-cloaking and spammy tactics, because this strategy can result in a penalty. It's never worth the risk.

Ready to ramp up your off-page SEO? Read this off site checklist.

Mark Whitman

Mark founded Contentellect with a single aim - to help online business owners and entrepreneurs scale their content and generate better financial returns. Mark has built a number of 6 and 7-figure online businesses, and credits his online success to quality content and powerful links. In addition to running Contentellect, Mark is also the Founder and CEO of the adventure travel company, Mountain IQ. He holds a Masters degree from Cambridge University.


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