A commonly made SEO mistake is ignoring the value of other websites linking to yours. So common, in fact, that we’ve seen numerous agencies disregard backlink building entirely.
To truly increase organic rankings and traffic, you’ll need a strategy in place that focuses on building and maintaining high-quality backlinks. Whilst strong content and technical aspects are essential to your site’s success, in most cases this isn’t enough. Backlinks are essential to any SEO strategy, being a primary signal in organic search rankings.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks have long been key to rank highly in search engines, and that’s because they are a useful indicator of how relevant and influential a website is – providing the links come from great sources.
In 2017, we’ve seen at least two substantial and unannounced Google algorithm updates that put more emphasis on the quality of backlinks (update 1 and update 2). On top of that, in recent years Google has increasingly used social signals such as likes and shares to act as an important ranking factor.
The truth is that one of the key “secrets” to SEO is working to regularly receive backlinks from well respected, and industry relevant websites. As Moz puts it, “if you’re looking for a site that ranks well with no external links, be prepared to look for a very long time.”
Four high-quality backlink building tips
So how do you build high-quality backlinks? Here, we go through our top four techniques for backlink building, taken straight from our own playbook. Here, we’ll go through competitor analysis, guest blogging, industry directories and link reclamation.
1. Competitor analysis
Competitor analysis is central to any strong backlink building strategy. You’ll likely have some backlinks in common with your rivals, but there’ll also be a large portion that you don’t. Looking at competitor backlinks offers valuable insight into the types of sites that will be willing to link to you. After all, if they linked to your competitor then why not you?
You can find out what sites are linking to your competitors by using tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush. This often provides a strong list of potential sites that could link to yours and closer analysis of their backlink profile will also help you establish what strategies they are using.
2. Guest blogging
Whilst sometimes overdone, if you can find websites that are a good source of traffic and relevant to yours, these are prime for guest posting as doing so offers value to both the publisher and author. However, it’s important to remember that links should be useful to site users and use anchor text in a natural way. Once you’ve build up some credibility with previous guest posts, you’ll be much more likely to be accepted to provide guest posts on sites with higher domain authority (DA) scores.
Guest posting is one of the most valuable link building techniques as it offers mutual benefit to both you and the blog you’re posting on. In addition to increased potential referral traffic and in turn generation of leads and sales, guest posting can help you build credibility in your sector, meaning more future guest post opportunities and more valuable backlinks for your site!
3. Industry directories
Whilst many directory links can be useless and have low domain authority, a number of web directory links are trustworthy and useful. If the directory is relevant to your industry then links are likely to be valuable, as well as very simple to get.
Finding these directories can be tricky, however the best place to start is with competitor analysis. Once you’ve exhausted that stream of potential links, look to Google.
4. Link reclamation
Link reclamation refers to the process of finding, contacting and fixing broken links to your site. Whether a site has mentioned your website and not linked it, or attempted to link and incorrectly attributed the site, link reclamation presents a number of opportunities to reclaim links from sites that already value your content.
Turn unlinked mentions into backlinks – If you haven’t been keeping an eye on websites mentioning your brand, then there may well be several who have and not linked back. There are several tools for keeping an eye on your brand name, our favourite is Ahrefs.
Recover dead backlinks – If you migrate domain or remove pages from your site, this inevitably leads to a number of dead backlinks which will no longer be contributing to your backlink profile. To recover these, find the 404 errors using Ahrefs or webmaster tools. You can then redirect these to existing links with other, equally relevant and valuable content on your website.
Backlink Building Diversification and Prioritisation
Lastly, it’s well worth noting that you need to keep your backlink building and anchor texts varied and diverse. Only targeting directories simply isn’t good enough, and having all the same anchor text looks spammy. Google has algorithms will pick up on this, so it’s integral that your backlink building techniques are diverse and create links from other relevant sites.
Finally, it’s very important to prioritise which backlinks you target. This is key to ensuring you get the quickest wins and climb ranks fast yet sustainably. Make use of metrics like the ones below to assess which sites deserve your attention first.
- Moz’s Domain Authority
- Ahref’s Domain Rating
- Similar Web’s Estimated Traffic
- Majestic’s Backlink Analyser