In the world of SEO (search engine optimization), one of the most important tools a business can use to improve their website’s search rankings is link-building. Link-building is the process through which you get other websites to create links that point back to your own website, which lets Google see a connection between those sites and tells the algorithm that there’s something worthwhile on your site because the other site is sending its users there through a link.
But this is the difficult truth of link-building: not all links are high-quality, and poor-quality links can actually hurt your SEO.
I like to explain the importance of quality link-building through an analogy. If you were looking for a recommendation for a service such as a car mechanic, who would you ask? Would you call AAA to ask, or would you ask the waiter at the restaurant where you stopped for lunch?
While the answer here sounds obvious, it’s remarkable how often businesses don’t apply this simple principle to their SEO. Not all recommendations carry the same weight.
Inbound links are just that: recommendations. If a random website links to yours, it doesn’t have any value. Google values both the quantity and quality of links directed to a webpage, and the quality is determined by how relevant the linking website is to your webpage as well as the popularity of the linking website.
In order to gain high-quality links that will help you get ahead in the SEO game, you have to take action and work at building relationships that yield backlinks. This requires a strategy. I recommend setting goals for how many backlinks you want to build every month or every week—whatever is needed to outdo your competition. Then use the methods below to pursue links, one at a time.
1) Build links naturally through marketing
You may not have thought of marketing as a link-building strategy, but it’s the best way to earn backlinks naturally, without doing any outreach. Simply creating more awareness of your brand and your website will result in more backlinks, because nobody can link to your site if they don’t know it exists. You can increase your chances of earning backlinks the natural way by creating killer content that people want to link to because it’s genuinely useful.
2) Guest blogging and interviews
Get backlinks on websites related to your own by guest blogging or doing interviews. Guest-blogging is a great strategy because many other websites are also looking for content, and by offering to write for them, they get that content for free, and you get a backlink. You can even offer an exchange—you guest blog for them, and they guest blog for you. Building these relationships is beneficial across the board and can help you gain valuable connections that may be useful in the future. Interviews are another way for a site to gain easy content, and they don’t have to require much work from either party. These can take the form of blog posts, podcasts, or even videos, as long as the page links back to your own website. You can similarly offer to do an interview in exchange, which will help both parties build their audience while gaining backlinks. Your direct competitors are not likely to be interested in collaborating this way, but other people who work in your industry or adjacent to it may have a greater interest.
3) Fill a gap where a link should be
There may be places on the internet where your business has been mentioned but there is no link to your website. In these cases, you can reach out and request that your business name—or whatever was mentioned in relation to your business—be turned into a clickable link. Your technical SEO expert should be able to perform a search for sites where you’re mentioned but not linked yet.
Another place where you can fill a gap is on sites that are currently linking to broken web pages. If the site they’re linking to provides something you can provide, you can reach out to the site owner and offer your link as an alternative to the broken one. Both of these strategies require outreach and you may not always get a response or a yes, but they can be worthwhile if they result in new high-quality backlinks.
4) Forums and Q&A websites
Many people are hesitant to make posts on forums and Q&A websites promoting their business for good reason—it’s usually against the rules of the website and will result in your post getting removed, as it tends to be considered spam. However, sites like Quora and Reddit are not necessarily out of the question if you approach posting a link in the right way. First, check the rules to ensure you’re complying. Then, find a question you can answer in a useful and educated way. Do your best to answer the question and include a link to a relevant webpage on your site if the reader wants to learn more. Usually posts that are useful and respectful will not be taken down.
5) Anywhere you’re already posting online
As a business, you’re likely already making posts across the internet, such as on social media and job sites. In each of these instances, always ensure that you’re including a link back to your website. It’s an easy thing to do that often gets overlooked.
6) Put yourself out there
There are plenty of ways you can create backlinks by getting your own content on other sites. An easy way to do so is to register with online business directories. You can also create press releases and use HARO (Help a Reporter Out), a website that allows you to provide content for reporters to target. These steps help get other publications like news sources focusing on your business, and those articles will usually include a link. They’re also great marketing tools in and of themselves. You can also take things into your own hands by creating content to publish outside of your own websites. Submit articles to online magazines and news sources. Getting published in larger business publications can be a major benefit both in terms of marketing and link-building.
7) Analyze your competitors backlinks
Another great strategy is to see what kind of backlinks your competitors have, and try to duplicate them. SEO is all about outranking your competitors, and if you can consistently beat them in every area, you’ll quickly rise above them on search results pages. Your SEO expert can use tools like Sumrush or Ahrefs to figure out where your competitors are getting backlinks, and then you can pursue some of the same links. You’ll need to gain more high-quality backlinks than your competitors to outrank them.
The most important aspect of link-building is the quality of the backlinks. Don’t waste your time pursuing links from sites that have a poor reputation or that aren’t related to your own site at all. Those links will just tell Google’s algorithm that your site is less reputable, which is the last thing you want. Instead, focus on getting the highest quality links you can find and building relationships. It requires being proactive. Link-building takes a great deal of work, but when done well, it’s one of your most powerful SEO tools.