Recently updated on August 27th, 2021

Backlinks are the paved roads of the web. They create new avenues for discovery by guiding site visitors and search engine crawlers to and from distant reaches of the WWW. Websites that have a high quantity of high-quality backlinks are not only more accessible to search engines, but are seen as trusted, or “authoritative,” websites. How does Google reward trusted sites – by ranking them higher in search results! If you want to improve your search rank and overall SEO score, you’ll need to learn about link building strategies and tactics.

Backlinks are one of the top 3 major ranking factors for Google, according to Google’s Andrey Lipattsev.

Search engines see backlinks as “votes” from other sites. If your votes come from spam sites, bots, or other low-quality sites, you’ll be ranked as a low-quality site. You can get a full look at your backlink profile by conducting a backlink audit. If you’re not sure how to do a backlink audit, you should start with this article.

But, let’s assume you’ve already conducted your backlink audit and move on to link building!

Beginner’s Guide to Link Building

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Remember this when you dive into your first link building campaign. Link building isn’t easy. It requires strategy, creativity and a whole lot of determination. But the benefits of conducting a full backlink audit and developing a link building strategy far outweigh the pitfalls of overlooking this major facet of SEO.

You can simplify link building strategies into two steps:

  1. Creating quality content that’s worthy of a link – think blogs, downloadable PDFs, or ebooks.
  2. Contacting owners of authoritative sites that would be interested in linking to your content. This step requires you to find prospects, track down their contact information, and reach out to the site owner to request a backlink.

Link building text with a graphic of linked human user icons with a person’s hand tapping an icon to start a backlink audit.

How to Build Backlinks

There are different strategies that can help you get links, but some come with risks. Most link building tactics fall into one of 5 categories:

  • Add
  • Ask
  • Earn
  • Buy
  • Preserve

Adding Backlinks

Yep – you can add your own backlinks to certain websites! And no – that doesn’t mean hacking into another website and editing their content to include your link… that is not a suggested link building tactic! Common ways to add backlinks to other websites are:

  • Job search listings
  • Business directories
  • Social media
  • Forum & community sites

Obviously, this is the easiest way to earn backlinks – which is why Google does not place a high value on these types of links. In some cases, these links might even be flagged as spam – especially if you dive into other website’s blog posts just to leave a link in the comment section!

There’s also not much competitive advantage to these types of backlinks. If you can add your site to a business listing – what’s to stop your competition from doing the same? But skipping past these types of links can be a major misstep! So, what should you do?

  • Be sure to add your business listing to relevant, high-quality directories and rating sites. Focus on the well-known sites with high traffic to increase your chances of the listing bringing actual customers to your platform.
  • Claim your social media profiles – even if you don’t plan on posting. Why? You may change your mind down the road and get stuck with an off-brand social media handle.
  • Leave meaningful comments on articles sparingly and with the intent of kick-starting a relationship with the site owner. Never visit a blog and simply leave a hyperlinked, “Check out my article on Link Building” in the comments. That’s the fastest way to get site owners to delete your comment or mark it as spam.

Asking for those Sweet Backlinks

This is one of the most powerful ways of building a strong backlink profile! A backlink from a trusted site that guides crawlers and customers to your content is a huge win for building your domain authority! Better site authority and trust will start floating you to the top pages of search results for that keyword.

So, how can you earn these types of backlinks? By figuring out what’s in it for them!

Reach out to site owners and give them a compelling reason to link to you. There is absolutely no incentive for these people to help you out – so you need to convince them that it’ll help build their credibility to have your awesome content linked on their site.

Check out these popular reasons for people to include your links on their site:

  • Unlinked mentions– find mentions of your brand name on trusted sites and ask to make it a “dofollow” clickable link.
  • Broken link building– by finding a broken link on someone else’s site, you’re doing them a favor by helping them fix that dead link.
  • Guest blogging – you write content for their website
  • Skyscraper technique – find existing content with a ton of backlinks, then create something better! Ask those that are linking to the original article to direct people to your way better article instead. Yikes.
  • Link inserts– include a link to your article that includes more information or context on a particular topic. (Example: in the previous list item, we included a link insert to Ahref’s article about the Skyscraper link building strategy!)
  • Image link building– ask to get credit for using your image. (Example: Ahref’s “Vicious Cycle of SEO” seen later in this article earned them a shiny new backlink.)

But these can prove to be time-consuming and can even be a bit subjective. Believe it or not… not everyone is going to think your article is better than the article they’re already linking to! Here’s where you might need to make your pitch even more enticing!

If, after the first few emails to site owners prove fruitless, don’t give up! Try one or all of these link building tactics:

  • Offer to promote the updated content in a newsletter
  • Offer to share the content on your social channels
  • Offer a discount on your product or service

Be wary when offering to sweeten the pot. Google penalizes sites for excessive link exchange and for buying/selling links.

Image of two puzzle pieces coming together suggesting a solid link building strategy.

How to find Backlink Prospects

Beyond competitor research and links that already exist in your backlink profile, how can you find new prospects for link building? Find sites that are writing about relevant topics! These are prime candidates for guest posts, link inserts, etc.

You can also use link building tools like Ahrefs, Ubersuggest or Semrush to find sites that link to relevant content!

Buyer Beware

You can also buy backlinks… However, this tactic is frowned upon by search engines and can quickly get you penalized or even blacklisted by Google! So, why even include this as a link building strategy?

  • There are trusted ways to land sponsorships that will help your backlink profile.
  • You should be aware that this method exists and it will hurt your site rank – because some SEOs still use this “black hat” technique! If your SEO agency buys backlinks or posts on Private Blog Networks (known as PBNs)… it’s time to find a new, trusted SEO agency!

Earning Backlinks

In order to gain earned backlinks, you need to produce content that people find valuable in some way. When creating content, aim to produce assets that offer variety and value. Data studies, infographics, surveys, podcasts, and interviews are all highly popular types of linkable assets.

Backlink Preservation

This refers to keeping a stealthy eye on your hard-earned links. You’ll notice that over time, you will lose links. Why? A page might get updated, deleted, de-indexed, or you might become the victim of the previously mentioned Skyscraper technique! You’ll want to keep a pulse on all of your links – both new and old.

Semrush’s Backlink Audit tool can help you easily find lost links. You can then reach out to the website owner to ask them to restore it! Additionally, when removing old site content, you might hurt your backlink profile! If it makes sense, you can either restore the deleted URL or set up a 301 redirect to relevant content.

Why Spend Time on Link Building?

Because of the amount of content that is published and indexed every single day, new sites and low-quality sites that are trying to improve their score are at a massive disadvantage when trying to rank for a certain topic or keyword! Why? Check out Ahref’s graphic that lays out the “Vicious Cycle of SEO”!

Graphic that lays out the 3-step cycle of SEO which proves the importance of SEO link building.

Google’s goal is to serve up the most relevant, highest quality content it can find for a given search term. If you’ve just published fresh content and don’t already dominate that topic, your awesome new post will be banished to the nether regions of that SERP!

If you want to break that cycle, you’ll need to actively work towards building quality backlinks. There are tons of link building strategies and tactics, but the most solid and trusted strategy is in creating something link-worthy.

If you need help creating quality content or conducting a full backlink audit, reach out to the Next Horizon SEO team.

Start Link Building with Next Horizon

Next Horizon provides holistic technology solutions for businesses looking to improve sales, increase agility and optimize productivity. From digital marketing to building bespoke business applications, Next Horizon uses its 40+ years of experience and award-winning talent to provide technical business solutions for its clients.



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