The Ultimate Guide to Link Building {Updated for 2020}

Link building has always been an important aspect of SEO, if not the most central aspect.

It all started when Google arrived on the scene in the late ‘90s with a radically different, and much more effective, approach to web search than any other company. This approach was based on the number of links pointing at your website from other sites i.e. the more links you had the higher you’d rank in Google.

And this approach worked remarkably well. So well, in fact, that Yahoo, AltaVista, and others lost control of the web search market almost overnight.

Alta-who?

Exactly.

At its heart, Google ranks your site based on two basic principles: Links and content.

You don’t believe me?

Here’s proof from Big G themselves:

 

And under their ‘Quality Guidelines’ you’ll find the following advice:

This meant a big part of SEO involved getting backlinks to your site. You somehow needed to convince other website owners to link to you if you wanted to rank for your desired keywords.

Backlinks still matter a lot when it comes to SEO, but not in the way they did when Google first went online – I’ll explain why that is later in this article.

My clients openly admit that link building is one of the most confusing things about SEO because if you ask three different SEO agencies about it, you’ll get three different answers.

 

 

Part of this is because link building has changed so much in the last few years alone. Google has gone from updating its algorithm every year or so, to major updates every few months – thanks to the lovely folks at Moz for creating that resource.

Link building has evolved over the years, making it far harder for spammers to compete. Today, what Google really wants to see are editorial links — natural links that publishers include voluntarily. In fact, that’s all that Google ever i.e. don’t actively build links because that means you’re trying to manipulate search results.

Google hates being manipulated.

Getting these natural editorial links is easier said than done, of course.

But you can’t just sit around and wait for someone to link to you – you have to be proactive to succeed.

And that’s where paying for professional SEO services comes into play, with the awareness that getting truly effective, white hat backlinks will involve financial investment on your part.

In this post, I’m going to give you an overview of what ethical SEO agencies – Finetune Digital, for example – actually do to get backlinks for their clients.

Whether you’re handling your own SEO, or just trying to understand more about what SEO agencies can do for your company, this guide can help you get a better grasp on how to get backlinks that make a real and lasting difference to your Google ranking.

The strategies we use vary from client to client, but our approach to building backlinks is 100% white hat. It’s just that some of the techniques we use to build or acquire links are more costly than others.

Just remember: SEO is an investment in your business, never an expense.

 

Black Hat versus White Hat

 

Or how some links can actually hurt your business!

If you’re new to the world of SEO, it’s very important that you know about two labels we use in the SEO industry: black hat and white hat.

There’s actually another one called grey hat, where the search engine optimizer uses a mix of white hat and black hat techniques, but they’re becoming rarer as Google forces SEOs to choose which team they’re playing for.

The reason why it’s important for you to understand white hat vs. black hat is to stop you from unwittingly engaging the services of certain types of SEO agencies.

A white hat SEO agency will only ever optimize your site, or build backlinks to it in a way that should never land you in hot water with Google.

A black hat SEO agency will use any scammy technique they can think of, and won’t care if you get a manual action penalty from Google.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen good, hardworking business owners get screwed over by black hat service providers.

While bad backlinks aren’t as devastating as they used to be, they can still do damage to your overall ability to rank. Undoing that damage takes time and effort, so it’s just best to avoid black hat backlinks, full stop.

What confuses people is how SEO strategies that were perfectly valid five years ago could now be almost considered black hat techniques.

It also doesn’t help that there are very successful websites out there — including some major brands — who are breaking the rules to rank as well as they do.

So, what exactly would be considered to be black hat SEO?

 

SEO That Doesn’t Work

 

Here are just a few of the things that used to work, but are now completely ineffective:

 

Article directories

 

Years ago, one of the best ways to get free and powerful backlinks was to publish content in article directories, such as Ezinearticles.com.

Anyone could create a free account and publish articles on these sites, linking back to their own website several times from within the same article.

Then black hat SEOs started flooding article directories with tens of thousands of machine generated articles. Google was left with no choice but to completely devalue links from any article directory in terms of ranking value. It obviously didn’t help that certain article directories actually encouraged users to submit 100 articles in a given month to win a prize.

Sites like Ezinearticles are still online today, and people still publish content on them, but not for the purpose of building backlinks.

If you’re interested in using content publishing to drive more visitors to your business then take a look at Medium.com, it’s a new approach to the now-defunct concept of article directories.

Article Spinning

 

While this might sound like some kind of aerobics class, it’s actually the process where you use special software or services to take one article and automatically generate dozens of articles from that one “seed” article.

The software does this by swapping out synonyms, rearranging sentences, and otherwise changing things up just enough to pass a plagiarism checker like Copyscape.

Sounds like a great idea, right?

It was, except for one problem – the computer generated articles were gibberish. None of them ever sounded like they were written by a human being.

Google eventually dropped the Panda update on websites using spun articles and other types of “thin content”, deindexing tens of thousands of websites overnight.

Black hat SEOs all over the world complained, but Google wasn’t listening.

 

Link Exchanges

 

Back in the late 1990s, it was common to simply exchange links with other websites. You’d send them a quick email saying “I’ll link to your website if you link to me.”

This process was known as reciprocal linking, and it worked very well for several years.

And then Google realized that these link exchanges were being used to manipulate the search results, so they reduced the value of reciprocal links to zero, if you were lucky.

Yes, some sites still have ‘Links’ pages on them, but it’s highly unlike they’re swapping links with other website owners because that will result in a Google penalty.

There’s an advanced SEO strategy known as broken link building which can use these links pages to help improve your Google ranking, but it has nothing to do with swapping links the way people once did.

 

Directory Sites

 

There was a time that getting ranked in Google took nothing more than a few spun articles, and links from your favourite business directory sites. So, what started as a great way for categorizing businesses to make them easier to find, became a way of effectively buying paid links. They weren’t always cheap either – some of the bigger online directories charged up to $299 per year!

Getting links in industry-relevant or localised online directories can still be a good way to get backlinks that matter, especially for local SEO. I’ll discuss this later on in this article.

But when Google Penguin was originally released in 2012, quite a few previously desirable link directories took an absolutely massive hit from this update.

Google simply ignores anything it perceives as being a “paid link”, and that includes 99% of the directories that still exist today.

 

Blog Comments

 

Once blogging became popular in the early 2000s it didn’t take long for SEO experts to realize that leaving comments on blog posts was a quick and easy way to generate backlinks.

Unfortunately, instead of writing meaningful comments they used automated scraping tools to create thousands of blog comments per day.

This caused huge problems for website owners trying to manually approve or remove these comments. Google, Yahoo and Bing were forced to introduce the ‘No follow’ HTML attribute to stop people from spamming blogs looking for free backlinks.

With that being said, you can still use a specific style of blog comment to drive traffic to your business, and in some cases even create valuable backlinks in the process. I cover this in more detail later in this article.

Sitewide Links

 

The default layout options for WordPress and other blogging platforms used to include an area for “recommended links”, usually in the sidebar of the site or within the footer. The idea here was to provide your visitors with a list of useful resources.

But yet again black hat SEOs realized that they could use this functionality to create thousands of links from a single blog, and all they had to do was pay the site owner to add their link. Most of these deals were conducted by email, so Google had no way of tracking if a site owner was selling sitewide links or not.

So they just penalized any sites that featured links to unrelated businesses e.g. a site about pets linking to a casino site, or vice versa.

 

Link Networks

 

While you might not recognize the term “link farm”, you will be familiar with Private Blog Networks (PBNs).

Link networks involved SEO agencies buying expired domains with a high PageRank (PR) to place their clients’ links on. Because these sites had high PageRank this was then passed on to the target site, giving it an almost instant boost to page one of Google.

Again, this tactic worked really well until Google realized that it was completely devaluing the user experience for people using their search engine i.e. the quality of their search results suffered badly.

So on April 24th 2012, Google unleashed their Penguin update, crushing any sites that used these types of links – they did this by either pushing them to the very back of the search results, or completely deindexing the site.

The PBN industry limped on for another few years, until it died at the end of 2015.

Yes, private blog network links can still have a positive effect on how you rank in Google.

No, it’s not a long-term strategy, and it will ultimately have a negative effect on your site. The guys at Search Engine Land share my feelings on this matter.

There’s Nothing Private About Them

If the PBN links are being sold somewhere like BlackHat World, they’re absolutely not private because they’re being sold to anyone with money – this includes casino sites, porn sites, and every other type of online business you do not want your site associated with.

You can also rest assured that Google watches BlackHat World – and other sites like it – like a big, hungry digital hawk. They have an entire team of very, very smart people whose job it is to find these networks, join them, analyze them and then take them out.

And I mean take them out in a “Seal Team 6” sense, and not take them out for a quiet chat and a bottle of good wine.

The above are just some of the many link building strategies that have come and gone over the years, dying off as Google releases new algorithm updates that improve the quality of search results — and, in the process, make it much harder to simply “game the system.”

 

A Quick Word About Penguins

 

Before I delve into how, as a professional SEO agency, we build backlinks for clients in today’s online landscape, I wanted to make a quick mention of the rolling Penguin 4.0 updates. This is because they’ve had a significant effect on how bad backlinks might impact your site.

As of September 2016, Penguin is in real-time. This means that website owners no longer have to wait an undetermined amount of time to be reindexed after a Penguin penalty.

Bad links are now devalued, rather than penalized. Instead of tanking your site, Google will just ignore low-value backlinks pointing to it.

This is good news, because it means if something goes wrong — whether it’s an experiment in grey hat SEO that backfired on you, or a negative SEO attack from a competitor — you’ll be able to get past it much more quickly.

This doesn’t mean you have a free pass to build whatever backlinks you want, though. If it’s pretty clear you’ve been systematically and intentionally creating these bad links, then you’ll most likely get caught by Google’s manual review team, and you will incur a penalty. You won’t have to guess if this is happening – your organic Google traffic will disappear overnight.

So, the moral of the story is: Don’t build spammy backlinks – they’re less than worthless.

 

So How Does An SEO Agency Get Backlinks For You?

 

When you hire a reputable digital marketing company to handle your SEO efforts, they will almost certainly use white hat link building techniques almost exclusively.

This isn’t to say that grey hat and even black hat tactics like PBNs (private blog networks) aren’t used by certain professional SEOs, but in most cases white hat strategies work better and have far more long-term benefit associated with them.

But how do we actually get these backlinks for you?

Well, it will depend on a number of factors, including what type of business you have, whether or not you need a local or national SEO campaign, and how much of your marketing budget can be dedicated to link building.

 

Your Budget Matters

 

There’s no way around it: the amount of money you have to invest in SEO affects the results we can deliver for you.

How much you need to invest will depend on both the scope of your campaign and the competitiveness of the market you operate in.

This doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank to get the SEO help you need.

What’s consistent is this: if you don’t invest in even a basic SEO campaign then I can guarantee you won’t see any results.

The link building strategies we use are tailored to a client’s specific requirements, taking into account a number of different factors. But our goal is to always give you the best possible return on your investment.

Yes, you can hire some black hat SEO agency to build 1,000 links for you by next Tuesday and only charge £100 for doing that. But the reality is that you’re investing in a short-term strategy that will deliver results that vary between mediocre and non-existent.

White hat SEO requires an actual marketing budget, but the results we deliver for our clients are always worth it.

 

Local Campaigns with Small Budgets

 

So, what if you’re a local service business with a limited budget to spend on SEO?

Our focus here tends to be on monthly relevant citation, or local directory link building. I realise I listed directories earlier as a potentially outdated approach, but there’s a big difference between spammy directories versus real, legitimate industry-relevant directories.

In the old days, there were tons of website directories that existed solely for SEO purposes. We could put up links to a website on a ton of them, and the backlinks actually helped sites rank.

This isn’t true anymore, but directories still in exist. However, these listings aren’t always purely an SEO backlink strategy – they can also drive natural traffic to your website in some cases.

Link to Moz Whiteboard Friday session

Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer, and there’s a directory online that lists all kinds of wedding service providers in your geographic area. This hypothetical site is also where local couples actually go to find the services they need, meaning it can drive traffic. This kind of directory is a great place for your business to have a listing, plus a backlink.

According to data from Bright Local, 76% of SEOs use citations and directory listings to build links for their clients.

There’s a good reason for this: they’re effective.

These listings also help contribute to what we call “NAP consistency“. This just means that your name, address, and phone number — hence the abbreviation — are consistent across different websites and directory listings.

Think about it: Google doesn’t want to give people inaccurate information in their search results.

That’s a bad user experience, and Google is all about positive user experience. In fact, it’s an important ranking factor for them.

 

 

 

Catering to More Sizeable Budgets

 

But what if your business has a big enough marketing budget to afford a more comprehensive SEO package?

When we have a bigger budget to work with, we can introduce other effective link building strategies that tend to be relatively pricey. Press releases and guest posts are a big part of this process.

Creating great content is also part of our backlink acquisition strategy. This involves both content strategy, and the process of actually writing articles and other materials for your business. So while it can get a bit cost-intensive, but it can certainly pay off.

Links to your content don’t just happen automatically, though. We usually need to use strategies like paid social media ads or active outreach, so that we can attract attention and make sure people see what your business has to say on a given topic.

In some cases, if we create content that’s more comprehensive than what’s already out there, we can reach out and ask for links. It’s easier to get links to content that’s long, comprehensive, and genuinely valuable, but this kind of content does require a financial investment

 

National SEO Campaigns: A Slightly Different Approach

 

I’ve mostly been talking about local SEO, for companies that only need to rank in Google within a certain geographic area. If you’re a landscaping service in Kent, it doesn’t do you much good if you’re ranking on the first page for people in Lancaster.

National SEO is a little bit different.

This is for companies with customers throughout the UK, not just in one region of the country.

For national SEO campaigns, we tend to focus more on press outreach, content marketing, and related strategies for getting quality backlinks.

 

DIY SEO? Keep It White Hat

 

As you can see, there are quite a few ways to get backlinks that fall within Google’s guidelines. These white hat strategies are all good ways to build a robust backlink profile for your website, ultimately helping you rank higher and bring in more organic traffic.

No one backlink is a silver bullet that will propel you to the top of page one in Google, but over time, getting quality backlinks pays off impressively.

But there’s one thing I want to stress here: keep it white hat! It’s not worth damaging your website and its Google ranking by using backlink strategies you know Google doesn’t like.

Everyone makes mistakes, of course, and Penguin 4.0 has helped a lot of website owners with recovering from penalties.

But don’t try to cheat your way to the top with black hat shortcuts. It’s never a good idea.

Building Links That work

 

I’ve spent a lot of time telling you what doesn’t work in Google, so I thought it might be helpful if I showed you what does actually work.

Instead of worrying whether or not Google watches you while you sleep, why not approach your SEO efforts in 2020 by following two simple concepts?

1. Create white hat links to your site
2. Provide your visitors with useful content

Just remember that even the most stellar content is pretty much useless without letting Google know it exists, and the best way to do that is by building backlinks to your site.

To quote Neil Patel, “If you want better search engine rankings, you need more backlinks.”

And that’s what we’re going to focus on here: How to build links that won’t get you penalised by Google.

Why?

Because you’re following their guidelines.

 

Play A Long Game

 

My take on things is that link building in 2020 will be all about taking a holistic approach to not only the types of links you acquire but how you use them.

The days of registering a domain, pointing 12,452 links at it through a Fiverr gig, and then ranking for whatever keyword you want, are over.

And that doesn’t mean, “Yeah, try it and see how you get on.” It means over and done with.

A complete and total waste of your time and money.

My advice is to approach link building as if you’re running a marathon, and not a 100-yard sprint.

Running a marathon is as much about strategy and mental toughness as it is physical fitness, and that is exactly how I view the backlink building process.

So, how do you go about actually building links to your site?

 

Competitor analysis

 

This is hands-down one of the smartest and quickest way to find links for your business.

So, before lock everyone in a conference room to brainstorm link building ideas, why not look at what your competitors are doing instead?

After all, they’ve invested considerable financial resources into building their backlink profile, and if they’re ranking on the first page of Google, then you know with 100% certainty whatever they’re doing works.

The process of investigating your competitor’s backlinks is called backlink analysis, but some people cheekily refer to it as “stealing” your competitor’s backlinks. What you are doing is reverse engineering their results.

You’re not stealing anything – you’re just taking an intelligent approach to link building.

One that 99% of your competitors don’t bother with.

That’s their loss and your gain.

There are dozens of different backlink analysis tools on the market, but the very best of these is Ahrefs.

They have the most up-to-date database of links on the planet, which means you get to see more of your competitor’s backlinks than with any other tool that exists today.

 

A 6-step Backlink Analysis Process
1. Search Google for a keyword phrase you want to rank for
2. Copy and paste the domains that rank one page one for that term into a spreadsheet
3. Run each competitor’s domain through Ahrefs.com
4. Sort the backlinks by domain authority (DR)
5. Create a master list of all the links you want to acquire
6. Approach the owners of these sites to get a link from them

 

You’re probably wondering how exactly you should go about approaching these website owners for a link. Don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than it sounds

1. Only approach websites in related industries.
2. You need a great piece of content for them to link to – I cover this in more detail in the ‘Skyscraper content’ section a bit later in this article.
3. If you don’t have time to create skyscraper content, that’s fine. You need to pick the very best blog post you have, and one on a subject that would make sense for this other site to link to.
4. Send them an email that looks something like this:

email outreach

5. Wait for them to reply.

Depending on the quality of your content, and the market you’re in, somewhere between 80% and 90% of site owners will not respond to your email.

Don’t get upset by the lack of replies – this is just the law of averages in operation. What to focus on here is that when people do reply then you’re getting a free link to your site.

And not just any old link, but a link from a related industry, and that is worth its weight in gold when it comes to white hat SEO.

Keep A List
It’s important that you create a master list of all the links you want to acquire because it allows you to filter out all the worthless ones and keep track of the link opportunities you’re pursuing.

And I can assure you that you’ll find absolute gold in them there hills. Competitor analysis will help you discover links you’d never have thought of yourself.

The links might be from a business directory or some kind of content sharing site, but the fact remains that these links work, and work very, very well in terms of moving the needle when it comes to search engine ranking.

One word of caution here is that you should avoid links from suspect web properties, such as image sharing sites, etc.

Backlink analysis is something of an art. It takes time and practice to be able to do it without any real mental effort, but it’s something the team at Finetune Digital are particularly good at.

 

Blog Commenting

 

Wait…what? Am I suggesting that you use blog commenting as a way of building links to your site?

Yes, but only when you approach blog commenting from a completely ethical perspective.

What I am absolutely not suggesting here is to go out and pay somebody to comment on blogs for you. That has no value simply because most of the comments are of the, “I really liked this article. Great work!” variety.
That isn’t going to work for a number of reasons such as:

  1. It’s blog comment spam, and everyone hates it
  2. The comments are left on sites that are totally unrelated to your niche or market

What does work is commenting on high-quality blogs in topically relevant niches or markets.

And instead of just leaving a “Great work!” comment, why not contribute to the conversation with a comment that not only almost guarantees that the blog owner will approve your comment, but where people might actually click on your name to see where the comment came from?

Hint: Don’t be this person. Ever.

 

 

Blog commenting like a Pro

The first way to do this is to only use “naked links”, which means that you only put your domain name in the little box titled “URL”, and you use a real name in the “Name” field. Don’t try any silly keyword stuffing techniques you might have read about online.

It also helps if you comment using an address from a hosted domain e.g. name@finetunedigital.com instead of finetunedigital@gmail.com. I’ve found that blog owners are more likely to approve your comment if it doesn’t look like it was created by a spammer with a Gmail account.

The second way is to find blogs that are relevant to your industry or niche, leave a really well thought out comment, and include a link back to a similar piece of content on your own site.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

It’s not.

Blog commenting works, and in fact it works so well I recently saw a client’s site move from page four to page one of the Google search results using absolutely nothing more than really focused, purposeful blog commenting.

Note: Having your backlink profile made up of nothing but blog comments is a bad idea – the blog comment links I mentioned above were created in addition to existing authority links.

But doesn’t Google hate blog comments? Not according to Matt Cutts, former head of the web spam team at Google:

 

Guest Blogging

 

Now here’s a topic that’s gotten a lot of negative press over the last few years, but only because it’s been abused by SEO spammers.

Some people view guest blogging as nothing more than paid link placement, but that’s only true when you’re doing it the wrong way.

Yes, you can find websites selling guest blog posts for $10 each, but those same sites will link to any website that pays them, which reduces their link value to almost zero.

Remember that Google cares more about the quality of links pointing to your site, than the quantity of them.

So, if you choose to go down the route of using the first guest posting service you find on Google I can assure you that your results are going to be poor at best, and at worst you’ll wind up with a “manual action” warning from Google.

When you do guest blogging the right way there’s pretty much zero risk of receiving a penalty from Google simply because your guest posts will only appear on websites that aren’t spamming Google.

How can you start guest blogging? It’s as simple as searching Google with one of the following strings:

  • “keyword” write for us
  • “keyword” contribute
  • “keyword” guest posts

Once you have a list of websites or blogs that look like they’re a good match for your own, then simply email the blog owner with a few suggested titles for guest blog posts you offer to write for them.

Don’t expect a positive reply – or any reply for that matter – from the majority of blog owners.

They’re not being rude, they’re probably just flooded with requests if their blog is even remotely popular.

What’s absolutely critical when writing blog posts is that you don’t focus on linking back to your website with anything other than your business or website name.

Let’s say your domain name is www.bestdoggo.com and you’re selling a range of dog healthcare products, so you really want to rank for the term “best dog healthcare products”.

The temptation will be to include a link in the blog post with the exact phrase “best dog healthcare products”.

But you don’t ever want to do that. Down. Bold doggo!

Instead just include a link back to your website somewhere in the body of the text, but only using either your business name, or just your domain name. This is called a “naked URL” and is exactly what Google expects to see in a legitimate guest blog post.

You’re probably wondering if Google can tell if a guest post has been paid for or not?

Not unless you’re using some crappy service that sells guest posts for $10 each. You see, the “going rate” for professionally written and placed guest posts is between $100 and $500, and sometimes far more than that.

So, yes, that $10 guest post is worthless. That’s why it costs $10.

At Finetune Digital we actively use white hat guest blogging for building backlinks for customers who need to compete in national or international markets.

 

Skyscraper content

 

If you’ve been following SEO trends you’re probably tired of hearing about skyscraper content by now, but you shouldn’t be.

Why?

Because SEO guru Brian Dean has clearly shown how out of 1,000,000 analyzed search results that the content which ranks higher is at least 1,890 words in length.

Now, the way some SEO guys are selling skyscraper content is that it’s just the latest fad in search engine marketing.

That’s not something I agree with based on the fact that Google has only ever wanted web publishers to upload their very best content, and then reward them for doing that.

It’s a symbiotic relationship – you can’t exist without Google traffic and Google can’t exist without high quality content.

Creating this type of content means investing time in publishing an articles that’s so astoundingly good that people will either link to it naturally, or are more than happy to link to it when you reach out to them.

You need content that’s so comprehensive that it outclasses everything else on the first page of Google, which means Google wants your content there instead.

The days of writing lots and lots of keyword-focused 500-word blog posts are over. Some marketers are still actively doing this, but I know from experience they’re seeing little or no results for their efforts.

Once you’ve created your amazing “skyscraper” blog post, it’s then time to let the world know about it. The first way to do this is by reaching out to site owners by email, asking them if they’d be interested in linking to it.

There’s a second way to promote your blog post, and that’s by using Facebook or Google ads to promote it, at least for the first few days it’s online.

The first benefit of doing this is that you’ll get social shares, which are always worthwhile. But the second benefit is that some people will want to link to it from their blog.

There’s also the possibility that Google might now use this as a ranking factor (i.e. my content is so good I’m willing to pay to promote it), but the jury is still out on that.

You’re effectively paying for links by using social media advertising, but in the most ethical way possible.

 

Leave Reviews

 

Stop what you’re doing for a minute and think about the different products or services you use. You own a website, so you’ve used a web design company, a web hosting company, and a domain registrar. Maybe you purchased all of your office furniture from one company? Or how about where you bought staff uniforms, or other supplies?

You probably also use bookkeeping software, contact management software of some kind, photo editing software, and any number of other apps, programs or services.

Each of these products or services presents you with a really neat link building opportunity: Leaving a testimonial for them.

Does this mean that saying something nice about the product or service will get you a link from the vendor’s website? Not every single time, but then it often only takes a handful of powerful links to put you on the first page of Google.

This might sound like some kind of wild SEO theory, but I’ve seen these types of links almost every time I do competitor analysis for clients.

Donate to a charity

 

In dozens of different tests I’ve identified one single type of link which is so powerful that they’re difficult to ignore – links from charities.

Anne Frank would never have believed how relevant her advice would be to the world of modern SEO, but it is.

If you think about this it makes perfect sense – newspapers, TV stations, and anyone with a heart will link to a charity website without being asked. These sites never have to worry about building links because it’s done by everyone who supports them.

I’ve seen companies stick like glue to #1 or #2 in Google for competitive keywords, and for no other reason than they have a link from a charitable organization.

If you sponsor, or donate to, a charity they’re usually quite happy to link back to your site with a copy of your business logo. This is absolutely fine because their domain authority is still passed back to your site.

For the SEO nerds out there wondering how much domain authority these sites have, it’s often in the 70s and 80s range.

You can close your mouths now.

Roundup Articles

 

This is where you basically create a piece of content based on the expert opinions of others. It can be quite time intensive because you need to contact dozens of people to get a handful to actually contribute a snippet of content.

Once you’ve assembled all the input from your experts, you then compile them into a truly comprehensive piece covering a specific topic.

The benefit for the website publishing the roundup is that they have authoritative content on their site, which is something Google loves.

The benefit for the people contribute to the article is they get a free link back to their own site, with their only investment being to contribute a tiny amount of content.

 

Interviews

 

This is an evergreen approach to generating links to your site. Basically you get interviewed in an article, on a podcast or in a YouTube video.

The presenter/interviewer then promotes this interview through their own marketing channels, and in many cases you’ll get at least a handful of backlinks in the process.

Another benefit of participating in interviews is if an interview goes viral, which can result in a flood of free traffic to your site.

 

Spread Your Link Love

 

Inexperienced SEOs and digital marketers often make the mistake of only building links to the homepage of a site i.e. every single link points back to www.yourdomain.com

This is a mistake for many reasons, mostly because it’s an unnatural linking pattern Google can spot a mile away.

After all, wouldn’t it makes sense to Google that people would find other pages on your site interesting, and not just your homepage? In fact, your homepage is probably the least interesting page on your site.

So, the trick here is to build links to your homepage AND also to the pages you want to rank for specific keywords.

Ideally you’d have a fantastic piece of content (Hint: Skyscraper content), that people would find useful enough to link to. But even if you don’t you can still benefit from building links to internal pages, or what SEOs refer to as “deep linking.”

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here’s a quick graphic to illustrate the “wrong way” to build backlinks:

And here’s a much more intelligent, and Google-friendly, way to do it:

The above illustration is a very simple example of how you can spread your inbound links across your site to have the biggest impact.

Another huge benefit of this method is that your skyscraper content can be used to link back to your homepage with an exact match link for a keyword you want to rank for.

This can have massive SEO benefits, so it makes perfect sense to build links this way.

 

Bonus Tip: Piggybacking Image Sites

 

This is something I’ve just started testing, so it’s not written in stone.

I was recently looking for some pictures to add to a personal site of mine. I’m a fan of Creative Commons, so my search usually starts there because there’s usually a whole range of really high-quality and unique images available.

When I checked the licencing rights for one specific image I noticed that people who used it were leaving a copy of the URL where the image was used.

In one example several small business sites had used the same image for their site, and each of them had left link back to it in a comment to the owner of the image.

Most of the major image hosting and sharing sites, like Flickr, have huge amounts of domain authority.

Are backlinks from these sources valuable? Time will tell on that one, dear readers.

 

Conclusion

 

So, there you have it – my ultimate guide to understanding and building backlinks for 2020, and beyond.

I didn’t delve into technical stuff like broken link reclamation, 301 redirecting expired domains, or scraping backlinks from expired domains.

Why?

Because they’re really technical subjects, and go way beyond the scope of this article.

Link building isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always cheap. But the results are worth it for many businesses, including both local and national companies.

If you have any questions about how to get backlinks for your own website, or about SEO in general, feel free to reach out to me any time at Finetune Digital.

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