Backlinks are a vital part of any good off-page SEO strategy. They point users to your website from 3rd party websites.
The best backlinks come from sources that are reputable and relevant to the content to which they’re pointing. If the backlinks come from good sources then your page authority (PA) may increase, which in turn may help with your SEO ranking with the search engines.
What is link building?
Link building is the process of having external websites link to the content on your website. If the page linking to you has a high page authority, then that PA will be shared with your page. This helps Google determine the ranking for your webpage.
For an in-depth guide to backlinking, check out Semrush’s recent piece on link building for SEO.
Why is link building important?
In the world of SEO, backlinks can be considered recommendations from an outside party. A backlink from a reputable website indicates what you’re presenting on your website is of good value.
If a website with a high ranking in a certain area of expertise links back to you, that is a massive vote of confidence for your website, which can encourage search engines to believe in your content too.
When done right, link building can contribute to forecast remarkable growth in organic traffic. Your site could also benefit from targeted referral traffic from these external 3rd party sites backlinking to you.
Think of your behavior when reading an article. If there is a reference to another article, or a suggested link to follow to find out more, would you follow that link?
Link Building Best Practices
Link building is a complex job with big rewards. However, if done the wrong way you can be penalized by Google.
Good ways to acquire backlinks
The Skyscraper technique
- Find a piece of content in your industry or field of expertise that is performing well. The easiest way is to use Google and look at the top 3 search results.
- Create a piece of content that is more current or helpful than the top 3 search results. Do more with your content than what is already there.
- Promote your content. If you have mentioned people or websites in your article, reach out to them, tell them, and have them link to your content as a reciprocal gesture.
You can also contact industry websites or forums focused on the topic you’re discussing with your content. Share your content with them and let them know it’s more updated or current.
The Skyscraper technique is just one technique described in Semrush’s guide to acquiring backlinks.
Helping out a Journalist
You can use the HARO (Help A Reporter Out) site to contact journalists in search of experts on a specific topic. Journalists often reach out to experts for quotes or statements for their articles. If you can help a reporter out, you could earn a powerful backlink to your website or content.
Broken Link Building
This is a technique where you find broken links on other websites and suggest they can fix their broken link by linking to your content instead.
Click through to learn more about the broken link building technique.
Publish “Ultimate Guides”
Your “Ultimate Guides” need to be hefty with a big word count and with a lot of valuable information. You don’t want to leave anything on the cutting room floor. Try to include as much useful information as possible, so your readers consider you a reputable source.
Including a downloadable PDF also helps with this strategy. When people are writing about your targeted topic on their websites, they’ll likely write about and link to your guide for readers who want more detail. Being able to download your guide to read later adds to the user experience.
Bad ways to acquire backlinks
Don’t buy links
This tactic of buying links may have worked in the early 2000s, but it is no longer an effective strategy.
Buying links doesn’t guarantee the links will be helpful or relevant to your site. A large swathe of irrelevant links pointing to your site will likely earn a penalization from Google.
Don’t automate link generation
This spammy technique will net you very few responses. People that receive emails asking for backlinks will know it’s auto-generated, and your email will likely end up in their spam or trash folder.
Don’t comment on blogs purely for links
Build your reputation as a figure of authority, but don’t push your website as the best place to get all the answers. People will get wise to this quickly and you’ll waste time and effort.
Don’t link to your homepage
You’ll need backlinks to specific pages of your website to show relevance, page authority, and more. If you’re only getting links to your homepage Google might consider it spam and won’t consider these backlinks when ranking you.
Don’t recycle your content on different pages
While guest blogging is a good idea for backlinking, if you simply copy your content to other sites, you run the risk of becoming a victim to ‘duplicate content.’
Duplicate content dilutes the potential of both pieces of content, as Google has to eventually choose between the two when deciding what to rank.
5 things to consider when choosing a link-building service
1. Site Reputation & Link Quality
To determine reputation, you could look to a site’s authority score, which forecasts how well a website will rank on a SERP. Scores are ranked on a scale of 1–100. The higher the score, the higher the likelihood of the page ranking high in Google’s SERP.
Another factor to consider when it comes to backlinks is niche relevance. If websites in a similar niche as yours backlink to you, then your ranking will benefit. Receiving a backlink from a website similar to yours but not as closely related doesn’t have that strong of an impact.
Niche relevance also helps Google understand what your site is about. Backlinks from niched sites can further your authority in that niche and heighten the likelihood your site is returned for a user’s intent.
2. Automation Process
As mentioned above, automated emails can feel impersonal and won’t net as many positive returns as a custom email. Of course, you can customize some templates to make the process of emailing more efficient.
The flip side to automation is scheduling and following up on leads and link requests. If you’ve spent the time creating content and then have a service send out link requests, you need to follow up.
3. Service Cost
If a service costs more, will it do more for you? Are you paying for a large agency? Does it feel like good value to you?
Feel free to compare different services to see if there are similarities in pricing and features.
What will be the return on investment? Do you want a guaranteed amount of links or quality of links?
Do you get monthly reports as part of your investment? Are you given any visibility into the process as part of your investment? What return will you be happy with?
The better the backlink, the better your potential search result. How this translates to revenue depends on your website and where the link lands. A financial ROI may be difficult to measure.
4. What is the backlink profile of the service?
This metric can be the proof in the pudding. If the backlink service you’re investigating has a good backlink profile and other sites point to them as masters in their craft, then excellent — they know what they’re doing.
However, if the backlink service you’re checking out has a poor backlink profile, you might wonder about their ability to earn backlinks for your website as well.
What are other clients saying about this service? When you search for backlink provider reviews, what is the consensus about the service?
Consider the credibility and relevance of those people giving the reviews. Are those reviews on forums or a social media channel randomly linking to a backlink service? Is it a review on a reputable site linking to the 10 best link-building services?
Whose opinion would you trust?
How can Semrush’s Link Building Tool help?
The Link Building tool helps you run an outreach campaign to acquire links by collecting link-building opportunities. You can run competitor analysis and a link-building campaign concurrently.
As with all Semrush tools, the tool reporting feature is comprehensive. Read about how to build your backlinks with the tool on Semrush.
How Semrush’s link building tool works
Step 1: Set up the project
You’ll need to create a project for your domain to use this tool. Once a project is created (or if you have one already), navigate to the tool from your project dashboard.
Step 2: Add target keywords and competitors
Step 3: View prospects
Step 4: Select appropriate domains
Which domains are relevant to your campaign or your industry?
Which domains are appropriate to acquire backlinks from? You don’t want links from domains associated with shady industries or link farms. This may harm your site’s Google ranking.
Step 5: Reach out to the selected domains
Visit the websites you wish to reach out to. You can use a link building tool like Semrush’s or a tool like Hunter for Chrome to find the names and email addresses of people attached to the website and the company. (Hunter is a paid service, so keep that in mind.)
Once you have names and email addresses, send out your standard email for backlinks, and have a follow-up process in place.
Link building is an important part of the overall SEO strategy. You can do it yourself or you can trust a company to do backlink outreach for you.
Do some research and use the Link Building tool to check out the domain of the company you’re planning to bring your campaign to. Research and patience will ensure you make a good decision and prevent you from wasting time or resources.