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From the outside perspective, online empires rise quickly. Each day, roughly half a million new websites are created, and though most anyone can quickly design and publish a website, gaining organic traffic takes longer than it seems.
Search engine optimization (SEO) offers sustainable growth and high-potential returns. One of its core foundations is off-page SEO which centers around link building to drive traffic. 80% of marketers estimate that it takes anywhere from one to six months to see results from this strategy. As one of Google’s most heavily weighted ranking factors, however, the investment in building backlinks is well worth its return.
What is link building for SEO?
Link building for SEO is the process of earning external links from other websites (as opposed to internal links which go from a page on one site to another page on the same site). They are considered one of the most important ranking factors for SEO because they demonstrate credibility.
Every time another site refers its users to your website, it acts as a sort of upvote. It says “I trust the source of this content” or “this content is helpful to users.” The more “upvotes” you earn, the more credibility you build.
This leads to better rankings and a larger potential audience. When your content shows up on the right search engine results pages (SERPs), you may gain a larger audience and make more sales in the process.
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10 White hat link building techniques
A solid link building campaign involves both active and passive techniques. Adopting a well-rounded approach will help improve the quality and increase the number of links you have.
On its own, having a lot of backlinks won’t necessarily earn you a top spot in the SERPs. It depends on where those links are from and how you get them.
You want to avoid black hat SEO tactics that sacrifice quality backlinks for quicker results. Always follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines to avoid costly penalties. Link schemes that are designed to game the PageRank algorithm by means of paid links can result in a penalized, or even deindexed website.
In the long run, this strategy can damage your website’s reputation with the search engine. Focus instead on white hat SEO tactics that generate editorial links by means of high-quality content.
1. Guest blog
Perhaps the most well-known way to earn inbound links is guest posting on blogs. It involves writing valuable content for another business, freelancer, blogger, etc., and it is very useful for growing your audience.
There are many reasons why creating content for other websites is good for your link profile and overall SEO performance:
- You can link to your own web pages in your guest posts.
- It exposes your brand to a wider audience who may link to your web pages.
- Guest blogging allows you to build your credibility within a niche which is important for getting referrals in the future.
- It shows the search engine that others trust your take on a given topic (great for SEO performance).
- Your posts may get shared on social media, leading more people to follow links to your site.
When you create posts for other brands, take extra care to perfect the basics. Ensure your content is grammatically correct, has no spelling errors, covers the topic in-depth, and provides unique information to the readers. This will boost your credibility and will make others more likely to link to your content.
2. Broken link building
Broken links are links within a piece of content that return an error when the user clicks on them. SEO is all about providing a great user experience, and broken links can damage the functionality and credibility of your website.
Not all white hat SEO tactics have to involve creating content completely from scratch. While broken links are detrimental to your website, you can use the ones on competing websites as a major source of new backlinks.
Start off by analyzing other sites’ backlink profiles and searching for broken links. You can do this using a tool like the Ahrefs Broken Link Checker. Then, look for broken links for topics you’ve already written about. You’ll want to contact the webmaster and kindly let him/her know that their link is broken and then offer your own web page as a replacement.
This strategy helps the site owner fix a link that could be damaging his/her site’s rankings. In the process, however, you’ll also win by receiving a new link and possibly a new connection within your industry.
3. Publish case studies or industry research
Link building requires you to put your brand out there. You want your content to get noticed. After all, the more interesting and unique your content, the higher its chance of earning backlinks for SEO.
Many blogs like to discuss new industry-related research findings as a way to help their industry evolve. The problem with this type of content, however, is that it is oftentimes difficult to find new research. This happens for many reasons, including:
- Research takes a long time for the given topic (medicine, environment, etc.)
- Lack of funding
- Incomplete or inconclusive results
- Not enough staff/time to devote to data analysis
The bottom line is that sharing your brand’s research or case studies can help others in the industry. It helps propel businesses forward and can earn you a lot of attention in your field.
If you have data-based insights and experiences to share, you should put them out there. This will attract attention to your website and increase your referral traffic as people discuss your findings.
4. Publish testimonials
An important driving factor behind link building is increasing brand awareness. When you publish client or customer testimonials on your website, you make your credibility more obvious. This, in turn, leads to more trust between you and your audience.
The more that people feel they can trust your content, the more they will share it. And this has a continuous effect that can carry your brand far into the future. You can also do interviews with industry experts to demonstrate credibility. Don’t be afraid to ask for collaboration or testimonies with leaders in your field. This can improve your search engine rankings and get more users to visit your site.
5. Post on forums
Connect with a wider audience by posting on industry-related forums. You can find relevant threads on sites like Quora. The users you will reach on these platforms already have an interest in your target topic.
Although many of these links have an automatic nofollow HTML tag attached, this isn’t always the case. Post on forums that have a lot of user engagement. You want to look for sites where the people following your “nofollow” links are more likely to share the link themself. This link building strategy generates trust and gives you another opportunity to direct users to your content.
To protect yourself from spammy links, choose places to post that clearly have to do with your website content. You want the search engine to understand that you know what you’re talking about. If you sell coffee pots online but post comments on a forum for motorcycle enthusiasts, you might raise some red flags.
Make sure you avoid low-quality posts and comments, as these can negatively impact your search rankings. Google may perceive your content as spammy if it doesn’t align with the topic of the forum
6. Reclaim lost backlinks
Link reclamation is the process of earning back the links that have disappeared from your profile. You can lose a link when a content creator removes it from the page or deletes the page altogether.
To reclaim lost backlinks, you can use a backlink checker to identify where they disappeared. Then, if the previously linked web page is still active on the site, you can reach out to the site owner to see if they’ll consider re-adding your link. While you should always have ways to get fresh links added to your profile, link reclamation can save you the energy required to do so.
7. Run an active social media profile
Many brands rely on social media as a staple of their digital marketing strategy. As it turns out, social media is also a great tool for building links without spending a lot of time and money.
Show the search engine that your brand is relevant by regularly updating your website’s profiles on sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. This is also a great place to interact with your target audience by answering questions and listening to feedback. An active social feed can turn you into a high-authority site in your field.
The easiest way to earn valuable links is to simply share your content to various platforms. Since you’ve already created the content, this takes little time and can earn you good links from reputable sources. Research has shown a correlation between social engagement in backlinks.
8. Make unique infographics
Marketers are always looking for interesting yet helpful visuals to add to their web pages. Infographics for SEO are both of these things at once – they educate the user while improving the overall page layout.
Make unique infographics a part of your content creation strategy. They can improve your performance with the Google search algorithm by demonstrating a commitment to user experience through improved key performance metrics. This ultimately helps you gain more organic search traffic and doesn’t require much if you already have someone to make graphic designs for your brand.
As a link-building strategy, high-quality infographics can improve your backlink profile whenever someone adds your image to their content since it’s common for creators to link to the original source.
9. Convert mentions into links
Sometimes websites will mention you without actually adding hyperlinks to your content or homepage. Unlinked mentions won’t negatively impact your SEO, but they represent an opportunity for a larger backlink profile.
To convert mentions into links, you first have to find them. Doing this manually can be time-consuming, but it is possible. You’ll want to search Google for brand-related terms like:
- Brand name itself
- CEO’s name
- Alternate spellings of brand name
Depending on the number of search results you get, you may have to narrow them down using special Google search syntax. This approach may be overwhelming if you have a large online presence, but it can help you generate some leads.
You can also use tools like the Ahrefs Content Explorer or the Semrush Brand Monitoring Tool to analyze your backlink profile. These tools allow you to filter out results for unlinked mentions across the internet. Once you notice an unlinked mention, simply reach out and let he/she know where they can link to on your website. Check out this Ahrefs guide on how to convert mentions into links for more information on this process.
10. Make one-of-a-kind content
To earn the best links, you need to create the best web pages. That means that web design, written content, visuals, and any other multimedia elements need to tell a story or solve a problem. By the time they are done with your content, users should know what to do or where to go next.
Here are some examples of unique content formats and approaches that may diversify and increase your link profiles:
- Step-by-step tutorials
- Photo essays
- Full-length resource pages on a topic
- Research studies
- Niche-specific podcast episodes
Develop content that adds to a topic or approaches it like no one has before. You should always strive to show other websites why your web page is the one they should send their readers to.
Multimedia projects are often more accessible to a larger audience because they explain a topic multiple ways. If you find a way to make one-of-a-kind posts and resources, other sites will have no choice but to share them with their audiences.
Link building tools
Because it can be time-consuming to build links, you should consider using tools and software that speed up the process. These resources help with multiple white hat link building tactics. Here are some of the most trusted tools and what they help you with:
This is a content marketing tool that helps you find influencers and bloggers who may share your content. You can get an annual subscription or pay month-to-month for the service.
Pitchbox is a platform that helps brands manage their outreach strategies. It integrates with other tools like Slack, Gmail, and Outlook, further simplifying the process.
This is site-crawling software that helps you find things like broken links and duplicate content. With the data you collect, you can create a better link building strategy for your brand.
One of the best resources for tracking backlinks is Majestic. It will help you analyze your link profile and show you things like anchor text and referring domains as well. Subscriptions for this service can be paid monthly or annually.
The Moz Link Explorer SEO tool is one of the best places to find link opportunities. You can use this tool to track important metrics like the domain authority of referring websites and more.
HARO is a resource for developing great content. It helps content creators find (journalists, bloggers, reporters, etc.) find industry leaders to quote. If you’re writing a guest post that requires more technical information, this is one of the best places to find an authoritative source.
Get a complimentary SEO audit
If you want high-quality links, you need to produce link-worthy content. At the end of the day, SEO emphasizes the needs of the user over short-term growth for your brand. A comprehensive link profile demonstrates that your website is trusted, reliable, and valuable within your niche. By implementing these link building strategies, you can extend your reach and increase your brand awareness.
Want to see how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant SEO audit below. Or, schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%.