Which aspect of link-building is the most important?
There isn’t one. No single activity or process guarantees success. Instead, building quality links requires a coordinated and consistent effort throughout the whole link-building campaign.
Our guide provides insights on:
A link building campaign is an organized effort to increase the number and quality of inbound links pointing back to a webpage.
It involves a series of activities such as identifying potential link sources, creating high-quality content, reaching out to the prospects, and monitoring progress.
The aim of backlinking campaigns is to boost the SERP performance of your content. As search engines like Google use links as a ranking signal, increasing their number can improve the position of your web pages in the search results.
A successful link-building campaign consists of 5 key steps:
Let's have a look at each of them, one by one.
To start with, clearly define your goals and objectives.
This will give your link-building campaign focus and guide your actions at the subsequent stages of the campaign. Goals are also necessary to measure your progress once your campaign is up and running.
How do you set clear and measurable goals?
It may be tempting to go for simple goals, like build 10 links by the end of the month.
Building links, however, is only a means to an end - boosting the search engine performance of your content. So to set truly meaningful goals, tie them to your organizational goals, like increasing traffic to drive sales.
An example of a good goal could be ‘increase organic traffic by 21% by the end of Q3'.
Evaldas Mockus, the VP of Growth at Omnisend warns against setting goals that are too big or ambitious. Instead, he recommends starting with smaller objectives while continuously refining your processes that would support your link-building:
Once you set your goals, it's time to look for prospective websites, bloggers, and influencers that would be willing to link back to your web page.
There are a few ways to do this.
Samantha North, an SEO consultant, recommends looking for prospects in your network first:
If someone is linking to your competitors, they're likely to link to your site as well, so research their backlink profile for inspiration
To do this, leverage your SEO software.
In Ahrefs, use the Backlinks report.
The feature allows you to see all the websites that link to your competitors.
You can easily filter the results by link type (e.g. dofollow/nofollow/UGC/Sponsored), Domain Rating, and domain traffic so that you can easily view only the high-impact sites.
Semrush also offers the Backlinks report with similar functionality, and you can also do it without a subscription in Ubersuggest.
Analyzing the backlink profiles of your competitors one by one can be a bit of a drag.
Fortunately, you can save yourself a fair bit of time and effort by using tools that analyze the gaps between your backlink profile and your competitors. That’s the easiest way to find pages that link to them but not you.
Have a look at the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool:
When you enter your domain URL and your key competitors, here’s what you get:
Backlink Gap in Semrush and Backlink Opportunity in Ubersuggest work in exactly the same way.
A quick reminder though: Chasing competitor links isn’t enough, because all you’ll be doing is playing catch-up. To outcompete them, build links that they don’t have, especially, when dealing with top-tiered websites.
Relevant sites with broken links are attractive prospects because they're already linking to a page that's related to yours. And by helping webmasters find and replace their broken links, you're doing them a favor. This increases your chances of success.
How do you look for broken links?
Type the domain you want to get a link from in Ahrefs Site Explorer, select Broken Links from the sidebar menu, and job done.
Alternatively, you can use a Chrome extension, like Broken Link Checker, but this requires visiting the actual page that you want to inspect.
Once you identify broken links, you may be lucky to have a similar resource available on your website. If not, you may want to create such an asset from scratch or use a web archive to restore it.
It goes without saying you should also be monitoring links pointing to your site and immediately restoring lost ones.
Unlinked brand mentions are another low-hanging fruit.
There are a lot of tools you can leverage to monitor brand mentions. Antonio recommends Mention, but you can also find them with SEO tools.
Here’s how you can do it in Ahrefs:
2. Set the filters (DR, ST, language, etc.)
3. Add your domain URL in “Highlight unlinked”. This will highlight the results that mention your brand but without a link.
4. Export only highlighted pages.
Having identified your prospects, it’s time to create assets that they might be happy to link to.
Guest posts/contributed articles to pitch.
Guest posts are articles that you write for another website or blog. In exchange for contributing a valuable piece to their content, you get a backlink to your site.
However, securing guest posting opportunities, especially unpaid ones, is not always an easy.
How do seasoned link-building pros go about it?
When done well, infographics are a proper link magnet because they communicate a wealth of information in an easily digestible and visually appealing format.
Here’s a good example:
This interactive infographic on data breeches and hacks has attracted 5.5k links from 2.0k domains.
There are two approaches to creating infographics.
One way is to create infographics related to trending keywords and share them with websites that cover the topic to enhance their content.
Alternatively, you can research infographics with lots of backlinks, improve them, and pitch them to the sites that have linked to the originals.
You can go one step further and reach out to your prospects with guesto-graphics.
What are they?
In short, they’re bespoke infographics in the niche that your prospects write about. You then reach out to them and ask if they want to link back to it. To add even more value, you offer to write a mini guest post around it.
Quality research and statistics are one of the best link sources.
They are very attractive to bloggers and freelance writers because they help them support the argument that they’re building and make their writing more credible.
Just check out the State of Marketing by Hubspot to see what I mean. The report has earned over 28k links from 8k domains.
What if you don’t have the resources to conduct original research?
Research and collate data already published by others. In this way, you make it easier for writers to find the information they need and the odds are they will link to your content, not the originals.
For example, the article by Adam Connell below, published only 20 days ago, doesn’t contain any original data, and yet is sitting in the 4th place in Google SERP at the moment and has been linked to 57 times.
Case studies, just like original research, provide valuable and practical information for writers who will be happy to link back to them to make their stories stronger.
For example, Brian Dean’s classic case study of how he used the skyscraper technique to boost his web traffic has attracted over 8.7k backlinks from 2.5k websites.
How about reviews?
Write an accurate and honest review of your prospect’s product or service, publish it on your site, and send it to them. If they’re happy with it, they’ll share it on their social media and link back to it.
You can also combine the two by writing a case study involving a product. For example, you can collaborate with a SaaS product vendor on a case study featuring their tool.
Interviews with industry experts and thought leaders do wonders when it comes to link-building.
What makes them so effective?
First, they add value to your content by providing unique and credible insights that may not be readily available elsewhere. This alone is enough to attract links.
Second, when you feature someone in an interview or podcast, they’re likely to share the content on their social media to acknowledge the exposure you’ve given to them. This will increase its visibility, and bring referral traffic and links.
Also, why not reverse the table and appear in podcasts as a guest to secure links from their episode pages?
Research podcasts relevant to your niche and reach out to the hosts to pitch yourself out as a guest. Check out the Let's Talk Link-Building episode featuring Dmytro Sokhach, the CEO of Admix Global and Editorial.Link, as an example.
To find reputable podcasts in your area of expertise, use Google, popular streaming and podcast platforms like Spotify, or SEO tools.
Make sure to vet them before pitching as it’s not worth wasting your time on podcasts that don’t offer guest appearances, have limited reach, or worse, aren’t running anymore.
Outreach is the next step in the backlink campaign.
I mean you can sit and wait for people to link to your assets organically, but that’s not exactly the best way to realize their full-link building potential.
To do that, promote them actively by reaching out to prospects and asking for a link.
Let’s look at a few tips on how to do it effectively.
Personalization is the name of the game when it comes to outreach.
In fact, Editorial.Link data shows that well-personalized outreach emails can achieve a 45% response rate, while generic ones only 8.5%.
Just look at these two sample emails from Ben Goodey, an SEO strategist and founder at How the F*ck.
The second email greets the reader with a personalized opening line, is more specific, and shows you’re familiar with the person’s work.
There’s one more thing that makes the second email better.
It offers value by identifying a gap and offering a solution in the form of a guest post.
This is crucial: when reaching out, give your prospects a good reason to link back to your content.
Assuming your linkable assets are of high quality and value, this shouldn’t be difficult though.
Building relationships with influential figures in your industry has some long-term benefits.
It’s a chance to regularly secure high-quality backlinks, increase your own authority, and boost your reach and visibility, to name just a few.
How do you build such relationships?
Influential prospects may be initially reluctant to link back to pages they don’t know. It’s too much risk for their hard-earned reputation. What’s more, they get flooded with collaboration requests, so cold emails won’t cut it.
That’s why start by engaging with their content on social media to get noticed. Once you get on their radar, reach out and offer them something of value, like a free link. Only then ask for a link.
When building relationships, focus on people and organizations that share your values.
The last stage in the link-building process is all about measuring your progress. This includes tracking the new backlinks and their impact on your key metrics.
Use ranking tools to track keyword improvements.
If your objective is the improve your rankings for specific keywords, use a tool like Ahrefs Rank Tracker.
It’s simple to use. All you have to do is add your domain and the keywords you want to track.
The report that Rank Tracker generates offers insights on:
You also get detailed insights about the performance of each tracked keyword.
Semrush offers similar functionality in its Position Tracking tool, and if you want to look up individual keywords, why not use Ahrefs free Keyword Rank Checker:
Check Google Search Console for new backlinks
Google Search Console is a free simple tool that enables you to track basic link metrics, so you can use it to identify new links pointing to your domain.
After clicking on Links in the sidebar menu, you get information on:
Domain and page authority are 2 proprietary metrics developed by Moz used to predict how likely the website or webpage is likely to rank in SERPs. Semrush and Ahrefs have their own equivalents - Authority Score and Domain Rating.
Backlinks are one of the factors that are considered when calculating them, so SEOs often use them to track the effectiveness of their link-building campaigns.
The paid versions of the above tools allow you to track historical trends, which is perfect for tracking progress.
Here’s what it looks like in Semrush:
Guest posting, broken link-building, unlinked mentions, or infographic outreach aren’t the only effective link-building strategies.
What are others?
Not all link-building strategies are legit and can backfire big time if you’re caught using them.
Here are a couple to watch out for.
To boost your SEO performance, you may be tempted to turn to low-quality or spammy link networks.
While this can lead to a temporary hike in web traffic, it will most likely hurt you in the long run.
That’s because participation in such schemes is a violation of search engine guidelines and can result in penalties, lower rankings and even getting deindexed.
Over-optimizing anchor texts is another shady practice that is frowned upon by search engines.
We talk about anchor text over-optimization when you excessively use an exact match keyword or key phrase as the anchor for your link, especially in an unnatural way that doesn’t fit into the sentence structure well.
Check out these two passages linking back to an article with a slug /white-hat-link-building:
So here you are. That’s how you run a link-building campaign, from setting goals, through prospecting, creating assets, outreach, and monitoring.
The key takeaway is that link-building is not a one-off effort. Instead, it requires consistency and persistence throughout all stages of the process.
However, the time and energy that you initially invest in linkable assets and building mutually beneficial relationships, will make it increasingly easier to build links and drive traffic to your websites in the future.
Need a helping hand with backlinks? Contact Editorial.Link's team for a personal consultation.