Link building is hugely important for driving more traffic to your blog—so much so that it’s the main component of “off-page” SEO.
You might already be familiar with link building, or you might have a hazy idea of what it means. You may also have come across the idea of “bad” backlinks to your blog and you might be worried about how to avoid those.
So what exactly is link building and how can you do it well?
The Blogger’s Guide to Link Building (How to Build Links & Relationships with Bloggers)
- What is Link Building for SEO?
- 6 Important Basics to Understand About Backlinks
- 6 Key Do’s and Don’ts of Link Building
- 7 Worthwhile Link Building Techniques & Ideas to Try for Growing Your Blog
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What is Link Building for SEO?
Link building for SEO means proactively aiming to get other websites to link to your website or blog. Link building strategies include guest blogging, broken link building, directly asking for links, linking to your site from forums, Q&A sites, comments, and more.
Throughout my blogging career, I’ve attracted more than 61,200+ backlinks from a combination of natural (organic) link pickups & other more strategic methods for getting links:
There’s a lot to unpack there, especially if you’re new to blogging. So let’s dig into a couple of key terms: SEO and links.
What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of getting your website content to rank well in Google and other search engines. This includes on-page SEO (e.g. using appropriate keywords in your content), technical SEO (e.g. speeding up your website), and off-page SEO (link building).
When someone runs a Google search, they’ll see a search engine results page (SERP) listing the pages that Google thinks are the best match for that search. The goal of SEO is to get your content to rank higher on that results page.
What are Links?
Links, or hyperlinks, are HTML elements that link from one webpage to another (or, less often, to other parts of the same page). They’re all over the web: in fact, the web as we know it wouldn’t exist without these links. Links appear in navigation menus, sidebars, and within blog content.
You’ll hear a few different terms used about links:
- Backlinks: links from other websites to your site (or to a competitor’s site that you’re examining). They’re sometimes called inbound links instead.
- Internal links: links from one page on your site to another page on your site.
- External links: links from your site to someone else’s site. They’re sometimes called outbound links instead.
Traditionally, links are blue and underlined, but they might be indicated by a different color and may not have an underline.
Here’s an example of a link to my guide on starting a blog.
Here’s how that sentence looks in HTML code:
Here’s an example of a link to <a href=”https://www.ryrob.com/how-start-blog/”>my guide on starting a blog</a>.
Why is Link Building Important?
Link building is important because each link to a page on your website acts like a vote for it. The more links you have from other sites, the more Google will know that your site is well-known and respected. So, link building works to win higher rankings for your content in Google’s search results.
This is why some links are more valuable than others. If a high authority website that’s been around for years links to yours, their “vote” is a much bigger ranking factor than a link from a tiny, unknown blog that only launched last week.
Over time, your blog will naturally gain links “organically”—that means that people link to you without you doing anything to get those links. But some people who enjoy your blog won’t ever think to link to it without any prompting.
It’s important to note however, that Google’s spam policies technically advise against link building efforts, but I’ll be honest with you—literally every successful blogger, influencer, website, software company and publication invest massive amounts of time & resources into the strategic, smart and safe link building strategies we’ll explore later in this guide.
6 Important Basics to Understand About Backlinks
Before we get into all the details of SEO link building, let’s get clear about some crucial basics to know.
1. Links Can Be “Follow” or “Nofollow”
By default, all links on the web are “follow” or “dofollow” links—regular links with no “rel” tag.
But in recent years, it’s become increasingly common for links to be “nofollow”. This means that a special tag is added to the HTML code for the link, like this:
<a href=”https://www.ryrob.com/how-start-blog/” rel=”nofollow”>my guide on starting a blog</a>.
As Google explains, the nofollow attribute should be used when “you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page.”
To put it very simply, this means that if you’re building backlinks, you ideally want “follow” links. If a link has the “nofollow” tag, it won’t have much direct SEO benefit for you.
However, some SEO experts believe that nofollow links still have some effect (just not as much) and that having a number of nofollow backlinks helps you have a more natural backlink profile in Google’s eyes.
2. Your Anchor Text Matters
Anchor text is the word, phrase, or sentence that your link is attached (or “anchored”) to. For instance, here’s a link to my post on how to name a blog. As you can see, the anchor text there is “how to name a blog”.
When other people link to your blog, they’ll usually choose the anchor text. That’s fine: in most cases, they’ll choose something logical that’s related to the topic of your page (which is helpful for Google).
If you get to choose your anchor text, perhaps in a guest post bio, it’s best practice to:
- Choose anchor text that describes the page. Don’t use “click here to find out more”, instead try something like “check out my blogging tips on RyRob.com.”
- Vary the anchor text you use. Don’t always use the exact same words or phrase to link to a particular page: this looks like an unnatural backlink profile to Google.
3. Search Engines Want to See a “Natural” Backlink Profile
I’ve mentioned “natural” and “unnatural” backlink profiles a couple of times—so what exactly does that mean?
Google doesn’t want bloggers to engage in shady practices like buying backlinks or carrying out link exchanges (because those links aren’t really earned). These are sometimes called “black hat” SEO (vs “white hat” SEO, where bloggers are earning links ethically).
A “natural” backlink profile includes lots of different links from different sites, across a period of time. Those links shouldn’t just come from huge, high-profile sites—they should come from blogs, social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, niche sites, and so on.
An “unnatural” backlink profile might only include backlinks from massive sites, or have a huge number of links in a very short period of time.
In general, when you’re building backlinks, use a range of methods and also use techniques that help you to naturally attract links (like creating amazing content). Don’t pay for links—Google has algorithms to detect this and they may well penalize you.
4. Some Links Will Be Naturally Lost Over Time
One of the frustrating things about building backlinks is that you might put in a ton of hard work… only to find that your backlinks have vanished.
This is just the nature of the internet. Some bloggers give up on blogging—and once their site vanishes, so do the backlinks that you previously had from them. Other bloggers might delete content that’s no longer on-brand or relevant for them—meaning you lose any backlinks from that content.
Backlinks can even be “poached” from you by other sites. If they have a better resource than yours, they might ask sites to link to them instead. (Don’t worry—you can use this technique too.)
It’s completely normal to lose some backlinks over time, so you should view backlink building as an ongoing process—not something you do once and then forget about. Just be sure to stay on top of your best backlinks and launch a link reclamation campaign a couple times a year.
5. You’ll Win Some Backlinks Effortlessly (Especially As Your Blog Grows)
You don’t have to work for every single backlink. You’ll win some backlinks without doing anything at all—and this will become more and more frequent as your blog grows.
Some of your blog’s readers may have blogs of their own, and they may link to a piece you wrote that they loved. Other bloggers in your niche may come across your content and link to it or quote from it to add extra depth to one of their posts. Someone who stumbles across your blog might link to your content from their post on an online forum. And so on.
The bigger your blog and the more content marketing you do, the higher the chances that you’ll get these effortless (and natural) backlinks.
6. Backlinks Bring Referral Traffic and Grow Brand Recognition Too
Backlinks aren’t just good for helping you get more organic traffic from search engines. They also grow your referral traffic—that’s visitors who come to your site by clicking the link on another blog or website. While this may end up being a small proportion of your overall traffic, people who visit because they enjoyed your guest post or read about your blog are likely to stick around.
Even if the people seeing your link on another blog don’t click on it, they may remember your blog’s name. The more you appear on other blogs and websites, the more your brand will be recognized. This helps grow your reputation in your blogging niche: you’ll become one of the bloggers who everyone seems to be talking about.
6 Key Do’s and Don’ts of Link Building
We’re going to run through key link building techniques in a moment—but before we get to that, let’s look at some important do’s and don’ts.
1. Do Make Sure Your Blog is Worth Linking To
If your blog is brand new, with a single post, a generic WordPress theme, and a “coming soon” message on your About page, it’s not going to look very impressive to established bloggers.
Wait until you’ve got some more content published before you start link building (or indeed, any kind of digital marketing). You might also want to invest in a premium WordPress theme and/or a custom logo to help your blog make a great first impression.
2. Don’t Pay for Backlinks or Join in Link Exchanges
Google is not keen on bloggers paying for links. If you do pay for someone to link to your blog (e.g. from an ad), that link should be “nofollow”. Paying for regular “follow” links could get your blog penalized by Google.
You should also avoid link exchanges (reciprocal links). This is where a blogger promises to link to your blog in exchange for you linking to theirs. It’s okay if you’re linking to a blog that would naturally link to you too (e.g. if you guest post for one another), but you shouldn’t deliberately seek out reciprocal links.
3. Do Aim for High-Quality Backlinks from Reputable Sites
Not all links are created equal. Google knows that some websites are much more reputable than others. When building links, you want to ideally gain links from high-quality sites—like big-name blogs in your niche.
Of course, it’s fine to have links from much smaller, less-established sites too. But it’s best to focus your link building efforts on high-authority blogs and sites where possible. To find the best sites, check each site’s PageRank (out of 10). Anything over 4 is good: the higher, the better. (3 is average.) You can also check out the Moz domain authority (out of 100).
4. Don’t Pester Bloggers for Links (Prioritize Relationships)
If you had a peek at my inbox, you’d see that I get a lot of link requests. (If your blog has been around for a while, you might get a few of those requests too.)
It’s okay to ask for a link … but be careful to prioritize your relationships with other bloggers. Don’t ask again and again and again—especially if this is the very first time you’ve been in touch with the blogger. If they don’t get back to you, assume it’s a “no”.
5. Do Build Backlinks to Multiple Pages on Your Site
Some bloggers only think about building backlinks to their homepage, or perhaps to a key landing page or piece of pillar content. But it’s important to build backlinks to lots of different pages on your site.
This helps create a more natural backlink profile—and it also helps you to get multiple pages ranking well in Google.
6. Don’t Spam Comments Sections to Get Links—It Won’t Work
One popular old-school link building technique was to leave blog comments everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with commenting on blogs, but if you’re only commenting to put in a link to your own post, stop.
Links in comments are almost always nofollowed, so they won’t do much for your SEO. Plus, many blogs automatically send comments to moderation if they contain a link—so your comment might never get published at all.
7 Genius Link Building Techniques & Ideas to Try for Growing Your Blog
So how exactly do you go about building links to help grow your blog? There are plenty of different techniques to try whether you’ve just started a blog for the first time or you’re a seasoned blogger. I’m going to run through some of the most popular and most effective link building tactics, with tips to help you get the most from each as you start your link building campaign.
1. Guest Post for Big Blogs in Your Niche
Guest blogging is a fantastic way to grow not only your blog itself but also your profile in your niche. As a guest blogger, you write a (usually free) guest post for someone else’s blog. They publish it with your name and bio on it.
In your guest post bio, you can normally link to anything you want—and it often makes good sense to link to a post on your own blog that’s related to what you’re guest posting about. That way, you’ll not only get the SEO benefits, you’ll hopefully get some highly targeted traffic from interested readers clicking through to read more of your content.
Guest Posting Tips
- Tailor your ideas to the blog you’re writing for. Look at the type of posts they normally publish and come up with several potential ideas that would be a good fit. Pitch several ideas at once, so the blog owner can choose the one they like best.
- If the host blog allows it, include a highly relevant link in your post to a high-quality piece on your own blog. (This is in addition to your bio link.) Make sure your linked page is adding value to your guest post.
2. Try Broken Link Building (Dead Link Building)
Broken link building is a clever technique where you look for links that no longer work. For instance, perhaps a blogger in your niche wrote a piece several years ago that linked to a resource on “small business ideas”. But that resource no longer exists online—and the link is broken.
If you have a post on “small business ideas”, then you can email the blogger, let them know about the broken link, and politely suggest your own resource as an alternative.
Broken Link Building Tips
- Use a link building tool like Ahrefs Broken Link Checker or similar tools inside SEMRush to check for broken links on any website. See if you have a resource that could be linked to in place of any of the broken links, plus you’ll get to see other key website metrics at the same time.
- Check out the broken (dead) link using the Wayback Machine. That way, you can see what the previous resource looked like—and you can check that yours is up to the same standard (or, hopefully, even better).
3. Become a Help a B2B Writer & HARO Source
While HARO (which stands for Help a Reporter Out) is the OG in this arena, it’s quality has gone down a bit over time. It’s a massive mailing list where journalists, bloggers, and anyone else looking for a source can put out a request. Sources—that’s you!—write a response and, generally, get a link back to their website. However, it’s also flooded with low quality requests, IMO.
Help a B2B Writer, now run by the wonderful Jimmy Daly of Superpath, is now the gold standard in raising your hand as a trusted source within your niche. They get the absolute highest quality writers & publications frequenting their platform, looking for expert quotes, advice, inspiration and everything in-between.
To get involved, all you need to do is sign up for these mailing lists and select the check boxes to say which subjects you have expertise in.
Help a B2B Writer & HARO Tips
- You can quickly get a lot of emails from these platforms, so it’s a good idea to set up a separate folder in your email account to help you keep track of these.
- Set aside time each day to skim through the Help a B2B Writer & HARO emails and compose replies. It pays to be fairly quick off the bat as many journalists or bloggers will be on a tight deadline.
4. Reach Out Directly to Bloggers (Respectfully)
You can email key influencers in your niche to ask for a link … but as I mentioned above, don’t pester anyone. Be polite and respectful when you email—and don’t try to “trick” bloggers with an unclear subject line.
Focus on bloggers who you already know (even if only through reading their blog regularly) and make sure your content is 100% relevant to them.
Blogger Email Outreach Tips
- Take a look at my guide to blogger outreach—particularly the screenshots showing the terrible emails I get from people asking to guest post on my site. These are a great guide to what not to do. 😉
- Consider making it an easier “yes” by creating quality content that involves the blogger. For instance, you might review a book they’ve written, ask them to take part in an expert roundup, or even publish case studies using their products. They’ll be more likely to link to that than to some random post on your site.
5. Follow Up Mentions That Don’t Link to You
As you grow your blog and brand, you might find that other bloggers mention you—without linking to you. For instance, someone might write about hearing you speak at an event, or maybe they’ll mention that they listen to your podcast.
When you see your name mentioned without a link, drop that blogger a message or email to (a) say thanks for mentioning you and (b) politely ask if they could link to your blog as well. This same principle goes for link reclamation if you once had a backlink from a website and it’s since disappeared.
Unlinked Mentions Tips
- Use Google Alerts to track mentions of your name and of your blog’s name in new content. (You can also use this for your products, e.g. if you run an eCommerce site.) See my guide to using Google alerts for more.
- Look for unlinked past mentions—you might find you’ve been talked about more than you realize!
6. Ask for Your Content to Be Linked To Instead of an Inferior Piece
This technique is a little like broken link building… only you’re taking over a link that isn’t dead. Sometimes, a blogger or webmaster may have linked to a poor-quality piece of content because they were in a rush (or nothing better was available at the time).
Your job is to ask the blogger if they’ll link to your resource instead. Keep in mind that they may feel happy with the original link or may not want to change it, so don’t be pushy if they say “no”.
Taking Over Links Tips
- Only ask for a link to be changed to your resource where your resource does the same thing (only better). A blogger who’s linking to “best side hustle ideas” probably won’t be so keen on linking to a post of “businesses you can start in college”. It’s similar, but not the same. Similarly, if they’re linking to a template, they may not want a step-by-step guide.
- It sounds obvious, but do make sure that your content is significantly better than the piece that’s currently being used. You want to only offer great content that would make the best link in this context. Think about ways you can create 10x content through assets like infographics, free tools, a resources page, YouTube video tutorials and other more unique content types that site owners will actually be excited about.
7. Build Links Through Forums, Q&A Sites, Resource Pages and Blog Comments
One final technique is to build links through online forums, Q&A sites (like Quora), and even blog comments. In all these cases, it’s really important not to spam. Focus on contributing useful content on the platform first—and include a link to a high-quality related post on your blog.
Links from these sources won’t give your SEO a big boost, but they do help fill out a natural link profile. You may also want to look into reputable online directories, which can be helpful for local businesses in particular.
Forums, Q&A, and Comments Tips
- Don’t spend huge blocks of time on this technique. It’s something you can do little and often, rather than by creating loads of posts all at once.
- Check community rules about links, e.g. with online forums. Make use of your signature, if you’re allowed to do so. On blogs, fill in your name and URL when commenting, and your name will become a link to your blog.
Final Takeaways: Get Started With Link Building (and Watch Your Traffic Grow)
Link building is a huge part of SEO. You could do everything right on your blog itself, but if no other blogs or websites link to you, Google simply won’t know how great your content is.
Most blogs will naturally attract at least a few links over time… but there’s a lot you can do to help speed things up, so your blog can rise through the search engine rankings. By following my link building tactics above, you’ll be able to build natural, high-quality links to your site, while also building solid relationships with other bloggers in your niche.
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