No SEO strategy is complete without link building. If your SEO strategy is a vehicle driving you to your desired destination (that number one spot in the search engine), then think of link building as the fuel. Your SEO vehicle won’t get out of the garage without links from other websites.
However, many link building tactics are overused. Anything involving SEO can be fickle, constantly changing, so it’s important to constantly implement new and creative link building strategies.
In this post, we will describe 12 different link building tactics that you can use to successfully increase your domain rating.
1. Build Genuine Relationships
We’ve all received those emails before—the ones that tell us someone just “happened across [our] post.” First of all, more often than not, the posts presented in the email are months—if not years—old. It’s pretty easy to see that the articles were not, in fact, just “happened across.”
You’re not being truthful, and even if the respondent didn’t call you out on it, you will not be building a genuine relationship with them.
When it comes to sending out emails for link building, MINUTTIA Managing Director Georgios Chasiotis said to be honest about what you want.
“We build relationships rather than bombarding people with irrelevant pitches,” Chasiotis said. “We focus on the quality of our communications instead of sending as many emails as possible. On top of that, we never pitch the usual ‘I want to add value’ or ‘I stumbled across your post the other day’ kind of message. We are true and genuine. And people seem to appreciate that.”
So how do they handle the Big Ask at MINUTTIA?
“There is nothing wrong in linking back to your content when it makes sense. And there is nothing wrong in mentioning that to your prospect—the person you’re talking to,” Chasiotis said. “This way, you form a relationship that is based on trust and not on the fact that you’re trying to insert as many links as possible into your guest post, hoping that the editor of the website will not remove them.”
Stefan Debois, Founder at Survey Anyplace, also believes in building genuine relationships:
“We add a personal PS note at the end of our (automated) link building email to show we are genuinely interested in the potential partner website. We do this by giving the recipient a compliment on a specific achievement. After adding this compliment to the email, our conversion email-to-link rate increased with 250%.”
2. Replace Broken Links
So much success with link building can be attributed to relationship building. And what better way to build a relationship than to apply the old “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” mentality?
The internet is constantly changing, with thousands—if not millions—of new websites popping up and others shutting down every single day. That’s why a lot of websites have broken links on their posts, which is an opportunity for you.
“I was doing link building for a coupon website. Upon doing some competitor research I found out that many coupon websites have gone out of business in the past,” Jain said. “To find these websites, I searched Google news for the term ‘Coupon company OR website shuts down.’”
He searched for results as far back as five years, exported the backlinks and sent out personalized emails telling the copywriters they could link back to his posts.
3. Extract Data from Competitor Backlinks
Another way to build links is to research your competitors’ backlinks. This is something Evaldas Mockus from Omnisend does.
“Extract data about competitor backlinks and figure out which contributors mentioned their content,” Mockus said. “Then, you can prepare a list of at least 10-15 contributors.”
Mockus added that it’s helpful to prioritize the most popular contributors and those most related to your niche.
4. Favor for a Favor
When you get that email from someone else asking for a link, use the opportunity to secure one of your own.
That’s what Lesley Vos, Blogger and Content Strategist at Bid4Papers.com, does.
“I check the asker’s website traffic, niche, and other metrics that matter for me,” Vos said. “If relevant and worth the effort, I agree to backlink to them from my upcoming content (whenever appropriate) but ask for writing a guest post for them or getting a backlink from them in exchange.”
The tactic can be time- and energy-consuming, but it always works, she said.
5. Reach out to Whom You’ve Spontaneously Mentioned
When writing content, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to link to some form of information you didn’t know yourself or to add a different perspective to your piece.
So why not use this to your advantage?
Adam Hempenstall, CEO of Better Proposals, calls this “one of the best tactics” he’s used.
“For example, if we mention some SaaS marketing tools, we make sure to reach out to them on social media and send them an email once a post goes live,” Hempenstall said.
He said this works well for two reasons—because you gave them a link, they’ll be more open to giving you one in exchange. The other reason is that they’ve now got you on their radar, so it’s easier to ask for a link later on.
6. Educational Backlinks
Ah, the .edu backlinks—the most precious of them all. Google loves these backlinks. To go back to the vehicle metaphor, these backlinks are the best kind of fuel for your SEO car.
However, as is the case with anything that is “the best,” these backlinks are also amongst the most challenging to secure.
So, how can you do it?
“Target an academic department from some local schools that are relevant to your business niche or industry and plan a scholarship program for their students,” said Vincent Bucciachio from SociallyInfused.
He said they’ve done for many of their own clients and have been successful, as you can see in the image provided by him below.
7. Participate in Niche Private Groups
Everyone likes being in exclusive groups, because it makes them feel important. You belong to a community with likeminded people where you can discuss niche subjects together. However, this can also help your link building.
Nikola Baldikov from Brosix said his winning strategy is building partnerships with other industry players.
“Through these partnerships you can scale up your link building efforts in a mutually beneficial way, not to mention that it’s generally a good idea to build a network of contacts in your industry for a number of other reasons” Baldikov said.
Stefan Debois of Survey Anyplace even takes it a step further: “We created our own Facebook group and invited fellow SaaS content marketers and bloggers to join. The group guideline is to genuinely promote each other’s content, co-create content and build long-term relationships.”
The biggest advantages of managing your own niche group, according to Debois:
“On top of the links, you develop long-term relationships which can – and will – lead to other opportunities such as co-marketing and partnerships. Moreover, using this tactic, it’s easier to get links to specific content on your site. Compared to other link building tactics, you are more in control of the context in which your brand and content is mentioned. This is important when you want to grow the topical authority of your site.”
You can find niche groups through Facebook, LinkedIn and other social communities.
8. Leverage Influencers
As in any business, you can work as hard as possible, but knowing the right people will always give you a leg up on your competition. Leveraging your relationship with influencers will absolutely help with your link building.
“So while we’re not chasing links, we could leverage his backstory with Fyre Festival and his rap career- for example, landing him a speaking engagement at a Forbes summit to discuss Fyre or landing him a spot on some business/entrepreneur YouTube channel, specific radio shows and podcasts,” Raj said.
9. Reach Out with a Free Gift
Since link building is a frequently used strategy, people usually know what you’re asking for before you even get the opportunity to ask them. Why? Because they’ve probably been asked a million times already.
That’s why you need to offer them something they can’t pass on, according to Hunter Branch, Founder of Rank Tree.
“Over the years I’ve learned if you craft a highly custom email template that offers the webmaster a free gift regardless of whether they link to you or not, you’ll skyrocket your conversion rates (and even develop relationships and partnerships),” Branch said.
He said this strategy proved extremely successful for his clients.
“Once I started reaching out to people who have linked to, written, or shared similar content with this strategy, my biggest client got 100s of links and his organic traffic went from 20k to 140k+ over the course of 24 months,” Branch said.
10. Build a Contact List
Not all link building has to be done manually. There are ample tools out there that can help you. One such tool is SEMrush.
Ivan Karmanov, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush, recommended the Post Tracking Tool.
“When I’m working on a new article I usually add similar existing articles to check how they are performing,” Karmanov said. “There I can see what articles are linking to it and what influencers were retweeting it. It helps me to build an outreach list of resources and experts that might be really interested in my content.”
Once this outreach list is built, you can start rocking and rolling with your outreach.
11. Image Link Building
The last tactic we want to share is image link building, but with a twist.
Pete McAllister from OutreachPete said they found success by combining this tactic with gig work.
“We took it upon ourselves to use the /r/ForHire subreddit to hire someone located in Dublin Ireland to go find the Google building there and take some quality pics for us,” McAllister said. “Part of the conditions were that all image rights would be transferred to us upon payment (it’s important to include this).”
McAllister said this freed them from the restrictions they felt with needing to be superb photographers, have amazing camera quality or the ability to travel.
“We then released these images publicly on Flickr – they have a built-in search filter for creative commons and show up on Google image search when filtering for ‘labeled for reuse with modification,’” McAllister said.
He explained that it could take a few months to see others using your photos, but once they do, you can use a reverse image search in Google and reach out to those who have but haven’t followed the license instructions.
“From 2 images of a Google building we have managed to secure some amazing links that are DR70 and above,” McAllister said. “Definitely worth it and it’s a method that keeps yielding links as time goes on!”
12. Use Several Tactics
Of course, you aren’t stuck with only using one tactic for link building. A successful link builder will employ several different tactics.
“Currently I’m implementing 5 tactics: link trades, guest posting, expert round-ups, long-term link exchange partnerships and one-time link inserts,” she said. “Thirty-nine percent of my backlinks come from relevant link trades, 23% from long-term link exchange partnership, 18% from guest posting, 10% from one-time link inserts and from expert round-ups.”
She said the biggest value tactic for her is well-written and researched guest posts.
Tytus Golas, Founder and CEO of Tidio Live Chat, said they use BuzzSumo, Ahrefs or Mention and Hunter for their outreach and link building strategy.
“Once we chose the articles where we want to get features, we check the author, try to get his/her email address using Hunter and write a compelling email asking whether they would consider adding us to the list,” Golas said. “The important part? We don’t come empty-handed. We usually offer something back to make it mutually beneficial, such as a promotion of their article or a link to it in our guest posts (we are really against direct link swaps).”
The Bottom Line
Link building is an essential part of your SEO strategy, but it’s also one of the most popular. This makes it challenging to distinguish yourself from everyone else asking for links. However, with the 12 SEO tactics outlined above, you’ll see the links to your website continually increase.
Originally Posted: August 16th, 2017.
Post Updated: July 15th, 2021.
Guest Author: Stefan Debois
Stefan Debois is the founder and CEO of Survey Anyplace, an online software tool to create assessments that return valuable insights and advice to you and your respondents. Besides kitesurfing, Stefan is passionate about the use of technology to build professional relationships with people, at scale.