By Neil Patel
Google examines roughly 200 different factors to determine page rank.
That’s a lot!
But what’s arguably the most important is backlinks.
Here’s a chart from Moz that shows how important links are:
Backlinks have been, and continue to remain, one of the top ranking factors, making them Google’s primary form of “currency.”
In March 2016, Google Search Quality Senior Strategist, Andrey Lipattsev went on record describing the two most important ranking factors.
According to Lipattsev,
it is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.
He didn’t specify which was more important, content or links.
But you can bet they’re both incredibly important!
It’s fair to say if you ever expect to make any real headway with SEO, you need a link-building strategy.
The question is, how do you create one?
There are a lot of ways to go about it, and everyone has their opinion on which aspects you should focus.
In this post, I’m offering my advice on how to create a link-building strategy from scratch.
I’m going to highlight the most vital elements necessary for an SEO surge.
This by no means covers all the aspects of link building but will serve as a good starting point that should help you bring in valuable links from a variety of reputable sites.
Compile a list of sites
Your first order of business is to come up with a list of sites you want links from.
This is somewhat of a science because sites vary greatly.
For instance, a link from one site can be a godsend and have an incredibly high link value.
But a link from another site can carry virtually no weight and even result in a penalty.
Where do you start and what criteria do you use?
You’re probably already aware of at least a handful of blogs, publications and other digital resources relevant to your industry.
This is a good starting point.
If you know for a fact they’re popular and get a lot of love from Google, you’ll want them to link to you.
Besides that, here are a few other things you can do.
You can learn a lot by investigating your main competitors and finding out where they’re getting their backlinks from.
SEMrush is one of my favorite tools because you can unearth a ton of information within seconds.
Even the basic, free version can supply you with plenty of helpful data.
Here’s what you do.
Type in the URL of one of your main competitors.
I’ll just use Moz as an example:
You’ll then see something like this:
Scroll down a bit until you see the “Backlinks” section.
Click on it:
You’ll then see a list of sites linking to that competitor:
This includes other helpful info such as the specific target URL, page score, anchor text and so on.
Browse through this list, and look for potential sites you would be interested in getting backlinks from.
Keep in mind if they’re already linking to a competitor in your same industry/niche, there’s a good chance they would link to you as well.
By looking at Moz’s backlinks, I might include the following sites:
Search by keyword
Here’s another simple technique for coming up with link-worthy sites.
Search by keyword on SEMrush.
Just enter a fitting keyword applicable to your demographic.
I’ll use “content marketing” as an example:
Click on “Search,” and SEMrush will supply you with a nice list of resources.
Scroll down to “Organic Search Results.”
That should give you some good ideas.
But you can take it one step further by clicking on individual sites.
Let’s check out Copyblogger:
Follow the same steps I mentioned earlier to see who’s linking to those sites for even more ideas.
Now add those to your list:
The importance of domain diversity
When it comes to backlinks, diversity is a good thing.
Recent research from Backlinko found,
the number of referring domains has a very strong influence on rankings. In other words, it’s better to get 10 links from 10 different sites than 10 links from the same domain.
The logic here is that getting links from a wide array of sites, rather than just a few, gives you more endorsements in Google’s eyes.
In turn, this should have a positive impact on your SEO.
Cast a wide net and strive to get backlinks from as many relevant, trustworthy sites as possible.
Be sure you’re not limiting yourself to only a handful of sites.
While links from a few sites is better than nothing, you want to strive for a diverse link profile.
Here’s a question.
Why would anyone want to link to your site in the first place?
What would their motivation be?
You’ve got killer content.
That content is enriching their audience’s knowledge of a topic they are interested in.
This means one thing.
You need A+, top-tier content that surpasses that of your competitors.
To be completely honest, it’s not always feasible to be 100% unique, especially if you’re in a really saturated industry.
But what is always possible is creating better content.
I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of creating content that outranks your competitors’, but I’ll mention the skyscraper technique because it’s a proven strategy for outperforming the rest of the pack.
This should make your content link-worthy and your link-building efforts much easier.
You’ll need to create content like a pro, and one of the best ways to go about it is to use the skyscraper technique.
Ideally, you’ll have a sizable list of articles on your site covering multiple aspects of your industry.
I also recommend thinking outside the box and creating content others have ignored.
Zigging when everyone else is zagging can unlock some big opportunities and make your brand stand out.
It also makes your content more appealing to link to.
For example, you might want to experiment with infographics, videos, slideshows, etc.
This will also be important for inevitably gaining links from a variety of different domains.
Match content with relevant sites
At this point, you should have a list of credible, relevant sites you’re interested in getting backlinks from.
You should also have a nice little archive of content on your site.
Now, you need to match your content with suitable sites.
Here’s an example.
I’ve written an article called How to Become a World-Class Copywriter in One Month or Less.
This is in line with subjects covered on Copyblogger, so that would be a good match.
I’d place that beside Copyblogger.com on my list:
Rinse and repeat this process for the rest of sites on your list.
Contact site owners
The last step is the outreach process.
Reach out to those website owners to see if you can get them to link to you.
Writing individual emails for each and every single website isn’t usually feasible, so I suggest sticking with a script you can easily personalize.
Utilize a template but personalize a few small details to fit the site you’re contacting (and so it doesn’t come across as insincere or robotic).
Backlinko offers a great script:
It covers all the essentials but is quick and to the point.
As long as your content hits its mark, this should help you bring in the backlinks you’re looking for.
This guide from Art of Emails offers some additional scripts for acquiring backlinks.
The concept of link building is a wide umbrella.
This post covers only a few of all the link-building techniques out there.
Check out this resource from Point Blank SEO for a massive list of link-building tactics.
But following this formula should help you gain some initial momentum.
It will also put you on the radar of other sites and publications within your industry, which can lead to even more links in the future.
Now, allow me to recap.
- Use research to compile a list of the “likely-linker” sites (pay close attention to their authority and relevance to your industry)
- Analyze competitors and keywords to assist you in this process
- Create a large, diverse list because Google looks closely at domain diversity
- Create great, link-worthy content
- Get in touch with site owners to see if they’d link to you
Of course, not everyone will oblige you and instantly link to your site.
But if you go about it the right way and have killer content, a reasonable portion of them will.
And that can make all the difference and be the catalyst for a beefy, robust link profile.
How big of a role do you think backlinks will have five years from now?