What is Link Building for SEO? Your Guide to Backlinks, Guest Posts & More

Time: 6:13 pm

You’ve worked hard to build your business and put it in a position to grow. Maybe you’ve put together marketing materials or pursued channels you didn’t even know existed. But on your way to the top, make sure your hard work pays off with a simple but often overlooked SEO technique: link building for SEO, also known as backlink building.

Links are the highway of the internet. Every new link to your website is like a brand-new road paved for your business. They make it more likely a potential customer will find their way to your website rather than a competitor’s.

That means every link to your website has value; the more, the better. Below, we break down all you need to know to create a link-building campaign that takes your business to the next level.

What is Link Building, Exactly? How Does it Work?

When we talk about link building, we’re referring to increasing the number of inbound links or backlinks that lead to a web page. The overall goal is to boost search engine rankings for that page. As a result, link building is an essential pillar of SEO.

The best metaphor for link building we’ve seen is fishing. Think about it: what are some of the main components you need to be successful at fishing? You need to understand your environment, choose reliable bait, and patiently wait for a quality catch. Your strategy will likely evolve as you gain more experience. Eventually, you’ll become one of the best anglers around, reeling in catches with little to no effort.

Link building works similarly. As you become familiar with your industry, you can learn which sites to score backlinks from. You’ll also discover how to best reach your target audiences. Then, you can sit back and watch the search traffic increases roll in.

Link Building Vocab to Know

Before you get too deep into link building, make sure you know the lingo you might need to use. Below are some key vocabulary terms related to link-building SEO that you should be familiar with.

  • Backlink: Also known as inbound or incoming links, backlinks are SEO terms for links on external websites that navigate back to your own.
  • Anchor Text: The section of text that contains a hyperlink; it’s important because Google associates the hyperlinked SEO keyword with your website. If a backlink is essentially a vote, the anchor text clarifies that it’s a vote for your website as a resource for that specific keyword.
  • Domain Authority: A number from zero to 100 used as an indicator of a domain’s ability to rank. It’s based on various signals that indicate a website is of high quality and can be trusted.
  • Search Engine Result Page (SERP): These are the pages a search engine displays in response to a query. They list results from best to worst.
  • PageRank: An algorithm Google uses to rank web pages based on their perceived value, which it determines based on a page’s link structure. A link from a website like CNN.com or Forbes.com will carry a lot more weight than one from a small blog.

External Links vs. Internal Links: What’s the Difference?

Not all links are made equal. There are a few types of links to consider, and you’ll likely need to use a combination of them all for the best results.

External Link Building

External link building aims to support the content on your website or web pages. It involves adding links to outside, reliable sources so that Google knows you’ve done your homework on a topic.

Think of this part of link building as your bait: it attracts search engines and readers to your site. If your writing has dozens of other credible sources to back it up, it’s definitely a better resource than a competing piece that doesn’t cite anything.

Internal Link Building

Internal link building is all about how your website is connected. Your website should be viewed as an informational hub. That means you need other websites talking about you, and you need to have parts of your website pointing out your most important pages.

The pages on your website should link to other pages that make sense. For instance, if you’re writing a blog about a service you provide, it makes sense to link it to the appropriate service page on your website.

This practice tells Google you have supplemental content supporting your services. It’s also a gateway that readers can use to get to the proper page on your website.

Linking Root Domains

This is where understanding your environment and taking your time for the quality catch comes into play. You will not find any bigger ROI for your SEO efforts than acquiring linking root domains. There are a few different types and ways to get linking root domains.

  • Niche Directories – Whatever industry you’re in, it’s important to ensure your business and website are listed in relevant online directories. Not only does it get your brand out there, but it also counts as a link back to you.
  • Guest Posts – Guest posts are your content living on another website. Although this is one of the most time-consuming and potentially costly link-building strategies, it can seriously help your brand. The general rule of thumb is to ensure the website is relevant to your industry and the content is valuable.

Google is basically a big popularity contest. Root domains count as votes for your website. The more votes, the better; just make sure they’re quality.

Why Link Building Matters for SEO

A common misconception is that if a website is well-optimized with good keyword targeting and relatively free of critical crawl errors, it will perform well with the search engines.

However, this fails to consider that links are an absolutely crucial component of Google’s algorithm. The power of link building rests in its ability to make all your other SEO efforts worthwhile.

Improves Organic Search Ranking

When search engines recognize your website as an authority, your pages will appear higher in SERPs. Ranking on the first page of results means a lot more eyes on your content – after all, only 0.63% of Google searchers make it to and click on sources from the second page.

Google prioritizes websites that experience higher click rates and lower bounce rates. In other words, Google looks for sites people click on often and don’t typically click away from.

When you invest in link building, you should be able to attract new clicks. And since readers who click those links to your site are likely looking for the information it provides, they aren’t likely to quickly leave the page. So, if your site has plenty of high-quality backlinks, Google sees it as a credible, relevant, and valuable source of information.

Boosts Brand Awareness & Reputation

When trustworthy websites link to your pages, readers are more likely to seek your insight.

Receiving high-quality backlinks also signifies that reliable websites recommend your blog and websites to their readers. Visitors who are already engaged will click on your site, leading to a stronger connection to your brand and services.

You can keep visitors on your site by adding more related links and content to your pages or blogs, encouraging readers to stick around for more.

Increases Credibility

Quality links from reliable, authoritative sources show that your information is worth trusting. If some of the best sources on the web point to your pages, that means they have something to say! You can build trust between your business and target audience with higher rankings and connections to established websites.

Attracts Referral Traffic

Referral traffic, which comes from other websites, is an untapped gold mine. You’re probably already focused on boosting organic traffic, but referral traffic is also worth prioritizing.

A viewer reading a post on another site may click on a relevant backlink – to your site, of course – to learn more about a topic. This is another form of attention you’ll want to ensure your pages get as you build your brand.

Drives Leads, Conversions, & Sales

The ultimate goal behind link building is to increase traffic, not just to get more eyes on your pages. The end priority is turning that traffic into dollar signs, whether via leads, sales, or whatever other metrics you use to measure success.

When done strategically, link-building campaigns can help you push your business to new heights, bringing in more potential customers than ever before.

Breaking Down Backlinks: Types & SEO Factors

Backlinks tether your site to a certain industry or topic. Without them, your content is essentially floating in a void, just waiting for someone to stumble upon it. Let’s explore the types of backlinks you can gain and how each affects your SEO ranking.

Types of Backlinks

Take a look at this breakdown of some of the most common backlink terms so you know which links match your goals – and which don’t.

Backlinking 101: Terms to Know
DoFollow LinksBy default, all links added to a blog post are DoFollow links. These links are trustworthy websites and do not include the “nofollow” attribute.
NoFollow LinksNoFollow links do not share any of the linking website’s authority with the link end’s destination. So, a backlink with this attribute will not directly help your organic rankings. However, it can create another door to your site – via referral traffic – and may help with local prominence.
User-Generated Content (UGC) LinksThese are links derived from blogs and forum comments. Its attributes notify search engines that a user, not a webmaster, generated the selected link. They typically don’t hold the same weight or credibility as other links but are still useful.
Sponsored or Paid LinksSometimes, businesses pay influencers or bloggers to create product reviews or promote their brands. In these cases, backlinks include a “sponsored” attribute.
High Authority LinksThese links are rooted in reliable sources, such as research papers, newspapers, famous websites, etc., and carry more weight than other backlinks.
Unnatural LinksThese are links from unusual, spammy, or irrelevant sites. They will likely hurt your SEO score, so you should avoid them.
Natural LinksThese are links that other website owners include without any intervention on your part. Developing high-quality and valuable content is one of the best ways to earn natural links.
Manual LinksThese links come from link-earning activities like writing guest posts, contacting a relevant seller, etc.
Self-Created LinksSite managers include these backlinks within an online directory, forum, or blog comments. It’s important to avoid overdoing self-created links, though, as search engines can see them as spammy.

Backlink Factors to Improve SEO

The kind of backlinks you get matter, but so do the metrics behind those links. Each of these backlink factors can impact your SEO, so it’s worth paying attention to them.

  • Total Backlinks: The number of backlinks your page(s) has, regardless of whether they’re from the same domain. The more, the better.
  • Total Referring Domains: The number of domains containing links to your website. Again, the higher the number, the better your rankings.
  • Referring IPs: The number of IP addresses that refer to your pages. You’ll also want as many of these as you can get.
  • Follow Backlinks: The amount of follow links you have establishes your brand authority.
  • Anchors: Having anchor tags helps you make your pages easy to navigate for visitors.
  • Presence of Keywords: Including target keywords within your anchor tag can influence your rankings.

How to Earn Backlinks: Essential Link-Building Tips for SEO

It’s time to put all of that knowledge to the test and start your link-building campaign. Improve your traffic levels and start to build your brand’s reputation by following these SEO tips.

1. Start cold-calling by emailing relevant websites.

The most straightforward but time-consuming way to get backlinks from other sites is by simply reaching out. You can also specifically look for sites that allow guest posts.

A good action plan is to email websites you would like to be featured on and ask them if they would publish a short article or guest post. Depending on your personal or business accolades, the website may agree. Then, you can submit content with links back to your website.

2. Focus on creating amazing, original, easily-shareable content.

You can get plenty of natural links by creating high-quality content that’s accessible and informative. Think outside of written text, too; things like infographics, videos, and pictures can also bring traffic to your site.

Your goal should be to create content so captivating that users will either share it on social media or their own websites. Voila, free backlinks!

3. Do your part by adding self-created links.

Add links to your web pages on your social media accounts, personal websites, local directories, and anywhere else you can access. Remember that too many self-created links can be problematic, and stick to the sites or platforms that truly make sense for your industry.

4. Link to plenty of other external websites, especially those in your industry.

Show that your content and pages are worth viewing by counting on other websites and pages. Whether you’re creating blog posts or simply optimizing your web pages for SEO, make sure you show search engines that you’re using information worth trusting.

5. In a pinch, consider purchasing quality backlinks.

One of the most common ways site owners gain backlinks is by purchasing them. Several companies, like Vazoola and BrightLocal, take the work out of finding new links.

This option is frowned upon by Google. Their guidelines say they may even de-index your site for dishonest activity. That being said, purchasing links has been effective for many companies.

As long as the links come from reputable websites – AKA, sites that aren’t full of spam and pop-ups – you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Link Building

How many backlinks do I need to get results?

How many links do you really need to rank first on Google? The answer is simple: more than your competition. That might be as few as 50 links, or it might be upwards of thousands.

There is no magic formula for how many links are required to rank high, and if there were, it would be different for each keyword. Since there isn’t a standardized number of links to rank on the first page of Google, we need to take a look at the competition.

To do this, decide which keywords you want to rank for. Take the selected keywords and perform a few Google searches.

Copy the URLs of the top organic search results and plug them into a link-analyzing tool like Moz Link Explorer, which allows you to export link and domain authority data. This should give you a good idea of where your competition stands and how far behind your site is in terms of backlinks.

How can small businesses get backlinks easily?

Local directories are some of the easiest and cheapest backlinks to obtain, specifically for small businesses. These are business listing companies and websites for your local area or industry that can help drive traffic to your website. Some common examples include Yelp, local government websites, and YellowPages.

With a quick Google search (funny how that works), you can find several local websites that will allow you to list your business for free or a small fee with a few verification steps. As a bonus, this also helps Google verify your business contact information and address.

What should I ask for when requesting backlinks?

Simply getting your raw URL (like this: https://firestarterseo.com) posted won’t allow you to get the full value out of your link, no matter how you acquire it.

If you’re trying to link back to a service page, make sure the guest post or information you submit is relevant to that topic. Remember, your link should be attached to the appropriate anchor text to ensure it’s as relevant as possible.

How can I avoid backlink scams?

While nearly every link has the potential to pass great value to your website, there are still some sites to avoid. You might, for instance, encounter a “link salesman” who claims they will get you unrivaled results. Not all of these will be bad offers, but it’s worth it to do some due diligence.

Ask for examples of the sites they could get you links from. If you go to the websites and they are full of popups or seem shady, they’re probably not going to be the type of high-quality links you are looking for.

The Bottom Line

Congratulations – you now know just about everything about link building! Gaining backlinks and ensuring your pages are connected will help you drive traffic and build authority.

And you might not have to invest as much time or resources into it as you think; despite the clear benefits of backlinks, 66.31% of web pages have none. Even if you only score a few links, you’ll already be ahead of the competition.

Integrating backlinks within your existing SEO strategy to boost your search engine ranking is essential. If you don’t have an effective SEO strategy, or if you’re ready to refresh yours, connect with the experts at Firestarter SEO to get started.

We take pride in being a leading and award-winning Denver SEO agency serving clients from all backgrounds. Our highly trained and experienced industry leaders drive organic traffic and boost brand discoverability by creating SEO strategies that foster link-building.

Help us help you increase search engine rankings, brand discoverability, and revenue through our proven and excellent SEO practices. Start a conversation today!

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