Link Building for SEO: The 2023 GuideGet a free consultation
This is our in-depth guide for building backlinks for your website in 2023. It’s complete with strategies and case studies. We highly recommend you start leveraging these tactics and outreach strategies to improve the reach of your website as soon as possible!
What Is Link Building?
In search engine optimization, link building is the process of acquiring backlinks to your website from relevant and authoritative sources (other websites) somewhere else on the Internet.
Think of backlinks as votes of support from other people in your industry. If you run a business blog, and there’s a bunch of other business blogs that link out to your posts, what do you suppose that tells the search engines that follow all those links?
The links say that you must have useful content that comprehensively addresses users’ needs and to which other site owners want to refer their readers.
Along with that content and your website’s optimized technical SEO, a robust backlink profile encourages Google to “think” highly of your site. And when Google likes your site, it will tend to show your web pages higher up in search results for relevant queries.
This is why link building has been such a major part of SEO pretty much since the beginning. No matter what kind of website you run, link building can help you get found by more people.
So, what is link building? What does it actually look like?
I’m going to simplify it a bit:
- SEO link building is reaching out to someone with a high-quality website that’s related to your industry and using one of several ways to ask if they will link to your website from theirs.
- The link itself looks like a blue (sometimes another color), underlined word or phrase that is used naturally in that content.
- That link tells Google that this website likes what it’s seeing on your site or that it bolsters their piece of content. The search engine may rank your page higher because of that.
That’s link building.
However, as with anything worth doing, it’s never really that simple.
What I described above is certainly the concept summarized, but if building links was just that easy, you wouldn’t need a guide like this one describing how to do it
At LSEO, we provide link building services to clients on a daily basis, and we’re lucky enough to do that. Everything in this guide is exactly what we do for said clients on a daily basis and why we are able to scale such a service.
Tying it All in to SEO
Link building is at the heart of SEO along with the two other pillars: content and technical SEO.
Obviously, that’s painting SEO in extremely broad strokes, but most of the details fall into one of those three categories.
And the categories all work together and have a lot to do with one another.
For example, high-quality content marketing is still king in SEO, but users will have a poor experience accessing that content if your technical SEO or user experience is lacking, and anyway, they might have had an easier time finding the content to begin with if you had a larger backlink profile.
It’s a lot to think about, but we’re focusing just on link building right now.
The sites that link to you need to be of high quality (as in, not spammy) for the link to “count.”
What qualifies as a quality website? It has to be a genuine producer of authoritative content in its own right. That content has to offer something useful and relevant to the user and not contain any form of deception in its linking. The site should also be niche, not one that publishes content about a million different things.
For a perfect example of spammy websites, think of old-school link farms (which do still exist, by the way). You and your buddies get together and acquire a bunch of blogs talking about a bunch of different topics and then agree to link to one another constantly to help your SEO value, with no regard for user experience.
It’s a classic spam tactic, and trying to get links from such a blog or larger network should always be avoided, despite how easy it might be. Google has been on to those types of publishers for years, and that content really isn’t going to rank well in 2023.
Given all this information, if the gears in your head have been turning, questions should be starting to arise right about now.
- Who do I reach out to?
- How do I know they’d be a good fit?
- What if they don’t respond?
- Why aren’t they responding?
- How do I get them to respond?
- Why are they asking for money?
- Should I pay them?
- Isn’t it easier just to pay them?
- When I do secure a few links, when can I expect higher rankings?
And these are all things you’d need to worry about if you want to do link building the right way.
So, now that you know what it looks like to do link building for SEO, let’s learn more about why it’s so important for your website’s SEO.
Why Link Building Is Important for SEO
Link building will continue to take a lot of work to do the right way in 2023.
If you run your own website, link building could end up consuming your days. If you’re an agency, you would need a whole team of people doing SEO link building for their entire workdays.
That’s the importance of link building.
The bright side, though, is that this is all in pursuit of something really important for SEO: those votes of confidence from other domains that essentially say, “Yes, I will link to this website from my own site because it has relevant content that my readers would find useful.”
There are so many ranking factors that websites need to take into account to appear on Google for relevant keywords, and high-quality backlinks play a big role in that.
You can use any kind of analogy you want here, but think of links to a website as being character witness statements in a court.
Character witnesses are called to the stand in trials to testify to someone’s personality and normal disposition. Who these witnesses are, and what they say, matters to the court.
You wouldn’t trust the word of a stranger on this matter, or someone who gets up on the stand spouting nonsense.
The same applies to links. Quality, relevant, real links are what matter to Google.
Bad, low-quality, irrelevant links? Nobody trusts them at their word.
So, while links are certainly not the only ranking factor to Google, they’re a huge part of why a web page ranks for a keyword, along with quality content and optimized on-page SEO.
You now know what link building is and why we work so hard at it when doing SEO.
In that case, let’s take a deep dive into the methods you can use to build those links.
How to Build Links for SEO: Top Link-Building Strategies
Over the years, as I mentioned, SEOs have written many, many words on link building and how to do it. There are a ton of strategies for building links to your own website or those of your clients.
Some strategies are legitimate and can definitely help you.
Others are spammy and will not only not help you but may get you ignored or penalized by Google.
Some solid strategies that have worked for many SEOs over the years include:
- Guest posting
- Link reclamation
- Broken link building
- Content promotion
- HARO (Help a Reporter Out) quotes
Once I explain these primary methods that people use to build links now in 2022 and into next year, you’ll see that every technique ultimately involves a give-and-take dynamic between you and the other webmaster.
Well, many link-building techniques involve straight-up asking someone to link to you.
Why would they want to do that? The goodness of their hearts?
While some people might believe that others are naturally altruistic, digital marketing is a business in which website owners are always trying to get more traffic and earn more money.
So it’s always a good idea to offer something worthwhile in return to those from whom you ask a favor.
Let’s get into the techniques I mentioned above to learn more about this.
1. Guest Posting
Guest posting is a link-building technique that SEOs have been using for many, many years to build links back to their or their clients’ websites.
Guest posting consists of reaching out to a legitimate webmaster with a piece of content containing a link to your website and asking for it to be published.
Once it is published, that backlink will exist on the Internet and go into your backlink profile.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that, way back in 2014, Matt Cutts, former head of web spam at Google, said guest posting was fully dead and should not be used for link building anymore.
Why am I recommending it, then? Because, like many quotes in the history of the world, this one has context that nuances it a bit.
Cutts said guest posting was dead because of how spammy it had gotten. Once again, think of link farms where the lowest of the low kind of content gets published with links to products that some schmo wants you to buy.
The whole purpose of the content is just to contain the link. Its author didn’t care about helping users with anything.
Even if you did find that content, you wouldn’t believe what it said, you wouldn’t click that link, and you definitely wouldn’t buy that product.
So Google isn’t going to show that kind of thing to you.
But there is a good kind of guest blogging that many good, honest, white-hat SEOs use to build links. It all comes down to the quality both of the website and the content you provide.
You can use a tool such as Semrush to check the domain authority (DA) and search traffic of a website.
Lots of people use domain authority to check a website’s quality, but remember that DA is a measurement from Moz, not a ranking factor identified by Google.
Still, DA is a fairly good indicator of where a website falls on the sliding scale of authority and relevance.
Guest posting on a real blog site with real followers who care about that particular niche is all about generating content that those people would want to read. It isn’t about spamming anything or submitting whatever just to get a link.
As I said above, this is a give-and-take situation. You have to offer the website owner something worthwhile to have a chance of earning that link.
If you’re targeting a blog that has decent traffic but isn’t an A-lister, you can help that website by presenting it with high-quality content that will actually benefit its audience by being relevant and well researched.
There’s a good chance that a smaller blog is run by only one or two people who don’t have the time to create as much content as they would like. So this is the service you offer them.
What you ask in return is for them to retain the link to your not-spammy website and to feature your full bio. That means a photo of you, your blurb, and probably a link to the homepage of your website.
Writing effective pitches to site owners could be a blog post all on its own, but you should know that there are good ways to go about contacting someone for this.
It isn’t about going in asking for a link. It’s about presenting value to the person, real, honest value that actually stands a chance of benefiting the website.
If you’re artful enough in your approach and have produced content of a high-enough quality, the webmaster just may not delete your email.
2. Link Reclamation
Once you’ve gotten links back to your site through guest posting or any of the other methods that I’ll cover below, you should know that they don’t always last forever.
All that hard work you do to get even one single link could be a waste (temporarily) when you remove pages or otherwise change things on your website that make the link obsolete.
Link reclamation, then, is partly about going out and getting those links back by presenting webmasters with updated URLs.
The other part of link reclamation is finding unlinked mentions of your brand across the Internet and getting them to be linked back to you.
Now, to find broken backlinks and unlinked mentions, you can use a tool such as Ahrefs. Just input a URL and go over to the “Broken backlinks” section on the left to see a list of URLs with broken backlinks.
The list will look like this:
How do you fix broken backlinks? There are multiple ways, including getting the webmaster to correct the link for you and adding new content at the original link so it’s not broken anymore.
But by far, the easiest method is just to add 301 redirects to your broken pages so the backlinks redirect to good pages again.
All that link juice that had stopped flowing? Yep, it’s Niagara Falls once again.
And as far as unlinked mentions across the Internet, the Content Explorer tool in Ahrefs can help you here. You use it to be notified of brand name mentions that you input in your account.
Depending on the terms you input, you will probably have to modify some of the filters to get accurate results. You can see below that my searching for mentions of “LSEO” turn up cases of “SEO” with words ending in “l” before it.
In any case, these mentions don’t have to stop at just your company name. You can be alerted to mentions of your products, services, and anything else unique to your business.
It then comes down to outreach. You can ask the webmaster for a backlink if you think it will truly aid the readers of that content, for example, if it will help people learn more about a particular topic.
Just don’t be too fussy about it. Don’t go after an unlinked mention of your brand if the content does link to you in another place on the page.
3. Broken Link Building
Another method of link building you can try is called broken link building.
It’s sort of similar to link reclamation. With broken link building, you find broken external links on top-performing websites in your preferred industry, let the site owner know about this, and then offer up a content replacement.
Once again, you can see here that this form of link building presents a win for both parties.
You point out a broken link on a site (nobody wants broken links) and offer a solution (your content) that works both for the site owner (a good resource) and you (a quality backlink).
You can refer to LSEO’s guide on broken backlink building to go more in-depth on this subject, but basically, you would use the Site Explorer tool in Ahrefs to find broken pages on other websites that still have backlinks pointing to them.
Then, you do your outreach to try to get these links for your own content.
One obstacle you might notice here is the fact that you need to have the resources to back up your request. If you don’t already have replacement content for the broken link, you’ll need to create it, and it will need to be of a high quality.
Do you have time to do that for all the broken backlinks you want for yourself?
It can end up being a lot of effort, and that leads me to one final point I want to make about broken link building: your success rate is probably going to be around 5-10%.
Why so low? Many reasons.
People are busy.
People get a lot of cold-call outreach and think it’s all spam.
People don’t care about helping you out or maybe even the broken links on their websites.
Broken link building is a lot of work for often not a lot of return. It’s going to be more successful for you if you can scale it and do a ton of outreach.
If you have time for this, great. If not, you may find the effort isn’t worth it.
4. Rich Content Promotion with Infographics
Of course, not all link building has to be so dry and technical. You can have a little more fun with it by using infographics to promote your rich content and earn backlinks that way.
Think about it like this.
You put the time into generating comprehensive, detailed guides on subjects in your niche. The content contains images, videos, graphics, plenty of interlinking, and all the content that people want to see.
But you want to get more eyes on it to make the whole effort worthwhile.
Aside from all the other basic SEO practices that you’d use to get it ranked, you can also build backlinks to the content by reaching out to others, not with a guest post, but simply with an infographic that uses fun visuals and designs to summarize your main web content.
Think about something like this:
Infographics like the one above are so useful in content marketing because of how they present information.
You can look at a ton of statistics on how infographics help people to retain information. For instance, people commit 80% fewer mistakes when completing a job for which there were visual instructions.
You can also get across to people more easily about difficult subjects when you visualize them. Capital markets are pretty dry, right?
But take a look at that infographic again. It makes the whole thing seem much less intimidating.
So, if you’re looking to promote some awesome web content you just wrote, and you want to take an extra step toward getting some backlinks for it, create a colorful, eye-catching visual around it.
The graphic should pair descriptive images with text–not too much–to get across the main point of your content. The visuals should present the overall “narrative” of your content without giving too much away.
In other words, it should leave users wanting the rest of the information.
Then, you want to include that infographic in your outreach email to website owners. Pitch your content as being useful and relevant to the website’s followers and subscribers.
Obviously, as you likely already know, nothing about this should be spammy.
No one is going to link to some thin garbage that you whipped up on your website in half an hour. Make sure the content you’re trying to promote offers something of real value.
But then, you’re not done. You still have your infographic to pitch. The way to do it is to present it as a tantalizing preview to the main event.
The thing about infographics is how shareable they are. All you’re asking in this case is for webmasters to share one simple image with their followers and have it link back to your rich content.
If the visuals match your content and are relevant enough to the website’s audience, you just might get a backlink in response.
Of course, you’ll always have those cases where someone ghosts your pitch, but, just like with broken link building, if you can do this at scale, your chances of success should increase.
5. HARO Quotes
The last major method of link building that I want to talk about here is the HARO method.
“HARO” stands for “Help a Reporter Out.” It’s an online platform where journalists and other content producers can ask questions and receive quotes back from experts in certain market niches.
The writers then use the quotes to add authority and detail to their work while giving you a backlink in the process.
The way it works is pretty simple.
You sign up for HARO and then get emails three times a day from the platform.
You have to sift through the topics to find ones you’re qualified to comment on, but once you do, it’s all about providing a detailed and authoritative answer to the writer’s question.
If you impress these writers enough, you might be able to become a regular, go-to source for them, getting your name, quote, and a backlink in every piece of content they produce.
As always, not every backlink is created equal.
You don’t really need or want a backlink from some low-quality, spammy mess of a site. Check the site out in Semrush or Ahrefs to get an overview of its place in Google’s eyes.
Go after just those sites that you think could add value to your backlink profile if you acquired links from them.
Other Ways to Do SEO Link Building
If you’re a beginner in digital marketing and have been wondering how to do link building for SEO, the items I describe above are among the best and most effective ways to go about it.
However, there are some other methods that some people use and advocate for, some more legitimate than others.
For instance, you might consider submitting your company name to an online business directory where potential customers gather. This will earn you a relevant backlink.
Another, much shakier method of link building that some people might like is to link to their own website in a comment on a forum or someone else’s blog post.
This will pass little to no SEO value, but it could still be beneficial if it’s a post or forum that gets a lot of eyes. It could send a nice chunk of referral traffic to your website.
The Do’s & Don’ts of Link Building
- Prospect relevant, quality sites you would love a link on
- Create high-quality outreach emails and pitches
- Leverage tactics such as broken backlink reclamation and trying to reclaim old broken links that your competitors once owned
- Create high-quality content and graphic content
- Sign up for free tools like HARO
- Pitch your own articles on HARO and garner responses for your own articles. You’ll see social amplification take place on its own!
- Exchange money for a link
- Place a link on a website that is solely in existence to post any content with links in it
- Rely solely on building comment or forum links, although if placed within the right conversation, they could be valuable
Some Key Results of LSEO’s Link-Building Efforts
Finally, I don’t think this guide to link building would be complete if I couldn’t back up my words with real results.
I said at the beginning that we build links for our clients every day, and it’s because they buy into our strategies and rationale for doing what we do.
So, with that in mind, here is some hard data on how we have made link building work for three clients.
Client #1: ESPN
Next up is ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. It’s one of the top sports news sites across multiple sporting categories.
ESPN hired LSEO in November of 2020 to execute an off-site SEO strategy specifically targeted at the Premier League (soccer/futbol league) on the United Kingdom version of their site, espn.co.uk.
Here’s the rub on this one.
The Premier League is one of the major sports leagues in the United Kingdom.
ESPN wasn’t ranking as highly as they would have liked for a handful of target terms pertaining to the Premier League (main term, scores, standings, results).
They were getting outranked by lower-level competitors that they felt they should have been beating.
Since ESPN has technical fixes and content wrapped up in-house, they needed a partner who could solely focus on off-site link building to bolster their other efforts.
LSEO’s link-building services focused on building links to target pages that the Premier League terms were pointing to. We executed this through a blogger-outreach strategy, targeting bloggers specifically in the sports niche.
We also supported our efforts through forums with posts talking about the Premier League.
Keyword increases just a few months into the project were great, as you can see below:
Client #2: Ring
The second case study I want to highlight is Ring.
Ring is the leader in doorbell security cameras. They are best known for turning their airing on Shark Tank into millions of users today. Today, Amazon owns the company.
Ring hired LSEO in July of 2021 to execute an off-site SEO strategy to grow their home security systems categories as they are now operating in that space.
While Ring dominates the doorbell security market, it has some major competition facing it in the home security systems arena.
The brand’s authority has taken the company into rankings in the 20s and 30s for home security systems keywords, but everyone knows no traffic comes from outside of the first page of Google search results.
Ring realized it needed to get aggressive to face off with the likes of ADT and SimpliSafe.
Once we were onboard, we conducted keyword research and found targets based on Ring’s currently ranking keywords for its two security systems landing pages.
Again, these were keywords that were not on the first page.
LSEO currently builds 25 links for Ring per month.
You can check out the results for yourself below:
Client #3: Rent.com
Here’s a final example of how our link-building services have helped real clients.
This time, I’m talking about Rent.com, a leading apartment-rental site. They target first-time renters, especially millennials, connecting them to all different types of rental properties.
Rent hired LSEO in July of 2021 to execute an off-site SEO strategy to target certain metros where they were underperforming.
Rent has some stiff competition when it comes to the apartment-rental industry. While they dominate some cities, there are quite a few for which they were not on the first page of Google. These terms carried significant monthly search volume.
They have a list of their top 100 cities, and for this initial contract, they started by selecting 14 cities for us to target where they wanted to do better.
LSEO’s link-building strategy was all about building backlinks to city-level Rent pages.
LSEO currently builds 42 links per month for Rent.com, split amongst 14 city and metro targets.
The results after just a month were impressive:
Here, at the end of all my explanations and technical SEO talk, you can see the real outcomes that we have produced for our clients.
We know link building works, but each client requires a different strategy, a different technique.
When you put the work into knowing your business and reaching out to the right partners, you can produce amazing results.
Bringing Link Building Back Home
Always remember that, in the end, you can’t build links without content, and your target audiences aren’t going to find or enjoy your content if you have poor on-site SEO.
You need to improve all of these things in tandem as you work on your website.
You should never try to build links in a vacuum; it just doesn’t work that way. Link building is one major arm of any good SEO strategy, but you can’t do it at the expense of your content or on-page SEO.
The truth is that many people just don’t have the time to do their own link building and wish there was more time in the day.
That’s where LSEO can help.
If you need some assistance figuring out and executing your link-building approach, you can reach out to us at any time.
We’d be happy to discuss how we can help build up your backlink profile and get you on the path to better rankings and a growing business.