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What is Link Building?

In short, link building is getting another website to post a link to your own. It is one of the most effective ways to improve your website’s ranking on a search engine results page (SERP). However, many businesses overlook it when it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO). If you want your hard work when it comes to other aspects of SEO to pay off, you’d better add this to your to-do list.

We’ve assembled a comprehensive guide to link building. We’ll cover why links matter, what goes into a valuable link, and the strategies you can use for a successful campaign.

Why do links matter?

Search engines like Google use external links as a method of rating site popularity and authority. If your site is deemed ‘popular’ (i.e.,. it has a lot of backlinks), you’re more likely to have people looking for your site. This means your page will be pushed to the top of a SERP.

Although using links as a popularity measurement might sound strange, it’s done this way because people don’t often post links pointing to a site they weren’t satisfied with. If websites link to your content, it’s probably because it is useful or entertaining.

Another reason that link building is so important when it comes to SEO is that links are how search engines find your site in the first place. Search engines discover web pages through a process called indexing. Scouring backlinks is one of the preferred methods for doing this. The easier it is to find your site, the higher your page ranking will be.

A great link building campaign combines with other SEO work, including high-quality content, technical optimisations and a good strategy for internal links for maximum effect.

Link Spam

With link building being proven to be vital for SEO, people began taking the easy route by building unimportant pages based solely on directing links to their main website. They’d also begun posting their link anywhere that public access was allowed on an external website. These methods included forums, blogs, or review spots.

For a while, this actually worked. Unimportant sites rose to the top of irrelevant searches and achieved their goal of increasing traffic, even though it was through spam. Nowadays Google and other search engines are much smarter, so at the sniff of a spam site – or any site that’s linked to by a spam site – consequences are applied.

Search engines will quickly do everything they can to send a spam-related site’s page rank plummeting so far down that it will never be found again. That is, if the spam page is lucky enough not to be deleted from search engines immediately.

Link Signals

Once this era of spamming was put to an end, links were given various strengths or ‘signals’ so that search results would be as relevant as possible. Even though we’re not dead certain of how strong one link is next to another – Google is extremely secretive about its ranking algorithm – we do have a close idea from experiments and research.

These signals need to be considered for SEO to avoid wasting time and effort. A strong understanding of Google’s link signals will help your campaigns be as effective as possible.


TrustRank is an algorithm that aims to mitigate the impact of spam. It helps Google rank websites by boosting pages with high-quality, non-spammy links and penalising pages with many low-quality links.

If the site that’s linking to you has been clearly identified as spam-free then this link signal’s strength will rise. If you’ve received a link from a site that’s in any way associated with spam, however, expect the link to be a weak one.


Even if you’ve received a link from a great website, the link’s strength will devalue over time. Just as Google tends to prioritise more recent pages in SERPs, links from fresher pages are more impactful for your website.

Therefore, it is important to keep earning new links to stay at the top of search results. If search engines see that your website only has links from many years ago, your link profile will appear weaker.


Google places a high value on the relevance of linking websites. If you run a cycling site and you’ve built a link on an ice cream page, there’s a good chance that the signal will be quite weak. A link from an online bicycle store, however, would work quite well in your favour.

If you’re confused about the role relevance plays, think about it on a basic level. When Google is determining the quality and authority of your cycling website, the perspective of another cycling website is far more significant than that of an ice cream website.

Social sharing

Google has downplayed the importance of these signals in the past, but many industry experts believe they can have significance for link building. Likes, follows and shares are other ways users can show that they find content to be high quality.

Securing large amounts of engagement on social media can therefore be important when link building for SEO. A strong social media presence is also good for brand visibility in general.

Anchor text

Anchor text refers to clickable words that lead to your page. Consider the following snippet: “Here’s some more information on search engine optimisation.” The anchor text is “search engine optimisation.”

This method helps your site to rank well for the keywords that are anchored. However, creating excessive amounts of links with anchor text that matches exactly to target keywords can potentially damage your SEO. This is because Google considers over-optimised anchor text to be spammy.

Site popularity

To prevent the creation of dormant and unimportant sites to build links on, the strength of a link signal also increases or decreases in line with site popularity. This ensures that the site is authentic and produces high-quality content that satisfies users.

The more people that visit the site you’re receiving a link from, the stronger the signal.

Link building strategies

Now that you understand some of the core principles of link building, let’s delve into what a link building campaign actually looks like. Below are some of the most popular link building tactics and how you can enact them.

Forums and blog comments

These old-school methods harken back to the spammy era of link building. There is practically no barrier to entry when it comes to this method. All you need to do is go into a forum, blog or anywhere else with user-generated content and drop a link to your website in a comment.

Search engines have wised up and these links are now unlikely to be much help in your SEO efforts. You’re much better off focusing on alternative methods.


Online directories are sites that serve to point consumers to relevant websites. Building links through directories involves taking steps to get your site featured on them. 

Directory listings are often considered to be in a similar vein as forums and blog comments. They were also a hallmark of the spammy era of link building.

However, these listings have the benefit of appearing far more natural than building links through forums and blog comments. It is the very purpose of the sites to contain links to a large number of businesses. As such, an en masse approach to directory link building can still be an effective strategy.

Ease to acquire; – value;
Value – Limited.

Social media

Social media links aren’t among the most valuable your site can acquire. However, a post with many likes and comments linking to your site can certainly be worth attaining.

Some kind of social media presence is important for modern digital marketing. If you focus on building your brand on social media, any gains achieved from a backlink perspective can be a great bonus.

Ease to acquire; – value;
Value – Limited.

Outreach Backlinks

Outreach is a crucial component of link building. It involves contacting other websites and requesting that they include a link to your website. No matter which other strategies you employ, outreach should be a part of your link building recipe.

Whether you’re producing guest posts to feature on other sites or building linkable assets, you will need to bring your website to the attention of webmasters.

Ease to acquire; – Medium
Value – Medium

Guest blogging

Guest blogging involves creating a piece of content to feature on another website. All you ask for in return is a link back to your site.

There is some manipulation and low-quality content in the guest post sphere. But at their best, guest posts are a highly effective link building strategy with reciprocal benefits for all parties involved.

When you create a guest post, you have (near) total control over the linking page. This means you can ensure the link you receive comes from a high-quality website and a relevant piece of content. Guest blogging has remained a much-used link building strategy over many years for good reason.

Ease to acquire; – Medium
Value – Medium

Create linkable assets

This strategy revolves around creating content that is especially likely to generate backlinks. Hopefully, your site is already full of valuable, high-quality pages that users and webmasters share links toward.

However, there are particular types of content that other websites are especially keen to link to. This can include infographics, statistical pieces and tools like calculators.

Webmasters know this content will be useful to their own readers. They just take too much time and effort to create as a smaller part of a larger piece of content where it might be relevant.

That’s where you come in. Create a high-quality, useful asset that is relevant to your niche. Then, perform outreach letting webmasters know how useful it could be to their users.

When done well, linkable assets can provide exponential boosts to your link building campaigns, as more sites find and link to your content.

Ease to acquire; – Medium
Value – High

Broken link building

Broken link building is a simple but effective strategy. The first step is to find a dead web page (with the help of an SEO tool like Ahrefs) that is similar to a high-quality piece of content on your website. Alternatively, you can find a good target first and then create the content.

Next, analyse the backlink profile of the dead page. If it has plenty of backlinks, you’ve hit the jackpot. All you need to do now is outreach to the sites linking to the dead page, and let them know you have a similar page that is fully functional.

There’s a chance these webmasters will be happy to shift their links to your site instead. You’ve just improved their content, and secured valuable links to your site in the process.

Ease to acquire; – High
Value – Medium

Competitor backlinks

One way to find broken pages to redirect links from is by analysing your competitor’s dead pages. While you’re using your favourite SEO tool, you should also take the time to take a look at your competitor’s backlinks more broadly.

Most SEO tools can easily generate a comprehensive analysis of competitor backlinks. With this data, you should be able to clearly observe the strategies your competition has been using

For example, you might find resource pages your competitors are listed on, guest posts they have successfully submitted, directories they are listed on and more. This information can be easily used to improve your own link building campaigns.

Ease to acquire; – Medium
Value – Medium

Help A Reporter Out (HARO)

One popular method for securing high-quality links to your site with relatively minimal effort is HARO. HARO is a site that aims to quickly link journalists to experts they can quote in their writing.

Once you set up a HARO account, you’ll begin to receive email queries from journalists. You can even specify preferences for particular fields or industries to receive queries about. These queries come in large batches multiple times a day.

When you see an opportunity to provide a high-quality response in a field of expertise, jump on it. If you can get featured in the journalist’s writing, chances are, you’ll receive a valuable link in the process.

Ease to acquire; – High
Value – Medium

Digital PR

If you’re keen to acquire highly valuable links to your website, digital PR is one of the best ways to go about it. Digital PR is the use of various methods to spread the word about your business in the digital sphere.

It is a great link building tactic as it offers the ability to get links from particular outlets other methods don’t allow for. For example, major newspapers aren’t likely to be interested in a guest post, but the channels of digital PR allow you to get links from these publications in other ways.

Ease to acquire; – Medium

Value – High

With this information, you now know what link building is and also which sites you should be targeting. It’s clear that spam sites need to be avoided, while popular, relevant sites will be useful.

You could consider creating a social media presence, too. Although the links that follow are of a lower quality, it’s still a great way to build trust and to get an audience talking about your site.

You also know some of the top link building strategies in use today, including guest blogging, directories, linkable assets and HARO. Ultimately, a diverse range of tactics is an excellent way to build a natural portfolio of natural links to your website.

Link building doesn’t just increase your search ranking; you’re also marketing your site with every link built. It’s important to remember that while link building does take a lot of time (and potentially money), the conversions that result from a number 1 search ranking can be worth every minute.

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