What Is Link Building?
“Hey Loganix, what is link building?”
… is a question we are rarely asked.
But that doesn’t mean people fully understand the topic. Sometimes we get client’s who know they need links but don’t fully know the why or how. And sometimes we work with marketers who only dabble in link building.
Either way, link building is a complex topic, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about it.
In the guide, you will learn:
- what link building is
- why link building is important for SEO (and your business)
- answers to the most common questions
What Is Link Building? (A Definition)
If you are looking for a quick link building definition:
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to your website.
Links are one of the primary ways that search engines work out the relevance of a page to rank it accordingly. Having a number of (good) links to a website, act as a kind of vote to indicate that the content is valuable.
And for a slightly longer answer:
In SEO, link building is the process of obtaining links from other websites to your own (or your clients) websites.
To crawl the web, Google (and other search engines) use these links between your website’s individual pages as well as the links between other domains.
Link building aims to increase the number and quality of inbound links to a page. Typically, the goal is to improve rankings and the performance of that page or website.
Common link building strategies include:
- Content marketing
- Guest posting
- Building tools
- Email outreach
- Broken link building
- Digital PR/HARO
However, not all links are created deliberately by SEOs or marketers…
Some links can be gained by…
- a journalist covering a news item and linking to a source (your site).
- a small biz referencing a useful case study you created.
- a blogger who loves their new coffee machine so much that they link to the shop who sold it to them. (Although let’s be honest, the actual reason here for linking here is that sweet affiliate $$$).
But either way, the holy grail of link building is getting links that you didn’t ask for (aka natural backlinks).
It’s something you should always be aiming for and working towards in the long run.
This can be accomplished by putting in the effort to make your website link-worthy, whether through products or services, or by creating content that is referenced by other websites.
Why Is Link Building (for SEO) Important?
So, why build links?
Although Google’s algorithms are sophisticated and constantly changing, backlinks continue to play a significant role in how search engines assess which sites rank for which keywords.
Because links are a signal to Google that your site is a quality resource worthy of citation, building links is one of the fundamental elements of SEO.
As a result, sites with more backlinks tend to rank higher.
Source: Backlinko (Link Building Study: 11.8 Million Google Search Results Analyzed)
If you want something a bit more concrete, here are 10 link building benefits:
- Build Authority and Credibility
- Improve SERP Rankings
- Generate More Website Traffic
- Backlinks Generate More Backlinks
- Support Your Internal Linking
- Better ROI
- Cultivate Brand Awareness
- Increased Sales and Conversions
- Boost Referrals
- Reduce Your Reliance on Paid Ads
18 Link Building FAQs (Answered!)
At Loganix, we spend a lot of time helping clients to understand link building, as well avoiding any potential mistakes.
Here are some of the most common questions anwered:
How To Get Backlinks?
To organically gain backlinks to your website, you’ve got to progressively elevate your website’s profile to the point of being recognized as an authority in your subject area.
It’s only after you manage to provide value as an authentic thought leader that other sites will increasingly endorse your site through backlinks.
This process takes time, within which you should:
- Post relevant and original content: Court attention by writing and publishing original pieces that are relevant to your field. You can find out your target audience’s core interests by running keyword checks on SEO research tools such as SEMrush, and SpyFu.
- Comprehensively detail your content: To stand out above the rest, ensure that your content is exceptionally insightful. Third-parties tend to link to authorities that are rich in information. So much so, in fact, that long-form content has been shown to attract 77.2% more backlinks than short-form pieces.
- Conduct Link Gap Analysis: Don’t just sit and wait for third parties to discover your site. You can actively find yourself solid link-building opportunities by performing what we call “link gap analysis”. This is where you use a backlink audit tool – such as SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs – to identify the sites from which your biggest competitors are getting inbound links. The assumption is that the referral domains would be open to working with you too.
How link gap analysis works. Source: SEMrush
- Follow the Skyscraper Technique: This is a link-building trick that was popularized by Brian Dean, the so-called “SEO genius” who founded Backlinko. He essentially advises site owners to borrow a leaf from the best-performing competitor pages in every relevant topic of interest. You just need to come up with better content, and then share it with your competitors’ referring domains.
How Do Backlinks Work?
Otherwise known as incoming links or inbound links, backlinks act as portals that connect to external websites through hyperlinked content – in a way that endorses the recipient as an authority in the highlighted subject matter.
They’re typically made up of these two components:
- Anchor text: This is the hyperlinked text that is usually formatted differently from the rest of the words. This is what website users click on to be redirected to the linked external site.
- URL: The URL is the domain address that points users towards the linked external web page. You’ll find it embedded within the anchor text.
Why Are Backlinks Important?
Backlinks act as digital attributions that specify the external web pages from which the referring domain retrieved information about the subject matter.
In other words, they point towards the precise external resources that were referenced by the publishing site during content creation.
Search engines like Google see this as a form of endorsement. By publishing inbound links that connect to your site, the referring domains are essentially recognizing you as the authoritative resource in the subject matter.
Consequently, the sites that organically gain the highest volume of backlinks from relevant domains are automatically considered to be the ultimate thought-leaders. They are then ranked above the rest on the SERPs to offer web searchers quick access to the most valuable content pieces.
Other than that, backlinks provide a convenient path for channeling end-users to external sites that offer more pertinent information regarding a particular topic of interest.
If, for instance, you’re reading an article on “the current tech trends”, the hyperlinks within the text should point you towards the precise information sources that were referenced by the author.
This is one of the ways in which authoritative websites get to pull traffic from referral domains.
What Are Dofollow Backlinks?
Dofollow backlinks are the inbound links that openly endorse the destination site to search engines. Google subsequently interprets them as attribution to an authoritative resource, which is then factored in by the PageRank algorithm.
You can think of it as a way of handing on authority (about a subject) from the referral domain to the destination site. The publisher in this case is telling Google to recognize the destination site as the true authority in the subject matter.
In SEO slang, this authority or value that is passed on from referral domains to destination sites is known as “link juice”. It’s the one thing that makes Dofollow backlinks deeply impactful to the search engine result rankings.
Industry reports show that the best-ranking sites boast the highest number of organic Dofollow links, with the pages at the top position gaining 5-14% additional Dofollow backlinks every month.
And make no mistake about them. Dofollow backlinks do not require a unique identification tag like their Nofollow counterparts. That means you don’t need to add an attribute such as rel=”dofollow” to their HTML code.
Just leave the hyperlink in its default form, and Google will interpret it as a Dofollow backlink.
What Are Nofollow Backlinks?
While Dofollow is the default setting for backlinks, Nofollow links are the specially formatted backlinks that have a distinctive rel=”nofollow” attribute in their HTML code. This is done to alert search engines not to interpret the link as an indication destination site’s authority.
So, in a way, you could say that a Nofollow Backlink is the direct opposite of a Dofollow Backlink. Whereas the latter is used to signify the handing on of authority, the former categorically tells Google that the hyperlink is meant to pass on “link juice”.
This wasn’t always the case, though. The Nofollow attribute was only introduced by Google in 2005, after it had had enough of backlink spamming. By then, Black hat SEO practitioners had become notorious for publishing spammy backlinks on the comment sections of authority sites, all in a bid to manipulate search engine ranking algorithms.
Nofollow links have since tackled the problem by letting search engines know when to exclude a link from their rankings analysis. Google itself doesn’t take into account all the backlinks that contain the rel=”nofollow” label.
This includes but is not limited to the links published on:
- Sponsored articles
- Press releases
- Social media
- Blog comments
How Many Backlinks Do I Need To Rank?
It could be 1, 10, 50, 3, or 100.
The truth is, there’s no distinct rule on the number of backlinks required to rank.
While there’s no denying that the volume of inbound links influences search engine rankings, it turns out that the numbers game is highly dependent on the level of competition in your segment, the quality of the accompanying inbound links, as well as the authority of the referring domains.
If you’re seeking to rank for a highly competitive keyword, for example, your site will need more backlinks than an identical domain pursuing a less competitive keyword.
Case in point – consider a keyword phrase that scores 89% on SEMrush’s Keyword Difficulty (KD) scale, and then compare it with one that attains 50%. Of course, you’d need more backlinks with the former.
An example of related keywords with varying Keyword Difficulty. Source: SEMrush
You can, however, beat the numbers trap by banking on quality.
Instead of chasing 100 inbound links from random websites, you might be much better of with a single high-quality backlink from a relevant authoritative site.
This phenomenon came with the Google Penguin algorithm update in 2012, when the search engine started to prioritize backlink quality over quantity.
SEO experts have since stopped obsessing about the volume of backlinks. You stand to post better results if you direct your efforts towards building inbound links that meet the following quality factors:
- Not reciprocal.
- Distributed across different referral domains.
- Published by authoritative sites that enjoy a high Alexa rank.
- Published as part of a high-quality content piece on a related subject.
- Acquired organically.
- Published on web pages that feature only a handful of other backlinks.
How To Build Relevant Backlinks?
To build relevant backlinks, you ought to capitalize on organic opportunities, win over your competitors’ partners, optimize your content value, establish a rapport with authoritative sites, and take advantage of highly influential publishing platforms.
More specifically, you should consider taking these steps:
- Create “Skyscraper” content: Don’t just post random content pieces. You should, instead, focus on the topics that typically attract the highest number of backlinks. SEO research tools such as Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and SpyFu will help you discover the most popular searches in your field, the highest-ranking content pieces, plus the referral domains that feature their inbound links. You should then come up with more resourceful articles on the same subjects as the top rankings, and then invite the identified referral domains to check them out.
- Replace broken links: Known popularly as the “Broken Links Method”, this technique entails using backlink checkers to discover dead links that were previously connecting to your competitors’ sites. Ahrefs and Moz are two popular examples of platforms that have perfected the art. They’ll reveal the backlink partners, who you could then try to win over by presenting alternative content references from your site.
A sample report of the broken links. Source: Ahrefs
- Publish guest posts on related websites: Another great way to build a rapport within your industry is guest blogging. This is where you collaborate with popular third-party sites in your field by contributing insightful content pieces from time to time. Otherwise, you could try out paid guest blogging at the cost of $77.80 per post. Whichever you pick, remember to keep your backlinks natural within the body of the articles.
This whole process requires a lot of patience and consistency, as search engines usually take quite some time before they start responding to the new backlinks.
On average, it takes 10 grueling weeks of link building to improve the rankings by one position And, in some cases, you might have to wait for as long as six months to one year before the results start to come in.
No wonder 41% of SEO experts are convinced that link building is the most challenging part of search engine optimization.
How To Get Wikipedia Backlinks?
You can get yourself a couple of natural backlinks from Wikipedia by either identifying and replacing the dead links on relevant articles, or perhaps adding new hyperlinked content as a Wikipedia contributor.
Ranking at position 11 on Alexa, Wikipedia is undeniably one of the most authoritative sites on the web.
Now, combine that with its backlink profile of more than 1.4 million inbound links, and you have yourself a potential game-changer. Having your backlinks featured here could have an immense impact on your search engine rankings.
Wikipedia’s Alexa Rank. Source: Alexa
However, this privilege doesn’t come easy.
Although Wikipedia is open to submissions by third-party contributors, it’s supported by a solid team of hawk-eyed moderators. They are pretty good at weeding out low-value content, subjective posts, and irrelevant links.
So, if you’re hoping to get your links published here, then you need to approach the whole exercise with some finesse.
In particular, you ought to:
- Post exceptionally detailed articles on your website:
- Wikipedia doesn’t like toying with low-quality sites that offer thin content.
- It only links to factual and non-partisan resources that have been published by thought leaders.
- Therefore, you should take the time to piece together a library of highly resourceful content pieces before anything else.
- Your articles should provide the kind of in-depth information that would impress even scholars.
- Capitalize on dead link opportunities:
- The good thing about Wikipedia is, it’s marred by quite a number of broken links across various subjects.
- Specialized tool suites like WikiGrabber can do the scouting for you, after which you’ll get a report of relevant pages with missing citations and broken links.
- All you need to do thereafter is make simple edits to replace the outdated links with live ones that connect to references on your site.
- Add new content:
- In a bid to expand its information resources, Wikipedia is always calling on new contributors to make fresh submissions.
- You can leverage this opportunity by registering as a Wikipedia contributor, after which you can proceed to post new insightful content that contextually attributes your site as one of the references.
What Are The Most Powerful Backlinks?
According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, the most powerful backlinks are the inbound links that enhance the search experience for users by organically pointing out the most resourceful pieces of content.
Ever since the Google Penguin algorithm came along, Google’s PageRank has exceedingly placed emphasis on link quality over quantity.
The system has now evolved to put users at the center of the web experience, with backlinks being evaluated largely based on their contribution to the organic search experience.
As such, the most impactful inbound links are the Dofollow backlinks that contextually pass on the link juice from authoritative referral domains to even more insightful destination sites. The linked content pieces should be well-written, with in-line links featuring naturally within the body.
Google Pagerank places a particularly high value on the links that come from popular and well-established referral domains. We’re talking about those extremely influential publishing platforms that consistently feature on Alexa’s top 1%.
At least search engines trust them enough to take their link endorsements seriously. So much so, in fact, that one of their naturally placed backlinks can outweigh hundreds of inbound links from “average” sites.
What Are Link Building Services?
Link building services are a combination of different SEO tactics.
They all have the same aim though:
To strategically distribute high-value inbound links across a wide range of relevant third-party platforms – all for the sake of improving the destination site’s search engine rankings.
So far, about 36% of businesses hire third-party service providers for this, and the numbers continue to grow by the day.
With Google itself admitting that links are one of the two most dominant ranking analysis factors, it’s no surprise that a majority of these clients prefer to work with the all-inclusive SEO marketing firms that specialize in full-scale link building.
Loganix, for instance, happens to be a prominent favorite, as our comprehensive link building services don’t leave anything to chance. The sites that we take up get to benefit from advanced solutions such as:
- Keyword research: To establish the most impactful keywords for the anchor tests, our SEO experts conduct extensive keyword research and keyword gap analysis. The insights are then used to piece together a data-driven link-building strategy, which maximizes link quality without over-optimizing the keywords.
- Banklink audit: This is meant to deeply review your site’s backlink profile, as well as track all the links that connect to your site. Any potentially harmful ones are flagged up and resolved before Google imposes its penalties.
- Competitor analysis: Our analysis doesn’t end with you. We normally expand our parameters to include even your competitors – in a bid to develop effective counter-strategies as well as uncover potential link-building opportunities.
- Authority Outreach: We’ve built quite an extensive network of close relationships with influential brands, media publications, review sites, and industry leaders. So, you can count on us to find popular but credible referral domains that are relevant to your niche and target audience.
How To Check Backlinks?
How to check backlinks. Source: Ahrefs
Moz itself maintains a database of over 40.7 trillion backlinks, which are spread out across 7 trillion web pages and 718 million domains. It’s from these records that the Link Explorer manages to draw accurate insights into your site’s link profile.
A quick search will reveal the referral domains that have published the backlinks to your site, along with the quality of their inbound links in the form of metrics like Spam Score, Domain Authority, and Page Authority.
Ahrefs, on the other hand, boasts the second most active commercial website crawler after Google. AhrefsBot, as it’s officially known, samples 6.86 billion web pages per day – from which it has so far indexed 30.13 trillion backlinks spanning across 170 million domains.
Once you specify your domain, the Ahrefs Backlink Checker will fetch information from this database to reveal a true picture of your site’s backlink profile. You get to find out the number of referring domains that link to your site, the URLs of the publishing pages, the corresponding volume of inbound links, as well as the link type and quality of the inbound links.
How To Check The Backlinks Of Competitors?
You can track each of your competitors’ backlinks using data-rich backlink checkers such as Ahrefs’ “Backlink Checker”, Moz’s “Link Explorer”, and SEMrush.
Just type in any of your competitors’ domains and run a quick search – the platforms will reveal a true picture of their backlink profile.
On Moz, for instance, you get to view each competitor’s Domain Authority (DA) score, along with the number of linking domains, the number of inbound links for each of their web pages, plus the volume of lost links over the past two months.
Checking competitors’ backlinks. Source: Moz
That’s more or less the same caliber of backlink insights you’ll find on Ahrefs. The only thing is, you won’t get a Domain Authority score. Ahrefs will, instead, assign your competitor a Domain Rating score based on the strength of their backlink profile.
It’s worth noting, however, that while both of these tools charge their users a premium rate to access more in-depth information, Loganix has this tool that provides the same insights for free. It’s known as the Loganix Domain Authority Checker.
How To Disavow Backlinks?
Website administrators can disavow low-quality inbound links by using the “Disavow” function on the Google Search Console. They just need to pass on information about the bad domains in the form of a .txt file and Google will nullify the backlinks accordingly.
Google made this possible to give website owners the chance to save their sites from the negative effects of poor quality backlinks.
You could, for example, receive a warning message from Google about “unnatural links” pointing to your site. Failure to disavow such bad backlinks could result in huge penalties regardless of whether you were complicit in the link scheme or not.
That said, the process itself starts with a comprehensive audit of all your backlinks. This is where you bring in backlink audit tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to sniff out all the poor-quality links that could land your site in trouble. You’ll even be able to export the URLs of the referral pages to a .txt file that’s compatible with the Google Disavowal Tool.
Now, to upload the list, go to your Google Search Console and head over to the Disavowal Tool. The system will then hit you with a couple of warning prompts, before finally giving you the option to submit the file.
Google’s Disavowal Tool. Source: Google Search Console
Once Google reviews the cases and proceeds to disavow the links, they’ll immediately be excluded from your site’s ranking analysis.
How To Manage Your Backlinks?
Backlink management is a holistic process that is made up of multiple inter-related link optimization procedures. You should keep tabs on your site’s backlink profile, maximize high-quality inbound links, capitalize on all arising opportunities, and eliminate bad links.
Some of the fundamental actions that you could take include:
- Optimize your link building campaigns: Don’t just launch random link-building campaigns. Keep optimizing them by prioritizing high-quality inbound links, creating high-value content that attracts inbound links, strategically targeting high ROI keywords, expanding your guest publishing networks, etc.
- Tracking your backlink profile: Consistently monitor all your backlinks using specialized backlink checkers, or maybe Domain Authority calculators such as Loganix’s tool. They’ll give you insights into all the referral domains, the quality of the backlinks, and the impact they are progressively making on the search engine rankings.
- Audit your backlinks: Even when you’re certain that you’ve not been complicit in any black hat link schemes, you should always audit your site’s backlinks. A backlink auditing tool like SEMrush is capable of flagging up spammy inbound links that could potentially draw penalties.
- Claim lost backlinks: Tools like the Broken Link Checker and SEMrush can scan for dead links on the web to identify your lost backlinks. You can then try to regain them by engaging the affected webmasters.
An analysis of the lost backlinks. Source: SEMrush
- Monitor your competitors: You might also want to keep an eye on your competitors’ backlinks. Platforms like Moz and Ahrefs will give you a vivid picture of their inbound link profiles, which you could then use to discover new backlink opportunities.
The purpose of all these is to protect your backlink profile while, at the same time, reinforcing it progressively in a manner that’ll keep your site on an upward growth curve. This will, in turn, positively influence your website’s search engine rankings.
The only problem is, it can all be pretty hectic. That’s why it’s always a good idea to leave your backlink management to an all-inclusive SEO expert agency such as Loganix.
How To Index Backlinks?
You don’t have to index your backlinks, as Google’s crawler will automatically discover and index them within 10 or so weeks. But, in the unlikely case it doesn’t, you can go ahead and manually index the backlinks using the Google Search Console.
The process itself is pretty simple and straightforward.
Just go to the Google Search Console, paste the URL of the referral page into the search field, and hit enter. Google will crawl the webpage and index its links accordingly.
If that still doesn’t work, you might want to ping the URL of the pages that have published your backlinks. This should serve as a reminder to Google, which will then respond by recrawling the pinged domain address. At least then you can rest assured that the inbound links have been indexed.
How To Remove Bad Backlinks?
Once you’ve flagged up bad backlinks, you could have them removed by raising the request with their publishers or, alternatively, asking Google to disavow them.
Now, by “bad links”, we’re referring to those low-quality unnatural inbound links that are strongly frowned upon by Google. If your site happens to have a couple, the Google Penguin algorithm will weed them out and then impose huge penalties – regardless of whether you were complicit or not.
So, it’s always a good idea to stay ahead of Google by removing the bad links before the axe falls on your site.
You can get started by running an audit using SEMrush, Moz, or Monitor Backlinks. Each of these tools comes with a backlink audit functionality that’s capable of identifying all the external pages that have published low-quality links to your site.
Backlink audit analytics. Source: SEMrush
With that information, you could then go ahead and try to reach out to each of the site’s administrators – with a request to take down the inbound links.
But, if that seems like a lot of work, you could proceed with the more decisive option of working with Google. This is where you open the Google Search Console and then go straight to its Disavow Links Tool.
You’ll be required to specify the affected site, after which you should be able to upload a list of the publishing web pages and domains in the form of a .txt file. Google will then pick it up there and disavow all the links, which means they will no longer influence your site’s ranking on the SERPs
How To Buy Backlinks?
When it comes to buying backlinks, you should ignore all the attractive “cheap” offers from black hat link schemes and, instead, work with strategic partners who can calculatedly place “natural” inbound links (or white hat links).
We’re advising so because Google is extremely about the practice of inorganic linking. And to be specific, its Webmaster Guidelines insist that the following can negatively impact a website’s ranking:
- Offering goods or services for links.
- Offering money for links.
Google statement on the buying and selling of backlinks. Source: Google
Here’s the thing, though. If you critically analyze these rules, it turns out that Google doesn’t explicitly prohibit all the commercial link-building methods. Rather, it disapproves of black hat link schemes that sell unnatural link building opportunities to desperate site owners.
So, don’t be quick to try out those cheap backlink opportunities that promise to quickly set up a disproportionately huge volume of backlinks. You might end up unknowingly joining a link farm, consequently jeopardizing all the hard work that you’ve put into your site.
To avoid such an unfortunate outcome, you might want to invest in opportunities that seem more natural and authentic. While they might be costly – at $361.44 per link on average – at least they are guaranteed to positively influence your rankings.
You could, for instance, pay to publish a guest post on a high authority website in your field. This would cost you about $77.80, with popular publications charging even hundreds to thousands of dollars to feature a high-quality inbound link.
How To Get Free Backlinks
You can get yourself free backlinks by establishing yourself as a thought-leader in your field, expanding your professional networks, partnering with other publishers, and strategically taking over opportunities from your competitors.
- Grab your audience’s attention with authoritative content on the trendiest topics. Each article should have more depth than the previously dominant publications. With time, people will begin referencing your site as a thought-leader in your field.
- Reach out to prominent media publications with press releases bearing captivating news about your brand, and they’ll gladly run the stories – complete with backlinks to your blog.
- Engage your professional connections and convince them to feature your guest posts in their blogs.
- Scan the web for broken inbound links meant to highlight subjects that are related to your site. If you present their publishers with relevant references from your site, they might proceed to update the dead links with your backlinks.
- Analyze your competitors’ backlink profiles and then reach out to the most generous but highly impactful referral domains. They might be willing to link to your site too.
- Form reciprocal linking partnerships with publishers who happen to feature content related to your field of expertise. While this can be a controversial tactic, it turns out that four to five out of every top ten Google rankings have reciprocal links. And that’s not all. You’ll also find them on 73.6% of the high-traffic domains that receive more than 10,000 hits per month.
Whether your site is big or small, link building is a requirement of SEO. It’s too big a part of the algorithm for you to ignore it.
The problem? Building high quality and relevant backlinks is HARD.
If you are starting from zero, check out our Link Building Basics guide.
Or, if you know what you need to do, but would rather pass the torch to a Link Building Agency to handle it for you, get in touch.
Now it’s your turn.
Now I’d like to turn it over to you to spark a debate or lead a new discussion.
What in this post were you excited about? What was useful? What would you like to read more about?
Or maybe you just have a question about something you read.
Either way, let us know in the comments below.