If you’re new to SEO, link building and backlink strategies might seem a bit confusing. But quality backlinks are crucial for driving organic site traffic and boosting your domain authority.
Fortunately, getting quality backlinks for your website is easier than you might think.
I created this in-depth guide specifically for beginners as a way to clearly explain how backlinks work and how to identify quality backlinks. I’ll even show you some simple link-building strategies that you can implement today.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are inbound links from one website to another website. These are also known as one-way links or incoming links.
The link can be placed in a text hyperlink, linked through an image, or placed on a button. Any link to your site that comes from another website is considered a backlink.
This is different from an internal link, which links from one page on a site to another page on that same website.
Why Are Quality Backlinks So Important?
Google has hundreds of different ranking factors in its algorithm. But SEOs agree that backlinks are one of the most important components, if not the most important, of any SEO strategy.
That’s because search engines view backlinks as a vote of confidence. It’s one website’s way of telling its audience that another site is trustworthy. No legitimate website is going to endorse or link out to a spammy, low-quality, or irrelevant source. So that backlink to your site is a small way of telling Google that someone else is endorsing you.
One or two of these backlinks isn’t enough. To truly have an impact on your SEO performance, you must consistently get high-quality backlinks from authority sources—and outpace your competitors.
According to Ahrefs, sites with more referring domains have more organic search traffic.
The graph speaks for itself (and I just gave Ahrefs a backlink for using their research as a source).
How to Identify Quality Backlinks
Not every backlink is created equally. Quality is more important than quantity.
In fact, if you’re using black-hat link-building strategies to get unnatural backlinks from irrelevant websites, you could actually face a site penalty from Google.
These are the factors that separate quality backlinks from the rest:
- Authority — Backlinks from sites with a high domain authority are worth more than sites with lower domain authority. High-traffic websites, .edu domains, .gov domains, and industry leaders are all quality backlinks. So a link from Forbes is worth more than your neighbor’s blog that they started yesterday.
- Relevancy — The context between the referring domain and your website must be relevant. For example, if you’re running a technology website and you’re getting a backlink from a food blogger’s post on “how to cook eggs,” it won’t be relevant or viewed as a quality backlink.
- Unique — You’ll have an advantage over other websites if the referring domain links to your site but doesn’t link to your competition. The link is still good for your backlink profile, but it’s a wash of the site links to all five of your top competitors.
- Natural — Quality backlinks appear naturally on a page. They don’t have spammy anchor text and don’t appear to be branded. It’s also important that the referring page uses other natural links throughout it, as opposed to handing out links in every sentence.
It’s really important to focus on quality when you’re creating a link-building strategy. Low-quality links won’t move the needle, and they can sometimes do more harm than good.
8 Ways to Get Quality Backlinks
These are my favorite ways to build quality backlinks. I’ve used these strategies for my own websites, and they’ve helped my clients as well.
1. Claim Unlinked Brand Mentions
This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to build your backlink profile. You just need a way to monitor your brand mentions, and using a free tool like Google Alerts is usually sufficient enough for this purpose.
Any time you see that a website, blog, or news article mentions your brand, go to that page and see if they linked out to your site. If they haven’t, just send them a quick message asking for a link attribution. That’s it!
The great part about this strategy is that you could potentially have dozens of unclaimed brand mentions out there right now. Then you can just use a free tool, like the Ahrefs Backlink Checker, to view the site’s domain authority and backlink profile.
This will help you determine whether or not the source is a quality backlink that’s worth your efforts.
2. Create High-Quality Visual Assets
Visual content is an excellent way to get organic backlinks. Examples include:
- Free photo galleries
- Charts and graphs
- GIFs, memes, and animations
Why are images great for backlinks? Content creators and bloggers are always looking for visuals to enhance their content and improve the reader experience.
I do this all the time in my writing. I’m always looking for a quality study or graph to back up my point. When I find something, I always link out to my sources.
You can be that source for other writers if you’re creating high-quality visual assets.
3. Use the Broken Link Strategy
This strategy requires a solid SEO tool for identifying broken links. Siteliner is a free option if you already have a list of sites that you want to check.
Once you find broken links on another website, you can look to your site for relevant resources that would be an adequate replacement. Then you can reach out to the site, make them aware of their broken link, and send your suggestion to replace it.
The reason why this strategy works so well is because you’re offering help. Broken links are bad for SEO, so by pointing this out to another site, they’re more likely to reward you for your efforts.
4. Create Exceptional Content
Creating high-quality website content is a long-term approach to building backlinks. But the idea here is that you’re creating content that’s so good, it becomes a must-have point of reference for other websites when they’re writing about certain topics.
- Ultimate guides
- How-to guides
- Case studies
- Original research
If you can rank on page one of Google with this type of content, it drastically increases your chances of getting organic backlinks.
5. Become an Authority Source
This is another strategy that could take a little bit of time if you’re relatively new or unknown in your industry. But if people reach out to you for a quote or an opinion, give it to them!
Here’s an example of a quote I gave to WHSR that they used in a blog post:
As you can see, this resulted in a backlink to my website.
If nobody is calling you or emailing you for quotes, that’s ok. You can build relationships with journalists and use platforms like HARO to be a source when journalists need industry experts for their articles.
6. Link Out to Other Sites
To be clear, I’m not saying that you should trade links. This is frowned upon and considered a black-hat link-building strategy if you’re doing it at scale.
Instead, linking to other sites naturally will make your content better. It also shows potential referring domains that you’re not asking for something that you don’t reciprocate for others.
Let’s say you reach out to a blogger and ask for a link. But then they look at your blog and see that you’ve literally given zero links to other sites. That’s not good.
Practice what you preach, and it will help you in the long run.
There’s a two-fold approach to using podcasts for link building.
First, you can create your own podcasts. Most great podcasts have guests. So when you have a guest on your show, that person often promotes the episode to their own audience—which usually comes with a backlink.
I had the CEO of MarketMuse, Aki Balogh, on my podcast. Then MarketMuse referenced that episode in a blog post with a backlink to my website.
You can also accept invitations to be on other podcasts.
Those podcasts will likely promote the episode, mention the guest, and provide a link to your website. Here’s an example from a guest appearance I had on the National Law Review podcast:
As you can see, The National Law Review linked to McDougall Interactive. So my efforts earned another backlink.
8. Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is a controversial strategy in terms of link building. Some SEOs say this strategy is dead, while others insist it works.
The key to success here is having a holistic approach to guest blogs. Don’t just do them for the sake of getting backlinks. Do them for brand exposure. You’ll still be rewarded with links, but it can increase your chances of getting more natural backlinks from other sources.
For guest blog backlinks to really move the needle, they must be on high authority websites and be super relevant to your brand. So mindlessly pitching every website on the planet that accepts guest blogs won’t be effective.
Building quality backlinks is crucial for SEO. If you’re a beginner, following the tips mentioned above will help steer you in the right direction.
You can also book a free consultation if you need some extra help with SEO or have additional questions about backlinks.