The Ultimate Link Building Guide for Beginners

If backlinks are “the currency of the internet,” link building is like picking money from a tree. There’s no denying it’s an essential SEO component for any business, which is why we’ve created this comprehensive link building guide.  

When you want to grow your organic traffic and SEO, your strategy must include some form of link building. Even marketers on a budget can achieve tremendous results because link building, done correctly, will let search engines know that your site is ranked just as highly as the sites that link to it.

Keep reading to learn what link building is, why it’s important, what a quality link looks like, and the link building techniques you can use to build a robust backlink portfolio.

What is link building?

Link building is the process of generating hyperlinks from other sites that point to your own website. But before we go any further, let’s take a moment to understand these links.

An inbound link, often referred to as a backlink or external link, is an HTML hyperlink that transports internet users from one website to another. In the wise words of Moz, inbound links are the “currency of the internet” because they help define your site’s reputation.

There are many ways to build backlinks, which we’ll discuss in a later section of this article. But first, let’s delve into why link building is vital for your SEO strategy.

Google’s algorithm considers numerous factors and metrics when assessing and ranking pages. But one of the most prominent elements Google’s PageRank Algorithm takes note of is how many other websites link to a page.

In fact, backlinks have been a core aspect of Google’s page ranking process from the onset and remain a primary indicator of quality content.

It’s not just about quantity, though. Google can now determine the quality of those backlinks, too. The algorithm assesses whether each link comes from a relevant, authoritative page and site and how the content creator includes these links in that page’s content.

That is why link building is such an essential SEO component and why your business should include it as part of your marketing strategy.

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The benefits of link building

What’s the big deal? It’s just a link, right? The internet has billions (trillions?) of them.

Not exactly. As we discussed earlier in this link building guide, getting top-quality links is incredibly important for your site’s SEO. They let search engines know your site is reputable and drive targeted traffic to your content for free.

Search engines

As we know, search engines rely on links to determine the quality of a web page. For instance, if only spam websites link to your site (toxic backlinks), search engines will think your site is spam as well, and your rank on search engines will be atrocious.

Links help search engines rank relevant content for users in the search results. Have you ever wondered why Google displays some web pages and not others when you type a query into its search bar? It’s because Google decided those particular web pages provide valuable and trustworthy answers.

See also: How to write SEO content.

“Okay,” you’re thinking, “But how does Google determine trustworthiness?”

There are many factors search engines like Google evaluate when determining the reliability of a page, but links are one of them. Google figures that if many reputable sites link to a specific piece of content, there must be a good reason.

Targeted traffic

Links can also help you drive targeted traffic to your website.

Let’s say you’re reading content on the Nutshell blog. You’re blown away by the quality of our writing and think to yourself, “Man, if only Nutshell wrote about [Topic]. I’d definitely read that!” 

Suddenly, you notice a bit of orange text signifying a link to the content you’re interested in. You click on it immediately. After all, your favorite content creators (Nutshell) linked to the post, so it must be valuable, right?

Now you’re on a website you’ve never visited before, reading a blog post about a topic you’re highly interested in. As long as the post is well-written, there’s a good chance you’ll check out the company who wrote it, peruse their website, and even download a free ebook.

This is what we mean by targeted traffic. By acquiring backlinks, you can drive traffic to your website that’s already interested in what you have to say and offer.

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White hat vs. black hat link building

Any link building guide worth its salt must incorporate a section comparing white hat and black hat link building practices. You’ve likely seen these terms mentioned when researching link building. So, what exactly do they refer to?

As is the case in many aspects of life, there’s a bad, underhanded approach with every good, wholesome marketing strategy. Less reputable marketers employ deceptive black hat backlink tactics in an attempt to game the system and improve rankings. 

While black hat link building may work for some over the very short term, it’s detrimental to your brand and site’s long-term survival. Content quality and relevance are often non-existent, leaving website visitors disappointed and uninclined to visit again.

Typical black hat tactics include:

  • Buying backlinks: Some may pay a site owner to link to their web page, regardless of whether the content serves the intended audience.
  • Trading backlinks: This occurs when another site owner requests a backlink in return for a link to their site using guest posts that add zero value to these sites.
  • False backlinks: Website owners may create numerous posts and pages online that link to one specific domain to manipulate its ranking.
  • Spam backlinks: A standard black hat backlink practice is randomly populating comment sections on sites or adding widgets or footers that link back to a domain they’re trying to promote.

White hat link building comprises creating relevant, good-quality content that other sites would want to link back to. This includes visuals, research reports, survey data, and more.

Here’s the thing: not all links are created equal. In fact, links from unreputable websites can actually harm your SEO efforts. So the question is, what does a quality link look like?

Quality, in our opinion, comes down to three things: trust, range, and relevance.

  • Trust: Trust refers to the website linking to yours. Is it a website that search engines respect? If not, the link likely won’t benefit your site. It may even negatively impact it.
  • Range: Range refers to the number and type of sites linking to yours. Search engines don’t want to see 1,000 web directories pointing to your site and nothing else. You’ll want to build a link profile that has a wide range of linking domains.
  • Relevance: Relevance refers to the anchor text that links a web page to yours. If search engines can’t accurately determine the content of your page based on a backlink’s anchor text, they won’t value the link as highly.

When building a strong backlink portfolio for your site, you need to acquire links from a wide range of trusted website types whose anchor text reflects your linked content.

10 link building techniques

A strong backlink portfolio is like a first-class ticket to the top of Google’s search results. But how do you actually acquire quality links? Start with these essential link building techniques! 

1. Create great content

Mr. Bill Gates called it way back in 1996 when he wrote “Content is King.” To acquire links, start by creating fantastic content that people will actually want to link to.

Now, top-tier content comes in a variety of flavors.

For example, you can create visual assets like diagrams, infographics, and memes, which often work well because they’re super easy for internet users to link to.

You can also write in-depth blog posts, ultimate guides, and original research papers for your website. These content types are popular because they’re highly valuable to readers and don’t cost any money to produce, assuming you can write the content in-house.

What about video content? Yup, you can use videos to build links, too! According to Google, 60% of people would rather watch online videos than TV, making video marketing a fantastic way to promote a website and earn backlinks.

There’s no shortage of content types you can use to build a rock-solid link portfolio. The trick is creating the kind of valuable content that your target audience wants.

Don’t skimp on this as the success of your link building efforts largely depends on your ability to craft amazing stuff for the world to read, watch, listen to, or otherwise consume.

2. Reach out to influencers

Quality content is essential, but you need more than just great blogs and videos to build a stellar backlink portfolio. If you want to make your competitors green with envy at your website’s astonishing number of links, you must promote your content.

The internet is a crowded place. More than 70 million blog posts are published monthly, and about 500 hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

It doesn’t matter how wonderful your content is. Without a little promotion, no one will ever see it, let alone link to it. There’s too much stuff already on the web. Fortunately, there’s a perfectly straightforward way to market your content: reach out to influencers.

You can build links quickly by connecting with folks who have an audience that resembles yours and giving them a compelling reason to link to/share your latest creation, you’ll be able to build links quickly.

Here’s the oversimplified three-step process for influencer outreach:

  1. Find an influencer in your niche
  2. Discover said influencer’s contact information.
  3. Contact them with a compelling reason to link to your content.

Brian Dean, the SEO wizard over at Backlinko, recommends the following script when reaching out for links. Just customize it to your recipient and hit send!

Source: Backlinko

To acquire a significant number of links, you will need to reach out to a substantial number of people, which can easily get out of hand. Fortunately, a CRM like Nutshell can simplify the process by giving you top-notch organization tools and marketing tools, including emailing, meetings, and calls from the platform.

We suggest adding all the influencers you contact to your CRM so you can easily keep track of them and their responses. Nutshell’s very own Jack Virag organized his link outreach inside his CRM and boosted organic traffic by 11%!

3. Hunt for broken links

A broken link is exactly what it sounds like: a link that no longer works.

As it turns out, the internet is full of broken links, which is incredible news for all aspiring link builders.

Why? Because you can contact an influencer or site owner, notify them about the broken link, and suggest your piece of content as a replacement.

Here’s how broken link building works:

  1. Sign up for a broken link checker tool like Ahrefs. The software costs $99+ a month, but if you’re serious about link building, it’s definitely worth the investment. Free options include Check My Links and LinkMiner, though they’re not as powerful.
  2. If you’re using Ahrefs, create a list of authoritative sites in your niche and add them to the tool’s Site Explorer. If you’re using one of the free link checkers above, you’ll need to visit individual web pages to check for broken links.
  3. Choose a site from your list to investigate and configure your results in Ahrefs to only display HTTP 404 errors. Then, view how many broken links the site has. Or visit individual web pages and use a free link checker to pinpoint broken links.
  4. Contact the site owner using the email template above and ask them to fix their broken link by linking to your amazing content instead.

This process is pretty simple once you get the hang of it, though it does take time and isn’t always successful. In fact, you’ll likely only achieve a 5-10% success rate with this tactic. But if you contact enough sites, the backlinks will start to pile up!

4. Reclaim lost backlinks

Just because you score a new backlink doesn’t mean you’ll have it forever. Unfortunately, important backlinks can disappear at any time due for various reasons. Hey, nobody said SEO was easy. The good news is that you can work to reclaim lost backlinks!

  1. First, you have to discover which links you’ve lost. Once again, this can be done with Ahrefs, though many other tools can get the job done, too.
  2. Now that you’ve identified your lost links, you need to learn why you lost them. Did the referring site issue a new linking policy? Was the site’s content recently updated, and your site is no longer relevant? Maybe they found better content to link to.
  3. It’s time to try to reclaim your lost links! How you go about this will depend on the reason you lost the link in the first place.

Obviously, the three steps listed above are just a general outline for reclaiming backlinks. We suggest reading this link reclamation guide for in-depth details.

5. Syndicate your content

Content syndication is the practice of publishing a piece of content on multiple websites. If every site that posts your blog, for example, links back to your website, you can quickly add multiple links to your backlink portfolio in a single go.

To be clear, content syndication is not the same as guest blogging, which is when you create a new post for a website other than your own. (Note: guest blogging can help you build backlinks, too, as long as you’re allowed to link to content on your website in the blog.)

Now that we have those definitions out of the way, let’s talk about how to syndicate your content.

The first step is to create amazing content. We told you this would be a recurring theme, didn’t we? If your content sucks, why would anyone want to republish it on their site? Do the work, make something awesome, then try to get it republished.

Next, find websites that might want your content. A no-cost way to do this is to simply type phrases like “Republished With Permission” + “The Topic of Your Article” into Google and sift through the results.

When you find potential republishers, reach out to them with a respectful email that clearly explains the value they will receive by posting your work.

We should also mention that it’s possible to syndicate your own content by republishing it on sites like Medium, Reddit, and LinkedIn. 

6. Disavow toxic backlinks

If you create great content people want to link to and share, you’ll naturally acquire toxic backlinks.

A toxic backlink is any link that does more harm than good to your SEO efforts. Fortunately, Google allows you to disavow these links, so you aren’t penalized for them.

Tools like SEMrush allow you to export a .csv file of each and every toxic backlink connected to your site. You can then use Google Search Console to disavow them. Here’s how:

  1. Visit Google’s disavow links page.
  2. Select your website and choose “Disavow Links.”
  3. Click “Choose File” and upload your .csv file of links to disavow.
  4. Wait for Google to process the details. It can take a few weeks.

And that’s all there is to it! While Google suggests trying to remove poor links yourself, this is a viable alternative that will allow you to save your link building efforts.

7. Search for your images

If you’ve ever created visual assets and published them online, whether on social media or through your site, there’s a chance someone may be using them within their content.

I’m talking about images like infographics, graphs, charts, and maps that offer helpful information to support your content or to summarize it. 

A great way to earn backlinks is to do a Google reverse image search for the images you think others may be interested in sharing. Then, browse the results to see whether anyone has published the image to their site.

Approach the sites that have published your images and ask them to include a link to your site. Consider which page would be most beneficial for you to have them link to before you reach out, and provide them with that specific URL when you request your backlink.

8. Create more visual assets

You’ve identified websites using your visual assets and have reached out to request a backlink. Now, it’s time to create more shareable visual assets to increase your link building opportunities.

When creating a piece of content, think about how you can transform an explanation or description into a visual aid. For example, illustrating a point describing variables and how they affect each other in chart form may help your readers and encourage others to use the visual aid in their content.

Continue with your Google reverse image searches at intervals to pinpoint any websites using your new visual assets. Then, reach out to them for a link to a relevant page on your website.

9. Time your outreach

Ensure your link building outreach email stands out by sending it when the recipient is most likely to see and read it. The worst time to send this email would be in the morning when the recipient’s inbox is chock-full of other emails they must respond to.

Sending your emails out in the afternoon, when the recipient has had a chance to clear their inbox, increases your chances of having your email read. You could even use email scheduling to ensure the email goes out at the correct time.

10. Look for interview opportunities

Writing a quality guest post is one way to share your expertise on someone else’s website and link back to your own. But, writing these guest posts can be time-consuming, and you may not have the time to write a new, original post for each website you approach.

Another way to impart your wisdom and gain a backlink is to secure an interview for a podcast, vlog, or publication in your field. You’ll get to speak about something you’re knowledgeable about, and you can request a link back to your website.

The more podcasts, vlogs, and publications you appear in, the more opportunities you’ll have to build links to your content and improve your SEO.

Make link building easier with Nutshell

Quality backlinks will empower your business and allow you to hit the top of Google search results, driving quality traffic to your website on autopilot. To build a strong link portfolio, simply implement the techniques listed in this link building guide, including:

  1. Create great content
  2. Reach out to influencers
  3. Hunt for broken links
  4. Reclaim lost backlinks
  5. Syndicate your content

Streamline your link building outreach efforts and keep your communication organized with an industry-leading CRM. Nutshell offers powerful features that make storing, sorting, and evaluating your contacts effortless. 

With Nutshell, you can also synchronize your emails and communicate with your contacts directly through the software. Our CRM records all your communication for easy reference, including call and meeting logs.To top it off, Nutshell offers loads of features to boost your lead generation and marketing efforts. Sign up for a free 14-day trial today, and find out why Nutshell is ranked as one of the best CRMs in the world.

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