Every online marketer worth their salt knows what a backlink is.
It’s an incredibly simple concept…
You, as a website owner, convince another website owner to include a link on their website that points back to your website. Like I said, simple right?
Well… Yes and no.
While backlinks in and of themselves are simple, understanding how to build backlinks the right way is not.
With the constant updates to Google’s algorithm and best practices, the very same tactics that once landed you on the first page for your target keyword can now result in massive search engine penalties.
All in all… Building backlinks can quickly become a minefield of mistakes and mishaps for the uninformed SEO.
Luckily, we have put together this guide to show you the step-by-step process on how to build backlinks the right way in 2020.
Then read on…
By Yury Byalik
CEO of OutreachMama
Before we can dive into the tactical tips and tools that you can use to build links and shoot your website to the first page of Google, there are a few key terms and concepts that you need to understand.
Whenever you build a backlink, you will use what is known in the industry as an anchor.
For example, in the following link, “Check out this link building case study”, the words, “Check out this link building case study” are the anchor text.
Anchor text can take a number of different forms from keyword related anchors, to branded anchors, to normal URLs.
And while I will explain in detail the 13 types of anchors and how to use them effectively, you need to understand that when you are conducting a link building campaign, the anchor text ratios that you use (e.g. how often you use different types of anchors) matters!
Many experts will tell you that anchor text optimization is unnecessary and ineffective.
Afterall, they argue, by trying to make your anchor text profile appear natural, you are actually manipulating Google’s algorithm instead of just building links that are natural.
And this is true… If you have a huge website with hundreds of thousands of monthly views.
However, after years of working as an SEO and running several 7-figure agencies, I have come to the conclusion that, for small to medium sized websites, anchor text ratios matter… and they matter a lot.
Keep this concept in mind as you move through this guide because optimizing your anchor text ratios is one of the cornerstones of any effective link building campaign.
Before you can understand dofollow and nofollow links, we need to first take a step back and take a broader look at how Google ranks websites and a brief history of their algorithm.
At the most basic level, Google looks at inbound links as “points” on a website’s scoreboard.
The more links that a website has, the more points they have on the board.
But not all links are created equally.
With its current algorithm, Google pays attention not only to the quantity of inbound links that a website has, but also the quality and relevance of those links.
This means that one link from a website like Forbes or the New York Times is far more valuable than even 10 links from a low authority niche site.
Dofollow links are basically any links that put points on the board and boost your page’s ranking within their algorithm.
These links are typically earned through guest blogging and creating high quality content that actually deserves to rank.
Nofollow links, on the other hand, do not count towards a page’s ranking, do not effect the anchor text ratios, and don’t do anything to boost a website’s authority.
Using a simple HTML tag websites can signal to Google that the link in question should not be considered relevant to a website’s rank.
Now some of you are probably thinking, “Crap! That’s kind of a mean thing to do… Why in the world would someone want to prevent a website from getting credit for a backlink?”
Well, there is a reason behind this… And a damn good one if you ask me.
You see, a few short years ago, Google’s algorithm was almost entirely based on the quantity of links that a given website had pointing back to it.
And this lead to some serious problems…
Website owners and SEOs (blackhat and otherwise) realized that all they needed to do to get on the first page of Google was generate enough backlinks to their website regardless of the quality or relevance of those links.
This lead to an era of rampant comment spamming and link buying as low quality websites fought amongst themselves to rank in the search engines.
Eventually, it got so bad that Google realized they needed to make some changes.
And thus, Nofollow links were introduced to cut down on spam and create a more user-friendly algorithm.
And while these links do not directly count towards your ranking, they are still an important part of any link building strategy.
“Real” websites generate nofollow links, and quite a few of them.
They have social profiles, citations, and plenty of purchased links.
Because there is more to link building than anchor text optimization.
Nofollow links play a pivotal role in building trust and driving traffic and to ignore them simply because they have no relevance to your anchor text percentages would be a huge mistake.
In addition to follow and nofollow links, you also need to understand the concept of indexed vs. non-indexed pages before you can effectively begin any link building strategy.
Google’s robots will scan or “crawl” the internet to find web pages and relevant content to serve up in their search queries.
Typically this is done when a Webmaster submits a sitemap.xml file to webmaster tools, but Google can also use backlinks and internal links to crawl through a website.
Then, once the crawl is complete, Google will index the pages that it finds.
Just because you have a web page does not mean that Google will index it.
And this is actually a good thing.
There are certain pages, like blog categories, author pages, pages with 404 errors, and duplicate content that doesn’t’ need to be indexed by Google.
However, some webmasters have made mistakes with their sitemap or content that prevents Google from indexing relevant pages.
This is important to note because Google does not count backlinks that are located on non-indexed pages.
Meaning that if your website or a website where from which you are trying to earn links have crawl errors on important pages, none of the links that you build or the anchor text that you use will have an effect on page’s rank.
Now with that out of the way… Let’s get to the good stuff.
Now that you understand the importance of anchor text ratios and the potential roadblocks that could prevent Google from counting new backlinks, of the types of, it’s time to discuss the different types of anchors that you will be using for your campaigns.
Keyword related anchors are exactly what they sound like.
They are anchors designed to help rank a piece of content related to a specific keyword.
So, for example, if you wanted to rank on the first page of Google for the search query “How can I build a natural anchor text profile”, you would likely build a link using the anchor text “build a natural anchor text profile”.
Here are the different types of anchors you would use if you were building links to rank for the above query.
“How to Build a Natural Anchor Text Profile and Rank Your Website on the First Page of Google”
Build a natural anchor text profile
Keyword + Word:
How to build a natural anchor text profile
Only Part of Keyword:
Natural anchor text
Brand and Keyword together:
Outreach Mama’s guide to build a natural anchor text profile
The second type of anchor text is branded anchor text.
This is one of the most important categories of anchor text as Google has become very brand centric in recent years.
Using our brand as an example, here are the different types of anchors included in this category.
Check out this blog
This is an image link with no alt text
Any anchor that doesn’t explicitly match the anchor included in this list
URL related anchors (once again) are exactly as the name suggests, anchors that are related to the URL of your website.
Here are the different types of anchors within this category.
Naked URL Without Http://:
If you want to gain a deeper understanding of what anchor text is and how it’s used, you can check out our definitive guide on anchor text best practices.
Now that you understand the different types of anchor text that you can use, let’s discuss the types of backlinks that are commonly associated with each anchor.
Directory links, while less authoritative than other links, still provide webmasters with a great opportunity to build basic anchor text and generate a healthy number of natural backlinks.
Citations, on the other hand, will help you to build authority within your niche and drive new visitors to your site.
With these types of backlinks, I recommend that you use the following types of anchors.
Organic contextual links are the hero that most webmasters need but not the one they deserve.
These are naturally earned links that are the result of a fantastic content creation and marketing strategy.
Basically, another blogger or webmaster in your niche reads a piece of content, loves the content, and then decides to reward all of your hard work with a freely given backlink from their website.
These links are a rarity in 2017, but they do happen.
Since you do not have any direct control over these backlinks, you also have no control over the anchor text used with the link.
This means that the “natural” anchor text for this backlink type is “Whatever the hell the linking website wants.” (to put it in scientific terms)
The second type of contextual link that you can build is a manually acquired contextual link or “earned” link.
These are the links that you earn from creating a kickass piece of content and then doing everything in your power to convince other bloggers to link to that content.
Since contextual links (as a whole) will make up the majority of your backlink profile and will be the driving force behind nearly all of your SEO efforts, it’s important that you understand how to effectively anchor earned links.
Here’s a list of the types of anchors you should use when building manually acquired contextual links.
Even though you can use any of the above anchors, it is important to realize that any anchor you use when creating earned links should appear natural.
Typically, I recommend that most webmasters and marketers stick to keyword related anchors and just natural anchors most of the time.
Well, think about it like this.
If you are a webmaster who prides yourself on the quality of your content are you going to accept guest posts from a fellow blogger who is clearly using your platform for promotional purposes?
However, if that same guest blogger reached out to you with an excellent article that happened to have a backlink to their website anchored into the article in a natural way…
You probably wouldn’t throw too much of a fuss.
And that is the most important thing to remember when building manually earned backlinks.
Yes… The ratio is extremely important.
However, if you are more concerned with the ratio of your anchors instead of creating anchors that seamlessly fit into your content, you will likely have your links stripped by anyone and everyone that you pitch.
Blog comments, while once the most misused (and overused) method of link building have begun dying out ever since the inception of Google’s “nofollow” tag.
However, there are still a number of authoritative websites out there that offer dofollow backlinks for commenters who are offering real value to their audience.
Most blogging platforms do not allow anchors within their comments (with good reason), so whenever you are building these types of links, you will need to use naked URLs in the body or name field of your comments.
Profile links are easy to build and while they won’t rank your website on the first page of Google anytime soon, they will help you increase the number of referring domains pointing to your site, round out your anchor ratios (if dofollow) and give off healthy branding signals to Google.
Here are the natural anchor types you can use when building profile links.
Before we go any further discussing this topic, I want to make it very clear that building web 2.0 links is a very difficult task.
Not because these links are hard to create (they aren’t) but rather because they have been so misused by black and grey hat SEOs that Google is quick to penalize any site that goes overboard with these links.
In a later section of this guide, I will show you how to use web 2.0s effectively but for now let’s take a look at the kinds of anchors you can use when building these links.
Google has slowly been squeezing the life out of press release backlinks, through strategic penalization.
Therefore, it’s important that you tread with caution when building these links.
That being said, a well placed press release delivered through a high quality service can help give a new website a little kickstart in terms of branding. There are very few services that provide dofollow links with press releases, but regardless of what type of service you employ, stick to these anchor text recommendation.
Optimizing your anchor ratios and link type is only half of the battle.
The second half is making sure that your newly built links point users to the right content.
Luckily, there is a simple formula for you to follow that will all but guarantee your SEO success.
When building profile links, directory links, and citations, you should always, always, always point the link to your home page.
Since most people who arrive at your website through these links are looking for new brands and websites, not specific products or content, there is no reason to redirect users to pages that they may find irrelevant.
Quality sites generate these types of home page links repeatedly – a pattern that Google has recognized.
Therefore, as link builders, it’s the type of pattern we want to create.
Link to your home page and you can’t go wrong.
Whereas you will always want to point profile, directory, and citation links to your homepage, there are very few instances in which you would do this with a manually acquired link.
Whenever you earn a new contextual link, you will generally do so within a very specific context, e.g. guest blogging on a relevant niche website.
Therefore, you want to make sure that these links are as applicable to the context as possible.
Let me show you what I mean…
Imagine that you operate a website dedicated to men’s fitness.
After weeks of email outreach, you have finally earned the opportunity to create a guest post on one of the top websites in your niche and you are chomping at the bit to get your backlink.
You decide to use the anchor “build muscle fast” and now you are deciding where to point that anchor.
At this point, your primary motive should be serving relevant content/offers to the readers, you really only have one of two options.
#1: Point the link to a relevant piece of content on your website about building muscle fast.
#2: Point the link to your 12-week muscle building program
The reason for this is simple.
In addition to building up your “SEO Juice”, contextually earned backlinks give you an opportunity to engage new people and potential leads.
At this point in the relationship, you want to offer as much value as possible, and you do this by anchoring content and low dollar offers that are hyper-relevant to the content from which you are linking.
And while there are certainly instances where you can and should build links to your homepage, such as daily roundups, listicles, and being quoted, they are the exception, not the rule.
When building blog comment links, you are typically at the mercy of the website’s moderator.
This means that it is 10X more important to serve up relevant content than ever before.
With this in mind, I recommend that you use the following rules when commenting on other people’s blogs.
When leaving a comment, enter only your homepage URL into the website field.
If you are going to leave a link in the actual comment, link to your blog article content and not to your homepage or commercial pages.
If your comments are engaging and “non-spammy”, most moderators won’t have a problem when you link to a relevant piece of content that you have created.
However, if you are constantly trying to push your products and services on someone else’s website, you will likely be banned from the thread and have your comments removed.
When building press release links, the page to which you will link depends largely on the nature of the release.
From my personal experience, I have found that you should link to your home page most of the time.
Although the links are mostly nofollow, you can still run of the risk of some dofollow’s getting into the mix.
In that situation, you are perfectly fine if you used branded anchor text to your homepage, but if you used a keyword rich anchor text to a blog article or to a service page and that content is syndicated across dozens of PR sites, you get dozens of backlinks with the same keyword rich anchor text.
That type of signal looks like spam to Google and can get your content de-ranked.
Are you still with me?
Because this is where things get exciting!
Now that you understand anchor text ratios, types of anchors, and where those anchors should point, you are finally ready to start crafting and executing a badass link building strategy.
If you heed the information included earlier in this guide and follow these next steps exactly as I prescribe, I can all but guarantee that you will be able to rank your website on the first or second page of Google for almost any keyword you choose.
Let’s get down to business.
The first part of any link building strategy or campaign is always creating high quality content that is worthy of a backlink from relevant sites.
After nearly a decade of experience in the SEO and content marketing game, I have found that there are only 4 types of content that can predictably generate and earn high quality backlinks.
Visual content, like infographics and charts, are a great type of content for a number of reasons.
One of their biggest strengths is that visual content, when built properly, tend to distill otherwise complicated concepts into an easily digestible and visually appealing guide.
If you are using infographics, you can create a simple embed code that will allow other bloggers to share your content on their website while automatically generating a backlink.
List posts are a fantastic type of content for one primary reason.
People are friggin lazy!
Most people don’t have the time or the attention span to sit down and read a mega-guide (like this one) and they prefer to find content that they can consume in a matter of minutes.
List posts provide readers with easily skimmable and digestible content that they can use whether or not they read all of the text beneath each listed point.
In fact, when BuzzSumo analyzed more than 1 million blog posts, they found that list posts generated more backlinks, social shares, and had more viral potential than any other type of content.
Need I say more?
I know, I know…
I just finished saying that most people don’t have the patience or the desire to read 5,000+ word mega guides (like the one you are reading).
By creating the “Go-to” resource for a specific problem in your industry, other bloggers and companies can defer to your content whenever one of their readers or customers asks a question that they cannot answer.
This is possibly one of the most difficult types of content to create because of the massive amount of leg work required to actually generate your own primary research.
Primary research requires access huge amounts of data or a large email list filled with people who are willing to answer questions and provide feedback.
However if you can generate enough relevant data on a specific topic in your industry, the rewards are huge.
Statistics and data driven research provide massive amounts of value to other marketers and will allow you to compile an easily linkable resource that will generate a metric crapton of backlinks.
Here are some more ideas from SEO experts on how to create link worth content.
Aggregate Link Worthy Content
Since a lot of marketers are trying to create link worthy content, go one level higher.
Pick a topic in your industry, collect all of the linkable assets across the web and provide readers with the cliff notes version.
What do the assets say, what do they have in common, where do they conflict?
To see what other types of content are popular I like to use Ahrefs Content Explorer to see what other people have written about.
The typical table of contents for these articles is the following:
1. Intro about the topic and what you plan to do
2. The resources you found on the subject and why they deserve to be considered as top pieces of content
3. What the pieces agree and disagree on
4. Your own expert opinion on the subject
5. How your readers should move forward
I used this approach for my Linkio article on Anchor Text and it has been a really easy article to generate quality links for.
by Yury Byalik, CEO at OutreachMama
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As I have already stated in this guide, not all links are created equally.
And as you embark on your quest for link building domination, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of where you should be building links.
With the slew of Google updates designed to eradicate spammy link building practices, it’s more important than ever before that you only generate links from high quality sources.
But what constitutes a high quality link and how can you find them?
One of the most important factors when searching for high quality links is the authority of the linking page.
For example, a link from The Huffington Post will be ten times more valuable than five links from a no-name blogger with a piss poor WordPress site.
When I am analyzing websites to determine whether or not they are worth the time required to earn a link, I base my decision primarily on their Domain and Page Authority which can be found using Moz.com’s free Open Site Explorer tool. Personally, I recommend looking for sites with a DA and PA of at least 40.
Remember, however, that this is an arbitrary number and does not always indicate the quality or trustworthiness of a website. Plenty of great websites have lower DA and PA, and plenty of shadier sites are quite strong, having a Domain Authority of 60 or more.
Equally as important as the domain authority (if not more so) is the relevance of the linking domain.
Google’s algorithm is rapidly evolving and in recent years, they have increased their focus on the relevance of linking sites.
What this means is that whenever you are looking for websites where you can earn a backlink, you want to make sure that the site in question is relevant to your website in a meaningful way.
Let’s go back to the example we used earlier about the men’s fitness site.
Imagine that you are working on your link building campaign and you are debating between trying to earn a link from two different websites.
The first is a website about Monster Trucks with a DA of 70.
The second is a more niche website devoted to hormonal optimization for men but it only has a DA of 35.
Which website would you want a link from?
Well, according to the experts at Google and the most recent data, you should always opt for the website that is more relevant to your specific niche.
Bye bye monstertrucks.com.
The next question you should ask yourself is whether the link will be editorially placed or not.
An editorial link is any link that has to be approved by a website moderator or owner (think guest posts, resource pages, or organic contextual links).
A non-editorial link is any link that can be created without the approval of the website owner.
For example, creating a profile on another person’s website and dropping a random link.
According to Google and every real SEO expert out there, you should always seek editorial links.
…creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.”
Quickly Create Large Prospecting Lists in Under a Minute
One quick link prospecting tip is to use Google search strings to quickly identify guest post opportunities. After doing that, I use a free Chrome Extension called SEO Extractor that allows me to scrape the top 100 URLs, titles, and meta descriptions for any given SERP. Using this technique, I’m able to source hundreds of guest post opportunities in a matter of minutes.
by Steven Toth, at SEO Notebook
At this point, the pieces are starting to come together.
But many of you are still wondering.
“How in the hell do I actually convince these webmasters to give me a link?”
Well, I’m glad you asked because that’s what I am about to show you.
Before you ever create an email draft, or pitch a guest post, you should first make sure that the prospect in question is actually likely to give you a backlink.
Sometimes, you can find the answer to this question with a few clicks on their website.
Many blogs do not allow guest posts or any sort of third party linking (with the exception of organic contextual links).
Other websites have a very easy process for submitting guest posts and earning backlinks.
If it is not immediately discernable whether or not a specific website allows backlinks, don’t worry…
You can still find a list of possible link targets using a simple reverse engineering exercise.
First, you are going to search your target keyword in Google.
Once you have your results, copy the URLs of the top 3 results and plug them into a tool like Ahrefs.
Then you are going to hit the “Backlinks” tab on the left hand side and… voila!
You now have a huge list of websites who are likely to reward badass content with an equally badass backlink.
Now that you have found someone who is likely to link to your website, it’s time to track down their email address.
Under most circumstances, you can easily find this under the “Contact Us” tab of their website.
However, since some of the bigger websites make it difficult to connect with authoritative members of their business, you can also use a tool called Voila Norbert and AeroLeads to find the email address associated with a specific domain.
Simply input the person’s name and domain and you will normally be able to find the right email address to reach out to.
Most authoritative website owners receive hundreds if not thousands of guest post and backlink requests on a monthly basis.
And if you want more than a snowball’s chance in hell at actually connecting with them and earning a backlink, you are going to need to stand out from the masses.
The only way to do this is by creating a highly personalized email script for each prospect.
Brian Dean from Backlinko.com has a great script that you can use for this purpose.
Hi [First Name],
I was looking for content on [Topic] today, when I stumbled on your article: [Article Title].
Good stuff! I especially enjoyed [Something specific from their article].
Also, I just published a new guide on [Your Topic]: [URL].
As someone that writes about [Topic], I thought you’d enjoy it.
My guide may also make a nice addition to your page. Either way, keep up the awesome work with [Website]!
This script is the best resource that I have found for achieving high levels of personalization without too much effort.
In addition to building manually earned links, you should also spend time building directory and resource links.
These websites exist for the sole and express purpose of linking out to other content making them a perfect target for your link building efforts.
The process for finding relevant directories and earning a link is very simple.
First, go to Google and use a query like “Keyword + best resources” or “Keyword + Best Blogs”.
So, using OutreachMama as an example, we would use the query “Best link building tools 2017”.
Then, after filtering through the top results and looking at each page’s authority, select 2-3 of the most relevant directories or resources pages.
Then use the following script (once again kudos to Brian Dean for this one) to reach out to the website owner and discuss the possibility of earning a backlink.
Subject: Question about [Their Website]
I was Googling around for content about [Topic] this morning, when I came across your excellent resource page: [URL].
I just wanted to say that your page helped me a ton. I would have never found the [Resource They Link To] without it.
It’s funny: I recently published a guide on [Topic] last month. It’s [Brief Description].
Here it is in case you’d like to check it out: [URL].
Also, my guide might make a nice addition to your page.
Either way, thanks for putting together your list of resources. And have a great day!
While I have compiled an exhaustive list of the best link building tools in the industry
(which you can check out here), my three favorites are as follows.
SEMrush is positioned as your “All-in-one” SEO toolkit.
And no statement could be more accurate.
SEMrush not only helps you perform day-to-day tasks, but also provides in-depth analysis that is very clear and can be easily incorporated into your digital marketing strategy and significantly improve your performance. ~Umit Yilmaz, SEO Engineer at Ebay.com
SEMrush comes with more tools, bells, and whistles than you can shake a stick at.
And not just for link building.
I mean, sure, its content and PR tools allow you to monitor mentions, track industry trends, and perform backlink audits and analysis.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With SEMrush we are able to identify opportunities and react to them in less time by having a trusted source of data that is extremely easy for the whole team to access.
~Kenyon Manu, Director of Search at Overstock.com
SEMrush also allows you to complete technical SEO audits, paid traffic analysis, and generate content trend summaries.
Considering the sheer volume of tools at your disposal, the $99/month price tag is almost laughable.
And with a money back guarantee, you really have nothing to lose.
Ahrefs allows you to check your competitor’s backlink profiles, top pages, link, link growth, and countless other statistics.
Many of the top SEOs in the world use and recommend Ahrefs and it has been one of the leading tools on the market (almost) since Al Gore invented the internet.
Ahrefs offers a 30-day free trial and pricing packages that are comparable to Moz Pro making it a great alternative for Moz-averse marketers.
While I might be a little bit biased by recommending this one, I couldn’t conclude this article without mentioning our high level link building services.
At OutreachMama, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with everything they need to plan, execute, and optimize the perfect link building campaign.
We will help you find the right websites to target, the exact content that you should pitch, and then we do everything for you.
From content creation to backlink analysis, OutreachMama provides you with everything that you need to boost your SEO, increase your traffic, and drastically increase your revenue in record time.
Go here to find out more about our link building services.
Managing multiple pages, different types of links, anchor text plans and several months worth of activity can be a challenge for any marketer, especially if you’re just setting start with SEO.
Linkio takes the complexities of long term link building and boils it down into a simple workflow that improve outcomes for SEO teams.
More specifically, you can create long term anchor text roadmaps for all of your important pages and then break down the game plan into monthly chunks and start executing using the tactics described in this article.
I hope that you were able to derive tremendous value from this guide and learn some new tips and tactics that informed your link building strategy.
Now it’s your turn.
Use the content contained in this guide to accelerate your link building results and land yourself on the first page of Google.
See you at the top!
What did you think of the guide? Were there any questions I didn’t answer?
Let me know in the comments below.