Do you ever wonder if you’re wasting your time building links?
Google has aggressively looked for ways to devalue links in its algorithms for quite a while. At first, you could just hop on to the next link-building tactic, but now, Google has a pretty good handle on how to factor links into its algorithm.
That being said, backlinks are still a very important ranking factor… just look at the image above.
It’s always good to get more quality backlinks—the ones that are natural because you have content worth linking to. You can build these backlinks using a few tactics.
Some SEOs engage in risky blackhat tactics, but unless you can operate on a large scale and are fine with getting penalized later on, it’s not particularly profitable.
The other main strategy is to earn backlinks by creating great content and getting it in front of the right people.
Although there haven’t been any new tactics for link building in a while, some proved to more effective than others in 2015. Plus, you can always find ways to improve each of the tactics.
What I’m about to show you are the 8 most effective link building tactics that work well right now as well as ways to implement them better than, or at least as well as, anyone else.
The mindset of link building in 2015
I’m warning you upfront:
Most of these tactics require having great content. I’m not talking about the articles you can get from Fiverr for $5. I’m talking about well-written articles and other well-designed content made by experts, whether that’s you or someone you hire.
Here’s the thing: You either spend the money on content, or you spend it on backlinks.
You can get great backlinks without great content, but you will have to pay a lot for them. We’re talking at least $100 per link. Since Google is getting better at recognizing on-page quality, this approach has limited effectiveness.
Instead, spend the money on great content. Eventually, that will earn you long-term, consistent traffic that will more than pay you back if monetized properly. Think of content creation as an investment.
Here is what I generally consider great content to be:
- in-depth guides written by subject experts
- professionally designed infographics
- useful tools for your audience or peers
- professionally filmed videos
Once you have that content, you can start using the tactics I’m about to show you to get great links for relatively cheap (or free if you don’t count your time).
Here’s why these tactics are the best: As you might know, getting great rankings takes time—it’s a long-term goal. But with most of the tactics in this post, you can get links that send you traffic right away. Always try to get links that will not only help your search authority but will also send you traffic that can be turned into subscribers.
1. Steal your competitors’ links
If you publish top-notch stuff for a while, you’ll get a few natural backlinks here and there.
When you see those links, you’ll think to yourself: “I wish I knew sooner that I could get a link from this site.”
It’s easy to find those obvious link targets, but it’s often hard to find other sites that could link to you. Although the web has about 1 trillion websites, you’ll never hear about most of them.
What this tactic entails is actively monitoring the new backlinks that your close competitors get and then seeing if there’s a way that you can get a similar backlink as well.
Here’s how you do it…
Step 1 – Find close competitors: Notice that I emphasized close. The more similar your sites are when it comes to subjects covered, the more effective this tactic will be.
Why? Imagine you run a blog about conversion rate optimization. Technically, Quick Sprout might be a competitor because I occasionally write about split testing and other optimization tactics.
However, if you monitored Quick Sprout’s new backlinks every day, very few links would be relevant to your site.
Instead, you want to find a really close competitor whose backlinks are very relevant to you and worth trying to get.
To find those blogs, we’ll use Google, but you have to be really specific. Search for “best [specific niche] blogs.” This should bring up a few lists of popular blogs, which is what we want.
For this example blog, we want to find other conversion rate optimization blogs:
Look for lists that are pretty recent; otherwise, you might find that blogs that once had a very specific focus have since become more general authority sites.
After looking through the first few lists, we can identify at least five close competitors. For example:
Write these down somewhere so you don’t forget them.
On the top menu, navigate to: “Inbound links > New”. This will show you the newest backlinks that point to your competitor.
By default, it should show you links from the last seven days, but if your competitor gets a ton of links on a regular basis, you may want to do this daily. Besides, free plans can show you only a few results at a time, so checking every day will let you see more of the backlinks.
Next, start visiting the sites that provide the backlinks. Just click on the blue URL:
Find the link on the page, and figure out why the author included it:
In this case, it’s a quote by a Crazy Egg blog author about using the Buzz Sumo tool to find new content ideas.
You’ll need to repeat this for each link in the report, and then do the same thing for each competitor.
Step 3 – Find a way to get those links: This is where you’ll need to practice because it’s not easy to figure out how you can get a similar link.
In this case, I can reasonably assume that if the author is using a quote there, it means that coming up with popular content ideas isn’t her area of expertise.
From here, there are a few ways that I could approach it:
- Pitch a guest post on that topic (e.g., “X Ways to Come Up With Content Ideas That Are Guaranteed Winners”).
- Introduce myself as a conversion rate expert and offer to provide a quote about content ideation or any other relevant topic in the future.
- Come up with a clever spin on using Buzz Sumo for content ideas and send it to the author so that she can quote it and include a link to my site. Additionally, I could write a short tutorial on it that she could just link to.
Every link is different, and there are different ways to approach it.
In general, you need to figure out why the author linked to your competitor’s piece: what value did your competitor provide to the linker?
Figure that out, and then try to provide value in a similar way. It won’t always pay off, but if you get really good at this, you can have upwards of a 10% success rate.
Step 4 – Monitor in the future: This is a never-ending tactic, which is a great thing. If you can get just one or two links doing this an hour or two a day, you’ll have 360-720 really high quality links in a year. If you get this many, you will be getting some significant search traffic.
2. Stand out among the crowd with the Skyscraper Technique
I mention Brian Dean and his site Backlinko all the time. He’s best known for his Skyscraper Technique.
He’s written quite a few case studies of his readers getting great results from it. One reader got several backlinks along with 36,282 visitors and 1,000 subscribers. Another reader was able to drive 17,584 unique visitors to a brand new website in one day.
The basic idea is to create the best piece of content by far for a particular subject. Then, reach out to people who have linked to inferior content and ask them to add a link to yours.
Here’s how it works…
Step 1 – Pick a keyword and research the SERPs: First and foremost, this technique is for you to get some high authority links. The traffic is just a bonus.
In order for this to work well, you need to pick a keyword with a decent search volume (at least 1,000 searches per month). You’ll see why this is important soon.
You’re free to use any keyword research tool you’d like, but I’ll use the Adwords Keyword Planner for this example. Start by searching for your main niche:
You’ll get a list of relevant keywords. Next, filter out any results with fewer than 1,000 searches per month:
Now that we have a list of keywords with a decent search volume, we can look for a good keyword to target with our content.
This isn’t the greatest list. Some keywords are too general (e.g., “search engine optimization”), while others are too specific (e.g., for a certain product).
One possibility is “search engine optimization tips.” This is related to conversion optimization but only loosely. So I would keep trying other search terms in the tool to find a better keyword.
Next, I inserted “split testing” into the tool and found that “AB testing” had 4,400 searches per month. That’s a good keyword to target.
Next, go to Google (in incognito or private browsing), and search for your keyword. Start looking through the results to see what you’re up against:
Don’t get put off if you see content from extremely authoritative domains ranking highly. Remember, the goal of this technique is to get backlinks. You may rank for your target term, but you may not. You can still get traffic and rankings for long-tail searches, and the links will help your other content as well.
Step 2 – Create the best piece of content ever: There are many ways to improve content. You can make it longer, more in-depth, more trusted, better looking, or improve some other aspect of it.
It’s important that you improve upon the content in the first few search results not by a bit, but by a lot.
You want to be able to reach out to site owners and say that linking to your guide will improve their articles or resource pages a lot.
Here are some great guides to producing exceptional content:
- The Neil Patel Method To Getting Great Blog Content
- 22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue [Infographic]
- How To Create Better Content For Your Customers
- The Nine Ingredients That Make Great Content
Step 3 – Use email outreach to “steal” links: Once you have your content, it’s time for an email outreach campaign. You can do this yourself or hire a virtual assistant to do it for you.
First, you need a list of competitors. Use Scrapebox or this online tool to scrape the Google results for your target keyword:
Copy the results into a spreadsheet. Next, you’ll have to run the URLs through Ahrefs or Majestic. Then remove those that have fewer than five links.
Once you do that, you’ll have to get the full backlink profile of each URL:
Export the list of backlinks, and add a new sheet for each URL’s backlink profile.
Finally, you need to visit each of these pages that link to your competitors’ pages, and send them an email asking them to include a link to your page. Brian has outreach templates you can use.
As you can see, this is not an easy technique. It will take at least 20-30 hours of work. However, you should be able to get a good level of traffic and, more importantly, 20+ great backlinks.
3. Truly remarkable infographics still awe audiences
Using infographics to get backlinks is a strategy that has been around for years. It was one of the main strategies I used to build both the KISSmetrics and Quick Sprout blogs.
However, as more and more people recognized the potential of infographics, the results started to diminish. I still think they are a valuable tactic even if they aren’t as effective as they used to be.
Since 2012, my infographics have driven over 21,000 visitors and over 370 backlinks from 34 unique linking domains.
If you pay a designer to create your infographic (which I recommend), it will cost you somewhere from $250 to $595 per infographic, depending on the designer and the size of infographic. This works out to $7.3-17.5 per linking root domain (about a tenth of that per backlink).
Here is my complete guide to creating a popular infographic.
In addition to the sites in that guide that you can submit your infographic to, here is a list of another 20 (some duplicates).
Start with what’s in that guide, but there’s one promotional tactic you can use to take your efforts even further.
The basic idea is to find infographics that your competitors have made in the past and see who republished them and linked to them.
Google “[competitor] + infographic”:
Alternatively, you can perform the search in Google images.
You will see that the infographics are either:
- shared by your competitor (someone else’s infographic) or
- created by your comptetitor.
For the most part, just ignore the first one unless it’s highly relevant to your niche. If it is, record the original URL of the infographic.
Keep going through the results until you have a giant list of infographic URLs that are highly relevant to your blog. Then, repeat it for each competitor.
Afterwards, plug your URL into a backlink analysis tool, and inspect the backlinks:
Vsit all the URLs that are linking to the infographic’s page:
On each website, try to find a contact email. It’s likely that if a site has shared a conversion optimization infographic in the past, it will do it again in the future.
Email the contact person with the template from my guide (or your own), asking them to take a look at your infographic. Remember, if you leave a few comments on that site or share a few of its posts first, your odds of success will be higher.
4. Strap on a mic and get interviewed
Speaking is not for everyone—I get that. But if you’re comfortable being interviewed on a podcast, you can get some solid links that cost nothing other than your time.
If you have a great reputation in your niche already, you probably get podcast interview requests fairly often.
But if you don’t have that level of popularity yet, don’t worry—it can still be done. The only difference is that it will take some extra effort on your part.
Instead of targeting really popular podcasts, we’re going to target podcasts of a low-medium popularity. They have a much harder time getting good guests, and if they’re new, there’s a good chance that they will grow as they continue the show. This could lead to a win-win relationship with the podcaster.
At this point you might be thinking: “How does this get me links?”
When a podcaster does a show, they almost always have a website where they post show notes. They post links to the resources mentioned in the episode. You can send 4-5 links to the content on your site to the podcaster after the interview, and almost all of them will be happy to add them to the show notes.
Step 1 – Search for general niche terms: Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a really good podcast search engine.
Until there is one, you can either go straight to iTunes or use Podbay.fm.
Search for any niche where you think you would be a valuable guest. For example, I would search for “marketing,” “SEO,” “entrepreneur,” “business,” etc.
You’ll get a list of podcasts that are focused on that topic:
Step 2 – Identify suitable targets: This is the problem with not having a better search engine. There’s no way for you to easily find a suitable podcast.
Instead, you will have to record the name of each show from each search result in a spreadsheet. Yes, I know, this is tedious, so outsource it to a virtual assistant if you don’t want to do it yourself.
When you “view” a podcast on podcast.fm, you can click on “Stats” to find out the podcast’s popularity.
Create a column in your spreadsheet for the “TrueRank” of each podcast:
The rank is a measure of how popular a show is, where lower is better.
Step 3 – Work your way up: Unless you’re well-known elsewhere, you can’t start with the most popular podcasts.
Order your spreadsheet by the podcasts’ rankings: from the highest TrueRank (the least popular) to the lowest (the most popular). Target the first 5-10 least popular shows before moving to the next ones.
If you really want to boost your chances of a successful pitch, leave a 5-star review for the show on iTunes. The podcaster will greatly appreciate it.
Then, find their email from their website, and send them a pitch like this:
Subject: (Name of podcast)
I freaking love your podcast! I only discovered it yesterday and wish I did sooner. Not sure why you guys aren’t ranked higher in iTunes.
Anyways, I left you a glowing 5 star review, so hopefully that will help you get a little more exposure.
I actually gave podcasting a go before, and it was a blast, but decided to pursue other business opportunities.
I’m not sure if you’re looking for guests for the show, but I’d love to come on for an episode if you are.
I’m a [profession or business description]. For your show, I think we could have a great discussion about [related topic]. In particular, we could talk about how I [past impressive achievement].
Keep up the great work!
In order to write your pitch well, you will have to give the show a quick listen. See if they have standardized questions as well as what topics they prefer to talk about (although you can usually see those from titles/descriptions).
Once you’ve done a few shows, move on to the next set of shows. Do the same pitch, but add a line in the middle of the email that says: “I’ve recently done interviews on (Podcast #1), (Podcast #2), and (Podcast #3).”
Although this is time consuming, and part of a long-term strategy, it can pay off with some solid links and an opportunity to connect with influencers in your niche.
5. Actively target link roundups for links and authority
Link roundups are an underused source of links at the moment.
I’ll show you how to find roundups in your niche and get included in them.
In case you’re not familiar with link roundups, let me explain. They are a collection of links of the best new resources in a niche. Typically, the creators of these roundups publish them once a week or once a month on their blogs.
They are used in almost every niche, which makes this an incredibly versatile and useful tactic.
Here’s how you do it…
Step 1 – Find link roundups: To find roundups, search Google for:
“intitle:roundup” + [your niche]
You should be able to find at least a dozen within the first five pages or so of the results. The best ones are weekly and monthly roundups, which could lead to ongoing links if you develop a relationship with the creator.
In this case, I used content marketing as a pretty specific niche. But you could also look for general “internet marketing” roundups or for related roundups in SEO or inbound marketing. As long as you think the roundup will contain links to articles in your niche, it’s fine.
There’s no limit to how many you can record on a spreadsheet: the more the better. Ideally, get at least 15-20. Some niches will have more than others.
Step 2 – Establish contact with the authors: Roundup creators spend a lot of time finding good resources to include. If you can bring them good content (yours), it’s a win-win.
Cold emails can be fairly effective, but you can take your results to the next level by establishing content first.
The problem with cold emails, even in a win-win situation, is that the roundup creator will assume that you’re doing this just to get a link. That means you probably don’t care about their roundup much or its level of quality. Some won’t mind, but some will.
The alternative plan is to comment on a few roundups (new ones), share the roundups and other content, and then ask for yours to be included.
Remember why roundup authors create roundups:
- to get social shares
- to attract backlinks
- to attract engagement (comments)
- to begin relationships
Monitor the list of roundups you have over the next month, and make sure to comment on the next one. Also share it on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever social platform is most appropriate, and make sure to tag the creators in it.
Step 3 – Reach out: Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, you can finally reach out and ask to be included. In many cases, once you comment on and share previous roundups, the creators will check out your website and even include some of your posts.
Either way, here’s a template you can use if you need to reach out:
Subject: Weekly roundup on [site]
I stumbled across your weekly roundups a short while ago and love how much effort you put into including only the best posts of the week. I know that must take a ton of time.
I hope it’s not too forward, but I just published an epic post that I think would be great for a future roundup. It’s a [length] word guide on [topic] that is incredibly detailed and actionable.
Can I send you a link to the post?
If the person you are emailing says yes, just send your link. If you don’t get a response after a week or so, send a quick follow-up email with a similar message.
Since you’ve commented and shared past roundups, the creator will likely know that you’re willing to help out if you get included, which will improve your chances of a positive response.
Once you do get included in a roundup, make sure to leave a comment on it and share it wherever possible. Then, send another email like this:
Subject: Just wanted to say thanks
I really appreciate being included in your roundup this (week/month). I’m a little biased, but I think it’s one of your best yet ;).
If there’s anything you need help with, just shoot me an email. I’ve checked out the rest of your work, and I love it. If you ever need a link/share, I’d happy to help.
The final piece of the puzzle is to wait a while (at least 2-3) roundups, and then ask them to include your next epic piece of content. You will have a very high success rate this time.
Since you can’t constantly pester one person, it’s good to find as many roundups as possible so that you can get a continuous stream of links.
6. Create a useful tool for your community
When we talk about content, we usually talk about text, audio, or video.
But I think you can consider a tool a type of content as well.
I’m talking about a tool that your readers and colleagues can use: something like Quick Sprout (big) or something like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer (small). Either way, you can get some great links that work out to $2-20/link once you factor in the cost of the tool, which is fantastic.
Option #1 – Create a small tool: You take on much less risk with a small tool. If you spend a few hundred dollars and for some reason it doesn’t do well, it’s not too big of a deal. If you spend thousands, then it starts to matter a lot.
Here are some examples of tools:
- Keywordtool.io: A keyword research tool. Estimated cost – $4,800. Linking root domains – 2,400. Cost per linking root domain: $2.00
- FaqFox: A simple market research tool. Estimated cost – $200. Linking root domains – 83.00 Cost per linking root domain: $2.41
- The Content Ideator: A content ideation tool. Estimated cost – $2,400. Cost per linking root domain: $20.69
Depending on the tool you pick, you have some wiggle room in the price. I can think of many tools that could be made for just a few hundred dollars.
The main reasons you would create a small tool is to get backlinks and traffic.
Option #2 – Create a powerful tool: Alternatively, if you see the opportunity to solve a big problem with a tool, you can take it. That’s what I did with the Quick Sprout website analyzer.
I’ve previously blogged about the cost and return on an investment like that. It cost over $45,000 at first to build (~$100,000 for the final version), but I figure that it brings in about $60,000 per month.
The exact URL for the tool has 625 referring domains (and the number will only grow). This works out to $160 per linking root domain. That’s about what you pay per link when you hire an SEO agency. The difference is that this tool brings in a ton of business on a regular basis.
If you decide to create a powerful tool like this, the links can be part of the reason, but the primary objective should be to build your business (feed it leads).
I highly recommend making a free and a paid version of your tool. Not doing so was one of the biggest mistakes I made with Crazy Egg.
7. Make authoritative businesses love you with detailed reviews and testimonials
Do you know what the #1 objective of most businesses is?
It’s to make money.
If you can help them do that, they will love you.
Here’s what you do: Make a list of all the products you use to run your blog or business that you genuinely like.
Then, fill in the blanks in this sentence:
“(Product name) has helped my business (achievement).”
This is what businesses are looking for. They want to show testimonials and case studies from businesses who have actually accomplished something with their product.
Then, get in touch with the company (marketing director if possible) and offer to provide a testimonial. Include that sentence from above. You need to show that you have some data to back up your claims.
Additionally, offer any other data you have, or offer to do a video review as well.
If you have something to offer, there’s a good chance you can get a solid link from an authoritative domain such as this:
Not all companies have a testimonial page. You can still offer to give one—they can use it in blog posts or on various sales pages. Just mention that you’d appreciate a link with it when it makes sense.
8. Guest blogging isn’t what it used to be…
Guest blogging for SEO has been all the rage for a few years up until a little while ago when Matt Cutts declared that guest blogging was dead.
That’s an exaggeration, but I think the way that many people guest-posted is indeed dead.
If you’re just posting on low traffic low authority blogs that are desperate for content, the ones you’ll find on services such as MyBlogGuest, you are not going to accomplish much.
Instead, you need to focus on getting guest opportunities on leading authority sites in your general niche.
First, however, you need to realize that this isn’t all about SEO. If you’re putting all the work into getting an opportunity and creating great content for a guest post, the one or two links you get is not enough to justify the effort.
The main benefit you get is traffic and increased exposure/authority from appearing on a leading blog.
I’ve written many times about how to do guest-posting effectively:
- Guest-Posting on Steroids: A 4-Step Blueprint That the Top Guest Posters Use
- How to Find the Best Places to Guest Blog
- Advanced Guest Posting
- 7 Lessons Learned from Publishing 300 Guest Posts
The final tip I’d like to give you on how to improve your guest-posting from a link-building perspective is this: contextual links (links in the article) get more value than links in a bio box.
Most site owners won’t be happy if you stuff your guest post with links to your site. However, it’s usually fine to add one or two—when appropriate—in the article text itself as long as you are including links to other authoritative sources as well.
Link building is still a vital part of SEO and site growth. You shouldn’t spend all your time on building links, but you should be spending a large chunk of it on a regular basis.
In 2015, effective link building tactics revolve around creating exceptional content and then getting people with access to high authority sites to see it.
It’s up to you to decide which of these tactics you’d like to focus on. It’s a good thing to have a diverse link profile, which means that you should try at least a few of these tactics.
If you have any questions about the tactics I’ve given you here or have experience with any of them, please leave a comment below.