Link building is one of the most critical components of a successful SEO strategy. If you want to grow your web traffic in 2021, high-quality links are a necessity.
The thing is, there are hundreds of different ways to build links. With so many options at your disposal, how do you decipher which strategies work best?
As a link building agency, we’ve tried them all and know which tactics are most effective. So instead of bombarding you with a master list, we’ll share the top 5 link building strategies that work for us in 2021.
1. Relationship Building / Value Exchanges
Out of all the link building tactics, this is probably the most powerful one. Just as professional relationships will help you in your career, leveraging your relationships can net you some high-authority backlinks.
No matter what niche you’re in, thought leaders are always within reaching distance. Naturally, a link from these thought leaders will carry a large amount of authority, and this makes the link incredibly powerful.
Of course, asking for a link without offering anything in return probably won’t get you too far. In fact, it’s probably best to avoid asking for a link at all. If that sounds counterintuitive, let us explain.
The best way to approach relationship building is with a “give first” mindset. Once you’re in contact with an influential figure, you should look for ways to offer value to that person. Perhaps it’s participating in their conversations on social media. Maybe it’s a link to one of their resources on your own blog. Whatever it is, your goal is to help that person out.
Once you give something away, the recipient will (hopefully) return the favor. This is called the Rule of Reciprocity, and it works surprisingly well.
Just to be clear: this is not an opportunity to exploit the kindness of other people. Some of these interactions might not end in a backlink, and that’s okay. When it does work, though, it will manifest as a huge win for your domain’s rankings.
As an SEO agency, about 90% of our link building comes from this tactic. Having been in the business for several years, we’ve already built these cooperative relationships with hundreds of authorities—and that’s what makes our efforts so efficient.
Chances are, you already have these types of relationships, too. Consider these people your first opportunities, and start working on new ones as you go. All you have to do is reach out and offer them something. Later on, you can mention a new resource they might be interested in citing—it’s a win-win.
2. Guest Posting 2.0
By now, you’ve most likely heard of guest posting as a link building tactic.
The premise is simple:
- You reach out to a blogger in your niche;
- You pitch them an idea for an article;
- You write the article (with a link to yourself);
- They publish it.
This approach has been around for quite a while now, but most SEOs are doing it wrong.
See, the old way to pitch guest posts was to perform a Google search with one of the following search operators:
[topic] intitle:”write for us”[topic] intitle:”write for me”[topic] intitle:”contribute”[topic] intitle:”submit” + inurl:blog[topic] “submit a guest post”
As tedious as it was, this method really helped boost search rankings in the past. However, the sad truth is that the efficacy of this tactic is nearly dead.
Because every SEO in town has been employing this method to build links, the websites that show up in these searches get blown up with new requests every day. In addition, the posts on these sites are usually not great in terms of quality, and Google has noticed.
So even if you do manage to catch the webmaster’s attention, the link you gain from this type of approach won’t be worth your time.
Instead of using this outdated approach, we prefer the updated version of guest posting – the version that still works for SEO.
Here it is: don’t look for websites that are advertising their guest post opportunities. Instead, just look for authoritative websites and pitch your ideas to them. If your idea is good enough, your prospects are likely to bite.
There are many tools that you can use to find relevant websites. Personally, we like Ahrefs’ Content Explorer. Buzzsumo is a great option as well.
3. Broken Link Building
In theory, broken link building is one of the simplest link building tactics out there, and it works really well—if you approach it correctly, that is.
Broken link building involves three steps:
- Find a broken link on someone else’s website;
- Find (or create) a comparable resource that the author can use as a replacement;
- Reach out to anyone using the broken link, mentioning your live resource.
While this may sound easy enough, it does not always go according to plan. The second step of this process is where most people go horribly wrong. You must be sure that the resource you’re suggesting is relevant to the broken resource. If you don’t, most of your prospects will likely ignore you.
Let’s see this concept in action.
To begin, we ran Neil Patel’s blog through Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool. In the left-hand column, we clicked on “best by links,” and then we changed the filter to only show 404 backlinks.
At the top of this list, you’ll see a post called “The Step by Step Guide to Creating a Money Making Blog in 1 Hour” with 515 referring domains. That’s a lot of link juice!
When we click that link, it returns a “404: Page not found” error.
By running that link through a free tool called the Wayback Machine, we found an old, archived version of this post.
Now that we know what this webpage contained, we can create our own version and build on the subject ourselves. It’s important to note that this will only work if you create a replacement resource, rather than a plagiarized copy of Neil Patel’s post.
Once we’ve created this page on our website, we can reach out to those 515 websites that are linking to the dead resource. Since an outbound 404 link is bad for SEO, we’re betting that those webmasters would like to know about it—and to make things even better for them, we’ll point them to our awesome replacement!
We probably won’t get all 515 referring domains from this one broken link, but there’s a good chance that we can snag a few. Even if 5% of these websites decide to link to us, that’s 25 new referring domains.
It’s easy to see how this could be a powerful tactic to gain links. It’s important to remember however that this method requires a lot of strategy and care. Cutting corners could lead to a lot of wasted time.
4. Press Mentions
Everyone’s an expert in something, and chances are, you have the capability to speak on at least one topic with sincere authority. Did you know that you can leverage that authority to build links?
As it turns out, getting interviewed on news sites, blogs, and podcasts doesn’t just generate more awareness for your brand; it’s also a phenomenal way to build natural, credible backlinks.
This method steps into the domain of PR, and we usually stick to what we’re best at. So while we don’t often employ this tactic for our clients, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself.
One of the easiest ways to score media coverage is by responding to journalist inquiries. Many third-party services like HARO connect thousands of journalists to sources every day. You can sign up as a source for free and they’ll send you an email each day with a list of inquiries. If you see one you can answer, craft your response!
It’s worth mentioning that this tactic will likely be a bit tedious, as you’re competing with many other qualified experts. Timeliness is key in our experience, and it’s also important to provide the best response you can. As you continue to pitch, you’ll get better results and more links.
5. Link Reclamation
So far, we’ve covered four tactics to build new links to your domain. This strategy is a little different. Link reclamation focuses on links that you’ve already gained.
Check out this graph of our new and lost referring domains over the last 30 days:
It looks like we’ve lost about 20 referring domains in the past month. Luckily, our new links outnumber the lost ones—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to reclaim those links that we’ve lost. This is often much easier, as those webmasters already know who we are.
You can lose links for a lot of reasons, but the two most common ones are:
- The page was updated, or;
- The page was removed.
You can see what happened in the lost backlinks report within Ahrefs:
If the page still exists but your link was removed (like in the screenshot above), we can reach out and suggest a more appropriate spot for the link.
If the page was removed and returns an error, we can reach out and ask why the page was taken down. Sometimes, pages get taken down by mistake. If this is the case, we can get the page—along with our link—back up, just by asking nicely.
If you’d like to learn more about this method, we recommend this awesome guide from Ahrefs.
Bonus: Spying on Competitors for HUGE Opportunities
Though you can achieve success with our top 5 strategies, we wanted to share one more tip that will take your link building to the next level.
This powerful technique will not only help you get more backlinks from industry-relevant sites but will also point you to those opportunities quicker.
Want to know how? It’s time to get crafty.
To begin, make a list of your top competitors in Google. Pay special attention to the pages that are ranking on the first page.
As you already know, having a lot of high-quality backlinks is a huge ranking factor. With this in mind, it’s natural to assume that your top competitors have already built relevant links to their websites.
Armed with this knowledge, we can use a third-party tool to spy on your competitors and steal their best links.
It’s quite easy to see your competitors’ backlinks. We use Ahrefs to do this, but you could also opt for a free tool like Open Link Profiler which will allow you to see up to 100 competitor links.
Once you’ve compiled a list of your competitors’ backlinks, it’s time to analyze the strategy that your competitor used to obtain each one. This might take some time to do, but your findings will advise your approach and save resources in the long-run.
Once you’ve done this, it’s time to earn backlinks from as many of these sites as you can. This strategy is effective for a simple reason: if they linked to one of your competitors, there’s a good chance that they’ll link to you, too.
Now that you’ve peered into our methods as a prestigious link building agency, it’s time to earn some links of your own. So get out there!
Need some help? Consider hiring the pros. At Sure Oak, we build links to help our clients rank on the first page of Google, and we can help you too.
If you’re ready to get started, schedule a free strategy call with us today.