Welcome to Part 2 of our blog series on backlinks. If you read our last post in the series, thanks for sticking it out to part 2. And if you’re just joining us, that’s cool too—hopefully, you’re okay with useful insights, sassy commentary, and lots of GIFs.
Well, let’s pick up where we left off.
Like we said before, this series is a comprehensive guide to all things backlinks. Its purpose is to help you understand all the ins and outs of backlinks and offer up solutions to some of the woes marketers face in link building today.
In our last Backlinks 101 blog, we covered the “what” and “why” of link building—what are backlinks, and why do they matter to your strategy.
In this post, we’ll go beyond that and move on to the vastly important topic of “how.”
How do you get those coveted, full-of-link-juice, extremely valuable, ever awesome, organic backlinks?
We’ve compiled the tactics that have proven most beneficial to us, plus a few extras that we think are worth mentioning.
That’s not to say this post will list every possible way you can get a backlink. It also avoids the really obvious ways— there are a thousand other blog posts you can find on those with a quick Google search.
We’re going to talk about backlinking techniques that stand out, and make SEO “experts” say “Huh, really?” when they read them.
Maybe we’re a little biased, but this post proves itself very valuable if you read it start to finish. However it’s another long one, so if you really feel like skipping around, that’s okay.
Some things we’re going to cover:
- Offer a Value Added Asset or Free Tool
- Take Your Shot at Guest Posting
- Interview and Quote Thought Leaders
- Go For Gold with .edu and .gov Links
- Try “The Front Page of the Internet”
- Get Included in Lists/Roundups
- A Few Bonus Tactics
One Quick Thing Before We Start…
This was covered in the first part of this series, but it’s worth mentioning again (and again, and again).
DON’T BUY BACKLINKS.
Any service that says it can get you backlinks for a fee, even one that claims to provide, good quality links, or ones that Google won’t catch, is generally a bad idea.
Google basically knows everything. And if they see your site showing up on shady websites crowded with backlinks, surrounded by links and content that have nothing to do with your business, Google will punish you.
And this doesn’t mean just a slap on the wrist— if Google finds out you’ve bought backlinks in any way, your site can be severely penalized in SEO rankings, and even potentially blacklisted—that means you’ll never see good search rankings ever again.
So just don’t do it. It’s not worth it.
Okay, now that we’ve covered that, let’s get into the good stuff.
We want to start here because this tactic is perhaps the most valuable for both getting organic backlinks and for making an impact for others in your field.
The options for formatting content in a creative and share-worthy way are vast, but here are a few that we tend to favor.
Creating content in a format that is useful, easy to digest, and heavily shareable is a great way to ensure a lot of backlinks. The most common kinds of content like this used in marketing (that you’re probably already creating) are infographics.
Here’s a prime example we created–we have a helpful, frequently updated, really fun to scroll through interactive Account-Based Marketing infographic. As you can see, infographics offer readers the same information that a lengthy blog or how-to guide provides, but in a much more concise and visual way.
After you’ve created your infographic (and ensured you’ve branded it in some way), share the hell out of it. Post in forums, on your social media, send it to your email list— whatever you can do to get it in front of people.
If your infographic really provides industry-relevant value, people will have no problem sharing it and giving you lots of backlinks.
When blog writers link to external sites, one of the most common things they’re linking to is the source for some statistic or data point. So creating a post made entirely of statistics on your specialized subject seems like a no-brainer.
If you research relevant stats in your niche, specifically the kind that industry bloggers seem to rely on, you can create an entire post around the numbers. The bulk of the work for this is in your research. The content itself requires very little actual writing.
Make sure your title and statistics are optimized for SEO to ensure your answers come up when writers are searching.
This is also a great opportunity to introduce graphic visualizations of stats that are (as I mentioned above re: infographics) very easy to share, and therefore more likely to be shared.
This one requires a little more work on your end and is probably pretty company-specific as far as relevance goes (we doubt anyone would take a quiz called “What Type of Orthodontist Are You?).
But hey, think about how often you see a Buzzfeed quiz shared on social media. What if that quiz link was to your site instead?
Alright, fine. So the chances of getting shared as much as Buzzfeed are probably slim. A fun quiz that gives your readers some kind of valuable outcome is still useful, though. And it could lead to a lot of sharing within your niche, which means a good amount of backlinks.
Just make sure that any quiz you make is relevant to your product or service, isn’t a sales pitch, and that the title isn’t too clickbait-y.
One last way to give site visitors value, and give your site the opportunity for a lot of links, is to create a free tool.
Again, make sure the tool is industry-relevant: don’t offer a website security checker if you sell medical equipment, for example. But if you specialize in search marketing, like the team at Screaming Frog, then making a free website crawler like their SEO Spider Tool might be a good idea.
While this is probably the most intense kind of value-added content you can make, it could also prove to be the most useful for you. Again, looking at Screaming Frog, that tool is now one of their largest marketing tactics for their services, gets linked to in almost every “best SEO tools” post out there, and they offer a paid version of it as well, which never hurts.
Just saying—this could be well worth your efforts in the end.
But if you’re short on time, any of the other options listed here are great ways to create backlinks. They also offer you opportunities for downloadable content, which can add to your email list for later ABM campaigns.
Okay, we know we said we weren’t going to mention the well-known and over-played ways to get backlinks. And yes, guest posting definitely falls under that category.
But hear us out.
Everyone already knows about guest posting on industry blogs—you search “YOUR INDUSTRY + guest posting,” find one you can write for, submit the blog, and so on.
What we’re describing here is guest posting, but thinking much further outside of the box when you do it.
Let’s say you’re a full-service digital marketing agency. Don’t just find any marketing blog that allows submissions. Find guest posting opportunities on sites way out of the marketing industry scope.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking creatively:
Your local Chamber of Commerce – This is especially relevant for smaller companies with a local attachment. Join your chamber if you’re not already a member, and check out their blog. Chances are, your writing expertise and business acumen would be well received by the Chamber and all of its readers.
Your Alma Mater’s Blog Page – If you went to a college that has a blog (and really, who doesn’t have a blog these days?), offer your wise, alumni advice to the future members of your industry. Reach out and see if you can do a guest post on what you’ve learned since graduation or something nostalgic and deep like that. This also could provide you with a highly coveted .edu backlink, which you can read more about later on in this post.
Your Favorite Online Tool – Maybe the marketing industry is unique in this way, but it seems like for almost any task you could want to accomplish, there is a tool online that could help you do so. If there’s one you’re particularly fond of, see if you could guest blog about your experience using their tool. It’s a win-win, since it gives them different content and a product review, and gives you a backlink.
An Industry Blog In a Completely Different Industry – If your business specializes in something like marketing, advertising, branding, or any number of services, chances are it isn’t just fellow-industry members who could use your expertise. Find a website on something like insurance (if you know B2B), or retail (if you know B2C). Offer to guest blog for them and share your advice and expertise on how your services work in their industry. You’ll get your backlink, and you may even get a few leads from this tactic.
The point here is that guest posting extends far beyond the corners of your regular industry blogs. Think about your audience’s audience, and what kind of content they could really benefit from.
Chances are, your content will really stand out on these pages. And if you get creative enough, you won’t have much in the way of competition for posting.
Alright, moving our focus back to your own blog…
One pretty straightforward way to gather backlinks is by getting thought leaders in your industry to link out to your website.
So how do you do that?
Well, fluffing their ego never hurts.
The next time you’re looking for a blog idea, consider interviewing someone considered an expert in your field. Reach out with a little about your business, the ideas behind the specific post, and how you think his person can help.
Let’s face it, getting asked for an “expert opinion” in their career space would make anyone feel good. Just make sure you’re not asking this from your competitors—find someone with a business in your space that compliments yours.
If you’re more pressed for time or think a whole interview is too much to ask, see if you can get a comment to quote. This is more short-form but can accomplish the same goal in the end.
After you’ve published your piece and given this person the credit they’re due, reach out again and let them know your post is live. Send them the link, and there’s a good chance they’ll share it somewhere.
This might only be a shout out on their social media, but maybe they’ll like your piece enough to go beyond that and link it on their site.
It also never hurts to establish a business relationship with someone in your field. You never know when knowing the right person could be extremely beneficial.
4. Go For Gold With .edu and .gov Links
Let’s start by going over why .gov and .edu links are so valuable.
Domain authority and subsequent link juice work in the “supply/demand” kind of way. The more difficult it is to get a certain domain, generally the higher the domain authority, which means the more link juice a backlink from that site provides.
That is seen directly in action when you look at backlinks for .gov and .edu sites.
As Neil Patel put it, “In the SEO world, .gov links are the Holy Grail. To gain a backlink or mention from a .gov website is like finding El Dorado, buried treasure, or the fountain of youth.”
The .gov domain is probably the hardest to obtain and is only available for organizations that are directly government-based at a federal, state, or local level. Sites also cannot have any non-government advertisements or be related to political campaigns in any way. Additionally, one must register and be approved before receiving a .gov domain, and continue to follow guidelines for maintenance, or risk losing it.
Basically, it’s not like just anyone can go out and get a government website. To put it in perspective, in 2014 there were over 8 million total websites that existed on the internet. Of those, less than 6,000 of them were .gov domains–that’s only .075% of total sites.
So again, since requirements to get them are so high, their domain authority is usually also very high. Backlinks from them are extremely valuable.
Similarly, .edu sites are only available for accredited “degree-granting institutions of higher learning,” which mostly just means colleges and universities.
You get it by now—strict requirements, high domain authority, lots of link juice.
Maybe you’re thinking “Okay great, they’re good backlinks. But how do I get them?”
Don’t worry, that part comes next.
Getting .gov Backlinks
Obviously, since these websites are so highly regulated and well, important, they’re not exceedingly easy to get backlinks on. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
One way is to look into your local government’s website, either on a state or city level. See if they have any sort of business development organizations—maybe something about startups, the local economy, or employment.
Reach out and see if your website can be included somewhere in this; a resource, a contact, or to a piece of relevant content you’ve posted, perhaps.
Another idea is to look for forums within government sites, again more specifically within your local government. While local government forums may not be highly populated, posting on one frequently could eventually create opportunities for connections, backlinks, and potential leads.
Getting .edu Backlinks
We already covered one potential way to get an .edu backlink in the section about guest posting. Incidentally, the segment on interviewing industry leaders is relevant here as well.
Try interviewing or getting a quote from a professor at a local college, or one that specializes in your field. Follow the same process as above. Be sure to send the published article to them afterward.
It’s possible that professor has or knows of a page on their college’s website that would allow them to link your blog, which could provide you a fairly easy .edu link.
Or if you’ve got a little money to spend and/or like helping out future members of your industry, another option is to offer an industry-specific scholarship.
Scholarships don’t have to be for crazy amounts of money—even $500 or $1,000 is helpful to a student in need. You can also ask students to write a short piece related to your field to enter for the scholarship (you might just get an intern out of it later on).
Reach out to colleges with programs in the field and let them know about your scholarship. Most colleges have pages dedicated to available scholarships and would link to your site when listing.
You get a high-quality backlink, and a student gets closer to their degree. Another win-win.
This tactic is a little more vague than the others and probably will involve some trial and error. But it has potential.
Reddit.com refers to itself as “The Front Page of the Internet” for good reason. It’s a congregate of links, photos, and videos, with millions of users around the world every day.
The site is made up of various sub-reddits or forums on a large variety of topics. Some of our favorite obscure ones are r/comeonandslam (dedicated to the 1996 film “Space Jam), r/grilledcheese (literally just posts about grilled cheese), and r/roombaww (for cute stories involving Roomba vacuums).
So here’s the deal with Reddit backlinks—a link in a post or in a comment on Reddit is automatically a “no-follow” link, which is more or less useless in link building.
However, there’s an exception that allows the link to change to a “do-follow” if the comment with the link gets enough upvotes (or people virtually saying “I like this”).
How many? No idea, Reddit won’t tell us. Based on our extensive research, some say it’s around 15. But others say it actually depends on the sub-reddit and how many subscribers it has.
Really, the key is just getting as many upvotes as you can.
To do that, we recommend a few things; first, find a community (sub-reddit) that’s relevant to you. Relevance is the ever-repeating theme in link building. If your content isn’t relevant, it’s probably not going to work.
So find your community, and really become a part of it—post, comment, upvote, comment more. Be active in it. Then when you post your (back)links, members of your community are more likely to upvote your post. This means more of those “do-follow” links and tasty link juice.
This is another way to get backlinks that is more about time and research than anything.
Within every industry, there’s a myriad of “roundups,” listing the “top X best whatever-kind-of-service-or-business-they-decide.” And these roundups have to get their options from somewhere.
Take some time to research industry-relevant lists or roundups. If you find one with a contact option, send them an email. Explain who you are, what your product or service is, and why you’re worth mentioning.
One important note here is to make sure these are actual roundups that provide useful information, not just collections of links. Google doesn’t like pages that are just a long list of links and generally views them as backlink buying (and remember, that’s bad).
If you actually pitch your value to enough of these roundup sites, chances are some of them will post about you, and obviously link to your business in the process.
Alright, so those are the main ideas we wanted to share. As I said, this isn’t a full list of backlink options. That would be way too long, and honestly, no one would even read it.
Before wrapping this up, here are a few more tactics that maybe aren’t tried and true, but are still worth looking into.
Sponsor a WordPress Theme
So many people now use WordPress for website building. There’s a huge variety of options as far as themes go, all built by designers and developers.
Check out the theme library. See if you can sponsor any of them—preferably a well-built one that you actually like the style and function of. This may only require giving them $50, but if they go with it, you could get your site link added to any WordPress members who use that theme. That could mean hundreds of links or even thousands.
Speak at Industry Events
If you’re knowledgeable and somewhat well-known in your industry, try speaking at some events. It can require some effort (unless you have a great speech writer on your staff), but it offers more than one benefit.
First, you’ll make lots of connections. Maybe not all of those will be as valuable as others, but some will probably wind up being meaningful. We’ll say it again—it never hurts to know people.
And second, if you’re speaking at an event, you can probably get yourself listed on the event’s website somewhere. And that means mentioning your business, and website, and a backlink.
Get Mentioned in a Podcast
Starting a podcast is the millennial equivalent of starting a band. There are thousands and thousands of podcasts, all of whom need content and sponsors. Chances are you can find one that will appreciate your time, comments, or sponsorship money. Check out Apple Podcasts, Spotify podcasts, and other pod-dedicated sites and see who you can strike up a conversation with.
8. We Leave You With This
If there’s one thing we hope you’ve learned from this post, it’s that getting high-quality organic backlinks isn’t always easy.
There are no simple shortcuts, no one-step solution, nothing you can just set and forget. Link building takes time and effort. It is a combination of content creation, outreach and connections, research, and constant optimization of your website.
But it’s wildly important. This graph based on a study by backlink.io (you’re welcome for the backlink, by the way) shows the relationship between the number of referring domains (or different backlink providing sites) and Google position.
It’s pretty clear that backlinks matter in SEO. So don’t let them slip between the cracks—give them the time and manpower that they deserve.
If your head is still spinning from all of this, we’d love to help clear things up. We are recognized as a top Massachusetts Web Design Company on DesignRush. We have vast experience in Account-Based Marketing, digital marketing, and much more, and can offer you our knowledge and expertise—just give us a shout.
And make sure you stay tuned for the final installment of Backlinks 101, coming to our blog soon…