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High-Quality Links vs. Low-Quality Links: What’s the Difference?

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High-Quality Links vs. Low-Quality Links: What’s the Difference
We spend a lot of time as SEO professionals going after links.

They are often seen as the most powerful way to rank a site.

But not every link is created equal.

Over time, the search engines have adapted their algorithms to account for links in different ways, narrowing their use for determining the suitability of a webpage as an answer to a search query.

In this post, you will learn what makes a high-quality link, where to find opportunities to build them, and how to evaluate whether a link is worth the budget and effort to get it.

How Do Search Engines Use Links?

Search engines use links pointing to a webpage to both discover its existence and also determine information about it.

Google mentions in its help documentation,

Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote by page A for page B. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”

Bing states in its Webmaster Help and How-To guide,

“Bing prefers to see links built organically. This essentially means the links are built by people linking to your content because they find value in your content. This is an important signal to a search engine because it is seen as a vote of confidence in the content.”

What Is Valuable About a Link?

We know that Google uses links like votes.

A link from a well-regarded website will have more clout than a lesser-regarded website.

Authority

This is often discussed as “authority.”

Many SEO tools will try to assign an authority metric to a website or webpage in an attempt to quantify the value of a link from them.

An authoritative webpage linking to your webpage can be a strong signal that it is itself an authoritative source.

In essence, an authoritative website is one that is considered by the search engines to be a reputable source of information about a subject – an authority in it.

Google will, in part, look at that site’s backlinks to determine its expertise and trustworthiness in a subject.

For instance, a website is considered an expert in interior design. It links to a lesser-known website about interior design.

The website by an expert in interior design is confident enough in the content of the lesser-known site that it’s willing to send its visitors there.

That’s a good, impartial way for the search engines to determine the reputation of a site and its authority on a subject.

Relevance

Authority isn’t everything, however.

Think of it like this… you’re going on holiday to a city you’ve never visited.

Who would you rather ask for restaurant recommendations: your friend who lives in the city, or a tour guide for a city 5 hours away from it?

Your friend who lives in the city is likely more of a relevant source of information on the restaurants in the area than the tour guide who doesn’t serve that area.

You might perceive a tour guide to be more knowledgeable about good restaurants, but not if it’s not their area of expertise.

In a similar way, the search engines will understand the value of a website in your industry linking to your webpage.

A website that reviews restaurants will be considered a more relevant source of information about restaurants than a local community group who had an outing to a restaurant.

Both sites may have a page talking about the “best sushi restaurant in New York,” but the restaurant review website will be more relevant in helping the search engines determine what to serve as an answer for “sushi restaurant in New York.”

Authority & Relevance

The best source of a link is a website that is both considered authoritative and relevant to your website.

What Makes a Link Low-Quality?

If we think of a quality link as one that is both relevant and authoritative, then it makes sense that the lowest quality link is one that is both irrelevant and not authoritative.

These sorts of links are usually easy to come by and can be self-created or requested.

For instance, a website that allows anyone to submit a link is unlikely to have highly curated content that would lend it to being authoritative.

The fact that anyone can add a link to the site means it isn’t likely to be particularly relevant to one industry or niche.

Links to your site from a website like this will be low-quality and generally useless.

At best, these links might have a little positive impact on your search rankings but at worst they could be perceived as part of a manipulative linking scheme.

Google has strict guidelines on what is considered a manipulative link.

You might want to familiarize yourself with Bing and Yandex’s definitions, too.

A Word About Paid Links

We all know by now that paying for links to aid rankings is against the guidelines of most big search engines.

In a best-case scenario, the link won’t be identified as having been paid for and you won’t see a penalty from it.

However, if Google detects that you’ve acquired links from websites that sell links, you may find the webpage it links to penalized.

There are legitimate reasons why links might be placed on websites for a fee.

It’s common practice to utilize banner advertising and affiliate marketing on the internet, for example.

In these instances, Google recommends that webmasters declare the links to be sponsored using the rel=”sponsored” attribute.

This indicates to Googlebots that the link is one that has been paid for and is not to be used for calculating PageRank.

These sorts of links have their own value for marketing and should not be discounted simply because they will not necessarily aid in search rankings.

A Word About NoFollow Links

Before Google introduced the use of the rel=”sponsored” attribute, it and other search engines were using the rel=”nofollow” attribute.

Putting a rel=”nofollow” attribute into the HTML for a link shows the search bots that they shouldn’t go to the destination of that link.

This is used by publishers to stop the search engines from visiting the page and ascribing any benefit of the link.

So, if a high-quality page links to your webpage with a link contain a rel=”nofollow” attribute, you won’t see any ranking benefit of that link.

Google announced recently that this attribute is a hint and therefore it might ignore it.

On the whole, this essentially makes a “nofollow” link useless for SEO link-building purposes as link equity will not pass through the link.

However, if people are following the link and discovering your webpage, I would argue it’s not useless at all!

What Do High-Quality Links Looks Like?

Low-quality links are usually those that are either:

  • Irrelevant in helping the search engines determine your site’s authority on a subject.
  • Or actually harmful.

I’m not addressing link penalties here, or even the sorts of link-building practices that will land you in hot water. For more information on that, see Chuck Price’s article on manual actions.

The low-quality links we’re talking about here are ones that you may well be going after but aren’t benefiting your site.

High-quality links are the Holy Grail of link-building.

They’re the links you show off in your “Team Wins” Slack channel and on Twitter.

They are hard to earn.

I also want to show you some “medium-quality” links.

These are the types of links that are good to get but perhaps won’t move the needle as much as you would like.

They form a part of a healthy backlink profile but aren’t worth your whole content marketing budget to land.

Low Quality: Low Authority/Low Relevance

The sorts of links you are likely to gain that are low-quality and low-relevance are ones that require no real effort to get.

For example, simply sourcing the links and asking for them or, in some cases, adding the link yourself.

Open Directories

These directory sites are very obviously low quality when you visit them. Typically they only offer one service – advertise your website here!

You do not need to pay for a link and everyone and their dog has taken advantage of this.

There will be links from websites in all sorts of industries with very little rhyme or reason as to why this directory exists.

Do note, however, that there are reputable local business directories that can help with verifying your business’s physical address and contact details—Yelp, for instance.

These listings are useful for local citations but are unlikely to really aid in boosting your site’s rankings.

The difference between reputable local directories and generic open directories is quite obvious when you visit them.

Comment Links

Forums ad blogs can be very relevant to a particular industry.

However, due to the ease with which anyone can add content to a forum page or blog comments, any links in that user-generated content are usually discounted by the search engines.

In recent SEO history, blog and forum comments were easy targets for squeezing in a link to a site.

The search engines became wise to this and started devaluing those links.

Alongside the rel=”sponsored” attribute, Google released rel=”ugc”.

This is a way for webmasters to indicate that the links within their forums are user-generated.

Low Quality: Low Effort & No Follow

Social Media Posts

Most large social media sites will use “no follow” tags on them.

However, Google did recently say that “nofollow” tags would be taken as hints rather than concretely respected.

Despite this, social media sites are not the place to go looking for backlinks to help your rankings.

Although social media sites themselves are often authoritative, they are full of uncurated content.

Businesses can set up their own social media pages with links back to their websites. They can talk about their sites in their posts.

These links are not unbiased. Due to this, they are largely ignored by search engines.

Medium Quality: Low Authority but High Relevancy

Small Industry Blogs

Most industries have a proliferation of blogs. Sites run by companies or individuals who want to share their knowledge and build their profile.

There are some highly relevant, niche blogs that might not be well-known enough to be getting their own authority-metric boosting backlinks.

They are, however, full of decent content and very relevant to the website you are trying to grow.

Small industry blog writers are often less over-run with requests to share content and add links than the well-known ones.

They are, however, keen to write and build community.

A smaller blog featuring your site is still a good reinforcement of your relevance to your industry.

This can help enormously with showing your relevance to search topics associated with that industry.

Small Industry Brands

There will be some staple brands in your industry that aren’t necessarily competitors but are tangentially related.

Think of paper manufacturers to your office supply store, for example.

A link from the paper manufacturer showing your store as their distributor can help show your authority in the industry.

Medium Quality: Medium Authority & Medium Low Relevancy

Local News Sites

Your local news site may report on anything to do with your community, or they might be more discerning.

Regardless, doing something considered locally newsworthy can get you featured a lot easier than in a national news website.

These are especially good links to get if you are trying to boost your local SEO efforts.

A link from a website known as a source of reliable local information could help the search engines to see your relevance to that physical area.

High Quality: High Authority but Medium/Low Relevancy

Some sites are extremely authoritative and hard to get a link from. These tend to be beneficial to your SEO efforts.

These sorts of links might not be highly relevant, however.

Although you will see a benefit to your search visibility, it may not help solidify your relevance for particular topics.

National News Sites

There are some national and international newspapers with extremely high authority websites. A link from these sites is worth the effort.

However, journalists are inundated with hundreds of press releases and article ideas every day.

It can be incredibly difficult to get featured, especially with a link.

The best way to get coverage in a national newspaper is to do something newsworthy.

Bringing it to the attention of the site’s journalists might help you get it covered, hopefully with a link back to your site.

High Quality: Medium Authority but High Relevancy

Big Industry Blogs

That website that everyone in the industry goes to for their news; your friends and family may not have heard of it, but your colleagues definitely have.

It’s likely to be a medium authority site according to authority metrics but it’s a leader in your industry.

It’s also very relevant to the website you’re promoting.

A link from a site like this will go a long way in showing your site’s expertise.

High Quality: High Authority & High Relevancy

Big Industry Brands

These are household names; the companies everyone in your industry (and possibly their families) know of.

These links are likely to be medium to high authority according to the tools but definitely leaders in your industry.

If you are linked to as a supplier or distributor, or even just mentioned in a favorable review, you are likely to see the ranking benefit.

Conclusion

A wide and varied link profile is good for SEO.

If you are actively looking to increase links to your site in an organic manner, it’s imperative you know how to generate high-quality links.

Don’t waste your time going for easy links on unrelated and low-quality sites.

Instead, focus your energy and budget on creating truly newsworthy content and bringing it to the attention of authoritative and relevant publishers.

More Resources:

Search Engine Journal

SEO

Link Building for SEO: The Beginner’s Guide

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Link Building for SEO: The Beginner’s Guide

What is link building?

Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to pages on your website. Its purpose is to boost the “authority” of your pages in the eyes of Google so that these pages rank higher and bring more search traffic.

Why is link building important?

According to Google’s Andrey Lipattsev, links are one of the three major ranking factors in Google. So if you want your website’s pages to rank high in search, you will almost certainly need links.

Google and other search engines look at links from other sites as “votes.” These votes help them identify which page on a given topic (out of thousands of similar ones) deserves to rank at the very top of the search results.

Thus, as a general rule, pages with more backlinks tend to rank higher in search results. 

Links aren’t the answer to everything

Links are incredibly important for ranking well. And it is quite rare that you will outrank pages that have a lot of strong links—unless you get just as many. And yet, links aren’t the only factor that Google uses to rank pages.

So if you build lots of links to your page and it still ranks poorly, look into other ranking factors that might prevent you from ranking well.

Conceptually, most link building tactics and strategies fall into one of the following four buckets:

Four buckets of link building strategies

1. Adding links

If you can go to a website that doesn’t belong to you and manually place your link there, that’s called “adding” a link. The most common tactics that fit into this category are:

  • Business directory submissions.
  • Social profile creation.
  • Blog commenting.
  • Posting to forums, communities, and Q&A sites.
  • Creating job search listings.

Building links via those tactics is very easy to do. And for that exact reason, such links tend to have very low value in the eyes of Google. In some cases, they may even be flagged as spam.

Other than that, these kinds of links barely give you any competitive advantage. If you can go to a website and manually place your link there, nothing stops your competitors from doing the same.

However, you shouldn’t ignore this group of link building tactics entirely. Each of them can actually be quite beneficial for your online business for reasons other than SEO.

Let me elaborate with a couple of quick examples:

  • Business directories – If you’re doing SEO for a restaurant website, you should definitely list it in three to five major directory sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Allmenus, Grubhub, etc. Those links won’t be particularly strong ones, but you might get some actual customers from them.
  • Industry forums – If you know some active forums or communities where your target audience is hanging out, you should definitely be active there too. But merely spamming your links without trying to add value to conversations will quickly get you banned from these places.

As you can tell, each of these strategies can be quite meaningful. But if someone offers you to do any of the above at scale (i.e., register your site at a hundred business directories or create a hundred social media profiles)—stay away from that. These kinds of “hacks” are a waste of money at best and might even get your website penalized at worst.

Sidenote.

While looking for more ways to “add” links to other websites, you might come across tactics that mention “web 2.0s” and “bookmarking sites.” Those things used to work some 15 years ago, but you shouldn’t waste your time on them today.

2. Asking for links

As the name suggests, this is when you reach out to the owner of the website you want a link from and give them a compelling reason to link to you.

That “compelling reason” is an absolutely essential success factor. The people you reach out to don’t care about you and your website (unless you’re some sort of celebrity) and, thus, they have zero incentive to promote you or your work.

So before you ask them to link to you, ask yourself: “What’s in it for THEM?”

Here are some of the link building tactics and strategies that fall into this category, along with a briefly defined “compelling reason” that they’re based off:

  • Guest blogging – Create useful content for their website.
  • Skyscraper technique – Show them a better resource than the one they’re linking to.
  • Link inserts – Show them a resource with more information on something they’ve briefly mentioned.
  • Ego bait – Mention them or their work in your own content in a positive light.
  • Testimonials and case studies – Give positive feedback about their product or service.
  • Link exchanges – Offer to link back to them if they agree to link to you.
  • Resource page link building – Show them a good resource that fits their existing list.
  • Broken link building – Help them fix a “dead” link on their page by providing a replacement.
  • Image link building – Ask to get credit for using your image.
  • Unlinked mentions – Ask to make the mention of your brand “clickable.”
  • Link moves – Ask to make changes to an existing link pointing at your website.
  • HARO and journalist requests – Give an “expert quote” for their article.
  • PR – Give them a killer story to cover.

These strategies seem to make quite some sense, right? But as soon as you send your first email request, you’re likely to face the harsh reality—your “compelling reason” isn’t compelling enough:

  • Your guest post isn’t good enough.
  • Your resource isn’t worthy of a mention.
  • Your “skyscraper” isn’t as “tall” as you thought it was.

The truth is it is incredibly hard to persuade random website owners to link to you. Either you have a one-of-a-kind outstanding resource that will genuinely impress them, or you’re well known in your field and they will be happy to fix you a link as a favor.

If it’s none of the two, you better handle rejection well. Because for every 100 emails, 98 will either not reply or say “no.” 

And that is exactly the reason why many SEOs started looking for ways to make it worthwhile for the other party and offer something in return for a link, such as:

  • A shoutout on social media.
  • An email newsletter blast.
  • Free access to a premium product or service.
  • A link in exchange.
  • Money.

But offering these kinds of “extras” gets them into the gray area of what is considered a “link scheme,” according to Google’s guidelines.

So there you have it. The candid ways of asking for links have a rather low success rate. But as soon as you try to “sweeten the deal,” you’re entering Google’s minefield.

At this point, it may seem that I’m dissuading you from using tactics and strategies listed in this group. I’m not. I’m merely suggesting that you ensure your content is outstanding before reaching out to hundreds of people.

3. Buying links

Let’s get this straight from the get-go: 

We don’t recommend that you buy links! 

If you don’t have lots of experience with it, you’re likely to waste lots of money on useless links that will have zero impact on your rankings. Or even get your website penalized.

However, we will be putting you at a disadvantage if we don’t disclose the fact that many people in the SEO industry do “buy” links in all sorts of ways and manage to get away with it.

So if you’re willing to risk the well-being of your website and buy links, please look for advice on doing that “safely” elsewhere—because here at Ahrefs, we don’t teach that.

4. Earning links

You “earn” links when other people link to the pages on your website without you having to ask them to do so. This obviously doesn’t happen unless you have something truly outstanding that other website owners will genuinely want to mention on their websites.

But people can’t link to things that they don’t know exist. So no matter how awesome your page is, you’ll need to invest in promoting it. And the more people see your page, the higher the chance that some of them will end up linking to it.

Later in this chapter, I’m going to share some tactics and strategies that will help you both create “link-worthy” content and promote it to relevant audiences who might end up linking to it.

Bonus: Preserving links

Technically, preserving your hard-earned links does not really fall under the definition of “link building.” But when you lose an important backlink, the “vote” that it was sending to Google is also lost. So it is fairly important to preserve your hard-earned links.

There are two simple ways to do it:

  1. Fixing 404 pages that have quality backlinks
  2. Monitoring your lost backlinks and reaching out to a website owner when an important link goes missing (also known as “link reclamation”)

Both of these things are easy to do with Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. The Best by links report will help you find the 404 pages with links. While the Backlinks report has a handy “Lost” filter, which will show you all links that were recently lost.

One important caveat, though. You don’t need to bother about every single link that goes missing. You just need to preserve the most important ones. And that is exactly what we’re going to talk about next.

Nobody knows for sure how exactly Google measures the value of each link. But there are some general concepts of evaluating links that the SEO community believes to be true:

  • Authority
  • Relevance
  • Anchor text
  • Nofollow vs. follow
  • Placement
  • Destination
Six aspects of a good link

1. Authority

As you already know, Google sees links as “votes” that a given page deserves to rank well. But a link from techcrunch.com can’t possibly have the same power as a link from your friend’s personal blog, right? (Unless, of course, your friend is Tim Ferriss.) 

Well, Google has consistently denied that some sort of sitewide website authority metric exists in its system. And yet, many SEOs believe that the concept of “website authority” makes too much sense to completely discount it.

What is more important, though, is the authority of the actual page that is linking to you. It’s one thing to be mentioned in a TechCrunch article that goes unnoticed, and it’s an entirely different case if that article “breaks the internet” and gets referenced on dozens of major news websites.

Pages that have backlinks cast a stronger vote than those that don't

In other words, a page that has some strong votes of its own will cast a stronger vote compared to a page with no votes. This simple principle lies at the core of Google’s famous PageRank algorithm.

Back in the day, Google even provided a browser toolbar, which displayed the PageRank of any URL you visited. But this toolbar was deprecated more than 10 years ago. Which gave SEO tool providers an opportunity to fill that gap and develop their own authority metrics.

Here at Ahrefs, we have Domain Rating (DR) and URL Rating (UR), which measure the so-called “link popularity” of websites and URLs, respectively. 

2. Relevance

Let’s say you published a guide on grilling a perfect steak, and you want it to rank high in Google. Who would you prefer to get a link from—Joe Rogan or Gordon Ramsay?

I would imagine it’s the latter. Joe may have a larger audience than Gordon, but he’s not a world-renowned chef. So he can easily be wrong with his cooking advice.

And that is something that Google seemingly accounts for when ranking pages. Links from websites on the same topic as yours are deemed to bring more value than links from irrelevant websites.

Here’s an excerpt from its “How search works” guide:

If other prominent websites on the subject link to the page, that’s a good sign that the information is of high quality.

3. Anchor text

Just in case you’re not already familiar with the term, “anchor text” is a clickable snippet of text that links to another page. In many cases, it succinctly describes what the linked page is about.

So it’s no surprise that Google uses the words in the anchor text to better understand what the referenced page is about and what keywords it deserves to rank for. In fact, Google’s original PageRank patent talks about this quite explicitly:

Google employs a number of techniques to improve search quality including page rank, anchor text, and proximity information.

So how do you leverage anchor text when building links?

Well, it’s better that you don’t. The more you try to control how different pages link to you and shoehorn all the “right words” into the anchor text of your backlinks, the higher the chance that Google will suspect manipulation and penalize you for that. So it’s better to just let the author of the linking page decide how they want to reference your page. 

4. Nofollow vs. follow

Nofollow” is a link attribute that tells Google that the linking page will rather not give its vote to the page that it is referencing.

Here’s how that looks like in page code:

Page code for nofollowed link

Historically, Google didn’t count votes from “nofollowed links” (or so it said). Then, in 2019, it switched to a hint model, which means that some “nofollowed” links may now influence your search rankings.

It also introduced two new link attributes along with this announcement:

  • rel=“UGC” should be applied to user-generated links, e.g., blog comments and forum posts.
  • rel=“sponsored” should be applied when the link is part of an advertisement, sponsorship, or some other compensation agreement.

As a general rule, you want to be getting “followed” links (i.e., links that don’t have any of the aforementioned attributes) because these are the ones that are supposed to cast the strongest votes.

However, if you see an opportunity to get a nofollowed link from a relevant high-authority page, you should absolutely take it.

A good example is Wikipedia, where all outgoing links are nofollowed. Getting a link from Wikipedia is incredibly hard, which is why many SEOs are convinced that those links are quite valuable in the eyes of Google.

5. Placement

Google’s reasonable surfer patent talks about how the likeliness of a link being clicked may affect how much authority it transfers. And placement of a link on a page is one of the few things that can affect its CTR.

Let’s say there’s a webpage that consists of three blocks: content, sidebar, and footer. As a general rule, links in the content will get more clicks because the content block gets the most attention from visitors.

Prominently placed links may transfer more "authority"

One other thing that can affect the CTR of a link is how high on the page it appears. Readers are more likely to click links at the very beginning of the article rather than the ones at its very end.

6. Destination

When building links to your website, there are three destinations where you can point them:

  1. Your homepage.
  2. Your linkable assets.
  3. The actual pages that you need to rank well in Google.

And quite often, the pages that you need to rank well are also the hardest ones to get links to. That’s because people generally prefer to link to informational pages where their audience can get value for free rather than commercial pages where their audience is likely to part ways with their cash.

Thus, one of the most common questions in SEO is this: “How to get links to boring pages?”

And while there’s no single right answer to this question, everyone agrees that you should leverage the power of internal linking to help your “boring pages” rank better.

Use internal links to transfer authority to the boring pages that you need to rank well in Google

In part two, I listed a few dozen link building tactics and strategies for you to explore. But which of them are the best and most effective ones?

Here at Ahrefs, we’re big advocates of the following four:

  1. Pursuing competitors’ links
  2. Creating linkable assets
  3. Content promotion
  4. Guest posting

1. Pursuing competitors’ links

Competitor link research is one of the most fundamental activities in link building. Think about it. The top-ranking page for your desired search query has all the right links, which persuaded Google of its superiority. Therefore, by studying its links, you can figure out which tactics to use so that you can get similar links and outrank that page.

And this is where an SEO tool like Ahrefs is absolutely indispensable.

Just put the keyword that you want to rank for in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and scroll down to the “SERP overview.” It will show you how many backlinks (and linking websites) each of the top-ranking pages has:

SERP overview for "best productivity apps"

Click on any of these numbers, and you’ll see a report listing all of the links.

From here, your course of action is twofold:

  1. Try to get links from the pages that link to your competitors
  2. Study how those links were acquired and use the same tactics to get more links than your competitors

2. Creating linkable assets

In SEO, we use the terms “linkable asset” or “linkbait” to refer to content that is strategically crafted to attract links. Such linkable assets can take on many different forms:

  • Online tools and calculators
  • Infographics, GIFographics, and “Map-o-graphics”
  • Awards and rankings
  • Studies and research
  • Industry surveys
  • How-to guides and tutorials
  • Definitions and coined terms

I’m sure that even in the most boring industries there’s a way to create an interesting piece of content that will attract links. So it’s always a good idea to study the websites of your competitors and see if they have any linkable assets that you could get inspiration from.

To do that, simply put their domain name in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go to the Best by links report. This will show you which of their pages have accrued the most links.

Best pages by backlinks report

As you can see in the screenshot above, three of the five most linked pages on the Ahrefs Blog (excluding the homepage) are data-driven research studies. That gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of content that attracts links in our industry.

3. Content promotion

No matter how “linkable” your pages are, people can’t link to them without first discovering them. In other words, even the best linkable assets have to be promoted in order to attract links.

Generally speaking, there are just three ways to promote content:

  1. Influencers and communities
  2. Advertising
  3. Growing an audience

1. Influencers and communities

Who will amplify this? And why? According to Rand Fishkin, the answer to this question determines the amount of exposure that your piece of content is destined to get. 

Who” refers to influential people and relevant communities in your space that might help to put your content in front of large numbers of people. And “why” refers to the actual merit of your content that makes it worthy of being promoted in the first place.

Fun fact. Back in 2015, I reached out to Rand, asking him to tweet my article. And his response was essentially a crash course in how this works:

Rand's email reply to Tim

2. Advertising

You can easily bring lots of visitors to your content with the help of advertising on platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the like. Alternatively, you can partner with selected influencers and content creators in your space and pay them to promote your content to their audience. 

Some people, though, find it hard to justify spending money to promote their content. Which naturally begs the question: How did they justify spending time to create it in the first place?

If you create your content with your business goals in mind, you should not have issues to justify spending money to promote it to people.

3. Growing an audience

Each time you publish and promote a piece of content, you’ll reach some people who will find value in it (or simply enjoy it). And it would be a real shame to part ways with these people and never be able to reach them again, wouldn’t it?

That’s why you have to work on growing your audience. Which can be done in a few different ways:

  • Ask them to subscribe to your email list
  • Ask them to follow you on Twitter/LinkedIn/Instagram/TikTok
  • Invite them to join your private community on Slack/Discord/Facebook
  • Retarget them with Facebook/Twitter/Google ads

With every new cool piece of content that you release, your audience should be getting larger and larger. And the more people follow your work, the less you’ll need to bother about promoting your content manually.

4. Guest posting

According to a 2022 survey by Aira, guest posting is the third most used link building strategy among professional SEOs.

As discussed earlier, asking for links without offering anything of value in return barely even works these days. But guest posting is not like that. You’re offering a quality piece of content in exchange for an opportunity to link to your website from it. That sounds like a fair exchange of value.

Here at Ahrefs Blog, we have a “write for us” page, inviting our readers to contribute a guest article for us. And yet, we reject the vast majority of pitches we receive. Our standards for guest contributions are very high.

So here are two simple tips that will help you get published in the top blogs of your industry:

1. Start small and work your way up

It is much easier to get the attention of the top blogs in your niche when you have a solid portfolio of published content on slightly smaller blogs. 

So before you pitch a guest article to the owner of a DR80+ blog, make sure you have a published DR70+ piece to show them. And before you pitch that DR70+ blog… well, I’m sure you get the idea.

You can use Content Explorer to quickly find relevant blogs of required “authority.” Just search for a related word or phrase in page titles and use the “Domain Rating (DR)” filter to narrow down results:

Finding blogs with required authority using Ahrefs' Content Explorer

2. Make an irresistible offer

What do blog owners want? They want to grow traffic to their blog.

So if you can persuade them that your guest article will rank well in Google for its target keyword and bring them consistent search traffic, it will be an easy sell.

And that’s where the previous tip is absolutely invaluable. If you can show some actual examples of your past guest articles that rank well, I bet you’ll get the deal easily.

A somewhat lesser-known guest posting tactic is to find an underperforming article on their blog (in terms of search traffic) and offer to do a complete overhaul with the goal of improving its Google rankings. In many cases, the blogger will be happy for you to do that.

Just open the Top pages report in Site Explorer and use the “Traffic” filter to find underperforming articles easily:

Underperforming articles in Top pages report

While it is technically possible to build links with just a bit of brain power and a Gmail account, there are a number of link building tools that will help make the process of acquiring links much easier.

Here are some free ones:

  • Ahrefs Webmaster Tools – Shows all links pointing at your own website already and lets you sort and filter them by many important SEO metrics.
  • Ahrefs’ Free Backlink Checker – Shows top 100 links pointing at any website or URL.
  • Google Alerts – Notifies you whenever a specific word or phrase was mentioned on a newly published page. Which is a great way to source quality link prospects.

 And here are some premium ones:

  • Ahrefs’ Site Explorer – Shows you all links of any website or URL with an option to sort and filter them by many important SEO metrics.
  • Ahrefs’ Content Explorer – A unique link prospecting tool, which helps you find thousands of relevant websites for link requests and guest posting. Also helps to research linkable assets on any topic from all around the web.
  • Ahrefs Alerts – Similar to Google Alerts but designed specifically with SEO professionals in mind.
  • Pitchbox/BuzzStream/GMass – Email outreach tools. There are many other tools that let you send personalized emails at scale, but these ones are the most popular among SEOs.
  • Hunter.io/Voila Norbert – The so-called “email lookup services,” which help you find contact details of websites at scale.

Let’s wrap this up

This guide turned out to be over 4,000 words. Yet we’ve only scratched the surface of what link building entails. So if you want to dig deeper, make sure to check out our other articles on this topic, which I’ve linked to throughout this guide.

And should you have any questions or comments, just tweet me at @timsoulo.



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