A lot of webmasters consider link building as a boring, tiresome activity. Bad news for all the haters: it’s impossible to build a well-ranking niche site without it.

 

Well, we can’t really blame them. With the steady stream of updates from Google, off-page optimization techniques are constantly changing. Be wary. What worked in the past can sabotage your authority site today! If you want to conduct your own research about it, filter out every source that has been published two years ago or earlier.

 

But to save you from all that hassle (and from the risk of applying a terribly outdated strategy), we’ve put together all the fundamentals of linkbuilding in this ultimate guide. From its fundamentals to the specific sources you can hunt for, leave it to us to drop all the best practices in link building that absolutely works in 2020.

Why are backlinks important?

In simple terms, Google treats backlinks as a form of recommendation. The more backlinks your niche site has, the more convinced search engines would be that you have relevant and useful content. Conversely, its algorithm also considers how reliable the backlink’s source is.

Take it from Google itself – backlinks remain as one the most influential factors that can affect your rank in its search results page.

Allow me to share my personal experience in how backlinks can make a huge impact on your authority site’s performance. I’ve known it the hard way that a spot on Google’s top 10 results does not guarantee an impressive visitor count.

So I have this website which I expected so much from. I ranked high for nine of my main keywords, while all the rest are on the second and third results page. With my niche site even bagging two top one spots, it’s reasonable to assume that I’d get an impressive visitor count right? But na-uh. Disappointingly, all that effort on keyword research only gave me 50 readers each day.

My savior? Link building. After working on getting backlinks from sources that boast of high traffic, I was able to boost my visitor count to 300 each day!

What does a good backlink look like?

There are two main factors that make a backlink ideal for improved search engine rankings:

  • Source. Your backlink should come from a website that is relevant and influential in your niche. Moreover, these sources should set your links on dofollow.
  • Relevant traffic. The placement of your links on your partners’ websites should be strategic enough to attract your target audience. Backlinks are as good as nothing if the visitors it will bring you are not interested in your topics and content materials at all.

Let me give you a quick example using my favorite backlink of all time. Earlier in 2016, a media outlet reached out and asked me if I could advertise their documentary in my Barcelona blog. I did it with pleasure! That episode was available for streaming on their online media library and was supported with a catalog of links to websites with articles about the city. After my website was included in their recommended references, I’ve welcomed a lot of relevant visitors alongside enjoying a higher Google search rank.

Ideally, your authority site should generate backlinks without even asking for it. With high-quality content, it’s possible for your authority site to attract partners by itself.

Reality check though – it’s unreasonable to expect that your award-winning articles will automatically stand out among the hundreds of thousands of posts covering a similar topic. Starting webmasters will have to put extra effort and reach out directly to other authority sites to get a decent backlink.

Link building for product-related and portal niche sites – is there a difference?

The amount of time and effort required in link building for the two types of niche sites greatly varies. While portal authority sites are focused on content quality, product-related pages prioritize high sales volume.

Moreover, their difference is further highlighted with the extent of on-page optimization implemented. Portals with the strength of thousands of articles can cover all topics from A to Z, while product-related niche sites and its 5 to 10 subpages have limited opportunities to integrate keywords.

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s natural to prefer to give links to portal websites due to its established reputation and value. Many sources also have the prejudice that product-related pages will only make cash cows out of visitors. This means that smaller authority sites have to do a whole lot more just to get good links. Lucky for portals, backlinks can come naturally even with minimal work.

What are the common errors in link building?

1. Putting a lot of effort for getting weak links

A lot of beginners in authority site management think that it’s okay to start with baby steps, to the extent that they’d focus on reaching out as many article catalogs and directories as possible for quick backlinks. However, these sources are categorized as “weak” and could barely help in improving your site traffic and search engine rankings. These inferior backlinks will often come naturally as your pages gain more popularity, so manually going after them is a complete waste of your time.

Moreover, the golden rule of quality over quantity also applies in link building. Sure, you might have a hundred backlinks for your niche site. But if 99 of those come from sketchy forums, your profile is absolutely far from impressive. Other weak sources include bookmark platforms, guestbooks, portals for press releases, and practically any website that are thematically irrelevant to your niche.

Let’s be frank, when was the last time Google directed you to a web catalog? Apart from SEO enthusiasts doing deep keyword research or competitor analysis, these weak sources barely get any visitors from your target audience.

2. Buying link packages

Here’s another rule of thumb: The harder it is to get the attention of a source, the better the backlink would be. Consider that as a stern warning against countless sellers lurking on eBay and offering link packages.

A gullible, newbie webmaster would probably be enticed by the deal of “30 backlinks with DR 50+ for only $15”. Save yourself from this obvious waste of money! If the sources for these link packages are indeed as valuable as advertised, no one would sell them for but a few cents. Note that Google’s PageRank has been an outdated consideration for SEO after several updates on the search engine’s algorithm.

Moreover, buying and selling links is generally frowned upon by Google. You might receive severe ranking penalties if you get caught! Lucky for you if search engines shot you down for individual keywords only, but you can also sabotage your entire niche site if you recklessly monetize link building.

Avoid paying for links as much as you could. But if ever a profitable opportunity arises, make sure that you stick with strong backlink sources.

For reference, one high-quality link can cost you as much as $215.

3. Bombarding a page with links with the same keyword

It’s a no-brainer that keywords allow Google to identify what exactly is your website all about. With this considered as an important factor for SEO, it’s common for webmasters to repeat keywords in strategic places on their page such as the URL, the title, and throughout an article’s content.

If you think that bombarding your authority site with links containing the same keyword is a clever move, I’ve got bad news for you. If Google noticed that your page is linked 20 times with a single key term, the Penguin update will prompt its algorithm to severely penalize your search result rankings.

Even in off-page optimization, anything excessive or extreme will bring you no good.

4. Getting backlinks from sketchy websites

Would your readers appreciate a dose of links spammed with topics on viagra and gambling? Yup, I don’t think so too. You also would not want to open a door for virus-plagued pages through your authority sites.

Giving backlinks to dubious websites can only drive your visitor count far less than it was before. Sure, Google will not penalize your search rankings when you do. But remember that your calling is to provide value, not to pave the way for scammers and hackers to make it to your precious audience.

For an extra pair of eyes in scrutinizing websites, install the browser extension Web Of Trust. Count on the plugin to warn you of any malware, phishing, and other dangerous links with reputation icons that are displayed next to your search results.

5. Using automatic link builder tools

Have you ever heard of the black hat technique in SEO? Basically, these are unethical practices meant to trick search engines that your authority site has more value than it can actually provide. Apart from stuffing articles with excessive keywords, some authority site owners also use private link networks for an expressway to the top 10 Google results.

As much as using automatic link builder tools seem tempting, it will only cause your website to crash and burn fast. Search engines heavily punish websites that use black hat SEO techniques. The quality of backlinks you get won’t even be worth your doom! These would be mostly blog comments, forum links, bookmarks, and web catalogs – sources you can easily tap even without dirty tricks.

Best practices in building your backlink profile

1. How many backlinks do I have to build?

I can’t emphasize this enough – link building is not and will never be a numbers game. Just because the website-to-beat has 1,000 backlinks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that getting 1,001 will guarantee you the crown.

For reference, big portal websites and authority sites have up to tens of thousands of backlinks. But for a humble webmaster like myself, I’ve found that the number of links I gotta build must depend on the results of a competitor analysis.

I tend to scout how many backlinks my biggest competitors have then trace the quality of their sources. With fifteen links, my most powerful niche site was able to overtake a rank one page that had seven.

However, there isn’t a concrete equation to know what constitutes enough. I just built one link at a time, check the search results page, and repeat the process until I finally won Google over.

2. How exactly should I work on my backlinks?

If you’re just fresh from a website launching, it’s a must that you keep your authority site from any form of monetization. Stick with guide-related articles, and let your ideas for money pages rest on the shelf for now. There would be so little traffic at the start anyway, so don’t worry about losing much potential income. Playing it safe and steady with value-rich articles can greatly increase your chances of getting decent backlinks.

You can start by entering your keyword on Google and look for forums or question and answer portals and participate in the discussions. With a little luck, you’d be able to find relevant articles for your niche site. When you do, send a request to the author and you might just get your first ever backlink. Even better, these pages can give you fresh ideas on what articles to publish next.

As you progress, try to create a routine for when you’ll devote time to building your link profile. You can do it on a monthly basis, but I suggest adding variation so Google wouldn’t recognize any pattern. I personally do not give much importance to the time frame between my last link and the next, and I just work on backlinks anytime an opportunity to do so comes up.

Here’s a tip: try out the free Google Alerts service so you’d be nudged every time a new content is included in the search engine’s index. Simply enter your most relevant keywords, link the tool with your email, and choose how often you want to be notified.

3. How can I recognize a good link source?

Consider this checklist that can help you determine if the source you’ve found will be good for your backlink profile:

  • The website has a niche that is relevant to your authority site. If you’re managing pages on calisthenics, it will be smart to search for possible partners in health, fitness, and personality development industries.
  • The link source must be brimming with life and engagement. This can be in the form of an active comment section or guest contributor programs. Having active social media channels is also a plus. Bottom line, you must prove that the website has real visitors who interact with the source.
  • The site is on the top 10 of the search results page, showing that Google likes and favors your potential link source.
  • Watch out for the amount of links to commercial pages it provides. If the website has some in every single article you’ve checked, it can be a red flag that they’d only provide links to those who are willing to pay rent.
  • The source only provides links to thematically appropriate and valuable pages. You wouldn’t want to belong to the same list as other sketchy websites, would you?
  • The website must have a stellar link profile itself. You might want to step away if it has weak sources such as article directories, bookmarks, or web catalogs.

Best practices in linking other pages on your authority site

1. How should I embed links on my page?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to get all so fancy just to embed links on your authority site. Just post the raw URL as a hyperlink and you’re all good.

Doubting if this is enough to give justice to valuable content? Try putting yourself in the shoes of a normal internet user. How did you last share a page to someone else? How does your favorite blog cite its sources within their articles? Yup, plain and simple.

2. Should I set my links on dofollow or nofollow?

Let’s first breakdown what their difference is:

  • Dofollow link – URLs on your pages are set to dofollow by default. This simply means that Google sees it as your recommendation for another website, thus boosting their search engine rankings.
  • Nofollow link – If you put a nofollow attribute to your link, you’re stopping Google from counting its mention on your authority site as a recommendation for higher search results rankings. Don’t even try spamming others with comments filled with links to your pages, since this section often automatically sets URLs posted to nofollow.

The general rule is that you should set your links on dofollow unless you have a really good reason not to (e.g. when linking to sketchy websites, when featuring paid links, when trying to control Googlebot, etc.). If you are not willing to give your full recommendation to a website, better not to link it at all.

3. Should I link a website’s homepage or its specific post?

Try to create a healthy mix of both in your link profile. Use your purpose for linking as a compass. Let’s say you’re trying to recommend a specific product. You won’t really provide the URL of Amazon’s hope page to do so, would you?

If there’s a necessity to lead your visitors to a very specific page, go for deep links. Otherwise, giving links to a website’s homepage can also be enough.

What are the types of content that can generate a lot of traffic and backlinks for your website?

1. Top 10 Lists

This type of article is an absolute must-have for any authority site. Take my word, top 10 lists are among the most popular posts you can publish. Not convinced? Let the numbers of its shares and backlinks speak for itself then.

What’s more, these articles can be a whole lot easier to write in contrast to other formats. No need for excessive discussions and details. A few lines about each recommendation’s relevant points are enough to do the job.

From a reader’s perspective, top 10 lists are very easy to read and understand. Clear headlines. Direct pros and cons. Concise takeaways. By providing them all the essential information about their problem in the fastest way possible, you can get high click-through rates even for your money pages. 

Before writing a recommendation list, scout on Google if someone from your niche already has published a high-performing article similar to what you have in mind. If there is, think of ways on how you can snatch the crown. You can expand the number of entries in your list, or perhaps you can update it with the latest trends and developments in your niche.

2. Interviews

How great would it be if you can get a backlink from an influencer in your niche? By conducting interviews right, this can be a potential link source you can’t say pass to.

Since the interviewee took the time to answer your questions, it’s reasonable to assume that his interest in your topic is at max levels. If it isn’t, he won’t be responding to your request in the first place. Every influencer would love to share their insights and expertise. To make sure the interview would be seen by a lot of his fans, its likely that he will voluntarily promote it on his website with a link to your post. 

Allow me to share how this link source did wonders for me. I have a niche site focused on sports, and I managed to interview the chairman of an association. I was already happy with the increased visitor count I got, but the goodies didn’t stop there. I was able to build solid connections with corporations. My interviewee was well-known and respected by the community, and the mere mention of his name as reference dramatically increased my ability to close deals.

Depending on the size of your interviewee’s fanbase, you can generate a lot of traffic towards your authority site. To make sure you do things right, you might want to keep in mind these best practices:

  • Start off with a rich list of potential interview partners, and expect that not everyone will say yes. Experts won’t always have the time to respond to interviews, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
  • Consider reaching out to manufacturers, associations, magazines, and clubs for interviewee recommendations. Ask them to have a profile of their suggested expert sent to you, complete with their picture and links to personal pages.
  • Exert effort in creating a list of valuable, in-depth questions that will help the interview go beyond your topic’s surface.
  • Decide if it’s more strategic to send a complete questionnaire in the beginning or to send portions of it in several stages. If you went for the second option, you can start with two to three questions and design new ones depending on the answers you get. I personally prefer this method since it makes the interview less tense. Even better, you’ll get the opportunity to explore specific topics more.
  • Keep it short. You don’t have to publish a 3,000-word interview with over 20 questions. If your interviewee only wrote one-liners as his answers, let it stay that way. No fillers. No random blabbers.

3. Articles about other bloggers

Communities flourish through feedback and discussions. Try to follow other bloggers in your niche, especially those who have a reputation for controversial insights and choice of topics. This can be a great writing prompt for your next article and can often spark lively exchange in your comment section. 

As much as the Internet loves drama, don’t you even dare insult or provoke the blogger you chose to write about. Stick with objective commentaries meant to ignite smart debates and not heated conflicts. 

It’s also common courtesy to link the blogger’s original article in your post. You could even tag him on your social media channels when you market your content there. This way, you get higher chances of grabbing his attention. Who knows, he might even share your views with his own readers or even publish a response that includes a link to your website.

New audience. Expanded network. Added backlinks. Quite a great deal, if you ask me.

4. Surveys

By conducting surveys about important questions and problems related to your niche, you can profile your target audience better and align your website’s content accordingly. Its results will also be a great bargaining chip when reaching out to influencers.

The freshest insights and trends you’ll get can serve as great writing prompts for guide articles or as materials for infographics. If marketed correctly, you can generate organic backlinks from informational portals (e.g. Wikipedia) and other niche sites who may cite your survey as a reference for their posts.

You can easily set up surveys using the WordPress plugin TotalPoll Pro, which is a lot better than the leading WP-Polls. This type of content, when transformed into value-rich materials, is a goldmine for high traffic, social signals, and backlinks.

5. Detailed Guides

Squeeze the most value out of your passion and knowledge about your niche by publishing detailed guides. You can either write them on your own, or hire an expert from Textbroker to author it for you. This content type can be in the form of:

  • Building instructions
  • Installation guide
  • Recipes
  • How-to articles
  • Step-by-step tutorials

Detailed guides are such a rare sight among authority pages. The process required to create a single article can be so complex, often needing firsthand experience about a topic and a lot of resources (e.g. pictures, screenshots, videos, etc.). A quick way to do it is to gather a couple of information from multiple articles and bundle everything into a helpful, comprehensive manual.

Don’t fret if someone already beat you to it. Evaluate the article they’ve published and take notes on how you can do better. Maybe it’s jampacked with too many technical jargon that could’ve left users more confused than before. Or perhaps, the manual is outdated and no longer applicable to the current context of your community.

To convince you that writing detailed guides is worth the effort, take a look at these advantages:

  • Who said that guide articles can’t be monetized? Detailed instructions are perfect for promoting tools, products, and services that you have an affiliate program with. Having positioned yourself as a helpful expert about the topic, readers may even feel grateful for your recommendations.
  • Value-rich guides can greatly boost your expert status in your niche, helping your authority site stand out from the competition.
  • This type of article is a strong magnet for visitor engagement. Use it as an opportunity to build your readers’ loyalty to your website. Word of advice: make sure that you or your author can answer any questions that might emerge.
  • User-friendly tutorials directly answer your target audience’s problems. This makes it so attractive to share in forums and social media channels, as well as be cited as sources by other niche sites.

6. Awards

Recognize the most influential and helpful websites in your niche by giving out awards. You can either decide the cream of the crop on your own, or conduct a voting process within the community.

Authority site operators are faced with the challenge of building viewers’ trust, and an award they received can be a strong tool for doing so. Provide your awardees with a graphic that they can boast on their website. Rather than an image file, it must be in the form of an HTML that includes a link to your website.

To assist you in designing a suitable graphic and to help winners easily integrate into their page, you can hire a freelancer from Fiverr for a minimal fee.

Before organizing an award, make sure that you have an expert status and a decent fan base in your niche. Otherwise, don’t expect other webmasters to take you seriously.

7. Raffles and giveaways

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love freebies? You might want to consider organizing a raffle through your authority site. Trust me, a well-planned and executed giveaway can attract backlinks, social signals, and a whole lot of visitors. Even better, your interaction with your community is greatly enhanced.

To guarantee success, make sure that you offer attractive prices that are related to your niche. You might have a collection that’s just accumulating dust, or perhaps you can buy prizes with your allotted fund for purchasing backlinks. For my Barcelona blog, I’ve bought travel guides for Spanish cities and put them up for a raffle. I then reach out to other relevant influencers. Since the goodies up for grabs are interesting for their audience, they are usually happy to share the giveaway by linking me to their posts.

You can also reach out to manufacturers for a sponsorship. To close the deal, make sure your sales pitch discusses what they can get from funding your giveaway (e.g. backlinks, social media ads, etc.) and why your niche site is worth the investment. Showing them figures about your influence and post reach can greatly help.

You wouldn’t want any conflict between you and your audience, so you have to define clear rules:

  • Who can participate?
  • What do they need to do in order to get a raffle ticket?
  • What platform or tool will be used to choose the winner?
  • What are the prizes at stake?
  • How long does the competition last?

Got the basic guidelines in check? Perfect. Now it’s time to polish the execution of your giveaway.

  • Reach out to influencers at least one week before you launch your raffle. This will give them ample time to prepare the content they’ll publish to advertise your event to their audience.
  • Don’t turn your giveaway into a linkbait. Some webmasters require the sharing of their URLs as a condition to participate, only to be disappointed that Google greatly devalued the backlinks they got.
  • Try to integrate a survey in your giveaway. I’ve hosted a raffle that asked “What is your favorite city in Spain?” and got a lot of valuable engagement from the community.
  • Include links to your best articles on the giveaway page. This way, you can also extend the traffic boost to other posts.
  • You can also embed a registration form for your newsletter on the giveaway page to generate more leads.

When choosing winners, I often use the random number generator of Random.org. Simply enter the number of entries you received and click generate.

8. Downloadable content

Offering downloadable content can help you generate leads and build backlinks. This can be in the form of case studies, plugins, excel sheets with finished formulas, graphics or photo collections, e-books, audiobooks, and a whole lot more. With valuable materials, influencers will be more than willing to promote them to their fanbase.

Don’t even think about launching link baits with junk content. You’d hardly get any backlink, and you can also compromise your integrity as a webmaster.

To help you plan and deliver downloadable content, consider these basic steps I’ve sworn by over the years:

  • Step 1: Create your downloadable material. Make sure it answers a specific question or addresses a common problem. It doesn’t have to be so detailed and lengthy. So long as you provide value that’s worth your audience’s subscription, you’re good to go.
  • Step 2: Integrate your content in a prominent spot on your authority site, preferably in the sidebar or below your published articles.
  • Step 3: Inform your community about your digital freebie. Contact your network of influencers and invite them to promote the content.

9. Roundup Post

A roundup post is just a fancy term to refer to a group interview with several influencers. Instead of highlighting one expert only, you can search for suitable participants in your niche and ask them the same questions. The wider the reach of your interviewees are, the more successful your content will be.

Since it’s a collection of different opinions and points of view, roundup posts can be really attractive for analytical readers. This makes it a type of content that generates the most shares and backlinks. Imagine how valuable your article will be if you ask the most controversial questions that are popular in your niche community.

Even better, your interviewees will most likely promote the article through their channels. Make the most out of their desire to increase their visibility and boost their expert status.

While your traffic will increase significantly the moment you publish a roundup post, results can get weaker as time progresses. To keep the flame alive for as long as possible, take part in the discussions on your article’s comment section or on social media channels.

10. Infographics

Infographics offer an attractive, reader-friendly way to present complex facts and statistics. Ideally, the data you publish must be original and have been obtained through surveys on your authority site. Make sure that your research population is big enough, otherwise your content could be misleading or even inaccurate.

On my Barcelona blog, I’ve published infographics about the best districts in the city, attractive sights, great value hotels, and the general cost of living.

An attractive yet complete infographics can take a lot of effort and skills. If you have basic knowledge in art principles, you can use free tools like Canva, Infogram, and Piktochart to help you in the design process. You can also do the layout on Adobe Photoshop or Gimp if you’re able to.

You can’t really have it all, so it’s understandable if graphic design has never been your forte. You can also outsource the creation of your infographics to contractors on Freelancer.com or Fiverr. Doing so will save you a lot of time and guarantee higher quality, but you gotta be prepared to pay high rates if you want the best output.

Once your infographics are ready, publish it, and make the content available to everyone. You can generate backlinks by requesting users to credit you as the author and embed your URL as its source. Boost its visibility further by tapping influencers to promote it or sharing its link on social media.

11. Checklists

Checklists have been an attractive downloadable content to collect email addresses, but you can also turn it into a regular article. It strikes a balance between simplicity of preparation, high value, and user-friendliness.

By publishing checklists, it’s as if you’re taking your audience by the hand to walk them through a fool-proof step by step process that directly addresses their question or problem. Stellar checklists are often linked by other users in forums and question and answer portals.

To help you understand this content type better, here are a few checklist ideas I’ve used in my authority sites:

  • What are the things needed to install a radio bell system?
  • Ten things that every traveler must have in their bags for their first flight to the USA
  • A step-by-step guide on how to make your car winterproof

What are the types of backlink sources?

Finding link sources and determine what good they’d bring to your authority site can be one of the hardest tasks for a niche site operator.

To make your link building journey a whole lot easier, I have collated a couple of link sources and classified them according to desirability. Allow me to walk you through the specifics of weak, moderate, and strong backlinks.

Basically, these three categories are differentiated based on the impact they have on your backlink profile:

  • Weak backlink sources – can drive your post up by just one or two positions on the search rankings
  • Moderate backlink sources – can boost your post to Google’s page one
  • Strong backlink sources – can help your post be on the top 3 places on the search results

1. Weak backlink sources

Social Bookmark Platforms

Do you also pin your favorite websites on your browser? Through social bookmark platforms, internet users around the globe can share and manage their top picks among pages in specific niches.

Generally, social bookmark platforms are among the weakest sources out there since it’s mostly used by SEO experts, not by actual visitors. Moreover, Google does not appreciate their recommendations much.

To make sure that you’re not wasting your time and effort, stick with portals that are:

  • Thematically appropriate to your authority site
  • Able to cultivate a real community with a rating system and a comment section
  • Powered by an algorithm that lists the best-rated sites high up in their pages
  • Able to provide each bookmarked link with a unique description, never recycling the same one for several URLs

Press Portals

Originally, press portals were designed to draw visitors’ attention to the freshest products and industry trends. Journalists and editors considered these as gold mines for content topics. However, the glory days of these websites are long gone thanks to the misuse of the SEO industry.

Google noticed how these were transformed into nothing but a cheap platform for link building, and so it eventually lost value and visibility. Moreover, a single press release published on several press portals generates duplicate content. It’s no secret that search engines have a pet peeve for identical materials on search results, so these websites met their doom with severe SEO penalties.

I personally have distanced myself from press portals, not really caring about its weak search rankings and inability to provide legit traffic to my authority sites. But if you’re so eager to use this source, there are two ways to make your work worthwhile:

  • Publish a press release on a single high-quality portal using a dofollow backlink
  • Publish a really stellar press release on several portals using a nofollow backlink

Blog Directories

As its name suggests, this link source allows you to put your blog in a thematically appropriate category. It’s often possible to integrate your RSS feed, so excerpts of your latest articles will be distributed in the blog directory. In exchange, their operators will require that you link them through a small graphic that you can integrate into your footer.

Improving your visitor count isn’t really the forte of blog directories, but many niche site operators use them to find potential link building partners.

You might want to keep these tips in mind when using this link source:

  • Never use the same description text for all of the blog directories you use
  • Optimize your keyword usage so directory users can find your site better
  • Do not overdo it, a maximum of two backlinks from blog directories is usually enough

RSS Directories

In RSS directories, you can build your own backlinks by entering your URL and adding a short description in a suitable category. Instead of being lead to your home page, users of these portals can get access to your freshest content.

Don’t get your hopes up though. Even the largest RSS directories are incapable of giving you a stable, large stream of visitors. Hardly any help for your search rankings, if you ask me. However, there could be a few worthy exceptions:

  • RSS directories that are well rated by google and have high search rankings
  • RSS directories that are focused on a specific niche

As with other weak backlink sources, do not subscribe to a lot of RSS directories unless you want Google to be skeptical about your niche site. When using these portals, always display your articles in a shortened form. Putting whole texts will only cause you problems and search engine penalties for duplicate content.

Moreover, stay away from RSS directories that charge a fee to blog operators. Trust me, it would only be a waste of money.

Web Catalogs

Similar to the previous sources we’ve discussed, web catalogs collate and categorize thousands of links for any persistent and patient visitor’s use. There are humongous portals who cover all topics from A to Z, but there are also specialized pages focused on a single niche. Going for the latter kind is the smart choice when using this link source.

With a whole lot of competitors for readers’ attention, web catalogs are as weak as social bookmarks. Minimal search ranking boosts. Hardly any real visitors. Even worse, these portals have never been Google’s favorite when giving out page ratings.

Should you decide to count on web catalogs for backlinks, make sure you choose one that has the most appropriate category. Choose a stellar title and description when linking your homepage that can make you stand out from all the other entries.

There are some web catalogs that charges a backlink fee, but the weakness of this link source doesn’t really justify the cost.

Article Directories

While the other weak link sources lead visitors to your homepage or content feed, article directories allow you to register as an author and publish materials with an embedded backlink. The rules vary from one portal to another. Some have a minimum word count requirement, while others have an editorial board that screens contributions before publication.

Like other portals, article directories are classified as either general or niche-specific. And as you’ve noticed by now, the golden rule is to stick with smaller websites where your authority pages’ topics perfectly fit. Though results you get are still not that stellar, they often rank better and can drive more traffic to your posts.

Question & Answer Portals

As discussed in other articles, I use question and answer portals a lot when conducting keyword research. Apart from being a goldmine for ideas, these platforms can also be a source of backlinks for starting niche sites. You’d hardly get any improvement in your Google page rank, but you can expect high-quality traffic from your target audience.

Among my favorite question and answer portals is Quora. Simply register and built a credible-looking profile, subscribe to topics related to your authority site, and actively participate in the discussions. You could even opt-in for email notifications whenever a new question about your niche was published.

I know you’re eager to build a thick backlink profile, but restrain yourself from posting a link in every answer you share. Make sure your recommended page fits the topic. Otherwise, you could get banned from the portal for spamming.

Comments from blogs

Among the things you could do as a humble newbie in authority site management is to subscribe and engage with other blogs relevant to your niche. The goal is simple. Be the first to comment on highly visited articles. Don’t expect to get much attention if there’s a hundred earlier user discussions above yours.

Most blogs’ comment sections automatically set links to nofollow. Though sharing your URL would not do anything for your search rankings, it’s a potential fuel for your visitor count. Take note of these tips to make the most out of this source:

  • Use a real name when commenting, not some random gibberish. The goal is to appear credible and genuinely willing to help.
  • Do not use keywords in the name either, unless you want to be automatically flagged as a spammer
  • Share insights that are relevant and valuable to attract other visitors to learn more from you.
  • When sharing links via comments, stick to those that are directly related to the published article or a question other users flagged.

There are also blogs that allow dofollow links in comments. Just do a right-click and examine the element to check, or seek the help of plugins like Linkparser. However, I don’t think this is much of a good news. Whenever I find these kinds of websites, their comment feed is so plagued with spams to be of any use.

2. Moderate backlink sources

Backlinks from Forums. Are they still worth it?

With strict rules and a vigilant community, most forums definitely outperform catalogs and directories. It’s less likely that any spam could go through since link sharing is somehow moderated.

The traffic you can get from forums is extremely valuable. Active users. Rich discussions. Constant sharing of problems and experiences. Such a heaven-sent link source, if you ask me.

However, stronger backlinks don’t come easy. Expect your posts to be immediately deleted if you jumped right into sharing links without building a trustworthy reputation first. You might learn a thing or two out my routine for link building in forums:

  • Step 1: Find the most influential and active forums in your niche
  • Step 2: Set up a credible, well-maintained profile
  • Step 3: Regularly participate in forum discussions, with a focus in getting to know the community better, mining content ideas, and perhaps even generating leads
  • Step 4: When your authority site is live and running, start adding useful links in your posts

Basically, the goal of this process is to show the forum community that you genuinely want to add value to their discussions. Skipping steps one to three will only make you appear as a greedy webmaster or worse, a good for nothing spammer.

Here are a few more tips on how to score backlinks from forums:

  • Do not try to cheat by cloaking your links with single characters like dots. It’s highly deceptive and you’d definitely be kicked out when the forum operator finds out. Moreover, Google’s algorithm isn’t that dumb to fall for these tricks. Remember that anything “unnatural” will either be ignored or penalized by search engines.
  • Be careful when putting links in your signature, and check first if there are other users who also do it. Otherwise, each post or comment you share is as good as a “kick me out” neon sign.
  • Seek the help of tools like RankWatch to learn more about the best practices in building links from forums. You can even get a couple of keyword combinations to find sources that are most suitable for your niche.

Backlinks from Wikipedia: How do I get them?

Ever noticed how Google always leads to Wikipedia whenever it gets the chance? This platform’s reputation as a search engine favorite makes it so attractive as a link source.

Although Wikipedia links are often set to nofollow, the amount of traffic you can get is amazing. All thanks to its highly critical editors who hardly let any bad link to slip through. Even better, Google favors its knowledge graph boxes and often reserve the top spot in the search results for its articles.

Wikipedia might be a taboo for academic researchers, but other webmasters use it as a goldmine for content ideas and references. This can open a lot of doors for organic backlinks from other authority sites.

Word of warning though, niche sites often have dibs on Wikipedia. Its editors usually frown upon purely affiliate websites and rarely grant them a backlink. But if you’re God’s favorite and you managed to place a link in one of its articles, you’re guaranteed of years-worth of quality traffic.

Here’s how you can get your first ever Wikipedia link.

Start off by analyzing and picking your top-performing guide articles. They’d be the ones that have the lowest bounce rate, the longest retention time, and the most shares and comments. You’d definitely want to put your best foot forward for Wikipedia editors. The golden rule for success is that your article must provide valuable knowledge beyond what’s already written in a Wiki article.

Trust me, you won’t get a link from Wikipedia with a vacuum cleaner comparison page. But if you explain how cyclone technology works, you’re likely to increase your chances of securing a spot in their references section.

If there’s no article for your topic yet, then you’re one lucky website operator. Create and submit your own article, and cite your pages as reference.

Considering Wikipedia’s prejudice against affiliate sites, you also might want to keep your horse free of any advertising. Otherwise, editors might get turned off and not even bat an eye towards your valuable content.

Backlinks from Link Lists

If you look into the websites of authorities, associations, cities, and universities, you’d be able to find quality link lists. There are also some in small sites maintained by private individuals, but most seem to be paid spots. This source basically leads visitors to useful references or tools on a specific niche. If this term isn’t familiar, you probably knew it by the names continuative links, further links, resources, or recommended sites.

To give you a clearer picture, the article I’ve published about the best tools for authority sites is basically a link list. It just took the form of an article, supported by my own insights and experiences for each recommendation.

This kind of posts is a crowd favorite among forums. So by being included in a link list, you can get a lovely combination of increased traffic and improved search rankings.

When you’ve found a resources page, try to examine the websites it previously featured. If there are pieces that don’t seem to fit right, that’s a clear red flag. Its operator is probably selling backlinks to operators, and who knows what type of sites would be put with yours if you fall for their pitch.

Backlinks from other niche sites

Pop quiz: should authority site operators stay away from competitors in their niche? If you ask me, I’d rather turn my enemies into precious allies. We’re all hungry to be on top, but all webmasters are connected by a single problem – how can I increase my traffic? Try not to be such a loner and help a few pals out.

Remember: every niche site owner is in the lookout for strong backlinks. This opens opportunities for partnerships between similar websites. While many authority sites have affiliate pages, these are often balanced with helpful guide articles. This is exactly where you can place a backlink.

Start your quest by scouting for pages that publish similar topics as yours. For my Barcelona travel blog, I often look into websites for its neighboring cities. Meanwhile, I often find contacts for my radio bell niche site in authority pages about home, garden, and senior area technology.

After successfully reaching out to a website operator, you’ll have to negotiate conditions. This can be in the form of an expense allowance, link exchange, or guest contribution.

If you opted for a link exchange, you can either insert the URL into existing articles or publish new ones fit for your partner. Clarify with your contact if who is in charge of writing in case you chose the second option.

Some webmasters consider this link source as risky and inconvenient, but here are a few tips that can help ensure results:

  • Be very picky with your partners. Make a link exchange if and only if the operator is credible and if his website is thematically relevant to yours.  Moreover, you have to be skeptical about his existing outbound links. If he gives backlinks to literally everyone regardless of relevance, it would be in your best interest to walk away.
  • I know it’s called a link exchange, but it doesn’t have to involve just two pages. You might be on Google’s bad side when it finds posts that directly recommend each other. So instead of putting webpage A’s URL on webpage B and vice versa, provide backlinks using a three-way network. While webpage A is linked on webpage B, its operator can return the favor by giving a backlink to webpage C.
  • Do not exchange links by embedding them on the sidebar. If your partner maintains a thousand subpages, then you’ll have a thousand links lead to your niche page. As always, anything excessive can turn Google off.
  • Stay away from operators who offer to build an entire portfolio of your website just for a link exchange. If you want to generate traffic, stick with backlinks from value-rich guide articles.
  • Never ever subscribe to public link exchange portals and forums which are often flooded with unrelated websites. You’ll get very minimal traffic and search ranking boosts. Link building works best when done through direct conversations with actual webmasters.
  • Be wary of any tricks your partner might pull off, and make periodic checks to make sure that your backlink is still live. Doing this manually can be one hell of a hassle, so you can count on SEO tools like Ahrefs to get the job done.

Social Media Backlinks

If you’re maintaining a guide-related niche site, building a social media community can be a worthwhile investment.

At the moment, it’s unknown how Google considers social media pages in its search results. Due to data protection policies, Facebook does not even give much data to Google. Although all major platforms set links to nofollow, the amount of traffic you can get sweetens the deal.

Take for example my Barcelona blog. It has a topic that’s emotional and relatable, making it a great starting point for building a network of travellers. With just over 1,000 likes on Facebook, I often get at least 100 visitors lead to each new article I publish.

This might not be a good link source though for product-related websites. Would internet users bother liking a page about vacuum cleaners? Yep, I don’t think so too.

Here are ways on how you can turn social media into an awesome lead magnet for your authority site:

  • Display links to your social media channels on a prominent spot of your niche site
  • To jumpstart a Facebook fan page, you might want to avail of their post boost packages and let campaigns run until you have about a thousand fans. Don’t worry, Facebook ads are extremely cheaper as compared to Google’s paid search results. When I built my Barcelona website back in 2014, it only cost me 14 cents per like.
  • The goal is to build your reputation as an expert on your niche, so social media users will be more than willing to share and interact with the content you publish
  • If you don’t have time to build your own fan page, you may also consider participating in other community groups on social media. Make sure to read the guidelines for each page, unless you want to get banned because of recklessly posting your links everywhere.

Blog Parades

While you’re able to determine and control who the interviewees are in roundup posts, theoretically anyone can join in blog parade. Given a specific question, varied webmasters can contribute their insights and content within a fixed time period. They will then have to summarize the event’s results by publishing an article that links to other participants.

Blog parades is basically the counterpart of networking events for authority site operators. Participating can help you can increase your popularity, generate traffic from thematically similar pages, and initiate partnerships with other bloggers.

Every participant can benefit from each others’ reach, but it’s the initiator of the blog parade who will get the most backlinks and traffic. Facilitating one won’t be that easy though.

You’ll have to link all of the participants’ contributions on your page and act as the central hub for the blog parade. Prepare as well to send out a bunch of messages to attract other bloggers to join the discussion. Much effort in marketing is required at the beginning, but it will eventually run by itself as it gains more contributors.

Word of advice: don’t make participation conditional to a blogger’s willingness to give out backlinks. You won’t be able to fool Google, and most webmasters will voluntarily do so without being asked anyway.

Backlinks from image portals

If you publish your own images on your niche site, you can upload them to image portals like Flickr. This is a great way to spread your photo materials all over the internet.

Through image portals, you can build your expertise as a content creator by offering an audience to use your images for free. Give it a few months, then use the Google image search to track websites that have embedded your shared photo.

Look for its webmasters’ contact details, then send a friendly mail to inform them that you’re the content’s producer. These kinds of messages can give any blogger a heart attack since plagiarism is greatly frowned upon in our community, so assure them that you mean no harm. You’d just be happy if they credit your niche site as its source.

This way, you can help other authority site operators grow their pages alongside generating quality backlinks for yourself.

3. Strong backlink sources

Finding broken backlinks as leverage for link building

Let’s put a bit of psychology into link building, shall we? People are more likely to extend a favor if they feel indebted to you. Maybe that’s manipulative for others, but I call it leverage.

Begging like crazy would barely get you any backlinks. Think you have a credible reputation? Without superb interpersonal skills, you’d probably just look like another desperate authority site operator.

This is why I love link building via finding broken backlinks first. Instead of offering a partnership or exchange, the first e-mail you’ll send out to another webmaster will position you as a friendly pal.

Start by studying his backlink profile and use the Chrome browser extension Check My Links. With just a click, you’ll be led to any faulty links your potential partner has. You then have to draft an e-mail to point out this issue. Keep a concerned, helpful tone while you’re at it. This now opens the opportunity for you to suggest an appropriate content from your niche site that could replace the broken backlink.

This tactic gives you great psychological leverage. By providing value to a webmaster before anything else,  you make them more grateful and willing to give you a backlink in exchange for your kind initiative. After all, you saved him time from checking on his link profile and finding a remedy for a problem he never thought he had.

Earlier this year, I did a victory dance after getting a recommendation from a university all thanks to broken link building. This noticeably pushed my niche site up in Google’s top 3 results suggestions.

Agreements for guest contributions

Have you ever heard of mutualism? It’s basically a natural order in an ecosystem where two beings willingly cooperate due to the common benefit they derive from a relationship. If a bird and a zebra can be friends over ticks, you can definitely make parters out of authority site operators.

Through initiating guest contribution agreements, you get the chance to have a strong backlink and increase your audience as well. This is made possible by offering another webmaster a highly valuable article that he could publish on his niche site. These types of content often come at high outsourcing costs or an abundant time allocation for research and writing, and here you are submitting it for free.

For this strategy to work, you must put your best foot forward and pitch the greatest article you’ve ever written or paid for. It must be so well-written and informative that no webmaster in the right mind could ever say no to publishing it.

When I was first studying about guest contributions, I was amazed by its potential results. When one authority website published a post about its “all-time top ten most successful articles,” two guest contributions have made it into the list. Guess what, the better performing article received over 300,000 visitors! Absolute jaw drop. Imagine how much traffic its author got and is still getting.

Of course, anyone will love and prefer a dofollow link in exchange for a guest contribution. But if your partner website has such a high visitor count, whatever link attribute is set for you won’t even matter. Whenever you find an opportunity to cooperate with a well-positioned authority site, grab it regardless of the kind of backlink they offer you.

You can start by making a list of all websites related to your niche, and make notes about their reputation and performance. Weed out the neophyte pages, and stick with the biggest, most visited blogs available.

Important tip: never send your requests to all potential webmasters all at once! Start with a handful so you can learn from the rejections you’ll get. Save the best websites for last, so you have more time to polish your pitch for these premium partners.

Whenever possible, provide your partner with your own pictures and videos to spice up the article’s quality even more. These should be original content that you produced. A lot of webmasters have considered it a mortal sin to publish someone else’s graphics because of all the copyright troubles they might get into.

To further boost the success of your published guest article, be sure to participate in its comment section’s discussions. The goal is to convince your partner’s readers that you’re an expert on the topic. This way, you can make your reputation itself as a magnet to attract traffic for your niche site.

As a general rule of the thumb, stick with value-rich guide articles when forging backlink partnerships. Don’t waste your time dressing up a product-related content. Almost no one will bite your offer.

Backlinks from old blogs

There are hundreds of thousands of authority sites out there, and hardly anyone deletes them even if they turn out as a flop or if its webmaster no longer had the time to maintain it. You’ll definitely find a couple of abandoned blogs within that huge heap.

Be on the lookout for old, discontinued niche sites that have decent ranking pages and impressive backlinks. Be wary of copyright issues too! Stay away from those that have plagiarized text, pictures, or videos. You can start your search with our old pal Google. Simply enter a query with the keywords:

  • Blog to be discontinued
  • Blog will close
  • No new blog posts

Basically, think of possible phrases that a webmaster will usually include in his farewell post.

Got your list? Now, try to contact each site’s webmaster and see if you can continue their project, or perhaps buy it for a couple of bucks.

Backlinks from YouTube

YouTube sets links found in each video or its description to nofollow, but the amount of traffic you can get is hard to ignore. There are two ways to build strong backlinks from this content sharing platform:

  • Build your own channel. If you have superb skills in videography, consider starting your own YouTube channel and shooting your own episodes. Plan your content bank around the topics discussed in your authority site. These can be unboxing videos, extensive product tests, or video instructions. Depending on your niche, you can even produce short films!
  • Create partnerships with YouTube influencers. There are a lot of YouTubers who produce product test videos. Find content creators who are passionate about your niche, and offer to send them goodies that they can feature on their next episode. You get traffic from their channels, and they get great merch for free. Win-win scenario, isn’t it?

When choosing which method to go for, consider the extent of effort you’re willing to exert. Building a YouTube channel is no easy walk in the park. It takes a lot of planning, skills, and maintenance that might be too much for webmasters who already have a lot on their plate. Reaching out to influencers is undoubtedly more convenient, but be warned that some Youtubers won’t say yes easily. Some of them might charge you with a fee, and it’s up to you to decide if the results are with the cost.

Backlinks from Donation Drives

Credible websites maintained by associations, events, universities, social projects, and charities often host donation drives. In exchange for the goodness of webmasters’ hearts, organizers often give them a backlink as thanks.

Instead of putting aside a fund for buying backlinks, you can use it to support an advocacy and still get the traffic and search ranking boost you’ve wanted.

Seek Google’s help in looking for potential donation drives related to your niche by combining your main keyword with the following terms:

  • Keyword + Donation
  • Keyword + Sponsor
  • Keyword + Charity
  • Keyword + Sponsor
  • Keyword + Partner

If you want to boost your reputation as well, consider starting your own appeal for donations. Let’s assume you’re maintaining a niche site about dogs. By extending support to an animal shelter, fur parents and animal rights advocates will gladly promote your funding campaign and share your links on social media and in forums.

Expert tip: make sure that your donation drive is grounded on a morally acceptable cause and purpose. Don’t take advantage of a natural disaster with high death tolls just to build your backlink profile.

Tips for building strong backlinks

1. Conduct a competitor analysis

The easiest way to find strong backlink sources is by scouting your direct competition.

Use SEO plugins that will allow you to examine the backlink profile of the top-performing websites in your niche, and take notes on the most powerful link sources in the list. Remember, it’s not your goal to duplicate their entire armory. This will put you on the bad side of Google, and I doubt that doing so is possible anyway.

To help you conduct a competitor analysis, allow me to walk you through my personal routine:

  • Step 1: Enter your niche site’s main keywords on Google, and list down all of your direct competitors found on the first three to five search result pages of Google. Basically these are other authority sites publishing content on similar topics as yours. Leave out the big bosses like Amazon and eBay from your notes. There’s no use to analyze a humongous portal with over millions of backlinks. I personally find it interesting to evaluate pages that have ranked so high even with just a thin profile.
  • Step 2: Find a suitable backlink tool to make your research easier. The best free plugin in the market is WISE SEO, and I often use its Link Explorer function when I conduct a competitor analysis. I love how it can generate a whole bunch of significant data which are helpful in qualitatively evaluating a link source.
  • Step 3: Tweak the backlink tool’s filter to weed out link sources that won’t be of much help to you. By doing so, you can easily rank them according to varied metrics like “DomVal” and “Power”. Take a look at my usual set up when I use WISE SEO: [insert screenshot here]
  • Step 4: Take a closer look at the top-performing link sources you’ve found to validate its credibility. Do not blindly rely on the numbers that backlink tools spit out! Consider it as a guide, but never an absolute recommendation.

2. Always make the most out of current topics & trends

Content publishing involves an intense race. Whoever first writes about current events will be most successful in building an expert status in his niche and in generating impressive traffic. Webmasters who are able to write and post fast are often cited as sources by other bloggers, making this strategy effective in building backlinks with minimal effort.

To make sure that you stay ahead of your competitors, look out for the latest trends and the most controversial topics with these tips:

  • Subscribe to e-mail newsletters and RSS feeds manufacturers. This way, you will be the first to report on brand new products.
  • Follow the most influential magazines and bloggers and pick up the most engaging themes they’ve written about.
  • Use trend sources and analysis tools like Google Trends, Amazon Movers and Shakers, Buzzsumo Trending, and Reddit Rising.

3.  Try other free blog providers

WordPress is definitely a favorite among authority site operators, but there are other major free blog providers you can set up with. There are hundreds of these platforms, but let’s concentrate on the most popular ones.

[Insert screenshot of the strongest free blogs here]

The free blog providers on this list boast extremely high visibility and was able to help webmasters build high ranking pages. This gives us a hint that Google favors these platforms, making them ideal as a backlink source.

I’ve seen a couple of SEO experts advise against using free blogs to build backlinks. Some even consider this tactic as dangerous. However, I absolutely disagree. I have already built strong link sources out of Tumblr and Blogger, taking extra precaution with quantity and frequency. Even if you create free blogs with 20 different providers to set backlinks for the other 19, Google will is smart enough to notice your deceit. Don’t waste your time and effort and focus on creating a single, quality-rich website to support your WordPress authority pages.

To help you execute this strategy better, you might want to keep these best practices in mind:

  • Focus on a specific keyword or subpage that you want to build a backlink for. Do not recreate your entire WordPress site on another provider! For my radio bell authority website, I prioritized my post “radio bell for seniors” by creating a mini niche site about the elderly.
  • When building the free blog, focus on producing useful, informative, and timeless articles. Stick with guide-related articles and make it ad-free. You wouldn’t want to have to put any further effort in the future, since its primary purpose is just to provide backlinks for your main authority site.
  • The free blog should remain small and manageable, but jampacked with value and quality. When done right, it could even generate organic backlinks of its own. This can also boost your main authority site’s traffic and search rankings over time.
  • If you’re outsourcing articles from other authors, you can use your mini-niche site as a testing ground to make sure that only the best will make it to your main authority site. Any rejects can be published as added content to the free blog.
  • To make sure Google won’t be skeptical, link valuable pages other than yours too. While articles are mainly attributed to your main authority site, you can also provide backlinks to other webmasters’ photos or videos.

4. Try paid search results offers

Apart from putting effort into building organic search ranking boosts and traffic via link building, you can also consider buying visitors from Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and Bing ads.

Since this will involve additional costs for your authority site management, be smart, and consider these tips before subscribing to any ad provider:

  • Be meticulous in choosing which keywords you should pay for. You have to analyze the degree of competition for each one, along with the average price per click for each niche. Belonging to a community with less ferocious rivals can make paid ads more profitable for you.
  • Start with a small fund, then monitor your paid keywords regularly to find which brought the biggest return on investment. Use appropriate metrics to decide which to scale up and which to discontinue.
  • If you have monetized your niche site with affiliate marketing, paid search results will only be worth it if you’re recommending expensive products. If most of your commissions come from a $20 product, the cost of sponsored traffic might not be worth it in the end.

Final notes

Even with over eleven thousand words, this ultimate guide has yet to cover all the specifics of link building. Be sure to read other articles we’ve published to further help you prepare better for the time, effort, and cost this off-page optimization process requires.

How do you find the best link sources for your authority site? Come and let’s discuss your own experiences with link building in the comment section below!

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