Does your site need backlinks? You're in the right place.
Backlinks are one of the most powerful tools for increasing traffic, improving search engine rankings, and boosting authority for your website and domain. But while backlinks can be a strong ally in any SEO campaign, they can also be your downfall if you don't know how to use them correctly.
Link building can be a complex and time-consuming task, but backlinks are an essential part of any SEO campaign. This guide will show you how to start building high-quality backlinks that will improve your website's search engine rankings and traffic levels. The more high-quality links you have pointing to your website, the better your chances of outranking the competition.
What are backlinks?
Quite simply, a backlink is a link from another website or web page that links back to your own website. Almost any web page element can be used to create a backlink, including linked images, iFrames and forms, but the most common (and arguably the most powerful) type of backlinks are content-based links in the form of hyperlinked anchor text, also known as content links or anchor links.
What's the difference between backlinks and outbound links?
The difference between a backlink and an outbound link is simply which side of the transaction you're on. If someone else's website has an outbound link that leads to your website, they gave you a backlink. If you create an outbound link on your website that points to someone else's website, great job! You're giving that site a backlink.
Toxic Backlinks and the SEMRush Backlinks Audit Tool
First of all, just because a SEMRush audit says a link is toxic doesn't necessarily make it so. Backlinks audits are designed to point out any irregularity in the sources of your backlinks. Links may be flagged for a variety of reasons, including the age of the source domain, the amount of traffic the domain receives, and whether the source website's content is relevant to your content. In plain English, if the source of your backlink is a flower shop's website, and you're a plumber, then that link might be flagged as toxic, but that doesn't mean that it actually is toxic.
To cut down on false positives, it's important to configure your backlinks audit tools correctly. The SEMRush Backlink Audit Tool lets you select the themes associated with your domain, allowing the audit to provide more accurate results.
Where do toxic backlinks come from?
Google's terms of service (TOS) tell us spammy links can come from a variety of sources, but usually toxic backlinks are a result of site owners purchasing backlinks from shady providers. However, not all toxic links are self-inflicted.
Low quality backlinks are a problem for many eCommerce websites, especially if a shop is being targeted with unofficial coupons from low-quality coupons websites (Editor's note: The best way to mitigate unlicensed coupons is to publish official coupons for your store on reputable coupon sites).
There are many reasons a link can be flagged as potentially toxic, but the most commonly flagged backlinks include:
- Links that originate from blog post comments
- Links that originate from porn sites (unless you're in the adult entertainment vertical, of course)
- Low-quality directory listing sites
- Low-quality social bookmarking sites
- Keyword-stuffed, hidden, or misleading anchor text
- Widely distributed links hidden in footers, templates, or files
- Links that originate from known Private Blog Networks (PBNs)
When it comes to toxic links, it pays to be vigilant, but if you discover toxic or unwanted backlinks to your website, it's not the end of the world. Google understands that site owners have no control over who and what links to their content (If you suspect that you're being penalized by Google, go and check the manual actions menu item on Google Search Console).
To get rid of unwanted backlinks, you can create and submit a Toxic Backlinks Disavow List to Google Search Console. There are a number of tools online that can help you discover, catalog, and disavow toxic links, but our favorite is the SEMRush Backlink Audit Tool.
Is buying backlinks a good idea?
The best way to get high quality backlinks is to have great content on your website. The better your content is, the more likely it is that other websites will link back to it. But building up a library of useful content takes time, patience, and a lot of work, so for those of us that don't want to sit around waiting for the perfect links to roll in, there are lots of ways to buy backlinks. But remember:
Buying backlinks is risky.
Buying cheap backlinks is dangerous.
As a shortcut to quality backlinks, many webmasters resort to buying backlinks from a backlinks provider. But purchasing sponsored backlinks and passing them off as organic earned links is a good way to invite the wrath of Google. Of course, not all commercial backlinks are necessarily toxic, as long as you adhere to Google's Webmaster Guidelines and avoid low-quality, spammy links.
If you're interested in buying links, make sure you do your research. This article about link building pricing in 2023 has a lot of useful information to help you get started.
Remember: If you buy backlinks and you get caught by Google, your site could be penalized, which would harm your search rankings and undo months of SEO work. So before you buy backlinks from anyone, make sure to read Google's Webmaster Guidelines and invest some time and energy into organic link building tactics discussed below. We'll show you how to get domain-safe, high-quality backlinks without buying them, and without risking your domain's long term health.
How to get backlinks to your website (the right way)
1. Upload coupons to reputable coupon sites
One of the best ways to get backlinks is to publish coupons that link back to your website. Not only do coupon sites produce highly effective backlinks, coupon sites can also boost referral traffic and CTR for your site, which in turn will boost rankings and authority as well. Check out our picks for the most reputable coupon sites:
2. Offer your expert opinions
If you have extensive knowledge on one or many topics, you can put your knowledge in a Sourcebottle and become a source for journalists and content writers all over the world.
3. Become a Q&A legend
The internet never runs out of questions. If you're the type of person who's always got the answers, put them to good use by becoming a Q&A legend on Terkel.
4. Get Qwoted
Qwoted helps professional journalists who need real quotes on current events, news items, and a wide range of specialty topics. Visit their website and get Qwoted today.
5. Publish (or republish) Research Data
Do you have a knack for data analysis? One popular way to get backlinks is to search up studies and journal articles that are relevant to your brand. Then, you can interpret and republish that research on your own site, with your own original insights and commentary drawn from the data.
Remember, any time you quote or republish someone else's content, make sure to credit your sources with a backlink from your own site, and when it's time to publish your take, make sure that at least 50% of your on-page content is unique and original.
6. Find un-linked mentions and lost links
If your website/domain has been around for a while, chances are there are some pages out there that mention your brand, but don't have a solid link back to your site. To find the sites and pages talking about your brand, you can Ego-Surf (googling your own name or brand), or use a mentions-scraper like Mention or BrandWatch. Once you find unlinked mentions of your brand, you can then contact the owners of those sites to ask for a backlink to go with the mention.
This same technique also works with 'lost' backlinks were accidentally deleted, removed, or unpublished. If you lose a high quality backlink, don't be afraid to reach out to the webmaster or owner of the site and ask them to republish the link. You never know, you might even make a new friend in the process.
7. Be a source for B2B content writers
Like journalists, B2B content writers constantly need sources, quotes, or industry-specific information on a variety of topics. Sign up with sites like Help A B2B Writer and become a source in your field of expertise
8. Competitor Link Outreach
9. Guest posting + guest blogging
This is one of the most popular ways to get backlinks. Build a list of blogs and websites that feature topics that resonate with your audience, then contact the owners of those sites and offer them a blog post (written by you) in exchange for a 'dofollow' backlink. Guest posting requires a little more effort, but the payoff is worth it. Not only will guest posting earn you a quality backlink, but you might find a few new audiences for your own brand along the way.
10. Google News Outreach
Google your own target keywords and look at the ‘news’ results; find the sites and pages most relevant to your sector, and contact the owners of those sites to offer a guest post, Q&A session, or phone interview in exchange for a 'dofollow' backlink.
11. Create free tools and guides
Building software tools, guides, how-to manuals, and other useful items is one of the best ways we know to build up a catalog of links. If your freebie is really useful, your site could be backlinked by hundreds of high-traffic, high-authority websites.
Building free software tools requires a bit of technical skill to accomplish, but the payoff makes this one of the most effective ways to build up backlinks, drive traffic, and improve sentiment for your brand. Here's a few examples of our favorite types of free tools:
- Financial payment schedules or loan interest calculators
- Custom maps (Google My Maps is a great place to build these)
- Website page templates, free website themes
- Google sheets templates, Google Data Looker Studio templates
- Travel checklists, city guides, restaurant reviews
- Font sets, vectors, graphics, creative assets
- Stock images and stock videos
- Games (check out freegames.org)
12. Journalists need quotes
If you're an expert or professional, you can sign up with HARO - Help A Reporter Out and make yourself available to offer quotes and insights in exchange for a link back to your site
13. Press releases
Press releases are great for backlinks because the links get indexed quickly, and news sites often have more authority than commercial or retail sites. Unfortunately, Press Releases became very popular as an SEO 'hack,' aka shortcut to backlinks. So make sure you're only doing press releases for newsworthy events. But don't sell yourself short: there are lots of newsworthy events at almost every brand, including the launch of a new product, a notable change in leadership, or an upcoming public event.
You can write your own press release and send it out yourself, but for the best results, we suggest using a professional press release service. There are many Press Release (PR) providers that will write and distribute a press release about your business, usually for a relatively small fee. Here's a few of our favorites:
14. Create Web 2.0 profiles and posts
This is an old trick that every SEO specialist has dabbled with at one time or another. Web 2.0 sites are basically online communities where anyone can login and create a profile, page, news feed, or some form of digital property. When setting up a Web 2.0 profile, it's common practice to include a link to your website in your profile information. Most Web 2.0's allow user-generated content, so after you setup your profiles, you can go back and write blog posts that also link back to your primary domain.
Backlinks that you created yourself on Web 2.0 sites are what's known as "User Generated Content" or UGC. If you plan on creating a lot of user-generated backlinks, make sure to use the 'User Generated Content' link attribute (←we used one here as an example) to ensure the link is indexed properly.
The top 10 Web 2.0 sites for user-generated backlinks
- Thought Catalog
- Live Journal
- Google My Maps
- Google Sites
15. Appear on podcasts
Podcast descriptions usually include guests' website URLs. Even better, most podcasters publish to multiple podcast networks, so a single appearance can produce dozens if not hundreds of backlinks from a variety of sources.
16. Create images and graphics with embedded links
Let your creative side shine by creating useful, interesting, or funny infographics (or memes if you want) and then embed a link to your website in the image metadata. Then share your work on social media, your own website, Google Images (via Google Business), Reddit, or wherever your audience can be found.
17. Ask your professional contacts for a link
If you have professional contacts, friends, or relatives who own or manage their brand's website, get in touch and tell them about your link building campaign. Chances are they'll understand and be willing to help you out with a link. Offer them a reciprocal link from your own blog section and you've just taken part in a Reciprocal Link Exchange, one of the principals at the core of backlinks outreach campaigns.
18. Cross-link with your other websites
If you happen to own or manage other websites, pages, subdomains, or social profiles, then you can give yourself a handful of backlinks and social signals. If you own or manage multiple websites, you can create your own backlinks to and from all your websites. When performed on a larger scale, however, these links can be flagged as PBN (private blog network) links, so make sure to use best practices for anchor text when using this technique.
19. Cold outreach
Cold outreach is nobody's favorite way to get backlinks. In fact, cold outreach is probably the hardest way to solicit backlinks, but believe it or not, cold outreach WORKS. Legitimate organic backlinks are extremely valuable, so most webmasters are happy to "trade" links with another reputable site.
Start your outreach campaign by visiting the websites of other brands in your sector and related sectors, and check out their Contact Us page, or use their contact form to get in touch. Send your message to the attention of the site's webmaster or site administrator. Write an honest appeal and offer a reciprocal backlink in exchange for a link to your site, or offer a guest post on a topic you're familiar with. Be patient, outreach takes time and it's a slow burn, but the payoff is huge.
20. Give out backlinks of your own (and get good SEO karma)
Exchanging backlinks is a tradition as old as the internet itself. Backlinks can be seen as a sign of respect, a show of admiration, or as a thank-you for providing great digital content. But getting backlinks isn't the only way to benefit from them. In fact, backlinks are just as valuable for the origin site as they are for the recipient site.
When your website uses backlinks the right way—to credit sources, spotlight industry standouts, and reference important data—it improves your website's credibility with search engines. External links help search engines understand the usefulness, quality and purpose of your website more quickly, which makes it more likely to appear in search results sooner.
But the best reason to create backlinks to other websites is that it's good karma. The internet is all about connecting: connecting with other people, connecting with customers and clients, connecting with other websites, connecting with other brands, connecting with good ideas, connecting with new information, connecting with data. Interconnecting the world through backlinks is one of the most important functions of the internet, and backlinks make the internet a better, more connected place. So do your part and hand out a few backlinks to the sites you appreciate the most. You never know, you might make a connection that changes your life.
**For more information about outbound links and external linking, check out this Hubspot article that explains in more detail all the reasons that outbound links are good for your website.**