How to build quality backlinks to boost your online profile
If you’re feeling invisible online and frustrated because your potential customers can never seem to find you, then perhaps it’s time to take another look at search engine optimisation (SEO). But don’t be scared of the big bad SEO word! And if you’re already familiar with SEO, then you’ll find it easy to grasp the backlink building technique I’m going to explain in this post.
There are so many parts to SEO puzzle. It’s hard to know where to invest your time and money. And SEO is such a slow game. It takes months to get real traction from your SEO efforts. I’m seeing one of my niche websites now just out of the mythical Google sandbox and taking flight. It’s a beautiful sight to behold. But it’s taken months!
If you’re looking for a quick and easy win, then I highly recommend focusing on building quality backlinks.
If you’re already familiar with how search engine works and their relationship with links, skip on down to the juicy part where I explain the backlink building technique.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links from another website to yours. Other sites might link to your homepage or to content deeper in your site.
Watch this video of Matt Cutts from Google as he explains how search engines work, and the importance of links.
Why are backlinks so important?
Search engines use a complicated algorithm to work out which pages best serve a search request.
There are two very good reasons why you should build quality backlinks to your site. Note that when I talk about backlinks, I talk about QUALITY backlinks, not just any old rubbish links.
Backlinks can help bring more people to your website
The first reason why backlinks are so important is that they can help bring traffic to your website. And who doesn’t want more traffic? More traffic equals more conversions, especially when you’re driving the right kind of traffic to your site.
Quality backlinks help create more awareness of you and your website, get you noticed by influencers in your industry, build your online brand and drive traffic.
Backlinks suggest your content is share-worthy
The second reason why quality backlinks are so important is that a backlink sends a small but sometimes powerful signal to search engines that your content is quality content and worth linking to.
Not all backlinks are created equal
That’s right. Not all backlinks are equal.
A link from an authoritative site will have more power than a link from a new site with flimsy content. Links from .gov and .edu have great value. If your site is about rearing rabbits and you get a link from a rabbit-related website, that’s better than getting a link from a site about table tennis.
Don’t risk de-indexation
There are foolish ways to build backlinks faster than you can say next Google algorithm update.
It can be hard to source organic links from authoritative sites, and by organic, I mean links you do not pay for. One should never ever buy backlinks from a link farm service. If the only reason someone provides a link to your site is because you paid for it, then that is buying a link. Google will catch on and you risk your site being manually penalised for trying to game the system. The outcome? Your site is de-indexed and you no longer appear in the search results of the market-dominating search engine — the total opposite of visibility.
With my backlink building technique, I will show you how to play the game, staying within Google’s guidelines.
My technique builds credible, organic links from authoritative sites that will help boost your likelihood of ranking of great keywords. Building backlinks is just one tool in the giant SEO toolbox. But it’s a powerful and effective tool.
How to build quality backlinks
So, how does one quickly and easily build backlinks without falling foul of Google’s guidelines?
Watch my video or follow the steps below.
Step 1. Analyse your current backlinks
Using an SEO tool like Serpstat, I analyse my website’s backlink profile. (Note that this is an affiliate link, which means if you choose to sign up for Serpstat, I get a small kickback but at no cost to you. I use it and love it and would never recommend something I don’t personally use.) You can use other tools like:
If you don’t already use an SEO tool, sign up for a free trial to get a feel for the software and you’ll be able to do the next steps.
These SEO tools are a lot more expensive than Serpstat. Serpstat is just as good and does what you need it to do for less than a quarter of the price of the others.
To see my backlink profile, in Serpstat, I look at the ‘referring domains’ rather than individual backlinks. Once I see where the links are coming from, it helps to get a feel for what the mix is.
- Are the links from comments on blogs?
- Are they from directories?
- Are they from another website linking to my site because they like what I have to say about a topic?
- Are they my guest posts I published elsewhere?
- Is it a link from a collaborative post I contributed to?
If you are already yawning and thinking “But I don’t know how to do this” or “I don’t have time for this” then skip down to the bottom because I can do this for you.
Step 2. Spy on your competitors
The next step is to use the same tool to spy on your top competitors to see where they are getting their backlinks from. There is a wealth of unmined gold in your competitor’s backlink profile.
I look at the top 100 domains providing links to their site (if there are 100 or more) and try to figure out their backlink strategy (if they have an obvious one).
I export a list of my competitor’s referring domains from Serpstat as an Excel file. Sometimes a competitor won’t have 100+ links. In that case, the list will be much smaller, but that’s OK.
Step 3. Build a backlink roadmap for your site
I sift through my competitors’ backlinks, remove the spammy-looking links, and distil them into a list of quality sites.
Once you start looking at backlinks, spammy links start to stand out and become easy to identify. They might have a strange suffix like .ru or .us and the domain name itself might be a curious mix of letters making no discernable sense. They might have words in the domain name that are completely unrelated to your business. If you visit the page, it might look like this:
Don’t waste your time with these websites. Delete them from your list and move to the next site.
Keep looking through the backlinks to find quality sites.
Quality sites might be:
- legitimate blogs related to the topic of your site where you can join in a discussion and add value through a well-articulated comment
- paid and unpaid directories that aren’t spammy and where you could list your business
- a website that publishes guest posts where you would get a link back to your website
- a website that links to other good quality sites because of the good content they offer
- a website such as Quora where your competitor has been helpful and answered someone’s question and added a link to their site.
There might be a resources page where you could suggest your site be included. They might have some content about your topic that is old and needs updating and a page on your site would fill that gap.
Google likes quality directories. Some directories have a manual review process and don’t accept everyone. Others accept anyone who pays and Google might consider those as paid links. Links from spammy directories have little or no value, or even worse, they might hurt your site.
I review at least five of my top competitors and work my way through their top 100 backlinks. I keep track of all this information in a spreadsheet and note what action I take or will take. One cannot knit a quality guest post in three seconds, but I at least note websites that are receptive to blog posts and where I could pitch an idea.
Download a copy of my free Backlink Research Template (Excel file) for recording your backlink research.
I also note the Domain Authority (DA) score for each non-spammy site.
DA is a metric created by SEO company Moz. It’s a score out of 100 that predicts how likely a domain is to rank within search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher the score, the higher the site’s authority. And this usually means a backlink from this site is of better quality and will pass more link juice to your website. DA scores update about every month or so and it can be 90 days or more before Moz discovers the backlinks to your website. And even then, it’s unlikely to find all of them. Don’t get caught up in DA dramas. They tend to bounce up and down but if your DA score is higher now than it was six months ago, that’s all you need to worry about.
Step 4. Follow your roadmap
Now that you’ve filtered the backlinks, removed the spammy and irrelevant sites and worked out the DA score for each, it’s time to start building links.
I start targeting the sites with a higher domain score than mine. Credible sites with lower DA are still useful — their DA might increase over time and that backlink will become more powerful. You might also catch the attention of an up-and-coming savvy website owner. They’re more likely to be receptive to a guest post than a site with a DA score over 40.
To find the DA of a domain, you can use Moz’s free Open Site Explorer tool, but you’re limited to three free searches a day. You can also install the free MozBar, a Chrome extension that displays the DA of any webpage you visit using your Chrome browser. But that would take FOREVER to look up individual DA scores for dozens or 100+ websites. Instead, I use a paid tool called KeySearch. It’s primarily an excellent keyword research tool and one of the best on the market. It’s also one of the most affordable ones, too. (I’m also an affiliate for KeySearch, but that’s because I know and love it and use it almost daily.) I use the URL metrics tool and bulk paste in domains from my spreadsheet and look them up in one go. Each search costs me one credit and I have 200 credits per day with my plan. If you remove the spammy-looking sites before looking up the DA score in Keysearch, you can save quite a few credits.
Start listing your business in the relevant directories your backlink sleuthing uncovered.
Start commenting on blogs (and adding value) where your competitors are, regardless of whether the link is DoFollow. I’ll go into this in more detail below and why it can be good for your business.
Look at websites with a higher DA score than yours and see if they accept guest posts and then come up with the perfect pitch for them. Don’t be generic, be specific and make sure you’ve read enough of their content that you’re sure the topic you’re pitching is a good fit. Make it as easy as possible for that website owner to accept your pitch. Offer to source quality pictures. You can get quality, free images from Unslpash or Pixabay.
Reach out to website owners where you think your content fills a gap.
The bonus outcome of backlink research
There are a couple of bonuses that can come from backlink research.
1. Good quality content sources
Finding good quality content to share with your social media audience can be tedious and time-consuming. I’ve found that this backlink research technique can reveal websites that are worth curating for great content to share with your audience.
As you work your way through the backlinks, make a note or even a separate list, of websites that publish good quality content you can return to when looking for something to share.
2. Discover new suppliers
Another often unexpected gem is finding new products or services that can be useful for your business. I’ve used backlink research to find new suppliers for my online wallpaper store and from there, do keyword research to work out if it’s worth stocking their products. It opens a whole new world of products I can offer my audience. It’s amazing what falls out when you shake the backlink tree. Keep an eye out for relevant sites for your business.
Why organic blog commenting can be good for your business
You might have heard that blog comments can hurt your website and you shouldn’t use commenting as part of your backlink strategy. This is rubbish. Blog comments can be great for SEO if they’re done properly and organically.
Comments should be:
- topically relevant — there’s no point commenting on a site about table tennis if your site is about raising rabbits
- thoughtful and adding value to the post — don’t just comment ‘great post!’ and disappear
- used to build your brand, attract a new audience and increase traffic
- used to build a relationship with other blog owners
- done in one day — spread them out over time, otherwise, they might look spammy to Google
- not your majority source of backlinks.
If a site has a lot of spammy links in the comments section where the commenters are purely after a link, don’t comment. You don’t want your link to be associated with spammy company.
Be mindful that the further down the comment list you are, the link juice that’s likely to be passed to your website or the number of people who read your comment will be less.
Most comments provide ‘NoFollow’ links. This means that zero link juice is passed back to your site via the link in the comments section. Occasionally you’ll find a site where the comments are ‘DoFollow’, that is, they pass link juice back to your site. But these are rare and you won’t find many sites these days offering DoFollow links because they encourage spammers.
You can install a Chrome plugin-in to determine if links on a page are classed as ‘DoFollow’ or ‘NoFollow’. See the NoFollow plug-in. After you’ve installed it, you’ll see a red dotted box around the NoFollow links on any web page you visit.
When you can leave your name and website URL in the comments section, use your real name (to avoid being classed as spam by Google) rather than different anchor text or the name of your business. So, for example, I should always comment as ‘Sandra Muller’, not as ‘Melbourne SEO Copywriter’ or some other variation.
See this video from Google’s Matt Cutts where he talks about blog comments and when they’re good and … not so good.
Comments on YOUR website
Opening your site to a thriving discussion in the comments section sends a positive signal to Google, but only if you properly manage them. They help build a community around your content. Back in 2014, John Mueller from Google said great comments can be a positive thing for a website, but bad if you don’t moderate them, allow spammers and flame wars to rage. If you let them run out of control, then that might bring down the overall quality of your website.
Unmoderated and out-of-control comments are also a poor user experience. It looks like you don’t care about your website and you’re not paying attention. This is a real turn-off for users and you’re unlikely to attract genuine comments.
To summarise, if you’re not abusing comment protocols you are not at risk of Google penalising your site or content — that is, ranking your content lower (all other things considered equal) than it otherwise would
If comments bring useful information to the content that you’ve already provided, then comments could be a good addition to your website. It could increase the value of your website overall. If the comments show that there’s a really engaged community, it’s likely that new users will be encouraged to comment when they visit your site.
Quality comments can help position you as an authority and your content as worth sharing with their friends and networks.
Over to you. What do you do to build backlinks to your site? Do you do a process similar to this or something completely different? Let me know in the comments below.
Work with me
If all that work sounds like too much for you right now but you’d LOVE the value and benefit a good quality backlink strategy can bring, work with me. Let me create and action a backlink strategy for you.
Originally published at Sandra Muller .