“So, I’m not allowed to buy them, swap them, or sign up to a service that provides them… how the hell am I supposed to get backlinks then?”
The “company line” answer from Google is to create a great website full of great content and let links organically come to you. There’s a reason that we covered content before backlinks, you see.
However, whilst it is entirely possible for this strategy to work, there is no guarantee that backlinks are magically going to arrive. There is no backlinks fairy, as far as I know…
If you want backlinks, you’re going to have to do some work to generate them.
Talk to existing contacts for backlinks
Yes, it’s OK to ask someone for a link.
The first, and easiest, way to get backlinks is to talk to people you know and see if they are happy to post an article on their website that includes a link to you. You can even provide the article; a technique called “Guest Blogging” which we will cover in a bit more detail below.
This may seem a bit “needy”, but you’ve got to start somewhere and you are missing a trick if you don’t reach out to business contacts, friends, and connections who would be willing to link to your site without a link back in return.
Prolific crowdfunder Amanda Palmer released a fascinating TED Talk and book about “The Art of Asking”, which is where I’ve pillaged this quote from:
“Those who can ask without shame are viewing themselves in collaboration with – rather than competition with – the world”Amanda Palmer
In short, “You don’t ask, you don’t get”.
Remember, search engines are looking for links from relevant sites that are in context, so it’s only worth approaching contacts who are working in your own industry.
Talk to people you don’t know
Remember the various techniques that we talked about for coming up with ideas for your blog? Wouldn’t it be great if someone just contacted you, out of the blue, with an interesting piece of news that was relevant to your site that you could blog about?
Sending your content to relevant sites to highlight what you’re doing because it might be relevant to them is 100% OK when it comes to backlink building.
This technique is hardly rocket science however, so don’t expect to be the one and only email that a large website in your niche/sector receives that day. Just as you need to make your contact engaging, useful, and timely for visitors, you need to do the same for the people you are going to be sending your content to in the hope that they will read it, like it, and link to it.
“If you want to catch more fish, use more hooks”George Allen Snr
Be sure to spread your wings – don’t rely on just one or two sites. Make it your business to know the websites that are prominent in your sector and get your content to them, but don’t overlook smaller or quieter sites and don’t give up if the larger sites don’t carry your content straight away. Building backlinks is like any other kind of networking – you may need to build up your profile over a series of interactions before you gain any traction.
The “Broken Link” Trick
There’s a trick that’s been doing the rounds for a while in linking building circles. I’m not a huge fan of it, but it would be wrong to leave it out.
The trick relies on finding websites that have out of date or broken links and then writing to the owner of that site to point out the problem and offer your site as a replacement.
You can download extensions for Google Chrome and other web browsers that will check a webpage for broken links – simply point the tool at a page relevant to yours and check to see if there are any broken links.
Check my Links Tool for Google Chrome:
This technique relies on the person receiving your message being grateful that you’ve pointed out the problem with their website and accepting your link as a replacement. The content of the contact email is all important in this context.
Personally, I have not used this technique in bulk, but when researching additional techniques for this section of the book I kept coming across this method time and again, so it certainly seems to be popular with some SEO consultants.
A more traditional approach to getting your content out there is to use press releases.
“A press release is a short, compelling news story written by a public relations professional and sent to targeted members of the media. The goal of a press release is to pique the interest of a journalist or publication.“
Like a message about any other piece of content, press releases can be sent directly to websites, blogs, etc. There are also specific services available for the “syndication” of press releases that will put your press release in front of a wide array of journalists and publications from a single upload.
There are free and paid versions of these services; if you’re going to look at using these then the paid option is the best way to go. Like any marketing channel however, you should track how well your content does when you pay for syndication – if you can’t see a return on your investment, try a different strategy and/or change up your content.
Steal your competitors’ backlinks. Look at where their best links come from and chase a link from there
Now, this one sounds a bit more nefarious than it is.
Let’s say you’re currently cooling your heels down at number 11 for a particular search term. (That means you’re on the second page, the “wrong side of the tracks” of search engine results). Meanwhile, you’ve got a competitor who is in position 1, right up there on the first page, where all the people are and clicks are.
As we’ve already established, there will be lots of different factors contributing to them being at #1 and you at #11, and backlinks will be one of them.
It’s relatively easy to find out which sites are linking to others. Google used to let you do this direct from the search bar, but that’s become a bit less reliable of late so you’ll want to use a third party tool like Moz’s Link Explorer:
Simply by entering a competitor URL into Link Explorer, you can get a list of the sites that are linking to them. Guess what… they might want to link to you as well.
Remember, however, that just because your competitor has a link from a particular site doesn’t mean that that link is a good link. Don’t assume that your competitor knows what they are doing.
Understanding how your competitors have approached link building can be a hugely informative process though and it’s something you should be looking at on a regular basis.
Try finding sites you don’t know about!
Up until now, we’ve built every link from using something we already know as a “jumping off point”. It may sound obvious, but I am going to point something out here that you’ve hopefully already thought of.
You can Google sites in your sector and niche, just like a customer does. The best sites to get links from are going to be near the top of the list, because that’s where Google puts them.
Try combining your search keywords with terms like “news”, “chat”, “questions”, “network”, “help”, and “blog” to find the people talking about your keywords.