Link Building Strategies – 7 In-depth Techniques & Profitable Case Studies

By Tom Buckland | Backlink Generation Tips

Jul 01
Link Building Strategies

Link building is essential to outrank your competition.

You know it, I know it, our company specialises in it. Let’s talk about some strategies we use to achieve this.

In this post we’re going to be giving away our 7 favourite link building strategies used to build high quality, relevant backlinks to your website and improve your organic rankings, increase referral traffic and make more money in the process.

Link building is a challenging marketing technique but as you can see, the benefits far outweigh the difficulty it takes in getting them.

Link Building Strategies

Contents

Introduction – What Is Link Building?

Link building is the process of generating clickable backlinks pointing from one website (the linking site) to another website (the target site, usually a client or personal website you own.)

Link building itself has 2 major core benefits:

  1. Higher Organic rankings – Probably the single most important reason to build links. The more high quality links you have pointing to your website, the higher you will rank. Links are still the #1 ranking factor and moving into future this won’t change.
  2. Increase Referral Traffic – The links you are building will be clickable & likely built in front of your target audience already, this of course means if you are talking about a topic they are interested in, they will likely click through to read more about what you are taking about. Simple, effective and incredibly profitable.

So, without further ado, let’s crack on with 7 link building strategies we use on the daily.

1.) Digital PR – Do Something Newsworthy & Tell People About It

​Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising – Mark Twain​

Rocket science I know….

The single most obvious and yet underutilised strategy in the entire link building community.

Link building is essentially digital PR nowadays, building out mentions for clients and businesses on other “sources” that then link back to the “resource” as a “reference”….. Sound familiar?

Of course it does, because it’s almost the definition for old school public relations.

Nowadays the way the game is played is slightly different, but the goals are still the same. Generate mentions from your business at other locations where your target audience may be.

So how do we do this as a small-medium business owner without £20,000/month to pay to a PR agency?

Below are the 3 steps we integrate for clients who are looking to build editorial links and generate the old-school PR buzz.

1.) Find and build rapport with the top freelance journalists in your industry

Sounds painfully simple.

It’s not.

It requires a lot of patience, especially if you are in a highly competitive niche. Finding contributors who already write for sources you are looking to get featured in and simply reaching out to these individuals in a way that enables you to build a relationship and eventually later down the line, ask these individuals to post for you on these target sites.

In the words of Brain Pathway:

Building rapport is key to establishing the environment in which successful communications occur.

How you do this varies. From offering freelance writing gigs. Sending free stuff. Or, my personal favourite, doing something newsworthy and interesting in the first place and then simply making them aware of it.

If you ask a stranger to do something for you (say post in a high quality editorial website) – The chances they will do it are slim.

Whereas if you build the relationship with someone and then ask them… Conversions increase drastically. Links that seemed impossible to generate, now are well within your grasp.

2.) Do something awesome, cool, interesting, unique, charitable or just straight-up newsworthy.

Doing this makes generating links 10 times easier (which means you’ll build ten times more).

There are hundreds of examples on how you can do this, below are 9 I personally like;

  • Run an event.
  • Give a bunch of money to a relevant charity.
  • Build an awesome tool/software.
  • Reverse graffiti.
  • Do something unique.
  • Do something risqué.
  • Build a roundup list (more on that later.)
  • Format Data into a very interesting way (such as this absolute beautiful campaign.)
  • Build a viral video (such as this). Which now has over 25 million views.

3.) Tell Part 1 About Part 2

Simply reach out to people who you’ve built a relationship with before to tell them about your news piece…. Or in other words Part 1 + Part 2 = LINKS.

The important part is really getting a “good enough story” that makes sense for the publication to talk about.

Asking a journalist you met yesterday to publish something about how awesome your business is….. Is not going to go well.

Scale this method by starting with smaller editorial sites in your industry and “moving up the chain” a popular marketing strategy coined by Ryan Holiday.

2.) Smart Guest Posts – Don’t Be Generic

Guest posting is a strategy that’s becoming more and more generic and saturated by the day.

As we’re all aware approaching a webmaster and asking to “post a great piece of content” out of the goodness of your heart is a powerful link building strategy…. At-least it used to be.

Nowadays it’s just annoying and quite dull to do from a marketing agency point of view.

The basic point of using guest posts is to build links on websites that have high authority in their field.  These sites will be ranking significantly better than your site for a competitive keyword so to compensate, you post on their site to redirect their traffic to you.

See Cafe Mom for example. They have high authority and have a great niche:

contribute

Guest posts or blogs can be a powerful tool to use to build links. However, I see a lot of mistakes with this approach, the most common of which just doing these strategies with the goal to “tick-off” guest posting on your link building strategies checklist.

The issue of course is that every other smart business person looking to grow their link profile is doing the same thing. This means it’s just not working all that well anymore.

Instead, you have a few options that can be boiled down to 3 strategies to build guest post links more efficiently.

3 Ways To Build Guest Posts More Effectively

1.) Add a win-win element

win win

Guest posting is one of the classic win-win elements on its own. You get a link, the website gets a “great” piece of content that will rank organically and generate eyeballs which of course equal money through many different monetisation strategies, most commonly display advertising.

But we need to integrate another “win” on the side of the website containing our content. This is starting to be sponsored content (money) but as we know this isn’t an ideal situation from a Google ToS point of view, although in many cases it’s impossible.

So instead we like to integrate a win for the site we’ll be posting on by stating we send all live content through social accounts as well as sometimes through our email list. This is a very easy way to improve your conversions to guest posts.

Another common method is to play the “I’m a key person of influence in my industry.” Of course you must have some type of influence or authority otherwise you come across like a bit of an idiot when you play this card. The easiest way to avoid this is to show where your content has been featured in the past.

2.) Exclusivity

This strategy works very well for sites that are a little higher level and although accept guest posts, probably get hundreds of requests a month for people to post and hence can be very selective with who they take on-board. If you are not very “important” or well known in an industry this is the card to play.

Exclusivity strategy essentially revolves around the “we’ve built/done/have a very interesting case study/piece of data/something that your readers will like” – We wanted to post it on your site first and exclusively because we’re only a small blog and it wouldn’t get as much exposure there and we “really want a lot of people to see this.”

If you have an interesting element, this strategy works incredibly well.

The keys here are to position yourself and your data/piece of content very carefully. It’s a bit of an art and you’ll need to know who you are dealing with, so it’s always better to check who it is you’re emailing and what they are like generally before emailing.

This also works incredibly well with the first strategy when you are building a relationship and rapport with the individual first. In fact, life works a lot smoother if you do that….

3.) Hyper Specific Niches & Bridges

Hyper specific niches are pretty self-explanatory – If you have a website or business that you want to generate links to, chances are it’s in a niche. But you want to sub-niche down until you have a very specific niche/industry. The reason for this is because you can then build rapport with site owners a lot quicker and you’ll also know the targets and topics they’ll find interesting to pitch as titles here too, leading to a good outreach to link ratio.

Bridges work on a similar basis but focus on crossing the niche bridge. For example, let’s say you have a business that sells boats. Chances are you don’t have a huge amount of guest post opportunities that aren’t competition if you are looking for “guest posts” + Boat(s).

I actually ran this through Ahrefs out of curiosity and  I was right, there does not seem to be many:

niche bridges

So, by creating small and then larger bridge pieces of content we can essentially generate unlimited links and keep content relevant at the same time.

For example; sailing, boat maintenance could be 2 topics that are very closely related. As we bridge out further we could build pieces of content on; most expensive boat and yachts in the world – This opens up numerous link opportunities in the money, finance, lifestyle and business niche. And moving the other way we could build out pieces of content around “Best Travel Locations To Visit By Boat” – This opens up travel and lifestyle outreach options, whilst at the same time keeping everything very specific to our end target topic and not travelling too far offshore…..

Case Study

Link quality is more important than link quantity. Don’t know how many times I’ve had to say this but probably for the next decade I’ll still live by these words.

In the first month of 2018 we built 18 links for a client within 6 months, that’s only 3 links per month… Not great right?

The average yearly ROI for these links was £12,000 PER LINK.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Every link was built on sites using either guest postings or resource links and the essential element was focusing on the brand in question and building small bridges as the niche was so specific. You can read the full story here.

3.) Expert Roundup Content Creation

A very common strategy in the internet marketing & SEO space but something that’s really under-utilised outside of this industry.

For anyone who’s not familiar an expert roundup is simply a piece of content built on your website that involves quotes, advice, opinions or data from a number of experts or different sources, all of which are usually in the same industry. You can see a an SEO example below by Ahrefs.

Expert Roundup

This strategy is very time consuming to build out and occasionally doesn’t add a huge amount of value to the reader as sometimes it’s done just with the goal of generating links so very little content formatting or strategies are implemented, although Ahrefs one above is a decent read.

Moving away from the SEO space….

This strategy works incredibly well outside of the digital space for 3 reasons:

  1. The people who you reach out to are generally happy to talk about themselves and by playing on the ego you can get them to open up and build that relationship!
  2. There’s no one else doing it in your area (probably.)
  3. As a result of the above it’s easier to rank high competition keywords by using this strategy.

The Strategy Itself

1.) Find experts/industry key persons of influence and reach out to them and build the relationship. Remember to keep your email short, explain why you are doing it (come across passionate) and above all else get them to give you some sort of information and explain the incentive to do so. This is usually a link back to their site, you get to say you are featured alongside <insert big name in the industry here> and we’ll be advertising this to our list and social followings of <insert big number if you have one.>

2.) Format the results and continue building relationships with these individuals. The key thing we’re going to do is email them as soon as it goes live and (hopefully) they will link to this post in a future post. We can use this post in future link building strategies, most commonly resource page strategies. They also fit well into guest posts.

3.) Build out the post in a formatted way, including something of value with external links to contributor sites. For example, if you asked experts about their top 3 favourite link building strategies, build out a poll, graph or infographic to clearly display the information. Content formatting is really important and but sometimes overlooked (I’m personally really bad at this if you haven’t noticed already.) There’s a couple of good guides on this topic featured here, here and here. Those three sites all have information that’s very easy to read and it’s mainly due to the content formatting.

4.) Resource Pages

Resource pages will look something along the lines of this:

resource page example

They’re a very easy concept to understand:

  1. Find a piece of content that generates a lot of links already.
  2. Make huge improvements on this piece of content, re-write all elements and build something truly epic on your website.
  3. Reach out to sites linking to this piece of content and instead of linking to that “cr*ppy piece of content, link to ours instead.” – Maybe not the exact script to use.

All jokes aside resource links are awesome for a few key reasons.

Resource backlinks are usually on high authority sites that have been around for ages and have years of natural trust. These lists are also quite easy to find if you know how to search (which we’ll explain below.)

Some people also call this the skyscraper strategy coined by Brain Dean, but the strategy itself has been around for years in offline marketing not just in SEO.

How To Find & Reach Out To Resource Pages

As mentioned above the first stage is to build the best piece of content for that particular topic. For example, we’re aiming to develop this post into the go-to link building strategies guide for people worldwide. Once that’s achieved we can reach out to sites with link building resource pages and simply ask to be added or replace an out-dated one.

Once you have your piece of content, find and reach out to the resource page and request the placement. The content must be relevant to the page it is being placed on.

In this guide, we are not going to explain the exact messages used to be able to achieve this as selling a webmaster on a resource link placement is very similar to selling someone on a guest post placement. The most efficient way to find relevant resource pages is a Google search. There are multiple ways to select a resource page from the search results:

Filter by page title and URL

Resource pages will include the word ‘resource’ in their page titles and URLs respectively.

As an example, we have built content that is relevant to the footwear niche.  Searching for ‘shoes resources’ brings the following results:

Enter certain phrases as part of your search to narrow down the number of results. For example, the keywords followed by ‘intitle:resources’ finds resource pages.

For our footwear niche example, we get the following:

As you can see, we have gone from 395 million to 776 thousand. Tell Google what you are specifically looking for to narrow down the results. Here we have only filtered by title but the same logic applies for if you change the search term to ‘inurl:resources.’

After the search, use Ahrefs to see which pages have the most links. Use pages that have gained the most authority.

The only step left is getting in contact with the website owner or the person responsible for the resource page. It can be tricky to find an email address to use. In most cases, you will find links that say something along the lines of ‘suggest a resource’. If it isn’t so obvious, just dig a little deeper, for example social media pages.

When sending the email, give the recipient the benefit of using your content. Do not say the content is for a link building service. Build rapport with the responsible person as they have influence in the area. The better your relationship, the more posts to publish including links. Even if it’s just a single link you’re after, it will be easier to get if you both get along.

5.) Broken Link Building

Many thanks to Moz for creating the ‘bible’ of broken link building. It focuses on building links to a website or content by finding a broken link and replacing it with a working link.

Contact the webmaster of the page with the broken link and request to replace it with your own. Dead links are as useful to them as they are to visitors. Content with too many broken links harms rankings as Google thinks the site is no longer active.

Here are ways to replace dead links with your new links.

Identify an authoritative page and acquire the backlinks.  Use Ahrefs to export all the links that lead back to the site. Narrow down the relevant linking pages using the search terms described in strategy 4. Once completed, extract all external links to find potential dead links.

Staying with the shoes theme, take this blog post from Hotter for example.

dead links exploring

They have a lot of historical backlinks, some of which are broken. This site is also highly authoritative so makes an excellent candidate to request replacing dead links with live links of your own. Alternatively, if you would prefer an automated approach, this tool enables you to enter all the page’s external links and it will find all the broken links for you.

Target pages that have the most broken backlinks. The reason is obvious: the more broken links, the more of your own live links you can replace them with.

You can also target pages using keywords via a Google search. Cross reference it with Ahrefs to be sure the site is authoritative.

6.) Visual Link Building (Promote Your Content Pieces & Data Rather Than Service Product Or Homepages)

Humans are more geared to absorb content in the form of images, graphics and videos than purely text.

From a link building perspective it’s a lot easier to leverage visuals, videos and infographics to generate links on high authority sites. This strategy is nothing new, but it’s actually being used less and less by companies nowadays who want to see “instant results” and hence don’t want to invest the time into building interesting, beautiful graphics or interactive content.

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

1.) The Coke Infographic

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shown this to potential clients and marketing managers. The infographic itself is situated here, it’s a simple design but with some interesting data integrated. In short, it’s a simple, clean, unique, interesting infographic.

Now let’s check the Ahrefs stats for this…

Visual Link Building

Any guesses when the post went viral?

950+ referring domains within a couple of weeks. Not bad, but it gets better.

The sites this graphic was featured on were incredibly authoritative sites, such as:

Hundreds of high quality links

2.) Export Map Example

Another favourite of mine is the graphical map format. This content involves building out static (or even interactive maps) and using these as link bait pieces. An example of this is the visualcapitalist map which shows a map of the world but replacing the country name with the top export. Super interesting piece of content and a great link building asset.

Looking into the Ahrefs stats for this piece.

60 Referring Domains

60 Referring Domains in less than a month.

90%+ from relevant financial/investing style sites.

The key with visual content is to ensure you have specific prospects or a content distribution strategy set-up pre-building the graphics. If you simply want to build this and then share or social and expect dozens of awesome links then think again.

7.) Competition Analysis & Digital PR

Link building in short involves three basic principles. These concepts are nothing new but they are time consuming. It’s why in my opinion link building is essentially digital PR for your business. In this final strategy I’ll talk about competition analysis and digital PR. I’ve done large pieces on both of these in the past on our site, so won’t dive into extreme detail but they are 2 essential elements to know.

The three basic principles of link building are:

  • Content curation – Creating an interesting or valuable piece of content.
  • Connection Building/Prospecting – Who and how are you going to
  • Competition analysis – What are your competitors doing well/badly and how can we reverse engineer this.

These core concepts are integrated into every link building strategy we use and should be built into yours or simply integrated individually.

Competition analysis

In short, this involves looking at what your top ranking competitors are doing in regards to digital PR and link building. As mentioned above we have a full guide on this but the very short version is:

  1. Analyse the competitor inside Ahrefs.
  2. Determine what they are specifically doing to generate links;
    1. What strategies?
    2. What content?
    3. What sites? Guest posts?
    4. Any resource pages?
    5. Are they part of round-ups?
    6. Are they implementing any specific black hat strategies?
    7. Do they have any journalist/editor connections?
  3. Reverse engineer the 80-20 Rule.
    1. What are their top 20% of links driving 80% of the organic rankings?
  4. How can we also achieve these 20% of links?

It’s essentially that simple, although it might look like a lot of questions, once you get used to implementing this, using tools like Ahrefs, it’s actually very easy to see what links are driving organic rankings the most. Then implementing your time/resources to achieve these links rather than looking for brand new opportunities is a great allocation of resources for smaller companies/marketing campaigns.

If you have any questions about our link building strategies feel free to get in touch.

A Few Keys To Remember

With any link building strategy, you can merge almost dozens of other link building techniques into it. For example visual link building, resource link building, broken link building and guest posts can all be merged into one campaign. The key is to get your pitch & prospecting right. The easiest way to do this is to simply reverse engineer your competitor’s outdated content pieces and “steal” their links.

For example if we take Content Marketing Institute as an example, we can use Ahrefs to narrow down exactly their content based around link building strategies and see the links those exact URL’s have generated, we can them outreach to these sources and let them know we have a piece of content that’s more updated than theirs, not only this but it’s more in-depth too.

To do this inside Ahrefs, put your competitors site into content explorer, with the site: function (as well as the keyword you are looking to target. This looks like the below.

Content Explorer Search Terms Link Building

From here you can see the date the posts were published. Filter further by number of dofollow links, broken links and organic rankings if you prefer.

This gives hundreds of relevant link prospects to outreach to within minutes. Although, remember to have good anchor text diversity when it comes to these links and not dozens of anchors that all say the same thing.

We’ve built out additional guides that talk about more affordable link strategies, more advanced ones and even some of the core benefits you can expect to receive. As well as expanding this post to include another 11 strategies you can implement today.

11 Other Types of White Hat Link Strategies

Below are a few more strategies that might help the link-building creative juices flowing for your business.

1.) Cross Vertical Link Outreach

This technique involves reaching out to business owners in industries related to yours, but that are not direct competitors. Phrasing is key here, but as long as you are not direct competitors, it usually converts very highly.

Pros:

  • Very fast, relevant links.
  • For instance, building connections with PR agencies that do not offer SEO.
  • You can also offer simple value exchange here. We will do you a quick technical audit in return for a link.

2.) Link Aggregations

Also known as link roundups. This involves creating a piece of content that links to number pieces that are relevant to the niche. Very similar to top 10 lists.

Pros:

  • Generate a large social impact, resulting in more direct and social traffic.
  • Become known as an industry leader.

3.) University Outreach

The most powerful links you can build. The easiest way to build these links is to reach out to individuals inside the Uni on their blogging platform and with some strategic value exchange, we can generate dozens of powerful links from these sources!

Pros:

  • Insanely powerful links.
  • Relatively cheap to obtain.

4.) Sponsorship, Charity & Event Links

We group these all together as they involve a very similar link generation strategy. These are perfect for gaining locational relevance and when mixed with local value exchange, is all you need in most cases to rank! Sponsoring a sports team, event, or giving money to a charity is a great way to get an inbound link and do a good thing in the process.

Pros:

  • Links from hugely authoritative websites that are trusted by Google.
  • That feel good feeling. Also potentially incentives – e.g. free tickets to sporting events.

5.) Paid Directory Links

Gone are the days where you could pay someone £100 to generate 100 directory links. Google now sees this as complete spam! But there are still around 10 directories that are premium and highly regulated. As a result, Google trusts these and loves businesses that generate links from them. We have a list of 8 premium directories that we recommend to all clients. These range from £40 to £800.

Pros:

  • 90%+ Conversion rate.
  • Great for brand reputation.

6.) Local Value Exchange

In this strategy, we reach out to local businesses and bloggers and offer a value exchange. For example, a tweet or mention on our social accounts in return for a link from their site. There are other value exchange opportunities too, but if the business has a strong social following, this is usually the most effective method.

Pros:

  • Really personal and great for building connections.
  • Add locational relevancy very quickly, something most sites lack.

7.) Non-linking Content

This involves finding locations online where your website is mentioned, but not linked.

Pros:

  • For large businesses and websites there are lots of opportunities for great brand anchor links here.
  • Very easy to find these types of opportunities using specific search operators in Google.

8.) Sponsored Posts

This is essentially guest posts on steroids. You pay to feature on a website. Although these cost money to post, they usually have less stringent guidelines for postings. This means we can talk about our product’s benefits more and essentially pre-sell the products or services.

Pros:

  • Allows us to pre-sell products in content.
  • Higher quality links in most cases, as most cannot afford or do not want to pay to post.

9.) Conferences & Events

Unlike the conference and event link generation strategy above, this involves HOLDING conferences and events for your business or industry. This is not only a great way to get links from a ton of industrial related websites, but it also helps increase the brand image of your business.

Pros:

  • All of them.

10.) Podcasts/Webinar

Interviewing experts on a podcasting or webinar series is a great way to get some awesome content, as well as links on a very common basis, usually from the individual you interviewed.

This also works the other way too. Take up every podcast or webinar opportunity. This goes for speaking events and conferences too.

Pros:

  • Builds connections, social shares common.
  • Relevant powerful links.

11.) Influencer Outreach or Product Reviews

A technique that is more common in relation to general marketing and sales tactics for start-up brands. This strategy involves reaching out to potential influencers in a specific industry and simply asking them to review, or promote the product. There are very specific scripts and strategies we use in this case, but the add-on benefits are huge.

Pros:

  • Links
  • Social

That is all the strategies!

Finally: The #1 Issue With The Google SERPs [Bit of a Rant]

Google’s search results are not proportional. This means if you rank 5th for a specific keyword, you will likely receive around 8% of the traffic for that keyword search. For example, if a keyword gets 1,000 searches per month, you will likely receive around 80 visitors per month. If you rank 1st for a specific keyword, you generally receive around 35% of the traffic. In this case, that would be 350 visitors per month, over 4x increase in traffic.

The sites that rank first for specific keywords have the most authority for that specific keyword in the eyes of Google. To rank 1st, we must increase authority. The most effective way to do this is to build high quality backlinks, but the number of backlinks we need to build is almost always lower than you think. Let us take an example further, this is based on a client in London and the financial niche.

A Quick Note On ROI, Increasing Rankings & Revenue

Ranking 5th for this specific keyword generated the company approximately £18,000 a month in revenue. Which means ranking #1 for this keyword would generate the business around a 4x increase in revenue, approximately £80,000 per month in revenue from one keyword. The client knew this keyword could be highly profitable, but they had invested all their energy into on-page optimisation and creating great content. They could not understand why they were not ranking. One of the marketing members knew a little about SEO and they eventually found their way over to us.

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Conclusion

Link building is crucial to increasing organic traffic and rankings. These link building techniques will help you get better quality links back to your site and increase organic rankings. All the above methods discussed are instantly actionable, so get building today! Or if you have any questions about how we can help, request a proposal.

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About the Author

Tom Buckland is the founder and director of Ghost Marketing - A link building agency based in the UK.

Ghost Marketing