The internet is a digital jungle. It’s a vast network of research papers, cat videos, and downright trash. And it’s all connected by links. Links help search engine crawl bots to travel across the web, but they also indicate to the search engine which sites are more authoritative and valuable than others.

Let’s strip that back: links are magic internet money. When a website links to another website, it’s essentially casting a vote in that website’s direction. It’s saying: ‘Hey Google, these cool cats have something real groovy going on.’ Think of it like politics, or for a less lame example, like upvotes on Reddit. The more links (votes) you get, the better chance you’ll be noticed by Google and rank in the SERP.

So, you’re a new business. You need a world-beating linkbuilding strategy as part of your overall SEO game plan. Where do you start? Like all things SEO, it’s going to take a lot of effort, energy, and most of all, time. Luckily, Purplex are here to break down the basics, including:

  • What are backlinks?
  • What makes for a good backlink?
  • The best methods of getting backlinks

There’s a lot of information to take in, and a lot of different avenues to explore. So strap yourselves in. Never again will you see a link as just some blue highlighted text. We’re going down the rabbit hole.


What is a backlink?

A backlink is a link from one website to another, but backwards. Another website posts a link to your website, and then your website has a backlink from the other website. Make sense?

The amount of backlinks your website has indicates how many ‘votes’ you’re getting from your peers. Pages with a lot of backlinks have a great chance of ranking in results pages for Google and other major search engines. This is for two reasons:

  1. The page will have a greater authority, as it’s been endorsed by more sites. For Google’s army of bots, a high Domain Authority score is an easy-to-interpret ranking factor.
  2. The page will be getting more referral traffic from sites they’re backlinking from. Therefore, Google will acknowledge it as a popular site that users want to access, and nudge it towards the top of the SERP.

However, you can’t simply source a bunch of backlinks from random sites and expect to get results. You didn’t think it would be that easy did you?

Pylons dusk

What types of backlink are valuable?

Generally speaking, if your linkbuilding strategy makes it look like your trying to trick Google, it’s going to struggle. Search engine crawl bots may not have attained consciousness (yet), but they’re still smart cookies. Here’s what they’re looking for in a good backlink:

The backlink comes from an authoritative website

That means nothing from spam sites, and nothing from your mate’s abandoned blog with just one 3-year-old post on it. Backlinks from established pages with more backlinks themselves act as a much stronger vote than a new site with a low DA score. So, before agreeing to let a blogger guest post on your site, make sure to do a thorough background check of their online reputation. Ideally, you’d want them to have a DA score of 50-60+. You can check any website’s DA score using the Moz plug-in.

Having said all that, don’t ignore the DA20 websites right off the bat. Remember, SEO is a journey for everyone. Just because a site has low authority now, doesn’t mean that will always be the case. If you suspect the site has the potential to attract high volumes of backlinks in the future, getting a backlink from them now could be a masterstroke. The important factor to consider in this scenario is…

Is the backlink from a relevant source?

Relevancy is one of the biggest words in SEO. It’s one of Google’s main considerations when deciding what search results to present to its users. As such, a backlink that’s relevant to your content is infinitely more valuable than a backlink with no relevance, even if it’s from a site with a 100 DA score.

Your target keyword is in the anchor text

As with a lot of optimisation, the more you can provide signposts for crawl bots, the better they can understand it and know where to index it. That’s why it’s vital that any links you use in your content has the relevant keywords as their anchor, or hyperlinked text.

Here’s what NOT to do:

  • Read our recipe for minion cupcakes, here.

This tells the bots nothing about what’s on the other side of the link. For better optimisation, it’s a very quick fix:

  • Read our recipe for minion cupcakes.

Those aren’t real links by the way. Do not click them. We’re not here to eat cupcakes. We’re here to learn.

Have a mix of Nofollow and Dofollow links

A lot of entry-level SEOs will tell you that only Dofollow links are the only backlinks worth pursuing. In reality, Nofollow links can still add value to your site, despite their foreboding name. But what are we even talking about? What are Nofollow and Dofollow links, and how are they different?

Nofollow link

A Nofollow backlink is one where the website being backlinked from has signalled that they don’t want the link to count as a vote in your website’s favour. This might be because the link was put there by a user commenting on their blog. Or maybe your link appeared on their page as part of some sponsored ad campaign. Or maybe they just don’t like you. Either way, on paper, it’s preferable to have a backlink that’s a…

Dofollow link

This kind of backlink is an active endorsement of your website. They’re telling Google: go here. As such, they make a huge difference when it comes to boosting your DA score.

However, and it’s a big however, Nofollows can still be worthy of your love. For example, all the references on Wikipedia are Nofollow links, but a backlink from them is so hard to achieve that Google will still recognise it as authoritative.

The important thing is that your backlink portfolio looks natural. It needs to look like it happened organically, completely by itself, because your website is just that damn good. Remember the golden rule: you can’t trick the bots. Nofollows are an inevitable side-effect of linkbuilding. If you don’t have any, search engines will suspect foul play.

Consider user experience

You may have appeased the robot overlords, but you must not forget the users that matter: humans. Whatever sites you’re linking to or backlinking from, ensure that they’re links that will benefit your target audience. Some easy tips for enhancing user experience are:

  • Building links with relevant websites.
  • Placing links at clear and accessible points of your content, in the main body of the text and not right down in the footer of the page.
  • Having other websites link to the pages you want to divert traffic to. This could be your homepage, or a key product page, whatever you need to help you achieve your digital goals.

So, we’ve covered what a backlink actually is and how to use them. But where do they come from? How do you create a linkbuilding strategy that takes your online brand to the next level?

Pylons at sunset

How do I get backlinks?

Yet again, there’s not just one answer. There’s a myriad of different linkbuilding techniques that you can deploy, depending on your unique marketing goals. However, one of the approaches that gets results for all industries is…

Earning your backlinks

Create exceptional content that other websites want to link to. Whatever you post, make it burst with linkable assets. These could include:

  • Valuable statistics and survey results
  • Podcasts
  • Maps
  • Infographics
  • Interviews with industry experts

As with all areas of digital marketing, it’s about seeing what your competitors are doing, and then doing it better. But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve posted outstanding content, it’s up to you to spread it to the right areas. Share it on social media, on your own profile and in forums where your target audience is likely to be. If your content is entertaining and truly valuable to them, it will build backlinks all by itself.

Ask for backlinks

Yes, this is absolutely allowed. In fact, it’s common practice. You have the power to email a blogger right now and ask them to add a link to your website. However, whether they do it is an entirely different matter. If you’re going to ask for a backlink, you need to have something to offer them in return. Why should they link to you if your website has nothing to offer theirs? To sweeten the deal, here are some things you can put on the table:

Skyscraper technique

Offer them better resources than the ones they’re currently linking to. If they’re linking to a competitor’s infographic, for example, demonstrate why yours is better and more valuable to their users.

Fix their broken links

You can use tools like Screaming Frog to crawl their site for errors and broken pages prior to contacting them. Then, you can offer to set up redirects on their behalf and save them time. This would establish a mutual commitment to helping each other to increase your DA scores. It would also flex your muscles as an SEO asset that they want to have on their team.

Reclaiming your links

This isn’t so much an offer as it is a perfectly reasonable request. If they’re already mentioning your site, but not linking to it, then you’re well within your rights to politely ask them to insert a link. This is called ‘link reclamation’. It can also be practiced when a site has used your images without giving you credit.

The Moving Man method

This is a crafty one. If you keep on the lookout for competitors who are moving domains, becoming outdated, or closing down altogether, you can essentially steal their backlinks from under their noses (if they’re relevant to your business!). Email a blogger to inform them that their links are about to turn to 404s, and you have the content that can save the day. Instantly, you’ve exhibited your value to them and made it seem like you’re doing them a favour, rather than the other way round.

Guest posting

Guest posting, or guest blogging, is when you write a piece of content for another site, that then backlinks to your site. When pursuing this, make sure you’re offering your services to a site that is 100% relevant and falls into a niche that your audience will enjoy. Otherwise, all you’re doing is wasting time and energy that could have been diverted to your own page’s content.

Exchanging goods and services

This is where the white hat starts to get a little grey. In exchange for a backlink, you could offer a blogger something a bit more substantial in return. For example, you could offer:

  • A backlink to their site in exchange
  • Free promotion of their site on your social media platforms
  • Free access to a premium version of your service
  • Money

*ding ding ding*

But wait! What’s that sound? It’s the golden rule alarm!

You can’t trick the bots!

Once the exchange of valuable goods gets involved, Google could begin to suspect that you’re running an illegitimate link scheme and penalise you. To keep it safe, secure, and fully organic, stick to more above-board practices. A case study presenting their website in a positive light would be a perfectly reasonable thing to offer in return for a link.

Buying your links

Don’t make me sound the golden rule alarm again.

Yes, it happens. And yes, some websites manage to get away with it and perform well in the SERP. For the folks at Digital Ladder, however, organic linkbuilding is the only way to go. Buying links is a dangerous and expensive path to go down, with no guarantee of sustained results. If you’re confident that you can do it securely, and you’re comfortable with risking the health of your website, then you could dip a toe into the monetised link market. To secure sustainable and consistent results long into the future, however, a grassroots linkbuilding strategy is the best, most rewarding direction to follow.

Add in links manually

If all else fails, you can create the backlinks yourself. You can post links to your own website through:

  • Social media profiles
  • Job search listings
  • Online forums
  • Comments on other blogs
  • Business directories

But as you can imagine, backlinks that are this easy to achieve aren’t going to be valued as highly in Google’s eyes. Furthermore, if you don’t go about these with a level of finesse, you could end up doing needless damage to your brand. If you’re simply spamming your link in the comments of a completely irrelevant blog, all you’re doing is coming across as desperate, unwarranted, and just plain annoying.

As always, remember the humans. With any linkbuilding campaign, ensure that you’re isolating your market, engaging with your audience, and forging real emotional connections.

Spark of imagination

A linkbuilding strategy that gets the goods

At Digital Ladder, we only deal in results. We’re not a company that shouts aimlessly into the void, begging for links. We’ll work with you to create a bespoke strategy dedicated to getting you the best backlinks from the best places. No more chasing dead ends. We’re here to take you on a digital journey, and linkbuilding is just one avenue to explore. Contact us today to see just how far we can take you.