If there’s anything in the SEO world that gets a bad rap (and there are many) it’s backlink building. Outside of writing great content, this is arguably the most important thing you can do. It’s also the easiest to screw up.
Most small-time bloggers will have to do this themselves. No, you can’t buy “high-quality pyramid PR7 backlinks” on Fiverr. That will work against you and your site will more than likely face penalization.
You can’t generate backlinks overnight. You’ll have to create them over time, and as a part of outreach to other people in your field.
Below are my four strategies for building backlinks, along with quick guides on how to do it.
Fix Broken Links
This first strategy is the only one on the list that requires a paid tool. Unless your website has less than 500 pages, it’ll cost $120/year. As a poor blogger/student, I hate to spend money on monthly subscription software.
Still, Screaming Frog is necessary for any marketer. To me, if you’re going to pay for one tool this is it. Everything else here is free to do.
With the software, you can crawl your entire site or another to check meta tags, broken links, site structure, and a lot more. For the purposes of building backlinks, we’re going to plug in the URL of a similar site to your own.
After you click start, the software will take a few minutes to scan the site depending on its size. When it’s done, click on ‘response codes’ and then ‘status.’ It will sort any links found so you can see where the location of any broken links (such as 404).
If at first glance, you see there’s some content in there (and not just old social links) export the 4xx codes to an excel spreadsheet.
In the spreadsheet, delete all the columns except ‘source,’ ‘destination,’ and ‘anchor.’ Then add a column named ‘replacement.’
Your job from here is to look through and find an article you might be able to rewrite. You should be able to tell the subject of the article by either looking at the URL or going to the page that is referencing it to get the context.
If you don’t already have an article that could replace the old, you can always use the Wayback Machine to see an archived version of the original. From there, it’s just a matter of rewriting it in your words and updating the information. For any broken links you don’t want to replace yourself, find something that can replace it somewhere else.
As you go through and write the content, find past articles you’ve written, or just find replacement content through search, and add the new URLs to the replacement column.
Remember, part of this is about helping someone fix their links and reaching out to someone else in your industry. It’s not just about promoting your content. Consider the promotion a payment for your help.
Looking for filler content to fix everything else is a matter of seeing if the original content changed location, referencing something you know of, or doing a quick Google search. If you can’t find anything don’t worry, just get what you can.
Once done, just send the site owner an email and inform them of the new links. Be honest about some of them being your own, you don’t have to be sneaky about it. They’ll appreciate the free work you saved them enough to not mind.
Rewrite Competitor Content
This one is simple, and doubles as an excellent way to find new ideas on what to write. All you need to do is go to Topsy and type in “site:competitorurl.com.” Replace the URL with one of your site competitors and hit search.
On the sidebar, use the filters “Links” and “All Time.” The tool will show you the most shared content on that site. Pay close attention to the dates given and look for something old that you can update and rewrite.
Once you find the one you wish to rewrite, do so, and then head over to the MOZ Open Site Explorer. Enter the URL of the original, and you’ll have a large list of domains linked to that particular page.
UPDATE: Bing Webmasters link explorer is a great 100% free alternative to the MOZ explorer.
You may want to play with the filters just above the link, such as only showing “follow” link types to avoid comments on sites. But you should be able to find plenty of articles linking to the one you’ve rewritten and updated.
Create an email template and start contacting site owners to inform them of the updated resource. Then, add that you would appreciate them linking to it. Simple as that!
Lists, Links, Resources, and Roundups
It’s popular in the SEO world for sites to do “Weekly Roundups” in which they will feature articles from around the web. Pay attention to the blogs in your industry and take note of people who do similar things.
One of the top Paleo blogs does a “Weekend Link Love.” A popular libertarian feminist blogger, Wendy McElroy does a News and Commentary RoundUp every day.
If you don’t notice any, just do a Google search like “keyword roundup/link love/resources/lists/etc.” Interchange the word after your keyword to see what works. Chances are you’ll come up with something. When you do, email the site owner, inform him/her you’ve got a great post and ask for inclusion in the list.
Drop Your Link
Commenting on other blogs is the least useful thing to do compared to everything else here. Comments are usually no-follow and won’t help your site ranking by themselves. Yet, socializing is always helpful and you’ll be sure to get a few new viewers who otherwise wouldn’t have found your site.
When people find your site through the comment section of a similar one, there’s a reasonable chance they’ll like yours. So follow blogs in your industry and engage them not only on their sites but on social networks.
That being said, it might be worthwhile to look at Drop My Link. From there, you can search for a keyword related to your article and find comment sections based on some key filters. EDU blogs, GOV blogs, even do follow’s. You may not find a lot, but you’ll find something recent enough worth commenting on.
Remember that getting backlinks isn’t about auto-generation that’ll hurt your site. It’s about developing relationships with people in your industry.
A lot of what is above depends on rewriting old articles; don’t become too dependent on this. Doing so is more about keeping your industry fresh and helping other related sites stay on top of things.
I would also recommend trying to reach out to people in your industry before you start asking them for links. It’s not a bad thing to do, but it’ll be more effective if you’re socializing and marketing yourself. Marketing articles by themselves without mention of anything else can look to some like spam.
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