When Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were still at Stanford, they had an innovative idea for how search engines rank web pages.
In addition to ranking content based on relevancy, they also wanted to rank pages based on how many other websites linked to them. The idea was that the most high-quality, sought-after content on the internet would have a large number of links pointing to it due to its helpful, accurate information.
They would go on to develop the PageRank system, an algorithm that ranks pages based on how many high-quality backlinks they have – and it would power their new search engine, Google.
The PageRank system is still in place today, which is why link-building is a core aspect of SEO.
High-authority backlinks are inarguably one of the most critical ranking factors on Google and other search engines.
In fact, many SEO gurus assert that backlinks from high-authority sites are the #1 ranking factor that matters most, bar none.
What proof do they have that this is the case?
The #1 result on Google will have an average of 3.8x more high-authority backlinks than positions 2 – 10, according to an in-depth study by Backlinko.
So if your SEO strategy doesn’t include going after high-quality backlinks, you’re missing out on higher rankings and more traffic.
Read on to discover proven-effective ways to target and acquire backlinks from the most relevant and authoritative websites in your niche.
What Are High-Authority Backlinks?
If you’re a newcomer to the SEO space or have only focused on blogging and keyword research – you may be a bit lost on the concept of backlinks.
After all, what is a ‘backlink,’ anyway?
It’s simply a link from another website that ‘points back’ to yours. So if a guest post you write on another blog includes a link to your website, that’s considered a backlink. The same is true of any link on an external website that directs to one of your web pages.
When Page and Brin were at Stanford brainstorming ideas for Google, they thought of backlinks as the internet’s equivalent of citing sources for a written paper.
The medical and scientific journals that have high-quality citations and sources are seen as more authoritative than ones that do not – and the PageRank algorithm views backlinks for websites in the same light.
So if your website has many backlinks from high-authority websites (think government and educational institutions, trusted companies, etc.), your content will be seen as more authoritative and trustworthy as a result.
You can think of it as a positive twist on the ‘guilt by association’ troupe, except you gain authority and trust instead of guilt.
Since it was clear backlinks mattered so much to Google, search engine optimization experts began trying to find ways to acquire authoritative backlinks to gain higher rankings.
Yet, first, they had to figure out something very important – what makes a website authoritative or not?
What’s Domain Authority?
Determining the level of authority a website has is crucial before pursuing a backlink.
Why is that?
It’s because there are high-quality and low-quality backlinks, and low-quality backlinks will actually harm your SEO profile.
As such, you’ll want to avoid acquiring backlinks from sites that aren’t seen as authoritative or trustworthy, but how can you tell the difference?
Enter domain authority (DA), a metric coined by Moz used to convey a website’s authority and trust level. Websites receive a score ranging from 1 – 100, with 1 being very poor and 100 being perfect.
While it’s not an officially recognized ranking factor by Google, checking a website’s domain authority score is the most reliable way to gauge whether it’s worth pursuing a link from them.
You can use our free domain authority checker tool to check the DA score for any website. Enter a URL, check the CAPTCHA, and hit the button to see a site’s DA score (even your own).
As a rule of thumb, you should check the DA score for every site you intend to pursue backlinks from to ensure they won’t hurt your rankings.
Typically, sites with high domain authority are along the lines of industry thought leaders, enterprise-level companies, universities, nonprofits, and government agencies.
The 15 Types of Backlinks
Link-building has evolved substantially since its beginnings in the late 90s, as there are now 15 distinct types of backlinks that SEOs target.
Understanding each type will help you determine which will work best for your needs, so let’s take a brief look at them all.
#1: Editorial backlinks
An editorial backlink refers to when a high-authority website links to one of your content pieces to support its own work.
An example would be a website linking or embedding an infographic you created that has helpful statistics or industry information. Other ways you can obtain editorial backlinks include:
- Another website cites your content as a source for one of their posts
- Someone vouches for the quality of your website and provides a link
- A website chooses to include your website in a link roundup
- Someone interviews an employee from your website and includes a link
The best way to acquire these links is to create high-quality, data-driven content that’s valuable to your target audience. If you do that, other websites will start to notice and link to your web pages, essentially letting your content sell itself. That’ll make outreach a breeze; if the post is relevant enough, you won’t have to work too hard to promote it.
#2: Relationship-based backlinks
This type of link is an evolution of editorial backlinks, as it occurs whenever you establish a relationship with another website, journalist, or content creator.
Once they begin to link to your content more than once, it’s considered a relationship-based backlink.
These are extremely valuable because they aren’t a one-off thing. If another content creator views you as an authoritative thought leader in your field, they’ll likely link to your content more than once, maybe even dozens of times – which is great news for your backlink profile.
How can you establish these types of relationships?
You can by paying close attention to the editorial backlinks that you pick up. Whenever you notice that another website has linked to one of your pages, do some outreach via email or social media.
Formally introduce yourself, and thank them for linking back to your website. From there, you can provide some additional links to your high-quality content for further reading.
Not only that, but you should praise their blog content and offer to include a backlink on your website to their content, which is an excellent way to kickstart a mutually beneficial relationship where you both link to each other’s pages.
#3: Guest blogging backlinks
Another age-old tactic for acquiring backlinks is to write guest posts for other blogs in exchange for a link.
While guest blogging can be a reliable way to generate high-authority backlinks, you need to know how to do it properly.
Otherwise, Google could think you’re trying to game the system with spammy links.
Most important is that your guest posts must be relevant to your website and provide valuable content for the website you’re posting on.
Why is that?
It has to do with Google’s rigorous quality standards for its search rankings. Google only wants to display the highest quality, most relevant results for search queries.
If the top results suddenly become irrelevant, spam-heavy articles without any valuable information, Google will lose business, as searchers will go elsewhere.
That’s why your guest posts must be of the utmost quality and relevancy for your target audience if you want to rise through the rankings.
To find the most success, only establish guest post relationships with other high-quality, trustworthy websites in your niche (be sure to check their DA score with our free tool first). As long as you do that, your guest post relationships will yield many high-authority backlinks.
There’s also HARO (help a reporter out), where journalists seek advice from experts and include backlinks in their pieces.
#4: General website directories
There are plenty of website directories out there, and getting listed on them will score a backlink for you.
In fact, backlinks from general directories are among the easiest to get. For the most part, they accept links from any type of website, regardless of the topic, industry, or even its quality.
But how valuable are they?
It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that Google doesn’t consider most backlinks from general directories to be valuable. Once again, it has to do with Google’s obsession with quality and relevance, which these directories largely ignore.
That doesn’t mean that you should entirely ignore general directories, quite the opposite. It’s just that you shouldn’t go hog wild getting your website listed on every general directory online, as that won’t amount to much.
#5: Niche website directories
Instead of getting listed on tons of general directories, you’ll find more success focusing on a handful of niche directories.
What are those?
A niche directory contains a highly specific theme that’s tied to a certain industry, topic, type of business, etc.
They tend to be more selective and more challenging to get listed on than general directories and have a specific focus. For instance, if you sell fitness equipment, you could search for niche directories that list fitness equipment providers.
Google values niche directories far more than general directories for two reasons.
First, they have a clear focus and target audience instead of being geared toward everyone/everything. Next, they don’t accept anyone that applies. Instead, they have higher quality standards than general directories, which is what Google wants.
While it may be harder to find niche directories, getting listed on them will positively affect your SEO profile.
Also, as long as the directory is relevant to your niche, you don’t have to stop at just one link to your website. If you have the content for it, you can get more pages from your website listed in the directory, which will help your SEO efforts even more.
#6: Footer, header, and sidebar links
You should know that where your link shows up on a page affects its value.
In particular, links that show up in the header, footer, and sidebar of a page are NOT considered valuable by Google.
Why is that?
It’s because these are ‘sitewide links’ that appear on every website page.
Google’s algorithm has learned to assess the relevance and value of a link based on where it appears on the page.
Which spot on the page has the most value?
Links embedded in the middle of the body content of a page will always carry the most value. Backlinks in this area serve a purpose for readers and have a use and a context (supporting the blog content with additional relevant information).
If one of your backlinks appears in the header, footer, or sidebar of a page, Google will largely ignore them, as it views them in the same context as navigational links (Home, About Us, etc.).
So whenever you do outreach to acquire backlinks, ensure that your clients place them in the body of their articles and not in the header, footer, or sidebar.
#7: Paid Links
While you can pay companies, websites, and publishers for backlinks, it’s usually a bad idea.
Google views paid backlinks as a ‘black hat SEO’ tactic that aims to trick the algorithm into ranking content higher that didn’t legitimately deserve it. Paid links are a big no-no as a result, as using them can lead to Google penalizing your site.
Does that mean you should NEVER pay for backlinks?
It actually doesn’t, as there are ways to pay for backlinks while avoiding scrutiny from Google. In a nutshell, the way to do it is to make the links look as natural as possible.
That means if you do pay for links, you need to make sure that the links are from high-quality, relevant websites. Moreover, ensure the content you’re getting links for is some of your absolute best work.
If you pay for guest posts and follow the two rules above, your paid links will likely pass as quality links – remember to make them appear as natural as possible.
Despite all the risks because of Google’s staunch stand against paid links, paying for backlinks is a practice that’s still very much alive, and it’s not only dastardly black hat SEOs that are doing it.
How to make paid links work
Some white-hat SEO gurus still pay for links; they just know how to make them appear natural. The risk is akin to speeding on the highway. Sure, you could get pulled over for a ticket, but there’s no denying that driving faster will get you to your destination quicker.
In the same vein, paid links can increase your search engine rankings; otherwise, nobody would still do it.
Pro tip: You never want to pay a website owner directly for a backlink (i.e., offering $500 in exchange or a link pointing to your site), as that’s a blatant link scheme and a surefire way to get caught. Instead, there are ways to buy high-authority links without directly violating Google’s policies.
A popular method is to outsource your link-building strategy to a trusted agency that can earn you desirable backlinks.
While you’re technically paying for backlinks, using this method is not against Google’s rules.
That’s because you’re paying someone to create resources, perform outreach, and build relationships on your behalf, which isn’t a link scheme.
There are some links that you can buy directly without getting in trouble, but they’re nofollow links.
What are those?
A nofollow link means that it will not affect search engine rankings, as Google’s PageRank algorithm will ignore it. Conversely, dofollow links do affect search engine rankings, which are the types of backlinks you want to target.
For this reason, you should ensure every link you acquire is a dofollow backlink; otherwise, you won’t gain any visibility on search engines.
#8: Business profile links
Another type of backlink is a business profile link, which exists on social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), industry directories, and local citation profiles.
These types of backlinks are especially important for local SEO strategies, as these business profiles are where consumers go to discover local products and services.
The theory here is simple, as you create accounts for your business on different platforms, look where you can include a backlink to your website. Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YellowPages are all examples of platforms that allow you to link back to your site, so don’t forget to create an account for your business on each one.
Business profile links are among the easiest to acquire, so make sure someone at your company is in charge of including a backlink whenever you create a new profile on a platform or directory.
#9: Webinar links
It’s a fact that a link will get more clicks when it provides a valuable resource for your audience.
The principle is the same as a squeeze page for generating email leads – you provide a freebie in exchange for something valuable. In the case of a squeeze page, it’s a customer’s email address.
In our case, the prize we’re after is a backlink that generates a lot of organic traffic.
How do you do that?
You can by providing a link to a webinar (or podcasts) providing valuable insights, techniques, and information for your audience.
In the case of a webinar, you’ll gain more value from the links if you record it and archive it on your own website so viewers can always access it.
A recorded webinar is a powerful tool you can use to not only score backlinks but also generate a ton of organic traffic. That’s especially true if your webinar contains valuable information your audience can use to better their lives.
Podcasting is another way to get backlinks.
If your podcast has a high-profile guest or contains something unique (such as proven-effective digital marketing techniques), the chances are high that other content creators will link to your episodes, generating backlinks for you in a very natural way.
You can also use your podcasts and webinars for future guest post outreach opportunities, so make sure to hold onto them in your archives.
#10: Backlinks from free tools
There’s an SEO-specific reason why we have so many free tools that anyone can use on the HOTH website.
Besides wanting to help as many people as we can, free tools are a fantastic way to acquire high-authority backlinks naturally.
For instance, how many website owners need to conduct keyword research and check competitor backlink profiles each day?
The answer is in the thousands, and many of them flock to our free SEO tools (our keyword planner tool and our backlink tool) to meet their needs. Beyond that, they also share our tools on their websites, blog posts, and social media profiles, generating loads of backlinks.
The good news?
You can incorporate this strategy on your website, either by providing free tools or another valuable free resource.
To come up with a helpful tool, do some research on your audience to uncover their problems and pain points. After that, see if you can come up with a tool (or scale down a paid tool) that solves those problems.
Next, do some outreach to some high-authority websites in your field to see if they’ll link to the tool in their content (or do a review on it).
#11: Sponsorship links
Another option is to mimic sports athletes and go for sponsorships. Yet, rather than trying to score your photo on the Wheaties box, you’ll want to form sponsorships with high-authority websites in your field.
Besides SEO, sponsorships are just a solid marketing tactic in general.
To form sponsorships, you’ll need to do one of link building‘s most essential (and repetitive) tasks, outreach.
Also, look for the best sponsorship opportunities in your niche. Ensure that the website has a high DA score and, if possible, an existing acknowledgments page.
Why is that important?
It is because acknowledgment pages are where websites place their sponsorship backlinks, which is what you want. Not only that, but remember to avoid ‘sitewide’ links like the plague, as they will nullify your hard work.
As long as you wind up on a dedicated sponsor acknowledgment page on a high-authority website, you’ll be as good as gold.
#12: Award badge backlinks
Here’s a type of backlink that most SEOs overlook, the branded award badge.
Create an award or special ranking for other websites in your field. It’s important not to skimp here; make it a legitimate award that’s worth winning – complete with a sleek branded badge that they can place on their website (which is actually a backlink to your site).
It’s crucial to note that it can take some time to establish your badge as something valuable and sought-after in your field, so this is a bit of a long-term strategy.
Once you do, however, websites in your niche will start to line up to receive your awards, which will translate into high-authority backlinks for you.
#13: Press release backlinks
Press releases are a classic marketing tactic, and they also work wonders for acquiring backlinks.
If you’re rolling out a press release containing big news from your company, bloggers in your niche will likely create posts about it and link to it.
Even better, high-authority media outlets are likely to report on and link to your press release, which is excellent news for your SEO profile.
Here are a few news topics that are worthy of creating a press release for:
- Launching a new product line
- Opening a new location
- Announcing a new partnership or sponsorship with another company
- Rebranding your business with a new name or logo
These are all subjects that are bound to generate a buzz online, so don’t hesitate to create product releases about them.
#14: Backlinks from comments
Many websites, such as Forbes, Medium, and user forums, allow you to include links in your comments.
You should be able to guess where this is going.
By commenting on these websites, you can include links pointing back to your content, which can help you accumulate backlinks.
Yet, this is a strategy you should use in moderation.
If you go commenting and linking back to your site on every website you find, Google will likely flag them as spam.
Not only that, but the last thing you want to do is include a backlink on a low-authority website. Instead, stick to websites that have a high DA score and already rank high on search engines, like Forbes and Medium. You should also target websites that are within your niche.
#15: Backlinks from forums
Much like including backlinks in comments, you can also include backlinks in forum posts that you make around the web.
This is another strategy that you should use sparingly, although it can be an effective tactic when done correctly.
Only include backlinks on relevant forums to your audience, and don’t go for the hard sell. For instance, you wouldn’t want to handle a forum link like this:
- CLICK HERE to check out our amazing products and services now!
This feels like nothing more than an advertisement, and Google won’t view it favorably. Forum users also won’t pay it any mind, so don’t expect to see many clicks from it.
Here’s a much better example of a forum backlink:
- Hey (forum poster), I noticed that you’re drawing a blank on how to write a compelling call-to-action at the end of your blog posts. My company recently wrote an extensive post on the 10 essential types of CTAs that I think will help you.
This is much better because it directly responds to a user and helps them solve a problem with a relevant piece of content. As a result, users are far more likely to click on it, and you won’t trigger any red flags from Google.
Backlink Building Strategies
Now that you know more about the 15 types of backlinks, let’s learn some proven techniques for acquiring them.
Replacing broken links
A great way to acquire links and do a public service for the internet is to replace broken links online with your content.
Link rot is a real thing, and there are thousands of broken links online as a result.
To find them, you can use Ahrefs broken link checker. The goal is to find broken links for content that you can easily replace. For instance, if you find a broken link for a blog on a topic you’ve already written about, you can simply replace it with your existing blog.
You’ll need to reach out to the website owner to replace the link. Explain that you found a broken link but have an adequate replacement. As long as there are no conflicting interests, they’ll likely agree to it.
The skyscraper technique
A fantastic link-building strategy involves outdoing competitor content to poach their high-authority backlinks.
It works like this:
- First, check Google search for top-ranking pieces of content in your niche that have desirable backlinks (you can use our backlink checker tool to check out their link profile).
- Brainstorm ways to create a similar piece of content that’s 10x better. (i.e., go into more detail, provide new insights, and include a video or an infographic)
- Publish your content and reach out to the original post’s backlinks.
- Link to your piece and let them know you’d like them to link to your content instead. If it is 10x better than the original, they’re more likely to link to your content instead.
This is a highly effective technique that you can use to penetrate the top results on the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Infographics are arguably the most effective of all the types of content you can create to acquire backlinks.
Infographics are outstanding because they convey complex information in a visual way that’s easy to comprehend. In fact, posts with images contain a 650% higher engagement rate.
An infographic can contain eye-opening statistics, crucial facts, and other forms of relevant information.
Moreover, bloggers love linking to infographics due to how effectively they convey information. As such, if you create a detailed, visually pleasing infographic containing relevant facts, lots of other bloggers will link to it – generating natural backlinks for you.
Final Takeaways: High-Authority Backlinks
Obtaining high-authority backlinks is crucial if you want to crack the top 10 results on Google, as it will be nearly impossible without them.
Ever since Google’s inception, the PageRank algorithm has existed, which is why link-building exists. By building up a robust backlink profile, you’ll significantly increase your chances of snagging a top spot in the rankings, as well as holding onto it.
Do you still need to put a link-building strategy in place at your company?
If so, don’t wait to check out our elite-level link-building services at The HOTH today.