Backlinks are still an integral part of any SEO strategy, and they will likely remain that way for many years to come.
While some may try to claim you don’t need to know how to get backlinks, we can attest to their power and effectiveness first-hand.
Backlinks are our bread and butter at The HOTH, and we’ve helped countless clients dominate the SERPs by taking their link profiles to the next level.
Just take a look at the results we’ve been generating for a recent client:
As we began increasing their backlinks, their organic traffic followed suit.
This is just one example of the massive power of links, and our SEO portfolio is filled with dozens of others.
Trust us; backlinks are the real deal, and they continue to put in work for our clients.
So, if you want to find success with your SEO strategy, you need to know how to generate high-quality, authoritative backlinks consistently.
These aren’t low-grade links from spammy websites, either.
They’re premium link placements on trusted websites that have high domain authority scores and flawless reputations online.
We don’t believe in hoarding knowledge from the masses, which is why we’re here to share our secrets with you.
When it comes to link-building, there’s a lot of outdated information out there, even if it claims to be updated for the current year.
Stick around to learn the most effective and up-to-date link-building techniques.
Why SEO Backlinks Still Matter
Despite their effectiveness, Google has been downplaying the significance of backlinks for years now.
Most recently, they claimed that while they’re still important, links were no longer a top 3 ranking factor for Google Search.
This has led some to falsely assume that link-building no longer matters and that they can save money by removing it from their SEO playbook.
Unfortunately for them, this isn’t true at all.
In our experience, nothing closes the competitive gap on the SERPs between two sites than building high-quality, authoritative backlinks.
Of course, on-page SEO factors are still extremely important, with the quality and relevancy of your content being the most powerful.
However, you’ll have a VERY hard time trying to dominate the SERPs in your niche without building links.
That’s because stellar content, flawless technical SEO, and proper keyword usage will only get you so far.
To rise through the ranks by leaps and bounds, you need links from trustworthy sites to boost your reputation, which was the whole idea behind Google in the first place.
A brief history of how links work on Google
Let’s venture back to a time before Google, when Yahoo and Ask Jeeves were the predominant search engines online.
These were the ‘Wild West’ days of the internet when there was very little regulation.
Search engines were also in their infancy, as Yahoo’s first iteration wasn’t a search engine at all but a hierarchical directory of websites. It also went by the charming name of ‘Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.’
As the internet continued to grow, it became impossible to list every website in a directory, and indexing was born.
While Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were still at Stanford, they noticed that search engines lacked a way to measure the quality and relevancy of their search results. As long as a web page uses the right keywords, they will appear at the top of the SERPs.
A staunch academic, Larry Page viewed links the same way as citations on a term paper.
Just as an academic uses citations to back up their claims with evidence from authoritative sources, so too could web pages online.
In a nutshell, if a trustworthy site links to your content, it serves as a ‘vote of confidence’ for the credibility and content of your work.
The concept of backlinks as ‘credibility votes’ is what made Google famous, and they still work very much the same way today.
Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get back to why backlinks still matter for SEO.
Closing the competitive gap
Since backlinks are ‘credibility votes’ to Google, websites that have lots of high-value websites pointing at their content will rank higher than ones that do not.
It’s a scenario that we run into over and over again with our clients.
Their on-page SEO is nice and tight, but they still can’t manage to outrank their primary competitors.
It’s almost always the case (90% of the time) that their competitors have more robust link profiles.
As such, the best way for the client’s site to compete is by building more high-value links to even the playing field.
As soon as they get their link profile where it needs to be, it never takes long for them to outrank competitors and generate tons of targeted traffic.
In fact, a huge perk of link-building is how quickly it can lead to better rankings and more organic traffic.
Where it might take 12 months of hardcore content creation and intense on-page SEO tweaks to raise a few ranking positions, a handful of high-value backlinks will have the same effect in a matter of weeks.
If they’re link placements on existing pieces of content already contained in Google’s index, you’ll see results even quicker (more on the power of link insertions in a bit).
Don’t just take it from us, though.
According to research, 58.1% of digital marketing experts say backlinks have had a high impact on their search rankings.
Research also shows that the highest-ranking results on Google have 3.8x more links than the rest.
To summarize, backlinks still have a massive impact on search rankings, so you should by no means ignore them.
Crucial SEO Backlink Metrics to Look For
Now that you know building links is worth your time, it’s time to learn a very important lesson – and that is that not all backlinks are of equal value.
In fact, some low-quality backlinks will hurt your rankings instead of helping them.
Case in point:
Needless to say, if you’re able to obtain 1,000 links for just $5, they’re undoubtedly garbage links that will either have no effect or hurt your SEO.
This meme isn’t unrealistic, either. These types of shady backlink deals are advertised all around the web, and you should avoid them like the plague.
Paying for backlinks is a bad idea in general, as Google is always releasing spam updates to its algorithm to crack down on link schemes that violate its guidelines.
In particular, the Link Spam Update that took place in December of 2022 brought some significant advancements to Google’s SpamBrain AI.
As a result, it negated the effect thousands of paid backlinks had on the SERP rankings – leading to drastic drop-offs in traffic and rankings literally overnight.
That’s why you should focus on link transparency, which refers to building links in an organic, honest way.
Besides that, you need to target links from sites with high domain authority (DA).
This is the best sign that the site is trustworthy, reputable, and worth your time.
Understanding domain authority
Domain authority is a third-party metric developed by Moz that looks at a multitude of factors to determine how likely a site is to appear on the SERPs.
If their DA score is high, it’s a good sign that a backlink from them will positively impact your SERP rankings.
Conversely, if their DA score is low, it’s best to avoid it.
Why pay attention to domain authority if it’s not an official metric from Google?
This is a question that SEOs have been asking ever since DA’s inception.
The reason why it’s valuable is because it’s one of the best ways to judge the ranking power of a website without having to spend hours analyzing its content.
Also, there is no official Google metric that measures the ‘authority’ of a website, and there hasn’t been one since they made PageRank data private.
Moz isn’t the only company with a metric measuring ranking power, either.
Ahrefs has its domain rating (DR) metric, which is similar to DA but looks at slightly different factors.
The general rule of thumb is to check a website’s DA and DR before pursuing a backlink. If the scores are high, then it’s worth your time.
Other crucial backlink factors
While high DA and DR scores are great ways to judge the overall ranking power of a website, they aren’t the end-all, be-all judge of the quality of a link.
That doesn’t mean that we’re advocating targeting websites with low DA scores; it’s just that not every website that has a desirable DA score may be right for you.
Besides a domain’s authority, you should also pay attention to its monthly organic traffic, customer reviews, and relevancy.
Ideally, you should pursue backlinks from sites that get lots of organic visitors, have flawless customer reviews, and relate directly to your website.
Relevancy is huge for backlinks, as the sites that link to your content must relate to it in some way, either directly or indirectly. For example, if you run an eCommerce store that sells guitar accessories, links from guitar websites, forums, and music blogs are all appropriate.
The Best Backlink Strategies for Your SEO Campaign
Just as not all backlinks are of equal quality, some backlink strategies are more effective than others.
Also, link-building continues to evolve as Google updates its algorithm, meaning the techniques that worked two years ago won’t necessarily work today.
Unlike other articles online that are still peddling backlink tactics from 2012 as if they’re hot off the press, here’s a look at the best backlink strategies that continue to yield impressive results for our clients.
Targeted Link Outreach
If you want to become a link-building wizard, then mastering the outreach process is a must.
Whether you’re trying to write guest blogs, syndicate articles, fix broken links, or target link insertions – some form of outreach is ALWAYS involved.
After all, outreach is how you get in touch with other site owners to request backlinks, and it’s an art form that’s constantly changing.
In the past, generic outreach email templates were enough to pick up some backlinks, but they’re far too impersonal in today’s age.
You see, the secret has long been out about link-building, so receiving hundreds of outreach emails from hungry link-builders is the norm for most site owners, especially if they have strong DA.
So, if you send a site owner a generic outreach template that does nothing more than beg for a link placement, don’t be surprised when your message lands in the trash folder (or doesn’t get seen at all).
If you want your outreach targets to open your emails, you’ll need to get creative.
Targeted outreach tips
The subject line is probably the most important part of any outreach email, so you need to knock it out of the park.
First things first, you should NEVER use subject lines that look like this:
- Guest Post Idea
- Article Syndication Opportunity
- Link to My Press Release?
- Insert One of My Backlinks?
These subject lines are extremely vague, and they come off as desperate and lazy.
Most importantly, they provide nothing for the site owner.
Before you write an outreach email, ask yourself, “What’s in it for them? What would make them WANT to add a link to my site?”
Another great tip is to tell a story with your subject line (without being too verbose).
For example, let’s say you want to write a guest post about the bug that occurred in Google’s October Core Update that affected Google Discover traffic.
It’s an interesting idea, and it’s certainly relevant to any website that posts news related to SEO.
Yet, your subject line will make or break your chances of getting to write it, so you must construct it with care.
Here’s an example of an exciting email subject line that tells a story:
Google’s October Update Bug Spells Trouble for Google Discover Traffic
By including your pitch as the subject line, the site owner immediately knows what your angle is for the guest post, which is helpful and saves time. Not only that, but a headline like this entices them to learn more, heightening the chances of them opening your email to read your pitch in full.
This tactic has been putting in serious work for us, and we believe it’s the future of link-building.
What’s relationship building, and how does it relate to acquiring backlinks?
The core idea is that instead of conducting cold outreach to hundreds of sites (each targeting a one-off backlink), it’s much better to build long-lasting relationships with a handful of websites that closely relate to yours.
This technique is so powerful because it leads to building many links from each site instead of just one.
Also, you can continue to build links with these websites for many years to come.
At The HOTH, we’ve built HUNDREDS of strong relationships with media outlets and news websites, and those partnerships have been invaluable for building links for our clients.
Building a relationship with another website in your field isn’t something that happens overnight, though.
That means you need to ditch sending one-off cold outreach emails that have no value.
Instead, relationship building is about playing the long game, and plenty of nuance is involved.
Courting link-building partners
Establishing a beneficial link relationship requires patience and subtlety.
The idea is to let the relationship form organically instead of sending the prospect an email that says, “Hey, wanna be link buddies?”
In fact, you shouldn’t email the prospect outright until you’ve already established a strong rapport in other ways.
How do you do that?
The best way is to start interacting with their content on their website and social media.
By interacting, we mean seriously engaging with what they have to say. Commenting generic phrases like ‘great post’ won’t count, as they add nothing to the conversation.
Instead, offer a unique insight on the topic or ask a relevant question.
Asking interesting questions is a great tactic, as they elicit replies from the OP.
Be genuine here, as it’ll be painfully obvious if you’re only engaging with them to get something out of it.
During the ‘courting’ phase, consciously forget that you’re trying to develop a link partnership and interact based on genuine curiosity and intrigue.
Before you know it, you’ll start building a rapport with your prospect, which can lead to opportunities besides backlinks.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility for this type of interaction to lead to guest posts, podcast invites, and other forms of collaboration – so do your best to bring up relevant points and ask thought-provoking questions.
Link insertions have gained serious momentum in recent years and for plenty of good reasons.
A link insertion is where you reach out to a site owner to ask them to place one of your links into an existing piece of content on their website.
Instead of having to draft a new guest post from scratch, all you have to do is provide the site owner with the URL of your desired backlink.
While this technique is nothing new, it wasn’t a widely accepted link-building practice due to the negative stigma it had.
Before adopting the moniker link insertions, the technique went by the name ‘link begging.’
SEOs didn’t want to be seen as panhandlers, so they avoided link insertions for years.
That all changed when some prevalent bloggers showed the effectiveness of the technique and the unique benefits link insertions offer.
In the eyes of Google, it doesn’t matter whether a link comes from a guest post or an insertion so long as the site housing the link is trustworthy and authoritative.
Additionally, link insertions don’t take as long to affect your SEO profile as guest posts do.
Why is that?
It’s because, with link insertions, you’re inserting one of your links into an existing piece of content that’s already in Google’s index. For this reason, you should target websites that are ranking at the top of the SERPs for link insertions.
Link insertion tips and tricks
While link insertions involve a lot less outreach than guest posts, that doesn’t mean there’s no work involved.
You’ll still need to find a way to provide value to the site owner in exchange for your link placement, as there’s nothing in it for them otherwise.
We recommend analyzing the post you want to insert one of your links into.
When reading it, ask yourself how you can make the post 10x better – either by updating old information or adding new insights.
It’s also a bonus if you have any infographics or high-resolution images that you can use to enhance the post.
This ensures that the post will get a fresh new makeover, making it rankable again.
Some like to offer money for link placements, but we don’t recommend that, as Google’s ability to detect paid links has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.
Link transparency always works best in these situations, so do your best to stick to ‘white hat’ tactics like a traditional Western hero.
Press Releases & Article Syndication
Is something big happening at your company soon? Are you about to receive a new CEO or add a new department?
Then, you can leverage these events for your SEO by creating press releases.
In addition to getting the word out about new developments at your business (and raising brand awareness at the same time), press releases are excellent ways to accrue backlinks.
This tactic goes hand-in-hand with relationship building, as you’ll need to have a network of news sites and media outlets to distribute your press releases.
The only caveat is press releases for SEOs are NOT for announcing time-sensitive events or promotions.
Beyond that, any development at your business is fair game, so don’t hesitate to start creating press releases to expand your reach and generate backlinks.
Article syndication is a similar yet different technique that’s also excellent for improving your online visibility and acquiring backlinks.
Instead of creating new press releases, you syndicate your existing articles to other websites.
It’s similar to how syndication works in the TV world, where they air reruns of classic TV shows on other networks.
Your most successful blogs are your equivalent of Friends and Seinfeld, so feel free to ‘rerun’ them on other sites in your niche.
Creating Linkable Assets
Lastly, creating stellar content is a surefire way to increase backlinks and social shares.
In particular, certain types of content accumulate more shares than others.
For blogs, long-form posts are the way to go, as they generate the most shares.
Research from Backlinko shows that the longer a post is, the more shares it generates online.
That means your blog posts should contain at least 1,500 – 3,000 words to see the most impact on your backlink profile.
Infographics are backlink-generating machines, particularly ones that contain relevant statistics.
Bloggers are always scouring the internet for visually appealing infographics to share, so working with a graphic designer to create graphics is well worth your time.
Increase Backlink Growth Like Never Before
Those are the best backlink strategies for generating serious results that’ll impact your SERP rankings.
While these are by no means all the ways you can get backlinks, they are the most effective in our experience.
By building your backlink profile while creating stellar content, you’ll have a much easier time dominating the SERPs in your niche.