Backlinks:The Definitive Guide

This is the most comprehensive guide to backlinks on the planet.

The best part?

I’m going to show you techniques for getting backlinks that are working right now (in 2018).

In short: if you want higher Google rankings, you’ll love this guide.

Let’s get started.

Backlinks: The Definitive Guide

About the Author

Hey guys, it’s Brian Dean.

Unlike most so-called SEO “experts”, I practice what I preach.

In fact, I’ve used the strategies from this guide to get backlinks from sites like Forbes:

Forbes backlink

And Inc.com:

Inc. backlink

And in this guide I’m going to show YOU how to get links from authority sites like these.

Chapter 1:What are Backlinks?

What are Backlinks?

In this chapter we’ll cover the basics.

First, you’ll learn exact what a backlink is.

I’ll also explain why backlinks are so important for search engine optimization (SEO).

What are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. Search engines consider each of these links “votes” for your website and content.

What are backlinks?

Fun Fact: They’re called “backlinks” because the site creates a link that points back to you.

Why You Need Backlinks to Rank

Like I mentioned, backlinks are basically votes from other websites. Each of these votes tells search engines: “This content is valuable, credible and useful”.

So the more of these votes you have, the higher your site will rank in Google and other search engines.

Number of backlinks

Using links as a voting system is nothing new. In fact, backlinks formed the foundation of Google’s original algorithm (known as “PageRank”).

PageRank citation

Even though Google has made thousands of changes to its algorithm since then, backlinks remain a key ranking signal.

For example, a recent industry study that I was a part of found that links remain Google’s #1 ranking signal.

Total external backlinks

And Google has confirmed that links remain one of their three most important search engine ranking factors.

Search ranking factors

The question is:

How do you get backlinks?

And how do you get the types of backlinks get your site to Google’s first page? Well, that’s what chapter 2 is all about…

Chapter 2:How to Build Backlinks That Actually Work

How to Build Backlinks That Actually Work

There are backlinks that can make a small difference.

There are backlinks that can make a BIG difference.

(And there are even links that can hurt your rankings)

In this chapter I’ll show you how to build the right type of backlinks.

Not all backlinks are created equal.

In other words, if you want to rank in Google, you need to focus on building quality backlinks.

Put another way:

A single quality backlink can be more powerful than 10,000 low-quality backlinks.

But how do you know if a backlink is high-quality… or low-quality?

As it turns out, high-quality backlinks all share the same 5 traits. And needless to say, these are the types of backlinks you want to focus on.

Trait #1: They Come From Trusted, Authoritative Websites

No surprise here.

Would you rather get a backlink from Harvard… or a random guy’s website?

As it turns out, Google feels the same way.

This concept is known as “Domain Authority”. Essentially, the more authority a site has, the more authority it can pass on to your site (via a link).

Domain authority

For example, here’s a link that I got from TechCrunch.

Techcrunch backlink

According to Ahrefs, TechCrunch is an extremely authoritative domain:

Techcrunch domain authority

(By the way, DR=Domain Rating. That’s Ahrefs’ way of sizing up a website’s authority).

Because that link comes from such a trusted website, Google puts lots of weight on it. In fact, I noticed a significant boost in my organic search engine traffic right after TechCrunch linked to me.

Are these links hard to get? Definitely.

Are they worth it? Absolutely.

In Chapter 3, I’ll show you how you can get links from authority sites like Forbes, Mashable, CNN and more.

But for now, let’s move onto our second trait.

Trait #2: They Include Your Target Keyword In The Link’s Anchor Text

In general, you want your links to have anchor text that includes your target keyword.

In fact, industry studies show a correlation between keyword-rich anchor text and higher rankings for that keyword.

Keyword rich anchor text

As a reminder, anchor text is the visible text part of a link.

What are anchor links?

And like I mentioned, whenever possible, you want your anchor text to include your target keyword.

For example, here’s a link pointing to my site:

Backlinko anchor link

See how that anchor text includes the word “E-Commerce SEO”?

Well, it just to happens that my keyword for that page is “E-Commerce SEO”.

Which means that link is SUPER powerful.

(In fact, I rank #2 in Google for that term)

Ecommerce SEO SERP

Now, a quick word of warning:

You don’t want to go overboard with keyword-rich anchor text. In fact, Google has a filter in their algorithm called “Penguin”.

Google penguin

Google Penguin filters out websites that use shady (black hat) link building strategies. And it HAMMERS sites that build lots of links with exact match anchor text.

(For example, if you write a guest post, don’t link back to your website with: “For more information on online flower delivery, visit my website.” That looks spammy to Google.)

In short, I wouldn’t go out of your way to build links that contain your target keyword in the anchor text. It’s too risky.

But when you DO get a link that contains your target keyword, give yourself a high-five 🙂

Trait #3: The Site (and Page) Linking to You Is Topically Related To Your Site

This is a big one.

Google wants to see that your links come from websites in your niche.

This makes sense if you think about it:

Imagine you just published an article about running a marathon.

In this case, Google will put MUCH more weight on links from sites about marathons, running, fitness vs. websites that are about fishing, unicycles, and cat grooming.

Contextual backlinks

Bottom line? Aim to build links from sites in your industry… and closely-related industries.

Trait #4: The Link Is a “Dofollow” Link

Google and other search engines ignore links with the “nofollow” tag attached to it.

(In other words, they don’t count those links in their ranking algorithm)

Nofollow links

Fortunately, the vast majority of links on the web are “dofollow” links.

And most of the links that have the nofollow tag aren’t that valuable to begin with. For example, links from these sources tend to be nofollow:

  • Blog comments
  • Press releases
  • Paid advertisements
  • Profile links

These links aren’t super helpful for SEO anyway, so it’s not a big loss that they’re nofollow.

To summarize:

If you’re using white hat SEO, you don’t need to worry about nofollow links. That said, considering that dofollow links are the only links that “count”, you want as many dofollow links as you can get.

Trait #5: The Link Is From a Domain That Hasn’t Linked to You Before

Let’s say you get a link from Website A.

Great.

Well, let’s say Website A links to you again. And again. And again.

Are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th links as powerful as the first one?

No.

As it turns out, links from the same website have diminishing returns.

Ranking power

Or put another way:

It’s better to get 100 links from 100 different websites than 1,000 links from the same website.

In fact, our search engine ranking correlation study discovered that the number of sites linking to you (not the total number of backlinks) correlated with Google rankings more than any other factor.

Number of referring domains

OK so those are the 5 traits that make up powerful backlinks.

And in the next chapter I’m going to show you how to get links to your site using a “Link Magnet”.

Chapter 3:How to Create a "Link Magnet"

How to Create a

If you want people to link to your website, you need something on your site worth linking to.

(I call these “Link Magnets”)

A “Link Magnet” can be a blog post, a video, a piece of software, a quiz, a survey… basically anything people link to.

In most cases, your Link Magnet will be piece of content. And in this chapter I’m going to show you how to create Link Magnet content.

Specifically, I’m going to reveal three of my most successful link building campaigns (and the specific piece Link Magnet I used to get a bunch of powerful backlinks from authority sites).

#1: Google Ranking Factors: The Complete List

The Link Magnet:

A post that listed all 200 of Google’s potential ranking signals.

Google's 200 ranking factors

How I Made It:

One day I read that Google uses 200 ranking signals. Which made me curious: “What ARE these 200 signals?”.

Of course, Google wasn’t about to announce them to the world. So I started digging. A statement from a Google engineer here. A patent there.

And over 2 painstaking weeks, I FINALLY compiled a list of 200 ranking factors that Google might use in their algorithm.

How It Performed:

To date, this single piece of content has generated over 8,000 backlinks from 2,600 domains.

Post backlinks

Crazy.

Like I mentioned earlier, backlink quality > backlink quantity.

So you’ll be happy to know that many of the links to this page are from authoritative websites, like Forbes:

Forbes backlink

#2: The Skyscraper Technique

The Link Magnet:

A case study where I outlined a new backlinking strategy called “The Skyscraper Technique”.

Skyscraper technique

How I Made It:

I was doing some research on productivity when I came across this post by Merlin Mann.

Merlin Mann

In this post, Merlin outlines something called “Inbox Zero”, a productivity hack using your inbox.

But that wasn’t what grabbed my attention. What shocked me was that this simple idea generated over 5,000 backlinks!

Inbox Zero

And when I perused some of those links, I noticed a pattern:

Most people linked to the page BECAUSE it contained a specific, strategy with a unique name (“Inbox Zero”).

That’s when I decided that I would start naming my strategies too. So the next time I talked about a strategy, I called it “The Skyscraper Technique”.

How It Performed:

In a word: great.

My page now has around 9k incoming links:

Link building case study

In fact, people don’t just casually link to it… hundreds of posts have been written about this technique. And people love to share my post on social media.

Social media shares

Pretty cool.

#3: The Definitive Guide to YouTube SEO

The Link Magnet:

A very thorough guide to ranking videos in YouTube.

YouTube SEO

How I Made It:

I was just starting to have some success with YouTube marketing. So I decided to compile and share what I learned in the form of an ultimate guide.

I ALSO realized that most of the content out there about video SEO lacked real life examples. So I decided to include A LOT of examples in my guide:

Real life examples

How It Performed:

Even though this post hasn’t generated nearly the same amount of links as the other two Link Magnets I showed you, it’s no slouch:

YouTube SEO guide backlinks

More important than that, I published this guide when my blog was brand spankin’ new. And this piece of content helped me get some links that made a BIG dent in my rankings in the early days of Backlinko.

Now it’s time to turn the Link Magnet you just created into dozens of high-quality backlinks.

Chapter 4:How to Turn Content Into Backlinks

How to Turn Content Into Backlinks

To build white hat backlinks, you need amazing content on your site.

Period.

In fact, that’s why I dedicated Chapter 3 of this guide to creating Link Magnets.

And in this chapter, I’ll show you 6 proven strategies that you can use to turn those Link Magnets into high-quality backlinks.

Link Roundups

Imagine if people published blog posts with the sole purpose of linking out to quality content.

(The type of quality content that you already publish on your site)

It’d be pretty great, right?

Fortunately for us, that’s a real thing. And they’re called link roundups.

Here’s an example:

Link roundups

So: what are link roundups?

Link roundups are daily, weekly or monthly blog posts that link to outstanding content.

Here’s an example of a link I recently built from a roundup:

Roundup

Now let’s breakdown the exact process I used to get this link.

1

Find Link Roundups In Your Niche

Here are a few search strings that work really well.

“Keyword” + “link roundup”
“Keyword” + roundup
“Keyword” + “best of”
“Keyword” + this week

2

Pitch Your Resource

Here’s the email script that I personally use.

And if your post is a good fit for that person’s roundup, you’ll get a sweet link.

Backlink email

(They may also share your content on social media)

That’s all there is to it.

Moving Man Method

The Moving Man Method is simple:

1

First, you find web pages, resources or businesses that are outdated, rebranded or recently changed names.

2

Then, you find the sites that are still linking to these outdated resources.

3

Finally, you email people to let them know that they’re linking to something that’s out of date.

Let me show you how this works with a real-life example…

A while back I read that a website for a big SEO agency website suddenly shut down.

Moving man method

This meant that they had TONS of pages on their site that weren’t working anymore…

…pages that lots of people were still linking to.

Specifically, I noticed that an infographic about SEO on their site wasn’t working anymore. Which was PERFECT, because I had just published my own SEO-focused infographic:

Perfect on page SEO

So that was the first step.

Next, I had to see who actually linked to that infographic.

So I fired up Ahrefs and pulled all of their links:

Ahrefs

Finally, I emailed everyone that linked to the infographic to let them know the image wasn’t working anymore. I also let them know that my infographic would make a great replacement for BlueGlass one.

Here’s the script I used:

As you can see, people were more than happy to link to me:

Backlink email

Broken Link Building

This strategy is similar to the Moving Man Method you just learned about.

The difference is that with broken link building, you’re only looking for pages that are 404ing.

Business that moved, companies that changed names, or outdated resources won’t show up with this approach.

To find these 404 links, you want to focus on resource pages in your niche. So if you’re in the fitness niche you’d search in Google using these search strings:

“fitness” + “resource page”
“fitness” + “resources”
“fitness” + “recommended sites”
“fitness” + “links”

And find pages like this:

Broken link building

Now you COULD email the site owner and straight up ask for a link. But I’ve found that begging doesn’t work very well.

Instead, give the site owner a hand by letting him know about any broken links that you happen to find.

You can easily find the broken links on any page. Just use the nifty Chrome Extension Check My Links.

This program quickly finds any broken links the page happens to have. It also highlights them in red to make them easy to find:

Broken links

The last thing you need to do is send the site owner this tested email script:

“Best of” Blog Posts

Click “Play” to see how it works:

 

.Edu Resource Backlinks

It’s no secret that links from .edu websites are SUPER powerful.

In a minute I’ll show you how to get .edu backlinks from scholarships.

But for now, let’s focus on a strategy you can use to get .edu sites to link to you:
.Edu resource pages.

Here’s how it works…

Most universities have resource pages where they link to web pages that are helpful to students and faculty. Here’s an example:

EDU resource backlinks

Let’s say you had a website about nutrition. You have a decent chance of getting a link from the example above by emailing them and showing them your helpful nutrition-related resource.

Use these search strings to find these .edu goldmines:

site:.edu “your keyword”
site:.edu “your keyword” + “resources”
site:.edu “your keyword” + inurl:links
site:.edu “your keyword” + “other sites”

Only 5-10% of the .edu sites that you reach out to will actually post your link. But keep in mind that a handful of these links can make a HUGE difference in the SERPs.

In fact, I recently used this strategy to get a link from the University of Michigan website:

Link from a university

And I noticed a significant increase in organic traffic from that single link.

Guest Posting

Is guest posting dead?

Not really.

In fact, when you’re first starting out, guest posting is one of the BEST ways to get links.

I remember when I first started Backlinko…

I guest posted like a madman. Actually, I wrote over 50 guest posts and interviews in 12 months!

Guest posts

And the links I got from guest posting definitely gave my organic traffic a boost.

That said, I was VERY strategic about things. I made sure to ONLY write guest posts for quality sites in my niche.

So if you run a site about the Paleo Diet, and write a guest post on a site about iPhones, that’s going to look spammy to Google.

But when you write mind-blowing guest posts for quality websites in your industry, those links DO help.

Infographic Link Building

Almost everyone knows about infographics…

But I’m flabbergasted at how few take advantage of this incredibly easy link building strategy.

That’s because many people assume that infographics are really hard to make.

They also assume that if your infographic doesn’t go viral… it’s a complete failure.

Fortunately for us, both of these assumptions are DEAD WRONG.

In fact, one of the first infographics I ever made took me a few hours to put together ( I also hired a professional designer around $500 to make it look pretty).

On page SEO

Even though this infographic didn’t go viral, it led to some amazing links:

Infographic backlink

To be clear: I didn’t just publish my infographic and hope for the best.

Like any piece of content that you publish, you need to strategically promote your infographic. And to do that, I recommend using a strategy called “Guestographics”.

I’ve used this strategy to build (literally) hundreds of links from infographics, like this:

Infographic

I outline exactly how Guestographics work in this post.

Chapter 5:My Favorite Backlink Building Strategies

My Favorite Backlink Building Strategies

In this chapter I’ll reveal some of my favorite “quick & dirty” link building strategies.

The best part? None of these strategies require you to write a single word of content.

Let’s dive right in…

Testimonials

Companies big and small LOVE to show off their customer testimonials.

If you’re using a product or service that you love (or at least like), consider sending them a testimonial.

When you do, make sure to tell them that they can put it on their homepage or a testimonial page.

To show that you’re a real person they’ll often put a link to your site for you…without you even having to ask.

Make no mistake, you can get some baller backlinks from testimonials (here’s one on a DA89 website):

DA89

And here’s another example of a testimonial page from a DA86 site:

DA89 testimonials

When I see an authority site with testimonial links I sometimes buy their product just to give a testimonial and get a link.

(That’s how powerful this is)

Blogger Reviews

If you have a piece of software, physical product, consulting service or ANYTHING of value that you sell, you can easily turn that into handfuls of high-quality backlinks.

How?

By offering it to bloggers for free.

Here’s how:

1

Find bloggers in your niche that might be interested in what you have to offer. If you sell an information product that teaches people how to make their own soaps, you’d Google things like “soap making”, “make soap at home” etc.

Blogger reviews
2

Your results will be a mixed bag of blogs, news websites and “how to” websites like ehow.
Filter out any how-to sites or news sites. You’ll be left with a solid list bloggers that might be interested in your offer, like this one:

Blogger reviews
3

Reach out to them with this email script:

You want to be VERY careful about the language you use for this strategy.

Note how you don’t offer your product in exchange for a link or review… which would violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Instead, send them the product and let them decide if it’s worth a mention on their blog.

Link Reclamation

Link reclamation is simple:

First, you find mentions of your company and products that don’t link back to you.

Here’s an example:

Link reclamation

Then you email the person with a friendly reminder to add your link.

Very simple… but very, very powerful.

See how the author of that article above mentioned backlinko.com….but didn’t link to it?

That’s where link reclamation comes into play.

Instead of saying “awww shucks, I wish they linked to me”, you proactively reach out and ask them to link.

You see, when people mention you in an article, they (usually) like you.

(That’s true even if they didn’t add a backlink to your site)

And a friendly reminder is usually enough for them to log into WordPress and add your link.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

1

Find Unlinked Mentions

Use a tool like BuzzSumo and Mention.com to find mentions of your brand.

When you do, you’ll get a heads up whenever someone writes about you:

Unlinked mentions
2

See whether or not the person that mentioned you linked back to your site

If they linked to your site, you’re set.

If not, move onto step #3…

3

Reach out and get your link

Finally, send them this script:

I can tell you from experience that these are some of the easiest links you’ll ever get.

Start a Scholarship

I already told you that .edu links are amazing.

But aren’t legit .edu links impossible to get for the average Joe?

Fortunately not.

If you create something that universities want to link to, you’re golden.

And that’s where scholarships come in.

In fact, Chris Dreyer recently used scholarships to build 600+ .edu links (!) to his client’s website:

Scholarships

Now that you see how well this works, let’s dive into the step-by-step process:

1

Create a Scholarship Page

Your first step is to create a page on your site that describes the scholarship, tells people how they can apply etc.

Here’s an example from Chris’s campaign:

Scholarship page
2

Find .edu Sites That List Scholarships

Fortunately this is a breeze using this search string in Google:

inurl:.edu “scholarships”

Find EDU links
3

Let the Universities Know About Your Scholarship

When you find a scholarship page on a .edu site that seems like a good fit, send them this email:

Chapter 6:Bonus Tips, Strategies and Real-Life Examples

Bonus Tips, Strategies and Real-Life Examples

Let’s cap things off with a bonus chapter of actionable tips, tactics, strategies and case studies.

Get Links From News Sites Using HARO

HARO (short for Help a Reporter Out) is one of best ways to get killer backlinks from authority news sites.

Here’s how HARO works:

1

Sign Up To HARO as a source here.

2

You’ll get three emails per day from reporters looking for sources, like this one:

Using HARO
3

Respond with your credentials and some helpful tips.

Easy right? You give a reporter a tailored response and they’ll hook you up with a link. That’s all there is to it.

Don’t sleep on HARO.

I recently got a sweet link from Entrepreneur.com simply by replying to a HARO request:

HARO request

Reverse Engineer Your Competitor’s Best Links

Yes, the strategies in this guide are great.

That said, there are COUNTLESS backlinks sources that I didn’t cover here.

Why didn’t I cover them?

It’s simple: every industry has its own set of link building opportunities.

That’s why you should set aside some time to reverse engineer your competition. That way, you can find link opportunities that only exist in your niche.

How about an example?

Let’s say you run a health and fitness blog.

And one of your competitors is Nerd Fitness.

Competitor links

Well, when I check out that site’s link profile in a backlinks checker called Ahrefs, I notice that A LOT of their links come from podcasts:

Podcasts

Specifically, people from that company (especially the founder, Steve Kamb) appear on other people’s podcasts as guests.

Just like that you have a huge LIST of places that you can go to to get links. #goldmine

(Obviously, you need to do is reach out to the people that run those podcasts and pitch yourself as a guest)

And I found those 50+ link opportunities from a 10-minute search of ONE site. Imagine how many you can find if you reverse engineer 15-20 of your competitors.

Create Content That Generates Links in 2018 (and Beyond)

BuzzSumo recently analyzed 100 million posts. And they discovered that the vast majority of content online is completely ignored.

Generating content

Yes, you read that right: 70% of all online content gets ZERO links.

So, how do you create content that actually gets linked to in 2018?

  • According to that same study, content that gets linked to right now:
  • Is authoritative (in other words, written by experts)
  • Is evergreen (the content provides value for YEARS)
  • Contains something unique that makes it stand out
  • Provides actionable information
  • Isn’t clickbait (which, according to the study, doesn’t work like it used to)

For example, here’s a guide/study that I recently published:

YouTube ranking study

This guide now has over 1.8k links.

Number of backlinks

Was this piece of content easy to create? Hell no. It was one of the hardest things our team has ever worked on.

But in the end, because it checks all of the boxes above, it stood out, grabbed attention, and got linked to like crazy.

Find Guest Posting Opportunities With Reverse Image Search

Finding places to guest post can be a HUGE pain in the butt.

But there’s an easier way…

Here’s how it works:

First, find someone in your industry that writes a lot of guest posts.

Next, go to one of their published guest posts. And grab the headshot they use in their author bio:

Guest posting

Finally, pop the URL of that screenshot into Google reverse image search.

Google reverse image search

Boom! You just got a list of URLs that they’ve written guest posts for:

Guest post URLs

Very cool.

Now It’s Your Turn

Conclusion

Did you learn something new from this
backlinks guide?

Or maybe you have a question.

Either way, leave a comment below right now.

481 Comments

  1. Hey Brian, this is an absolutely fabulous post! It caused me to come out of lurking mode on the Warrior Forum and post a response there as well. Only my second post in 4 years, it was that kickass… I’ve signed to your newsletter on the strength of this. You have a new follower on Twitter as well! I mean what I said on the Warrior Forum… Since 2001 I’ve worked in an SEO commercially, freelance and now from the comfort of my own home – I have bought IM ebooks with less useful information in them than covered by any one of your 17. You might not please everyone in our industry giving some of those secrets away for free though! All power to you my friend, you deserve success and lots of it!

  2. hi whats the etiquette for infographics do the sites you guest post these on supply a source link after?
    do you stipulate you want linking back to or is it general practise the same as normal guest posting

    1. Good question. It’s an unwritten rule that you get a link from the site that posts the infographic. In other words, you usually don’t need to even ask.

      But if you find a site that’s posted it without a link you can always reach out and ask them for a link.

  3. Hey – I love this article. One thing I’ve done with a little bit of success is interview “experts” in whatever niche. In my case this is a mattress site and I sent questions to small business owners with the information I was looking for. Some were happy to help and I would send them a link to the article once it was live. I didn’t ask for a link, but in some cases they would feature the link on their own website.

  4. This is a great article, I thoroughly enjoyed it and thanks for sharing. I followed your link through your post on LinkAssistant just to let you know.
    Definitely will be using some of the ideas shared in your post.
    thanks again.

  5. Awesome work as usual Brian. I’m going to feature your site on SundaySEO this week so hopefully will push some extra traffic over here. Keep it up dude!

    1. Thanks Stuart. I just checked and the images seem to be loading fine now. Must have been a hiccup with my CDN.

  6. Hi Brian,
    Another great post and some great source of quality links. Do you find these links boost your rankings even though most are brand or raw url links? Or can you use anchor text at these sites?
    What do you think about this link? about.me/pierukblog Is that a good find?
    Cheers
    Robert

  7. Hi Brian,
    Awesome list there with a few things I never considered. Backlinking is not my favourite thing to do so I tend to spread my efforts to make it seem less laborious. For example, I will try to create one new backlink every day for each of my sites, that keeps it to 30 minutes work a day, no sweat!
    Thanks,
    Josh

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