Backlinks are an essential part of a well put together SEO strategy and learning how to build backlinks can help boost your website’s traffic in a variety of ways. As an essential part of SEO strategy, building backlinks is a mandatory task for every ecommerce store owner who’s looking to build and maintain organic traffic to their website over time. The most difficult and time-consuming part of getting backlinks is figuring out how to build them and doing so in a way that’s acceptable by search engine standards (AKA: Whitehat techniques). As backlinks need to come from sources outside of your own website, convincing other website owners to link back to your site in a way that’s honest and mutually beneficial can be tricky. In this post, we’ll discuss how to approach others so you can generate backlinks to your site but, beyond that, we’ll also discuss the various ways you can generate backlinks for yourself via honest means so that you don’t get penalized by search engines.
First, let’s discuss what a backlink actually is.
What is a Backlink
A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one website to another website.
For example: In one of our previous articles, a Shopify Review, our opening sentence reads:
“It’s been long overdue that we post a Shopify review on A Better Lemonade Stand.”
In that sentence, we included a link to Shopify, the business that we’re making reference to, and that’s a backlink for Shopify.
Any link to another website that a site includes anywhere on their webpages is considered a backlink. As a website, your goal is to get quality (more on that soon) backlinks from other websites because it increases your credibility in the eyes of search engines and thus increases your chances for ranking as a search result when appropriate.
Why Backlinks are Important
Backlinks are important because search engines read them as a way of websites vouching for one another which helps to improve the rank and domain authority (think of this as credibility) of the linked site. When one website links to another they figuratively pass on “link juice” and all the link juice a website acquires from backlinks helps build up their own authority by indicating to search engines that they must be high quality too because websites with high-quality link juice are linking out to them.
In the example mentioned above, when we’re linking out to Shopify from A Better Lemonade Stand, Google reads that and come to the conclusion that:
- Shopify is likely a reputable website because A Better Lemonade Stand is linking out to them, and;
- A Better Lemonade Stand is likely a reputable website because they’re linking out to another reputable website, Shopify.
Backlinks are recognized by search engines as a vote of confidence and the more reputable websites that link back to your own website, the more reputable it makes your website seem to search engines by association. To simplify this, a link from CNN is seen is much more credible and valuable than a link from Joe’s random thought blog that he started 2 weeks ago.
When you have other high-quality websites vouching for your website it helps to improve your organic search engine ranking, you get indexed faster and you also get direct referral traffic from websites that are relevant to yours which means targeted traffic gets passed on to you and you’ll experience a lower bounce rate.
How Backlinks are Measured
That being said, different websites are ranked differently in a variety of ways when it comes to reputation, and that, amongst other variables, affects how backlinks are measured.
No backlinks are created equally. They depend on a variety of ranking factors that are, for the most part, speculated.
Domain & Page Strength
Website authority can be measured in two different ways:
- The overall strength of the domain
- The strength of the URL
This means that, for example, abetterlemonadestand.com has its own rank of website authority as one entire domain, whilst abetterlemonadestand.com/blog (or this particular blog post) will have an independent authority that’s connected to the domain but separate still because it is its own page.
Bonus: To better understand domain and page authority, check out this free website and page authority checker. To use it, just enter some of your favorite websites to see what their domain and page scores are.
Nofollow & Dofollow Links
Backlinks can also be measured by being either nofollow and dofollow links.
- Nofollow links exist when one website links to another one they have the option to register the link as a “nofollow” link which means search engines won’t take that link into account as a vote of confidence, and basically won’t recognize the link as a backlink for the linked website. Nofollow links are often used by websites if they’re linking to an unverified source for any reason, don’t want to be associated to the page they’re linking out to, or in the case of paid sponsorships, as per Google’s advertising guidelines, they require those links to be nofollow.
- Dofollow links exist when one website links to another one and they want search engines to consider that link as a vote of confidence for the website they’re linking out to. Dofollow links are common when websites or blogs are linking out to other websites or blogs and see no detriment in being associated with that website in the eyes of the search engine.
Note: Generally most links are DoFollow links unless the author of a website, post, or page specifically decides to make a link or set of links NoFollow. NoFollow links are identified by adding the nofollow attribute to the link code.
- A DoFollow link will look something like this: Shopify
- A NoFollow link will look soemthing like this: Shopify
One important exception to note is easily self-attainable backlinks from self-posting sites/forums and social networks (like Facebook, Twitter, Quora, or comment sections of blogs) are almost always NoFollow.
Bonus: To get a better idea of which links around the web are DoFollow vs. NoFollow, download the NoFollow for Chrome extension. It will highlight all links and show you which ones are DoFollow and which ones aren’t.
Link placement is also thought to play a role in how search engines rank backlink authority. If a link is included in the context of written content on the page of a website it’s thought that search engines place more emphasis on it because it’s more likely to be relevant to the content of the website overall and is likely to be clicked more than links that are placed elsewhere on a webpage such as in the footers or sidebars.
What words the link is linked to on a page is also thought to be an indicator to search engines of how relevant it is, this is known as Anchor Text. For example, anchor text is the words where the link is tethered to. For search engines, these words are indicative that they’re relevant to the content and likely to be clicked.
As another example, in the yellow bonus section above we purposely linked to a free website and page authority checker and specifically chose the words that were linked. Google and other search engines read and register the words that are linked (anchor text) and these words help search engines better understand what the page or website you’re linking to is about and what it should rank for in search engine results. By specifically linking the descriptive words like “free website and page authority checker”, we have provided that website with a quality backlink that helps search engines better understand what they are and what they do, and we help that website rank higher for some keywords that are important to them and to other people finding them.
Finally, link relevancy also plays a role in determining the strength of a backlink. Depending on several factors that search engines are well equipped to measure such as anchor text, other outbound links, keywords, H-Tags, the context surrounding the links and more, each of those helps determine whether a link is relevant to the overall content of the page and therefore whether the backlink is relevant or not.
Search engines place an emphasis on rewarding websites with authority via backlinks carefully and measure the relevancy of links in a variety of different ways to ensure that the backlinks are authentic and not spammy to encourage well-constructed content by websites that are relevant and helpful to searchers so they find what they’re looking for. Search engines reward websites that meet their demand with higher domain and URL authority as well as relevant organic traffic.
Low-Quality Links & Spam
Acquiring links from websites or web pages that have been deemed by search engines to have low domain strength because they’re any combination of being low-quality sources, inappropriate, or spam can result in penalizing your own website. It’s important to not fall into the trap of thinking that more backlinks from more sourcing all pointing back to your website will increase your website’s rank authority in the eyes of search engines. It’s the quality of backlinks that counts more than the quantity. Aim to get links from authoritative sites that are relevant to your own in terms of subject matter and search engines will reward you with increased search traffic over time.
How to Build Backlinks
Now that you have a background on what backlinks are, why they’re important, and how they’re measured by search engines, let’s dive into the ways you can build backlinks for your own website.
Reddit Social Proof Method
Difficulty: High Value: High
For those who haven’t already started using the forum Reddit for your business, now is the perfect time to start getting acquainted with it. It’s a very particular kind of forum with savvy users, so if you’re unfamiliar with their content policy, what “subreddits” are and proper “Reddiquette”, get familiar with it before you start using these next two methods to build backlinks
If you’re already familiar with Reddit, then let’s move forward.
The purpose of this method is to give value, get upvotes, and then replace the content of the socially-proofed post with a link to your site.
Here’s how to perform it:
- Create a remarkable piece of content (more on that in our Content Strategy article).
- Find the subreddit within Reddit that best suits the niche you’re trying to target (make sure to thoroughly search through all the different subs to find the right one (or ones) that is relevant to your content. Relevancy is key as Redditors don’t appreciate spam and this method won’t work if the right niche of people aren’t engaged with the post).
- Create a post to that subreddit following that sub’s community guidelines (this step of the process is crucial. You have to approach your post on the subreddit very carefully. You cannot just post a link to your content and expect the subscribers of that sub to see the value in it, you have to give value first).
- Whilst creating the post, include all the valuable information you discuss in the remarkable piece of content you created. Your goal is to tell people the details you discuss in your piece content, why it’s interesting and why it’s relevant to them, and then, after you provide a thorough few paragraphs of information and if the community guidelines permit it, include a link to your piece of content and let users know they can click on that link for the full article.
- Once you’ve created that post, publish it to the subreddit.
- You aren’t likely to get too many clicks through to your link from the post, but hopefully, and this is why this method is rated as a “High” difficulty level as it’s not always easy, you’ll generate a lot of discussion and upvotes on the post. If the subscribers of that subreddit see the value that you’ve given in the post without spammily just linking out to your website, they’ll likely upvote the post so others can see the thread. Again, it will have to be pretty valuable to generate a substantial amount of upvotes and comments, but that’s the goal.
- Once the post has been up for several hours and it’s generated a significant amount of upvotes and comments, edit the original message of your post to just include the link to your piece of content so that users will then have to click through to your web page to view the content.
- You’ll only be able to achieve that step once you’ve generated a significant amount of upvotes and comments (whatever that means for the sub you’re targeting, that amount will be different for every sub) as that will serve as social proof for your content. If you didn’t have social proof your post would just seem spammy with it linking out to your content only, but now that you generated significant social proof first by giving value, you will be less likely to run into your post getting removed by the moderators of that sub and you’ll get users clicking through to your website as well as a backlink from Reddit.
This method of building backlinks is valuable for two reasons:
- Links on Reddit start off as nofollow links and as we discussed earlier in this article, that means that there is no link juice transferring over from Reddit to any outgoing links, unless, and this is the important part, a certain amount of upvotes are achieved and then those links become dofollow. The actual number of upvotes isn’t public knowledge, but through educational speculation and testing, it’s widely believed that this theory is true. Getting a dofollow backlink from Reddit is hugely beneficial as their rank and domain authority is very high.
- Besides getting a backlink from Reddit, you’ll also be directing relevant referral traffic to your website, which is the best kind of traffic to drive there. You’ll hopefully have a lower bounce rate because you’ll be directing traffic to your website that’s already interested in your niche and they’ll be more likely to engage with your website overall.
Test out this backlink building method for yourself but remember not to be spammy on Reddit, follow the community guidelines, give value and get social proof first then leave a link to your piece of content and hopefully get some high-value link juice and referral traffic.
Example: Below is an example screenshot of the /r/entrepreneur subreddit. You can see from the highlighted link colors which ones are DoFollow (Purple) and which ones are NoFollow (Red).
Create Remarkable Content
Difficulty: High Value: High
The absolute more reliable and consistent way to get a ton of backlinks is to create remarkable content on your website that others naturally want to link to. There’s no way you’ll be able to get long term, sustainable, and valuable backlinks if you have nothing of value for other websites to link out to.
Alternatively, if you post remarkable content consistently that’s interesting, engaging, valuable, and helpful, you’ll get high-value websites linking out to you organically without having to ask for a backlink. Create valuable content and you’ll receive value in return.
This is a difficult method because it takes a lot of time to produce helpful and valuable content consistently and to sustain it over a long period of time. Even if you publish high-value content on your website from day one it’s going to take a while for others to take notice of your effort and in the meantime, it’s easy to get discouraged due to lack of an engaged audience. The difficult part is providing value on a consistent basis over a long enough time period to generate an engaged audience that supports your efforts. Once you reach that point you’ll start to see backlinks from other high-value sources start to come in and that’s when you reap the rewards of the work you put in creating remarkable content from day one.
Until then, you just have to create content that’s interesting, engaging, and helpful, promote it via every possible method, and work on every other way to generate backlinks that you can.
Example: Online businesses have lots of opportunities to create different types of content. Whether it’s written blog posts, videos, podcasts, slideshows, or other forms of media. Each of these is an opportunity to go above and beyond. A great example is a video created by Wendy on Wendy’s Lookbook. The video highlights a comprehensive list of 25 ways to wear a scarf. Besides the fact that the video has garnered nearly 40 million views on YouTube, this one video has led to thousands of backlinks to Wendy’s blog and store.
Furthermore, Wendy also created another blog post on the making of the scarf video which has attracted an additional 100 backlinks.
Bonus: For more on how to create remarkable content, look forward to our upcoming content strategy blog post where we’ll be sharing all our secrets with you.
Get a Link from Your Manufacturer/Wholesaler/Supplier
Difficulty: Medium Value: Medium
Depending on your manufacturer, this may be an easy method to build a backlink. Basically, you want to reach out to the manufacturer who you source your products from and ask that they link you as a retailer of their products on their website, or link you as a business that they work with. Manufacturers are likely to have aged domains which are thought to be a high ranking factor by search engines. The older the domain the more authority it keeps.
The difficulty of this method is middle of the range because your manufacturer may not have a place for this kind of link on their website or they simply may not want to link out to you. If your manufacturer is open to the idea it’s an easy link to get but if not, you’re out of luck.
Beyond the difficulty of this method, the value of this backlink also lays in the middle of the range. It won’t be a low-value or spammy backlink by any means, but it also might not give you super high-quality link juice like you would be getting from a domain like Reddit. That being said, if you can get your manufacturer to link out to you then it’s relatively easy to acquire and it’s one more backlink than you had before.
Before you reach out to your manufacturer make sure you have a reputable-looking website with some valuable content on it (like we discussed in the previous method) so the manufacturer is more likely to link out to you. They want to make sure they’re linking out to a reputable website as well so make sure you look like one.
Example: Below is an example of Beardbrand’s list of online resellers. When you sell other branded products, it’s usually in the best interest of the supplier or manufacturer to link to you, providing your store with a valuable backlink.
Interview Authorities in Your Niche
Difficulty: Medium Value: High
Seek out “authorities” in your niche, whether they be bloggers, influencers, speakers, entrepreneurs, creators, etc. and interview them. Post the content to your website and reach out to whomever you interviewed and let them know about the content you created.
More often than not the person will share your content, whether it’s on social media or, if you’re lucky, on their own website, and you’ll generate a backlink from it. People love it when they get noticed, even if it’s by a smaller player in their niche, so you will likely be recognized.
The trick with this method is to be persistent in every way. Persistently pursue influencers when you’re reaching out to interview them and persistently pursue influencers when you’re reaching out to share your content with them. It’s likely that they have a lot of emails coming in at any given time, so persistently follow up with them. The more eager you seem the more likely they will be to engage with you. Always be polite, don’t get upset or offended if they aren’t getting back to you, but do be persistent.
At worst they won’t respond at all, but then just try another influencer in your niche. At best they’ll respond, you’ll create some great content from it, they’ll share it on social media, you’ll get some valuable referral traffic from it and if you’re lucky they’ll link to your content on their website and you’ll get a backlink and some valuable link juice. If they have a press page also ask to be featured on there as you’ll get a prominent backlink that is likely to have high authority. Build a relationship with the person you interview, generate some good content, and then work on getting the backlink.
Republish Old Content
Difficulty: Low Value: Medium
Don’t let great content that you’ve created in the past go to waste. There are some websites where you can syndicate content which means that articles that you’ve published on your own website can be re-published on other websites relevant to your niche that have a much larger and diverse following than your own website. This enables you to get your content out in front of a larger audience and the original source of the content (your website) will get a link back to acknowledge where it was originally published.
Well known websites where you can syndicate your content include:
While it’s commonly thought that content syndication can lead to penalization from search engines for publishing duplicate content, that isn’t the case because there will be a link back to the original piece of content acknowledging its origin. Oftentimes the original creator of the content will also add a new introduction or title to the content as a means to differentiate it from the original post, but that’s optional.
Look for high-quality sites you can syndicate your content to (like the ones we mentioned above) so that you get valuable link juice from an authoritative domain. This method is also likely to generate social shares and put your content in front of an audience that’s interested in your niche so you’ll be gaining valuable referral traffic as well.
Difficulty: Low Value: Low
This is possibly one of the easiest methods to generate backlinks because you’re able to control how many you put out and there’s likely to be plenty of blogs in your niche to comment on.
The intention of this method is to leave thoughtful comments on other people’s blog posts while also including a link back to your website; this way you’ll receive link juice from the website you’re linking from back to your own website.
The value of this particular method is low because it’s thought that most blog commenting services deem outgoing links as nofollow, which as we discussed above means that no link juice will be passed on to your domain through the link you leave in your comment. However, this is still a very popular backlink building method because it’s easy to complete and many theories still believe that the links continue to be recognized by search engines and are indirect ranking factors. The value may be low but there may still be value there.
Find high-quality blogs to leave thoughtful, non-spammy comments on while providing a link back to your content with the intention of providing value. You want to show that you’re there first and foremost to engage with the content and that you also have something relevant on your website to add to the discussion. No one likes spammy comments, so try not to leave those.
Alternatively, search for blog comment sections that do provide dofollow links. There are thought to be some out there so do your research.
Difficulty: High Value: High
One of the most authentic ways to build a backlink is to guest post on someone else’s blog and earn a link back to your website in the byline or add some relevant contextual links to your website throughout the piece of content. When you guest post on someone else’s website you’re able to showcase your expertise in front of a new audience and control which pieces of your own context you link out to. It’s also a mutually beneficial relationship for you and the website host as you provide them with valuable content and they provide you with a quality backlink.
Securing guest posting assignments isn’t always easy and you’ll likely have to start small and build a portfolio before you earn guest posts on larger blogs. Your best strategy is to be persistent, polite, eager, and let the website hosts know what value you have to offer. Always lead with what value you have to offer them, not with what you’re hoping to get out of it as they’ll be much more receptive to your guest posting pitch if they see that you genuinely have value to give and want to share it with their audience.
When guest posting on other people’s websites remember that this is an opportune time to build a relationship with the site owner. If you really have a lot to offer them in terms of valuable content, they may ask you to become a repeat guest poster which would be an ideal position for you as publishing repeatedly on another site puts you in front of new eyes consistently and gives you valuable backlinks every time.
If you plan to reach out to other websites to guest post for them make sure your own site has valuable content already published on it so they have some way to gauge whether you’d be a good fit for their audience or not. Make sure your website looks professional and like you would fit into their niche market. Don’t forget to peruse their website and see if they have any guest post requirements or any particulars your guest post would need to meet such as a specific word count or formatting. You want to give them every opportunity to say yes to your guest post offer so make sure you’re prepared with valuable content, a prepared post that meets their requirements, a relevant niche, and a professional-looking website.
Difficulty: High Value: High
If you have a certain product you’d like to promote to an audience, getting a blogger, influencer or another website to publish a review of your product is a valuable way to not only have your product featured in front of an audience that’s relevant to your niche, but a great way to get a contextual backlink as well.
As per search engine ranking systems, product reviews garner high ranking backlink authority because they fulfill many of the high-value ranking requirements such as optimal link placement (within the post itself, not in a sidebar or footer) and link relevancy (within a relevant niche). If it is a sponsored product review, which depending on the website you work with they may only accept sponsored product reviews, as per Google guidelines, the link will have to be a nofollow link as opposed to a dofollow link, which isn’t ideal for a backlink but is still thought to provide some ranking power.
Make sure you reach out to reputable websites for product reviews, and as we recommended with guest posting you may have to start with being featured on smaller websites before you’re able to get onto more popular ones. Ensure that you’re able to approach potential product reviewers with some fact-based data of your product such as how many units you’ve sold, what your customer/market demographics are or how much revenue you’ve earned so you can give reviewers a way to gauge the demand of your product or what target market would be interested in it. As we said in regards to guest posting, always lead with what value you have to offer the reviewer, be persistent, polite, eager, have a valuable product with some reputable reviews or data backing it up, find reviewers that serve a relevant niche to yours, and have your own professional looking website.
Product Review Sites:
Request a Link
Difficulty: Medium Value: High
Search for blogs or websites that have conducted roundup lists or compilations of products, businesses or websites in your niche and ask to be added to the list.
For example, we occasionally get requests from businesses operating a graphic design service to add their website to our blog post, 200+ Free and Premium Graphic Design Resources. From our perspective, this is a mutually beneficial request: It enables us to keep our list up-to-date with the best resources out there and the business is able to get a dofollow backlink without having to guest post, comment on our blog posts, pay for a product review or republish their own content, and the link placement and relevancy is perfect. It’s also a simple request, you’re asking to be added to the already existing post, so it’s a fairly simple request for businesses to fulfill.
The only minor downside depends on when the post was published. If it was published over a year ago the amount of traffic to the post has potentially slowed over time meaning you may not actually generate much traffic by having the link in the post, but you will have a backlink from a reputable source so that’s the goal here, not necessarily generating referral traffic.
The best way to achieve this method of building a backlink is to do your research on what kind of posts are out there in your niche that would be appropriate to add your link to and then reach out to the publisher of said post. Really look for posts where your website would just be a simple addition to the post, you’re not looking to re-write it. Find posts that are roundups or ones that have numbers in the title. See what your niche has to offer and just reach out! Make sure your website or product is relevant though, there’s no point if it’s not.
Subreddit Moderator Method
Difficulty: Low Value: High
This is a very little known method of generating backlinks on Reddit and is lower in difficulty than the last method because you don’t have to generate social proof as a means of turning the backlink into a dofollow link. Even if you have no previous experience using Reddit this is an accessible way to get backlinks without having to engage with subreddit communities.
Here’s how to generate dofollow links to your website from Reddit:
- Create your own subreddit (please note that your Reddit account will have to be at least 30 days old and you’ll need to have a small amount of positive karma).
- Once you’ve created your own sub, you don’t have to post anything to it ever (if you don’t want to) but the value comes from linking your content in the sidebar. As a subreddit owner/moderator, you have the ability to add relevant links and information to your subreddit’s sidebar.
- Every time you have a new piece of content or a webpage you can to link out to, add it to the sidebar of your own subreddit and that will generate dofollow links to your website from Reddit.
As we’ve said above, Reddit is a high-value domain to receive link juice from, so a dofollow backlink from Reddit is beneficial and this is one of the easiest ways to get them. Please note, however, that your subreddit’s webpage will have a much lower authority than Reddit’s domain authority, but you will still acquire link juice and a backlink associated with Reddit.
Now you know the top 10 ways you can build backlinks to your website. We encourage you to try out each method for yourself and see what response you get. Don’t forget to be persistent, polite, and eager whilst still providing value when reaching out to other websites. Building backlinks is a marathon, not a sprint so be diligent about building a link here and there over time and they’ll begin to accumulate. First things first though, start working on remarkable content, a valuable product, and a beautiful website if you haven’t already so that you have something to direct potential collaborators to. Remember, it’s the quality of backlinks that count, not the quantity, so aim for quality.
This article originally appeared in the A Better Lemonade Stand blog and has been published here with permission.