What Are Backlinks? Introduction and 17 Effective Link-Building Methods (2023 Guide)

Last updated on May 24th, 2023 at 08:43 am

Did you know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t just about the content on your website? Along with over 200 other factors, your Google rank (or domain authority) depends partially on how many other websites link to yours. This free link-building guide will tell you everything you need to know to increase your backlink haul in 2023!

Links to your website that come from other sites are called backlinks, and they’re an important aspect of off-page SEO (we’ll cover the rest of it in a future article). When another site links to you, Google sees it as a vote of confidence in your content, and it earns you credibility with crawlers and human users alike! 

This is nothing new. Humans have always relied on recommendations from others to find good sources of things: food, commerce, information, entertainment, etc., because if we don’t know where to turn, we can only turn to someone who does.

Ultimately, there is one main benefit to having backlinks: increased traffic due to free exposure. By securing backlinks from other websites in your niche, you gain access to those websites’ audiences, building a network that will point new people to your site with the expectation of finding good content there. You can see the value in this, I’m sure. 

Instagram like design graffitied on a white brick wall.
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Think of it like a vote of confidence in your content, a stamp of approval from another online community member. Search engines take each backlink as a recommendation that your content is worth a read and rank your site higher than they would otherwise on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Without familiarity, there can be no trust, and if there’s one thing you need to establish with your audience, it’s trust.

Building website traffic can feel like shouting into the void. The good news is that we know there are others out there, and the best way to make it out of the void is to make connections with them. Users and Google alike are looking for the most credible and relevant pages they can find, which brings us to our first method:

Method 1: Make high-quality content.

This is an obvious one. Remember that the simplest way to get backlinks is to produce high-quality content that’s useful to people. We humans like sharing good things. If someone truly loves your work, you won’t even have to ask them to pass it on.  

Method 2: Social Media Promotion

Another obvious one: You can get backlinks by posting and getting shares on social media! Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have only become more important to marketers over the years. 

More and more, people are turning to their online friends for shopping advice and links to great content. One of the best things you can do is to be the great content that’s being shared. 

Method 3: Directory Submissions

Ariel said it best in The Little Mermaid: “I wanna be where the people are.” 

Think about the tools people use to find businesses. Other than word of mouth and social media, web directories like Yelp and Google Business are some of the most common resources people turn to when they need to hire someone. Make sure you’re leveraging these resources by creating an account and listing your website and contact information!

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Method 4: Guest Posting

Get in touch with other blogs in your niche and offer to write an article or create an episode for their site or channel. If they accept, they should be more than happy to include a link back to your website. Of course, quality still rules supreme. Low-quality content will lower your reputation and credibility not only with users, but with the sites you submit it to. 

Want to go bigger? Consider submitting your work to a publication. For best results, try to catch them during a special edition!

Broken link building is the process of finding links that have fallen victim to the dreaded 404 error… and contacting their authors with an offer to replace that content with your own functioning link! But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend weeks crawling through rabbit holes when you have tools like a Ahrefs and Ubersuggest!

These are two incredible marketing tools that allow you to search and filter the web through the lens of SEO metrics. For a quick guide on how to use Ahrefs for your broken link building campaign, watch this video.

Bloggers and other content creators usually try to link out to content they reference in their own media, but sometimes they forget. It’s a simple mistake, but it’s also a costly waste of potential domain authority for your website.

Keep an eye out for mentions of your brand on other sites, reviews, and blog posts. If people are talking about your brand, it only makes sense that they should link to it! Turn on Google Alerts to get notified when your company name is mentioned anywhere on the web. 

The good news is that there are tools to help you take advantage of those wasted backlink opportunities through a process called Link Reclamation. Here’s what it looks like: 

Step 1. Search Google to find web pages where your site is mentioned, but not linked to. 

  1. Go to the Google search bar and type in your brand name using double quotes: “Studio O’Riley” 
  2. After the closing double quote, use a hyphen as a minus symbol to exclude your own website from the search results: -studiooriley.com
  3. Type a space after your website, then exclude any social media profiles and other channels you manage: -facebook.com -youtube.com -twitter.com
  4. Press “Search” or hit “Enter” on a PC or “return” on a Mac keyboard. 

You’ve just used two of Google’s search operators: “”, and -. The “double quotes” tell Google to only show search results that use the words between them, in the exact order you indicated. The -minus symbol tells Google to exclude pages connected to that specific domain. Your search should look something like this:

This image depicts a Google search that filters and excludes certain results according to the user's specification. Screenshot created for Studio O'Riley's article, What are backlinks? Introduction and 17 Effective Link-Building Methods (2023 Guide)

By performing this kind of search, you cut out the fluff in the results page and see only pages that mention your brand intentionally. Of course, it’s possible that brands with a common phrase for a name will still see unrelated content. For instance, a business called “The Pet Center” would still see any pages that mention the pet center around the corner or apply to similar cases.

Chances are, if they mentioned your brand, they see your content as valuable for their audience and they’ll be happy to link to you. More often than not, the fact that they didn’t link to you in the first place is an oversight and nothing more. Here’s how to reclaim your backlinks:

  1. Visit each relevant page in your search results and read the articles to find the paragraph where you’re mentioned.
  2. Ensure that there isn’t already a link to your site anywhere on the page. 
  3. Take note of (write down) the URL, author’s name, and article title for reference later.
  4. Find out who posted the content. Was it the webmaster, the main blogger, a guest blogger? Most sites will have some kind of information somewhere on a Contacts, Directory, or Meet The Team page. Some may even have the author’s name and contact information at the top or bottom of the article.
  5. Create a list of the contacts you find and write a personalized email to each one, saying something like:

Hello, Mary! 

I see that you mentioned The Pet Center™️ in your article, “50 Ways You Can Try to Bathe Your Cat.” It’s great to see that our store is useful to your readers! 

We so appreciate your vote of confidence and I wonder if you would consider linking to our site in your article. That way, customers have a direct portal to our organic feline shampoos, which you mention in paragraph 17. Here’s the link I’m talking about: 

https://www.thepetcenter.com/the-benefits-of-organic-shampoos-for-your-feline-friends

Again, thank you for your support! Don’t hesitate to ask if you want any more information. I’d also be happy to collaborate on a post or two in the future.

Warmest regards,

Me – Webmaster at The Pet Center

(Hey, it turns out there really is a place that redirects from thepetcenter.com! They’re called Only Natural Pet. If you’re a fluffy-friend lover, check them out!)

You won’t get a backlink every time, but it’s worth asking. And the more personal and kind you are with each one, the more likely you’ll get more links!

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

There’s a great guide on image link building from linkbuilder.io, which you can read here. But the idea is that images spread like wildfire on the internet, especially beautiful and informative ones.

If you know your stuff, write it all down and turn it into a free, downloadable infographic or ebook. These are comprehensive, hopefully visual resources that people value. Offer these guides for free and market them heavily. Soon, other sites may supplement their content with a link to your file, and therefore your site! 

Essentially, you’re providing sites that may already have traffic with a free, ready-made resource that they can share with their readers with almost zero effort. As always, make sure your content is high-quality or no one will bother to link to it. 

YouTube is a huge player in the SEO space. People go to the platform for everything from tutorials and product reviews to cat videos and short films. If you want more website traffic, you should be producing more video anyway, but remember that you can give yourself backlinks on YouTube, too! YouTube allows them in video descriptions, profile bios, comments, and pop-up cards during the video. 

Making videos isn’t in the cards right now? That’s ok! Make your content useful to other YouTubers and ask them to link to it in a video. As always, make sure you’re only placing links to content that is relevant, logical, and helpful to the viewers of the channel you’re linking on. 

Method 9: Free Courses & Content

There’s nothing people love more than free stuff. Even if your product or services seem straightforward, many people may not have the time or energy to learn by trial and error. 

By providing free instructional content, you support your customers, and they’ll thank you for it with brand loyalty. This is also a great way to create a community around your content. With any course or tutorial, people will ask questions, and that starts a conversation! It also gives you a better idea of what your customers want to see from your brand, and by obliging them, you reinforce your brand’s community.

Method 10: Product Reviews

Some people make a living by reviewing products so that others can make informed purchases. Search YouTube and Google for “unboxing” channels and blogs, and reach out to them. Offer to send them a free product in exchange for an episode or article reviewing that same product.

Even if the review isn’t entirely favorable, your product will have earned thousands, maybe millions of views, depending on the popularity of the reviewer you chose. That’s exposure that you could never have guaranteed before, all for the price of a single product!

Method 11: Testimonials and Business Reviews

The power of word-of-mouth has been known for a long time, and it’s vital online. According to luisashou.com, 2023 data indicates that “95% of customers read online reviews before buying a product.” Think how much your brand could suffer from poor reviews or no reviews at all. But even more important, think how much your site will benefit from good ones! 

This is a simple method because all you have to do is ask! Approach your clients however you want to: over the phone, through email, or on social media. Ask them for a sincere review or testimonial. Most people will be willing to help if you ask them directly. Then if their review is favorable, ask their permission to feature it on your website and in your content. 

How do backlinks come into this? You can ask people to link to your brand on their social media profiles, in their videos, and on their own blogs! People trust people more than people trust brands. But by connecting with people, you can build that trust and compete with bigger brands that have less community activity, which brings us to the next tactic:

Method 12: Community Participation

This is a simple one. If you want backlinks, just make sure people have heard of you! By participating in your online and local communities, you get in front of people. And if your content is worth something, people will share it. 

So find spaces where your audience is active—it might be a subreddit, or a Twitter hashtag, or a Facebook page, or a farmer’s market—and just take part in the discussions that happen there naturally. Share your thoughts, like other people’s content, comment on what they did well, post GIFs, videos, and pictures, share their links! Soon, you’ll find that others are doing the same for you. 

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Method 13: Forum and Q&A Participation

People spend most of their time on the Internet looking for answers to questions. That’s why another great way to participate in your online community is to contribute to support forums and offer Q&A sessions. 

By answering questions and helping people learn about problems in your niche, you set yourself up as an authority and a resource to turn to. If you have the time, it’s a great idea to schedule some time every week to chat with folks about their struggles and pain points. That way people see your value as a brand and they see your personality shine through at the same time, building trust for your brand!

Method 14: Skyscraper Technique

You need to be careful with this one, but doing it right could skyrocket your site traffic. It’s called the “Skyscraper Technique” because of the trend that skyscrapers tend to be built with the express purpose of outperforming other skyscrapers in their height. 

“This is the tallest building in the world!” 

“Oh, yeah? Well, I’m building a taller one!”

Similarly, you can challenge yourself to write good content by finding the best content out there on a certain topic…. and making a taller one—I mean better one. 

Of course, never plagiarize someone else’s content, and always keep your user’s needs above your ego. The goal is to provide the best content on the internet, not to “stamp out the competition.” But there’s nothing wrong with providing something more comprehensive and higher quality than the other content that exists on the same topic. And by doing this, you secure yourself traffic and shares that would have gone to the previous “tallest skyscraper.”

Method 15: Influencer Outreach

Let’s reiterate the trust factor. People are highly susceptible to confirmation bias. That means that if they’ve already formed an opinion about a brand, that opinion is more likely to be reinforced with each new point of contact.

That’s why influencer outreach can be so helpful in gaining backlinks. By communicating—and hopefully collaborating—with influential online brands and personalities, you open up your content to a wider audience who already trust the source you’re working with.

So think about the influencers in your niche, no matter how big or small, and reach out! You can find them on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or their own popular website. 

These connections can have a huge effect on your own reputation and brand visibility. So offer to share a piece of your content that would be useful to their audience, or to interview with them, create a podcast, co-write a blog post, or partner with them in some other way! Don’t feel like you’re taking advantage of them. It’s always helpful for content creators to have help in creating their content. Plus, if you have an audience of your own, the influencer will gain some of your followers in return!

Method 16: Brand Partnerships

If you work with other brands, you can both link to each other’s content. This way, both brands benefit. Keep in mind that trading links with sites you’re not partnering with is considered questionable. Links should be relevant to the user’s needs. Look for opportunities to partner with other brands on products, posts, or episodes, and you’ll have a good reason to link to each other!

Photo by Malte Helmhold on Unsplash

Method 17: Webinars and Live Events

One of the things that drives value is scarcity. Unlike a written post or a normal video, a live stream (or physical workshop) isn’t always available. It happens in real-time. In other words, people are more likely to attend because they don’t have the opportunity to save the link and read it a month from now. They may miss something, and people don’t like missing things. 

Put together a valuable set of information that you can pass on to attendees and host a live stream every now and then. You’ll start to see more and more participation the more value you provide. And in return, you’ll get more people sharing your content!

Wrapping Up

Congrats! You’ve learned like, several cool ways to get backlinks (and a few others besides)! 😉

Ultimately, link building is just a fancy name for making connections with people, and that’s why it’s so important. Like everything else in life, the most important thing is that you make positive connections with those around you. If you do that, you’ll have no trouble getting backlinks and growing your site’s exposure and traffic!

If you got value out of this post, share the love! The post is only good if it helps somebody, so send the link to one other person you think would benefit from it.

Make sure to check back next week for Studio O’Riley’s next SEO post, “Keyword Research and Best Practices (2023 Guide)!”

2 Comments

  1. You have a knack for making SEO feel less daunting.
    Thanks to your advice, I’m seeing positive changes in my website’s performance.

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