What do you get when you ask 100 SEO experts to share their best white hat link-building strategies with you?
You get gold.
We spoke to some of the most respected marketing experts in the industry. Their titles included Founders, CEOs, Chief Marketing Strategists, Digital Marketing Consultants, Research Analysts, and SEO specialists.
We compiled a database of every answer we heard from our 100 experts and kept track of how many times our experts mentioned each backlinking strategy.
We then sorted our experts according to their Ahrefs domain rating and gave extra weight to the answers that came from high-ranking professionals.
The Domain Rating, or DR, is an Ahrefs tool that measures your perceived authority within your niche by assessing the relative authority of the pages that link to you. DRs are similar to academic test scores in that they are numerical scores between 0 and 100, with higher numbers indicating better proficiency.
A Domain Rating is similar to an SEMRush Authority Score.
Factors that play a role in determining your DR are the number of backlinks you have, the number of domains that link to you, whether or not the links are ‘follow’ or ‘no-follow,’ and most importantly: the DRs of the sites that host your inbound links.
Ahrefs has the second-most active web crawler in the world, which translates into them having the largest backlink database in the industry.
Their database contains over 27 Trillion known links between 170 million unique domains, and their bot indexes just under 7 billion pages every day.
Many consider them to be the foremost experts on backlink analysis.
They also host an impressive collection of free tools that we’ll reference throughout the article, including Domain Ratings.
The highest DR among our participants was 85.
That individual had 17,864 referring domains, 84% of which were ‘follow.’
That participant was also the only participant with a DR above 80.
Eight of our experts had DRs above 70.
Out of the 100 experts we interviewed, 17 had DRs above 60, and 35 had DRs above 50.
The average DR of our 100 experts was 42.
Their answers included a wide range of backlinking strategies, tactics, and tools, but we noticed something interesting when we sorted our experts by their DRs.
All of our experts seemed to agree on the better-known “textbook” tactics for building backlinks, but only the real professionals mentioned the lesser-known methods.
In other words: The more creative, lesser-known tactics seem to make the most significant difference.
We’ll get to those methods later. Right now, let’s dig into the more traditional tactics.
Once we’ve addressed the “best practices,” we’ll be able to delve into the more creative backlinking strategies.
Here is our list of recommended link building methods:
1. Pillar Content
The real secret to link building is to create content of such a high caliber that other professionals working in your niche will link to your content without you even having to ask.
We call this Pillar Content, and it tops our list of tactics with 38 total mentions from our marketing professionals.
Pillar content is data-driven information that adds value to the Internet.
We’re not talking about information you sourced from other websites either. We’re talking about original research studies, case studies, industry round-ups, ultimate guides, surveys, and polls you conducted — in other words: new information that acts as a pillar for other professionals.
Creating Pillar Content begins with understanding your audience and identifying their needs. What are the most significant obstacles they’re facing? What are their most serious challenges? Most importantly, how can you answer these queries better than anyone has before?
Liam Abbott, SEO Specialist at Go Top Shelf, says that creating Pillar Content is the heart of his link building strategy:
“The #1 way to build links back to your site is by crafting exceptional content that helps the user and provides your own unique take/perspective on the issue,” says Abbott.
Harriet Chan, Co-Founder and Marketing Director at CocoFinder, believes that the essence of Pillar Content is Thought Leadership.
“Everyone wants to link to a thought leader in their industry,” says Chan. “We establish our site as a thought leader when it comes to statistics. By constantly releasing data reports that project where the industry is headed, we make our site more attractive to others.”
Alex Tofts, PR Executive and Link Builder at BroadbandGenie, uses the same data-driven approach.
“Any resource that builds links without requiring outreach is the link builder’s dream. Creating data banks that journalists, editors, and bloggers can pick up without outreaching should be a priority, and it’s not expensive,” says Tofts.
Ronald Samson, Research Analyst at Credit Donkey, suggested a few additional formats for attracting attention.
“Create linkable assets that are useful in your industry, such as infographics, ebooks, or tools,” says Samson. (More on this later)
Regardless of the format you choose for your pillar content, always remember to keep it up to date. Google freely admits to giving priority to pages that are updated regularly.
2. Guest Posting
According to 31 of our experts, one of the most reliable ways to build backlinks is Guest Posting – writing articles for other blogs within your niche that reference your content. The site that publishes the article gets free content, and you get a backlink.
It’s a win-win!
Austin LaRoche, CEO of ATAK Interactive, has had tremendous success with this tactic.
“Collaborating with different content creators in your niche is an excellent way to drive visitors to your site,” says LaRoche.
“Once you make more associations in your field, exchanging guest posts becomes more natural. Concentrate on networking and establish connections to develop these opportunities.”
Janis Thies, CEO of SEOlutions, agrees that guest blogging is highly effective, but Thies also emphasizes discretion when choosing guest posting partners.
“The thing is that many people do it wrong,” says Thies.
“To get backlinks to increase your ranking and increase your traffic through guest blogging, you have to be selective of the blog. My advice is to guest blog on websites that have a DR 50 or higher, and do not guest post on the same blog again and again,” says Thies.
The notion of only seeking links from sites with DRs above 50 was a common suggestion among our participants.
However, this raises another question:
If a blog has a DR over 50, they are likely inundated with daily guest posting requests. How then does one get their attention?
“These bloggers start to think that they are doing you a favor by letting you write a post for them,” says Oli Baise, Owner of Oli Baise Digital.
“This leads to lower acceptance rates and a growing trend of bloggers asking for money in exchange for letting you post on their website. The antidote to this is to start reaching out to websites that get reached out to less. A great place to start is businesses that have blogs, rather than blogs that are businesses,” says Baise.
Three other participants reported having success with the same strategy.
The most creative strategy that any of our experts mentioned is something we will call ‘Overlap Technique.’
Overlap Technique involves finding guest post publishers in other industries that are more familiar with the concept and benefits of link building and then creating content relevant to both parties.
The advertising industry is ideal for this strategy since every business advertises its products and can write content around marketing tactics that work well for them. Advertisers tend to also appreciate the virtue of link-building in a way that other industries may not.
Nicholas Rubright, CEO of Cannaflower, suggested using the Overlap Technique to build backlinks through guest posting without sacrificing relevancy.
“Building backlinks is especially difficult for us, being in the CBD niche because nobody wants to link to CBD sites,” says Rubright.
“We were able to fix this by running a link-building campaign in the eCommerce niche. By using internal data to build marketing case studies, we were then able to pitch unique stories to marketing blogs as guest posts,” Rubright says.
“So instead of chasing the niche and paying for links like most sites in our industry do, we’re making ourselves relevant to the marketing industry so that we can execute a link-building campaign in an industry that’s more link-friendly,” says Rubright.
It’s important that your guest posting fits within the publishing site’s general theme, but optimizing your guest post around the exact keywords as the page it’s linking to is essential.
Dom Cooper, Director of VU Online, had some excellent advice for how to accomplish that.
“Identify keywords that aren’t as heavily competitive,” says Cooper.
“Create a new page and optimize it for those keywords, then target backlinks specifically for that page by including the keywords in the anchor text. If you identify niche keywords, you won’t need many links to give that page a quick boost,” Cooper says.
Brian Wray, SEO Specialist at SkyeLine Studio, suggested reaching out to publishers who have already published content optimized around the keywords you’re targeting and then asking for a link.
“If the post has keywords in common with your linking page, then it is a good candidate,” says Wray.
3. Manual Outreach
A number of the strategies our experts recommended require some degree of manual outreach. Overall, Manual Outreach received a total of 28 direct mentions from our panel of experts, which places it at #3 on our list of recommended tactics.
In addition to being a component of more complex link-building strategies, Manual Outreach can be a tactic unto itself. Robin Brown, CEO of ViviPins, tells us that he proactively contacts site owners to request links.
“Look up their contact information and send them an email introducing yourself,” says Brown.
“Suggest that they write about something related to your business or blog on their site. Give them an example of one of your best-written articles that might interest their readers,” Brown says.
Barbara Sawala, Online Visibility Builder at Uploadcare, believes that proper manual outreach is the cornerstone of the SEO universe and stresses the need to individualize each message.
“Personalize,” says Sawala.
“Don’t just use templates from outreach automation platforms. Writing just a name and a URL with an article covering a topic in your niche is not enough,” Sawala said before going on to encourage link builders to be persistent in their outreach.
“Don’t give up,” said Sawala. “Remind yourself of past successes and keep pitching.”
Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, recommended creating content designed to attract links from authority sites.
“We often publish posts like “the 15 best team building books for the workplace in 2021.” Then, we can reach out to the authors and publishers we included on that list and see if they will include a link back to the article from their PR or media mentions page,” says Alexis.
“We’ve found that since we already provided value, many site owners are happy to respond and add the link,” Alexis says.
Only two of our participants reported using product reviews as a means to earn inbound links.
However, the two experts who did suggest this tactic had DRs of 67 and 79, so we took their recommendation seriously.
One of those people was Erin Zadoorian, CEO and Executive Editor of The Ministry of Hemp.
“Writing reviews for items and services that I really use is one of my favorite ways to generate backlinks,” says Zadoorian.
“I ask them to post my review on their website and include a link as well. This way, I act as their ambassador while getting a backlink,” Zadoorian says.
The other marketing expert who mentioned this tactic was Jeff Solomon, Co-Founder of Markup Hero.
“Write a product review of a complimentary but not competitive product/service, then request a link to that article,” says Solomon.
“Since we just wrote great content about a company’s product, the response rates are very high. A side benefit of this approach is that there are a lot of long-tail keywords that are easy to rank on for high volume brands,” Solomon says.
Seven of our experts recommended using Google’s Reverse Image search tool to find sites that have republished your media. In these cases, our experts recommend contacting the publisher and asking that they update the image to include a link to your site.
One of these experts was Gregory Golinski, Senior SEO Manager at LiveStorm.co.
“Do a Google reverse image search to find websites that use your images, and ask them to credit you with a backlink next to the image,” says Golinski.
“To do that, right-click on an image from your website in Chrome, and select Search Google for Image. Doing so will display all occurrences of your image in search results. You just need to reach out to websites using them to ask them to credit you,” Golinski says.
We should mention that Mr. Golinski had the highest DR of any expert we interviewed. His domain rating was 85 with 17,864 referring domains, and 84% of those domains included ‘follow’ links.
Golinski also recommended offering discounts to university students and faculty and then asking them to publish a link to your site so that people can take advantage.
“These websites have a very high domain authority and can really help your SEO,” says Golinski.
A couple of participants also endorsed the idea of creating a Google Alert for your name and your brand so that you can be aware of any mentions.
Todd Ramlin of Cable Compare makes this a regular practice.
“We use Google Alerts as part of our backlink-building strategy,” says Ramlin.
“We have our company name set up as a Google Alert so that anytime we’re mentioned somewhere on the Internet, we’ll know about it. When we get an alert, we analyze it for relevance and whether we’re mentioned in a positive or negative context,” Ramlin says.
“When it’s a relevant and positive mention, we get in touch with whoever mentioned us and start a conversation about including a link to our website. When it’s a relevant and negative mention, it’s still an opportunity. In these cases, we reach out to talk about why they feel negative about us and what we can do to change their opinion. If we’re able to change a negative opinion to a positive one, we’ll sometimes then ask them for a backlink,” says Ramlin
“The way we look at it is that anytime someone is talking about us, it’s a backlinking opportunity but only if we know about it,” Ramlin says.
HelpAReporter.com (HARO) is a tremendous resource for finding journalists and bloggers who need experts to comment on their stories.
Some of the world’s most respected news media outlets use HARO to find people to quote, and it’s common to reward sources with a link.
Since these links may be coming from sites with extremely high DRs, many of them will end up being ‘no-follow’ links. However, a ‘no-follow’ link will still direct traffic to your site and has the potential to earn ‘follow’ links from third parties who learn about you by reading your quote.
Janice Wald, Blogging Coach at Mostly Blogging, says that she uses HARO to pitch authority blogs.
“These are free services,” says Wald.
“Frequently, I get on the mailing list of these blogs, so when they are doing expert round-ups, they notify me, and I can submit pitches,” Wald says.
Arabella Iglesias, Managing Editor at CBDReviews.Guide suggested answering HARO queries regularly and making a point to add real value to the editors and writers seeking input.
“This is our primary method of link building,” says Iglesias.
“It has gotten us on many huge publications like Forbes, Business Insider, and USA Today.”
Forging a lasting relationship with a publisher is a great way to build your credibility and maximize your exposure.
While it is true that it’s better to be mentioned one time by 100 different sites than it is to be mentioned 100 times on one site, you’ll find that solid relationships will still lead to new linking opportunities.
Jon Torres, Founder of JonTorres.com, believes in this approach wholeheartedly.
“The important thing is to build relationships with admins and authors to deliver great content,” says Torres.
“I think about adding value before anything else,” Torres says.
5. Local Directories & Resource Links
Local directories often feature ‘follow’ links to local businesses. In addition, resource sites often contain lists of blogs within a particular industry. Both of these are excellent sources for backlinks.
“This approach entails making your high-quality material available as a reference page for a specific niche, says Hutch Ashoo, Founder and CEO of Pillar Wealth Management.
Adam Gingery, COO of Majux, also endorsed this tactic.
“Use Google search to find relevant directories,” says Gingery.
“There are web directories for everything online, from eCommerce to local service businesses.
Some suggested Google searches would be:
+business +directory +[insert city]
+music teacher +directory
+marketing agency +directory
Taylor Ryan, CEO of Klint Marketing, claims to have established hundreds of backlinks by using the same strategy.
“There are literally hundreds of sites within every industry where you can upload a link to your site,” says Ryan.
“Some of these sites require simple registration, and others require you to contribute with some content. Now, you need to keep these at least somewhat relevant to your industry - it’s going to look a bit weird if your windsurfing company is listed on a SaaS directory - but other than that, the sky’s the limit!” Ryan says.
Social news sites like Reddit offer tremendous opportunities for resource link placement.
Megha Gadke, Founder of Keto Connect, agrees; but also cautions link-seekers against going overboard.
“Links on Reddit are a great ranking signal,” says Gadke.
“But it’s also crucial that you don’t spam subreddits with irrelevant content or submit articles solely to link back,” Gadke says.
6. Copycat Technique
Copycat Technique involves analyzing your competitor’s backlinking strategy and then mimicking it by reaching out to the same linking partners.
Essentially, Copycat technique involves three main steps:
Use free Internet tools like SEMRush to figure out who is already linking to your competitors.
Create original content based upon the themes and formats that are helping your competitors attract those backlinks
Reach out to the appropriate parties and suggest that they link to your content as well.
Copycat Technique is a reliable and effective strategy for building quality backlinks. The more quality backlinks you have, the better your ability to rank for keywords. The better your ability to rank for keywords, the more traffic you get.
More traffic might mean more sales, or higher ad revenues, or more subscribers.
The logic behind Copycat Technique is simple: By matching your biggest competitor’s linking profile, you can potentially catch up to them in terms of search results placements.
Enter your competitor’s domain into the SEMRush Keyword Magic.
The search results page will reveal their Authority Score, the number of backlinks they have, and the number of domains that host those backlinks.
It will also show a list of pages that refer to the target domain.
That list contains the titles and URLs of the pages and the Authority Score, URL Rating, Number of Referring Domains, and Traffic Score for each of those pages.
As you review your competitor’s linking partners, take note of any with a Authority Score above 50. Later, we will prioritize those sites in our outreach campaign.
Hunter.io is a tremendous resource for tracking down professional email addresses.
To execute Copycat Technique properly, you must model your competition’s most popular content.
Keep in mind that modeling does not mean plagiarising.
Modeling means developing your own unique content in the same style as other high-performing content.
A good strategy for modeling popular content is to find a popular blog post or article and then consider what other questions the intended audience may have?
You can also use Google autocomplete to figure out what types of questions are driving people to pull out their phones and search for answers.
Just type an incomplete question into Google like “How to make money with” and then hit the space bar but don’t hit Enter. Instead, let Google try to complete the sentence for you by showing you the most common queries with the prefix “How to make money with.”
Note these suggestions and model your content around them.
It’s time to reach out to the authors, bloggers, and web admins that we uncovered during the research phase. These are the people who created the backlinks to your competitor’s page, and they’re in a position to do the same for you.
Begin by writing them a personalized email.
Introduce yourself, explain why you’re contacting them, and include some links to your best content.
The constant challenge of creating more content is something that content creators deal with regularly, so they’re likely to respond favorably to anyone who has the potential to make their job easier by handing them fresh material.
It’s a good idea to send a follow-up email if you don’t hear back right away.
I recommend sending a follow-up email after about a week if you don’t get an initial response and then a second follow-up email after another week if you still don’t hear back.
7. Proven Content Formats
Several forms of content have a unique ability to attract attention. Each content format that we’ll be discussing here is engaging, informative, and easily sharable. Most importantly, they help to increase overall time on-page and decrease bounce rates.
One of the most cost-effective ways to package visual content is an infographic.
Infographics have a way of cutting through the noise and engaging the subconscious mind.
People tend to pause for a minute when they come across a clever infographic.
Martin Luenendonk, Founder and CEO of FounderJar, agrees that publishing infographics is an efficient way to mesmerize an audience.
“Infographics are still influential today and can be an essential part of your link-building strategy,” says Luenendonk.
“The benefit of using infographics is that they will continue to drive organic traffic to your blog and earn you quality links,” Luenendonk says.
Online graphics tools like Canva make it easy to design original infographics without any prior design experience.
Any interactive experience is, by definition, engaging.
Creating an original quiz provides site visitors with a way to connect to your content in a way that other formats cannot match.
You can design a quiz that pairs a client to a particular product variant based upon their unique circumstances. You can also create quizzes that test one’s knowledge of a specific industry or discipline. Whatever you decide, be sure to optimize the quiz results page for social media to give the quiz-taker some degree of bragging rights.
Quizzes may take a bit longer to create, but they are tremendously beneficial for SEO.
An equally engaging but slightly more expensive option is to create videos.
YouTube is the second most popular search engine on Earth, and other video-based social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels are steadily gaining in popularity.
Iain Miller, CEO of UniqueAscent, has put video at the front and center of his marketing efforts.
“I use little bits of footage I’ve taken myself,” says Miller, who then sends out press releases to other bloggers and journalists who may want to republish the video.
“Press agencies and journalists will contact you looking for permission to embed their version of your footage in their domain,” says Miller.
“I always give permission as long as I get a live link to my blog post,” Miller says.
8. Broken Link Building
Broken link building is the practice of finding outdated links, contacting the site owner, and suggesting that they link to your content as a replacement.
Overall, broken link building received 11 mentions from our panel of experts.
This technique yields reliable results for the reason that web administrators are generally happy to know about broken links on their site because they negatively impact SEO.
They’re generally happy to link to your content instead.
Alexandra LeBlanc, SEO Content Specialist at Zen Media, tells us that broken link building is her favorite way to build backlinks.
“I find prospects and resource pages with search strings like “[keyword]” + “useful resources” to find relevant content and suggest my post as an alternative,” says LeBlanc.
Ahrefs Broken Link Checker can help save you a lot of time in this regard.
Just type in the domain or URL, and Ahrefs will tell you all of the broken inbound and outbound links.
9. Skyscraper Technique
The Skyscraper technique has three basic steps:
Find proven linkable assets – Content so extraordinary that it draws backlinks on its own.
Make something even better (build a bigger skyscraper) – Make it longer, more detailed, improve the design, and update the material.
Promote your new content in the appropriate circles
Frank Ienzi, Digital PR specialist at seoplus+, is a vocal proponent of this method:
“One strategy link builders need to add to their arsenal is a skyscraper approach,” says Ienzi.
“This method provides tremendous value to the readers and third-party websites and has a higher chance of obtaining a high-quality backlink,” Ienzisays.
“Find an existing article (older the better), and then write a more recent article with additional content to enhance the current article,” says Ienzi.
“This strategy works for almost any industry as it helps websites that need more informative articles. Once you find a website that is happy to publish your content, you can later submit more material related to that specific field since you already built rapport with them. Providing value upfront can pay off in the long run for obtaining backlinks, which will help your brand’s credibility and increase your website metrics to rank higher,” Ienzi says.
10. Take Advantage of Internet Tools
There are limitless resources that you can use to your advantage in your quest to build more backlinks.
Among the participants in our study, these were the most commonly mentioned:
Although it isn’t as trendy as some of its more contemporary counterparts, Pinterest remains one of the most reliable ways to attract backlinks through social media.
In addition to being a social platform, Pinterest is also a visual search engine.
People specifically go to Pinterest looking for inspiration, which means that a properly optimized pin with an embedded link has the potential to end up in a wide variety of places.
Pinterest also lends itself particularly well to infographics.
For more information, be sure to read “How to Make Money on Pinterest.”
Sending formal notices to news media outlets is likely to attract an abundance of attention. If you choose to go this route, we recommend using a professional public relations company like eReleases to write and distribute your press release rather than attempting to do it yourself.
The reason behind our thinking is that journalists expect to see press releases written in a very precise way. They are much more likely to work with you if your press release adheres to their standards.
Furthermore, agencies like eReleases maintain vast databases of reporters in every conceivable niche and can send your press release exactly where it needs to go.
Patrick Connelly, Co-Founder of Stellar Villa, believes strongly in the power of earned media.
“The most effective strategy for link-building is to simply be newsworthy,” says Connelly.
“Instead of focusing on the latest “hacks,” you should put your energy into being a disruptor in your industry. If you constantly do things differently and serve up new innovations, people will be drawn to your company and want to write about you. You could potentially even have articles written about your company without doing any outreach whatsoever,” Connelly says.
“If your business is doing newsworthy things on a regular basis, you will have backlinks coming in on autopilot,” says Connelly.
BuzzSumo is a content curation tool that helps you find content that is already trending to share on your social media.
Only one participant in our study reported using BuzzSumo as part of their link-building strategy.
Still, that individual had the second-most impressive DR among our panel of experts, so we felt compelled to hear him out.
His name is Muhammed Mateen, and he is the Digital Marketing Strategist at PureVPN; and this is how he uses BuzzSumo to generate quality backlinks:
“I use BuzzSumo’s Web Content search tool to find top-performing content that ranks for target keywords and phrases,” says Mateen.
“The site shows you the engagement that the content received on a range of platforms, as well as its own metric, ‘Evergreen Score,’” Mateen says.
“The Evergreen Score is BuzzSumo’s unique value, given to each piece of content based on the engagement and backlink earnings 30 days after the content was published. The Evergreen score is an indication that the content is continuing to provide value when it’s no longer new,” says Mateen. “The more ongoing engagement the piece gets, the more evergreen — that is to say, continually relevant — BuzzSumo finds the work. Using this score and the other engagement information provided by BuzzSumo, you can find ideas for lasting and engaging content in your niche,” Mateen says.
One of the most common constraints of any small business is time. It's rarely a matter of knowing what to do; the bigger issue is taking the time to do the job right.
Backlink building is a full-time job; and one that involves real skill.
Marketing agencies like Fat Joe, who specialize in backlink building can help you with manual outreach, link placement, and article writing.
To review, anyone who wants to increase the quality backlinks to their site should do the following:
Create data-driven content in the form of expert round-ups, case studies, ultimate guides, studies, surveys, and polls.
Write guest posts for businesses that have blogs (not blogs that are businesses) and look for ways to ‘overlap’ with other industries in ways that are relevant for all parties, (i.e. Marketing.)
Make sure to optimize your guest posts around the right keywords.
Personalize your outreach campaigns & be tenacious when contacting prospective linking partners.
Publishing reviews of books, products, and other media is a great way to generate links from the creators of that media.
Find unlinked mentions of your brand online and request attribution.
Sign-up with local directories and Internet resource pages.
Execute the Copycat Technique by modeling your content off of your largest competitor and then contacting the same people who link to them to request backlinks for your content.
Infographics, quizzes, videos, and other forms of interactive content are the most engaging and draw large amounts of backlinks with little to no outreach.
Strategies link broken link building, and the Skyscraper Technique are both excellent tactics as well.
Take advantage of Internet tools like Ahrefs, Pinterest, and BuzzSumo.
Use press releases to draw attention to more significant and “link-worthy” content.