Updated: Aug 23
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.