Link building is one of the basic strategies many bloggers follow to grow their blogs. At the same time, link building is one of those topics that most beginner bloggers have no idea about until they start investing more time into educating themselves about blogging. If you find yourself in this category, then this beginner’s guide to link building is all you need to get started with some basic techniques.
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Understanding Link Building
Link building is called the procedure of growing the number of links from other websites back to your own. It is part of the so-called off-page SEO, which includes all the techniques you can follow outside of your blog to increase its presence in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Link building is extremely important if you want to grow your appearance in the SERPs, as every time Google sees a reference of your site to another website is like getting a +1. In other words, when Google sees someone linking to your blog, it thinks that that person found your content useful and qualitative enough to direct their readers to it. The more times this happens, the higher your value is in the eyes of Google.
There are different ways that you can start building links back to your site, also known as backlinks, and I will present some of them below.
Warning: Due to the huge potential advantages of link building, some people started using unethical ways to build backlinks to their sites, by purchasing links or taking part in link exchange schemes. This is not allowed by Google policies and your site may be de-indexed (i.e. excluded from the search results) if you are caught in such types of link building.
In general, the best types of links that also hold the most value are the ones that are placed editorially, i.e. the person writing a post, thought that your content may be beneficial to their readers and placed a do-follow link back to your site.
What are do-follow links?
This is where things become a little more complicated. Contrary to common belief, there are different types of links and not all of them hold the same value. Some of the ones that you are more likely to come across are do-follow, no-follow, user-generated and sponsored. You can define the type of link using HTML, but I will get into more details later.
By default all links are do-follow, and these are the type links that hold the most value. Do-follow links tell Google that your site is trustworthy and allow some of the authority of that website to flow down to you. Authority is important, as the more authoritative a website is, the higher are the chances of ranking in the first results of Google.
Other types of links
In contrast, no-follow links hold the least value. No-follow links tell Google to not take it into account as it is potentially not trustworthy. Most people claim that no authority is passed down to your website with these links, but some people still believe that even one no-follow link is better than zero. And in fact, most links to your website are either no-follow or user-generated content.
When a link has the user-generated content (ugc) attribute next to it, it means that you are the one that put the link there. For example, when you are putting your own links on your social media page, or in other locations on the web that allow personal links, such as in the comments of another blog. Since Google knows that it was you who placed these links, they have a small value.
Lastly, there are sponsored links. You should use this type of link, when you are linking somewhere you were paid to do or you have the potential to be paid. For example, when a brand pays you to write a review of their product and wants you to link to that product’s page, that link will be sponsored (and maybe no-followed too). The same is true for affiliate links. If you keep them as do-follow you may be breaching Google’s terms.
How to specify the type of a link?
You can specify the type of the link by amending the rel attribute of the HTML a tag. See below for an example. Note that if you want to use the below code, you should replace # with your URL.
- Do-follow link example:
<a href="#">Example of a do-follow link</a>
- No-follow link example:
<a href="#" rel="nofollow">Example of a no-follow link</a>
- User-generated content link example:
<a href="#" rel="ugc">Example of a user-generated content link</a>
- Sponsored link example:
<a href="#" rel="sponsored">Example of a sponsored link</a>
- Sponsored and no-follow link example:
<a href="#" rel="nofollow sponsored">Example of a sponsored no-follow link</a>
Luckily, WordPress’s Gutenberg editor allows you to do this change without touching the HTML code. See below for an example.
Overall, your aim should be to start building an initial number of backlinks (ideally do-follow) to improve the authority of your blog in general and your domain authority metric more specifically. See below for some suggestions on how to do that.
What is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority (DA for short) is a metric created by a company called Moz and can show how authoritative a website is. The value of a website’s DA encompasses a range of factors that according to their research positively correlate with higher Google rankings. DA is a number out of 100 and the highest to 100 a site is, the more chances it has for ranking higher on Google results.
When someone starts a new website, the DA of that site is by default zero (or N/A) and it takes lots of effort to increase it. In general a website with a DA less than 10 is not considered authoritative by many people, while the closer it gets to 30 the more respect it has. Overall, a website with authority above 60 is considered a highly authoritative website and even though there are still 40 more points to reach 100, some of the most successful bloggers don’t make it much above that threshold. The websites that tend to have a DA closer to 100 are those that are naturally used by millions of people daily like Facebook, Youtube and Google.
You can check your DA (and the DA of other websites) by following this link to Moz’s website. Moz has a lot of other resources on SEO and link building and I highly suggest you have a look around.
Other tools to calculate your blog’s authority
Moz is not the only company that provides you with a number to describe your website’s authority. Other tools exist as well, but keep in mind that because each one is using a different set of factors, their results can vary dramatically. Such an example is Ahrefs’ Website “Authority” Checker. This tool also gives you a number out of 100 and can tell you about your website’s authority. Their metric is called the Domain Rating (DR) and focuses on the number of backlinks your site has. Another tool that gives you an Authority Score is SEMRush [AD] (paid tool), and they take into account the quality of your site and your SEO performance.
As I said above, each tool can return a completely different value, so it is important to always do comparisons using the same metric. In general, DA by Moz is the most commonly used one and what most people want to know if they ask you for your DA.
If you just started your blog, you shouldn’t bother much with your DA as it will either be N/A or extremely low. Start checking it after you put some content and already have a bit of traffic. Then you should aim to check it often (once a month is a good aim) to monitor any fluctuations.
One of the strongest factors that affect DA is the number of backlinks. As the name suggests, backlinks are the number of links from other websites to your own website. These are extremely important for growing your site as in general Google knows how authoritative a site is by looking at how many third-party websites refer to it.
Below, I am giving you some ideas on how you can start creating backlinks, without breaching Google’s guidelines.
Connect with other bloggers and potential readers
The easiest way to add backlinks to your site is to go to other people’s blogs and leave some comments. Many bloggers allow you to add your website’s URL under your name when leaving a comment, and although that link will not be do-follow, it’s still good to have it. Try to begin with highly authoritative websites (if you are unsure about a website’s DA you can use Moz’s tool to find it), as it is more likely to get some value from them (even if tiny).
Another easy way is to go to popular websites like Quora and Reddit and find questions that people have that you are answering on your blog. You can then respond to them and include a link to a page on your website that solves their problem. Again these links will not be do-follow, but because both websites have high DA, you may still get some value from it. Note, that first, you should respond to some queries without putting any links to your site, so that you don’t look spammy.
Overall, both ways allow you to connect with other people, and it is a great beginning to your blogging journey.
Write Guest Posts
Another way that many people go about creating backlinks is to find bloggers that accept guest posts and write for them. Based on their guidelines they can then place a do-follow link back to your blog, either within the post, in the author bio or both. It is a highly effective way to build backlinks, especially if you are collaborating with sites that have a DA greater than 40. At the same time, this is the most time-consuming method, as most sites will require at least 1500 words of content, and maybe some photos too.
How to find guest post opportunities?
People that accept guest posts usually have a page on their website where they detail their guidelines and what they will be offering in return. You can then apply directly from their website. Note that here, I am not referring to freelance writing. This usually happens on a per payment basis and involves large publications.
Another way to find guest posting opportunities is to join Facebook Groups about blogging (either blogging in general or specifically for your niche). These groups usually have weekly or monthly threads where people can post if they want any guest material or vice versa (people saying that they are available to guest post to another website).
Participate in Collab Posts
In these Facebook Groups, you can also find collab(oration) post opportunities. These opportunities are posted by bloggers who want to create roundup posts about a specific topic, for example, the best shopping streets in Europe. Then, the group members can pick up specific places they are familiar with and offer content. The requirement is usually to write approximately 250 words about your chosen sub-topic in addition to sending a photo. In return, you get a do-follow link back to your website or to a relevant post you have written about the sub-topic you picked up.
These are great opportunities that are quick to write and have high potential, especially if you are collaborating with a high authority website. However, there is a downside to that. These posts tend to have many collaborators and this means that the value you will get back to your site will not be the same as having a guest post of your own. The reason is that the authority which the website will pass will be split equally to all the do-follow links that exist on that page.
Also, note that you will not get the same value from your backlinks if you keep getting them from the same source, so aim to work with multiple people. Nevertheless, collab posts are still a great way to build backlinks, especially when you are starting and again as they allow you to build connections with other people.
Other blogging opportunities
In addition, the fact that you will have to enter a Facebook Group to access guest and collab posts opens up many other opportunities for networking and support. These groups usually consist of smaller blogging communities, where the aim is to help fellow bloggers instead of competing with them. Some of these groups even allow for promotion days, where you can share what you have been working on and ask other people to engage with it (expect to do the same for them in return too).
As you can see, there are many ways that you can use to get started with building backlinks. I hope that this beginner’s guide to link building was useful to you, and as always if you want to get a more in-depth view of the topic, look for some SEO resources in our resource library.
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