How to Get High Quality Backlinks from Top Websites
Imagine logging into your analytics dashboard and seeing a stark rise in your daily pageviews. You haven’t been doing any extravagant marketing recently - or at least nothing you'd expect to see such sudden growth from.
Then, you dive deeper.
You find that a huge publication in your industry mentioned you in a blog post, and a few thousand people visited your site to learn more.
It’s an amazing feeling, right?
It’s one site owners can feel frequently if they’re building high quality backlinks.
Below I'll share what backlinks are, why link building should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy, and seven ways to get high quality backlinks from top websites.
Why are Backlinks Important for SEO?
Gaining high quality backlinks will improve the SEO of your small business’s website. A massive 72% of SEOs believe backlinks are a significant ranking factor, and that gaining them will boost organic traffic from search engines like Google.
Because backlinks are a key metric Google uses to find new sites, and determine which belong at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Backlinks give search engines a background about you.
They equal reputation. If no one links to you, or if only low quality and spammy sites link to yours, Google will infer that your website isn't trustworthy.
On the other hand, if you’re hanging around with big-name sites, you’re deemed to be more trustworthy. Other trustworthy sites are vouching for you.
This tends to also help you get more quality backlinks, which tells Google you're more trustworthy, and the cycle repeats.
The proof is in the pudding.
When Backlinko analyzed 1 million Google search results, they found sites ranking in the first spot had thousands more backlinks than those in position two, or lower.
Improving your "backlink profile" is an ongoing project for many site owners. How do you get enough top quality links that Google ranks you higher and brings you more viewers? Follow these steps!
7 Ways to Gain High Quality Backlinks for Your Website
Before we dive in, remember one thing:
Quality is more important than quantity.
The top ranking sites have an arsenal of backlinks pointing to them, but it’s unlikely many are from poor quality sites.
Remember, Google uses backlinks as a reputation tool.
Gaining links from spammy sites could reflect that impression onto your own – making ranking for competitive keywords almost impossible.
Instead, focus on high quality backlinks from reputable sites. These are publications which look like they have a real audience, with a strong social media following elsewhere online.
No-follow links tell search engines to not count the link or associate the linked-to site with the page it was linked from. But they’re more valuable than you might think. Most SEO experts have seen similar positive results from no-follow links as from normal backlinks.
So how can you get more backlinks?
1. Guest post.
Guest posting gets a bad rap.
A few years ago, site owners would rush to the first site they saw. They’d write a 500-word article that failed to offer any value to anyone reading. The sole reason for the contribution was for a link – even if that meant paying for it.
Unsurprisingly, Google cottoned on. (They’re pretty smart like that.)
They released an algorithm update that penalized sites who built guest post links solely for SEO.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web Spam Team, said:
“...A bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to 'guest blogging' as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging.”
What does that mean for site owners who want to use guest blogging as a way to build links?
Well, it's fine (and good), so long as you do it right.
Use this method of link-building to add value to readers, treating backlinks in your author bio as an added bonus.
Start your guest blogging campaign by searching for reputable, industry-leading sites. You can do this by typing any of the following variations into your search bar:
- INDUSTRY + “write for us”
- INDUSTRY + “contribute”
- INDUSTRY + “submit”
- INDUSTRY + “guest post”
This will display a list of guest blogging guidelines on popular sites in that industry. Here’s an example using my industry - marketing.
The first result is the CoSchedule blog. I click onto the site, and enter the URL in Moz’s Open Site Explorer to understand how SEO-rich this site is.
The result? A Domain Authority of 75, Page Authority of 69 and a Spam Score of just 2.
These are great results! You should be aiming for sites with a low Spam Score and a high Domain Authority (40+).
But, let’s say you don’t like any of the sites listed in your Google search. You already have a target in mind, and you just need to find someone to pitch your guest blog idea to.
You can do that using LinkedIn!
Find the contact name of the blog manager by searching for the company page on LinkedIn. Then, hit “See all XX employees on LinkedIn.”
Search for their:
- Blog Editor
- Content Manager
- Marketing Manager
All there’s left to do now is send a connection request, mentioning how you’d love to write for their blog.
When you get the go-ahead, focus on offering quality to their readers in your contribution. Aim to make it the best piece of content you’ve ever published.
Remember that guest posts written with the sole intention of link-building are obvious to spot (and that won’t land you in Google’s good books).
Action step: Make a list of sites that your ideal customer reads. If the site has a good Domain Authority, lots of organic traffic, and a real fanbase, begin to list guest post ideas you could pitch to the editor.
2. Distribute press releases.
Do you have exciting company news that nobody else can talk about? Whether it’s a new store opening, exciting product launch, or new partnership, use that as the basis of your link-building campaign.
(This is great for gaining high-quality backlinks as you’re the only one who can talk about it.)
Start by writing a press release that covers your news. Detail the five W’s to give journalists everything they’ll need to write-up their own story:
- What – are you announcing?
- Who – is the brand behind the news, and who will benefit from reading it?
- Where – is the news happening? (i.e. your website, or a city.)
- When – is the news happening?
- Why – is this important? Why should people bother to read it?
In your release, don’t forget to include a backlink to your site. This will allow an editor to learn more about the brand behind the news, and remind them to include it in their published article.
But before rushing to send off your perfectly polished release, you need a list of contacts to pitch to.
The majority of these PR databases offer a feature whereby you can send your pitch directly from the software, too.
Here’s an example of a backlink included in a press release pitch:
If I was to write-up this story and publish it on my site, the URL is there for me to reference. No digging around the internet searching for a relevant page. It’s simple, which improves your chances of gaining a backlink.
Even if your editor doesn't include a backlink in their coverage, you can always reach out and ask them to add it in. They’re not scary people - for the most part, at least - and these releases are good for branding, anyway.
Action step: Make a list of events that are soon to happen in your company. Would anyone benefit from reading about them? If so, follow these steps to start building high quality backlinks to your site!
3. Find broken links.
Think about the last time you read a blog post. You might relate to the annoyance of clicking a link, only to land on an error page. Frustrating, right?
The chances are, you clicked on a broken link - a page that no longer exists.
Broken links are the ultimate killer of user experience. It ruins your online experience when you expect to dive deeper, only to see the words “404: Page Not Found”.
But, you can use this as an opportunity for building top quality links!
Tools like Check My Links can highlight broken links on your target websites. Simply add the extension to your browser and whenever a link doesn’t work, it’ll be highlighted in red:
If I ran a business in the architecture niche, I’d look for the broken links on this page. We can see the words “Chicago Federal Center” link to a broken page. You can exploit that by creating a resource for your own site on this topic.
Reach out to the editor, referencing the broken link and explaining that you created a resource to help them fix it. (Aren’t they lucky?)
Something like this will usually work:
Hope you're well. I read your article on [topic]: [include article link]
I really liked [this point you made], but I also noticed the page had a broken link over the text ["anchor text"].
As you probably know, this won’t give users an enjoyable experience, and can hurt your page's ranking.
We created a piece on [the same topic] that could help you out. It covers [the points your broken link was trying cover]. Would you consider linking to our piece in your article? Let me know. Thank you!
Although broken link building doesn’t get excellent success rates (Neil Patel found, on average, you’ll get 5-10 links per 100 emails you send), it can be a great tactic for those with time to put into it.
Editors want to avoid broken links and improve their user’s experience. By highlighting their issue (and giving them a solution), you might just gain a valuable backlink to make your competitors jealous.
Action step: Install the Check My Links extension and visit the most popular sites in your niche. Do a quick scan of each page or blog post, noting any broken links highlighted in red.
Do you have anything they could use instead? Add them to your list of contacts to email. If not, could you create a resource for them? If so, add it to your content calendar and notify the site’s editor when it goes live.
4. Ask to be included in round-up posts.
How do site owners give readers value on a specific topic without investing time to create the content themselves?
Round-up posts are, as the name suggests, collections of articles or tips on a specific topic. Bloggers create them all the time, and you can use them to build high quality backlinks to your site.
The best part? It doesn’t take tons of time, and has a pretty good success rate. Hoorah to that!
Start by finding reputable blogs in your niche. We’ll want to target those who have already published a round-up feature, as they are most likely to create another in future.
Do this by searching [“niche” + round-up].
My niche is marketing, so these are the sites I’d be most likely to target:
The easiest way to get backlink from round-up posts is simple: ask.
Send an email to the editor, complimenting them on the quality of their blog content. (A compliment always goes far.)
Mention you’ve got a content hub of your own, and their readers might benefit from reading it. Share your link. If it’s relevant, they’ll include it.
Here’s an example of an email you could send:
I love the round-ups you’re doing on [website] – especially the one on [topic]. [Include round-up link]
I always look forward to reading them, and I have a question. Is it possible to include one of my blog posts in your round-ups?
I write about [topic] on [website], and have [X monthly readers/subscribers]. I’d love to point them in your direction, through this round-up.
Let me know what you think. Thanks!
If relevant, you might even ask them to include a quote of yours in an expert roundup, with a link back to your site. E.g. 18 Digital Marketing Tips Most People Don't Know About.
You could also get yourself included in round-up posts by subscribing to Help A Reporter Out (HARO).
Every day, journalists and bloggers call out for quotes from industry leaders. You’re able to pick a vertical you’re most interested in, meaning you’ll never get unrelated emails from businesses asking for a quote.
Here’s an example of the Business and Finance vertical:
Not all of these will be relevant to what your business offers, but make it a daily to-do, and you could hit the jackpot - especially when sites like Forbes and Entrepreneur call out for sources daily.
Action step: Find a list of sites that regularly publish round-up articles. Can you offer something of value to their audience? If so, make a note of the URL you want to include.
5. Give testimonials.
Did you know that 89% of B2B marketers consider customer testimonials the most effective content marketing tactic?
Companies are always looking for glowing reviews to add to their site. It boosts customers’ trust, and helps them get more new customers, too.
In fact, 9 out of 10 consumers say online reviews influence their buying decisions.
The demand for this type of content gives you plenty of opportunity to generate backlinks. If you’ve worked with a company that offered excellent customer service, for example, reach out to their marketing team and offer to write a review.
If you’ve recently used a new product that helped your business improve sales, send over a testimonial to say thanks.
Reaching out to these sites with your offer of a testimonial helps to generate a backlink.
The businesses will be thrilled with your review, and likely display it on their site. Because they’re so grateful, they’ll give a backlink to your site as credit.
Your work here is done!
Action step: Make a list of all the tools, products and services you use in your business. If any of the brands you use are within a similar niche, add them to your testimonial list. (Remember relevancy is key. There’s not much use in getting a backlink from a florist’s website if you sell B2B software!)
6. Submit your website to directory listings.
Similar to guest blogging, the value of directory links is debated. A few years ago, SEOs were almost ready to boycott them altogether, but their easiness to build means they’re here to stay.
Directory listings share basic information about your business.
Names, phone numbers, websites, and address are often included – which makes them a straightforward way to generate high quality backlinks to your website.
But, directories can be hit and miss.
To hit the SEO jackpot, you’ll need to focus your efforts on a directory site with good SEO metrics. A high Domain Authority, PageRank score, and overall site traffic are good ones to consider.
When looking for directories to submit a listing to, aim to diversify the types of sites you target.
You’ll want to aim for:
- Niche sites – That are relevant to your industry (e.g. 10bestSEO.com/directory)
- Local directories – That are used for local searches and SEO (e.g. MemphisChamber.com)
- General directories – That are used by everyone, all over the world (e.g. YellowPages.com)
A combination of these three types of directories will make your backlink profile look natural.
Google penalizes sites that practice black hat SEO. If you’re paying for links, littering sites with spammy comments, or making your backlink profile look suspicious, you could be in Google’s bad books.
Fancy some good news? It’s easy to avoid a penalty when creating directory backlinks. Just keep your selection broad!
Action step: Download your competitor’s backlink profile, and spot the directories they’re listed in. If they meet the criteria above, submit your own!
7. Create linkable assets.
Linkable assets are high value pieces of content that people will want to reference and link to. E.g. 73 Texting Statistics That Answer All Your Questions or the infographic in How to Generate More Leads with SMS, Text Messaging.
They can be in the form of blog posts, infographics, podcasts, videos, or original data.
On average, list blog posts receive 74% more links than any other content type. That’s closely followed by infographics, who get 62% more. For that reason, this type of content should be at the top of your marketing priority list.
By creating your own linkable assets, you’ll have a much higher chance of gaining links naturally, without asking for them.
But how can you stand out when over 2 million blog posts are published every day?
The answer: by creating 10x content.
Simply put, 10x content is content that is ten times better than anything else on the same topic. You can create this by:
- Including original data
- Increasing the length of your content (to include more value!)
- Ensuring the page gives a great user experience on any device
- Offering a unique angle
- Prompting an emotional response – including surprise, joy, or anticipation
Granted, creating 10x content can be a huge investment of time and money. Creating better content than anyone else on the web isn’t an easy job, but it’s definitely worth the time.
Action step: Browse online communities where your ideal customer hangs out. Make a note of the questions they’re asking and the common problems they’re struggling with.
Do a Google search for those questions and problems to see what content is currently available. Then create something 10X better than what currently shows up on the first page. This is how you create a linkable asset.
Backlinks aren’t just another silly fad that marketers use to boost their online presence in the short-term. They have the power to transform a business online, no matter what industry you're in!
Focus on building quality links from reputable sites, and the rewards will come.
You’ll soon be experiencing the joy of an inflated analytics graph, and a surge in prequalified leads coming to your site! Who doesn't want that?