Backlinks- links from high authority sites to your own content- are a critical part of your online marketing efforts. Yet many suggestions on how to nurture them are dated or plain bad. Today, the genius team from Zebra 360 Digital Marketing Agency lays out some tried and tested ways to build quality backlinks that pay big dividends.

Finding a Partner Site

The first step in building backlinks is finding good sites to cultivate a relationship with. Here’s some tips.

Do the Groundwork

While looking at competitors’ backlinks is a good place to start, don’t stop there. Look who is linking to the people linking to your competitors, and beyond, to find new opportunities and ground to cover. This way, you have fresh sites to mine as needed.

But remember, not every site is created equally. The idea is to get high authority backlinks, so you will need to see how their own content is creating engagement. There’s a wealth of tools out there to do this, so we won’t single one out. Look for ‘evergreen’ scores, or scores for long-term traction after publishing. You want continually relevant backlinks that work for you. Keyword and link building is part of an ongoing process to build organic traffic over time and maintain a high SEO score without having to pay for advertising or other prominences.

SEO Metrics

That concept- evergreen, organic, and relevant- can seem like a difficult one to pin down. Remember that tools and trackers establish domain prominence and ‘worth’ through a variety of factors, and these aren’t always judging the same thing. So what is important?

Traffic is a number one goal. You want high-traffic sites with domain authority. So make sure you are using a tool that tracks how pages rank on SERPS. But you also want to invest in building links with quality sites, not grey-area sites that trick their way to the top of rankings. These eventually get caught- and can penalise you, too.

Whether by using a variety of tools, or using specialist knowledge, you want to make sure you’re at least tracking organic traffic, keyword metrics, and the domain-level metrics that establish the site as trustworthy and useful.

Remember the Human

But it’s not all about metrics and search engines, either. Once you have a list of potential link-building partners, use the ‘human touch’ to evaluate them. Is it an intuitive site with solid content? Does it look like a real, living and used site? Do they have a social media presence, and quality content on offer?

Private Blog Networks are sites built for the express purpose of link-building, rather than for human use. While their metrics can look attractive, search engines know that they’re only there to build links, and you will get penalised for using them.

Getting Backlinks

Once you’ve found some quality sites to partner with, it’s time to reach out. But that’s easier said than done. Obviously, it’s going to start with a connection email. You can determine these from website contact details, but also social media and other sites.

Once you’ve sent your initial approach, don’t be afraid to reach out, either. Emails can get lost, or someone may forget to reply to them. Two to three follow-ups are not rude, and can get you the results you’re looking for. After that, it’s best to assume you’re either being ignored, or the email is not monitored. Either way, time to move on.

Template emails are a great start, but be sure to personalise what you’re sending, too. Just as with CV cover letters, a cookie-cutter template is easy to spot, and can be off-putting. Add a name and other personal details as to why you want to partner with them. Remember, they want to get something out of the deal, too. You want them to know you are a real human, too, not a mass marketing bot from a large agency.

Once you’ve established the relationship, take care that your submitted content meets their benchmarks. If they don’t give you these outright, you can usually find them on a ‘write for us’ page on the site. 

If you don’t want to outright produce a new piece of content, you can consider using an existing article on their site that has had a ‘link drop’, where the initial link is now dead or irrelevant. Do check the metrics of the page and site before committing your precious backlink to the article, however. You want something that has already built some authority.

Smart Backlinking

Once you have your partner and link-building content lined up, and created to their specifications, there’s a few other things to consider. 

Firstly, alter your chosen anchor text, even for the same page or topic. Repetition anchor text gets noted by search engines, and can hurt you and your partner site. You want something natural and varied. 

Most guest blog pieces are long-form, but longer isn’t always better. Remember SEO focuses on useability, as well as its technical benchmarks, so a short, accurate, and informative piece can be as good as longer content. Fluff helps no one.

It goes without saying that anything you choose to publish should be something you’re proud to stand behind. If it has your link in it, it’s representing you. It should be something you’d be willing to give a shout-out on your own socials and other online marketing presences, too.

Building great backlinks isn’t as hard as it can seem, so don’t be afraid to use this strategy to help build your online reputation. The Zebra 360 Digital Marketing Agency team are always here to help you make the most of your backlink opportunities.