Backlinks: Rocket fuel for your SEO rankings.
In this article, we will map out every type of backlink that’s worth building, teach you how to build them, and even what order they should be built in for maximum SEO impact. Everything we discuss here is practiced daily in our agency and fuels our website rankings (and our clients’ website rankings)
Note: Read this article on Link Building before you go through this. It provides a very clear, conceptual, and high-level look at how this all works from a 30,000-foot bird’s eye view.
This guide on backlinks will discuss, in detail, all the different types of backlinks and how to get them – but without the context of what & why from our link building article, it may be less clear what you should do.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks (aka “back links”, “back-links”, “links”, “inbound links”, etc.) are hyperlinks that point to your website but come from other websites.
When a Website A hyperlinks to Website B, you can say that Website B just acquired a “backlink” from Website A. Simple enough, right?
Why Are Backlinks Important?
Search engines (especially Google) use backlinks as a ranking factor. Backlinks are analogous to “votes”, “referrals”, a “vouch” or “recommendation” about your website and its content.
Very similar real life, when multiple people recommend a movie, or restaurant, or music artist, you tend to become interested & develop a sense of trust for that thing. Google works the same way.
The more (quality + relevant) backlinks your website acquires, the higher your content & keywords will rank, and the more relevant traffic will come to your website. It’s awesome.
How to Get Backlinks
Backlinks fall into 2 main types:
This means that some links you can go out and build yourself. This would include things like:
- Social profile links
- Blog comments
- Forum signature links
- Business directory listings
Other links you have to earn. This would include things like:
- Getting a link on another bloggers website
- Getting a link from a story written in Techcrunch
Although there are only two real types of links, there are 3 ways to get backlinks.
- Earn (Naturally or Unnaturally)
We will try to break up & organize this guide by backlinks you can “Build” vs. backlinks, you must “Earn”. And, if there is a place to buy them (ex: from a trusted link building service provider) we will mention that in each link write-up.
A quick note on link builders & link building services
There is a seemingly endless amount of link building service providers on the internet. Really, you can find everything from Citations to SAPE if you know where to look.
Buying links from the wrong person can get you into serious SEO trouble.
Be careful who you get links from. We only recommend getting links from very trusted providers, and we will never recommend someone we have not worked with before – at least not without a gigantic disclaimer.
Make sure you fully trust & vet any person or company before purchasing links from them.
What Makes a Link Good?
There are some properties that make a link good, and knowing how to evaluate link opportunities is a crucial skill to develop for conducting a successful SEO campaign.
We cover this in detail in our Link Building Intro Guide, but it’s worth re-capping a few of the main points here as well.
Things that make backlinks good:
Backlinks to Avoid
Up to this point, we have talked a lot about backlinks you should acquire, which kind to get, and how to do it. But, equally important to the backlinks you GET is the ones to AVOID getting.
The key to mastering this (without having to memorize a bunch of stuff) is to learn how to identify a “bad neighborhood” – and avoid being associated with it.
In general, you want to avoid getting links from:
- Irrelevant websites (unless they are very high DR)
- Domains in questionable geographies
- Domains that have been hacked/spammed
- Domains with toxic or over-optimized anchor text
- Public Blog Networks
- Software built backlinks
Public Blog Networks
A public blog network is really just a PBN (private blog network) that isn’t actually private. Building and maintaining a private blog network is very time consuming, expensive, technically difficult, and overall just one giant P.I.T.A.
However, if done well and kept secret they are extremely powerful. The problem is there are many providers that publicly sell links on their “Private” Blog Networking – thus making it a “Public Blog Network”.
They usually don’t have your best interests in mind they just want some money for a link. Do not get these links.
Software built backlinks
There is a lot of software that builds backlinks these days. They are cheap, fast & can build links in huge quantities. This used to work many years ago, but now it is really just a recipe for disaster.
Unless you really know what you are doing, stay away from using software to build links.
A lot of SEOs go to Fiverr for link building work. Terrible idea. Although there may be the occasional quality link provider on Fiverr – for the most part, these people are spammers who are trying to make some easy money.
They don’t care about you, or your client, or your website or anything other than selling garbage.
Do you really think this is worth this dude’s time to build you 500,000 links for $5? And do you really think it would be natural for Google to see 500,000 links come to your site all of a sudden?
The answer is Duck No.
Avoid Fiverr for backlinks.
Evaluating a Potential Backlink Opportunity
Here is a video talking about a guest post opportunity I was presented with, but that I ultimately deemed to be a bad idea. In the video, I talk briefly about some warning signs and walk through my thought process on why it was a good idea to not pursue this link opportunity.
How To Build High-Quality Backlinks, In The Proper Order
Hopefully, by now, you have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of backlinks:
- What they are
- Why they are important
- How to evaluate them
- Which ones to avoid
If so, then it’s time to get building.
We like to build backlinks in a certain order that follows the most natural progression of backlink types that a website would pick up if they were just doing what most people do.
- Foundational Social Profiles
- Foundational Business Directories
- General Business Directories
- Niche Business Directories
- Location Business Directories
- General Business Authority links
- Industry Authority links
- Extra Social Profiles
- Web 2.0 Blogs
- Press Release
- Niche relevant blog comments
- Niche relevant forum/community links
- Guest posts
- Link outreach
- Competitor Backlinks
- PBN links
Foundational Social Profiles
Foundational social profiles are the primary social networking profiles that a normal business owner would set up and utilize for marketing and social promotion.
In fact, there are some social profiles that are so commonly used that Google expects you to have them if you are a real/legitimate business.
They even list them in their guidelines found here.
Start your backlink building by building business profiles on these foundational profiles.
- Facebook Business Page
- Linkedin Business Page
- Pinterest (if visual content is relevant to your industry)
Pro-tip: Fully fill-out/complete these profiles with images, videos, descriptions, your website URL, NAP (name address phone number), store hours, etc. Use “about” sections to add information about the services you provide using variations of keywords.
Foundational Business Directories
After a business sets up its social profiles, the next natural thing to do is create a profile on the major business directories so your business can show up in maps when consumers are searching. These include:
- Google My Business
- Bing Maps
- Apple Maps
Make sure you create a presence on all of the properties – and just like social foundations be sure to fill in as much information as you can.
General Business Directories
General business directories come next. These include a ton of other high authority business directories, such as:
The key to setting up these business directories correctly is to make sure that your information across all of your directories is consistent.
Having a consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) on all the popular business directories will significantly help you to show up highly in map searches when customers are looking for a business in your industry and geography.
Niche Business Directories
Niche business directories are the web directories that are specific to your niche, or at least to your broad industry. For example, if you are a Dentist you would want to get your practice listed on dental-specific directories like:
You would also want to have a presence on the broader industry level health-related directories like:
You can find niche directories by Googling them or just contact us for a list.
Use these “search strings” in a Google search to find NICHE directories:
- NICHE + Directory (ex: dentist + directory)
- NICHE directories (ex: dentist directories)
- NICHE + “submit site” (ex: dentist + “submit site”)
Make a list of relevant NICHE directories (use Google search or ask us for a pre-vetted list) and get listed!
Location Business Directories
Just like there are business directories categorized by industry/niche there are business directories categorized by locale/geography. If your business is located in a certain city you would want to have a presence on the relevant directories to that city.
For example, let’s pretend you have a business in Los Angeles, California.
Some directories that would be relevant and important for you to have listings in the city-specific directories like:
Use these “search strings” in a Google search to find GEO directories:
city + directory
directory + city
submit my site + city
niche + city + directory
city + directories
Make a list of relevant GEO directories (use Google search or ask us for a pre-vetted list) and get listed!
General Business Authority links
Business authority links are places similar to business directories but are actually paid. These include very trusted, authoritative business websites like:
These are paid associations where Google recognizes legitimacy. The logic is that if you are willing to pay money for an annual subscription at these business websites, you are less likely to be a spammer and more likely to be a legitimate business that should show up in the maps & on organic search.
Note: Yes they are paid, but the links and trust you get from them are very good. Also, many of these places have a ton of other benefits for your business other than just a link – like networking, etc.
Industry Authority links
Industry authority links are like the “general business authority links” – except they are specific to your industry.
Think of Paid Industry Associations, Colleges or Schools you went to, Industry organizations you are a part of, Industry-specific charities or non-profits you donate to, etc. All of these places are potential websites to get backlinks from, and they are very impactful for your SEO.
For example, an attorney might want to have a profile on the California State Bar Association website, a profile from the Law School he/she graduated from, etc.
Extra Social Profiles
Getting additional links from High DR properties is never really a bad idea – unless they are questionable websites like adult-themes, gambling, etc. or there is something glaringly weird about it. But in general, the more high DR links you have, the better. They help diversify your link profile, anchor text ratio, and build trust.
We have a service that will build around 100 social profiles for you on high authority, trusted websites which we see a huge SEO benefit from. Contact us for details.
Web 2.0 Blogs
The term “Web 2.0” refers to websites that emphasize user-generated content.
A press release, news release, media release, press statement or video release is an official statement delivered to members of the news media for the purpose of providing information, an official statement, or making an announcement (source).
Businesses use press releases every day to make announcements they want the general public to know about, like opening a new store. Using a Press Release can be a strategic move for your SEO.
Note: You generally want these links to be NOFOLLOW. One of the rare occasions where you do not want DOFOLLOW links. You also want to keep your anchor text to either Brand Name or Naked URL.
Niche relevant blog comments
Getting blog comments is something natural if you are a business owner and are interacting with your community, answering questions, and trying to be involved in your niche online. Find relevant blogs and answer people’s questions, or just make comments on articles you read.
Niche relevant forum/community links
Participating in forums is similar to blog comments. Look for forums in your industry, create a profile (most allow you to put a link to your website), and then start engaging in meaningful, value-adding conversations with the users.
These are people who would be your potential customers. Eventually, after you have built some trust and made some comments, you can begin to drop a link to a resource on your website that is valuable & relevant to a forum discussion.
Guest posting is an SEO term, but really what it is in the “natural world” is when a subject matter expert contributes something to another website.
This is actually very common in industries like health, law, etc. where these experts will write an opinion piece, research paper, or just give their contributions to a reporter creating a story and receive credit for their contribution.
It just happens that in SEO we need that “credit” to be in the form of a dofollow link.
Link outreach (aka skyscraper outreach) is a process where you identify quality pieces on content on your website and reach out to other bloggers so they can link to your content.
It works because you only identify relevant blogs/websites that have already linked to a very similar piece of content – ideally one that is not as comprehensive, or valuable as your resource, and let them know that you have created a piece of content that is even better and they should link to you instead (or in addition to).
For this step, we are classifying your “competitors” as the websites that are ranking on Page 1,2,3 for the keyword terms you want to be ranking for.
This is the beauty of SEO – everyone’s cards are on the table so to speak. Type in a keyword (say “dentist in los angeles”) and look at who is ranking:
Look for the businesses ranking (you can skip directories) Put those URLs into Ahrefs and check out their backlinks:
Voilá! That’s 87 dofollow backlinks your Page 1 ranking competitor has that you can now look into acquiring for your website.
PBN (private blog network) links are some of the most powerful links you can build yourself, if not the most powerful.
Building, managing & using a PBN is a very complex process that we will not cover in detail in this article, but if after doing all of the aforementioned backlink building you still need some extra SEO firepower, you should consider creating a small PBN for yourself to utilize.