With over 70% of users clicking on first-page results, every website is looking for ways to get its content to jump up in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Our team specializes in higher education SEO strategies, and our university clients face one of the most competitive landscapes out there.
We’ve designed a mix of link-building strategies and tools that have helped us move our clients’ online programs and blog content up the SERPs. Higher rankings mean more clicks, and more qualified clicks means more brand awareness for our universities, and increase in student enrollment and higher ed leads.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the different types of link building strategies you can employ to build backlinks to your website and increase your search engine rankings. Before we explain the details, though, let’s get into a few basic but necessary SEO concepts.
5 Successful Link Building Strategies and Tactics
When building an SEO link building strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need to harness a wide range of skill sets, including content creation, research, competitive analysis, email outreach, and the nurturing of editorial relationships. Link building strategies are not made up of just one technique or skill.
Also keep in mind that your main goal when developing content or web pages should be to satisfy your ideal users’ search intent, not to get backlinks. No matter how many SEO link building strategies you employ, you’ll have a difficult time getting to the top of the rankings if readers don’t find your content useful.
If, however, your content provides value and is optimized to help your readers have a satisfying experience from the moment they click into it, you’ll be much more likely to keep those readers engaged until the end. When content keeps readers engaged, those backlinks come naturally, and you increase your chances of bringing in new customers and satisfying search engines’ stringent ranking requirements.
What is a Backlink?Now that we understand the purpose behind SEO link building strategies, let’s discuss the star of the show: backlinks. SEO backlinks are hyperlinks from other websites to your page or pages. To many marketers, they’re seen as the Holy Grail of rankings because they play a major component in Google’s PageRank algorithm.
Even in 2020, backlinks are considered one of the most important factors in determining Google’s SERPs because Google analyzes page components such as the number of backlinks, referring domains, link diversity, and link quality. Therefore, the more backlinks you have from credible, high-quality, or niche-relevant sites, the better your page’s standing will be for a specific user’s search.
The algorithm also analyzes something marketers like to call “link juice” or “link equity,” which we’ll be going over next. Hyperlinks for websites can typically be categorized as either dofollow or nofollow.
Difference Between Nofollow and Dofollow Backlinks
There are two types of backlinks: nofollow and dofollow.
Nofollow link example:
<a herfs=”/” rel=”nofollow”>insert anchor text here</a>
Dofollow link example:
<a herfs=”/”>insert anchor text here</a>
Nofollow links have a “nofollow” tag embedded within their code that tells search engine algorithms not to see them as value “votes” toward the websites they link to. Over the past year, however, Google has suggested that it still values nofollow links as a metric in the content ranking world, just considerably less than dofollow links. A combination of 10% to 20% nofollow links and 80% to 90% dofollow links would be considered a good balance.
Luckily, though, most backlinks are dofollow links, meaning Google sees the linked domain as highly valuable and a credible source of information for the anchor text keyword(s), which ultimately affects the page’s search engine ranking position.
It is, however, still a good idea to check whether a new backlink is considered nofollow or dofollow. That way, you can ensure your backlink portfolio is built with balance while boosting visibility.
How to Get BacklinksThere are numerous link building strategies that you can add to your arsenal. Each tactic has its own strategic advantage, which you can use to bolster your site’s backlink profile.
#1 Email Outreach
Although many marketers use email outreach as a strategy, most aren’t doing it correctly. They simply buy email lists or randomly scrape the search engines to no avail. Many are asking for relevant links to their posts without offering a value proposition or incentive for their audience to share.
In other words, they fail to answer the “so what” question that inevitably goes through a reader’s mind when they open up an outreach email. That’s why it’s always a good idea to emphasize how your article differs from the others being presented in people’s inboxes and to give website moderators a reason to care about it.
We sent the following email as part of an outreach campaign for one of our university clients. Please note that we have simplified it and removed some names to protect our client’s privacy.
Email Outreach Example
As the example shows, you need to personalize multiple aspects of your outreach with codes that automatically insert a person’s name, website domain, page title, and day of the week.
Additionally, we include a section that outlines why our piece of content is different while providing insights on what the content talks about in its entirety.
To get a better idea of what our success rate looks like for cold email outreach campaigns, I’ve pulled a small report to highlight our results from January 1 to May 18, 2020.
- 40,794 contacts emailed
- 4,533 responses received (11.11% response rate)
- 161 unique link win opportunities (5% win rate)
- 602 links created in total during this time period
#2 Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is another way to get quality backlinks. It involves writing full articles for websites and blogs. This strategy provides a level of context and relevance to the link that is highly valued in Google’s eyes and also more optimized for your reader.
Essentially, guest blogging is a great way to get backlinks to your website while helping to develop quality content for other websites. The process creates an opportunity to build a rapport with a website’s editor and offers the chance for a continued link building relationship. Guest blogging is an effective way to increase organic keyword rankings for a website as well as generate organic traffic.
For example, we developed an article for Red Tricycle (redtri.com): “5 Pregnancy Apps Every Dad Should Be Using.” Redtri.com has a domain rating (DR) of 77 and generates around 800,000 organic visitors per month. Our article owns a featured snippet for “best pregnancy apps for dads” and includes two backlinks to our client’s resource guide on maternity leave and women’s health during pregnancy.
By crafting a great piece of content on a high-DR site, we are sending traffic to our clients’ links. Our resource guide on maternity leave in the U.S. is now ranking for 255 organic keywords and generating moderate traffic monthly.
Tyler Cooper, Director of Search at Socratik explains, “guests blogging is a tried and true link building strategy that is easily scalable and allows you to build links directly to target landing pages. An added bonus is that well-written guest posts that are published on popular websites have a chance of driving additional referral traffic.”
Creating Content With Link Building in MindContent strategy plays a huge part in link building. You should create every piece of content with link building and value addition in mind. Let’s get into some content examples.
Link building content performs well when it’s niche and localized. The internet contains tons of content, so the more niche you can get, the better you’ll perform on those respective niche directories, blogs, and sites.
#1 Resource Guides
Resources guides are essentially posts with several resourceful outbound links and information. They outline various resources and links that a user might find relevant when researching a specific topic, such as mental health or veterans’ healthcare.
Resource guides perform extremely well in outreach because they are a no-brainer for editors and webmasters who are providing information about a niche topic.
For example, we developed a resource guide on writing styles for Maryville University’s online bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. This topic appeals to writers, students, and teachers.
Through our outreach efforts, we were able to place this link on several high-DR and niche sites. Once our outreach started, keyword rankings shot through the roof, and a year later, our keywords are still growing and maintaining their rank.
#2 Infographics and Data Visualization
In all aspects of online content, images have the highest engagement rates compared with other methods of information sharing. Evergreen infographics are especially successful, most notably when they’re based on newsworthy, current trends, and in-depth statistics.We developed an infographic on food deserts for Tulane University’s Master of Social Work program. It performed so well in our outreach that it’s now ranking for 294 organic keywords, has over 200 backlinks pointing to it, and generates over 800 organic visitors per month.
It takes up a bit of space on the SERP too. It’s in the top 10 for 38 organic keywords that are extremely relevant, such as “food desert in the United States” and “food desert statistics.” When coming up with topics for infographics, think about what data or information might be better represented as a visual.
Link Building ToolsThere are hundreds of tools out there for link building. Each can be used to find great content ideas and potential link building opportunities. Let’s get into a few of the best ones.
This tool is super powerful in the SEO industry and our main go-use for anything related to content and backlinks. From content ideas to backlink profiles to by identifying competitors’, this tool is one of the best.
If you’re looking for a great prospecting tool, BuzzSumo is a good bet. It enables you to build lists of blogs, influencers and authors for cold outreach pitching.
If you ever have trouble searching for guest post opportunities, HARO is your tool. Journalists and website managers use it to advertise their needs, and it costs nothing to sign up and start pitching your content ideas.
This is a Google Extension that allows you to quickly evaluate a site’s Domain Authority (DA) and examine whether links on a specific page are dofollow or nofollow.
SEMrush has a reputation for being the top SEO tool available. Like many of the other tools, it provides competitor information. Where SEMrush differs, though, is that it also provides data for both paid and organic keywords.