Tips From A Backlink Specialist
Hey everyone. I've worked as a freelance backlink specialist for the past six years, working for FTSE 100 companies right down to one person start ups and I wanted to share some of the more common tips and points which have helped me and my clients. You might already know some of these, and that's great, but I've seen so much nonsense about backlinks over the past few months on Reddit I thought I'd share some of what I do in the hope it helps people. If anything below isn't clear or you were wondering about something else in the backlink niche, please feel free to ask questions below and I'll help as best I can.
• Know the difference within Private Blog Networks (PBN)s. PBN stands for Personal Blog Network and it's always been known as a no go area for individual businesses or SEO users. It's a kind of cheap option which might help you in the short term, but can prove dangerous in the long term. However, not all PBN's are the same…take this example: Dave owns a PBN of 2 thousand almost identical sites. He creates one bit of content, then spins it multiple times and posts it (imagine each word being put through synonyms or a thesaurus). This is a no go. Jess owns a PBN of two websites. One is a blog covering home decor, the other covers gardens. There's completely different content on each website, but both might be worth submitting content too. Point being, not all PBN's are the same and don't run away just because you've heard the phrase "personal blog network". People use the term PBN for different things, whether right or wrong.
• Your linking process has to be unique per project. Everyone knows you go for relevance etc. So for example if you were linking for a toy company you'd go for mum/dad blogs and parenting sites. However, it goes beyond that. A link strategy for a corporate Software as a Service (SaaS) business, and then a strategy for a small startup selling musical beats or ecommerce, B2B v B2C etc. would be totally different. That's not saying the obvious in that you get different links off relevant sites…but how you approach the whole thing has to be unique to the client in terms of budget, amount of links, type of websites targeted etc. You learn as you go on, but a client wouldn't be getting their money's worth if you used the same strategy for different kinds of businesses (remember, i'm not talking about Where you place the links here).
• Web 2.0 links are trash by themselves. So are directory links. This isn't <year> anymore.
If you're just buying or placing 2.0 links and only 2.0 links, you're going at it the wrong way. Same with directory. The only way 2.0 links work on their own is if you're doing it for direct referral traffic as a pose to try to increase rank on Google (or other search engines). To do this you'd write epic content with hope of a click through. If you're just spamming your site over 2.0, or you're paying someone for say…500 links a month they just won't work like they used to 7 years ago. Don't waste your money and time. They CAN work if used as part of an overall linking strategy for larger budgets as part of social proof…with other links. In short…don't approach anyone offering a tonne of 2.0 links. (BTW 2.0 links are links on sites like Facebook, Quora, Twitter, blog comments etc. However, people usually dispute what's a 2.0 and what isn't, that's the general gist).
• The problem with Domain Authority (DA), Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR), and any other third party metric. People love to cling to these. From clients, to link building agencies and SEO specialists. Links are often priced by DA. Higher DA the higher the price. Even after all these years people still do this. Which leads to a conundrum. Essentially, we all know DA (and all variations of) is pretty much meaningless. However, we can't ignore it because so many people use it as a barometer of success. Don't. Instead, look for traffic, relevancy, quality of content etc. These all don't need to ring true on every link you place…especially if you're going for a huge campaign designed to rank you on page one in a hugely competitive word. However, you do need to pay attention to it. Avoid that link with a DA of 70 and 0 traffic and go for the one with a Domain Authority (DA) and good metrics. The key here comes around working with your client to properly show them what will help their site, we want the best for their website and trying to simply *raise a DA* does nothing for them. It's pure manipulation and gives people a bad rep. If an SEO is offering to raise your DA and nothing else steer clear. With that said, the annoying thing is that most great websites now have a high DA…so people will point to that and say "well look, they've got a high DA (be it a client or case study) and i want one too. Anyway, enough about Domain Authority (DA).
• You're not paying for a link, you're paying for a backlink profile. Whether you're a business owner, or a link builder…this is important. Don't snatch at random links. A good link builder is there to build your website a top quality link profile which suits you…not to just buy random af links. The proper profile is important and it comes under the unique link building process but I thought it should occupy its own area. Its why buying links off of agency sites etc. isn't a great idea in most cases. You pay to build a backlink profile…not for random links.
• Use the link plus mention tactic. This is a tactic I've used for years and just seems to be a whole lot more powerful. First, every link builder will have their own methodology and some will literally die on their sword before admitting there's better out there. However, this is what I've found works best for my clients. So…you have a keyword in mind, and, as usual, you write the content from the point of view of the website owner and drop the link in so that it sits perfectly naturally in the text. Done. Well, within the same paragraph as you mention the keyword, you need to also mention something pertinent to that business (being your client or the business you own), like a co-citation but not quite. For example, you have a company selling complex engineering components. You drop in the keyword, then later on (or before) you mention another item they sell, or another keyword or phrase pertinent to the company (but not their brand name). It means the content around the link is a little more powerful and I find, with Google's algorithm getting better all of the time, this helps them realise that the blogger has truly found the link useful as they have included a little context. It takes a bit of practice though as it can't seem promotional at all but once you've got it down it's powerful. It's worked for me from seven figure Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses right the way through to startups and one person Dropshipping Ecom stores.
• Go for what I call "the logic approach". Many clients, and businesses who are building for themselves, often worry about Google penalties for backlinks etc. Some of what we do might be against their T&C etc., but nothing i've ever done has resulted in a penalty and, while i'm not saying it's because of this approach (maybe i'm just lucky), I do think it has something to do with it. Basically, you just ask yourself whether in the real world, would the website owner logically link to your website in content? More than often, the answer is yes. For example…you're building links for a Business Card printing company, and you've placed the link in content concerning setting up your own consultancy company, on a website which covers info around setting up a company. Perfectly logical to mention getting business cards created in the article, and perfectly logical to link to a business card creation business because the web owner thinks readers will find it useful. So long as you can make those little connections, you'll be fine. It's all simple…it's all logic. You can stretch this a little of course, it all depends on the content. Would they logically write that content, and could they link to you. In short, ensure the content is not promotional around the link, and that it looks like the blogger has written it.
• Be varied with your keywords. Again, this is obvious but let me explain. Google is more likely to notice a sudden 100 backlinks with exactly the same keyword. That doesn't logically happen in the real world. Use variations of them. These days, using the exact keyword you want to rank for still matters, but less so all the time. You've probably seen the use of certain keywords sometimes rank different but similar keywords? So try to be varied. There might be a single word you have in mind or you might be going longtail…this is especially important to those with a large budget trying to rank a start up, or those with even bigger budgets trying to smash no.1 on the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). Be precise in your keyword research, but don't do the same one over and over again in a short space of time. You'll probably be fine in reality…but it's better safe than sorry. Remember, this isn't about avoiding a direct penalty, it's about avoiding those annoying penalisations where you're ranking just drops when Google spots something…off (not something that pings on your search console). Also, be varied in where you're linking to in terms of the client (or your own) website. I always find a mixture of links to landing page, blog posts and product pages work the best, with the fewest to product page (when building links to improve the website en masse over a one keyword campaign). Don't slam out multiple links all to the same place in a short period of time, be varied.
• The best link building occurs in conjunction with client website activity. It's pretty obvious, and link building on its own does have its place, but when you're building links to a website which is turning out quality content things move a lot smoother. They (or I, if they want content too and they're not doing it themselves) target the keywords that I'm also targeting, and it's all a lot more potent.
• Link lists are useless as soon as everyone gets their hands on them. For those in the link business, link lists are golden. They represent years (in some cases) of research, networking and work. As soon as these lists get out there, each site is devalued. You don't want to use huge link farms. Most may consider selling their list, or swapping with another builder…but if you share a link list to hundreds or thousands of people…it's lost its edge. So, if you're looking to place links for your business or you're like me and are a link builder, be careful when using these mass distributed lists.
There it is. Hope that's useful to those starting out, and those looking to build out links to their websites. I also hope it's useful to those like me who have been in the game for a while. I find it's always good to look at other people's ways of working and methodology, that's what makes this sub so great! Again, any questions about my process or links in general, I'm happy to answer them.
Well put! Appreciate stance on Private Blog Networks (PBN)s. PBNs aren't cheap though I try and not use them only because of resources required
Thank you, really appreciate it :). Yeah for sure. I think they may have their place in extremely niche situations but there time is done now for most campaigns :).
Great tips. thanks for sharing!
Would be interesting to see how linkbuilding is different for top brands compared to small biz and affiliate sites? How much easier is it to get links, do you still do outreach, what percentage of links comes in naturally?
No problem, I appreciate that you found it useful. Yeah so the huge businesses get a lot of organic links just by occupying top Search Engine Result Page (SERP). However, you can also do this by ranking great content. With the huge companies it's usually about knocking another whale off the top spot and it can be really hard. Doable, but hard.
With the big businesses it's around creating content that bulks up the link, kind of like point 6 above and you're usually paying for the links placement. Organic links are good, and help, but they're not enough to hit the goals the website owner might have.
I like helping to build a website up from scratch though, not just working with big businesses. That's the perk with this job, you get to help people out and see the results and you work with so many different kinds of businesses.
I have got a question. I recently began a new site last weekend and I will be writing a bit for it each weekend. I was wondering if you were open to new clients?
I have in the past built links myself for an older site, but doing it all takes up a lot of time and if I am being honest it is the first time I have seen someone share the same point of view to link building as I.
I do disagree with point 10 though. If a list link does have a website that satisfies all the other points you have made, there is a benefit to getting that link and I would not negate it just because many others have used it. Very often when many others have used one the website is spammy, in that case, it would be a no-go anyway.
I am not looking to build any new links to this old site, but would like to work on a new site. Let me know if I can contact you privately. Also, you would have freedom to do your thing if you work with me as long as I am in the loop. I have worked offering on-page SEO and my favourite clients were the ones that trusted me to do my thing and not do it the way they saw fit based on one article they read.
Hey there, thanks for your question, glad you got something out of the post it means a lot.
Yes it is very time intensive and also, frustrating. I get bad days doing it sometimes it's just natural. I suppose you could say it's the same with any job.
Point 10: fair, I take your point. However, what i means was take for example that a list got out there. And suddenly hundreds (thousands?) of people are bombarding the website for links. The owner will likely take them (maybe not) as they'll make a chunk of change.
Suddenly, this blog is now massively linking out to huge amounts of websites. Not good. If the list is shared between few people, and not too many, then I concede your point.
Sure please drop me a message and I can check out your project and see if we're a good fit. Either way, thanks for interacting!
This is a good post and it is full of valuable information. One thing to mention is that every single day millions of sites get listed with zero backlinks. Do a search on any topic on Google and check the backlink profiles and you will find authoritative sites with weak backlink profiles outranking sites with stronger backlink profiles. Matt Cutts and John Mueller have both stated many times that backlinks have never been a primary ranking factor, they are part of your overall SEO.
Understand that like mentioned above a burst of backlinks is not natural. Neither are a lot of backlinks right away. Great content that is promoted will get backlinks naturally over time. Often we see people write an article, do nothing to distribute it across their social media, do zero typical SEO, and just try to get crappy backlinks. That is counter-productive. Learn basic SEO at the very least so your articles are formatted correctly, your images are optimized correctly, the schema is clear, concise, and correct at the time of publishing the article, not 2 months later. The benefits from this can be huge. This forms a more complete backbone for the article. Then as you do get real backlinks, your page is that much stronger and your profile is that much more effective.
Another thing to remember is that if you put up a site and it gets a good amount of traffic, that spends time on the site, reads multiple pages, converts, low bounce rates etc… Google is going to rank you well and not penalize you for not following their standards. Over time it will hurt you because of user satisfaction, but Google will still rank you. All it takes is a simple Google search for ranking without backlinks and there are many case studies by well-respected names.
Hey! Thanks really appreciate that. Agree. You can rank sites without links, but links help a bunch in a lot of cases.
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