What are backlinks, and how do you get more in 2023?
This website you’re on right now has 150,000 backlinks from 3,960 unique domains.
And in this guide, I’ll show you 7 ways to get more backlinks like a link building pro.
In fact, you’re going to learn:
- What are Backlinks?
- 7 Characteristics of Quality Backlinks
- 3 Types of Backlinks to AVOID!
- What’s a Good Number of Backlinks?
- How to Get Backlinks (Like an SEO Pro)
- FAQs About Backlinks
Let’s dive in.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are created when one website links to another website. Google (and other search engines) consider backlinks to be “votes” for a page. In fact, Google’s original PageRank algorithm used backlinks to signal content quality. Many studies have found a correlation between backlinks and organic search engine rankings.
Here’s an example of a backlink:
What Do Quality Backlinks Look Like?
High-quality backlinks have 7 characteristics: relevance, traffic, authority, link profile quality, editorial standards, outbound link quality, and indexation.
Let’s start with:
John Mueller recently said that relevance is more important than how many backlinks a website has.
In fact, here’s exactly what he said:
In short, most of your link building efforts should focus on relevant opportunities. That’s why I created The Relevancy Pyramid. It’s the single best way to prioritize your link opportunities.
The model is simple:
There are fewer link building opportunities that are 100% relevant to your website. You should focus on these first.
Then, once you’ve tapped those out, move down the pyramid where there will be fewer prospects.
Now, there are two exceptions to this link prioritization strategy:
- Getting links from super authority sites like the New York Times, Washington Post, or .edu/.gov sites is always okay.
- The Relevancy Pyramid changes if you’re working in local SERPs.
I recommend focusing on geo-targeted opportunities first. Then, move on to topically relevant prospects on the national level.
This will create the most natural and relevant link profile.
Now, of course, it’s not all about relevance. If that were the case, you could create hundreds of relevant websites yourself and link to your site.
That doesn’t work because it would miss all the other factors that make a backlink powerful.
Bringing me to standard #2:
You need to get links to your site from relevant websites with organic traffic.
Think about it:
What does that say if Google sends organic search traffic to a site?
It means that it’s likely a trustworthy website. In general, sites that are popular in organic search are valuable link building opportunities.
You can use Semrush (Semrush review) to see if a website is getting organic search traffic (and to see the “value” of that traffic):
Now, a website can be relevant and have traffic, but it still needs the following:
If a website is getting organic traffic, it likely has authority. You can use Ahrefs’ DR (Ahrefs review) to prioritize link building prospects based on their site authority.
The stronger a website is, the harder it will be to get the link.
That makes those links even more valuable, so it’s worth the effort.
4. Link Quality
It is possible to manipulate third-party metrics like Ahrefs’ DR or Moz’s DA.
So, that’s why you need to analyze the backlink profile of all your opportunities manually.
I like to run the website through Ahrefs and filter their links by “DoFollow.”
I then sort them so that the strongest links with the highest DR are at the top.
In short, you want to see the site getting links from high-quality sources.
Use the same criteria from above.
5. Editorial Standards
Why are diamonds valuable? Because they’re difficult to get!
That’s why you should focus on getting links on websites with high editorial standards.
The harder it is to land a backlink, the more valuable it is.
The opposite is true, as well:
The easier a backlink is to get, the less valuable it is.
6. Outbound Link Quality
Websites with strong editorial guidelines will likely only link out to quality resources. You want your link to “live” around other trustworthy outbound links.
Enter your domain into Ahrefs Site Explorer and go to “Linked domains” under “Outgoing links”:
Examine every prospective website and ask:
- How are they linking out?
- Are the outbound links relevant?
- Are the outbound links going to respected, trusted sites?
- Do the outbound links look natural, or do they look like paid links?
Nothing is more important than making sure you get links on indexed websites. If the site isn’t indexed in Google, then your links will be worthless.
Go to Google and search “site:example.com”.
If they don’t show up, avoid the website.
Now that you know what a quality backlink looks like, let’s talk about what links you should AVOID.
3 Types of Backlinks to Avoid in 2023
If you review the 7 characteristics of quality backlinks above, you’ll see that the following types of backlinks don’t qualify.
Most websites aren’t relevant, have no traffic, have no editorial guidelines, and have horrific outbound links.
Here’s the first example:
1. Public Blog Networks
You’ve probably heard of Private Blog Networks (PBNs), but public blog networks differ.
Both are risky because they involve artificial link building. However, private blog networks are slightly less risky because they can be disguised better.
On the other hand, public blog networks are nothing more than link farms that are easily detectable.
Look at this website that uses public blog network links:
Most public networks don’t even bother to block third-party crawlers like Ahrefs.
If it takes me two seconds to see that you’re using public network links, what do you think Google can do?
Here’s what an actual public blog network looks like:
Stay away from these links if you want to avoid getting penalized.
2. DoFollow Blog Comments
Here’s what they look like:
These links hit the “authority” quality criteria for links.
However, they greatly miss the mark with everything else. Plus, you don’t want your website in the same neighborhood as some of the outbound links you’ll see.
3. Web 2.0s
The thought process for using web 2.0s is similar to DoFollow blog comments. You’re trying to leverage the existing site’s authority like Wix:
However, web 2.0s adds another level because they attempt to add artificial relevance.
So what’s the problem? Well, they aren’t editorial links, the content is low-quality, and you don’t benefit much from the authority because it’s on a subdomain.
Plus, the only way web 2.0 backlinks can have any benefit is if they’re indexed. And guess what?
They’re notoriously hard to index on Google unless you build tier-two links.
Now you know what backlinks to avoid like the plague.
But now an important question arises:
What’s a Good Number of Backlinks?
Examining your competitors is key to knowing how many backlinks you need.
This process is called a backlink gap analysis.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Identify a qualified keyword target
2. Create SEO content that’s better than the competitors
“SEO content” applies to both informational and transactional pages.
3. Identify how many backlinks you need through a link gap analysis
A link gap analysis is broken down into two parts.
First, you need to analyze how many backlinks your competitors have to their domain as a whole.
Run your target keyword through Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, then scroll down to see the competitors.
Go to “More” and open “Domain Comparison” in another tab.
Enter the top 4 competitors for your target keyword and enter your domain as well.
Now, you’ll see the gap between you and the competitors if there isn’t much of a gap (or you’re ahead), then awesome! You likely won’t need many backlinks to rank the page.
This leads to the next part of the link gap analysis.
You now need to analyze how many backlinks you’ll need to your target keyword-driven page to rank.
You can use the Ahrefs KD metric to get a rough estimate.
However, this is flawed for one big reason. You don’t know what authority of links you’ll need to rank.
So what we do is categorize each competitor’s backlinks into authority ranges like this:
Then, you’ll know exactly how many backlinks you’ll need at each authority level.
This is super useful because you can estimate the budget you’ll need for backlinks.
How to Get Backlinks (Like an SEO Pro)
Here are 7 link building techniques you can use to land more high-quality backlinks.
1. Authority Transfer Technique
The Authority Transfer Technique isn’t technically a “link building” tactic, but it’s a powerful way to distribute link authority (PageRank) to your most important SEO-driven pages.
Here’s how it works:
Step #1 – Identify what pages on your site have existing backlinks
The easiest way to find these pages is to use Ahrefs.
Just open up Ahrefs → Enter your domain → Start analysis.
Then click on “Best by Links” under “Pages” → Sort by “Referring Domains”:
Step #2 – Add internal links on those pages to relevant SEO-driven pages
Now, all you need to do now is add internal links. Your internal should target pages that are A) topically relevant and B) you’re trying to rank.
I recommend using exact match anchor text with your internal links (it’s safe to do so as long as they aren’t site-wide).
I recommend using this technique every time you publish a new SEO-driven page. It’s one of the best ways to boost your page out of the gate (by leveraging existing authority).
Your goal should be to push your pages up the SERPs as far as possible before acquiring links.
The Authority Transfer Technique is one of the best ways to accomplish that goal (fast).
2. LIS Technique
What qualities make people want to link to your website?
There are many qualities, but there’s one that helps enormously and is called “Length Implies Strength” or LIS.
Have you ever seen one of those super-long sales letters that seem to scroll for decades?
Well, that’s not an accident.
Long sales letters leverage “Heuristics.”
In short, we (humans) are lazy and hate thinking. So, we use mental shortcuts to make decisions, solve problems, pass judgments, etc.
So, what does this have to do with link building?
According to Backlinko’s study:
“Long-form content gets an average of 77.2% more links than short articles.”
That means if you want more backlinks, then create long-form content.
For example, if you examine what pages have attracted the most backlinks on GotchSEO.com, you will see that they are all my longest pieces of content:
The average word count for my top 4 most linked-to content assets is 7,223 words.
Pretty insane, right?
Here’s the main takeaway:
If you want more links, write longer, in-depth content.
Don’t take this out of context, though!
It needs to be well-thought-out and add massive amounts of UNIQUE value.
3. Predictive Links Technique
What if you could create pages on your site that attracted backlinks like clockwork? That’s possible when you use the Predictive Links Technique. The best part is that it’s super simple.
Here’s what you do:
Step #1 – Examine your competitor’s most linked-to pages
Just open up Ahrefs → Enter a competitor’s domain → Click on “Best by Links.”
You’ll immediately see what topics have attracted the most backlinks in your niche.
You can also use this same technique for creating “predictive” viral content on social media.
Just go to Buzzsumo → Enter a topic:
Then, you’ll have access to proven ideas to attract social shares (and links).
You can also do the same thing with YouTube.
Go to a popular channel in your niche → sort their videos by most popular
And BOOM! You see the ideas that the niche is most interested in.
Step #2 – Create a page around the same topic, but make it 10x different and better
Whether you’re using this method to attract links, get more social traction, or dominate YouTube, the principle is the same. You will create a content asset that’s 10x different and better than your competitors.
Step #3 – Reach out to the people that linked to your competitor’s content
This is a concept I teach in my advanced SEO training program (check out this Gotch SEO Academy review):
I recommend “testing the waters” before pitching your content when you use this strategy. Send a simple outreach email like this:
My name is [YOUR NAME], and I’m the [YOUR POSITION] at [YOUR COMPANY]. I researched [TOPIC] and saw that you linked to [COMPETITOR’S URL] – that makes sense because it’s awesome. I just published a new guide on [TOPIC] it [VALUE PROPOSITION].
Would you be interested in seeing it (and maybe give some feedback)? Let me know, and I’ll shoot the link over.
If the prospect complies, then send them this:
That’s great! Here’s a link:
Let me know what you think.
If you think it adds value to your readers, would you mind linking to it? I can [INSERT SOME VALUE YOU CAN GIVE THEM]. Thanks again!
I recommend testing many different templates for the second email until you hit a sweet spot.
Just make sure you’re giving something valuable when asking for a link.
3. Relationship Accelerator Technique
The Relationship Accelerator Technique serves a dual purpose:
- It can help you build relationships with key “linkerati” (people who are capable and willing to link to you).
- It can help you score links with minimal effort.
There are a few different ways to go about this.
You can host expert roundups and interviews or ask for expert contributions to your content.
For example, I had Miles Beckler on my SEO podcast, and he linked to the page where it was hosted:
This technique works because there’s a clear exchange of value. The experts get exposure, and you get to build a non-transactional relationship with them. You’ll be exposed yourself because they likely share or link to the content.
4. Oprah Technique
I created a cool name for this technique, but it’s super simple. You’re going to get interviewed and land links.
Go to Google → Enter “interview + niche” or “interview with + [YOUR COMPETITOR]”
Add all these prospects to your link building database. Then, just reach out and pitch yourself for the interview.
Use a simple template like this:
My name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m the [YOUR POSITION] at [YOUR COMPANY]. First, just wanted to thank you for all the amazing interviews you’ve been doing. I’ve listened to your interview with [INSERT ONE YOU LIKED] multiple times because it’s so incredibly valuable. Quick question: are you accepting new interviewees at this time? If you are, I would love to chat because of I [COOL RESULT].
Let me know. Thanks!
5. Use The Merger Technique
The Merger Technique is simple:
Find websites with high-quality link profiles, acquire them, and 301 redirect them to your website.
For example, Neil Patel acquired UberSuggest and merged it with NeilPatel.com. As a result, he gained an additional 17,500 backlinks from 5,610 referring domains:
And Backlinko did the same thing when we acquired PointblankSEO.com. Brian scored 24,500 additional backlinks from 2,000 referring domains:
They both acquired active websites or tools, which is the best strategy.
6. Leverage The Phantom Technique
You may reach your target backlink volume for a specific page at a certain point. But what should you do if you’re still not ranking where you want to be?
That’s when the Phantom Technique enters.
Instead of building more backlinks on tier one (links directly hitting your website), you can strengthen your existing backlinks.
This process is known as tier two link building. It’s extremely powerful, and your competitors likely won’t know you’re doing it.
7. The Switch-Up Technique
The Switch Up Technique is my favorite way to build relationships fast. As you may or may not know, building relationships is critical to getting more backlinks.
Most people fail at link outreach because they’re metaphorically trying to hit a home run on the first date. Like in sales, you must take baby steps along the journey.
You have to build relationships with the websites (and people who are capable of linking to you) BEFORE you ask for something.
There needs to be an exchange of value.
“Value” comes in many forms, including money, help, and content.
Here’s a perfect example of a student of Gotch SEO Academy (our SEO training program) exchanging value with me (I had no choice but to link to this tool because it solved a REAL problem and added REAL value):
Money works well, but you can acquire links without having to pay people. But that will only be possible through building real relationships.
The first step to accomplishing that is to use the Switch Up Technique.
Here’s how you do it:
- Go through your blog content and examine all your external links.
- See if you’re linking out to general websites like Wikipedia, CNN, or any authority website with many authors.
- Go to Google and look for a replacement from a lower authority blog.
- Change the link
- Reach out to the person
Use a non-threatening template like this:
My name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m the [YOUR POSITION] at [YOUR COMPANY]. I was doing some research on [TOPIC] and discovered your guide about [TOPIC]. I really enjoyed it. I never realized that [SOMETHING YOU LEARNED FROM THEIR CONTENT]. Super cool. Anyway, I won’t take up any more of your time. Just wanted to thank you for putting the article together and wanted to let you know that I linked to it from my article: [INSERT NAKED URL] – it’s about [TOPIC].
8. Leverage Existing Relationships
Think about your family, friends, clients, and industry colleagues. Make a list of everyone with a website relevant to your vertical. Then, see if they’d be willing to place a link on a relevant page.
9. Go Back to School
Leverage the fact that you’re an alumnus of your high school or college. Schools are always looking to promote successful alumni.
You can also reach out to colleges and universities in your local area and volunteer to help the students. Some options are guest speaking, guest posts, etc.
Leverage your expertise and add value to get links.
10. Offer Internships
Need help running your company? Create an internship program.
Then, create a dedicated page for it and look for link opportunities.
If it’s a local internship, you can target local opportunities by searching “CITY + internships.” You can get listed on the internship directory websites if it’s national.
11. Write Content for Other Websites
Guest posting is a tried and true method for getting free backlinks. There is a clear exchange of value. You write great content for their website, so they don’t have to.
Then, you get a backlink for your efforts.
There are unlimited opportunities for guest posting in every vertical.
Go to Google and enter search queries like: “write for us + ” (example: “write for us + fitness”).
Then, use the Data Miner plugin to export the results and add them to your link prospecting database.
Repeat this process a few times until you have a large database.
Then, copy 200 of the prospects and open up SEMRush. Go to “Gap Analysis” and then “Bulk Analysis.”
Paste the prospects and run the analysis. Now you’ll know the total organic search traffic for each website. Prioritize opportunities that have traffic because these are likely the highest quality opportunities.
Now you just need to have contact information. I use Hunter.io.
Once you’ve found the correct contact information, send a simple outreach email like this:
My name is [YOUR NAME], and I write over at [YOUR BLOG]. I was wondering if you guys are accepting guest contributors right now? I have a few ideas for your blog that I think you’ll like.
Let me know, and I’ll send them over.
I always like sending an initial email to warm the prospect up. Notice how I didn’t hit the prospect with a pitch right away. My only goal in the first email is to get the prospect to respond.
Once the prospect responds, I send a second email with three ideas:
That’s great to hear! Here are three ideas:
Let me know which one you like, and we’ll jump on creating the first draft.
12. Reverse Guest Posting
Reverse guest posting is the process of getting other experts to write for your website. The key is to make sure they have an audience and website themselves.
There’s no guarantee that they’ll link back to your site. However, it’s likely because it acts as a form of ego bait.
In other words, people like to promote themselves, especially in the business world. Now, there is one caveat with this method.
Your website needs a solid base of traffic and a decent audience. No one is going to write content for your website if they aren’t benefiting from it. Remember the exchange of value.
13. Interview Experts
Interviewing experts (with audiences) is the oldest trick in the book, but it will continue to work. That’s because interviews are the ultimate ego bait. Plus, the interviewee benefits from promoting the interview (on your website).
Take a look at Smart Passive Income’s link profile on Ahrefs.
You’ll notice that interviewees have linked to the page hosting their interviews. But that’s not all.
Since many interviewees are well-known, their interviews generally attract links. For example, Entrepreneur.com linked to an interview featuring Ramit Sethi.
That alone shows you the power of interviews.
14. Recreate Dead Content
I call this the White Hat Alternative to PBNs. It’s simple.
Use a tool like SpamZilla to find qualified expired domains.
Then open up Ahrefs and go to the Site Explorer. Paste the prospective expired domain and export all of its Followed links.
Now, examine what pages have backlinks. Copy a URL and paste it into the Way Back Machine.
The first question is whether or not the content is relevant to your website. If it isn’t, keep searching.
If it is, the next question is, can you create something better?
If so, create the asset. Then, reach out to all of the websites linking to the dead page.
Here’s a simple outreach email to test:
My name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m [YOUR POSITION] at [YOUR COMPANY]. I was doing some research and found your awesome guide about [TOPIC]. I noticed you are linking to a dead website in the section about [TOPIC]. I actually just created an article about the [TOPIC] which might be a good replacement. Let me know, thanks!
15. Fix SSL Certificates
One of the most significant points of leverage is helping websites that don’t have SSL certificates installed.
This method is effective if you’re also trying to land new SEO clients.
Fixing the SSL certificate can act as a front-end offer. Then, you can pitch them on SEO services.
16. Create Data-Driven Link Bait
People love linking to data. The cool part is that you don’t need to create the data from scratch. You can leverage existing data and create a curated resource.
Now, it is even better if you can create original data. Compiling original data is more complicated, but it does pay off.
For example, I have a few data-driven posts on Gotch SEO like:
- Top 3 Best Link Building Services (We Spent $140,424 to Find Out)
- Is Google Biased? We Analyzed 50 Key Politically-Driven Topics to Find Out
- We Analyzed 438 SEO Companies (Here’s the Top 10)
- What’s the Best CMS for SEO? (10,000 Keywords Analyzed)
17. Host an Expert Roundup
Most expert roundups are pretty bad. But if you dedicate yourself to creating one that adds value and invites real experts, then it can succeed.
It falls under the ego bait category.
In short, there’s a possibility that the experts will link back to the roundup in which they participated.
18. Reverse Expert Roundups
You can also find existing expert roundups and pitch your contribution. Go to Google and enter search queries like “YOUR NICHE + expert roundup.”
Then just send a simple outreach email like so:
My name is [YOUR NAME], and I’m the founder of [YOUR COMPANY OR BLOG]. I saw that you put together an awesome expert roundup and wondered if I could contribute to it? I have some unique insights to share about [THE TOPIC OF THE ROUNDUP] because of my experience working [in|with] [ENTER SOCIAL PROOF/QUALIFICATIONS].
Please let me know if there’s any way to make this happen. Thanks for your time.
19. Use HARO
Using HARO for link building isn’t new, but it is still super effective. The key is to understand that most of your submissions will get ghosted.
That’s why you need to go into it with the mindset that your submission may not get approved. It’s an odd experience overall.
However, you can score some awesome links IF your contribution does get approved.
20. Volunteer in Your Local Market
There are so many untapped link opportunities on the local level—one of the simplest ways to score links to volunteer in your local area.
Go to Google and search “YOUR CITY + our sponsors” or “YOUR CITY + our volunteers.” Then, look for pages that link out to sponsors or volunteers.
These should be your targets.
Now, think of a way that you can add value to the charity.
Sometimes, that’s in the form of physical labor or in-person participation. But other times, you can offer technical support online as well.
21. Create Profiles in Your Vertical
Notice how I said in “your” vertical? Don’t create a bunch of random profiles just because you can. There is no point.
Only create profiles on websites that are relevant in your industry.
For example, it makes sense for me to have a profile on Moz or a profile on an SEO forum. Most of these websites will give you a link back to your website in the profile section.
Some are followed, while others are nofollow. It doesn’t matter because they’re still relevant.
22. Create Business Listings
If you have a local business, creating business listings is the easiest way to score free backlinks. These listings can help you local pack performance in Google.
As long as you keep your Name, Address, Phone, and Website (NAP-W) information consistent.
You can use Fat Joe’s citation building service to save time.
FAQs About Backlinks
My backlinks are decreasing. What now?
It’s natural and normal to lose some links over time. That’s why it’s critical to remember that link acquisition isn’t a one-time event. It needs to be an ongoing activity. You should always be taking action to acquire new backlinks to compensate for those you lose.
My backlinks are not showing in Google Search Console, Ahrefs, etc. Why?
Google Search Console only shows a sample of your total link profile. While third-party tools like Ahrefs are amazing at finding backlinks, they aren’t perfect or comprehensive. Assume that these tools only show a percentage of your entire link profile.
Are Fiverr backlinks good?
In my experience, 99% of link opportunities on Fiverr are bad. In general, I would avoid buying backlinks from Fiverr. Remember… you usually get what you pay for.
Are NoFollow backlinks good?
NoFollow backlinks are not good or effective because they don’t pass PageRank. They’re only useful if you’re getting referral traffic or sales. But from an SEO perspective, they have no value.
How many backlinks per day are safe?
You only need to worry about link velocity when you’re building artificial backlinks. If you’re acquiring backlinks through outreach and content promotion, then you don’t need to worry about this.
That’s a Wrap!
The art of getting more backlinks is a massive topic, but I hope this gives you the right framework for getting more.
If this was helpful, please share it. Or better yet, link to it 😉
Need more link building help? Check these resources out:
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