Backlinks are the nitrous of every successful SEO campaign.
This new guide will teach how to build backlinks in 2018. Every strategy you will read is battle tested.
Through hundreds of successful SEO campaigns, we now know what does and does NOT work.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump in.
Table of Contents
- What are Backlinks?
- How to Build Less Backlinks (And Get Better Results)
- What is Your Risk Tolerance?
- 5 Rules for Quality Backlinks
- Avoid These Backlinks on Tier One
- 4 Quick Ways to Grow Your Site’s Authority
- How to Build “Foundational” Backlinks
- Power Backlinks
- Grey Hat Backlinks
- Bonus: How to EARN Backlinks
What are Backlinks?
A “backlink” is created when an external website links to yours. This why some people refer to them as “external backlinks”.
Here’s how it looks in action:
These links are a large piece of the ranking puzzle.
But before we get into the heavy link building strategy…
You need to make sure that your site is ready for backlinks.
How to Build Less Backlinks (And Get Better Results)
Here is the ugly truth about link acquisition:
It is costly and time-consuming.
To combat these two issues you must learn how to get the most out of every backlink.
Here’s how you can accomplish that goal:
- You must have a technically optimized site
- You must have a strong site architecture
- You must have valuable content
Here are the basics you need to cover before you jump into link acquisition:
1. Fix All Technical Errors
Technical errors hurt user experience.
When you hurt user experience, Google limits your organic traffic growth.
The first thing you need to do is avoid speeding through this process.
Otherwise, you may end up wondering:
“Why aren’t my backlinks working!?”
Think of SEO as a puzzle.
You can’t complete a puzzle without having all the pieces.
Making sure your site is technically optimized is an important piece of the SEO puzzle.
Here are the technical issues you need to look for:
- Site loading speed (use Google’s PageSpeed Insights)
- Mobile friendliness (use Google’s Mobile Friendly check
- Duplicate content (use Siteliner)
- 302 redirects
- Redirect chains
- 404 errors
- Canonical errors
- Duplicate META data
- Incorrect uses of directives (noindex, nofollow, etc)
You can use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to find most of these issues such 302 redirects, redirect chains, 404 errors, canonical errors, duplicate META data and incorrect uses of directives.
2. Develop a Strong Site Architecture
Your site architecture is how link equity gets distributed through your site.
The better your site architecture, the less backlinks you will need.
If you are using a content-driven SEO approach, then I recommend the reverse silo.
Here’s how it works:
The reverse silo is great because it is the most natural way to build site authority.
Think about it:
Would you rather link to a high-quality blog article or a boring category page?
3. Produce VALUABLE Content
Content is the last and most important piece of the puzzle.
If you don’t think content is important, then you might as well stop reading now.
Your SEO content strategy will make or break your SEO campaign.
It doesn’t matter how many backlinks you get.
It doesn’t matter how well you optimize your site.
Your SEO campaign will eventually fail if you don’t take content seriously.
I’m going to be writing a lot on content marketing on this blog in 2018, but for now…
I want you to do one thing:
CARE about your content.
You don’t need to be perfect, but do not publish garbage content.
Like real garbage, garbage content gets sent to the landfill where no one will ever see it again.
I’ll end my content rant there.
Just understand that your content will determine the success of your SEO campaign.
What Is Your Risk Tolerance?
Before we get into the intense stuff, you need to gauge your risk tolerance.
The question is:
Are you willing to use risky tactics?
Are you risk averse and would like to take a “cleaner” approach that decreases your chances of a penalty?
I recommend you take the latter.
Two years ago, you could nail a brand new website with any PBN backlinks, and the site would rank within a month.
It was like taking candy from a baby, but Google caught onto this.
They introduced a “sandbox” that holds new websites back.
I’m not going to debate the existence of it because we’ve tested it.
Here’s the conclusion:
Before: you could rank a site in 1 month with PBN backlinks.
Now: it takes two, sometimes three months to see the effects of PBN backlinks.
Knowing this, we have gone away from PBN backlinks.
But it’s not just because they take longer to work.
It’s because the time and financial investment isn’t worth it anymore.
The time and financial ROI was huge two years ago when Google wasn’t as savvy.
Now the amount of time it takes to run a successful PBN and the amount of risk involved, isn’t worth it.
In 2018, a better approach is to focus on relevant backlinks from real websites.
This will help you avoid penalties and get you the long-term results you desire.
5 Rules for Quality Backlinks
If you follow these 5 rules you will watch your site’s organic traffic climb every month.
1. Keep It Relevant
Relevancy is the most important criteria for effective link acquisition.
I have never, repeat never, had a site penalized that had a 100% relevant tier one of backlinks.
Google bases “relevancy” on these three things:
- The general content “theme” of the linking domain
- The content on the linking page
- The relevancy of the backlinks hitting the domain
To see a site’s link relevancy use Majestic’s Topical Trust Flow Topics.
Keep in mind:
Link opportunities that don’t have Topical Trust Flow Topic relevancy can still be valuable.
Make you evaluate your opportunities beyond third party metrics.
If you need help prioritizing link opportunities, then I recommend Relevancy Pyramids.
2. Let Authority Sites Be Your Friend
The stronger the site, the better the results.
Since Google doesn’t update PageRank anymore, you have to rely on third party metrics.
None of these third party tools are perfect, but they will do the job.
I recommend you analyze opportunities using all available options.
The best link analysis tools are:
3. Focus On Real Websites (With Real Traffic)
Getting backlinks from sites with real traffic is another way to solidify your tier one.
These are the hardest backlinks to get but are also the most rewarding.
Since you will never know the exact traffic data of a site without getting in their analytics, you will need to use SEM Rush.
4. Distribute Your Anchor Text Intelligently
Distributing your backlink anchor text recklessly can hurt you twofold.
First, wrong anchor text distribution will inhibit your site from ranking. Last and most important, aggressive anchor text can land you a penalty.
As a general rule of thumb aim to keep your exact match anchor text below 1%.
The majority of your anchor text should be branded or naked link anchors.
Here’s an example:
5. Let Your Backlinks Live in Clean Neighborhoods
Focus your efforts on getting backlinks from sites that have high standards.
If they are linking out to “scammy” industries, then you do not want your link to live there.
Examine every prospective website and ask:
- What are they linking out to?
- Are the outbound links relevant?
- Are the outbound links going to respected, trusted sites?
If you see “viagra” or “gambling” or anything of that nature, then avoid that website.
You now know what a squeaky clean link profile looks like.
Now let me explain what backlinks you should NEVER use on tier one.
Avoid These Backlinks on Tier One
There are certain backlinks that should never touch your site.
If you decide to use these backlinks, just know that your risk for a penalty is much greater.
I have seen websites get penalties for using these backlinks.
I’m telling you that because I don’t want you to think I’m guessing.
It is a FACT that these backlinks can land you a manual or algorithmic penalty.
(Almost) Everything That’s Irrelevant
Your tier one should be a wall of relevancy surrounding your site. I said “almost” every link should be relevant because there are some situations when pure relevancy isn’t a must.
More on this in a second.
You can go on almost any SEO forum and buy backlinks on public networks. These networks will often advertise their service as “private blog networks”. But that’s a lie.
Once you are advertising a network, it is no longer private.
Throughout Google’s short history, it has gone out of its way to smash public networks. After that, they go out and destroy every website that is using these networks.
It’s easy for Google to spot these networks because:
A) there are an excessive amount of outbound links (typically 25-50+) on the homepage: homepages on REAL websites don’t have a ridiculous amount of outbound links on the homepage.
B) the outbound links are completely irrelevant to each other: there will be links going to gambling sites, SEO sites, fitness sites, etc. It doesn’t make any sense.
C) the content for each post is thin (only 250-300 words): Google’s Panda algorithm hates thin content.
D) you can run, but you can’t hide: some networks will attempt to block Ahrefs and Majestic crawlers, but its actually a footprint. On the other hand, networks that don’t block crawlers will likely get reported to Google because of an angry competitor. It’s a lose-lose situation.
DoFollow Blog Comments
These are some of the cheapest backlinks you can buy. They are also the perfect recipe for landing a penalty.
Large amounts of outbound links + irrelevant links + outbound links going to “bad neighborhoods” (gambling, pharma, porn, etc.) = a toxic backlink
Remember link building rule #5?
You don’t want your link to live in this environment.
Sidebar, Footer Backlinks
I’ll admit that sidebar and footer backlinks can work, but they are also risky.
Standalone links look like paid backlinks and you know how Google feels about those.
Vendors that sell these high authority backlinks are also selling them to other websites. Most of these website will be irrelevant to yours. That’s because these vendors rarely turn down money.
As a reminder:
You don’t want your link to live with irrelevant or “bad neighborhood” links.
One more important note about sidebar/footer backlinks:
These links are almost always site-wide links.
This can destroy your site if you are using a keyword-rich anchor text.
It will wreck your anchor text profile.
I know web designers, marketing companies, and web hosting companies love footer backlinks.
So, if you do decide to use them, I recommend you use branded anchor text.
There is one exception to this rule:
If you can manipulate the code so that your link only shows on the homepage (where most of a site authority resides).
If you are using WordPress, you can use this Restrict Widgets plugin.
As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid automated link building tools on tier one.
Some of these softwares include GSA, Ultimate Demon, and SENuke.
These softwares leverage spammed platforms and will likely land your site a penalty.
You now know what links you need to avoid like the plague.
Now let me show you how to preserve your site’s authority.
4 Quick Ways to Grow Your Site’s Authority
Before I jump into “Foundational” backlinks, I want to show you how to boost your site’s authority. Remember, the purpose of link acquisition to build the authority of your site.
The more authoritative your site is, the easier it is to rank for keywords.
1. Fix Broken External Links
Remember, every external link you place on your site leaks authority.
That’s why it’s important to audit your site (here’s an SEO audit checklist) to find broken external links.
This applies to both external links in your content and in the comment section.
To find broken links use one or all the following:
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- Google Search Console
2. Reclaim Lost Link Juice (404 Link Reclamation)
404 link reclamation is at the top of the list because it is the easiest.
To find all 404 errors on your site use Google Search Console or Screaming Frog.
If you find 404 errors, run the pages through a bulk check on Ahrefs or Majestic.
I recommend doing both just in case you miss some links.
When you find pages with link equity, you must 301 redirect them to a relevant page on the site or to your homepage.
3. Find and Fix Redirect Chains
Sometimes the most obvious solutions are right in front of your face. Redirect chains are another simple problem that can boost your site’s authority once fixed.
This is what a redirect chain looks like:
Do you see the problem with this picture?
The problem is that “Page B” is acting as a buffer between “Page A” and the final destination “Page C”.
This technical issue is robbing “Page C” of authority.
To fix this you need to 301 redirect “Page A” to “Page C” like so:
By fixing a redirect chain you will send authority/link equity directly to the page.
That is more effective than making the link equity pass through a buffer.
Use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to find redirect chains.
4. Change 302s to 301s
302s redirects block authority flow and could be stealing authority from your site. Identify all 302 redirects on and off your site, and change them to 301s. Once again, use Screaming Frog to find 302s.
You now know how to improve your site’s authority without building new backlinks.
Now it’s time to learn how to build foundational backlinks.
How to Build “Foundational” Backlinks
“Foundational” backlinks improve your site’s TrustRank.
The more “trustworthy” your site is, the better you will perform in the search engines.
The Foundational backlinks will create a layer of trust around your site. That’s because you will be using nothing but unoptimized, branded backlinks on authority sites.
We use this exact approach with every client we take on and it works extremely well.
You should only use naked link or branded anchors for foundational backlinks.
The first thing you need to do is secure all your social media properties.
At the very minimum, your business should have:
- Google + (Personal & Business)
- LinkedIn (Personal & Business)
You don’t have to actively market on these platforms, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
For example, for Gotch SEO, my social media manager decided that Facebook was our best social media platform based on referral traffic and engagement.
That’s why we are “all-in” on Facebook and not as active on the other platforms.
Choose what platforms work best for your business.
At the minimum, populate these accounts and share some content, so that you at least have a base.
Google values business listings so much that it is apart of the local search algorithm.
This should be more than enough for you to use them for ANY SEO campaign.
The cool part about listings is that about 50% of them give you a DoFollow, unoptimized link.
Business citations are a perfect way to build a foundation of trust around your site.
Remember earlier when I said that not all backlinks hitting your site need to be 100% relevant?
I was referring to business listings and social media profiles.
Google trusts these platforms and is well aware that all types of businesses will be using them.
In a sense, they get a pass for not being relevant.
Make sure you check out our citation building service if you don’t want to waste your time building citations.
While most directories are pretty much worthless, there are some diamonds in the rough.
Niche-targeted directories offer both a relevant and DoFollow link.
As you know, backlinks with both of these characteristics are hard to come by.
Use these search strings in Google to find niche directories:
- NICHE + Directory (Example: “fitness + directory”)
- NICHE directories
- NICHE + “submit site”
Geo-targeted directories are a must-have link source for local businesses.
Here are some search strings you can use to find geo-targeted directories:
city + directory
directory + city
submit my site + city
niche + city + directory
city + directories
Niche Relevant Blog Comments
I’m always amazed why so many SEOs skip out on niche relevant blog comments. Too many SEOs neglect them because of the dreaded “NoFollow” tag.
I highly recommend you don’t neglect them.
My agency uses niche relevant blog comments to:
A) create a layer of relevancy around our client’s site
B) improve to the ratio of DoFollow and NoFollow backlinks
C) diversify our anchors in a meaningful way
D) sometimes get small amounts of referral traffic
Back in 2013, I was the first person comment on one of Brian’s article:
This one comment has sent my site 143 visitors since:
E) build a relationship with the blogger that you could leverage for backlinks in the future.
Point “D” is the most important and where most SEOs mess up.
Don’t go to a top blog and write a “me too” comment or something general/useless.
This doesn’t build relationships.
You have to contribute to the blog in a meaningful way.
You have to give VALUE.
This doesn’t mean you need to write a five paragraph essay.
In fact, I advise against that.
Focus on one point and leave a concise, well-thought out comment.
Niche Relevant Forum Backlinks
Participating on industry forums is an excellent way to build brand recognition.
And if you do it right, you will drive some relevant referral traffic to your website.
Here is the traffic the BlackHatWorld.com has sent my site since 2014:
This is referral traffic coming from 18 different threads in the forum.
Forum members have linked to my content, but it wouldn’t be hard to orchestrate it if you are creative.
There aren’t many forums that allow signature backlinks, but many still allow profile backlinks. These profile backlinks are valuable because they are relevant and DoFollow in most cases.
To get the most out of your forum profile backlinks, I’m going to show you some quick techniques.
1. Prospect for relevant forums
Use the following search strings in Google to find forums:
- forum + NICHE
- NICHE + forum
2. Take time to fill out your profile
Since your link will likely be a naked link, you need to leverage co-occurrence.
Co-occurrence is when your website’s target keyword phrase is near to your link.
Just write a legitimate profile description and make sure to toss in your main keyword.
3. Understand the forum “personality” / etiquette
Every forum is different and you need to learn how each operates.
Some tolerate a little self-promotion while others will ban you for it.
Scan through the forum and see if members are sharing links in threads.
4. Increase your post count & start adding friends
The more posts/friends you have, the more trust you build on the forum. Also, more connections send more internal links back to your profile page.
This will slowly build the authority of your profile page.
5. Start a thread
Starting well-thought-out threads is a great way to build credibility on the forum.
Okay, now you might be asking what’s the point of doing all this?
The goal is to increase the amount of internal links hitting your profile page.
This leverages the forums authority. As a result it will increase the authority of your profile page hosting your link.
The second goal of all this work is so you can become a part of the forum community and so that members trust you more.
If you have a good reputation on the forum, you can share your content without getting flamed or banned.
You now know what it takes to build a solid foundation of backlinks. Now it’s time to get into what I like to call “Power” backlinks.
“Power” backlinks will accelerate your results because:
A) they are the most relevant and
B) they are the most authoritative
As hard as it is to produce quality content, there is no better way to drive high authority backlinks to a website.
There are only three things you have to do with a content-driven approach:
- Find the right keywords to target
- Create a great piece of content around that keyword
- Promote the content (social and backlinks)
When you create quality content, you are creating ASSETS for your business.
No matter what Google does, it can never take away your content.
You need to approach link building with a long-term mindset in 2018 and beyond.
I use the investing analogy pretty often, but it’s true for SEO.
There is a compound effect of producing and promoting content on a consistent basis.
Keep in mind:
The following tactics are effective without content.
But you will get even better results if you build links to strong content assets.
For a link to be “editorial” you can’t have access to the site and your link must pass editorial review. Google values editorial backlinks more than any other type of link.
Sadly, getting these high authority backlinks can be challenging.
First, you have to build relationships with bloggers in your industry. Second, you likely need to produce quality content to get natural backlinks.
My agency has acquired thousands of high-quality editorial backlinks at this point. We can get these high authority backlinks because we have built relationships and have the connections.
If you don’t have the time to find opportunities, reach out, and write the content, then I recommend using our popular Blogger Outreach Service.
Niche Relevant Guest Posts
Guest posts are effective in two ways. First, if you contribute lots of value, it will build your authority in the space. Second, your guest post can send relevant referral traffic to your website.
Keep in mind that Google frowns upon spammy guest posting. That means you need to focus your efforts on producing a valuable guest post. If you give value, then there is nothing wrong with injecting backlinks to your website.
To get the most out of your guest posts, you need to get contextual links. Contextual links are far more powerful than author byline links.
That’s the cool thing about our blogger outreach service. Since we write the content in a ghost writing format, we place your links within the meat of the article. That way, it looks like a genuine recommendation for your website.
Click here to read more about our blogger outreach service.
If you want to DIY it up, then use these search queries to find opportunities:
NICHE + “guest post”
NICHE + “contribute to”
NICHE + “write for us”
NICHE + “contributors”
NICHE + “guest writer”
NICHE + “guest post guidelines”
The Merger Technique
The Merger Technique is the process of finding a relevant expired domain and 301 redirecting it to your site.
The concept is simple:
You just acquired a relevant business and want to redirect to your mother company.
The key is for the expired domain to be 100% relevant.
These domains are harder to come by, but it is well worth it when you find one.
This is an oldie, but a goodie.
Although SEO’s have abused this strategy, there are still some diamonds in the rough.
Once you find the pages, it’s best to see if there are any broken links on the page.
Use the Check My Link plugin.
You can use this as leverage when reaching out.
If there are no broken links, then you will need a strong content asset. Otherwise, you will likely get denied.
The White Alternative to PBNs
You already know about the White Hat Alternative to PBNs, but I explain it here as well.
Instead of buying an expired domain and rebuilding it, you are going to:
- find an expired domain
- scrape its backlinks
- then reach out and let the linkers know they are linking to a dead resource
If the expired domain is relevant, you can ask the linker to replace the dead link with your site.
To improve your success rate, suggest 2-3 quality resources (including yours).
You can also recreate the original content if it’s relevant. This is obvious, but the content must better than the original.
Reach out and let the linker know about the new, revised piece of content.
This strategy requires more time and effort, but you get more link placements.
Grey Hat Backlinks
I stay away from grey hat techniques at this point, but I did live in this world for a long time.
NOTE: if you take the grey hat route, you are increasing the likelihood of getting a penalty.
None of these tactics are safe and I have seen websites get manual penalties using each of them.
If there is so much risk, then why am I showing you?
The reason is because many of these techniques work well.
These techniques are best for people:
- Who have a high risk tolerance
- Who want to rank without creating great content
- Who don’t care if their site gets penalized
If you have a low risk tolerance then you have two options:
A) avoid these backlinks altogether or B) use them on tier two to boost your tier one backlinks.
Leverage Relevant Expired Domains
If you are going to create a PBN, then you might as well do it right.
Don’t just buy any expired domain.
Try to find domains that have relevant Topical Trust Flow Topics to your niche.
This won’t always be possible, but it’s worth the patience.
Getting a link from one relevant domain is more powerful than several irrelevant domains.
Here are my favorite tools for finding expired domains:
Here’s how you can use DomCop to find expired domains:
Some other options include: ExpiredDomains.net and Moonsy.
Creating web 2.0s on sites like Tumblr, Weebly, and WordPress.com is an old grey hat strategy that still works. Just be careful because it can land you a penalty. I have gotten manual actions removed from clients because of web 2.0 backlinks.
I recommend you avoid using these backlinks on tier one.
Read The Art of The Super Web 2.0 to learn how to build them correctly.
What to Do Now…
I hope this helped you learn a thing or two, and make sure you drop a comment below if you have ANY questions whatsoever. Don’t be SHY. I’m a pretty nice guy.
BONUS: How to EARN Backlinks
Many people doing SEO confuse earning backlinks with building backlinks.
These are two different concepts.
To EARN, means that you DESERVE backlinks.
Have you ever taken a second to think about why your website even deserves backlinks?
I’ve realized that there is only one way to EARN backlinks…
You must become obsessed with pleasing your users.
As of late, I have become consumed with the overwhelming ambition to please my users.
After hours of thought, I’ve realized that effective SEO starts with the user in mind.
You have to be user-centric.
If you please the user, you will please Google.
I used to spend so much of my time trying to figure out how to “trick” or manipulate Google.
I can’t get that time back, but I have learned an important lesson:
To build a real business, you must focus on pleasing the user.
All the time. On a consistent basis.
- Happy users ARE your marketing.
- Happy users will EARN you backlinks.
- Happy users will SHARE your content on social media.
- Happy users will RETURN to your website.
Your SEO campaign will transform when you put your users first.
Let me show you how to earn backlinks by being user-centric:
11 Ways to Earn Backlinks
1. You Have to Become User-Centric
Let’s face it:
if users don’t like your website, then Google won’t either.
Your focus shouldn’t be on manipulating algorithms.
Your focus should be “what can I do right now to help my prospective customers or readers?”
There isn’t a single website online that can’t improve user experience.
There is always room to help more and give more.
A website that puts 100% effort into pleasing the user, will earn backlinks.
You need to remember how Google interprets a backlink.
It is a vote. Some of these “votes” are better than others.
Think of it this way:
The U.S. just went through an election cycle.
Candidates from the Republicans and Democrats are battling to earn their party’s nomination.
When you cut through all the media noise there is a powerful marketing technique at play:
Whenever a candidate gets an endorsement from a well-known figure in the party, it is a huge deal.
A single endorsement can get enormous amounts of news coverage.
Here are two examples:
Look at those spikes immediately following endorsements.
Think of backlinks as endorsements for your website.
What does your site/blog have to deserve a big endorsement?
Small endorsements are fine and will compound overtime.
But getting an endorsement from a well-known site in your industry is way more powerful.
The only way to get such endorsements (backlinks), you need to give tremendous value for the user.
2. Your Content Must Please the User
You know how competitive content marketing is in the entrepreneur, SEO, and marketing industries.
Bloggers are pumping out incredible pieces of content.
Sometimes these content pieces are 10,000 words.
Others times, hundreds of hours are investing doing research and finding data.
This is the standard in these industries.
Yet, this isn’t the standard in every industry.
Should it be?
But it’s not.
There isn’t a single formula for creating content that pleases a user.
That’s why it can be dangerous immersing yourself in the industries above.
It narrows your view.
You start to think that “good” content has to be 1,800 words or more.
The truth is:
“Good” content comes in all shapes and sizes.
There are no laws for creating great content.
I do not believe that every piece of content you create needs to rank on the first page of Google.
Yes, most of your content should focus on a single keyword.
But, don’t let the search engine determine what types of content you want to produce.
There are times when you need to solve a micro problem in your content.
This micro problem may only get 10 searches a month in Google.
As long as you have the intention of helping someone, it will improve the value of your website.
There isn’t a problem too big or too small.
SEOs get wrapped up in data, but forget about the user.
Who cares if Google is telling you that a particular keyword only gets 10 searches a month.
For all I care, that is an opportunity to help approximately 10 people.
You want to know what’s funny?
When I created the article “How to Index Backlinks 100% of the Time”, there wasn’t any search volume.
I created that article over two years and it is one of my most trafficked pages on my blog.
I didn’t care that it didn’t have search volume at the time.
I just knew it was a problem because I was the one struggling with it!
The moral of the story is that your content needs to help people reach a goal or solve a problem.
It doesn’t always to be monumental.
Creating something that makes someone laugh is solving a problem.
Showing someone how to sharpen a pencil is solving a problem.
Telling someone about the mistakes you have made helps them avoid those mistakes.
You get the point.
Focus on the user first.
What are their problems and what can you do to help them?
After you figure that out, then you need to make sure that…
3. Your Content Stand Outs
Creating rehashed garbage won’t get you anywhere.
It won’t help you in Google and it won’t help your business grow.
The successful businesses we see in the world are innovative.
They don’t think about how to copy their competitors.
They think about what they can do that’s different and unique.
Take a look at the pages ranking in Google for your target keyword.
Think: “What can I do that’s different than these 10 pages?”
Here are the common characteristics/quality holes you want to look for:
Creating updated content is the single biggest way to be different.
Time is the enemy of many blogs.
Not all content will become outdated if it’s evergreen.
But, it depends on the industry.
For example, the SEO industry changes at a rapid pace.
Marketing in general is always changing and there are always new mediums emerging.
Content gets outdated.
When you find outdated content, there is opportunity.
The most obvious plan of attack is to create an updated piece of content, but that’s not all…
You must create an updated piece of content that blows the other one out of the water.
Don’t play nice when it comes to helping the user.
It is a competition to see who can help the user more.
You need to win.
Lack of Depth
Sometimes it’s mind boggling why some pages even rank on the first page of Google.
Many times, these pages are ranking because their site has so much authority.
If a page is ranking because of its site authority, it is an opportunity for you.
Pages that rank in this fashion will likely have “thin” content.
You can dominate them by creating content with more depth.
Not just a little more depth. Create massive depth in your content.
Like I said above, don’t let it be a competition.
Your content should be so good that your competitors don’t even attempt to beat it.
Lack of Data or Research
Some content ranking on the first page of Google is great, but lacks data and research.
If you identify pages like this, you can overwhelm them with data and research.
Leverage trusted data sources in your industry.
If there isn’t lots of data available on hand, then create your own case studies.
These case studies will give you unique data that will make your content stand out.
Lack of Personality
Some content on the first page of Google will put you to sleep.
The content has a “corporate”, impersonal tone.
Content becomes “corporate” when the company loses sight of the user.
They become out of touch.
Great content and copywriting is suppose to be simple and personal.
Beating corporate speak is my goal with Gotch SEO.
When I see content that’s ranking well (without personality), I know I will smash them.
I do my best to speak to YOU.
I want YOU to know that I’m helping YOU.
YOU are what matters.
YOU are the reason why I even produce content.
Use “YOU” in your content.
Speak to your reader.
You aren’t writing for an audience.
You are writing for a single individual.
Do me a favor:
I want you to “LOL” next time you see a page ranking with “corporate”, impersonal content.
Because it’s your job to push them off the first page of Google by being personal and caring more about your users.
Lack of Readability & Visual Appeal
I’m sure you have seen it:
- unbearable big blocks of text
- no headings
- no images
- white font on a black backgrounds
- distracting designs
As I mentioned above, there are pages that rank because of their website’s authority.
Some of these pages will have essay-like content that gives me college flashbacks.
To beat them, create content that:
- is readable. (Use bullet points, lists, etc.)
- is easy to scan. (Use descriptive headings)
- uses beautiful visuals. (Use images to break up long content)
- has black font on a white background. (It’s easier to read/a proven copywriting principle)
- doesn’t have distracting design elements. (Your content is the most important element on the page. Don’t let your design take away from.)
4. You Must Be Willing to Do What Others Won’t
You have likely noticed a trend in this article already. Great content marketing AND ranking pages in Google requires enormous amounts of effort.
You have to be willing to do what others won’t.
The good news is that most people are lazy.
It’s hard to sit down and write every single day.
It’s hard to think outside of the box.
It’s hard not to get distracted.
But that’s what it takes if you want to create content that produces results.
You aren’t always going to get it right, but the more you produce, the better chance you have to succeed.
Produce. Produce. Produce.
And when you finish producing, start producing more.
5. You Must Be Creative
Being creative is hard.
Everyone struggles with coming up with unique ideas.
Many of your ideas will likely suck, but it doesn’t matter. You only need a few good ideas to stick to start seeing growth.
Creative content will attract high authority backlinks.
At the same time, don’t feel like you need to always reinvent the wheel.
Brian talks about this a lot, but you should look at content that has performed well in the past.
Use tools like Buzzsumo and the first page of Google to see what content has attracted the most backlinks.
You can then use the same idea, but create something completely unique and better.
Keep in mind:
This is still creativity!
The only difference is that you aren’t coming up with ideas out of thin are.
Instead, you are using ideas that are already validated. This will increase your content’s chances of success.
6. You Need to Be Unique
I can’t stand rehashed information. I see it so often across all verticals and it’s painful to see.
Rehashed content won’t earn you backlinks.
If all you can think of are rehashed ideas, then don’t publish at all.
It’s better to publish one super unique piece of content than it is to produce rehashed garbage.
Make it unique.
Be creative and be different.
Bloggers link to content that is innovative, unique, and super valuable.
7. You Must Outperform Others
As I explained in a previous step, you need to beat your competitors.
There are likely a few competitors in your industry that are producing stellar content.
You need to outperform them.
They are the benchmark.
Analyze their content and do your best to understand why it performs well.
- WHY do they get so many social shares?
- WHY do they get so many blog comments?
- What makes them different from the thousands of other bloggers in your industry?
Understanding why they are successful will help you develop a plan to beat them.
The goal isn’t to beat them in a slimy or unethical way.
The goal is to beat them by giving MORE value.
That needs to be your goal no matter how hard it may be.
8. You Have to Be Consistent
Instead of trying to be perfect, you need to be consistent.
You should try to produce at least some content everyday.
Will it always be a masterpiece?
It’s the ACT of producing content is what’s actually valuable. That’s because your efforts will compound overtime.
It’s about putting hard work day-in and day-out.
You can look at Derek’s blog and see that he only publishes 1-2 times a month.
Does that mean he’s chillen’ the rest of the month?
He’s working on other parts of his business that will bring value to his readers.
It doesn’t matter how often you publish. It matters that you are producing value on a daily basis.
The more you produce, the better you will become.
Your thoughts will crystallize.
It’s obvious when someone worked super hard to produce a piece of content.
That’s because the more effort you put into a piece of content, the better it will be.
The better content is, the more backlinks you will attract.
But you HAVE to be consistent.
Consistency isn’t some God-given talent. It’s about organization and planning.
That’s why you should consider using an editorial calendar.
Editorial calendar help end decision fatigue.
You will wake up and know what needs to get done without having to think about it.
You want your content production to be on auto-pilot.
Here are resources for creating an editorial calendar:
- How To Boost Success With A Content Marketing Editorial Calendar
- A Content Marketer’s Checklist: Editorial Calendar Essentials
- 10 Reasons Your Editorial Calendar Sucks (and How to Make It the Best)
9. You Have to Build Relationships
To earn backlinks, you need to build relationships.
Your blog can’t be an island in the middle of the ocean.
You need build connections and relationships.
These relationships will lead to backlinks.
You won’t even have to ask for a link most of the time.
Just the act of establishing relationships with top bloggers will often lead to links.
That is, as long as your content is valuable and unique.
When trying to build relationships, you need to always focus on what YOU can do for the person.
Do you remember what I said about being user-centric?
The same principle applies when trying to build relationships.
You should be thinking about how you can help the prospect. Not how you can get more out of them.
Give, give, and give more. Then, you will receive.
Think about it:
Why would anyone want to link to your blog after getting a cold email request? I know I wouldn’t.
To get your blog and name “out there” you need to use repetition.
That means your name needs to visible on many fronts.
Start with a well-thought-out comment on their blog. Then follow that up with a Tweet or response to a Tweet of theirs. Then send them a non-committal email.
Repeat this cycle over and over until it’s obvious that they know your name.
Once you have gone through this effort, THEN ask them how you can help them in one way or another.
How can you give them value? Why should they link to your content?
Does your content deserve links from a top blog? Is it THAT good?
You will always have a biased answer.
That’s why you should seek outside opinions.
ASK top bloggers what they think about your content.
(Asking bloggers “what they think” about your content is a great way to get exposure).
10. You Need to Build an Email List
That’s right. One of the best ways to earn backlinks is to have an email list.
That’s because you can email your list whenever you publish a new blog post.
The people on your list are receptive to you and like what you are doing.
Many of these same subscribers also have blogs of their own.
It is much more likely that a loyal subscriber will link to your content than it happening at random.
I’m sure you have seen this happen:
A top blogger publishes a new blog post and BAM:
They have countless social shares and comments within hours.
How does this happen?
It’s because they promote their content to their list!
Having an email list is a true asset for your business.
You have complete control of your email list.
It isn’t affected by algorithm changes.
It isn’t affected by policy changes.
It is yours and it is the ultimate asset.
Growing an email list should be a priority for EVERY business.
11. You Need to Promote Your Content
Yes, to EARN backlinks, people must see your content.
Invisible content doesn’t get backlinks, no matter how good it is.
Content promotion is a topic I’ll be explaining in future posts because it’s comprehensive. Make sure you SUBSCRIBE to see those training articles when they come out.
Here is a simple technique you can use:
Similar Content Outreach
This is one of my favorite tactics. Here’s how to do it:
The most important element of this strategy is to have a great piece of content. It needs to be much better than the other relevant piece of content they are linking to.
To find prospects use Buzzsumo or look at the first page of Google for your target keyword.
Take the top 10 results and run them through Ahrefs or Majestic.
They may not change links, but they might link to your resource in a future article. If they don’t link, then they will likely share the content piece on social.
There are many other sneaky outreach techniques I’ll be sharing in later posts (join my list now to avoid missing out).
For now, remember to share your content on your owned media assets such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
It’s important to engage with the audience you already have because it can lead to natural links.
Bonus: What About Guest Posting?
I’m a big fan of guest posting, but it’s not a way to EARN backlinks for your website.
The reason is because you are the one responsible for placing the link back to your site.
That isn’t earned.
In essence, YOU are deciding that your website or content is worth linking to.
EARNED means that you created a great piece of content, promoted it, and someone linked to it by free will.
Like I said, there is nothing wrong with guest posting for:
- brand building
- traffic generation
- link building (use our blogger outreach service)
But as far as being an EARNED backlink, it is not.
If you control the link, it’s not earned.
To actually earn backlinks, you must focus on giving tremendous value through content.
There is no shortcut.
There is no quick fix.
You just need to think about how you can help your users.
Then, create content that actually helps them.
Be user-centric and the backlinks and social shares will compound over time.
Link building is a massive topic, but this should give you the foundation you need to be successful.
Want more SEO help? Check out Gotch SEO Academy.