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:
Right now, the U.S. is going 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 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. All you need to do is:
- create a great piece of content
- prospect for websites that have linked to similar articles before
- reach out to them
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 guest posting 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.
Now to you:
What are YOU doing to EARN backlinks for your website?
Let’s keep talking in comment section and share this article if you enjoyed it.
Thanks for reading!