Search Engine Optimization

Link Building for SEO: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide in 2021

The internet is a crowded place where it’s difficult to be heard and easy to get lost—this is especially true if you use it to search for information from websites.

Fortunately, search engines like Google found ways to simplify the internet users’ searching experience, ranking sites according to their value in the digital ecosystem. 

However, ranking on search engines is no easy feat. High-quality content is not enough for your website to rank in search engines and outrank others—you still need to carry out effective link building.

As one of Google’s factors in ranking websites and pages, link building should be your top priority if you want your site to be easily found by countless users online. However, keep in mind that link building can be tricky right off the bat if you have no idea what to do and where to start.

There are still various processes and concepts you need to understand to fully make the most out of your website’s link building.

While there may be a lot of information about link building that you need to take in, don’t worry—this guide is made to help you get started.

What is Link Building?

Link building is the process or practice of having other websites or pages on the internet link back to your own. Through one-way hyperlinks, site visitors of other websites (usually non-competitors) can navigate from their page to yours.

Doing this can improve the search engine visibility of your website, and in the process, increase site traffic and authority.

Sounds easy, right?

While it sounds simple, developing an effective link building strategy is something that even expert SEOs still see as a challenge. But once you determine what makes an effective link building strategy and master those techniques, you’ll have another tool to help you get ahead of the competition.

Why Are Links Important for SEO?

You didn’t create a website just to be left on page 20 of Google’s search results, right?

This is where link building comes in. It plays a crucial and significant role in how Google will rank your webpage. To quote Google itself,

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.

Different Types of Links

1. Editorial Links

An editorial or one-way in-content links are used to mention a source cited within a body of content. This link leads to the source used by a site in its content. Editorial links are considered powerful since they imply that your website is credible and informative enough that content curators use it as a reference.

2. Outreach Links

Outreach linking includes modern link building, which involves manually getting in touch with various individuals such as business owners, bloggers, and influencers. These individuals will link your website on their own. Outreach links can only be earned on a more personal level while generating a higher ROI when done correctly.

3. Self-Created Links

Links can have a positive or negative impact on your ranking. These are links created by the site owner to try and fool search engines. By tricking search engines, site owners attempt to make it seem like their own links are relevant and vital when they’re not. Self-created links are often used in forums, unmoderated blog comments, and guest post signatures.

Nofollow vs. Dofollow Links


If you encounter an HTML tag that goes a rel=”nofollow,” what you see is a nofollow tag, and any nofollow tag is technically considered as a nofollow link. This link tells search engines to do one thing: to ignore it since it holds no importance for search engine rankings.

You might wonder: why do nofollow tags exist if it doesn’t impact search engine rankings? Well, Google specifically created this tag to combat spam on blog comments when blogs were starting to get big.

But despite all of that, nofollow links can directly help your SEO strategies and drive site traffic.


Opposite to nofollow links are the dofollow links. This is the default state of a link, without the nofollow tag. Google introduced dofollow links in 2005 to reduce spam and improve overall search results.

If a reputable website links your page with a dofollow link, it will be easy for Google bots and real-life internet users to follow you. It’s important to note that Google keeps track of dofollow links. The more dofollow links your site has, the more Google will see your site as a good and credible one.

While it may be essential to get dofollow links from other sites, it’s vital to acquire a follow link from high authority sites. With dofollow links, you can increase your page’s ranking while improving your overall credibility.

Identifying High Quality vs. Low-Quality Links

If you want your website to look good in Google’s eyes, prioritize having high-quality links and getting rid of low ones.

Low-Quality Links

Low-quality links would come from untrustworthy websites, and for some, it may even scream spam. Such links make no impact on your website’s SEO and can even ruin your reputation and authority, affecting your search engine ranking.

Low-quality links often come from websites that are equally poor in quality. These sites break guidelines set by search engines like Google. Another factor that you can notice from low-quality links is it leads you to websites that contain spam tactics such as keyword stuffing, interlinks of poor quality sites, and tons of ads.

While determining the reason as to why a link will be considered poor is still a gray area, you can help identify quality by answering the following questions: 

  • Would you revisit this website?
  • Would you recommend it to your peers?
  • Does the site contain unique and legitimate information that’s worth sharing? 
  • Does the site contain an acceptable or decent amount of paid ad units?

High-Quality Links

High-quality links are the ones that would positively impact your search engine ranks and increase your website’s domain authority. Moreover, quality links don’t come from spam sites. If you want to earn and build one, we highly advise you to follow the search engines’ guidelines.

Building quality links can’t be achieved overnight. It’s an ongoing process that you need to constantly build to reap positive effects in your search engine rankings and domain authority.

Consistency is the keyword here—avoid shortcuts such as black hat link building strategies that will only harm your search engine traffic and ranking.

One of the factors that can help you identify a quality link is its page relevance. Determine how relevant a page is to your website’s content. Again, avoid manipulation and other black hat link building methods. You may get started by using link builder tools on the internet.

Link Building Strategies

1. Guest Posting

Guest blogging has become a prominent strategy that companies and marketers have consistently turned to for link building. This strategy enables you to generate authority links, drive more traffic, and more reach.

To get your guest post to appear on the first page of Google’s search results, publish content on sites that already have a good SEO presence.

Related: 9 SEO Copywriting Tips That Actually Work

2. Broken Link Building

Too busy to write blog content or guest posts from scratch? Try the broken link strategy!

This strategy involves finding pages on blogs with links that don’t work (also called dead links) and asking the blog owner to replace those dead links with links that direct to your blog or site. 

3. Unlinked Mentions

While scrolling across blogs or pages similar to your own, have you noticed that your brand or website is mentioned?

If you did and saw that it’s not linked to your site, grab the opportunity to have it linked back to your site. You can send a request to the site owner to convert their unlinked mentions of your brand or website.

4. Resource Pages

Building links to resource pages is a strategy that will make your site one of the go-to resources for a particular topic.

Among the benefits you can get with this strategy is gaining more links that direct to your site and your site will be seen as a credible source that people will deem as trustworthy and helpful.

5. Infographics

If you have quality content that can still go a long way, why not make it into an infographic?

Infographics are also a link building strategy that can help drive traffic to your site and gain backlinks. Make sure to upload your infographics to your website so bloggers and site owners can easily link you back.

6. Skyscraper

This technique starts with finding relevant content containing numerous backlinks. Then, you can create entirely different content with better quality or updated information.

After this, you can reach out to those who have linked to the original content to link to your improved content.

How to Start A Link Building Campaign: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you have no idea where to start with your link building process, get familiarized with the following step-by-step guide!

Step 1: Set your link building campaign goals.

Like any other venture, you need to set goals beforehand. These will help guide you every step of your way. If you know your website’s needs, it will be easier to determine the key metrics that measure your link building campaign’s efficiency.

Step 2: Find prospects and contact information.

With campaign goals already in your mind, the next thing you would want is to find people who share the same goals as you.

Get ahold of their contact information and send email templates of your campaign. You can use link building tools to help you look for the right contact persons and their contact details.

Step 3: Create your email templates.

Now that you know who your prospects are, it’s time to create emails that contain the pitch of your link building campaign.

Start with a subject line that summarizes your email content and a short introduction to your company and website. Then, create a personalized email containing your prospect’s name and the specific value they will get from you. Don’t forget a compelling call-to-action.

Step 4: Reach out to prospects.

Link building can be a tedious process, especially when you start outreach.

The outreach process has three major components: offering, prospecting, and sending personalized emails to prospects. The majority of the link acquisitions came from outreach and building relationships with real people. Doing this takes time, but it’s a worthy investment.

Step 5: Create an asset for the prospect.

Create ‘linkable’ and quality assets that are worth citing or referencing for webmasters.

These assets may include informative blog posts, crowdsourced content, and sales or product pages. Make sure to always consider your target audience in the picture and create an asset solely for them if it increases the chances of earning high-quality links.

Step 6: Send the asset to the prospect.

Like the way you sent your first emails to your prospect, be sure to send your assets to them in a personalized manner. Make sure you leave the door open and invite them to reach out if they want to work with you again in the future.

Step 7: Monitor your link.

It’s important to monitor all of your outreach efforts to check for any live links. For this step, you can use link building tools that can help you monitor your outreach activities.

Step 8: Follow up with the prospect.

Check on with your prospects regarding the assets you sent them.

You may include a list of content ideas in your follow-up email or as soon as they respond. Doing so opens the opportunity to gain extra time researching their audience and brainstorming untapped topics that can add more value to their end.

Step 9: Track your link building campaign.

Once you get that sweet “yes” from your prospect, don’t let your link building efforts go to waste—continue to track and monitor links. Check what links were changed and especially the ones that were removed.

Best Link Building Practices

Build links that result in legitimate organic growth by approaching it with the following best practices:

DO NOT buy links

Sure, link building is a taxing and tedious practice, but buying links is not the best option, and it’s against Google’s terms. You know what they say, “an easy way out is never a good idea.”

If you intend to rank on Google in the long-term, buying links will only mess with that goal. 

Check your prospect’s history

Don’t we all need assurance?

Unfortunately, getting an assurance whether your website will be linked back is not served on a silver platter. But there are ways to get assured by checking your prospect’s history.

You can figure out the link types, ranks, and qualities of the links that they usually choose through this. From there, you can determine whether you have a high chance of getting a link.

Do A/B testing in your emails

A/B testing is the process of sending different variations of your link building campaign to one group of webmasters and a different variation to another group of webmasters.

The goal of this testing is to determine which variation can gain better results. A/B tests may involve sending multiple subject lines and sending entirely different email templates to webmasters. These tests often have one clear goal: to determine which email template of your link building campaigns could generate more click-throughs. 

Schedule emails accordingly

Don’t forget to follow up by scheduling emails accordingly. You may send a follow-up during the webmaster’s work hours to avoid annoying them and losing the chance of turning all those no’s into a yes.

Provide a quality asset

Have you experienced getting your links rejected by the website you’ve been eyeing?

Maybe it’s not them who have a problem, but your rejection is mostly because of your asset. If you have poorly written articles or low-quality photos, why would you think a highly reputable site would risk their ranking by linking you in their content?

Always provide quality assets by creating good content and great images. 

Don’t just build links—build relationships

While you exert all efforts in building links for your site, you’re hitting two birds in one stone. This is because you’re also building relationships with real people out there.

If you feel like building links becomes tiresome, change your perspective. Think instead of the number of people you’ll develop meaningful connections with, and every effort you spend will be worthwhile.

Link Building Tools

If you want to build links on a whole new level, why not look into link building tools to suit your website’s needs? There are specific link building tools used for research, prospecting, outreaching, and reporting.

Link building tools used for research can help you find the right websites and types of sites you should approach. If you want to save time looking for relevant sites to link your content with, you can use prospecting and outreaching tools.

Such tools can help you with site listing, bulk outreach, and prospecting in a manual or semi-automated approach. 

Lastly, if you prefer link building tools that allow you to do custom reporting or group links according to their rank and organic traffic, then reporting tools are what you need.

Tracking and Monitoring Your Links

You probably don’t want to waste all the effort you spent on acquiring links.

To ensure that your hard-earned links won’t get lost at any time, tracking and monitoring them should be your priority. By tracking and monitoring your links, you can identify which ones are being removed or altered within a specific timeframe and take action before Google does its own.

Measuring Your Link Building Campaign Success

Many new site owners think that the number of links you’ve built is the basis of your successful link building.

Think again—counting the number of links won’t cut it.

You need metrics to measure efficiency. These metrics include the number of referring domains acquired every month, improvement in Google’s rankings, and growth in your site’s organic traffic. If you do well on these metrics, you’re doing better than you think.

Are Links Still Relevant in Today’s SEO?

There’s no clearer answer than this: YES.

If you want your website to rank on Google in 2020, you must work on quality links, and building them is just as important!

Other than content, links are considered as one of Google’s ranking factors. The quality and quantity of links to your site are directly correlated with how much traffic your site receives.

Summary & Takeaways

Keep in mind that link building doesn’t happen overnight. You need to take extra time and effort in building quality links before you can reap its promising results.

After reading this beginner’s guide, you’ll no longer walk blindly through the complicated but rewarding world of link building. So, start building links now!

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Link Building Infographics

By Zac Almeida

Before joining the team at Ethical Digital, Izaias built a successful SEO agency in São Paolo, Brazil. With over twelve years of experience providing data-driven SEO, he has worked with businesses of all sizes - from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. After selling his business to travel the world with his wife, "The SEO Hustler" has been helping companies in more than 15 countries and 6 languages thrive in the digital and search world.


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