As in life, so in content marketing, there are some things you can control, and others that you can’t.

You can create great content, but you can’t make sure it ranks #1 for your target keywords, right? That’s firmly in the domain of search engines and their volatile preferences, isn’t it?

Fortunately, that’s not true.

And while we often talk about producing great content (it is 75% of success), there is one aspect of SEO and content marketing that guarantees your articles will be ranked properly.

Today, we’re talking about backlinks:

  • How do backlinks affect your SEO and rankings?
  • How to get backlinks: beginner strategies
  • How to get backlinks: advanced strategies
  • How to reach out to publishers

Let’s do this!

There is a reason we call the internet “the world wide web.”

Google (the main judge in your SEO trial) understands the internet as a web of sites, interconnected through links.

Your website (back)links function as a jury.

Every member of the digital jury can give you a vote of confidence. And the more votes of confidence you get, the higher are your chances of winning (i.e. ranking highly).

So in order to increase your ranking, you should get as many links to your website from other websites with authority.

And speaking of authority...

What is Domain Authority and why do I need it for SEO?

Domain authority's effect in a nutshell - Source: Avenger IT

Domain authority is a ranking score developed by Moz.

If you have a new site, your domain authority is low because you don’t have any backlinks at all (yet). You can check your DA here.

The more (quality) backlinks you get, the higher will your domain authority score be, giving you more influence and better SERP (search engine results page) positioning.

But some backlinks are more equal than others.

The best type of backlinks are editorial backlinks. Those are organic backlinks, in which someone links to your content within their own content because it’s valuable and contextually relevant.

The higher the linking website’s domain authority, the higher the impact it has on your own domain authority. For example, it’s not the same if Forbes links to you, or your local gazette (unless you’re a local business).

An editorial backlink example. If the anchor text (the hyperlinked text) is descriptive and targets the right terms, even better! - Source: Blog Bloke

Guest post backlinks are also good, if they’re added within the text. However, if the site you’re guest-posting for only lets you link from your author bio, or the end of the article, it might not be the best option.

Finally, you can also get backlinks from business directories (think: Yelp). They won’t increase your domain authority as much, but they’ll help you create a “healthy” backlink profile.

Ultimately, you should use all kinds of backlinks to create a good reputation for your website. But the more editorial backlinks you get, the better.

(This is where great content really comes into play.)

Nope.

If Google gets wind that you’re participating in link building schemes, you can receive a Manual Penalty that will impact your chances of ranking properly in the long term.

Here's how you can get backlinks efficiently and legitimately:

1. Oldie but goodie: use the Skyscraper technique

It's all a web of links, I tell y'a!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a lot of content out there.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be bad for your business. Just implement the Skyscraper technique:

  • Find the most popular posts for your target keywords
  • Jot down the sub-topics and questions they cover, and the angle they cover them from
  • Take note of their formatting
  • Find “gaps” in the currently popular articles
  • Use BuzzSumo to see who shared those articles (websites, thought influencers, etc.)

Then, create a better article.

The goal is to make your article even more comprehensive, i.e. even more valuable:

  • Cover more questions
  • Offer simpler explanations
  • Offer examples or step-by-step tutorials
  • Make the article more readable or interactive (e.g. add a video)
Hammertime's got nothing on keyboard-time

If you’re not in the mood for going through dozens of highly-ranked articles and figuring out a way to write something better, get in touch with ContentFly.

Our expert writers will create the article you need, and you can get 4,000 words of content every month for just $250/month.

Want to see some samples? You’re reading one right now. But if you’re still not convinced, check out the content types we cover and take a look at our blog.

After receiving your article, get in touch with influencers and websites that shared the high-ranking content, and offer them your article in turn.

2. Create content with influencers in mind

Would you rather link to a post in which you demonstrate your authority, or to a post that someone DM-ed you?

Personally, I’d pick the former. I’m guessing we’re on the same page here.

So here’s what you’ll do:

  • Brainstorm an expert advice post
  • Get in touch with the aforementioned experts and ask them for their two cents on the topic
  • Create the content
  • Send the expert the link, thanking them for their contribution, or tag them in your social media shares
Great example of an experts roundup post from CanzMarketing

My advice is to go for medium-level thought experts and thought influencers. Everyone who has over 500k followers is probably swamped by DMs and requests to contribute to their articles.

But if you strike gold with someone in the 50k-300k range, whose followers are engaged and overlap with your target audience, not only will you get the social mention/backlink juice, but you’ll also be exposed to your target audience.

Wait, do social media links count?

Yes, they do. The so-called linkless mentions contribute to your digital authority, not just your website authority. This helps Google and other search engines figure out your reputation.

And if you’re mentioned in a positive context by people who have a high, positive reputation themselves, you’ll be in a good crowd.

All of this leads to creating a healthy reputation and backlink profile that you need to rank higher, and stay in the top spot.

You and your online community. Note: the happiest person is smiling because they're hanging out with their potential customers. They won't just sell; they'll get more insights directly from the source.

SEO is becoming more and more organic by the minute.

Similarly, your backlink and SEO strategy are no longer limited to tech stuff only.

You should also focus on social media.

This is a win-win: you’re improving your domain authority and online reputation, while also promoting your content to relevant audiences.

How to get backlinks and exposure from online communities:

  • Find the communities your target audience uses (e.g. startup founders are often on IndieHackers, and Facebook Groups and Reddit host diverse communities)
  • Start participating in those communities (offer advice and respond to posts)
  • When you've earned their trust, share your own content in a way appropriate for the platform

But Lana, what do you mean by “a way appropriate for the platform?

Let’s say you’re on Twitter.

If you want to share your content, you shouldn’t just slap a link on that baby and call it a day.

Instead, share the key takeaways from your content as a series of Twitter threads.

Zero to Marketing share their long-form content on Twitter as a series of Twitter threads

Facebook Groups? There’s nothing people hate more than members who just post their links with no explanation. Instead, create an introduction post in the caption, explaining why you created the article, and how it’s a valuable resource.

If your article isn’t a valuable resource to the members of that community, then you might have to rethink your content strategy, and hire a writer who specializes in your niche.

Similarly, I’m a vocal advocate of using online communities to find relevant keywords and content topics.

There are keywords and questions in online communities that keyword research tools just won’t show (even though people are looking for them).

This is a good strategy if you’ve already earned some mentions.

(If you only got started yesterday, you might want to scan this section and bookmark it for later reference.)

First things first, google your brand name within quotation marks.

Go through the content appearing for it, and see if there’s someone who is mentioning your brand, but isn’t linking to it.

Then, reach out to the publisher. I love this template by Siege Media:

Similarly, if you got a link, but the target page is no longer relevant, you can reach out to the publisher and ask them to update the link.

Normally, saying that this new resource will be more valuable to their readers is a good way to pitch the change.

5. Become an expert in your target outreach websites

Every single business owner has a website they are dying to be linked from.

You probably have one, too. A website that is read by so many of your target audience members, and shares amazing content that ranks #1 consistently.

But here’s the thing: these websites we are aiming for get hundreds of emails every day.

So if you want your outreach email to stand out from the crowd, you have to focus on that website:

  • What topics and niches do they cover? (Be specific.)
  • Who are their most prolific publishers? Engage with their content on social media
  • What kind of content do they link out to?
  • What kind of guest posts do they publish?

You want to get a sense of what their goals are, and how your content can help achieve them.

Treat the websites you want help from as partners, because that’s what they are.

No, you can’t do this for every website.

But you don’t have to.

You just have to do this for the websites that can give you a backlink so strong that it will quickly boost your ranking.

If you've engaged with their website or publishers, they'll be more familiar with you and trust your intentions when you send that outreach email.

(It’s all about trust, guys.)

There’s nothing better than appearing on “Top 5” or “Best of” lists.

Why?

Two reasons:

  • Those posts are seen by people who are already looking for a solution like yours, and they're ready to buy it
  • That backlink type can improve your domain authority significantly

It's also a simple tactic that you can implement right away.

Ingredients:

  • A list of articles from reputable websites that mention your competitors, but don’t mention your brand
  • Social proof (e.g. testimonials from your customers)
  • A personalized outreach email

Preparation time: 30 minutes.

Recipe:

  • Google terms such as: “Best [insert your product category]
  • Check out the sites: do they specialize in your industry? Are they popular? Do the articles look legit and interesting to your target audience? Would you trust their recommendations?
  • Prepare and personalize your outreach email: reference your own experience with the site as a reader (Did you like their recommendations?), mention the post that’s missing your brand, add social proof (a quote from a customer, a case study, or something else that proves your value), and state your product’s USP that differentiates it from everyone else on the list

Then leave it to cool in the fridge.

Value is at the core of every marketing strategy, and the same goes for content and backlink strategies.

But if you create great content that you believe in, it’ll be much easier to explain its value to everyone who can help you improve your rankings and reach even more customers.

Are you ready?

It’s backlink time!