Search engine algorithms are always changing (Search Engine Land). That means the SEO strategy you use for your clients must evolve too. Some core tenets stay the same, such as the importance of a good linking strategy for your clients’ sites. Your linking strategy should, of course, include both internal and external links. There’s another important component: how to get backlinks.
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Backlinks are important because they show the trustworthiness of your client’s site. That said, it can be difficult to get good backlinks. Poor backlinks are sometimes worse than no backlinks at all. This guide looks at how to get backlinks the right way, so you can improve your clients’ rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
What are backlinks and why do you need them?
Before we dive into how to get backlinks for clients, a quick refresher on this type of link is helpful. What is a backlink, and why can it be so tough to get good ones?
Unlike internal links, you have far less control over backlinks. These are links made by other sites to your clients’ websites. An example might be an article on a local news outlet’s site. When they run a story on your client, they’ll link to the client’s website—that’s a backlink.
Since backlinks appear on other websites, you have less control over them. As a result, it can be tough to get good backlinks.
You might wonder if you really need to worry about backlinks for your clients. Why are they so important?
Backlinks signal the authority of the content or the client. When many trustworthy sites link back to your client’s pages, it sends a message—this business knows what they’re talking about. In turn, lots of good backlinks make your client look more trustworthy. Search engine algorithms will give sites they deem trustworthy a boost.
This is also why you want to watch out for bad backlinks. Links coming from spammy domains, for example, can harm your client’s reputation.
With all that in mind, it’s time to look at some different methods for how to get backlinks the right way.
HARO and digital PR can earn quality backlinks
We already mentioned digital news outlets as a good source of backlinks. You might not get the New York Times to give you a link, but there are plenty of outlets that will link to your client’s site.
How do you get these news outlets to sit up and take notice? Digital PR is one tried and true technique. If your client has a “newsworthy” story, then a PR blast can get them featured on news sites.
Many news outlets will pick up these kinds of stories and run them alongside other stories on their site. A business network might want to know if your client is opening a new location or launching a new product. A local news outlet would run a story about the new location.
The “Help a Reporter Out” or HARO tool can also help you land some great backlinks (Cision). Many reporters need help with stories, which your client may be able to provide. A local reporter may want a comment from a business owner on a bylaw change that affects business signs. An industry reporter might want a story about new products or innovations.
If a reporter interviews your client, they're likely to link back to the website in their upcoming article.
How to get backlinks with the skyscraper technique
Another way to get high-quality backlinks is to use the skyscraper technique.
With this method, you’ll seek out existing content from your competitors. Using backlink analytics, you can see how many sites are linking to their content. If you offer SEO white-label services, then you and your clients might already have access to an analysis tool that can help you find this data.
Once you’ve determined that, you can go about creating better content for your client. This might be more in-depth and more up-to-date than your competitors’ content.
When you have superior content in hand, you can reach out to those who are linking to your competitor. Ask them if they’d like to replace the link.
Does that actually work though? You might think the skyscraper technique won’t get you a lot of links. After all, are website owners and journalists all that eager to do the work of replacing links?
You might be surprised! Many are willing to replace their existing links, especially for more up-to-date or in-depth content. People want to read the best, so they want to link the best. (It also helps their own SEO efforts to link to high-quality content.)
Track brand mentions
What if there were opportunities for backlinks that already existed? It happens quite often. Someone will mention your client or their product, but they won’t link back to the site.
Using tools to check brand mentions can help. You’ll receive a notification when your client is mentioned. If they’re not linked to, then you can reach out to build a linking opportunity.
Keep in mind that not every mention is one worth linking. If you find an article that tells everyone how awful your client’s product is, it’s best to leave that one alone. If an article appears on a low-quality site or a known spam site, you’ll want to avoid reaching out.
How to get backlinks using broken link building
The skyscraper technique is a variation of what’s known as “broken link building” (Search Engine Journal). In this case, you’ll look at existing content.
You don’t always have to go back and build better content to dethrone your competitors here, though. You already have similar content that can replace broken or dead links in articles.
Like the skyscraper technique, this works because people want to link to high-quality sites. Broken links are bad for their SEO, but they can be a pain to replace. If you offer a solution—high-quality content—they'll jump at the opportunity.
Keep in mind that you want high-quality backlinks for your client. You may not want to reach out to every webmaster about every broken link. Try to target those that have a high authority score.
How to get backlinks with resource pages and lists
Another good method for how to get backlinks is to reach out to resource pages, directories, and sites that run “top-X” type articles.
Any of these resources can provide a couple of good backlinks. Resource pages provide many links for users who are looking to research a topic. Educational institutions, industry associations, or other authoritative sources put these resources together. In some cases, all you need to do to get on the list is fill out a form and submit it.
Directories are often similar. You may have some backlinks from directories like the Yellowpages, which can boost local SEO. Other directories, like a local business association, can also provide authoritative backlinks.
List-type articles can be another good way to get backlinks. To do this, start by searching keywords and monitoring volume. You might want to try “best X restaurants in Austin” or “best IT providers in Erie County, PA.” Once you’ve assembled a list of relevant articles for your client, reach out to the authors. Start with the most authoritative and work your way down the list.
A short, persuasive pitch about why your client or their product is “the best” or deserves to be on the list can go a long way. This method also helps push brand awareness, since the client’s name will come up across more sites.
Build free tools and publish ultimate guides
If you want to drive traffic and get high-quality backlinks, then publish content that people want to link to. Two of the best ideas are free tools and “ultimate guides.”
Free tools are often helpful for search users. If your client is a payroll company, then they may offer a free tool to help calculate deductions. If your client is a carpenter who makes custom cabinetry, then they might offer a free project estimation tool. Home improvement sites might link back to the tool, because it’s useful for their readers.
Ultimate guides generate backlinks for a few reasons. One is that they’re in-depth and contain a lot of high-quality information. If another site is running an article on the same subject, they may link the guide as a source. Ultimate guides may also contain unique research or statistics.
Finally, ultimate guides are often helpful for readers who want to go more in-depth. A blogger might include it in a list of “follow-up” reading for the user who wants to go on a deeper dive and learn more.
Build a better linking strategy
There are plenty of techniques for getting backlinks. Not all of them are good—and not all backlinks are created equal. These methods for how to get backlinks are all search engine approved. You can trust that they’ll help your clients, especially if they’re offered by the expert team backing your white-label SEO service offering.
Better yet, most of them are simple to use, and they work to build better relationships for your client. If you help a reporter out, chances are they’ll come back to you the next time they need a quote. If you pitch a great article to a blogger, they might look to you for more content.
In this way, you can help your client build a better linking strategy—for today and tomorrow.