5 Must-Know Link Building Tactics for SEO in 2020
Backlinks are a vital aspect of ranking well on search engines in 2020. But link building is shrouded by countless questions and doubts:
- Will Google penalize me for actively building backlinks?
- Should I just "create great content and wait for links to come?"
- Will linking from a blog comment do anything for my site?
- Is guest posting dead?
- Heck -- is SEO dead?!
A few things are certain.
First, SEO is far from dead, as 71 percent of all internet traffic comes from search engines.
Second, links are still a major ranking factor in Google's ranking algorithm.
Having said that, link building has become harder and harder. More and more sites are producing good content. And more and more sites are becoming familiar with and turned off to link requests.
So how can you cut through the noise and continue to build high quality, relevant links in 2020? Don't become irrelevant. Give these tactics and strategies a shot.
1. Hyper-Personalize Your Outreach Emails
The majority of webmasters are now familiar with a typical outreach email. They're often templated, and at times even irrelevant due to automations not being as finely tuned as they should be. Check out this recent outreach I received:
If you run or post on a website with even a decent amount of traffic/rankings, you're familiar with this email. Which is why only 8.5 percent of outreach emails received a response in 2018.
To see link outreach success, link outreach much be personalized.
Personalized subject lines boost response rate by 30.5 percent and and personalized email bodies have a 32.7 percent better response rate (via Backlinko's email outreach study).
Tips for Personalized Outreach
Do it Manually
Here's the deal: sure you can automate link outreach and send 100 emails in a day. But your success rate will be around 1 percent, earning you approximately one link.
The alternative? Handcraft 10-15 excellent outreach emails with carefully selected targets. If done well, I can just about guarantee you'll land at least two or three links.
Use Detail and Offer Value
Be realistic -- who's going to add a link to a page when the ask is, "Hey, found your page about x. Will you add my post on y?" Very few.
But if you can add some actual detail and offer some real value? Much better chance.
So take 30 seconds and actually take a look at the page you want a link on. Find a section or paragraph where your resource would truly supplement the post. Here's a recent outreach email I sent on behalf of my marketing agency:
2. Examine Context and Link Placement
Since Google rolled out Penguin 4.0, it's no secret that not all backlinks are created equal. Some links carry more weight than others, meaning a well placed link on a relevant and high authority webpage is going to carry exponentially more benefit than 10 article directory links.
This means that link building is becoming more about quality than quantity, and that evaluating the value of a link is a crucial skill.
Factors that Affect Link Value
The Website's E-A-T
The website, not just the webpage, plays a major role in link equity. Google is looking for sites they deem as experts, authoritative, and trustworthy. This is a tough thing to gauge on your own, but you can use metrics like Moz's Domain Authority, Ahref's Domain Rating, Majestic's Trust Flow or SEMRush's Authority Score.
The Page's Relevance
As Google has refined their algorithm, relevance has become increasingly important. Even if a site has high authority, the page needs to be relevant to the link target. In Google's new economy, a branded link from a puppy website is going to carry little value to a page about SEO.
The Link's Location
Is the link you're after in the first paragraph? Or buried in the footer or sidebar? Are you asking a link to be stuffed just anywhere, or within a hyper-relevant paragraph? Are there a million other links on the page?
It's become clear links that pass the most equity are high up on a page, followed by crawlers, surrounded by relevant text, and of only a few total links on the page.
3. Consider Your Link Profile
Also a result of the Penguin algorithm updates, Google is looking at your link profile as a whole when calculating your site's chances of ranking. It turns out, sites operating with spammy link building tactics will wind up with a spammy looking profile -- where perhaps 90 percent of their links are from low-authority sites, or 100 percent of their anchor text is keyword focused.
Google can easily identify these as spammy tactics based solely on the link profile.
So as link builders, we're after natural link profiles with diversity and balance. As you prospect link targets, consider what kinds or types of links you need in your profile. You can use tools like Moz, SEMRush and Ahrefs to examine aspects of your link profile.
Aspects of Your Link Profile to Consider
Anchor text carries a big role in how Google sees your site and pages. You want balanced and accurate anchor text pointing to your site. So if you have 100 percent branded anchor text, you're not giving Google much help in analyzing your site. On the other hand, if 100 percent of your anchor text is keyword focused and stuffed, crawlers might be skeptical of your tactics.
Followed v.s. Nofollow
A website doing real business and operating on the internet is going to have some no-followed links. It's inevitable, and Google knows this. So Google might be wary of a site with all followed links. Likewise, they would not attribute much authority to a site with no followed links.
Diversity of Sites
In most cases, the more referring domains you have pointing to your site, the better. Link diversity indicates expertise and trust. If all of your links come from just a few sites, this won't send the most positive signals to Google. It may even indicate spammy tactics.
4. Use Google Search Operators to Find Opportunities
Google search operators are a link builder's best friend. There's no need to waste time scanning the web one page at a time looking for link opportunities.
Search operators are special characters and commands that open the door for advanced searches right within Google. They allow you to find bulk link targets with a single search.
Best Use Cases for Search Operators
Finding Guest Post Opportunities
[your-topic] intitle:"write for us" inurl:"write for us"
Some say guest posting is dead, I think there's still value in the right circumstances. This will help you identify sites in your niche that allow guest posting. You can also try phrases like "contribute" or "guest post."
Finding Resources Pages
[your-topic] intitle:resources inurl:"additional resources"
If you've done link building for any amount of time, you know resources pages offer pretty great link placements. This operator will help you track down relevant resource pages or other pages that features additional resources on the topic.
Finding Broken Links
This is a very simple one, but if attempting to replace broken links, this will help you find all instances of the broken link you're trying to replace.
5. Find Your Biggest Fans
One of the biggest indications of future linking is past engagement.
If you've been active in your field for awhile, publishing regularly, and active on social media, there's a good chance you've got some fans out there. (Maybe fans is a stretch, but people are interacting with you.) These people are probably much more likely to link to something of yours than a stranger, right?
So ask them!
Make a list of people you know of who may be likely to share a resource, add a link of yours to their site, or promote your content.
Where to Look?
Is there anyone who comments on every blog you post? Consider responding to one of their comments and requesting a share, or reaching out directly for a link.
Social Media Engagers
Similarly, anyone liking, retweeting, or favoriting your stuff all the time? Take an extra step and ask them to link to whatever you shared from their website. You might be surprised at who will be willing.
If you have some links, you likely have a list (or tool) that will show you where all have come from. Though link diversity is important, these targets are probably low hanging fruit for more links.