What is Link Building? A Beginner’s Guide to Earning Quality Backlinks

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By tom.baldridge

Link building is the process of acquiring external websites to link back to pages on your site. These backlinks are considered votes of confidence, and a key factor for higher search engine rankings.

But not all links are created equal when it comes to SEO value. Here is a beginner’s overview of smart link building strategies:

Backlinks 101

Backlinks are instances where a page on another website links to a page on your site. For example:

  • A blog post on Site A links to a product page on Site B
  • An article on Site C references research from Site D and links to it
  • Page E links to Page F as a recommended resource

Search engines like Google interpret backlinks as votes of confidence and authority. More backlinks (from reputable sites) signal that a page offers valuable content.

Gaining relevant backlinks to a website is a crucial part of search engine optimization (SEO).

Why Are Backlinks Important for SEO?

Backlinks matter for SEO because:

  • They indicate page relevance – If other sites related to “gardening” link to your site, search engines see your content as relevant to gardening.
  • They help search bots crawl websites – Backlinks provide pathways for search bots like Googlebot to discover new webpages.
  • They signal trust and authority – Backlinks from established sites pass on “link juice” and authority that improves search rankings.
  • They drive direct referral traffic – Visitors clicking backlinks come to your site pre-qualified. Backlinks convert.

Overall, reputable sites linking to you enhances trust and authority in search algorithms’ eyes.

Characteristics of Quality Backlinks

Not all backlinks impact SEO equally. Low-quality links can actually damage your site’s rankings.

High-value backlink characteristics include:

  • Contextual relevance – A gardening blog linking to your gardening content
  • Thematically related – A blog about recipes linking to your chef tools
  • From authoritative sites – Links from major publications or brands
  • Text links, not just logos – Anchor text describes the page being linked
  • In the content flow – Naturally embedded, not just stuffed in footers/sidebars
  • Ethically earned – Not bought, swapped, or gathered through spam outreach

A few great contextual links from reputable sources outweigh a large volume of artificial links.

Common White Hat Link Building Tactics

“White hat” describes ethical link building practices that provide value, not just manipulative SEO.

Popular white hat tactics include:

  • Skyscraper content – Creating superior resources that sites can’t resist linking to
  • Guest posting – Publishing articles on relevant sites with backlinks
  • Link roundups – Having your content featured or recommended in roundup posts
  • Interview outreach – Getting featured in expert interviews on authority sites
  • Brand mentions – Getting your site referenced by name in press and media
  • Testimonials – Happy customers mentioning your business online
  • Resource page links – Creating link-worthy resources like tools and research
  • Social engagement – Being an valuable member of online communities

The key is earning backlinks slowly over time by creating value. Patience and persistence pay off.

What is Link Building Outreach?

Link building outreach involves proactively contacting webmasters and influencers to request backlinks to your content.

For example, if you publish guest posts for SEO, you would research sites accepting contributor articles in your niche and pitch ideas tailored for their audience.

Some other outreach examples include:

  • Finding product reviewers or bloggers relevant to your business and sending free samples
  • Monitoring when competitors or related sites are mentioned in the press to also secure mentions
  • Asking trade publications or industry experts to review or feature your new tool or research
  • Reaching out to complementary businesses to request adding your site to their blogroll or link resources

The key is personal customization – no spammy mass emails. Target sites where a link would provide value for their audience while expanding your visbility.

Link Building Strategies to Avoid

On the flip side, some common bad link building practices harm your site’s rankings:

  • Buying links – Paying to add your site to blogrolls or link directories
  • Link exchanges – Swapping links solely for SEO
  • Spamming links – Mass outreach using templates offering nothing of value
  • Keyword-rich anchor text – Over-optimizing anchor text with exact-match keywords
  • Irrelevant links – Getting random links with no contextual meaning

Google’s algorithms heavily penalize manipulative link tactics like these. Avoid shortcuts – there are no long term benefits.

Link Building Should Support Content Strategy

Don’t build links just for the sake of links. Links should naturally stem from providing value through great content.

If your website offers engaging, useful content that resonates with high-authority sites, earning relevant links will flow as a byproduct over time.

So rather than a standalone tactic, smart link building supports an integrated content strategy focused on delivering real value to readers. The higher quality and uniqueness of your content, the more link-worthy it becomes.

Link building takes effort, but pays dividends in increased domain authority and sustainable search visibility. By focusing on relevance and value, your website will accumulate trust indicators that reflect positively on search rankings over the long haul.

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