What Is Link Building in SEO? 5 Tips For Staying Ahead Of The Competition

What Is Link Building in SEO? 5 Tips For Staying Ahead Of The Competition

Soar to the top of the SERPs and leave competitors in your dust as you read our top tips to ace link building in SEO.

Matthew Spurr

When you’re up against your competitors, being first on the leaderboard isn’t an easy job. After all, there’s only one place at the top for a reason.

One of the most obvious ways to best your competition is to rank higher than them on search engines. If your page appears higher than another, users are much more likely to choose yours.

A tweet that depicts a meme written by Semrush. It shows a sad face, and then the words "Outranks my competitors", followed by a happy face.


75% of users will stick to the first page of Google results. If you aren’t showing up here, you might be invisible to a big audience. If that wasn’t enough, over 25% of users will simply click the first search result that comes up.

But how are you supposed to improve your search engine ranking? Is it just a coincidence, or chance? We promise you it’s not. Google is basically one big popularity contest.

It’s hard work to climb to the top. But you can create a ladder by implementing link building. The idea is to create links to your page from other websites to gain visibility, higher rankings, and to be viewed as an authority by search engines.

The algorithms need to choose the most relevant pages to show up for users. When you’re writing for search engine optimization (SEO), you need to be building backlinks.

When reading a blog, not unlike this one, you’ll notice it has links that lead somewhere else. They take you to a page that delivers any extra information you might need.

This signals both to search engines and users that the content it’s linking to should receive the same respect because it was chosen as a point of context. Thus, a higher page rank.

The page that has been linked to now has a backlink. If your page has lots of these, search engines will determine that your website is a valuable source of information. And, as you’ll be aware, the higher up you rank, the more clicks you’re going to get.

You will be glad to know that 91% of pages online get no organic traffic because they have no backlinks pointing to their content. Looks like there’s something to tap into there, right?

The infographic by Grizzle shows that out of 1,500 marketers interviewed: 92% produce blog content, 89% rely on organic search, 24% rely on external publications/guest blogging, and 22% are creating original studies.


Now we know what we’re dealing with. Let’s run down how we’re actually supposed to use this knowledge, shall we?

Key takeaways

  1. You need to build confidence. If your page hasn’t got any authority, your content has to speak for itself. While we’re sure it can, it has to be heard first. That’s where problems arise.
  2. Links from a page with authority mean a lot more than from somewhere spammy. Build relationships with reputable connections for quality backlinks.
  3. Pages with plenty of links rate higher. Google stated that an identifier of a trustworthy website is whether reputable websites refer to the content or link to it.
  4. Create high-quality content that proves you are worthy of the ranking you’ve gotten. Getting everyone to your page is only worth something if they like what they see.
  5. There are different types of links. An internal link points to a page within its own website. External links go from one webpage to another. One isn’t better than the other, so you should utilize them both.
  6. Google prefers links from a variety of sites. Take a look at your link profile and make sure it looks diverse.

Things are always changing in the world of digital marketing, Google’s algorithm is no exception. In fact, there are thousands of updates each year. To stay current, you have to be moving, but sometimes it can be hard to keep up.

Luckily for us, the value of links remains constant. Yes, you can breathe a sigh of relief now. But you’re not in the clear yet, though. If you want to be strides ahead of your competition, you’ve still got a lot to think about.

Dive into our top link building tactics and learn how to increase your Google ranking over time. You’ll thank us later.

You wouldn’t expect someone to promote your new content simply because you cornered them. You haven’t given them time to get to know you, so why do they owe you anything? Link building, as we mentioned before, is about cultivating relationships.

The flow chart shows the stages of first publishing quality content, then getting shares, then gaining subscribers and followers, then having a community that supports the growing site, then gaining a reputation, then gaining authority, and finally having a stream of users finding the site organically.


When it comes to link building techniques, social media is your friend. It’s a place with a captive audience and many, many users who are interested in what you have to offer. It’s also where your brand shines.

Waiting around and waiting for those relationships to build won’t work, though. You can still look desirable if you reach out with a strategy. It doesn’t make you desperate. Here are our three steps for just that.

1. Great web content

Without worthy content, you’re headed nowhere. Content marketing and link building may feel like two different things, but in an ideal strategy, they should work together.

Without something worth sharing, you aren’t going to earn high-quality links. The aim is to create something beneficial to you (because you get shares and clicks) and to them (because you provide something amazing).

It’s good practice to look at your web content, too, for your on-page SEO. For example, having an engaging, useful homepage attracts users, which in turn brings links.

Look at children’s music catalogue Mubasic and their homepage design. The colors are attractive, it’s easy on the eyes, and it’s interactive. This isn’t a webpage you’re likely to ignore, which means increased retention and more clicks.  

The screenshot shows Children's music source Mubasic's homepage. The colours are muted but exciting and hovering over it results in the images moving.


Here is also an opportunity to slide in those important keywords. They bridge the gap between your content and what users are searching for.

If you do your research and understand the specific words your audience wants to see, you’ll also determine which words have the highest search volume. Including these throughout your content will help you rank higher.

2. Strategic interaction

Good content. Check. But in order to build important relationships needed for link building, you need users to engage.

Take a look at Carhartt on Instagram. They interact with consumers in their comment section. This builds a relationship with their audience because they can see that not only does the brand listen to them, they respond.

Two comments from followers ("We belong in the wild" and "Nothing better") are responded to by Carhartt ("Everyone should experience the wilderness. It's hard work, too" and "Agreed."


It’s also important to consider who are the right people to engage with. Consumers are brilliant for organic traffic. Despite Google claiming that social shares don’t impact your rankings, they do play a significant part in link building.

Of course, once your stuff is out there, it starts to generate referral traffic. Google may not be bothered by how many likes your Instagram post received, but they do like to know how clickable your content is. They’ll use this metric alongside links to judge your page authority.

As much as we need to bring people to our content and keep them there, we need to build backlinks. Here, think about interacting with influencers, experts in your industry, or bloggers with a shared interest. They provide a massive amount of link opportunities:

  • You promote them, they’ll promote you.
  • You can reach out for guest blogging opportunities (we’ll delve into that a bit later).
  • The backlinks are more likely to happen organically because you’ve proven your worth and gained trust.
  • It doesn’t all have to be about blogs. Getting mentioned in videos or podcasts will bring organic traffic.

3. Outreach

By conducting outreach marketing, you can curate a system of links from reputable sources.

The idea is to identify and research those you can gain something from. If you run a bakery, getting a backlink from an article about dog food isn’t going to spark a meaningful partnership. It certainly won’t bring the right audience to you.

You want to gain attention from their audience, too, in order to broaden your reach. This means you need to think carefully about who you are asking to promote your work. With research that is done right, you’ll build a map of credible links.

The infographic shows the key benefits of outreach marketing, which are building links, reaching out to bigger audiences, communication with users through trusted parties, and empowering collaborations.


This method allows you to use a white hat approach, which means quality links and a long-term investment, instead of a black hat one. This will help you with Google in the long run.

Your backlinking is only done to sites that are relevant and useful. Though this isn’t exactly a quick way to improve your Google ranking, the increase will be long-lasting.

Here are some pointers to follow:

  • Conduct a gap analysis. By discovering where your competitors’ backlinks are, you can steal opportunities that haven’t yet been found.
  • Create an outreach list. This will keep you on track and will help you identify what content you need to be covering and who to engage with.
  • You should also be personal when reaching out or pitching anything. No one wants a dull, generic email when they’re being asked a favour.
  • Be patient. If you want to build ethically, it’ll be a journey. But stick with it.

Utilize anchor text

When we’re link building, there are many things we need to think about. The obvious one being the hyperlink. But do we dissect it and take a look at our anchor text enough?

This is the clickable part of a hyperlink that’s usually in a different colour. You might think it looks like a small part of a big thing, but it has a huge impact on your SEO. Utilizing descriptive anchor texts is in Google’s SEO Starter Guide.

The image shows a hyperlink with the anchor text highlighted so you can see which part it is. It's the part that reads "SEO strategy".


When planning your anchor texts, you should take note of the following list:

  • Using keywords is essential, but don’t run them into the ground. That way, your anchor text will sound like everyone else’s.
  • Try to avoid generic language like ‘click here’. Actionable words are fine, but choose something with a bit of personality.
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Don’t mislead users. You want your anchor text to describe exactly what they’re going to find when they click the link.
The infographic shows what you need to remember when writing your anchor text, which is keep anchors relevant to the content, keep your anchor text natural, keep your anchor text brief, make your anchor text stand out, distribute your anchor text naturally, don't over-optimize, and track your hard work.


The type of anchor text you use is also something you need to consider. They are all useful in different ways. It’s best to use a variety, so your text isn’t flagged as being repetitive or spammy.

  1. Exact match anchor text: Using your focus keywords directly as the anchor.
  2. Partially matching anchor text: Picking out pieces of your focus keywords for your anchor instead.
  3. Branded: This is when a link has your brand name as the anchor. 80-95% of your links should be in this category.

Now we understand anchor text, but what part does it play in link building? To figure this out, we need to know what the relationship between anchor text and search engines is.

  • Google wants to give their users the most relevant links first. By using descriptive and specific anchor text, you’ll be the first thing they see. If you are deemed the best source for the topic, you will always outrank your competition.
  • User experience has also become a pretty important part of the ranking. Consumers want to know where you’re taking them. If what you’re offering isn’t clear, then they might assume it’s not what they’re looking for.
  • Your anchor text is responsible for providing the context, so choose the right phrasing. Google will associate your web page with keywords, meaning you’re more likely to be chosen as a suggestion.
  • The more clickable these links are, the longer consumers will stay on your web page and hopefully other pages. That identifies your piece of content as valuable.

When it comes to link building, it’s best to remember that everything plays a part. Don’t neglect something like anchor text because it looks insignificant. It could be the difference between clicks and no clicks.

When you’re writing content and need to research, you’ll probably go to a page you trust. But what if you found that their external links pointed to outdated content? Do you think you can do better? Then do it.

Create rivalling content that improves upon what’s been covered already. Then you can reach out to the domain owners and let them know you’ve got something of more value to link to. While you’re at it, get in touch with any site that uses the old link.

They should be pretty happy to swap the old link out for yours since no one wants to direct their customers to an empty source. Think of it as a win-win for both of you.

Broken link building is a solution to link rot, which is a delightful term. This method can take some time, but there is a lot of scope here. Through one of the case studies done by Ahrefs, we learned that 66.5% of links to 2,062,73 websites had rotted over 9 years.

SEO marketer Brian Dean put his twist on this tactic by inventing the Moving Man Method. The idea is to find sites that have become redundant, perhaps because they have not been updated or the company has changed URLs.

Then, find out which other sites link to that one. We will provide some tips on tools to use soon, hold your horses. Export the backlinks, message the other site owners and let them know about the redundant site. Then, suggest a link to your site as an alternative.

This method differs because it doesn’t target broken links. Because they arejust outdated or moved, they won’t be flagged by broken link checkers.

This means site owners are usually unaware of the problem, and you can create a relationship by reaching out with a solution.

On the same hand (just a different finger), you’ve got link reclamation. This is the process of updating broken links to your site.

This is important for a host of reasons, not limited to user experience, inaccurate traffic analytics, and decreasing rankings. Broken links confuse everyone, so it’s best to get a handle on this before it starts to cause damage.

A backlink profile could tell you about everything that points to your site. But surely there’s no way you can keep track of all your links? Google Analytics can, however, and will point you in the right direction. Then, you just do the same as you did for other broken links. Give the owner a nudge and send them an updated URL.

As important as link building is, you can’t forget to upkeep the quality of them. It’s much more effective to have a good link than lots of links that are low-quality or broken.

Prove your worth by guest blogging

To successfully establish yourself as someone worth listening to in your industry, you should consider taking part in guest blogging or guest posting.

Google is getting wise to meaningless links. We have to prove that we’re doing this for good. There is no better way to do so than with high authority, building a community of website owners, and content creation.

Research the top dogs in your industry and carefully craft a pitch for them. Make sure you won’t be posting as a guest or ghostwriter. You need a byline or link.

The infographic depicts the process of guest posting, which is research target audience and topics, generating post ideas, finding relevant guest blogging sites, contacting editors with your ideas, writing the post, post getting published, and finally promotion.


Once you’ve blown them away with your potential, craft something brilliant and watch users flock to your page.

It sounds like a breeze, but there are some important things to remember. Luckily for you, we’ve made a list. Convenient, right?

  • Link to your guest posts. This will help you continue a relationship with the site owner because they’ll appreciate the gesture. Also, even though you don’t own the web page, it will improve the authority of a page you are associated with.
  • You don’t have to be scared to mention your brand in the content. Discuss what your brand is doing, offer solutions and information, and participate in a discussion. Simply promoting your stuff makes it sound like your intent is simply to build links.
  • Choose your referring domains wisely. Writing for a well-known brand will boost your credibility much faster.
  • Try to build a foundation before pitching ideas. This can be done on social media, as we mentioned before, in forums, blog comments, or simply by reaching out and expressing an interest in someone’s content.

Guest blogging is a way to achieve genuine links while simultaneously telling the world you know what you’re talking about. It’s an effective way to build traffic too, which definitely won’t hurt your Google ranking.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we work on our link building campaign, we just can’t get there without a little help. That’s not a bad thing. Combining your efforts with link building tools can make life easier for you while also improving your number of links.

Here are our suggestions for tools to take advantage of:


Link building, no matter how important (and it is), is only one thing to check off from our never-ending to-do lists. Instead of ignoring it, try using a tool like Semrush.

A screen cap from Semrush's website that shows what the brand offers in terms of tools. This includes the backlink gap analysis, backlink analytics, and the link building tool.


Why? You have everything you need, from SEO strategy to research and marketing, all neatly on one platform. What’s not to like?

But we’re here to focus on link building. And Semrush has just the thing. Their abundance of backlink analysis tools does all the work for you. You can:

  • Conduct an audit to uncover what you need to work on and what’s already working.
  • Track your inbound links.
  • Find link outreach opportunities.
  • Boost your link prospects.

There’s also a separate link building tool if the above points aren’t enough. You’re able to automate your campaigns and gain reputable backlinks as you do so.

The beauty of this tool is that it has data on prospects that will actually lead to links. You don’t have to do the research on your own.

You can try the tools for free before you commit so you can see if Semrush is for you. The platform offers a free subscription which includes ten backlink analytics a day. If you are a bigger team, we recommend Pro, which costs $119.95 per month.


As with any strategy, you need to be able to measure its success. What’s the point of link building without your very own Rank Tracker?

A screen cap of Ahref's website, which shows how the Rank Tracker works. It shows that you can add keywords and have them tracked for their performance.


The tool comes with a lot of handy insights:

  • You can monitor your place on Google search and keep a close eye on where you rank.
  • The tool is equipt with interactive graphs that give a visual of your SEO progress.
  • It’ll also tell you which keywords are beneficial for SERPs and which are detrimental.
  • You can even see how your competitors rank and how their progress looks.
  • Ahrefs will send you email reports on a schedule, so you don’t need to lift a finger to see your updates.

Ahrefs offer plans ranging from $83 (Lite) to $833 (Enterprise) per month as a part of an annual subscription. These prices go up to $99 and $999 if you want to pay monthly. Fortunately, the Rank Tracker is included in the cheaper option, along with many other helpful tools.


Courtesy of Moz, we dive into our final pick for link building aids. It’s an all-in-one SEO tool that guarantees everything you need to outrank your competition.

A screen cap from Moz's website which tells its users what it offers. It promises that you can uncover competitive advantages to target top positions.


  1. Rank tracking. You can track the performance of all your keywords across over 170 search engines.
  2. The Moz link index. It allows you to see the metrics of any site, including domain authority and anchor text.
  3. Site audit. This enables you to uncover any technical SEO issues which could be hindering your ability to build links or rank higher.

The platform offers a free 30-day trial, so you can confidently give it a go before you buy. When you decide it’s for you, it’ll cost you $79 for a standard subscription or $143 for a medium package as an annual rate. These costs change to $99 and $179 if you opt to pay monthly.


We’ve considered the many opportunities when it comes to ranking higher, and the different ways to build links that comes with this. You want to think about these as different ingredients of one great meal.

A one-ingredient sandwich doesn’t usually tickle the tastebuds. You want to take a bit of everything for that perfect bite. That’s the sentiment here. Consider all of our tips and work them into your link building strategies.

A gif of Joey from the television series 'Friends' holding a sandwich. He then smiles and holds it up as if showing it off.


There you have it. Not only are you ready to throw everything you’ve got at link building, but you’re bound to outrank your competition as you do it. If you take the time and remember quality over quantity, we guarantee you’ll see results. So what are you waiting for?