A Comprehensive Guide to Building Organic Links
Blog: The Process Street Blog
With nine years in the aviation industry, Daniel Martin is an experienced team-builder with several high-performance content creation teams under his belt. He is currently the Head of Customer Success at LinkDoctor.
As of October 2019, there were 1.72 billion websites on the Internet. Keeping up with reputation and rank is important for any website owner, but it’d be impossible to manually check every site one-by-one.
Google has developed a ranking algorithm that crawls through billions of websites in a short time. This algorithm determines the site’s relevance and trustworthiness based on several factors, including backlinks from other sites.
A backlink is equivalent to statements such as “I trust this website,” or “This is a valuable website.” This is why link-building has become necessary to get higher ranks on the Internet.
High-ranking sites are more visible on search engines’ results, which leads to higher conversion rates and traffic.
When it comes to organic links, though, you can’t just ask other sites to give them to you; you need to earn them. But how do you get other sites to link to yours?
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about:
- What are organic links and link building?
- Focus on gaining these high-quality links
- Low-quality organic links to avoid
- How to deal with toxic backlinks to your website
- Determining the best strategy to gain organic links
- Understanding user behavior and interests to increase organic traffic
- Identifying your site’s customer personas for more tailored content
- How to create high-quality, linkable assets other sites will want to use
- Optimizing your website for better organic links
- Leveraging social media for more backlinks
Read on for step-by-step instructions on sowing those backlinks to your site!
What are organic links and link-building?
Organic backlinks are acquired without an agreement between sites and inserted into the body text without the intention of influencing Google’s rankings. When another site links to yours without you reaching out first, you’ve earned yourself an organic link.
Link-building involves different strategies to get inbound links from another website. The purpose of link-building is to improve your site rankings, but it requires outreaching, among other methods, to be successful.
With that in mind, organic backlinks and link-building don’t seem to work together. However, there is what we call organic link building. This includes white hat strategies that won’t go against Google’s guidelines. You can find more details about these below.
Focus on gaining these high-quality backlinks
When it comes to backlinks, it’s all about quality, not quantity. Too many low-quality or toxic backlinks will only work against you and potentially penalize your site.
First, let’s go over the types of high-quality links you want to focus on.
Incorporating backlinks in guest blog posts
Many websites accept guest post submissions and usually have a page dedicated to explaining their submission guidelines. Some will allow you to include your links in the body of the article, while others require payment for the same process.
For a guest post to be effective in gaining backlinks, you need to prepare high-quality content. A poorly-written article can become a toxic link, or the site may not accept your submission at all. You can use linkable assets you’ve already published on your site to give your article more value.
Blogger outreach services help sites without resources build outreach and guest post teams. When you can hire more people to form such teams, you’ll need to train them and provide tools such as email management and analytics software.
Professional tip: Write for the site’s audience more than for yourself. Focus on writing around a topic that will be more beneficial to the site’s readers while incorporating your site’s niche as well. The perfect topic will have elements of the niche of the site you’ll be writing for and your site’s niche.
Create valuable content to gain editorial links
Editorial links are one of the most valuable links you can acquire. If you only publish linkable assets that are high-quality and truly valuable, the chances of getting editorial links are high.
This is where all your hard work creating great content and a professional website comes into play. Other sites will include your links in their content because of the quality and value of your posts. Google values these kinds of links, and they are sure to improve your ranking.
Relationship-based link building
Networking inside and outside your industry is a great thing for your site. While your goal is to get your links on their site, don’t just straight up ask for your link. You want to build a relationship with them, and this may take time.
You can approach them through email, their social media accounts, or personally over a cup of coffee! Try to do something for them first. Providing them with a benefit is a great way to start a positive relationship. Feature their site, products, or tools on your site. You can also support their goals or missions. This way, you’ll be able to approach them for something in return, like a link back to your site. Chances are that they’ll just include your link without even asking for it.
Link building through niche directories
Online directories are an age-old technique in link-building. As a result, they’ve started to lose their value. That’s why it’s best to avoid general directories and focus on ones that have specific niches, like Yelp.
Yelp hosts food-related businesses and home service companies. Their monthly organic traffic is over 100 million, so you know that you’re going to get the exposure you need.
It’s high domain rating also gives a good signal to Google that if your business is included in this site, you’re relevant and valuable. You can submit your details to the site and be approved in just a couple of days.
Professional tip: Make sure to submit true and updated details to online directories. Don’t spam the directory site with your submission. These are some factors to get your submission rejected.
Building backlinks with badges
Technically, badge abuse has become prevalent now and not something you’d want to do if you don’t want to get penalized. As long as your badges focus on branding and are not mandatory, then you’re all good. Since people pay more attention to images, badges are wonderful ways to get exposure.
However, you must limit the alt texts within the badges or the links with them will be considered spam. You also shouldn’t give incentives to sites or readers when they share your badge. This would become a form of paid linking, which I’ll explain further when we talk about toxic backlinks.
Replacing broken links with backlinks to your own content
Finding broken links on other sites is tedious, but it can be rewarding as well. Broken links negatively affect a site’s SEO, so it’s important for sites to regularly check and fix broken links.
Once you’ve found a broken link on your target site, reach out to them about it, and offer them a working link with similar content from your site. You gain an automatic organic link, plus some goodwill from the target site in the process!
Low-quality organic links to avoid
Now it’s time to look at the types of backlinks you should avoid. These can be practices that have fallen out of favor with algorithm updates, links that cost more than they’re worth, or hurt your ranking. You may come across other sites that use these low-quality links, but you’ll avoid them if you want to keep your high-quality organic backlinks.
Spinning articles for links
Article spinning is when you create what appears to be new content by recycling content that already exists. You never want to do this, especially when submitting guest blogs. The sites you’re writing for expect you to provide unique content, and will likely reject any spun articles. Google will also penalize your site for spinning content, not to mention that the practice is just an unethical way to do business.
Paying for more links
Paid links are still a common practice among websites, despite being frowned upon by Google. Many sites that accept poor content in exchange for money have already been penalized. This is one of the clear reasons why many of these websites have had their traffic drop after algorithm updates.
While we’re talking about paid links, this doesn’t only involve money. Links exchanged for favors or other items are also considered to be paid links.
The bottom line is: never pay for links.
Placing links in a site’s sidebar, header, or footer
There’s nothing wrong with these types of links, but they don’t have any value. More than likely, they won’t do anything for your ranking.
If you have links in these places, it’s best to ask the site to remove them. Sidebar, header, and footer links can be good if done right, but it’s still better to avoid this risky placement.
Spamming comment sections with backlinks
Never spam comment sections with your links.
Many websites now have tools to prevent spammed comments from getting through, and you’ll only be wasting precious resources by pursuing this kind of link.
Sourcing backlinks from general directories
Remember that niche directory websites are your targets.
General directories have been used by a lot of sites for backlinks, which has led to spammed content. These directories won’t impact your ranking but will cost you time and resources. You’re also likely to get a Google penalty for being listed there.
How to deal with toxic backlinks to your website
What if you have toxic backlinks redirecting to your site? What should you do?
Removing toxic backlinks can be time-consuming, but if you’re willing to make the effort, just follow these steps:
- Search your backlinks and identify bad ones: You can use different tools (such as Ahrefs) to gather backlink data on your site. Once you have your backlinks, check the site’s authority and spam score, as well as the placement of your links for value.
- Reach out to the site: When you find a toxic link, reach out to the site and simply ask them, in a professional manner, to remove the unwanted backlink.
- Continue to monitor your backlinks: There’s no guarantee the site will remove your links even after you ask. Check back to see if the link has been removed. If it’s still there after one or two weeks, move on to the next step:
- Report links to Google: Use Google’s Disavow Tool to avoid having your rank impacted by toxic links.
Determining the best strategy to gain organic links
Now that you understand good and bad links, it’s time to gather your resources. Based on what you have, you will determine the best methods or approaches to gain good links.
If you have business partners who are serving a similar audience, you can negotiate for a link or guest post exchange.
If you’ve included a link to a site in one of your blog posts, you can proceed with relationship link-building. Compliment their good work and give reasons why you included a link to their site. If the relationship continues to develop well, there are chances the site will link back to you.
Have you created creative media files that are valuable and informative?
You can use social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to grow your target audience. When you’ve established your brand as reputable and trustworthy, your ranking will improve, thus leading to more organic links.
However, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. You need to take into consideration your industry, your brand, and your resources.
Gaining organic backlinks isn’t all about external content and developing relationships, though. If your own website isn’t up to snuff, all the networking in the world won’t garner you those valuable backlinks.
Understanding user behavior and interests to increase organic traffic
When you created your website, you had a vision and a goal about what you wanted to achieve with it. Whether your site is about problem-solving or providing informative content, you need to know what your users are looking for on your site.
Everything you put on your website will cost you in time or money. If you don’t plan your content and do in-depth research about your target audience, you’re less likely to become a reliable source. If your site lacks reliability, other sites won’t want to link to your content, lowering your overall number of backlinks.
The best websites focus on a specific service, niche, or purpose. Through this, you can determine your target audience.
For example, Process Street provides business process management software to teams and businesses. Looking through recent blog posts, you’ll notice a large majority of the content there is designed to be relevant and valuable to that specific audience.
Tools like Google Trends can help you learn your target audience’s interests. Once you know what content people are looking for, you can determine what will be most useful to them.
Google Analytics has a Behavior Flow Report that can help you determine how your readers are engaging with your content. You can find out if people skip parts of your content or read it carefully.
Creating or joining forums can give you insight into your target audience’s feelings, needs, and opinions. Community sites such as Quora and Reddit are great places to start. If you have the resources to create your own forum, it’ll be much easier to gather the needed data.
Identifying your customer personas for more tailored content
It’s time to group your readers and create customer personas.
Look for common attributes which include problems and goals. You can also group them according to demographics, industry, age group, and occupation, depending on your website’s goals.
For example, a website dedicated to child education may group readers into school teachers, homeschool tutors, parents, and online educators, or readers could be grouped by student level (primary, secondary, and so on).
When creating your customer persona, add the basic details first. This may include name, age, occupation, location, interest, and behavior. Then, you can add the common problems and goals of your customer persona.
You may need to periodically update your gathered data and customer personas. Trends will constantly change depending on current events and other factors. Keep this in mind.
Alternatively, a good brainstorming activity when working with a team, is to use an empathy map – a visual representation of what is known about a particular user.
How to create high-quality, linkable assets other sites will want to use
Now that you have an in-depth understanding of your readers, it’s time to create your content. This content needs to be a unique, linkable asset; it can’t be a post you could find on every other website.
Linkable assets attract backlinks. Done correctly, they’ll also encourage social media users to share your content. The secret to creating linkable assets is to make them relevant, unique, and worth sharing.
Follow these tips to create effective linkable assets:
Back up your assets with interesting and accurate data
People love facts and surprising data. If you provide content with interesting and relevant data, chances are that other sites will link back to you.
On sites like Statista you can find accurate statistics of almost everything. However, many high-authority websites will also use these sites, so getting your own data is a great way to get those sweet organic backlinks.
For example, you could start with simple polls and surveys through your site or email messages. You can also try using social media to get your fresh data.
Appeal to users on an emotional level
Humans are emotional creatures. If you can tap into that side of your readers, you can be sure to get backlinks from them.
You can tell a story that includes real-life events. Problems or tragedies, as well as success stories, are always a crowd-pleaser. Explain how the solutions you’re presenting will benefit your audience.
If you’re willing to handle potential negative feedback, you could even tackle a controversial topic. There is a chance that you might generate anger or hostility with your post, so you must be careful when doing this.
Provide valuable solutions in your content
Clever solutions can also generate organic backlinks. Whether your website is targeting business owners or homemakers, your readers will surely appreciate their issues being solved.
Other websites will also want to feature your unique problem-solving idea for their readers. There are high chances to get a mention on their site. After some time, you can also look for unlinked mentions to you, reach out to the site, and ask them to link to your original content.
Create original content for your website
Long-form written content is great, and Google will love you for it, but let’s face it: many will not read your entire published article. This is where media files come in.
Media files can be images, slideshows, videos, and more. These files give more value to your content and can also attract many kinds of readers. Your customer personas will inform the kind of media you should create, whether it be an instructional video or an infographic for a listicle.
Media files can drive a lot of organic backlinks, especially in social media. Make sure to have a professional create your media files. If you don’t have the resources to hire someone yet, you can learn how to create them yourself.
Include links to reputable, high-authority sites
You can find all kinds of valuable information to include in your content from other sites, and provide links back to them.
For example, you’re writing an article about the importance of digital transformation for companies. Business Insider has an article that backs up your claims about how businesses have been affected by the pandemic. You’ll want to include a link to that article on Business Insider, which, as a high-authority site, raises your content’s credibility.
Offer free trials, demos, and tools on your site
Everyone loves free stuff.
If your site sells products or tools, you can share free or trial versions to potential customers. The better quality and usability of your product, the more likely it is that other sites will include it on their listicles, creating more organic backlinks for your site.
Optimizing your website for better organic links
No matter how great your content is, you won’t get anywhere if your site doesn’t look professional.
Imagine that you own a bakery with the most delicious baked goods, but your location is shabby and rundown. Potential customers won’t even give your delicious baked goods a chance to win them over. The same is true for your website.
Your website’s design is either make or break when it comes to giving your customer a great first impression. If you aren’t sure if your website looks good enough, ask some trusted people for their honest feedback.
You need to focus on the UX and UI web design. UX means user experience and includes how comfortable your readers can navigate through your site. UI means user interface and focuses more on the aesthetics or looks.
You also need to work with web developers to improve your site’s loading speed, bugs, and other factors that can ruin your readers’ experience.
The important thing is to make your site professional and easy to use. Make sure that all your linkable assets have a great-looking and comfortable home for readers and other sites to link back to you.
Leveraging social media for more backlinks
In 2019, 3 billion people used different social media platforms. That number is only going to increase in years to come.
Social media enables businesses to have a closer relationship with their target audiences, which is why a good social media profile is so important. A well-established social media profile with great engagement will improve ranking and authority. This requires a lot of work initially, but the benefits are worth it. With a strong social media presence, your target audience will be able to find your content and easily share it with their own followers, creating a nice domino effect for your traffic stats.
Building organic links: Final thoughts
Now that you’ve gone through this comprehensive guide on building organic backlinks, you’re ready to start your own quest to reach the top of search engine rankings.
Not every strategy will succeed every time but don’t view that as a failure. Even the most experienced marketers stumble now and then; it’s all part of the learning experience.
Most importantly: remember to stick to your goals. Focus on providing content that is valuable to your audience. The more people who choose your site as a destination for their needs, the higher your rankings will go.
These checklists will help you kickstart your backlink journey:
- SEO Checklist
- Website SEO Optimization (Quick Setup Guide)
- Technical SEO Audit
- SEO Checklist: The Keyword Research Process
These sites offer some further reading:
- Digital Marketing Tools: Best New SEO Software I Use
- A Solid Keyword Research System to Get Your Post on the First Page of Google
- 4 Tough SEO Lessons All Marketers Will Learn
What strategies have you used to build your site’s organic backlinks? Have you noticed an impact on your website ranking? Tell us about your experience with backlinks and share any useful tips you’ve learned along the way!