Links are getting harder to build, yet they’re still arguably the most important ranking factor.
So it’s no wonder SEOs often resort to tactics that are weird or outright annoying to get their links.
If you don’t want to employ shady tactics or “link begging” for your backlinks, follow along with the professional strategies outlined here.
In this guide, you’ll learn about five link building tactics that:
- Can be used over and over again
- Don’t require paying for links
- Won’t get you in trouble or make you feel sketchy
Using these tactics, you can build new links to your site week after week and watch your rankings soar.
Let’s dive right in with the first tactic now.
If you’ve created any original images for your site, there’s a good chance other sites have copied them. And here’s the thing…
These are normally bloggers that have searched Google Images and copied them without searching for the original source.
So, how does this help you?
All you have to do is send an email to each site that copied one of your images.
A stern yet friendly email requesting they link to the original source will convert very well. Most recipients want to do the right thing and give you credit, and they are eager to avoid any takedown requests or legal action.
Once you’ve found the sites using your images, you can sort through them and separate the quality sites from the scraper sites and garbage.
Then for each quality site that’s copied one of your images, search the site for a contact address or run the domain through an email finder like Hunter.io.
Lastly, reach out to the site owner and let them know that they’ve copied one of your images and you’d like credit for it.
You can use the following template:
Hey there, I saw you used an image I designed for my website in your post here: THEIR_URL I don't mind it being used on your site, but could you include an image credit for where it was originally published: YOUR_URL Thank you!
The vast majority of sites that copy your images won’t link on their own, so this is a treasure trove of high-converting outreach prospects. It also converts much better than typical “please link to me because I asked nicely” outreach emails.
Repeat your image searches
You can reverse search an image today, but you won’t know if someone copies it tomorrow. Make sure to routinely reverse search your images to find new prospects.
Image Prospector automates this by running a new search for you every month.
Create more quality graphics
The more graphics and photographs you publish, the more link prospects you’re going to get.
Optimize your images to rank
The easier your images are to find in Google Images, the more people will copy them, and the more links you’ll get.
Optimize your images by placing a keyword in the filename and alt text and surrounding the image with relevant text.
Use this get deep links
Getting links to articles is often much harder than getting homepage links. This is a great opportunity to get links to your inner pages.
2. Reverse Outreach
If your site is relatively popular, you’ll get SEOs emailing you regularly asking for links. This is another killer link opportunity for you.
When you get this type of request, check their site to see if it’s relevant and authoritative. If so, offer to link to them if they link back to you.
You get to skip all of the link prospecting and get straight to the link. It also works nearly 100% of the time.
This tactic is pretty simple, but here’s another template to give you an idea of how this works:
Thanks for reaching out! It looks like a great article. We can add a link to your post, but would mind also sharing our GUIDE somewhere on your site? Thanks!
They’ll either add the link right away or let you know where they can link and check for your approval first.
While this tactic is repeatable and produces an excellent ROI, the only downside is that you cannot control when these opportunities arise.
Let them know the page you want linked to
In your reply, give them a URL on your site you want them to link to. This speeds things up and ensures the link goes to the right place.
Use this for guest post requests too
If you don’t accept guest posts, you can still get value from these emails by turning them into link swaps.
Before you “mark as read,” check if the writer has a reputable website. The quickest way is to browse the homepage to make sure it looks good and up-to-date, and then run the domain through an authority checker.
If the site checks out, you can offer them a link in an existing article instead. Most guest bloggers will be happy to exchange links since it saves them a lot of time.
You’ve probably heard of “resource page link building.”
While resource pages still exist, they’re not as common anymore, and anyone who has one probably gets inundated with link insertion requests.
The good news is that you can adapt this technique a bit and find way more opportunities than ever by using list posts instead.
Here are the two best kinds of list post to search for.
Search for any and all articles listing products like yours.
If you sell headphones, search Google for “best headphones” and any variation you can think of. Try including modifiers like “cheapest,” “wireless,” and “long battery life” to find even more results.
Once you’ve collected your link prospects, you can email each site requesting they add your product to their post.
Here’s a template you can use:
Hey there, I was looking at your list of the best PRODUCT_TYPE and I'm wondering if you could include our 5-star product, PRODUCT_NAME, in your collection? I can provide you with a unique 150-word description and a product image if you're interested. Just to be clear, this is the post I'm talking about: THEIR_URL Thanks for your consideration!
This works fairly well because you’re offering them fresh content instead of just asking for a link.
Company lists are another prime source of backlinks. For example, there are lots of list posts for video games, but there are list posts for video game developers too.
Search far and wide using plenty of modifiers, and add “directory” to a few searches to find niche directory sites while you’re at it. Some example queries for a video game developer would be:
- Best video game developers
- Indie game development studios
- Top indie game developers
- List of indie devs
- Game developer directory
- PC game developers
Similar to the last tactic, offer to write a short description of your company and include an image.
The golden rule
If you want your outreach emails to turn into links, you have to offer something of value in return. In this case, you’re offering a unique 150-word description of the product and a high-resolution product image.
You may be asked for a link in return or to pay for the link, so make sure you have guidelines in place for how to respond to these requests.
Check for existing links
Before you reach out, check if they’ve already linked to one of your products in a list post or somewhere else. Then you can open your email by thanking them for sharing your product already. This will give you some common ground and improve response rates since you seem like a trusted partner already.
Keep your contacts organized
Don’t be the person who gets a link and then follows up a month later with another cold outreach email to the same person. You can keep a spreadsheet (I like using Ninox) if you’re not using an outreach app.
I said it already, but I’ll say it again:
You need to offer value if you want your outreach emails to turn into links.
One of the simplest, most effective outreach tactics is to offer a link for a link. This tactic can be used with list posts, but it works fine with tutorials too. It’s an especially effective way to get deep links to inner pages on your site.
The trick is to find websites that are in the same industry (or an adjacent industry) but aren’t direct competitors. For example, if you sell an app that helps people track their workouts, you could work with a blog about nutrition or a fitness equipment store.
You can simply Google around to find sites, or use an automated tool like SEMRush’s link builder to find outreach prospects.
Once you have your list of prospects, search each one for the most relevant page to get your link. For example, if your target keyword is “fitness app” and your prospect’s website is getfit.com, you would search Google with the following query:
site:getfit.com fitness app
That’s going to find the pages on the site getfit.com that, according to Google, are the most relevant to the query, “fitness app.”
Once you’ve found the best page to target, you can send your outreach email. Here’s an example:
Hi NAME, I'm reaching out because I saw your post on TOPIC and I noticed you didn't recommend any resources about RELATED_TOPIC. I was hoping you could update your article to include a link to our guide on RELATED_TOPIC. I'd be happy to update a page on our site with a link back in return. Let me know!
I’m sure you can edit that to fit your circumstances better, but that gives you the idea. Friendly, simple, and to-the-point.
Promote your entire portfolio
If you have other websites in your portfolio, let them know after you’ve finished the swap. This is a quick and easy way for both of you to score some more links.
Limit your follow-ups
One cold email is fine, but don’t annoy people with tons of follow-ups or you’re going to mess up your business.
When you overdo it, people mark your emails as spam. This hurts your sending reputation, which is a domain-wide factor, so all emails sent from your business’s domain can start going to spam folders.
Target blog posts
Most site owners will be happy to link to your site from a blog post, but it’s very unlikely they’ll link from any of their landing pages or product pages. Make sure to pick out the most relevant blog post on their site for your pitch.
5. HARO in 5 Minutes a day
HARO stands for “help a reporter out” and it’s a great way to build high-authority, editorial backlinks.
With HARO, you signup as a source and subscribe to the topics that are relevant to your business. You’ll get three emails per day for each of the topics you subscribed to (morning, afternoon, evening).
What makes HARO great is that you can get backlinks from high authority sites that your competitors can’t replicate. For example, if you land a quote on the LegalZoom blog, there’s not much your competitor can do. It’s not like a guest post link that they can easily copy.
Here’s a quick look at what a HARO email looks like:
You can respond to as many as you’d like, and if your quote is accepted, it will be published in an article along with a link to your site. Most writers will let you know once it’s published, so you can check it out once it’s live. The turnaround time for the link depends on the publication, but it’s normally about one to two weeks.
The only downside to HARO is that it’s like spec work; you aren’t guaranteed a link just because you wrote a response. The key to getting a good ROI from HARO is to be selective about which requests you answer and taking time to edit your response.
WHO you are matters as much as WHAT you say
Publishers are looking to quote a subject matter expert.
If a journalist wants a quote about Bitcoin, you don’t stand a chance as a nutritionist. What may surprise you is that you’ve barely got a chance as a financial advisor or banker too. Who they really want to hear from is a Cryptocurrency consultant, blockchain developer, or an owner of a Bitcoin news site.
Even if you know a lot about the topic, save your time and skip it if your credentials don’t match.
Save time with email filters
Scanning HARO emails three times a day without finding relevant requests is draining. Save yourself time by creating an email filter that deletes or archives any irrelevant emails.
For example, if you are building links for an accounting service, then create a filter that deletes all emails from HARO that don’t include the terms “accounting,” “accountant,” or “bookkeeping.”
You can do this in Gmail from the Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses menu. Here’s what the filter will look like:
Once you’ve got these filters in place, you can go most days without scanning HARO emails and without missing a single opportunity. When you do get an email from HARO, you’ll know it’s good.
Don’t skip editing
HARO responses are time-sensitive, so they can make you feel like rushing. You can’t put your reply off for too long, but make sure you write a thoughtful and interesting response. You should take time to edit and re-read it a few times over.
You might also want to use a tool like Grammarly to catch errors and improve your prose.
Create an email template
Most journalists want you to include your company name, title, and URL with your response. Many want a link to a headshot as well (no attachments). Create an email template that has all of this info included, so you can quickly select it when sending HARO replies.
Gmail templates can be created and inserted quickly from the options menu in the composer.
What tactics are working for you?
Link building has gotten harder over the years, but there are still reliable techniques that don’t require begging or shady tactics.
Each of the methods here can be used over and over again, steadily building your site’s rankings and authority.
To summarize the tactics and their benefits once more:
- Image credit link building is high-converting and good for getting backlinks to inner pages
- Reverse outreach takes mere minutes and has a near 100% success rate
- List post link building is great for building links at scale
- Link swapping helps you reach new domains and get deep links
- HARO link building can get you hard-to-copy links on authoritative domains
These are five of the best, modern tactics for link building, but this list isn’t exhaustive.
What other link building tactics have you been using, and how well are they working for you? Let us know in the comments!