Link Building Techniques in the Modern SEO Era

Michael Costin

As we say on our SEO podcast, link building is everyone's favourite topic.

That's because links really work.

Links are important.

You can't rank without links, despite what some people say:

No matter what happens with the big Google, link building remains a cornerstone of your SEO strategy.

As search engines continue to evolve, the importance of high-quality, relevant links has only intensified.

Your ability to harness the power of link building can determine your site's authority and its positioning in search results.

It is crucial to develop a nuanced understanding of modern link-building techniques to stay ahead of the curve.

And that is precisely what this post is going to give you.

A laptop surrounded by various website icons, with a network of interconnected lines representing link building techniques in modern SEO

Link building today is less about the sheer volume of links and more about their quality and relevance.

You must focus on earning links from respected and authoritative websites, as these can significantly enhance your own site's standing.

By creating valuable and informative content, you can attract natural links that search engines view favourably, boosting your search rankings in the process. It requires a strategic approach; one that prioritises the user's experience and the genuine endorsement of your content.

To keep up with the latest trends in link building for SEO, familiarise yourself with the evolving landscape. Gone are the days of indiscriminate link farming. Instead, techniques such as content marketing, guest blogging, and strategic partnerships play a vital role in your link acquisition strategy, ensuring that each link serves as a testament to your website's credibility. Your dedication to these practices lays a sustainable foundation for the growth of your online presence.

Understanding Link Building

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Link building is a cornerstone of SEO strategies, vital for boosting your website's visibility and authority in search engine rankings.

The Evolution of SEO and Link Building

In the early days of SEO, the number of backlinks—a link from another website to yours—was the primary factor in boosting PageRank, a core part of Google’s algorithm.

However, search engines have since evolved, frowning upon manipulative link practices and rewarding quality and relevance. Organic traffic now hinges more on the authority and context of your backlinks, not just their quantity.

Defining Quality in Backlinks

A quality backlink comes from a website with high authority related to your niche, signalling to search engines the credibility of your content. Search engines, like Google, favour backlinks that are naturally integrated into content, as opposed to those present on random directories. The relevance of the linking site's topic to your own is a key aspect of backlink quality. For instance, a backlink from a well-regarded health publication would be more beneficial for a medical blog than a link from an unrelated site.

The Role of Link Building in Modern SEO

Today, link building remains a critical ranking factor for search engines. It's not just about gathering links; it’s about securing links that enhance user experience and demonstrate your site's relevance in its field. Effective link building increases your site's trustworthiness, potentially leading to higher rankings and increased organic traffic. It's a strategic component, ensuring that your content is recognised and rewarded by search engine algorithms.

Strategies for Effective Link Building

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In today's competitive SEO landscape, your ability to deploy effective link building strategies can set you apart. Here are five proven techniques to enhance your site's backlink profile.

Creating Linkable Content

To attract quality backlinks, your content must be valuable to your audience. Ensure that it provides unique insights or comprehensive information which serves as a go-to resource. For instance, you could produce an original study or a detailed guide within your field of expertise to prompt others to reference your work.

Leveraging Guest Posting for Backlinks

Guest posting is about contributing content to other websites in your niche. When you offer high-quality material to reputable sites, they are likely to allow a backlink to your site. Focus on building relationships with these platforms to secure guest post opportunities on a recurring basis.

The Skyscraper Technique

The Skyscraper Technique involves improving existing content that has already proven to be link-worthy. First, identify an article with numerous backlinks, create a better, more in-depth version, and then reach out to the sites linking to the original piece to suggest your updated content as a more current resource.

Utilising Broken Link Building

With broken link building, you'll seek out web pages that contain links to resources that no longer exist. Once identified, you can create a comparable or superior resource on your site and inform the site owner of the broken link, offering your content as a substitution.

Infographics as a Link Building Tool

Infographics are potent because they present complex data visually and engagingly. Design high-quality infographics that summarise key information or data trends relevant to your niche. Share these with other sites or on social media to encourage sharing, often accompanied by a link back to your site.

Incorporating these strategies into your SEO efforts should lead to a more robust and authoritative link profile for your website.

Technical Aspects of Link Building

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In mastering the technical aspects of link building, you'll empower your SEO strategy with precision. Here's how you can finesse these technicalities to your advantage.

Understanding Anchor Text

Anchor text—the clickable text in a hyperlink—plays a crucial role in SEO. It's vital that your anchor text is relevant to the linked page, as it helps search engines understand the context of the content you're linking to. Avoid over-optimisation; using a natural mix of exact match, partial match, and generic phrases can help maintain a balanced link profile.

Dofollow vs Nofollow Links

Dofollow links are a thumbs-up for search engines, signalling that the linked content is of quality and relevance. These are the default state of links and carry SEO weight. Nofollow links, created with a rel="nofollow" attribute, tell search engines not to follow the link or pass on any authority. You should use nofollow when linking to untrusted content or in sponsored links to comply with search engine guidelines.

The Impact of Domain Authority on Links

Domain Authority (DA) is a predictive metric that gauges a site's potential to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). Links from high-DA websites can significantly boost your site's perceived trust and authority. However, remember DA is not a metric used by search engines, but it's a useful guide for prioritising your link-building efforts.

Managing Your Link Profile

Your link profile is the collective health status of all your inbound links. It's imperative to regularly audit your link profile to identify and disavow toxic or spammy links, which can harm your site's SEO. Aim for a natural, diverse link profile with links from a variety of sources, differing DA scores, and anchor texts to mitigate risks of penalisation.

By staying on top of these technical aspects, you can build a robust and effective link-building strategy.

Outreach and Relationship Building

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In modern SEO, the success of your outreach hinges on your ability to cultivate valuable relationships and craft personalised communication strategies. This section explores key techniques to enhance your outreach and secure quality backlinks.

The Art of Email Outreach

To excel in email outreach, you should personalise every email to show genuine interest in the recipient's work. Here's a checklist to improve your outreach emails:

  • Subject Line: Craft a compelling subject that stands out.
  • Personalisation: Use the recipient's name and reference their recent work.
  • Value Proposition: Clearly articulate what's in it for them.
  • Call to Action: End with a clear, concise request.

Building Relationships with Influencers

When connecting with influencers, your focus should be on building a mutually beneficial relationship. Steps to consider:

  1. Research: Thoroughly understand the influencer's interests and audience.
  2. Engagement: Start engaging with their content via comments or sharing.
  3. Offer Value: Propose how your collaboration can help their goals.

Guest Blogging as a Relationship Tool

Guest blogging can open doors to lasting partnerships. To leverage this:

  • Select blogs that align with your niche.
  • Propose content that will add value to their audience.
  • Use this opportunity to secure a backlink naturally within your guest post.

Using HARO for Quality Backlinks

HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, connects you with journalists needing expertise:

  • Respond quickly to relevant queries.
  • Provide detailed, useful answers.
  • Establish yourself as a go-to resource, leading to potential backlinks.

Leveraging Tools and Metrics

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In the realm of SEO, your success in link building can be significantly bolstered by utilising sophisticated tools and understanding key metrics. This section demystifies how to effectively use some of the industry’s top analytical tools and interpret pivotal metrics.

Using SEMRush for Link Analysis

SEMRush is your go-to platform for a comprehensive link analysis. When you access SEMRush, focus on:

  • Backlink Audit: Utilise this feature to evaluate your site’s backlink profile for toxic links that could harm your ranking.
  • Link Building Tool: This tool offers tailored outreach suggestions that can aid in procuring high-quality backlinks.

Leverage the metrics within SEMRush to monitor your domain's Authority Score and the types of backlinks (text, image, form, etc.) you are acquiring, which are indicative of the robustness of your link building strategy.

Tracking with BuzzSumo

With BuzzSumo at your disposal, harness its capabilities to track content performance and cultivate beneficial backlink opportunities. Pay attention to:

  • Content Analysis Reports: These show how content within your niche is performing, allowing you to identify potential link-building partners.
  • Influencer Data: BuzzSumo helps identify key influencers in your industry, presenting opportunities for collaboration and gaining authority links.

Remember, the total number of shares and the engagement level of the content can unveil insights into what resonates with your audience and where your backlink efforts should be concentrated.

Understanding the PageRank Algorithm

Google’s PageRank algorithm remains an underlying component in how your website's pages are weighed in terms of importance. It's essential to understand that:

  • The algorithm calculates the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of the website's importance.
  • The premise is that pages with higher importance are likely to receive more links from other websites.

Becoming savvy with the PageRank algorithm lets you better grasp why some pages rank higher and thus allows you to refine your link building tactics accordingly.

Maximising Content Visibility

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In the modern landscape of SEO, you have the power to significantly increase the online presence of your content. Strategic promotion, leveraging social media, and honing on-page SEO are essential to this endeavour.

Effective Content Promotion Techniques

When you produce content, it's crucial to promote it through multiple channels to maximise reach. Consider the following techniques:

  • Email Marketing: Use targeted email campaigns to share content with subscribers who may find it useful or interesting.
  • Guest Posting: Contribute to reputable sites within your industry as a guest author, which can increase exposure and build quality backlinks to your content.

Social Media as a Link Building Channel

Leverage social media platforms to build links by:

  • Sharing Quality Content: Regularly post links to your content, encouraging followers to share.
  • Engaging with Influencers: Collaborate with influencers who can amplify your content's reach within their networks.

Optimising for User Experience with On-Page SEO

To optimise your content for user experience, focus on:

  • Mobile Responsiveness: Ensure your content displays correctly on various devices, especially mobile phones.
  • Page Load Speed: Use tools to assess and improve load times, as faster pages are more likely to retain visitors.

Incorporating these practices will assist in increasing the visibility of your content and can contribute to a more robust link profile for your website.

Evolving Practices

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In modern SEO, your strategy must adapt to the continuous changes in link building. Two significant trends - Digital PR and authorship, and link earning through personal branding - have become pivotal.

The Rise of Digital PR and Authorship

Digital PR has reshaped how you create and disseminate content. By focusing on establishing you as an author and authority in your niche, it's no longer merely about the number of backlinks. Quality and relevance are the cornerstones, meaning you should aim to get featured in respected publications and utilise the credibility that comes from being recognised as an expert.

To implement digital PR effectively:

  • Engage with journalists and influencers in your field to create opportunities for exposure.
  • Create valuable, informative content that stands out, encouraging natural backlinking.

Link Earning Through Personal Branding

Developing your personal brand has become a powerful technique in earning links naturally. Personal branding is about amplifying your voice and expertise in a way that generates organic backlink opportunities. As you become a recognised figure, your content can attract links without the traditional outreach and solicitation.

To enhance your personal brand for link earning:

  • Regularly contribute to industry conversations on social media or niche forums.
  • Offer original insights and content that reflect your unique perspective, motivating peers to cite your work.

Avoiding SEO Pitfalls

A website's link profile grows organically, avoiding black hat tactics. Quality content attracts natural backlinks for modern SEO success

In the landscape of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), avoiding detrimental link building strategies is imperative for your online success. Aligning with ethical practices not only preserves your website's credibility but also ensures longevity in search rankings.

Steering Clear of Spammy Techniques

To protect your site's integrity, it's vital to avoid spammy link building techniques that can lead to search engine penalties. Black-hat practices such as purchasing links or using link farms drastically undermine your digital efforts. Focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks naturally, which are valued by search engines and users alike. Remember:

  • Do Not participate in link schemes or networks
  • Avoid excessive link exchanges or reciprocal links just for the sake of cross-linking
  • Refrain from using automated programs or services to create links to your site

Navigating Algorithm Updates with Google Penguin

Google's Penguin update is specifically designed to target sites that employ manipulative link building practices. Stay abreast of these updates by:

  • Regularly checking your link profile for unnatural links
  • Disavowing backlinks that might seem artificial or come from low-quality or irrelevant sites
  • Ensuring link building aligns with the latest Penguin algorithm standards

By maintaining up-to-date SEO strategies and adhering to the guidelines set forth by Google Penguin, your website can continue to thrive without the fear of penalties or devaluation in search rankings.

Advanced Techniques and Considerations

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In modern SEO, leveraging advanced link-building techniques is critical to your website's success. These approaches are specifically tailored to enhance your site structure and capitalise on existing digital assets to reinforce your SEO foundation.

Deploying 301 Redirects Strategically

301 redirects are a powerful tool when used correctly. They permanently point traffic from one URL to a different one, passing on most of the original page's ranking power. This technique is particularly useful if you're consolidating pages or have moved your content to a new URL. To execute this effectively:

  • Ensure that the redirect points to a page with similar content to maintain relevance and a seamless user experience.
  • Audit your site to identify any broken links that could be redirected to pertinent content.

Building Inbound Links with Internal Content

Inbound links, also known as backlinks, are crucial, but let’s not overlook the power of internal links. By linking to your own pages, you're not just aiding navigation but also spreading link equity across your site. To optimise your approach:

  • Utilise descriptive anchor text that gives an idea of the target page’s content, improving its chances to rank for those keywords.
  • Strategically place internal links on high-authority pages to flow value to other less established pages.

Measuring Link Building Success

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In the landscape of SEO, assessing the impact of your link-building efforts is crucial to optimise your strategies.

Analysing Referral Traffic

To gauge the effectiveness of your link-building activities, you must keep a close eye on your referral traffic. Referral traffic is the stream of visitors that arrive at your site through links on others. By using analytic tools, you can track which backlinks are driving traffic and determine if the links are from reputable sources. You'll be looking for an increase in referral visits, which signifies that your link-building efforts are bearing fruit.

Steps to analyse referral traffic:

  1. Access your web analytics tool (such as Google Analytics).
  2. Navigate to the 'Acquisition' tab and select 'All Traffic'.
  3. Click on 'Referrals' to view the sites sending traffic your way.
  4. Assess the volume and quality of traffic each backlink brings.

The Significance of Page Authority

Page Authority (PA) is a metric indicating the likelihood of a specific page to rank well in search engine results. Developed by SEO software company Moz, PA scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank. When building links, aim for those from pages with high PA, as these can have a more significant impact on your own site's authority and rankings.

Factors affecting Page Authority:

  • The quality of external links to the page
  • Link count (both internal and external)
  • The quality of the site's content

Examine the PA of sites linking to you with SEO tools capable of this analysis, and seek to foster relationships with high-authority domains.

Actionable Link Building Tips

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To ensure your link building efforts bear fruit, focus on the subtleties of the pitch, the tenets of engaging cold email campaigns, and the nuances of image link building techniques.

Crafting the Perfect Pitch

When you're reaching out to potential link partners, your pitch is your first impression. Make sure it's personalised and to the point. Highlight the mutual benefit and relevance of your content to their audience. For example, if your content provides comprehensive insights about a topic of interest to their readership, emphasise this.

Successful Cold Email Campaigns

For the cold email campaigns, efficiency is key. Begin with a clear subject line that encapsulates your purpose. Keep your email concise, courteous, and focused on the recipient's gain. Utilise bullet points to summarise your offer:

  • Value Proposition: Quickly outline what’s in it for them.
  • Credibility: Mention any notable partnerships, publications, or credentials that lend authority to your outreach.
  • Call to Action: Be specific about what you want—whether it’s a link exchange or guest posting opportunity.

Image Link Building Techniques

Image link building can enhance your visual content's reach and generate backlinks. First, create high-quality, original images that bring value, such as infographics or charts. Then, distribute these assets to bloggers and media outlets in your industry. When these images are used, ensure they include a credit link pointing back to your site. Track where your images are being used to find unlinked mentions, then contact the site owner to request a link back to your source material.

Building for the Future

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In the realm of SEO, the focus on building for the future necessitates strategies that are designed for long-term success and sustainability. Allocating your budget efficiently ensures your link building efforts are not only effective but also maintainable over time.

Planning Long-Term Link Building Strategies

Key Considerations:

  • Align link building efforts with your overarching business goals.
  • Keep abreast of search engine algorithm updates to tweak your strategy accordingly.

Actionable Steps:

  1. Establish Clear Objectives: Determine specific metrics you aim to improve with your link building, such as organic traffic or domain authority.
  2. Quality Over Quantity: Invest in securing high-quality backlinks from reputable and relevant sites rather than a large number of low-quality links.
  3. Diversify Your Link Profile: Aim for a natural link profile with a mix of dofollow and nofollow links, various anchor texts, and links from different types of websites.


  • Regularly review your link profile and remove any links that could be considered spammy or harmful to your website's reputation.
  • Monitor the performance of your backlinks to guide future link building endeavours.

Budget Considerations for Sustainable Growth

Allocating Funds:

  • Determine the percentage of your marketing budget to be invested in link building activities.
  • Consider your industry's competitiveness: Highly competitive niches might require larger budgets to achieve prominence.

Cost-Effective Approaches:

  • Content Creation: Develop compelling content that naturally attracts backlinks.
  • Outreach: Build relationships with industry influencers and bloggers for potential backlink opportunities.
  • Tools and Services: Decide if investing in SEO tools or professional services will be cost-effective for your link building strategy.

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Michael Costin
Michael is the co-founder at Local Digital. He has a decade of experience in the digital marketing space, and is a big enough nerd that he's well practised in all the common digital marketing channels, from SEO to copywriting, paid social to analytics and tracking.

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