In this post, I’m going to list out every possible way to build backlinks in 2021.
But, before I do I have to say that I believe manual link building campaigns aren’t as valuable as putting your resources into creating better content. Why?
Google Will Destroy Any Easy Link Building Techniques
First, the elephant in the room.
Hypothetically, if there were an easy way to build a ton of backlinks overnight, and you were reading about it in a blog post, Google has also become aware of this loophole to their system. They will either adjust to de-value those links, or they will outright penalize your site if you’re doing something black hat.
Which means that any “legitimate” ways to build links will always be quite difficult. Which brings us to the real issue when thinking about building links, opportunity cost. Is the link juice worth the squeeze?
How Much is an Individual Backlink Worth?
We know that high-quality backlinks strongly correlate to a higher ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google has admitted backlinks are still a big ranking factor despite moving more towards AI in recent years.
But, how much can an individual backlink be worth when the top results for competitive search queries have thousands of backlinks?
If you need to build 10,000 links to become competitive for the term “How to start a blog,” it’d take you 10,000+ hours to do so. For context, you only work 2,000 hours a year at a full-time job. Do you want to dedicate 5 full-time years of your life to ranking for this query?
Of course not, that type of brute-force approach would be idiotic. We need to use out time more efficiently than this to compete.
Create Amazing Content and Wait
Link building is that simple. You create as much content as humanly possible, and you wait for Google to recognize how great it is. Eventually, other bloggers find it on Google and link to it. That’s the whole process.
You can write a fantastic blog post in less than a day. Meanwhile, a day of link building will only produce a couple of links.
Over the next few years, you’ll get considerably more links from that blog post than you would have by manual link building. The links take longer to come in, but you’ll end up with more links and more content that brings in high-quality traffic for years to come.
What types of content are best for getting links? I find the following types of blog posts tend to do quite well.
When you link out to another website, it’s usually because you’re looking for data to back up your argument. Create a post that dives into the numbers on something, it’ll get links.
2) Extensive How-To’s
Bloggers often write about topics that require prerequisite knowledge. Rather than write an entire post on the subject, they’ll search Google for a good explainer post and link to that.
3) Extensive List Posts
I have a big post on 100 ways to create your own product for monetizing your blog or YouTube Channel. Something like that is a link monster for whenever another blogger wants to give exhaustive ideas about that subject.
4) Sensational or Contrarian Posts
If you do an excellent writeup on a contrarian opinion, it’s the type of content that will draw in links to it.
The “experts” never explain how infographics will get you backlinks. And they don’t explain it because they promote begging bloggers to use your infographic via email (AKA spam).
Without resorting to spamming people, how else would you get a link back to your infographic? Are you hoping somebody steals your graphic, puts it on their site, and then links back to you as credit? That’s a pretty convoluted plan. And even if it worked, what high domain authority sites are doing that?
Infographics are only on this list because they can visually improve your statistical posts. Moving your post up the Google ranks.
Build a Product or Tool
Tools will attract more links than you can imagine. I crap on Neil Patel all the time, but how many backlinks does he get because UberSuggest is a free tool?
The product you build doesn’t even have to be free. I link to Income School’s course on blogging all the time because it’s a good beginner blogging course. I link to all sorts of products all the time. Even physical products if I think they’ll help my audience.
Create An Affiliate Program For Your Product.
Affiliate programs are gray-hat because affiliate links are supposed to be a rel=sponsored link. That said, how many affiliate links do you forget to mark as nofollow on your blog? I’d guess almost all of them.
Affiliate programs guaranteed sales and backlinks. It’s really a win-win.
Interlinking Within Your Own Site
Your popular blog posts can pass link juice to your other articles. This is such an easy win that so many bloggers are missing out on.
Take your most popular blog posts and find natural places to link out to your other articles from it. Or consider creating new content that can be linked to from your popular content.
Also consider the anchor text you use to link to your own assets. Make sure that anchor text contains keywords you want to rank for in Google.
Create YouTube Content
Not for the backlinks, all links on YouTube are no-followed. However, Google may be using social signals in an attempt to find how credible the author of a piece of content is. Here’s what they have to say on the subject.
I do think there may be some value in becoming a brand name on Google’s video platform. And even if that’s not correct, I’ve experienced firsthand the rankings boost you’ll see when you start embedding video content into your blog. It helps.
Help a Reporter Out
Now we’re into manual link building efforts. The things I told you to stay away from. One of the better options for this type of link-building is Help a Reporter Out (HARO). With HARO, reporters seek out experts in their field to use as sources in their articles.
This is intriguing because Google has stated they’re looking for Author credibility when ranking your content. Having high domain authority news sites link back to your Author Bio page should help with that.
However, HARO is competitive. You get an email 3x daily with a list of queries. If you can’t respond within the first 30 minutes, don’t bother responding. Prepare to send a dozen or so answers with only 1-2 links to show for it, if that.
I don’t believe that guest posting en-masse makes sense in any way whatsoever. A single blog post on your website is significantly more valuable than a single backlink is.
If you do choose to write guest posts, make sure it’s for high domain authority sites with an audience that would buy your product. And for the love of God don’t pay to guest post!
Get interviewed on podcasts
Just like with guest blogging, podcasts only make sense if they get you in front of the right audience. If so, go ahead and you’ll get exposure and a backlink. But, don’t go do a circuit of podcasts just for the backlinks.
A better tactic would be to do the opposite. Create a podcast and have guests from high domain authority websites on your podcast link to the episode.
Broken Link Campaigns
Broken link campaigns are where you use a keyword research tool like a hrefs to find a high domain authority website with broken links. You then email the webmaster letting them know about the broken link and suggest they fill it with your blog post.
Broken link campaigns are spam. Plain and simple.
Years ago broken link campaigns were seen as a helpful way to build links. But in 2021, ask any webmaster how they feel about the spam emails they get about broken links.
Because of this spam, you’re looking at a hit rate of 1%-5%. Meaning you’re going to be sending 20-100 personalized emails per backlink. It’s a gigantic waste of time.
Unlinked Mention Campaigns
Unlinked mention campaigns are where blogs have mentioned your website but haven’t linked to you. You reach out to the webmaster and ask if they’ll include the link to your site on the mention.
Google actually addresses why they don’t use unlinked mentions as a ranking factor (or at least they didn’t in 2009).
You can search for unlinked mentions in Google by using the query.
intext:your brand name -yourdomain.com -twitter.com -facebook.com -pinterest.com -youtube.com
This will show most of the places on the web that mention your brand. But, you’re going to get a very low response rate when you email webmasters begging for a link. It doesn’t matter whether you come prepared with an infographic, a broken link, or an unlinked mention. It’s a lot of emails for very few results.
Acquiring Other Websites
If you have the cash to swing it, buying another blog and 301-redirecting all of the content to your primary domain is probably the easiest way possible to acquire a large number of legitimate backlinks.
BlackHat / Things You Shouldn’t Do
Here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve seen others promoting, and Google’s simply caught onto it. You’re more likely to get your site penalized by trying these things rather than seeing any type of boost.
1) Link Injection into WordPress Themes
This is very blackhat, and Google looks for it. In fact, Matt Cutts talks about this exact blackhat tactic and how they identify it. If this is your plan you’re about 20 years too late.
2) Posting In Blogs Comments Sections
First off, WordPress and virtually every other commenting system on the planet no-follows all of their links in 2021. Second, this is so 2006. Google is smart enough to just not look at links in comments section at this point and I’ve seen Matt Cutts explicitly talk about that before as spam.
3) Social Media / Web 2.0’s
If you’re doing this you’re dumb. Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress Blogs, Medium, Tumblr, YouTube (and all the other sites I can’t even remember) no-follow each and every one of their links.
Google even directly addresses how they feel about links from forums. They don’t like it and it won’t help you rank higher.
4) Link Sharing Schemes
There used to be a bunch of stuff online about private blog networks (PBN’s) where they’d all link to each other. That got broken up a decade+ ago. Google has AI capable of detecting this type of thing and doesn’t look favorably upon it. Please don’t go seeking it out in 2021, it’s not going to help you.